Lord of the Rings the Confrontation board game
Kingdom Builder board game
Blokus board game
Gravity Maze game
Settlers of Catan board game
Bang card game
RoboRally board game
Takenoko board game
Gravwell board game
Tsuro board game
Carcassonne board game

5 Traits That Make a Great Family Game

Lemming Mafia board game

What makes a great “Family Game”?

With thousands of new board games and card games published every year, there’s no shortage of game possibilities to play. But with so many choices, it can be a daunting task to narrow it down to just a few games to get.

In an effort to help make the right selection, it’s human nature to categorize items in groups and subgroups. And it’s no different with board games and card games.

There are plenty of ways to group games. The most typical grouping selection is by age, time, and number of players. While helpful, that still leaves huge ranges of games. So we create additional groups by type such as strategy, cooperative, abstract, deduction, bluffing, or racing. Or we group by theme such as adventure, fantasy, economic, area control, war, or travel.

In all the grouping and sub-grouping of board games and card games, perhaps the one that causes the most questions is the common label of “Family Game”.

The designation of “Family Game” seems to be the most vague.

So what makes a great Family Game?

To find out, we tapped the experts – our kids. And here are the top 5 traits they feel make a great family game.


1. Everyone in the family can enjoy

Coconuts board game

Players of all ages can enjoy flinging Coconuts.

It may seem obvious, but the first mark of a great Family Game is one that covers a wide age range so everyone in the family can enjoy playing it together.

While young kids may not be able to handle the game all on their own, they should still be able to join in the fun.

Likewise, a game that’s too simplistic won’t be enjoyable for the teenagers in the family. They’ll enjoy games with a challenge.

Great family games create an environment for everyone to engage in the fun together.


2. Easy to understand and remember

Ratuki card game

A lot of cards games can be taught quickly and are easy to understand.

A Family Game needs to have a challenge, yet be easy enough to understand for kids to join in the fun with adults.

It should take less than 10 minutes to explain the rules of the game and ideally less than 5.

If the game is too complicated, or there are too many options and decisions, many family members will be turned off from playing.

Great family games are easy to pull out and play without a lot of rules refreshers.


3. Includes choices mixed with luck

Gravwell board game

Gravwell has a great balance of strategy and luck.

While too many decisions in a game add complexity, a great Family Game still needs to include compelling choices.

Our minds are wired to explore the results of our choices. Player interest and enjoyment will wane rapidly in a game without some choices to make.

At the same time, if there aren’t any elements of luck, older players will regularly win. The elements of luck in a game give younger kids a chance to win their fair share of the games.

Great family games are those that deliver a mix of strategic choices and balanced luck.


4. Fun playing pieces

Takenoko board game

The components in Takenoko are definitely fun to play with.

Let’s not forget that the game pieces themselves definitely have an impact on the enjoyment of a Family Game.

Board games and card games are meant to be a tactile experience. We play tabletop games to interact face-to-face with the people around us and engage with the elements of the game.

The components of a game, including the board, dice, cards, markers, and tokens all have an effect on the players.

Great family games include components that are very engaging to see, touch, feel, and play with.


5. Can be played over and over

Sequence board

Sometimes is the family game that we’ve played over-and-over the most.

A final mark of what makes a great Family Game is a game that can be played many times over without overstaying its welcome.

A game will overstay its welcome if it’s too repetitive or predictable. Games with variable elements and outcomes are much more likely to see repeated play.

Whether played repeatedly back-to-back or on a weekly, or monthly basis, games well suited for family play will be played regularly.

Great family games include enough variety to keep the game interesting no matter the number of times it gets played.

Activities we enjoy become ones that we choose to experience over and over. The same is true with games.

Games that are easy to understand, include both strategy and luck, have fun playing pieces, can be played repeatedly, and your whole family can enjoy together are the greatest Family Games of all.


Here are some of our favorite “Family Games”:

> Receive New Board Game Reviews and Articles in your Email


Evolution has evolved – even better!

Evolution board game

What’s in store for the new species in this world?

A year ago we previewed a fun strategy board game called Evolution.

We posted our video preview leading up to the North Star Games Kickstarter campaign and were happy to see it become a successful campaign.

Well, now it’s a year later and we’ve just recently been able to enjoy playing the official version of the game. And we’re happy to report that it’s even better than when we played it before!

And that’s not just because of having real components instead of prototype pieces. But the game itself is even more streamlined and fun to play.

Rather than repeat a video like we did for the preview, we’ll simply write about Evolution and our impressions complete with photos of the good stuff.

Evolution board game

Evolution is a fun family strategy board game.

(If you’d like to see the video preview, you can find it at the bottom of the review.)


