The 8 Best Family Board Games of 2020

Clear off the table and gather everyone around for some lively, screen-free fun

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Our Top Picks
"Young players will grasp the concepts quickly, while more seasoned players will enjoy digging into this game's strategic elements."
Best for Small Children:
HABA My First Orchard at Amazon
"This simple yet visually satisfying game helps little ones develop their social skills and ability to follow game rules."
"Teens will love the suspense and strategy involved in playing this game, even if they aren't familiar with the story behind it."
"There are new challenges every time you play this game, so it's a good pick for families who want a lot of mileage from one board."
"The thousands of trivia questions (across the original six categories) are split into separate decks for kids and adults."
Best for Large Families:
Spontuneous The Song Game at Amazon
"You don't need a beautiful voice to succeed in this game, which relies more on a good memory than flawless singing."
"Although this game is easy to figure out, team dynamics and strategy elements will keep preteens and teens engaged, as well."
"Because players are on the same team, it's a great option for siblings and other kids who might otherwise not be evenly matched."

It's hard to argue with the appeal of a classic board game, where everyone is focused on moving their pieces towards common (and often competing!) goals, and whether you want a classic or something new and exciting, there's probably a game your entire family will love. Another bonus? Playing with board games might help boost kids' spatial reasoning ability, which may help predict later success in subjects such as math, science, engineering, and technology. 

Here, some of the best family board games to buy right now.

Best Overall: MindWare Qwirkle Board Game

The basic premise of Qwirkle? With techniques that might remind some people of dominoes, players need to build rows or columns that are all the same color or shape, no repeats allowed. (A "Qwirkle" is achieved by getting six tiles in a row.) Although it's recommended for kids ages 6 and up, with a little help and patience, even slightly younger children can join the action, while experienced players will enjoy showing off their skills as they plan and strategize against their opponents. 

The graphic, colorful pieces are lovely to look at and this game wins big points for its mass appeal. There are no stereotypical storylines or character images, and it's a concept that everyone, from energetic first graders to seasoned grandparents, will be able to follow. Each round takes about 45 minutes, so it also hits that sweet spot for timing—short enough to keep younger children engaged, but long enough to feel like you've spent some quality time with your family.

Best for Small Children: HABA My First Orchard

Think two-year-olds can't play board games? You might reconsider after checking out this simple, elegant option that little ones can play in 10 minutes or less. Best for one to four players, the game encourages preschoolers to work together by harvesting fruit before the raven gets to the end of the path. The beauty is that everybody either wins or loses as a group, so you'll be spared the meltdowns that often happen when young siblings compete against each other.

The game also introduces social-skills concepts, like playing together and following rules, as well as pre-academic themes like color recognition and counting by ones. When kids aren't using the game, the fruit basket and its contents (wooden apples, pears, and plums) can be used separately as a toy food set for imaginative play.

Best for Teenagers: Prospero Hall The Shining Board Game

Whether your teens love horror or just want something with a bit of retro edge, this distinctive option is worth adding to your game-night arsenal. Fans of Stanley Kubrick's iconic thriller or Steven King's novel will love the premise, but you don't need to be familiar with the plot to enjoy playing.

The game can be carried out a few different ways, and one popular method puts all players on the same team. Regardless of whether you're playing competitively or cooperatively, the goal is to survive four months (meaning the winter season) at The Overlook Hotel, moving through various locations, performing required actions, and trying to avoid the powerful, corrupting forces that eventually led to the undoing of Jack Torrance.

The board is divided into rooms that echo locations in the story, including the hedge maze, the caretaker's apartment, and the gold room, and even comes with a keychain for room 237. The rules can feel a bit complicated, so consider doing some additional research before kicking off your first round. Each round can take up to an hour and the game works best with three to five players.

Best Strategy: Z-Man Games Pandemic

This game, which was popular well before 2020, is a cooperative game that puts all players on a disease-fighting team: Using their collective strengths, they must strategize and plan ahead to treat infections as well as gather resources to help find a cure. It's also refreshing to see that rather than being stereotypically glam, women are given science-focused character roles such as epidemiologist, quarantine specialist, and disease researcher.

