Toward the end of last year, I decided that I wanted to try out a new hobby: board gaming. Like all things that I “geek” out on, I started with heavy research. I watched Youtube videos, read reviews, listened to podcasts, and asked shop owners and friends for weeks about what they would recommend for someone who was just starting a small collection. By the time I was finished, I felt confident that I had a good grasp of games that “most people” starting out might enjoy. I currently have about thirty games and have played many more. My wife and I have set aside every Thursday, after the kids go to bed, to have a board game date. This has been a huge “game” changer for our marriage, as we don’t often get to go out on dates. I can’t recommend enough giving it a try, especially when the children are young and it’s hard to leave the home. Through the process, I have also found some games that I have been able to play with my oldest, with a little guidance.
With all the effort that I have put into this new hobby, I figured I would share some information with you, should you decide you might want to give board games a try. This week, I want to share with you a list of board games that I think would be enjoyable for a date night, for time with friends, and for the family. Please feel free to comment with any other suggestions that you think might be noteworthy inclusions. Here’s my list of recommendations:
Games for couples:
Jaipur is a game designed to be played with just two players, which means that it is ideal for a couple to play together. This game is simple to understand, play, and put back in the box. The fun comes from deciding the best time to “sell to the market” to cash in for high points. It’s a game of risk and reward.
Playtime: 30-45 min. Ages: 10+ Difficulty level: Easy
Splendor or Century: Spice Road
I lumped these two games together because they play very similarly. They do, however, have enough differences to make them both a unique experience. In these games, you will be creating an “engine” that will allow you to gain greater and greater value over time. The excitement in this game is from watching your engine come together and take on a life of its own. If you like watching your money make money for you in an investment, then I’m certain you will enjoy this style of game.
Playtime: 30-45 min. Ages: 10+ Difficulty Level: Easy-Medium
This game is a “thinker” game designed to be played with two people cooperatively. Your goal is to give one-word clues to help your teammate figure out who the agents are from a crowd of people. Be careful though- giving a wrong clue might send your partner to an enemy agent (which is game over for the team).
Platime: 15-30 min. Ages: 12+ Difficulty level: Easy-Medium
Raiders of the North Sea
Pillaging Vikings- need I say more? Gather up goods for the road, hire a crew willing to lay down their lives for glory and plunder, and set sail to conquer both sea and land. The artwork is great, the game always gives you meaningful decisions to make, and the game opens up many paths to victory.
Playtime: 60-80 min. Ages: 12+ Difficulty level: Medium
This game is like building a puzzle with a few other people, but everyone is trying to score points along the way. It is easy to be cutthroat or non-confrontational in playstyle, which allows the game to alter its tone based on your preferred playstyle. This game is geared for people that like light strategy and don’t want to be overwhelmed by a flood of choices every turn.
Playtime: 30-45 min. Ages: 7+ Difficulty level: Easy-Medium
Games for adding more players:
King of Tokyo
Big, stompy monsters crashing through the city of Tokyo. Roar!!! King of Tokyo is a mixture of Yahtzee and King of the Hill. The goal is to stay in Tokyo as long as possible, while everyone else is trying to force you out. I have played this with a wide variety of personality types and everyone has enjoyed it. Grandma will appreciate the familiar Yahtzee feel; the kids will appreciate stomping around with their own unique cardboard monster. This could easily be a family night kind of game, as it would be easy to play with kids as well.
Playtime: 30 min. Ages: 8+ Difficulty level: Easy
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is about planning out railway routes to travel the US “Around the World in 80 Days” style. The person who accomplishes the most objectives by the end of the game wins. The fun in the game is choosing where you want to build your routes and adapting to new information as the game goes on.
Playtime: 30-60 min. Ages: 8+ Difficulty Level: Easy-Medium
Travel around the globe with your specialized team to stop the spread of four annoying plagues. That’s right- this is your opportunity to stick it to Covid. Everyone works together and has their own unique role to play. Pandemic is arguably the best cooperative board game out there right now. Caution- this game requires strong teamwork and strategy to succeed.
Playtime: 45-60 min. Ages: 12+ Difficulty level: Medium
Everdell falls somewhere in the engine-building category but plays out differently than any other game in the genre. In Everdell, you are one of a few leaders that are trying to help your fellow woodland critters prepare for the upcoming winter. Half the enjoyment is just seeing the game laid out on a table- the game is absolutely gorgeous! The other half is choosing your own path to victory. There are many ways to win in this game.
Platime: 45-90 min. Ages: 12+ Difficulty Level: Medium
Games to play with kids:
Forbidden Island plays a lot like Pandemic, but instead of trying to cure four diseases, you are trying to collect four treasures. Forbidden Island is a great first step into the hobby because it is fun for both adults and kids. And it’s the cheapest game on the list to boot. Just like Pandemic, you must work as a team to beat the game. I have literally played this game over 100 times and can still get into it.
Playtime: 30 min. Ages: 10+ (8+ with help) Difficulty level: Easy-Medium
From the same makers of Forbidden Island. Dragonwood is all about probability. It’s a great learning tool as well as a fun game to play. I can’t say it is quite as fun for adults as Forbidden Island is, however. Most of Gamewright’s (the company that made this game) games appear to be geared toward children. This is another example of a surprisingly eye-appealing game for the price.
Playtime: 15-20 min. Ages: 8+ Difficulty Level: Easy
Monopoly Disney or Monopoly Jr.
Obviously, this is a lighter version of Monopoly. I have some fond memories of playing Monopoly as a kid (I think I mentioned before that I cheated often). Monopoly Disney brings back memories of those good ol’ days but plays two hours faster (which is greatly appreciated). There is also some nostalgia to be had from seeing all the Disney Characters that many of us grew up with. I like the Disney version better, but it is hard to find these days, so Monopoly Jr. is a great substitute.
Playtime: 30-45 min. Ages: 6+ Difficulty level: Easy
My wife and I think of Kingdomino as “Carcassonne Lite.” It has the same kind of tile-laying, puzzle-solving kind of challenge, but plays very fast and takes up less space on the table. The hardest part of the game is trying to figure out how to create your own 5×5 square kingdom.
Playtime: 15 min. Ages: 8+ Difficulty Level: Easy
5-Minute Dungeon or 5-Minute Marvel
5-Minute Dungeon and 5-Minute Marvel both play similarly, but 5-Minute Marvel is slightly more complex (very slightly). I actually prefer Marvel as an adult, but the original is easier to teach and play. The goal of the original is to work as a team of adventurers to get through a dungeon and defeat the final boss within five minutes. In 5-Minute Marvel, you fight against goons, henchmen, and such to clear your way to the final boss. Each game has 5 bosses, so you could really call it “25 Minute Dungeon” if you wanted to be technical about it. Caution- 5 minutes does not include the cleanup time between rounds (this takes at least another 5 minutes).
Playtime: 5 min. Ages: 8+ Difficulty level: Easy-Medium
If you would like to learn more about any of these games or explore other options, here is a great place to read reviews and ask questions: Board Game Geek
Also, I highly recommend this Youtube channel: The Dice Tower
Brian Faust is the Fatherhood Program Coordinator of Rock Solid Fatherhood in Warsaw, IN. He is the husband of the world’s best wife and father of three beautiful girls. He has nearly a decade of mentorship and mental health experience. Brian has a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Grace College. It is his desire to come alongside men of all walks of life as they embrace their role as partner and father with rock solid strength.