What board games are popular with the kids these days?
December 12, 2013 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday, my gentleman friend brought home two cards from our community center "angel tree" - where you can buy holiday gifts for a neighborhood kid in need of some. The problem is, the cards are maddeningly opaque - they each just say the kids (boy age 13, girl age 11) want 'board games'. What should we get them?

My thinking is, they probably wanted something specific, which I would have been thrilled to get for them, but were probably asked to make their requests super general. So what's most likely to go over well, given our total lack of direction here? Is there a particular board game that's hot with the tween set these days? Like, if this was 1996 and a 3-year-old wanted a 'Sesame Street doll', I like to think I could have read between the lines and figured out they were after a Tickle Me Elmo. Is there any chance there's the equivalent here?

Otherwise, general suggestions for good age-appropriate board games very welcome. No suggestion too obvious, as I don't hang out much with kids and I'm not exactly an expert in board games.
posted by catesbie to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (38 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Also, as a kid I loved:
- Clue
- Yahtzee
- Monopoly
- Scattagories

I also think Carcassone would be a good game for that age. Any age, really. Simple game, very fun.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:51 AM on December 12, 2013

I'd recommend Risk. I find that the Tween Age is when they really get into strategy games. Clue is also popular, pretty much for the same reason (although Clue is a lot simpler.)

Ouiji is also fun, but if the parents are religious...could be problematic.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:53 AM on December 12, 2013

posted by shothotbot at 6:58 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, best resource for boardgame information and recommendations is boadgamegeek.com. I would definitely wander over there and see what comes up. My husband and I went on a quest for some boardgames and that site was a wealth of information.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:59 AM on December 12, 2013

I think Ticket to Ride would be a good game for this age group (it's also fun for adults).
posted by Asparagus at 7:00 AM on December 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

How about something like a big multi-game board that they can use for all kinds of common board games?
posted by Etrigan at 7:01 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Feed the Kitty and Story Cubes are fun and appropriate for 3 year olds. Chess and checkers are fun for older kids.
posted by 101cats at 7:02 AM on December 12, 2013

I got Settlers of Catan for my kiddo, he's 8 but it's good for ages above that too.

(It's actually all I can do not to give it to him early because I have been wanting to try it for ages. But I think he'll like it too).
posted by emjaybee at 7:03 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oops. Misread the 13 year old.
posted by 101cats at 7:04 AM on December 12, 2013

I loved Scattergories at that age. I believe there is also a Junior Scattergories. (Same thing goes for apples to apples). I also really really loved Labyrinth, and it is age appropriate.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:04 AM on December 12, 2013

My cousins (ages 11-15) like Phase 10 a lot. And uno.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 7:06 AM on December 12, 2013

Ticket to Ride is really great.

I know a bunch of kids who love Forbidden Island, which has the benefit of being a cooperative game where everyone plays together against the "board." Plus it comes in a tin instead of a box and who doesn't love that.
posted by bcwinters at 7:08 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Trouble and Headache (with the pop-o-matic) remains popular. It's based on Ludo but the pop-o-matic makes it much more fun.
posted by h00py at 7:11 AM on December 12, 2013

I'm pretty well up on kid fads due to my job, and I'm not aware of any specific boardgame that's a thing this year. There is a new version of Monopoly with the cat token, and there might be some tie-in games for things like Moshi Monsters, but there's no board game equivalent of the Furby or the Tickle Me Elmo this year, at least not for older kids.

Ticket To Ride and Carcassonne are what I'd pick if I were buying games for kids - both can be played with two players, and you can either play them very competitively or not. Another idea would be a co-operative game, like Forbidden Island or Pandemic - the latter would be great as you have to fly around the world fighting diseases, so you get to learn what cities are where pretty quickly.
posted by mippy at 7:15 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

Seconding Clue. I played it last week with a 6, 12, 13, and 15 year old and they all loved it. They all wanted to play more than once, so I'm guessing that might be a good choice.
posted by fresh-rn at 7:23 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd personally recommend against Risk or Monopoly, as they've been 'surpassed' by modern games with better rulesets. Of course, this is an opinion - I feel that board games have evolved over the past 15 years, so the 'classics' often still have frustrating pacing or odd rules that "don't fly" anymore. This may come off a bit strong - if you really like the idea of those, go for it! Board games nowadays are a huge genre, so I find those to be kind of boring.

