10 Must-Have Family Board Games

The snow is falling, the temperature is dropping, and chestnuts are being roasted on open fires. Ok, so we’ve never actually roasted any chestnuts on an open fire, but we sing about it a lot this time of year. The other thing we do a lot of this time of year is play family board games.

So what are the best board games to pull out on cold winter nights?
Well, that depends a lot on who and how many people are playing. That’s why we think it’s important to make sure your game shelf or game closet is supplied with a variety of family board games so you’re ready for any occasion.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of the top board games that we believe every family should have on their game shelf. These are the 10 board games that we’ll make sure to rescue if our house is burning down – or at least the first to buy again if the fire marshal stops us from running back in. And with over 160 games in our game closet, this is a tough list to make. They’re all great board games and we have no hesitation in recommending all of them to every family out there.

Note: Even though we’ve listed the manufacturer suggested ages, we find that often times those ages are higher than necessary. Most likely your kids will be up to the challenge before then.

10 Must-Have Family Board Games:

1. Ticket to Ride – Strategic fun

Ticket to Ride: EuropeTicket to Ride is a fantastic family board game that’s great for people of all ages. Players compete to build train routes on the board and earn points based on the length and destinations. We love that it has a good balance of strategy and luck and is simple to learn and play. Learning to plan your route based on your cards and knowing when to block others are the keys to a good strategy. There are different versions to choose from – we like the Europe version the best. But any version is a must-have.
See our full review of Ticket to Ride: Europe.
2-5 Players, Ages 8+, 45 Minutes, Around $40

2. Blokus – Spacial recognition and planning

BlokusBlokus is an abstract strategy game with colored Tetris-shaped pieces that players are trying to play onto the board. The only caveat to placing a piece is that it may not lie adjacent to your other pieces, but instead must be placed touching at least one corner of your pieces already on the board. Blokus is great for developing spacial recognition skills as well as strategic planning. As the game nears the end is when it really gets tricky – and fun.
See our full review of Blokus.
2 or 4 Players, Ages 5+, 20 Minutes, Around $20

3. Settlers of Catan – Resource building

Settlers of CatanSettlers of Catan has been at the top of the best selling hobby board games for a number of years. And there’s a good reason for it. When it was published in 1995 it established a new type of game experience. What we love about Settlers of Catan is that even when it’s not your turn, you still participate. Any time a player rolls a number that corresponds to where your settlements or cities are located, you get a reward – your spot produces those resources. And you’ll use those resources to build and expand further. The variable layout of the tiles and numbers make it a fresh game every time you play.
See our full review of Settlers of Catan.
3-4 Players, Ages 10+, 90 Minutes, Around $35

4. Carcassonne – Create your own world

CarcassonneCarcassonne is another good game that has a great balance of strategy and luck and is another hugely popular family board game for good reason. In Carcassonne you build a country side full of cities, farms, and roads. You randomly select a tile and place it so the board and countryside grows over the course of the game. You place your miniature people (Meeples) on the tiles depending on how you want to score points. And that’s where the strategy comes in. Good placement of your meeples will determine your success or failure.
See our full review of Carcassonne.
2-5 Players, Ages 8+, 60 Minutes, Around $25

5. Pandemic or Forbidden Island – Cooperative play

PandemicForbidden IslandPandemic is a great cooperative board game. When you’re not really in the head-to-head competitive mode, it’s good to have a board game where you can all work together to defeat the game. In Pandemic diseases are breaking out around the world and your team of experts need to work together to clean up the mess and find cures for the diseases. And Forbidden Island has been described as Pandemic-Lite. In Forbidden Island your team of experts is searching for treasure on a sinking island. It has a variable board set up so the game offers a new challenge every time. And you can also increase the difficulty level if you’re feeling particularly daring.
See our full reviews of Pandemic and Forbidden Island.
Pandemic: 2-4 Players, Ages 10+, 60 Minutes, Around $25
Forbidden Island: 2-4 Players, Ages 10+, 30 Minutes, Around $15 (best valued game out there)

6. Mastermind – Deduction

MastermindAnother 2 Player family board game that we recommend as a must-have in your family board game collection is Mastermind. Mastermind is the classic game of solving a code. One person creates a code and the other takes guesses along the way and receives subtle hints to help them deduce the correct pattern. It’s another great thinking game that can challenge both young and old alike. And if you want a little more of a challenge look for Super Mastermind where the code contains 5 colors instead of 4.
See our full review of Mastermind.
2 Players, Ages 8+, 15 Minutes, Around $15

