The 8 Best Family Board Games of 2021

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 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."
"You can play Codenames with any number of people, easily accommodating large groups by breaking into teams."
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."
"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."
"Teens will love the suspense and strategy involved in playing this game, even if they aren't familiar with the story behind it."
"The thousands of trivia questions (across the original six categories) are split into separate decks for kids and adults."
"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. Family game nights are a great way to spend screen-free time together, and whether you want a classic or something new and exciting, there's bound to be a game that everyone will love. Another bonus? Playing with board games can boost kids' spatial reasoning ability, helping to predict later success in subjects such as math, science, engineering, and technology. 

Here, the best family board games to add to your rotation.

Best Overall: MindWare Qwirkle Board Game

Qwirkle Board Game

Qwirkle 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. Similar to dominoes, players are tasked with building 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 this game is recommended for kids ages six and up, with a little help and patience, even slightly younger children can join in on the action. 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 family.

Best for Large Families: Spontuneous The Song Game

Spontuneous The Song Game

As its name suggests, Spontuneous requires players to spontaneously break into song—but don't let that keep you from giving it a try!

Here's how it works: Each player writes a "hit list" of trigger words 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 this gets to advance their game token through the G-clef shaped board, encountering even more challenges along the way.

The game is recommended for kids ages eight and up, and each round takes about 30 minutes. While the set comes with ten game pieces, you can squeeze in more players by creating teams, adding even more 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: Czech Games Codenames

codenames-board-game

This spy-themed game is a favorite for a reason. Described as a "social word game", Codenames is easy to learn and different each time you play. Players ages ten and up are tasked with identifying the secret "agents" on each team, with clues from the "Spymaster" to guide them along the way. The team that unlocks the code to all fellow agents first wins.

"Once we lured a few additional would-be spies to the table for a total of four or five players, Codenames really took off. This allowed for more productive brainstorming and resulted in better clues and guesses—as well as the occasional silly, laugh-out-loud moments. In our experience, the more people, the better the match." Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester

Best for Small Children: HABA My First Orchard

Think two-year-olds can't play board games? You might reconsider after checking out My First Orchard. Best for one to four players, this simple 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 Strategy: Z-Man Games Pandemic

Z-Man Games' Pandemic

This game, which was popular well before 2021, 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 (expansion packs are sold separately). Each round takes about 45 minutes, and the basic version is best suited for children ages eight 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 for Teens: Prospero Hall The Shining Board Game

The Shining

Whether your teen loves horror or just wants 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 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. 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. Cards are split into decks for children and adults, so you can customize gameplay to your group.

This version of the game is aimed at children ages eight and up, and cards are split into decks for children and adults. It can be played with two to six players, with the option to create teams for larger groups. With the same six categories as earlier editions, gameplay will be just as you remembered it. If you want, you can even mix in older decks from the original version for extra fun.

Best Cooperative: Peaceable Kingdom Cauldron Quest

In this game, which will appeal to magic- and quest-lovers ages six 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.

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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