After a long hiatus, I was finally able to go see my sister in BC and play games with her kids. My records indicated that I hadn't played a board game since February 2020! So I was super excited not just to visit with family, but to also play as many games as we could squeeze in. There's never enough time, and there were a number of favourites we couldn't get to, but we did get through a fair bit.
According to my records, we played 20 games over 60 times, not counting just regular old card games. I use an app called ScorePal to log my plays. It hasn't been updated in a while, but it syncs everything with BoardGameGeek and is a great way to log and analyze plays. The games were played by me and kids between 14 and 18 years old.
First just a list and then the notes.
- 6 Nimmt!
- 7 Wonders
- Airlines Europe
- Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
- Bang: The Dice Game
- Escape: The Curse of the Temple
- Five Tribes
- Good Cop Bad Cop
- Lords of Waterdeep
- Magic Maze
- Mission: Red Planet
- Secret Hitler
- Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
- Ticket to Ride: Europe
- Werewords Deluxe Edition
Many of these games have also been discussed in previous posts, so some will not have as much detail. You can search the previous posts for more information on a particular game you're interested in. Of course, the Board Game Geek link will give you more information than you could ever want.
This is a very simple card game that the kids seemed to really enjoy. There are four rows of cards on the table. If you play a card that's too low, or one that takes a row to six cards, you have to take cards. You want to take the lowest value cards you can (least points wins). Cards to play are selected simultaneously. It's really hard to know what others have in their hands, so I didn't find there to be tons of strategy. There's some, of course, but it's light enough that even the kids can figure it out. It's just fun to point and laugh at people when they're forced to take a huge row :) Fun stuff.
This is a tremendous family game. Once you know the rules, games can be knocked out fairly quickly. It plays up to seven people, has lots of fun expansions, and is relatively low conflict. The kids handled it just fine (ages 14+). I only wish we were able to play it more to see how they adapted as they learned. This is a collection staple.
A relatively simple family game of set collection. There's no direct confrontation beyond taking a card someone else might want. Players can expand any of the airlines in play, which increases its value. Players also play shares of the different airlines in their portfolios. At each scoring phase, players who have the most shares in each airline earn victory points. Whoever has the most at the end wins.
This particular set of nieces and nephews really love this game. We play it every time. They are very savvy, but I still manage to beat them most of the time.
This is a very straightforward tableau building game. The currency mechanic is very interesting. You buy tiles that you place into your tableau. Over three scoring phases, whoever has the majority of each building type gets points. Most points win. This is a great family game. The rules are very straightforward, and games don't overstay their welcome. There are a lot of expansions that I just haven't had time to break out yet. I hope to one day. If you like tableau building with relatively light player interaction, then pick this up.
Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra
While I don't personally find this game particularly engaging, it's an excellent gateway and filler game. The kids really enjoyed it. We played it a number of times. The game is colourful with chunky bits, the rules are dead simple, and there's lots of opportunity to really mess up your neighbour's day (which the kids do to me with great joy). You are drafting pieces of specific colours to fill up windows in your tableau. Completing a window scores you points. But you have to take all pieces of a specific colour, and if you can't use them all, they count against you. It really does pay to pay attention to your opponents' boards. This version of the game is deeper than the original Azul. Apparently the more recent Azul: Summer Pavilion is even better. I'll be looking to add that to my collection eventually.
Bang: The Dice Game
This game has lost some of its shine for me. It's a social deduction game, but it's not particularly hard to figure out who's who. It's definitely better than the card game Bang!. This is a game that works better with 7 or 8 players where there's more deputies. The kids don't mind it, but there are better games of this genre out there (and in this very list).
I've talked this game to death. Every family should own it. Kids love it and win it. I've lost some of my enthusiasm over the years just because I have played this game so many freaking times. If you play with a group that loves to talk trades to death, then the game becomes overly long, but I still think this is a tremendous game for kids that most families should own.
Escape: Curse of the Temple
This is a great cooperative game with a fixed time window and simple rules. Explore the temple, find the exit, and work together to get the heck out. This group of nieces and nephews have gotten really good at it and almost always win. So this time we broke out the curse and treasure tiles. Was much more engaging. And there's more expansions to go. So the replayability is good. This is a frantic game that will get people on their feet and sweating.
I'm so glad this game was reprinted. It's a relatively simple game of action selection and set collection with chunky bits and colourful art. You collect tiles of different colours and build towers to complete commissions, which earn you points. You get tiles by selecting from a row of available actions. There's some real player interaction here, with some cards that let you destroy opposing towers or steal tiles. I got absolutely trounced by the fourteen-year-old twins. It was embarassing :)
This is perhaps the heaviest game we played. Using a Mancala-style movement mechanic, you take meeples from the board, which may let you claim a tile and perform various actions. It's a bit of a point salad game, which can be challenging for younger players. They caught on to the movement mechanic relatively quickly, but struggled to fully grasp the many different ways to get points. I think they would have gotten there with a couple more plays, but there just wasn't time. I personally really like this game. It's quite engaging.
This is another cooperative game played frantically over a fixed timeframe (10 minutes). Players have cards in front of them with different conditions, representing bombs. Dice are rolled, and each player can take one of them and place them on their cards. Completing a card defuses the bomb. Get through the deck in the time limit to win.
