Best boardgames for future gamers
October 26, 2014 5:34 PM   Subscribe

My boys like boardgames, and as a gamer I'm going to keep encouraging this. What are your recommendations for beginner moving to intermediate complexity games, with an emphasis on fun, communications and replayability?

I've played lots of boardgames up to ASL complexity and I have lots of ideas, and I have looked at Board Game Geek, but I'm still sure I could learn something from Mefite recommendations. My boys are now only 8 and 6, but they're very comfortable playing the proper rules for RoboRally, Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne, and I'm sure there's a big box of Risk* in Santa's sack this year. The older boy is able to play genestealers in Space Hulk, but isn't yet up to the Marines. I have Cosmic Encounter waiting in the cupboard. What else would be suitable for the next several years, until we break out the serious cardboard (if we ever do) and the miniatures? Two player to multi-player, trading games are good (even get mum playing), silly is good.

* yes I know Risk is deeply flawed crap but it's a classic and it's a gateway game they can play with friends as well.
posted by wilful to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Ticket To Ride - fairly simple rules but the strategy gets deeper as you play.

Dominion - again, simple rules but deeper strategy once you get the hang of it. Alternatively, Trains is the same basic gameplay mechanic as Dominion but with a different theme and a slightly different scoring system which might be more intuitive.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:39 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh yeah, I remember there was some fantasy train game where you had crayons to draw your lines. Which game was that again? Iron Dragon or something? I think train games could be good.
posted by wilful at 5:41 PM on October 26, 2014


Ticket to Ride (we play cards face up as they start to learn it).



Murder of crows
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 5:43 PM on October 26, 2014

Castle Panic, Forbidden Island and Pandemic. Pandemic is a really fun for adults, so mum should enjoy it too.
posted by florencetnoa at 5:48 PM on October 26, 2014

We really like to play Forbidden Island as a family. It's cooperative play, so it's a nice break in-between competitive stuff (especially when the last game was a blow-out).

Master Labyrinth is good too.
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:50 PM on October 26, 2014

Ticket to Ride and Seven Wonders are both lots of fun and easy to pick up.

The fantasy game you are thinking of may be Small World.
posted by synecdoche at 6:05 PM on October 26, 2014

(Oh wait--missed the bit about trains. Probably not Small World.)
posted by synecdoche at 6:06 PM on October 26, 2014

If you want communication, I LOVE Hanabi. Hanabi is a co-operative game where you cannot see your own cards and must rely on facts provided by other players.

For those two-player days, I think Jaipur is a great trading game.

You'll see a lot of recs for good cooperative games (Forbidden Island/Forbidden Desert/Pandemic, all by the same designer with similar mechanics, and ordered in ascending level of difficulty; Ghost Stories). They're great for teaching!

You might also like, depending on how your kids deal with failure at their ages, real-time cooperative games, where they have to do X before a CD/hourglass lets them know their time is up. Space Cadets, Space Alert, and Escape: The Curse of the Temple all require intense communication. But if your kids can't deal well with stress or failure, it might be best to keep this subgenre in your back pocket. That said, they may also find the quick pace to be exhilarating.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:06 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in storytelling-based games, I've recently started playing Gloom with friends, and it's a total blast.

I also love Dominion.
posted by littlegreen at 6:07 PM on October 26, 2014

Our family likes 7 wonders.
posted by NoDef at 6:08 PM on October 26, 2014

Citadels has taken us from age 8 to 14 and converted all the friends to boot... the more you play the more complex it gets.

7 wonders is also good, and fast enough to play after dinner on a school night.

Nthing pademic.
posted by chapps at 6:09 PM on October 26, 2014

Also Set. Best game to quiet everyone in a restaurant. (Citadels and set are always in my purse when travelling with kids)
posted by chapps at 6:12 PM on October 26, 2014

King of Tokyo, Ticket to Ride, and 7 Wonders are pretty popular amongst my friend's kids.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:12 PM on October 26, 2014

Wil Wheaton's Tabletop gives me a pretty good idea of different games.
posted by worldswalker at 6:21 PM on October 26, 2014

My kids started Munchkin at 6 and 9. It's totally the family favorite despite playing at least a dozen mentioned here.
posted by beccaj at 6:33 PM on October 26, 2014

Survive! is lots of fun, easy to play, and has lots of replay-ability -- we've been playing it for over 30 years. The latest version is beautifully done.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:37 PM on October 26, 2014

tsuro is interesting in that the rules are simple, follow the path and be the last one on the board. As the path gets longer its harder to follow. Earlier you just avoid everyone.
posted by TheAdamist at 6:46 PM on October 26, 2014

Bohnanza, a trading game with plenty of communication/negotiation, stands out among trading games for creating motivated sellers as well as motivated buyers, simple rules, easy to play with friends.
posted by eruonna at 6:52 PM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

King of Tokyo is awesome and beloved by all the tweens I have played with. It is also pretty much the only game my dad has ever wanted to play more than once, so it has wide-ranging appeal.
posted by charmedimsure at 7:01 PM on October 26, 2014

Please skip Risk and go with 1775 or 1812. Risk Legacy is at least a more interesting take on Risk if you must go that route.