King of Tokyo would also be very cool for a kid - you go around stomping on each other as giant Power Rangers-esque monsters (er, Kaiju if you're into that stuff). I'd definitely say King of Tokyo would be my pick - it's colourful and 'theme-y'. King of Tokyo!

It looks 'kiddy', but it's a lot of fun for adults as well - the kids should be able to drag people into it.
posted by aggyface at 7:32 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I also favor euro-style games like Settlers of Catan and Carcassone that were already mentioned. For simpler games, how about Saboteur or Set? They are more fun with multiple players though.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:35 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

the two classic board games happen to be the oldest games in the world: go and chess. unlike the obscure games cited above, knowledge of the classics will enable these kids to play spontaneous pickup games with knowledgeable strangers anywhere in the world.
posted by bruce at 7:41 AM on December 12, 2013

Catan!! Everyone loves Catan.
posted by hepta at 8:10 AM on December 12, 2013

My daughter is 9 and precocious. She is into:

The Scooby Doo "Mystery Mine"
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:11 AM on December 12, 2013

Response by poster: You guys rule. I am sensing some themes here and am very grateful for your suggestions, particularly as I often am a little unclear on what different ages would be into. These have given me an excellent place to start! I and (I hope) my anonymous neighbors thank you!
posted by catesbie at 8:23 AM on December 12, 2013

If its on the shelves of Toys-R-Us in bright colors and something you remember as a kid, please do not buy them that.

Board games can be simple to start and maddeningly complex to master, they can expand thinking, they can be story-tellers, they can be imagination stimulating, or they can be Monopoly and Settlers of Catan.

Quick list of things that are not well known outside gaming circles that will astound, even 11-13 year olds(Things marked with an asterisk are either going to be difficult for them to pick up by themselves or are on the edge of that age group but who knows, maybe they would enjoy the challenge. Things marked with a # are what I would rate highest of the group):

Ticket to Ride (go for the Europe version)
Power Grid*
7 Wonders#
Pandemic* (a little iffy given the age, but perhaps they'll be hooked on the premise?)
King of Tokyo#
Race for the Galaxy*
Puerto Rico*
posted by Slackermagee at 8:24 AM on December 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

I don't know how to more strongly urge that you avoid the Hasbro style games. Its like comparing a TI-89 calculator to an IPhone with the stuff the German companies are making.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:27 AM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Amazon search : 10 years and up, sorted by new and popular.
posted by vignettist at 8:33 AM on December 12, 2013

My 11-year-old likes Carcassonne, (the dread) Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, and Ticket to Ride the most out of our board games, I'd guess. Ticket to Ride is the one we all as a family are most likely to settle on.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:11 AM on December 12, 2013

Here are some recommendations for great games with kid-friendly theme and gameplay.

Hey, That's My Fish!

Love Letter




Also, look into Mice and Mystics: I see it recommended a lot in this situation.
posted by blue t-shirt at 9:12 AM on December 12, 2013

For the kids in my life who are around that age, I am going with any version of the HedBanz line of games (Disney, probably, for my nephews) and Jenga. Though Jenga might just be because I like the idea of there being non-frustrating instructions for my autistic nephew. Plus I fricking love Jenga and have been waiting for these kids to be old enough to play, heh.
posted by Merinda at 9:25 AM on December 12, 2013

Honestly, for a couple of little kids who want board games, I wouldn't get them exclusively fancy euro games they and their friends have never heard of. Perhaps a mix of those and more common games? DEFINITELY Clue, though, I've played it with adults and kids and it's always fun. My sister and I played a lot of Stratego, but perhaps there is a better two-person game along those lines now?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:30 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dominion: Intrigue. 7 Wonders.
posted by zscore at 9:46 AM on December 12, 2013

If I'm reading the question correctly, these are going to be wrapped presents sent to the kids. In other words, there won't be a game-loving adult to walk them through their first game. This greatly limits your options to games that 1) Look awesome, 2) Have simple rules, and 3) are wicked fun to play. Based on these criteria, my picks are:

King of Tokyo (Cartoonish monsters, lots of dice rolling)
Forbidden Island (All players work together to escape from a sinking island)
posted by alienzero at 10:06 AM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

There are many great suggestions in this thread: King of Tokyo, Clue, Forbidden Island, Catan and others. Many of the more recent games -- all of the above except Clue -- can be previewed on Wil Wheaton's excellent Web series TableTop.