How to Play Evolution

In a nutshell, Evolution is about creating, adapting, and advancing your species to survive and thrive. The player with the species that adapt the best to the changing environment (paying attention to what species other players are developing) will win the game.

The game is played over a number of rounds with each round consisting of 4 phases:

Evolution board game

Check out some of those Traits!

1. Deal Cards

Players start with a single species board and 3 Trait cards. At the start of your turn, if you don’t have a species board in front of you (your animals have gone extinct), then you get to take a new species board as well.

In the Deal Cards phase, every player draws 3 Trait cards plus 1 Trait card for each species they have. So at the start of the game for example, every player would draw 4 Trait cards.

2. Select Food

Evolution board game

Plenty of food tokens, but only a handful are available in the Watering Hole each round.

Each card has a number in the bottom right corner that represents a Plant Food value. Players secretly choose one of their cards for the plant food value and place it face down on the watering hole in the center of the table. These cards aren’t revealed until the Feeding phase later.

3. Play Cards

Now each player, in turn order, can play as many Trait cards as they’d like on their turn. A card can be used in multiple ways.

Played as a Trait for one of their species: It’s played facedown by that species board and will be revealed after every player has played their cards. A species can’t have duplicate traits and no species can have more than 3 traits. Players can discard traits from their species along the way as well.

Evolution board game

Or you can place the species boards vertically.

Create a New Species: A player may discard a Trait card to add a new species. They discard the card, take a species board, and place a marker at the Body Size “1” and Population “1”.

Increase in Size of Population: A player may discard a Trait card to increase either the Body Size or Population of one of their species.

Since players can play as many cards as they want, they can do all the above as many times as they have cards to do so. Or they can hold on to those cards for use in later rounds.

4. Feeding

Now the cards on the Watering Hole are revealed and the numbers are added up to determine how much Plant Food is place in the watering hole. Beginning with the first player, each player must feed one of their Hungry species.

Evolution board game

Feed me!

A species is hungry if it has less food than population. So for example, if a species has a population of 3, then that species is Hungry until it has taken 3 food tokens.

Thus, the first player will get to take Plant Food from the watering hole to feed his/her Hungry species and there may not be enough Plant Food left for the players/species that feed later in that round.

One of the Traits that can be added to a species is Carnivore. Carnivores can never eat Plant Food, but instead attack other species for their Meat. If a Carnivore is Hungry, it must attack another species – even if the only species it can attack is one of that own player’s species.

There are special rules about how Carnivores feed, but we won’t go into that here. Needless to say it’s not very difficult to determine.

Evolution board game

The bags to keep your Food Tokens (points) hidden.

Feeding ends when all species have eaten food equal to their Population or when all Hungry species are no longer able to eat. If a species couldn’t get enough food to fill up to their population, then their population will decrease down to the amount of food eaten. If a species didn’t get any food, it will go extinct!

At the end of this phase, all players take the Food tokens from their species boards and put them in their secret draw bag. Then a new round begins and the Start Player marker (wooden dinosaur) is passed to the left.

End Game

The game ends when the Trait deck has cycled through one time. At the end of that round, players add up the food tokens that they’ve stored in their bag (each token worth 1 point). Then they also get points equal to their surviving species population as well as points for each Trait card on a surviving species.

And that’s how you play Evolution.


The Fun of Evolution

As we mentioned at the start, the published version of Evolution has fantastic components. We love the species boards and how easy it is to track Body Size and Population as well as track food eaten. The icons on the boards work very well and they can also be placed either horizontal or vertical on the table depending on how much space you have to play.

Evolution board game

The player aid in the game is also very helpful.

The food tokens are also well-made with a dual use of both Plant and Meat food depending on which species is doing the eating and where the food is found.

Speaking of which, the Watering Hole board is pretty cool too. It really feels like all our animals are focused on this central place for food that we compete over.

But the real fun, and the crux of the game of Evolution, is in the Traits that the species take on. It’s a lot of fun building combinations of traits to create unique species. It takes some strategic thinking to determine which traits to put on which species.

And then there’s the bit of luck in what cards are drawn and what traits the other players will take on. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, an opponent will pull out a trait you weren’t expecting and devour your species. Or maybe add the Climbing trait to their species so your Carnivore can’t get to it now and you’re left attacking one of your own species.

It all makes for a very interesting and fun game.

Thanks North Star Games for a great strategy board game!

Now check out the difference between the evolved awesome game components of the published version with the prototype in our preview…

> Receive New Board Game Reviews and Articles in your Email


Kid History the party game!

Kid History family game

Kids rewriting history in the fun family game, Kid History.

One of our favorite series of YouTube videos to watch is Bored Shorts TV Kid Snippets. For those unfamiliar, Kid Snippets are short episodes of kids telling stories with adults acting them out. They’re a ton of fun.