7. Chess – Every piece has it’s role

ChessWe think everyone should own a chess set and know how to play it. The classic game of chess is a great way to develop thinking abilities. We love that every type of piece (from Pawn to King) has it’s unique way to move, that you have to look forward a few moves to plan your attack, and that you have to anticipate the moves of your opponent. It can be a challenge for younger players to pick up on. But if they start learning young, those thinking capabilities will pay future dividends.
2 Players, Ages 6+, Time and Cost vary widely

8. Sequence – Team play

SequenceFor a great game that’s played in teams and allows for a large number of players to participate we say Sequence is a must-have family board game. Of course, Sequence is really a mix of a board game and a card game, but a lot of board games also require cards, so we’ll include Sequence in this list. It’s a very rare occasion when we don’t play Sequence at a large family gathering. Even when we just want a quick game on our own family night, Sequence hits the table most often. And since we have 6 in our family we can mix it up between 2 teams of 3 and 3 teams of 2 for different dynamics each time.
See our full review of Sequence.
2-12 Players, Ages 7+, 10 Minutes, Around $20

9. Chutes and Ladders – Bad things can happen

Chutes and LaddersYes it’s just a roll and move game and there isn’t any strategy involved. But that’s just what young tikes need. For little kids, this is a must-have board game where they learn a number of critical things. They learn how to take turns, that being behinds doesn’t mean you’ll lose, and that bad things can happen and they’ll be able to deal with it. This is a great start to teaching young kids how to lose gracefully.
2-4 Players, Ages 4+, 20 Minutes, Around $10

10. Boggle – A competitive word find OR Word on the Street – A tug-of-war of words

BoggleWord on the StreetNow there may be a few in our family that wouldn’t include Boggle on this list. In fact, if they knew it made the list, they would disavow having any part in this must-have family board game list. And while they will continue to complain, I believe you need to have a word game in your board game collection. So while it’s on the list for now, we’ll leave it up to you to pick your favorite word game. Just make sure that you get at least one word game in your collection. If you don’t like the Boggle “word find” route, then the first one that we’d recommend take it’s place is Word on the Street. Whereas Boggle is a quiet game with everyone staring at the letter dice, Word on the Street is noisy with everyone hollering and grabbing letters.
See our full review of Word on the Street and Word on the Street Junior.
Boggle: 1-8 Players, Ages 8+, 10 Minutes, Around $15
Word on the Street: 2+ Players, Ages 12+, 20 Minutes, Around $18

Need even more ideas for board game gift ideas? We’ve put together a list of over 40 games to consider for giving as presents – broken into 8 categories. Check out our Board Game Gift Guide.

We’d love to hear what your “must-have” family board games are. Which games would you make sure to rescue if your house were on fire?

And be sure to check out the Top 10 Must-Have Family Card Games.


Comments: 36


This is a solid for family games. Two more that my kids and wife just love are For Sale and Tutti Frutti (or Halli Galli).

For Sale is my 5 year old’s favorite game by far. She may not understand the strategy completely, but it doesn’t affect her fun. The card artwork is also fantastic.

Tutti Frutti adds a little tension to gaming for kids, and smacking the bell seems to appeal to everyone. May not be great for kids under 6 or 7 because of the addition requirement, but my 5 and 9 year old and I pull this out at least once a month for a few rounds.



we’ve been playing a lot of candyland lately with our almost 3-year-old. thankfully he’s getting a couple new ones for christmas! there’s a bunch of games on this list i’d like to get… 🙂



I have to totally disagree with #9… I can’t stand that game!

I started my children on Snails Race Pace to learn games and then jumped to Kids of Carcassonne and Formula D (basic rules). I couldn’t burn Chutes & Ladders or Candyland fast enough!



I don’t have young children anymore, but I’ve had luck with the non-gamers, or at least non-heavy gamers, playing Qwirkle. I think Can’t Stop is another good family game.



Great choices!

My favorite new family game that I would add to your list is Dixit. It has some similarities to Apples to Apples but is mcuh more creative and interesting.



A deceptively simple one is Pentago (four player). It is a tic-tac-toeish game with a literal twist. I’ve played it with my 7yr old and my 15yr old at the same time. My 7yr old won. Fun-o-plenty.



In my gaming gift guide (http://boardgameforge.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/gaming-gift-guide-2010/), I listed 14 games (well, 13 games and an expansion): your top four and ten others.

If you haven’t played Stone Age, I heartily recommend it.

I haven’t played Forbidden Island, but my wife is going to be getting it for xmas. 🙂

Oh, and BTW, congrats on being geek of the week at BGG!



Oh, and I added you to my blogroll — you have a nice site. 🙂



We recently purchased Stone Age and a couple of us have played it and really like it to. Once we have the chance for more of us to play it together, we’ll definitely do a review because it is great.



