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
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
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
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
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
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”:
- Forbidden Desert
- King of Tokyo
- Ticket to Ride
- Incan Gold