At the risk of copping out, I wonder if you could get a gift certificate to a local game store? That way they could choose their own, and you'd be supporting a local store.
posted by Gelatin at 11:17 AM on December 12, 2013

I have an 11 yo and a 13 yo who love board games, and as such, they already have all the basics... Monopoly, Life, Scrabble, Sorry, Clue, etc, ad nauseum. We're all into board & card games around here, and have a pretty good collection.

But speaking as someone whose kids - and have friends with kids - that are often on the receiving end of gifts like that, please do NOT get the stereotypical everyone-has-them-game. Being low or very-low income with their requests on that tree does not mean they have zero games; it means the parents are unable to fund much in the way of gifts at Christmastime. (The exception being foster kids, who usually get to take very little of their own with them.)

Sorry if that part almost comes across as a rant - it's just that the "standbys" are what retailers put on sale during the holidays, so they are both more likely to have been already purchased for kids that love video games, and far more likely to end up in Christmas giving scenarios because they're inexpensive. It's sort of a ridiculous circle, though, because if a redundant game comes wrapped, the kid will be disappointed. If it comes for the parent to wrap, they'll probably regift to someone else whose doesn't have it - and need to come up with the funds to replace it and "even out" the gifts for the kids.

I would caution, though, on getting anything that requires a ton of rule-reading before ever starting to play. It's too iffy whether or not it'll be a kid that'll do that, or it'd sit on a shelf.

I'd also suggest that the games work with as few as two players, just to be on the safe side. (So, no Apples to Apples or Wits & Wagers)

The kids' top recommendations:
Labyrinth or Master Labyrinth from Ravensburger
Any Munchkin card game (a main set)

And an exception to the please-no-basics thing - U-Build Monopoly hits the ideal balance between my "I LOVE Monopoly and will play it all night" daughter and everyone else who wants a shorter game. Seems like it would be cheesy, but actually works really well for us as a compromise.
posted by stormyteal at 11:32 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

stormyteal: "I would caution, though, on getting anything that requires a ton of rule-reading before ever starting to play. It's too iffy whether or not it'll be a kid that'll do that, or it'd sit on a shelf. "

I emphatically second this, with the further caution not to get something too far afield from the mainstream. Catan, Carcassonne and 7 Wonders, for example, are good choices if you're willing to teach them, but their game concepts might be difficult to grasp if you drop them on someone you never have or will meet, and who is used to games from Hasbro.

In that light, some games previously mentioned that I agree would be good choices:

Ticket To Ride
King of Tokyo

I'd also add Quirkle and Banangrams as suggestions.
posted by mkultra at 12:42 PM on December 12, 2013

I have not tried this The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet game, but it was recommended when I was looking for kids games ideas earlier this week. "Make me a planet, each player will build his own planet to provide a beautiful home for the dear animals of The Little Prince - the fox, the sheep, the elephant and the snake - but make sure there aren't too many volcanoes and baobab trees!"
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:43 PM on December 12, 2013

Robo Rally is brilliant and easy to learn. The back story is a bit geeky but the game play isn't. Amazon says 12-16 but us mid age geeks play it all the time.

Wizards has an interactive demo and learn to play aid on their site which would help out though the rules are fairly straight forward.
posted by Mitheral at 7:51 PM on December 12, 2013

spamandkimchi: "I have not tried this The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet game, but it was recommended when I was looking for kids games ideas earlier this week."

My (adult) friend played it at BGG.con the other week and really liked it. I will say this, though- it seems awfully twee.
posted by mkultra at 8:05 PM on December 12, 2013

'Forbidden Island' (co-operative!), 'Gloom', any variant of 'Fluxx', Zombie Dice and 'King of Tokyo' would all be great starters. They're easy to learn, don't require too much reading to get started, and are fantastic examples of modern board games.
posted by eloeth-starr at 1:49 AM on December 15, 2013

Dice Tower is a podcast that does tabletop game reviews, they have a lot of top ten lists that you might find helpful--click on the Review links because their reviews are really thorough and useful.

Teen Games
Our Kid's Favorite Games (their kids are younger, but they play a lot of games, so might have some ideas for older kids who are less game-savvy)
Games for a Middle/High School Game Club
Games a New Gamer Should Buy (pt. 1)
Games You Can Teach While Playing

Etc. Full list of top ten lists is here. (Disclaimer: You may find yourself going out and buying a lot of games for yourself.)
posted by anaelith at 5:30 AM on December 16, 2013

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