Skip to main content

The best family board games

Minecraft Builders & Biomes
(Image credit: Ravensburger)

Sometimes you need a family board game that'll go over well with your entire clan of nerds, and sometimes you add your non-gaming family members to the mix, too. (That's a myth, though: everyone actually likes some kind of game.) You need a game as complex, or less complex, than popular games like Monopoly while actually being designed in this century (and also by professionals who do not hate fun). Maybe you need a board game to play with diverse gaming friends: What will please hardcore FPS enthusiasts, their kid, a dedicated strategy gamer, and a third friend who lives for survival-crafting? The key criteria for a good family game is that a group of entirely young players or a group of entirely adult players can enjoy it just as much as a mixed age group. These are all games that are just as fun—or more—with kids and adults.

These are the best family board games out there right now. This list focuses on games for families with players as young as eight or 10. For good board games that are fun with even  younger kids we'd recommend you go peruse German games publisher Haba's catalogue (opens in new tab), where you can rarely go wrong. 

You can find more of my board game recommendations for bigger groups in our lists of the best board games , the best co-op board games, and the best 2-player board games (opens in new tab).

Splendor

Specifications

Players: 2-4
Difficulty: Easy
Time to set up: 5 minutes
Time to play: 30 minutes
Age: 10+

Reasons to buy

+
Good gateway to harder games
+
Smart balance of math, luck, and strategy
+
Tokens are delightful

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Splendor (opens in new tab) is a great simple card game, and a great introduction to the foundational ideas of modern economic strategy board games. The players are renaissance gem merchants trying to become the most famous on the continent, and they do so by collecting specific sets of gems. Buying cards representing things like mines, boats, and caravans makes you wealthier and adds permanent bonuses of gems to your pool. The first player to reach 15 points of prestige wins.

Splendor is one of the best for a few reasons: It's got strategy, but not too much strategy. It's got luck, but not too much luck. It's got math, but only a little math. It also has hefty, chunky, clattery, ceramic tokens... and they are extremely satisfying to play with between turns. 

Minecraft: Builders & Biomes

Specifications

Players: 2-4
Difficulty: Medium
Time to set up: 10 minutes
Time to play: 30-60 minutes
Age: 10+

Reasons to buy

+
A shockingly good licensed game
+
Super cool centerpiece
+
Fun even if you don't play Minecraft

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

There's absolutely no reason for a licensed Minecraft board game to be good, but Ravensburger knocked this one out of the park. This is an interesting, strategic game of resource collection and push-your-luck exploration. It's got a great centerpiece too, a block of resources that has pieces removed over time as players mine what they need. The game is really simple, with a character choosing two of five different actions each turn. You explore your own little personal Minecraft world and build bases on it while fighting off enemies.

It's a good game, and while it's one to skip if nobody in the family plays Minecraft, it's still fun for those who don't know the game inside and out. I'll also say that while the publisher recommends the game for ages 10+, I think it does just fine with kids as young as 8 and the broader community reports kids as young as 6 having fun. Truly one of those "ages 9-99" board games I’m happy to play with a diverse group.

Kingdomino

Specifications

Players: 2-4, or 2-6
Difficulty: Easy
Time to set up: 2 minutes
Time to play: 15 minutes
Age: 8+

Reasons to buy

+
Build a world with dominos!
+
Supports 6 players w/expansion
+
Very easy to learn

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Kingdomino (opens in new tab) is only a few years old, but has become a family game staple in many board gaming households for a few key reasons: It's easy to learn, easy to teach, easy to play, and most people get it within a few minutes. It uses two-section tiles similar to dominos, but with land like farms, forests, or swamps rather than numbers. You expand your territory with a new domino each turn, trying to assemble the nicest kingdom.

Add in the companion set Queendomino (opens in new tab) and it plays up to 6 people very comfortably without adding very much time, or a slightly longer and more complex variant for 4. It's one of the few full-on family board games you can do that with, as you usually have to go to a card game or more complex strategy game for that high a player count. 

Flamme Rouge

Specifications

Players: 2-4
Difficulty: Medium
Time to set up: 5 minutes
Time to play: 30-45 minutes
Age: 8+

Reasons to buy

+
The rare good "racing" board game
+
Good mix of strategy and using what you've got
+
Easier than real bicycle racing

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

The exciting world of bicycle racing is well-presented in Flamme Rouge (opens in new tab), one of the few racing board games I can unequivocally recommend to everyone. Each player controls a team of two cyclists on a variety of modular race courses, vying for the best positions by choosing from a limited number of moves. The simple strategy of the game revolves around the card decks, one for your sprinter cyclist and one for a roller, which are drawn and played in order. The types of movements for each cyclist are predictable, but when you get them isn't: You have to play the best move at the time.

Being at the front of the pack makes you risk exhaustion, while slipstreaming behind others keeps riders fresh. The middle of the pack is a safe place to hide, but the back gives you the most options for slipstreaming… at the risk of falling behind. It's a tense, interesting, highly competitive race with enough simple strategies available that anyone can win it.

Isle of Skye

Specifications

Players: 2-5
Difficulty: Easy
Time to set up: 5 minutes
Time to play: 30-50 minutes
Age: 8+

Reasons to buy

+
A less fiddly Carcassonne
+
The ideal kingdom design changes game-to-game
+
Good balance of priorities

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

This game of building a kingdom in the Scottish isles is a lovely experience. It has all the interesting complexity of the other popular tile-laying game, Carcassonne (opens in new tab), but without the finicky scoring rules and shared board. Each round players get new tiles to add to their kingdom, but only after a round of tile selling and buying between players. Money becomes tiles, so making money is key to winning the game, but money isn't worth points at the end. All that matters is a well-arranged kingdom.

What constitutes a well-arranged kingdom changes from game to game. In one game lighthouses might be worth points, while in another it's highland cattle. Isle of Skye has a great balance between two priorities, making money and scoring points, so every decision feels like it matters. It's fun to set a high price on a tile you've chosen, and even more to get a great deal on a tile that's perfect for you but useless for someone else.

Ticket to Ride

Specifications

Players: 2-5
Difficulty: Easy
Time to set up: 5 minutes
Time to play: 30-60
Age: 8+

Reasons to buy

+
Trains are always cool
+
Great gateway to newer strategy games

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Ticket to Ride (opens in new tab) is a modern classic, so much so that plenty of gamers have moved on from it, but it's still a great gateway to board games and it's widely available. Players gain and use their cards to claim routes around the map, but any round spent getting more cards is a round that a competitor could use to claim the route you need. It's a game that balances your hunger for a big score against your hunger for a safe bet. Those whose families have players aged double digits and up will probably be happier with Ticket to Ride: Europe (opens in new tab), which is just a hair more complicated and better for it. 

Potion Explosion

Specifications

Players: 2-4
Difficulty: Easy
Time to set up: 5 minutes
Time to play: 30-45 minutes
Age: 8+

Reasons to buy

+
A match-3 puzzle game!
+
Physical components are cool
+
Magic powers

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Potion Explosion (opens in new tab) is one of those games that looks like a gimmick but is actually brilliant, a physical match-3 puzzle game using marbles and a rolling dispenser. The players are students in a magical school's potions-making class, each trying to make potions in order to score points and become Student of the Year.. Each turn you take a marble as an ingredient, and then other marbles fall. If the fallen marbles match, they explode and you take those too. As you get ingredients and make potions, you can drink the potions for weird powers that let you break the rules or mess with other players. It's a wacky-yet-grounded game that gets the fun rolling immediately. 

Jonathan Bolding

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.