As you get more comfortable with the rules, you can make the game harder by adding more epidemic cards to the deck, and expansion packs are also sold separately. Each round takes about 45 minutes, and the basic version is best suited for children ages 8 and older.    

"It sounds confusing—and it is. In fact, the steep learning curve is the major drawback of this game. However, this is where the cooperative nature of this game really shines. If just one or two of the players know how to play, they can help the other players get up to speed as the game moves along."—Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester

Best Trivia: Hasbro Gaming Trivial Pursuit

Talk about a game with longevity: This multi-generational version of the popular trivia game comes with more than 1,400 questions total (cards are split into decks for children and adults). The pace moves more quickly than older editions because players can earn pie slices from any position on the board, and there are fun, tense "Showdown Challenges" where two players compete for wedges simultaneously.

This version of the game is aimed at children ages 8 and up, and can be played with two to six players, although teams can also be created for larger groups. The categories are the same as earlier editions: arts and literature, sports and leisure, geography, entertainment, science, and history. If you want, you can even mix in your older decks from the original version with the adult deck here.

Best for Large Families: Spontuneous The Song Game

Excellent

Yes, as the same suggests, this game requires its players to spontaneously break into song, but don't let that keep you from giving it a try. You don't need to be an experienced singer to succeed, and even if you think you don't know that many tunes, you likely remember more than you think.

Here's how it works: Each player writes a list of their own trigger words (called a "hit list") and when it's their turn, they announce a word and flip the timer. To win the turn, the other players compete to be the first to sing five words of a song that includes the trigger. The first person to do gets to roll the dice and advance their game token—the board is appropriately shaped like a G-clef.

There are also challenge squares with directions like "Sing a love song to the person on your left to advance 6 spaces." The game is recommended for kids ages 8 and up, and each round takes about 30 minutes, since the timer helps everyone stay on track. There are ten game pieces, but you can also squeeze in more players by creating teams, which adds energy and hilarity.

"We certainly laughed a lot throughout the game. People were constantly blurting out the wrong lyrics, and that made it all the more funny. The battle-offs are really fun, adding some extra competition to the mix." Sage MgHugh, Product Tester

Best for Teams: IELLO The Phantom Society

In this spooky game, which is aimed at kids eight and older, players are divided into two teams: One controls the ghosts, and must find smart places to hide them before the game begins, and the other controls the ghost hunters.

The board is divided into squares that stand in for rooms in a Scottish mansion, and the rooms conceal multiple tiles (and sometimes a ghost). The hunters are trying to find the ghosts, while the ghosts are trying to stay concealed and also cause £45,000 worth of damage before the game ends. (It's a delicate balance because removing tiles causes damage, but for the hunters, doing so reveals the ghouls' hiding places.)

Each round takes about 20 minutes, and there are challenges and variations to make it a bit trickier, although this is definitely a game that's more aimed at kids than, say, adults having their own party.

Best Cooperative: Peaceable Kingdom Cauldron Quest

In this game, which will appeal to magic- and quest-lovers ages 6 and up, everyone plays on the same team with a common goal: To create a potion that can break the wizard's spell, while finding hidden ingredients before he's able to block their path.

Kids will get to practice skills like problem-solving, planning ahead, and shared decision making as they work together. The game takes 20 minutes for one round, and comes with playful game tokens like a wizard's hat and potion bottles. It's also simple and straightforward enough that children as young as four were able to play alongside older siblings.

What to Look for in a Family Board Game

Number of players How many people do you expect will be playing your game at once? Some games need more players to feel exciting, while others can get confusing with big crowds. If you have a big family, pick a game that supports a larger number of players or can be easily played in teams.

Difficulty Some games require more critical thinking than others, which could be a challenge for younger players. Plenty of options can be engaging for people of all ages, though—just pay attention to a game’s age rating to determine if its difficulty level will suit your situation. When in doubt, pick a game where players can work together to make for a more fun playing experience for everyone.

Time Playing time is another factor to consider. Our list contains both shorter games that require your quick-thinking abilities and others that test your problem-solving skills over a number of hours—consider your kids' attention span when you're picking a game, Also, don't play your first round right before dinner or bedtime—the first round often takes the longest, since everyone's figuring out the rules.

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