10 Board Games Adults Can Play With Kids

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

Image: Massdrop

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.

Rhino Hero

Image: Kotaku

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.

Great game.

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.

Formula D

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.

Forbidden Island

Image: Gamewright / Forbidden Island

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

Image: Kotaku

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

Image: Board Game Geek

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.

Camel Up

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

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.

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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?


Comments

    Carcassonne. Colt Express. Hey That's My Fish. Currently, Via Appia.

    My kids love Exploding Kittens

      Do the kittens?

      I've had a hard time getting people to want to play that game. I got one game in with some adult friends but they grumbled through the whole thing, then switched to Scrabble afterwards.

      It is a simple game, I suppose, but I enjoyed it.

        If they switched to Scrabble, then they're not the kind of boardgaming people for this game.

        Exploding kittens is awesome. Especially when you pull some bat-crap crazy sequence of plays.

    Gloom! I have always and will always recommend Gloom. It's an awesome game!

      I love Gloom, but I'm always frustrated with how the mechanics of the game (getting the lowest score possible) interferes with the best part of the game (telling the best story).

      The last few times we've played it, we introduced a rule that everyone votes for who told the best story, and the winner gets hefty a bonus at the end. Everyone becomes a regular Crypt Keeper after that rule is brought in.

    In addition to some above: Tokaido, Machi Koro, The Big Idea, Pairs, Brawl, Spyfall, Hanabi...

    I've used Ticket to Ride with younger kids (around 5-6 years) before, they loved it and picked it up pretty quickly. I played Camel Up with the same group but they had a harder time understanding the whole stack thing - they understood that camels on the bottom carry the ones on the top, but had a hard time understanding that both the stack order and the turn order could be used together to get further ahead.

    I was interested in trying Sushi-Go, but since they had trouble with Camel Up I'm worried they'll have a hard time keeping track of Sushi-Go's different ways to earn points. They get frustrated if they don't understand things like that and when they get frustrated they lose interest. Anyone here had experience with Sushi-Go with younger players that might have some tips to smooth it out for them?

      Yeah, I play Sushi Go with our kids (8 and 6). For them, the game is much more about set collecting than thinking strategically about points.

      When my 6-year-old was 4, she really wanted to play and was drawn in by the cute imagery, but the idea of picking a card and passing them on was actually quite counter-intuitive; I had to wait for her to be a bit older.

      As the marshalling adult, you have to be very strict on picking up and putting down cards in the right spot, so you don't get out of sync, and make sure everyone has the right number of cards.

    Doesn't have the longest amount of replayability but we bought smugglers for my nephew and nieces. You basically hide gems in balls of clay. There are holes of different sizes the ball of clay needs to fit through but only the biggest two get checked.
    Also a guessing/bluffing component so even if you don't win on the ball rolling you are still in with a chance for points. Was good for the full age range.
    Dixit also a favourite.

    Although does anybody have suggestions for really young? My Tiglet is 3 and looking for some things to get her started on. We currently have snail race and beetle.

      Rhino Hero could be rough because they might not have the reach once the tower gets four or five stacks high.

      It's not a board game as such, but Set is really neat. Good pattern recognition game and gets really intense when adults go against each other. V. cheap too.

      The Orchard Toys games are fantastic for very little ones. They're usually marketed as "educational" games, but they're they're really fun (and funny), and the tiles are good quality, so they won't fall apart with enthusiastic little hands.

    We could play rhino hero on the floor but think it might be a bit difficult to balance the walls. Fine motor skills are still developing but could be good practice.
    I think Set might be a bit too complex still, might be able to play if we limit it to 2 things that need to match rather than 4. Might be worth a try

    The Ticket to Ride: First Journey version is a very good version for families - it's fast, there's no scoring (just the first to 6 tickets) and the map is small enough that kids aren't going to get bored. We love it.

    I also rate Qwirkle - little kids can play along with older ones, or you can just ignore the scoring and just have fun matching colours and shapes.

