We are excited to welcome Melanie Cogdill as our board game expert! Stay tuned for future insights and board game picks from Melanie in her new FMM post series: “Board Game Buzz”. Introduce your family to the excitement and fun of non-tech games and spend more family-time together for the New Year!
The holiday season is here and kids will soon be wondering what to do with all their free time. Instead of spending their time video gaming, how do you create fun family memories during the holidays without a screen? It’s time to start or resurrect the family game night and introduce your kids to the board game (also called tabletop game) hobby.
As parents, we may recall board games that we played growing up like Monopoly, Clue, Risk, chess, Sorry, Scrabble, Yahtzee, Stratego, Jenga or games involving a deck of playing cards (Hearts, Crazy Eights). The modern board gaming hobby is completely different than back in the 1970s and 80s. The evolution of board gaming started in the 1990s with the German game, The Settlers of Catan. These German games (aka “Euro games”) introduced strategy games to board gaming that was very different from the dice-driven, heavily themed American style games. Modern board games have so much depth, variety, theme, and style that there is a game for every taste.
With more than 1000 new board games released each year, how do parents know which ones are good, solid games worth owning? One of the best resources is the Dice Tower (dicetower.com)—they review hundreds of games each year as well as have a podcast and host other game podcasters on their website. In addition, if you are trying to understand how to play a game to teach it to your family, The Dice Tower has thousands of videos that quickly demonstrate gameplay with actual reviews (is this a good game or bad one). Three other YouTube channels offer parents in-depth explanations of how to play popular games (Rahdo, The Game Boy Geek [has podcast reviews too], and Watch It Played).
Finally, if your family enjoys board gaming together, start hosting a monthly game night at your home or your local board game store. Game nights build relationships with others, as well as build creative problem solving skills, all while offering fun game play.
Here are some ideas and styles of games to get kids of any age started into the board game hobby.
- Junk Art: Create art sculptures with 60 big colorful wooden components with Junk Art (30 min. play time, 2-6 players, Age 6+) a family game that it a hit with both kids and adults.
- Eureka: Complete experiments in this 15 min., real-time children’s dexterity game by solving “scientific formulas” on cards by mixing the molecules (balls) from tube to tube without touching them in Eureka (kids 7+)
- For the younger set, here are two kid-tested games for kids 4-5 years Pengaloo (memory game & color recognition) or from Think Fun Games try Zingo (bingo for kids 4+)
- Buildteetering towers that get knocked down with Kaboom (6+) a game fun for small kids and adults.
- Ticket to Ride this classic train route game (2-5 players ages 8+) is easy to learn. Players collect cards of various types of train cars and use them to build railway routes across North America. This is a must-have game for every collection.
- In the cooperative game Pandemic (2-4 players ages 8+) several virulent diseases have broken out all over the world! The players are disease-fighting scientists from the a CDC like organization whose mission is to treat disease hotspots while researching cures. Players work together instead of play against one another and if they cure the four diseases, they all win as a team.
City Building Games
- Machi Koro: Bight Lights, Big City (Fast-paced, dice rolling card game for 2-5 players, Age 10+)
- If your child liked the video game Sim City, board game Suburbia is Sim City in a box. In this tile laying game (90 min play time) you plan, build, and develop a small town into a major (Age 10+)
- 2016 Mensa award-wining game New York 1901 has you building skyscrapers in Manhattan at the turn of the 20th (2-4 players, Age 10+)
If you are transitioning your middle school or high school child away from video games, the following board games are combat or area control games, board games with miniatures and role playing games. These games are for ages 12+.
- Cry Havoc is a area control war game (for 2-4 players 12+) set in a unforgiving, science fiction setting. Each player commands one of four unique factions with varying abilities and units. The game includes 54 custom miniatures, a large format board, and more than 100 unique cards
- Kemet (2-5 players, 1.5 to 2 hour play time with an Ancient Egyptian theme where players battle, develop pyramids, sacrifice to the Egyptian gods and use magical powers.)
- If you like Risk, Small World is a 2-5 player area control game for ages 8+ area control game with a fantasy theme and many expansions. Dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs, and humans use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands.
- For the teenager (13+) who is an avid history buff, try the 2—player civil war game The U.S. Civil War where the players play a very in-depth lengthy game (2.5 to 6 hours) covering the entire war from 1861-65.
- Mice and Mystics is a role playing game for 1-4 players age 8+. A dice heavy game with miniatures, players take on the roles of those still loyal to the king who must race through a castle to defeat an evil villainess and save an imperiled kingdom as they face countless adversaries such as rats, cockroaches, and spiders, and the castle’s housecat, Brodie. Kids who have enjoyed the graphic novel Mouse Guard will get into this theme. It’s high price point it due to the miniatures included in the game.
M. Cogdill is a magazine managing editor and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two sons.
Melanie Hempe, BSN, is the founder and executive director of ScreenStrong, a national nonprofit organization that offers a countercultural approach to eliminate childhood screen dependency, but one that just might save your kids. Melanie has developed cutting-edge programs that empower parents to pause video games and social media for kids and teens through late adolescence. Her three books can be found on Amazon: Will Your Gamer Survive College?, Can Your Teen Survive—and Thrive—Without a Smartphone? and The ScreenStrong Solution: How to free your child from addictive screen habits.
ScreenStrong is committed to rescuing this screen-driven generation, one family at a time.