Believe it or not, even the most tech-addicted kids enjoy some good old-fashioned game time with family and friends. Board games have always brought people of all ages together, and these do that in spades. Whether you need something that the youngest in your family can master or want something that will challenge the adults in the group no matter how many times they play, you’ll find something for everyone here.
Tic-Tac-Toe Kicked Up a Notch
Otrio, $35. Ages: Six+.* Number of players: Two to four.
Why you’ll love it: With tic-tac-toe, you always can tell what your opponent is about to do next. But multifaceted Otrio takes it to a new level, multiplying the fun by three and creating a game that’s full of surprises.
How it works: Each player gets wooden pieces (large rings, medium rings and pegs) that can be placed onto the three concentric circles inside the nine squares. You need to place three on the board in a row. You might place three of the same shape…three in ascending or descending size…or three in all three shapes. The game is simple enough for young kids, yet tricky enough to stump grown-ups. Bonus: The colorful wooden board is nice enough to leave out in your living room between games.
Family-Friendly Version of Cards Against Humanity
Not Parent Approved, $25. Ages: Eight+. Number of players: Four to 10.
Why you’ll love it: It’s more risqué than Apples to Apples…and a laugh-riot like Cards Against Humanity. Not Parent Approved is billed as “an inappropriately appropriate game for mischief-makers.”
How it works: Everyone draws seven red cards that contain random phrases such as the “three-second rule” and “Taylor Swift.” The player designated Burp Boss (you’ll find out why when you play the game) then draws a blue card that contains a statement such as, “One day I woke up and realized I was too old for ________.” Players put down the red card that will complete the statement, whether because their answer is the silliest or the best-matched or even the worst-matched. The Boss reads each answer aloud—this is where the laughs come in—and then picks his/her favorite answer. The player who put down the winning red card gets the Boss’s blue question card. The player with the most blue question cards at the end is the winner.
It’s Like Old Maid and UNO with a Bizarre Twist
Exploding Kittens, $20. Ages: Seven+. Number of players: Two to five (you can buy an additional deck of cards to accommodate up to nine players).
Why you’ll love it: It’s a challenging game with a straightforward premise and a cult following. If you haven’t heard of it, chances are your kids or grandkids have.
How it works: Exploding Kittens requires that you draw cards while trying to avoid the Exploding Kitten cards. If you get “stuck” with one, you’re out. Strategic thinking is required in order to decide which of your cards to play so that you can avoid the Exploding Kitten cards and which to play so that you can send the Exploding Kitten your opponents’ way. The last person standing wins.
Action-Packed Game to Play with the Little Ones
Oops Scoops, $18. Ages: Four+. Number of players: Two to four.
Why you’ll love it: The premise is easy, but the execution is challenging. Plus, it’s great for boosting young kids’ fine-motor skills and full of laughs with every spill.
How it works: Each player spins to determine how many plastic ice cream scoops to stack onto a cone to build the tallest ice cream tower. But there’s a twist. The battery-operated cone vibrates, making it easy for the scoops to topple. If the scoops fall on your turn, you’re out. The winner is the last person to put a scoop on the stack before it falls. For kids who are more used to tapping and swiping screens than stacking and building, this will be a welcome change.
A Simple Yet Strategic Board Game
Chickapig, $19. Ages: Eight+. Number of players: Two to four.
Why you’ll love it: The board and its more than 50 charming wooden pieces will make you think of checkers, while the strategy required to succeed will remind you more of chess. It feels unique yet familiar, with a playful barnyard twist.
How it works: Each player is in charge of his/her own flock of Chickapigs (chicken-pig hybrids). The first player to get his/her flock past his opponents, past bales of hay and past a cow that drops a whole lot of cow patties wins. Fun fact: One of Chickapig’s cocreators is the musician Dave Matthews.
Your Family Actually Will Talk to You in the Car
Dr. Biscuits’ Radical Road Trip, $25. Ages: Eight+. Number of players: Any.
Why you’ll love it: With 60 quirky, funny games in a self-contained kit, there are plenty of activities to amuse everyone for many miles. Gets passengers’ eyes off their screens and looking out the windows.
How it works: The self-contained game box comes with a dry-erase board and pen, the game board and a spinner. It includes games that put a new spin on an old reliable, such as spotting themed bumper stickers…playing an elimination game using the radio…or calling a friend to try to get him/her to meow like a cat by only meowing yourself. The games continue out of the car as well…when you see who can create the best disguise from items found at your next rest stop. Put it in the middle of the backseat, and let the games begin.
Cross Between Password and Battleship
Codenames, $13. Ages: 14+. Number of players: Two to eight.
Why you’ll love it: It’s simple yet challenging enough to keep even teenagers and older kids engaged. This is a game of wit and words.
How it works: Two teams have to make contact with their own undercover agents. The only way to find them is by their code names. Spy cards are facedown in a grid on the game board. On the flip side, each card carries a code name such as “Star” or “Moon.” One team member (the spymaster) must give a one-word clue that can correspond to multiple code names on the board. The spymaster might give the hint “Sky” to his team to get them to pick the cards with “Star” or “Moon” on them—while hoping his hint doesn’t make them choose one of the other team’s cards (which might be “Blue” or “Rocket”). To ratchet up the suspense, there’s one assassin card in the mix. Make contact with the assassin, and you lose.
If You Want a Classic Game of Strategy
Catan, $44. Ages: 10+. Number of players: Three to four.
Why you’ll love it: It’s smarter and more competitive than Monopoly…and more fun than Risk.
How it works: The goal of the game is to build the biggest settlement in Catan for which you must acquire 10 victory points. You’ll need a little luck as you buy, barter and haggle to develop your settlement. Though it takes some getting used to (the rules are complex), the game comes with a helpful almanac that spells everything out, and once you get it, you’ll be out-maneuvering everyone on the board as you build your empire. Like Monopoly, it takes a while to play. Perfect for competitive strategists. Once you become master of Catan, you can move on to its many offshoots, including a Game of Thrones version. Formerly Settlers of Catan, this game has been around since the 1990s and has many versions and a huge following.
*Age recommendations are based on manufacturers’ suggestions, but you know your family—you might have younger kids or grandkids who would have no trouble playing. Use your judgment, and have fun!