Nice site! Our family loves board games too. I’ll be keeping an eye open for your new reviews.



great site! I love board games and have been looking for recommendations to get my two daughters (3 & 5) interested and stumbled upon your site – very helpful.
Ps. my kids love to watch Brook’s video reviews!



    Bart – thanks for your comments. Thats a great age to get them started with some fun games. And Brooke’s happy to hear that they like to watch her video reviews. She loves doing them – and should have another one from her up within the next 2 weeks.



great site! I love board games and have been looking for recommendations to get my two daughters (3 & 5) interested and stumbled upon your site – very helpful.
Ps. my kids love to watch Brook’s video reviews!



    Bart – thanks for your comments. Thats a great age to get them started with some fun games. And Brooke’s happy to hear that they like to watch her video reviews. She loves doing them – and should have another one from her up within the next 2 weeks.



I love reading everything on your site. The messages are great and easy to relate to. You are one talented guy. I am proud to call you my brother.



I love reading everything on your site. The messages are great and easy to relate to. You are one talented guy. I am proud to call you my brother.



Just a quick note to point out that you’ve got the age for Carcassonne at 18+ rather than 8+.

Great recommendations. Two that our kids (9, 6, and 3) really enjoy are Guillotine and Incan Gold.



Great list of games. We have 2 of them, but I can for sure see getting a couple more from this list. thx



[…] Together a Board and Card Game Corner: Board games are a game room staple, and although they may seem a little old-fashioned, they’re actually […]



We have never played a co-op game. Would you suggest we buy pandemic or forbidden island? Our kids span the ages of 13 to 5. I love your website. It is so helpful!



    If you haven’t tried a co-op game before and have younger kids (like down to 5), we’d recommend Forbidden Island. As they get older and more into the teens, chances are they’ll enjoy Pandemic more.



i would love to see a review of a game called crazee sixes. it is a new cardgame i have only seen at deseret book



Love the game “Titans”, hours & hours of play, can stop and time, document location of team pieces, and resume play hours, days, or weeks later. Game helps developed strategy and positional awareness.



[…] 10 “Must-Have” Family Board Games:  Looking for some new board games to have on hand in case of a power outage?  You may find some ideas here.  The number one pick was a game I never heard of, Ticket To Ride. […]



If you’re looking for a better word game I’d go for scrabble. Great list =)



[…] of course we can also move towards the core boardgames focus of family gaming nights. Just hit http://www.theboardgamefamily.com to get a glimpse about a few games worth putting on the table at Sunday night […]



Would also recommend trying “You Don’t Know Me” sold on Amazon if you want a game that molds to the different ages well.



Most of these are Ameritrash. Why bother wasting your time?

And what is amazing, is people play them and enjoy it without knowing about the golden age of boardgaming going on right now.



    I completely agree with the “golden age of boardgaming”. There are so many wonderful games out there – and so many more being published every year.
    However, I beg to differ on the “why bother wasting your time” comment. The “Best” game to play completely depends on who you’re playing with. And games that are familiar go over very well with so many people.

    That being said, we posted this list many years ago and actually plan to update it in the coming months. We also posted our Best games lists (each of us) and you’ll find plenty of modern board games on those lists. Those are also a couple years old now and are ready to be updated as well – since we’ve come across a number of new games that will make the list.



I see your most recent comment that you plan to do an updated list …. Have you done one yet because we happen to be in the market for a new game for our 10 year old?? 🙂



    Nicole – We haven’t written an article with an updated list yet. Let us know what type of games he likes and we’ll suggest a few for you.



Hi Trent and family,
Thanks for the great lists – it will make Christmas shopping easier 🙂
What three games would you recommend to have on the shelf at a holiday house, let out to families and groups of all ages?



    Frances – For that question, I’ll defer to our annual Game Gift Guides that you can find a link to as a menu option in the header of our site.



I love your lists! I’m not a regular to any blog, but find myself referring to this one especially around birthdays & holidays because I love games and want my family to love them, as well! One of my favorites is Callisto, which is just $10 on Amazon right now. The board is a little flimsy but I like that it’s similar to Blokus, with variations of course, but you can adjust it for play between 2,3 or 4 players. How do you stay abreast of new board games? Certainly just looking at the shelves at local retailers doesn’t begin to cut it, I’ve learned. Thanks for the great suggestions!



I would amend the age range on Forbidden Island downward quite a bit. My six year old and I have a fantastic time with it every time that we play, while there is no way that he could play something like Pandemic, which strangely has the same age range.



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