The kids seems to enjoy it. I don't mind it, but it can be frustrating when you can only take one die. We have yet to win, but we've gotten super close. It's hard at the end when you're looking for one specific die colour and number. I'd definitely prefer Escape: Curse of the Temple over this, but this is still fun.
Good Cop Bad Cop
This family loves the social deduction games. This was one of their favourites, second only to Secret Hitler. We played it 10 times over two different nights.
There are "good cop" cards and "bad cop" cards, as well as one Kingpin (the big bad) and one Agent (the big good). If you have mostly bad cards, then you're a bad cop. If you have mostly good cards, you're good. And if you have the Kingpin or Agent, then you're bad or good regardless of your other cards. These cards are face down in front of you. They get looked at and revealed over time. The good guys win if the Kingpin is killed. The bad guys win if the Agent is killed.
This was tons of fun with lots of clutch moments when a helpful equipment card shows up at a critical moment, or the person you killed wasn't actually the role you thought they were. If you like social deduction games, this is one of the good ones.
Lords of Waterdeep
This is a classic worker placement game with a Dungeons & Dragons theme. Each player gets a secret role card that gives them a way to earn extra points at the end of the game. They also get some quest cards and some intrigue cards. They then take turns placing workers on various spots on the board to collect resources, build new buildings, play intrigue cards, and the like. The goal is to complete quest cards to earn points. After eight rounds, players reveal their secret role, add up their extra points, and the player with the most points wins.
As far as worker placement games go, this is an excellent introduction. Even the younger kids can wrap their heads around it and be competitive. There's some confrontation, but rarely is anybody completely locked out of the game. It's relatively quick playing, too (though the setup takes a couple minutes).
There's also an expansion, Scoundrels of Skullport, that I heartily recommend you pick up if you play this with older kids and grownups. It comes with two modules: the one I don't love, but the other I'd never play without (the one that adds corruption).
This is a wholly unique little cooperative game. You work together to navigate four characters through a mall to steal items and escape without getting caught. The trick? You can't speak or signal each other in any way (with very specific exceptions)! I find it basically impossible to do strictly. It has an interesting scenario system that introduces the rules slowly. We got through the first five, I think. The kids enjoyed it. It's not my favourite, but I've only played it a few times. We'll see.
Mission: Red Planet
I have the second edition of the game (the latest one). This is a fascinating game that I do really badly at. It combines role selection like Citadels with an area control game that is engaging and challenging.
Each player gets a supply of astronauts and nine character cards, each with its own unique power. All players have the exact same cards to choose from. They also each get a secret mission card that gets them points at the end of the game. There's also a row of space ships going to different areas of Mars, and then there's Mars itself, broken up into different regions and each with its own resource worth one, two, or three points. Over ten rounds, players simultaneously select one of their nine characters to get their astronauts on ships and influence astronauts on Mars. There are three scoring rounds where resources are allocated and collected by the players controlling each region. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.
Now that the youngest kids are older (fourteen years old), this game really shone. The kids were brutal! Ships were destroyed, meeples sniped, and sectors invaded left and right. No one was safe. As usual, I lost terribly, but it was so much fun. This is a great competitive game for older families and established game groups.
This is still my favourite social deduction game! It accommodates up to ten players. Most players are liberals, but there are also some fascists and one Hitler. Each round the new president nominates a chancellor and there's a vote. If successful, the president draws the top three policy tiles (consisting of 11 fascist policies and 6 liberal ones), discards one face down, and hands the other two to the chancellor. The chancellor then discards one face down and enacts the other one. The liberals win if they pass five liberal policies or manage to kill Hitler. The fascists win if they pass six fascist policies or if Hitler is elected chancellor after the halfway mark.
This is still the kids' favourite game too. We played it 15 times over two different nights. This is a game of bald-face lying and betrayal. We've had so many fun moments with this game. I've discovered that my sister's kids are incredible liars (please use your powers for good!) and the actors in our midst have gone all out—yelling and finger pointing and accusations and recriminations. So much fun! I can't praise this game enough.
Survive: Escape From Atlantis
This group of nieces and nephews always want to play this game at least once. It was the first one they pulled out. Feed your siblings to the sharks! What could be more fun?!
Ticket to Ride: Europe
There are many different versions of this game. I like the "Europe" version a lot because it introduces train stations, which helps alleviate the pain of getting cut off to a destination. The rules are super simple. The kids love it and do very well at it. The hardest part of this version is finding all the cities. This is the version of the game I think most people should own. Fun for the whole family!
Werewords Deluxe Edition
This is another social deduction game involving guessing magic words. One player is the mayor and fields questions from the players about the word. The werewolves know the word and don't want the players to guess it, but they can't be too obvious. If the word isn't guessed, then the villagers still win if they can identify a werewolf. A villager (the Seer) also knows the word, but they also can't be too obvious. If the villagers guess the word, the werewolves still win if they can identify the Seer. This version has tons of additional roles with weird powers and an app to guide you through the game (though I'm not at all a fan of the app voice acting).
The kids enjoyed it well enough (we played it 8 times), but it's not their favourite. A decent party game if you want something less confrontational than something like Secret Hitler.
This is just a delightful game. Relatively simple rules, gorgeous components, and minimal player interaction make this a perfect game for families and new gamers. But experienced gamers will also enjoy the tactical opportunities. Given your starting hand, what approach will you take? How will you adapt based on the cards available? While not as deep and strategic as some other games, it still rewards careful thought and planning.