Auction - Felix the Cat in the Sack, Revolution, Ra
Puzzle - Hanabi
Coop - Forbidden Island
War - 1775, 1812, Memoir 44
Abstrct - Qwirkle, Hey That's My Fish, Ingenious
Bluffing - Coup, Love Letter
Dexterity - Toc Toc Woodman, Villa Paletti
Deduction - Mr Jack (although theme is Jack the Ripper you can just say you're catching a bad guy)
Train / Route - TransAmerica, Thurn and Taxis
Area Control - Gonzaga (they will love the chunks bits to build on the map), China
Card - Guildhall (so much more interactive than Dominion), No Thanks!, Jaipur
posted by ridogi at 7:08 PM on October 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

The first story in this episode of This American Life made me want to try Diplomacy. I've never played it, so I can't vouch for it, but it sounds fun. The story calls Diplomacy "a mix of Risk, poker and the TV show Survivor." (I think it's probably portrayed in this story as being more intense than it would be in a friendly family game.) Maybe this game won't work, but very funny This American Life segment.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:19 PM on October 26, 2014

The crayon train game could definitely have been Iron Dragon. There's an entire genre of "crayon rail system" games, so if there's a setting he particularly likes (Europe, America, the moon, Mars, fantasy Elf world) there's probably a crayon rail game to go along with it. I believe Eurorails is the simplest and shortest to play of the bunch. I own Martian Rails and I really enjoy the sci-fi references and gameplay, but a single game can easily take 3+ hours.

Personally, for an 8 and 6 year old, I'd go with the earlier suggestion of Ticket to Ride, as the crayon rail games can get kind of long and my guess is they'd tax the attention span of kids that young. Ticket to Ride is much more accessible right-off and similar in complexity to Settlers. If they do really like the train theme, then they'd probably love one of the crayon rail games after having gotten used to longer gaming sessions with some of the other games recommended here (and I am actually partial to Small World, mentioned above! I think it's well-designed and fun without taking super long to set up or remember how to play).
posted by augustimagination at 7:34 PM on October 26, 2014

Takenoko is fun and involves adorable pandas!

I think Dixit would be a good choice too. Kind of like Apples to Apples, but a little more creative.
posted by wsquared at 7:34 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Apple Turnover, Diplomacy requires a fair degree of emotional maturity (or perhaps immaturity), it's not appropriate for a family, oh no not indeed. Played a bit of it, have a copy of it, wont be breaking that out for a long while yet.

Thanks for responses so far everyone. Some great ones to look for I can see. Not that I want to stop any more recommendations coming in.
posted by wilful at 7:54 PM on October 26, 2014

nthing Dominion, Ticket to Ride, and Munchkin. Worth noting that Munchkin has the added advantage of completely ridiculous card names that appeal on a very 6/8-year-old-boy level. My brother owned at least three different editions of it by his thirteenth birthday, and despite being far too "cool" for it now, is always down to put down the xbox controller and play.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:04 PM on October 26, 2014

My eight year old son quickly figured out that the Ticket to Ride is completely dependent on who is lucky enough to get the valuable routes. No longer fun.

Apparently the expansion packs address this problem, but you may want to consider it when purchasing the game.
posted by alms at 9:13 PM on October 26, 2014

Nthing 7 Wonders. Not necessarily "deep" but as a casual board-gamer, I really like Betrayal at House on the Hill and Ricochet Robots.
posted by serelliya at 10:12 PM on October 26, 2014

Also vouching fo Dixit, a great social game... Not reliant on reading ability, English language, or shared cultural reference points, requires the ability to imply, not describe.
posted by chapps at 10:17 PM on October 26, 2014

Amazed that no one's yet mentioned Stratego. That was a staple of fifth grade rainy day recess. It's brilliant. You've got very clear, simple rules, and you configure your army based on how you think it could best function within the rules. Just how you set up the pieces is as complex as the world of chess openings.

And the rules are dead simple. One fifth grader can teach another fifth grader how to play it in two minutes.
posted by colin_l at 10:22 PM on October 26, 2014

Oh yeah, I remember there was some fantasy train game where you had crayons to draw your lines. Which game was that again?

I don't think it's the game you're thinking of, but String Railways might be fun. It has a similar "draw your own railways" mechanic (except you use pieces of string).

Hanabi is great but I've found a lot of adults have a really tough time with the logic and memory skills required, let alone kids, although I guess you could house-rule it to make it easier. Maybe allow kids to make notes on a bit of paper about what cards are what colour/number.

I definitely agree with Forbidden Island as an intro to co-op games, although Forbidden Desert is kind of a reboot/improved version of Island so might be better (I've not played Desert myself but I hear it has improvements over its predecessor). Once you've mastered Forbidden Island/Desert and are loving the co-op mechanic, Pandemic is the perfect next step.

If you want a great, slightly simpler game that's great for when friends are over (adults or kids), Fauna is a lot of fun. You are essentially guessing/estimating the size/weight/habitats of a load of different animals based just on a small picture of the animal. Has some great moments when you're trying to decide if a boar is smaller or larger than your dog, or if this weird fox lives in Africa or Asia, or you're trying to visualise if a monkey weighs more or less than a bag of sugar. Only downside is that if someone's watched a ton of nature documentaries they might wipe the floor with everyone (can be fun for a kid if they're beating all the adults though). Even if you don't know the exact answers though you still get points for guessing "near" the right answers so it's not all or nothing.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:44 AM on October 27, 2014

My eight year old son quickly figured out that the Ticket to Ride is completely dependent on who is lucky enough to get the valuable routes. No longer fun.

Time to ramp up to the next level of strategy then. Try and guess what tickets someone has, and place your trains to block their route. TTR can get quite cut-throat with experienced players.

You are right that there are expansions for the US and Europe games that add extra routes though.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:45 AM on October 27, 2014

My boys will be 8 and 6 in January. They love King of Tokyo; Castle Panic; Flash Point: Fire Rescue; Mice and Mystics; and Super Dungeon Explore. All but King of Tokyo are co-operative; King is too silly for them to care about winners and losers.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:57 AM on October 27, 2014

« Older What do insurers do with two incidents of...   |   How can I learn how to make a movie? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.