Board games are fun, but sometimes you have to share them with other people. Namely small children, at birthday parties and family gatherings, where they can’t be avoided.
Fortunately, there’s a range of board games that are just as good for adults as they are for kids. Some of them are mechanical; some of them require a bit more thinking power. Whatever takes your fancy, here’s 10 games you can bust out when kids are around.
This post was originally published on August 17 2017
Survive: Escape from Atlantis
You’re stuck on Atlantis. Before it sank into the ocean. And before it sinks, you need to get to safe ground. But along the way are sharks, the Kraken, whales that love destroying boats, and a bunch of players that love to screw you over.
Survive: Escape from Atlantis is more of a competitive game, so it might be slightly more difficult to play with the youngest of kids if they aren’t good at taking hits. Beyond that, it’s a great game for all ages. The board and pieces are vibrant, the rules can be easily understood in a few minutes, games don’t for particularly long and there are plenty of ways to mix up the action.
Basically a neat twist on Jenga, Rhino Hero is a simple game about being a tower of cards. The premise is pretty basic: each card has a pattern on it which marks the shape of the walls you have to place, without bringing the whole tower down. You then play a roof tile on top, and if those roof tiles have a rhino symbol then you also have to move Rhino Hero up the tower (which changes the weight and balance of the whole tower).
If it sounds a little too simple, let me demonstrate what happens when you play the game with adults. Zero points for guessing who the filth wizard off camera is.
Ticket to Ride
Image: Game Theory Blog
Ticket to Ride has been described as a good gateway into modern board games, and that applies for adults as much as kids. There’s no offensive language, the rules are pretty straightforward, and you can keep kids entertained for hours afterwards with the solid iOS/Android conversion.
Image: Board Game Geek
If you can find the mini version of Formula D, that’s perfect for kids. Otherwise, you might want to make sure you don’t play with more than 4, otherwise games could run longer than most kids’ attention spans.
That said, Formula D is still a game kids and adults can enjoy together, although more for kids closer to their teenage years than younger ones. There’s a little bit of finesse with overtaking, corners and accelerating, but the manual has plenty of clear language and illustrations on how it all works. It’s a good game for kids that like cars, and kids who want a slightly more competitive game.
Co-operative games are usually good to play with kids, especially if they’re not particularly good sports when it comes to losing. That makes Forbidden Island good to have: a game for up to four players, with each player having a different ability to help people escape from the island.
As the game progresses, more tiles of the island will sink, restricting movement and forcing players to make sacrifices. It’s a fun game with scalable difficulty, and usually available for $40 or less.
Codenames gets better the bigger your vocabulary, and it’s also better if everyone knows each other. But there’s also fun in watching a team collapse as the members try to unpack the bizarre logic of their spymasters, and there’s nothing stopping kids from joining in on the fun.
It’d actually be good to see a group of kids from different ages tackle Codenames, because it’s really dependent on the vocabulary of the group and being on the same wavelength. The simple rules and the lack of any overt imagery should help win sensitive parents over as well.
Dixit is a bit more complex mentally, but the vibrant imagery of it makes a cracker for kids, adults and mixed groups. Much like Codenames, the fun is dependent on the wavelength of the group rather than having a lot of experience or prior grounding in the rules.
It’s a simple game to understand: the storyteller makes up a sentence or phrase to describe a card in their hand. Everyone else then hands a card to the storyteller that might match that phrase, and then they’re shuffled together and laid out face up in front of the whole table. Players then guess which one they think is the correct card, not too dissimilar from Fibbage.
Scoring system is pretty straightforward and there’s a visual track will help younguns if they have any troubles with math. It’s all-around good fun and a good precursor to Codenames, especially if you’ve got a large group of people.
Image: Board Game Geek
Minus the LEGO-esque instructions for building the dice pyramid, Camel Up is a neat game about betting on camel races. Players take turns to bet on camels every race, with players rolling dies to determine what camels move forward in the race.
A Spiel des Jahres winner, Camel Up is first and foremost a casual game. It’s good for people who don’t game frequently, kids, or family. Anything determined by dice will always have a strong random element, but it’s fun and bright to look at, and the pyramid is thematic and a whole lot more interesting than picking dice out of a bag.
Power Grid has been used to teach basic maths to kids before, and it’s not hard to see why. The game requires a bit of forethought, with players tasked with building a power network through a series of auctions for resources.
What’s neat about Power Grid is how the supply/demand market works. As resources become more popular, they increase in price. Apart from introducing some basic market concepts to kids, it adds a neat bit of volatility for players, as everyone has to constantly juggle how much cash they have – not only to determine whether they can expand next turn, but how much they can bid for resources.
I got around to playing the classic German board game Power Grid (AKA Funkenschlag) on the weekend, and absolutely loved it.Read more
As a commenter once wrote, Power Grid isn’t really about power. It’s about mathematics, and the way the mechanics interact with each other is one of the reasons Power Grid has had so much appeal since it was reprinted into English back in 2004.
Sushi Go/Sushi Go Party!
Image: Across The Board Games
Sushi Go is a pretty simple card game where players try to build the biggest point-scoring set of sushi they can. A range of cards is dealt out to every player at the start of each round, and players pick a card and pass their hand around until no more cards are left.
Point values are marked on each card, so it’s fairly easy to understand, although I’ve seen some adults get confused at times when they take too long to make a decision. Kids should have no troubles with either version of the game, although Sushi Go Party! does complicate things a little by giving you lots of choices with what particular sushi people want to play with.
But the mechanics are still incredibly straight forward: pick a card, pass your hand around. That’s something anyone can do at any age.
What are your favourite board games to play at parties with mixed aged groups, or with friends and family?