    All good options. Here's some I recommend:

    1. Flash Point: Fire Rescue

    Like you said, co-op games are good for newcomers and for kids. They will enjoy the cute figures, there is a family friendly mode which makes it easy, and it teaches action selection, the danger of fire and co-operation.

    2. Machi Koro

    It's basically a faster, better version of Monopoly. It is also very fun. And will teach kids about economics, supply and demand, about purchasing businesses for maximum profit.

    3. Once Upon a Time

    It's a simple story telling game that you tell co-operatively while trying to win by introducing specific concepts on your cards. It's fun and teaches imagination and language skills.

    4. Qwirkle

    It teaches strategy, colour and shape memory, and has won awards for its intelligent design. It's also really fun to play, and the nice block pieces are good for kids.

    5. Blokus

    It's like competitive Tetris, and the bright colours and good size blocks will help. It will help teach strategy, spatial awareness and creativity.

    6. Uno

    It teaches colour and number recognition and can be fun for kids to shout when they're close to win. Games are short, and its very cheap. Most people will know this one.

    7. Roll for It.

    Much the same as Uno, it teaches number recognition and some strategy. It's a simple dice rolling game where you attempt to roll the correct combination in order to gain cards worth points. The strategy is that you can allot your die to cards, essentially betting you will get the right combination before someone else.

    8. Hive Mind

    A fun game that can be played with as little as 3 to as many as 12 players, making it a great party game. You are competing against each other but you must be harmonious in your responses. Questions like "Name 4 things when I say Goldilocks". Each player writes their response, and then they share them. For each one that is shared, more points are added to players, with those who choose less common results essentially being forced from the hive. It teaches creative thinking, language and writing skills and the colours and pieces are light and very pleasing.

    9. Splendor

    A very simple game, with nice solid pieces, it teaches set collection, simple economics and card drafting. It is easy to teach and is great for all ages.

    10. Animal Upon Animal

    Another great one for younger kids, the bold colours and solid shapes make this a great game for newcomers. It's a dexterity balancing game and has a great theme. It got a stack of awards and its different and fun.

    I'd recommend checking boardgamegeek for all these, many have similar games available (for instance, the much more expensive Beasts of Balance), but this is a good cross section of games that go from the indie to the well known, are fairly decently priced, and should be able to find easily enough from any good game store.

      I've watched a game of Fire Rescue, it looked really fun. I was really impressed with the cooperative design of the game, it felt more consistent than others I've played. I'm sure on the lower difficulties that would be great with kids.

        A digital version is in development. Worth looking into.

    Also, there's a German game publisher, Haba, that publish some amazing kids games. You can find some specialist Australian board-game vendors that source them and sell them.

      Haba is amazing. They're the premier kid friendly company and anyone who's looking for something to play with primary school aged kids should take a look at their range.

    i feel like there are a few obvious choices missing.
    Trouble, in its many themed incarnations.
    Uno
    ive been playing the above two games with my four year old, i think we started trouble and guess who when she was 3 even. and because there are large elements of luck, she can win at games without me having to pretend im useless.

    A few other suggestions...

    Mice and Mystics, a co-operative RPG in a box game which has various cute characters to choose from and is actually pretty deep without being over-complicated and can be challenging. I've been playing through the main campaign with my daughter, a good friend of mine and his son. While we don't get to play all that often, the kids who were in mid-late primary school when we first started, always look forward to the next session.

    Someone has already mentioned Castle Panic! but I'll mention it again, simple rules, challenging game and co-op which I think is a great bonus when playing with kids.

    Sheriff of Nottingham. Simple bluffing game. A lot of fun. Downside is teaching kids how to lie well, which can backfire especially when they become teenagers.

    Again, someone mentioned Tokaido, but I'll add it here as well. The game teaches good decision making, and is quite a relaxing game as instead of being about the destination, the journey is what is important.

    Funkenschlag!
    Forbidden Desert, Carcassonne, Last Night on Earth and The Captain Is Dead have been getting regular play with our kids.

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