And perhaps the best part is how family-friendly they are. In fact, that’s what they’re all about – family.

So we were super excited when we found out that they’re creating a game!

Appropriately enough, the game is called Kid History – The Party Game (like the web series that started it all) and Brooke is happy to show you what the game is all about.


Can the whole family enjoy Kid History – the Party Game?

That’s what the whole game is about – family fun.

Just like the video series, Kid History – The Party Game is meant for families to enjoy together.

That being said, because there’s reading involved we don’t expect many toddlers will join in the game. Of course, they could team up with a parent to play.


It’s own unique twist

Having seen many games with similar rules, we know that Kid History – The Party Game isn’t unique in how the game is played – with one judge picking their favorite from submitted cards each round. The most famous of this type of game is Apples to Apples. But that doesn’t mean Kid History isn’t fun in its own right.

Kid History family game

Playing Kid History on our recent family vacation.

We like the unique twist of matching silly statements from kids with historical quotes. History will never quite be the same.

Since playing the game with our family, every time Paul Revere’s famous ride is mentioned, in the back of mind will be him shouting, “Beware the wicked tomato!”

And at the same time, many of the historical moments may not be familiar to family members. Which is why we also like that the real statements are printed in grey at the bottom of each card. It can be a bit of a history lesson at the same time.

We highly recommend taking part in the Kickstarter campaign for Kid History.

Get in on a fun game and even have a chance of getting a quote from your kids in the game!


Check out Bored Shorts TV

If you haven’t seen Kid History and Kid Snippets on Bored Shorts TV, you’re missing out. Check out some of their videos and of course, check out the Kid History game!

Here’s their most recent Kid Snippets video – Cooking Pie.

And a couple of our favorites – Math Class and Josh Groban Backstage.

> Receive New Board Game Reviews and Articles in your Email


Is Splendor a splendid family game?

Splendor card game

Is Splendor a splendid game for families?

Since the card game Splendor was released last year (2014), we’ve heard a lot of buzz about how awesome it is for a family card game. It seemed every board game podcast and review touted how great a game it is for families.

Since the votes seemed to be so unanimous, you can imagine how anxious we were to give Splendor a try. After all, that’s what we’re all about – finding fun board games and card games that families can enjoy playing together.

Thanks to Space Cowboys and Asmodee, we finally got our chance to find out if Splendor is indeed a splendid game for families.

And what did we find?

See for yourself in dad’s video review of Splendor – what it’s about, how to play, and what we think.


Can the whole family enjoy Splendor?

Read more »


International TableTop day this coming Saturday!

tabletop day logo

Are you ready to play?

Are you up for a day of fun and merriment?

Because this coming Saturday, April 11, 2015, is International TableTop Day!

International TableTop Day 2014 was celebrated in 80 countries, over all 7 continents, and had over 3,000 events in total. How’s that for just the third year of the event? You know 2015 will be even bigger.

So join the party and get your TableTop games ready – otherwise known as board games, card games, dice games, and party games. Just no video games. Leave the screens behind and join in the face-to-face fun of tabletop games with your friends and family.

Read more »


He Lives

It’s a wonderful weekend.

It’s Easter.

And we celebrate Easter because He lives.

We love the message in this video.

No matter who we are or what we’ve done, He is there for us.



More Exciting Games Coming

The Titan Series board game Kickstarter

The Titan Series is lining up a stream of gateway board games.

We typically don’t write about board game projects on Kickstarter. But there have been a few noteworthy board game projects we just can’t pass up mentioning (like Ghostbusters the Board Game and The Great War in Feb).

And this week two more Kickstarter projects began that we’re also excited about.


The Titan Series

The first project that we’re excited to tell you about isn’t for a board game, it’s actually for multiple board games!

The Titan Series, by Calliope Games, is actually a full series of gateway games by the world’s greatest game designers that will be releasing over the next 3 years. They’re referred to as “gateway games” because they’ll be great for introducing new people into the gaming hobby.

Read more »


Secret Code 13+4 board game review

Secret Code 13+4 children's board game

Secret Code 13+ is set up and ready to play.

“For months the agents have been preparing for this evening. Tonight is the night the secret mission ‘Amun Re’ begins. The team, made up of four cunning secret agents, breaks into the museum and thanks to their precise calculations cracks the tricky codes of the security installation. Who will be the first to overcome all the security’s laser barriers to get hold of the precious mask of Amun Re?”

And thus begins the children’s board game Secret Code 13+4.

As you may surmise from the game title, Secret Code 13+4 is a game that involves math. Players need to use their math skills to crack the security codes to get past the lasers and into the central chamber to win.

Check out Caleb’s video review of Secret Code 13+4 to see if it looks like a good fit for your children.

Can the whole family enjoy Secret Code 13+4

Read more »