It’s always a wild ride through the holidays with kids at home. Getting our child to do things other than video games is not easy after a couple weeks with no school. Board games are a valuable tool for transitioning out of video games and avoiding screens while we enjoy our time together. Here are a few of our favorite games for families and kids in the tween to teen age range.
Aztack from Blue Orange games is a simple game of building an Aztec temple with tiles. Players match colors / glyphs in a race to get the best tiles to build their temple the fastest. Tiles are fun to hold, it makes a neat sound when you play, and my son will always play due to the quick play time. Aztack on BGG
Drop It from Thames & Kosmos is probably our most-played gateway game for kids and adults. The easiest game to introduce to new players due to it’s simple rules and easy to see scoring. Colorful tiles are fun to drop and the unpredictability scores well with kids. Drop it on BGG
Hive is quick, plays mean, and he beats me almost every time. This strategy game for 2 players isn’t easy and can burn your brain with thinking about how to approach the next game. But it’s fast and plays quick. Can be played anywhere and has great tiles to hold. A winner in our house. Hive on BGG
Build your kingdom with dual colored tiles in a visual-spatial 2 player puzzle game. This one is just the right amount of game weight for kids to enjoy. It’s quick to set up, has colorful pieces, and offers enough depth to want to play another round (and again) to try new strategies. Kingdomino is a great game for kids. Kingdomino on BGG
It’s quick, it’s easy to learn, and I can always get our son to play a round with me. Simple mechanics but a nice depth of strategy as you try to control a row of numbers / colors and stop your opponent from collecting their own. Lost Cities on BGG
This game is still a household favorite and in my opinion one of the best 2 player card games out there. Jaipur is a game of collecting cards (goods) and selling them at the market for varying prices. Camel cards are a fun variable that lets you grab more cards in one turn but taking the camels can give your opponent an advantage. We never get tired of this game. Jaipur on BGG
Jamaica is another of our favorite games for kids.This board game was designed by a talented team of creators including Sébastien Pauchon (Jaipur) and Bruno Cathala (Kingdomino). This is a pirate racing game that has racing, combat, treasure hunting, goods collection, and a unique day / night cycle. It’s colorful, fun, and a hit with young gamers in our group. Jamaica on BGG
Another game of treasure hunting, Karuba, allows you to lead your expedition through the jungle to collect treasure. First one to arrive at the temple with your jewels wins! Sounds easier than it is in this tile-laying game that will get you lost in the jungle. Read more in our profile on Karuba. Karuba on BGG
Magic: The Gathering
This game isn’t going to do any favors for your bank account but it keeps coming back around as a favorite to play with my son. Recent releases of Magic The Gathering Commander Decks and starter decks have dropped the price enough to buy a few cards and play casually. MTG is also a nice game to play at cafes and game shops when we feel like being social. If you are new to MTG I recommend picking up the Magic: The Gathering 2022 Starter Kit which comes with 2 fun decks to battle with and codes for the same decks in Magic: The Gathering Arena video game.
Monster of the Week
Monster of the Week is sort of an RPG-lite system where 3-5 people battle a monster like a TV episode. With quick character creation rules and just eight actions you can take, it’s easier to understand than most TTRPGs. The book includes ready-to-play mysteries that are a hit in our house where Buffy is often playing. This book is one of the best TTRPG games for kids that we’ve come across. Read more at Evil Hat Productions.
Choose Your Own Adventure – House of Danger
This became our gateway to D&D, along with Monster of the Week. House of Danger takes the original novel from the Choose Your Own Adventure book and builds a game around the structure where you are given a narrative and make choices about what to do. Read more at BGG.