While it’s been decades since a game as popular as Monopoly or Risk was released, that doesn’t mean that board games aren’t making a huge comeback in recent years.
Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo have made it simple and easy for prospective board game creators to through their hat into the ring with new and inventive ideas. Sites like these prove to generate new takes on old classics and some of the best board games yet.
If you’re looking for fun games to play during your next family game night, we’ve assembled some of our top picks to get your family off of their phones and enjoying a night with each other.
Despite its age compared to other games on our list, Scotland Yard remains timeless in its approach to mystery, gameplay, and suspense.
Scotland Yard is an all vs. one game—meaning that one member of the family is working to ward off all of the others to achieve victory.
The board is a rendering of downtown London—and the task at hand is the apprehension of an elusive Mr. X, played by one nominated member of the family.
While Mr. X tracks his or her movements on their separate sheet of paper, players will move their tokens around on the London game board—utilizing the Underground, buses, and taxis to attempt to find themselves on the same space as Mr. X.
While several people attempt to apprehend Mr. X, the game board’s vast number of spaces evens out the odds and makes each game of Scotland Yard unique to the last. That level of replay value makes Scotland Yard a great investment for family games to come.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
This next game’s title might not be easy to say—but the game itself is surprisingly easy to learn.
Players act as explorers into a dark and mysterious home—uncovering rooms and hallways by venturing through doors that currently have no other side.
A deck of floor tiles is utilized and placed down whenever a player enters into unknown territory. This randomizing aspect of the game means that there is no singular game board—but rather, hundreds of thousands of home layouts you’ll be creating each time you play the game.
That’s not where the customization stops, however.
After opening enough rooms, players will be forced to use dice rolls to ward off “The Haunt”—an event that separates the game into two phases. Once the Haunt is triggered, one player is nominated by the game as a traitor—leaving the others to fight off whatever problems come their way.
One of the most interesting aspects of Betrayal at House on the Hill is the 50 different haunts listed in the book’s two handbooks. Players will be able to read their haunt together and know information that the traitor has not been told in their designated haunt book—and vice versa.
The lack of communication between players and traitors can make any scenario new and exciting—from running away from a zombie horde to escaping the clutches of an evil specter.
With each game lasting up to an hour, a round of this game can bring families together to ward off all sorts of horrors—or pit them against each other to see which one can survive the longest.
The result is a game that demands a position in any family’s board game collection.
Despite the violent name, Exploding Kittens is a slam dunk for younger audience members—focused exclusively on the chaos of individual rounds and was created in large part due to a Kickstarter campaign.
This card game is explained by the creators as a sort of “Russian roulette,” where families work to eliminate other members and remain the last person standing.
Players take turns drawing cards from the center deck and will collect these as ammo to use when the time is right. If a player draws an exploding kitten card, they are effectively removed from the game. However, players also have access to defuse cards, which ward off the exploding kitten for another hapless player later in the game.
Other cards include “Nope” cards, which effectively negate any one card that’s been played. So, if you’ve defused your own exploding kitten, but another player “nopes” that move, you’ve been eliminated from the game. With the right person and the right card, any lead or chance of victory for another player could be thwarted in an instant.
While not focused on learning valuable lessons or long rounds, Exploding Kittens is a fun and lighthearted game that’s sure to put a smile on the faces of the youngest members of the family.
Apples to Apples
Another old classic much like Scotland Yard, Apples to Apples allows family members to use their inside jokes and personal humor to make each game more inventive and creative than the last.
This card game works with two types of cards—red cards and green cards. Players each hold a certain number of red cards to be “matched” with a green card, and at the start of every round, a player is chosen to be the judge.
The judge does not play any red cards—instead, he or she collected one red card from every player that will match the green card they have presented for the round. It is crucial that the judge does not know who played what.
After collection, the judge will show the red cards to the other players and choose which red card either best matched the green card or was the funniest option to play. That decision is left entirely up to the judge, and the green card is then awarded to the player that had placed the winning red card.
The game continues for a pre-determined number of rounds or until a player collects a certain number of green cards.
Apples to Apples is a versatile game that allows you to play to the humor and taste of each judge. Likewise, blank cards allow you to modernize the game with references or jokes that only your family could understand.
This game is perfect for children 9 and up and kids that aren’t quite ready for Cards Against Humanity—a similar game that’s certainly R-rated.
Arkham Horror/Eldritch Horror
For families with older children or those more interested in difficult and comprehensive games, these two Lovecraftian horror titles are sure to bring a sense of dread and a tense atmosphere.
Fantasy Flight Games has produced these two board games in conjunction with the lore and history of the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Depending on the game you choose to play, you will be facing off against supernatural horrors or “Ancient Ones” from parts unknown.
While both games remain suitable for those 12 and up, the sheer length of time a game takes, and the difficulty in game mechanics makes this a game to try out only with specific children. Kids games, these are not.
Throughout your campaigns, you will uncover mysterious figures, collect weaponry to help you “fight off” these mythical creatures, and venture through otherworldly portals that introduce new situations and lands beyond our own.
One of the biggest strengths of both “horror” titles is their expansion packs—which bring new cards for multiple decks, new enemy and weapon types, and on occasion, entirely new boards to play on.
Each game is different than the last—taking players through hundreds of scenarios and thousands of different paths through the different cards available.
As children get older or perhaps find fascination with spookier titles, Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror are safe ways to explore the concepts with growing children—showing them ways to ward off evil through determination and teamwork.
We know that it’s getting more and more difficult to appeal to children in a way that isn’t through a screen—that’s why we assembled some of best games that appeal to the widest market of children.
Depending on the age and maturity of your child, you’ll be able to walk them through the streets of London—or make them laugh with a silly match in Apples to Apples. For the older ones, you may be able to venture into mysterious homes in Betrayal at House on the Hill or ward off the attacks of Cthulu in Eldritch Horror.
The key to any night full of fun family games is to appeal to your children through what they love and are interested in discovering. Regardless of whether or not you choose to purchase these games, make sure that your final decision reflects the desires of your family and will create family games that will be remembered for years to come.