Top 5 Family Games.

Looking to spice up your family game nights? WBG gives you the run down of 5 of our favourites to help you enjoy each game night equally as a family. 

Family games night can be a thing of beauty! We play daily here at WBG towers, but I understand it may not be the same everywhere else. When you pick a new game to bring to your family you want to make it count! But with so many games out there, how can you ensure you have the best time with your family when playing games? Which is the best game to pick for your tastes and group? This article I hope will go some way to help with your choices.

After months of playing literally hundreds of games, we have whittled it down to five and our current favourites. So here it is! Our top five family games. All listed with a recommended age and our thoughts on how we feel each could fit into your family to hopefully help you pick the right one for your family.

 

Karuba - Best for adventurous families

Age range - 6 and up

Easy to learn? - Yes

Easy to set up? - Yes with a few modifications detailed below. 

Fun factor - High

Social factor - High

In Karuba, you are playing as an adventurer searching for lost temples. It’s a simple tile laying puzzle but with some really satisfying mechanics that make all ages enjoy this game. There is a real sense of adventure throughout, with very satisfying moments with both the scoring throughout and the path that you create in the actual game.

Set up is a little fiddley but can be made a little simpler for younger players with a few quick modifications and preparation. Each player starts with tiles numbered 1-36 and one player will call a tile at random. Then all players will find and play the same tile on their board. Each tile has different paths leading either in straight lines, curves to the left or right, crossroads or T-Junctions.

You are looking to build a path for each of your four adventurers, who start in random places on the beach on the bottom and left side of the board, to reach their colour matched temple which will be somewhere either on the top or right of the board.

The tricky bit here for younger players is finding the right tiles, especially in the earlier rounds when there is 36 to sort through. So, when I play, I sort all four groups of tiles for each player into the same order. It requires a bit of preparation for me and takes around 10 minutes, but it means that in the game, players simply pick a tile from the top of the stack and place it. It’s the exact same game, but a lot quicker and more fun with less downtime. And in truth, I quite like the set-up. It’s a little puzzle I get to play alone before the madness begins!

With this pre-game prep out the way, players are left to simply choose to either lay the top tile or discard it for movement. These are the only choices available, which is one reason this game is so accessible to younger players, or those new to modern board games. Laying a tile allows you to extend your path closer to each temple. Discarding a tile gives you movement points equal to the exits on the tile. For example, a straight line coming off the tile either end would be two movement points. A T-junction coming off the tile in three places will give you three movement.

Tiles can be placed anywhere on the board, but not rotated, and other than this, there are no rules. You will be playing this game very quickly with new players, no matter their experience. The only help you may need to give to younger or less experienced players would be around the tile placement in early rounds. Planning ahead can be tricky when you are unsure what may come up. So, I often go through the tiles to show people the sorts of things they can expect to see in later turns.

Some tiles have jewels on, and if your explorer stops their turn on a tile with one of these shiny components, you can bag them for juicy end game points. This is also a race game of sorts, as the first to reach each temple gets 5 points. Each subsequent player will get one less point when they arrive. As such, you need to try and keep all four adventurers moving at the same time, or go big with one or two. There are various ways to play this which is another reason this game is so appealing to families.

Creating your little map through the jungle is a lot of fun. Younger gamers will enjoy the sense of adventure. Older players take satisfaction from the puzzle of trying to create a map from scratch. If you could pick and choose the tiles this would be easy. But when you do not know what order the tiles will be made available to you, and you manage to create a successful path for all four of your characters, it is very satisfying.

Each game takes around 30-45 minutes and feels very fresh each time. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys the sound of creating their own puzzle, forging their own intertwined routes, and maximising their limited choices to win the race to each temple.

 

Out of this World - Best for cooperative families.

Age range - 5 and up

Easy to learn? - Yes

Easy to set up? - Yes

Fun factor - High

Social factor - High

Out of this World looks so appealing. The box art, cards and entire premise just oozes 90’s nostalgia. Anyone who grew up during the decade of skateboards, bubble-gum, cassette tapes and playing outdoors, screen free will be drawn to this delightful little card game.

This is a simple set-collection game. Played cooperatively, and over a series of interlinking games. But it feels so much more with the story the game is set to. If you feel like you could throw yourself into the narrative and bring a bit of role play to the table, then this could be the one for you and your family.

And when I say “a bit” I do only mean a bit. I am not suggesting anyone needs to dress up here or put on an accent! In the box, there is a ‘Stranger Things’ style story the game is set to. This comes in five chapters, and each one introduces a different end game mechanic you need to achieve to win. You will be presented with a small amount of text to set the scene and explain the theme behind each chapter’s goals, specific cards and mission. This for me, is make or break for the game. When you read this, if you can get your family invested in the theme then you will have a much better experience over the course of the next 25 minutes.

Without this, the game can become a little abstract. Collect three spanner cards to collect points. Get four cards worth six or more to get rid of a bad card. This is no fun. You need to think about what is on the cards and what you are doing with them. Setting the scene at the start with the flavour text is crucial to do this. If you feel like you can sell this part of the story to your family, and I am talking about one minute of reading, then everything else will feel so much more important. Your family will be more invested in the outcome of the game, and you will work better as a group to meet that chapter’s goals.

Turns are simple in Out of this world. There are five stacks of five cards, essentially, multiple draw piles. On your go, you take one of these cards, the choice is yours, unless one of the top cards is a monster card, in which case you must take this. You then have a choice to make with your one action. You can give cards to other players, play cards to get points, activate card powers for various rule bending mechanics or fight off a monster you had previously attracted the attention of. As such, turns are quick and games fly by.

We played all five chapters in order over the course of a few weeks, and by the end we were all really sucked into the narrative and outcome for our characters. There is a choice of which role to play each game, but we stuck with the same one each time, feeling attached to the one we were playing. Each character has different powers too, so after we completed the game the first time, we certainly felt like we wanted to play again, but this time with a different character. There is a lot of game in this little box. It is not a one-and-done as can be the case with some narrative based games.

The pull here for families though is the cooperative nature of the game play. Cooperative games are brilliant for younger players as you can help each player without feeling like you are breaking the rules of the game. This is the point in a co-op anyway. However, in Out of this World, there is an option to play one rule where speaking is limited to one player per round. This adds a lot to the game, and thematically is a fitting idea. Each player is supposed to be in different parts of each location, a school or library etc. And in the 90’s, there were no mobile phones, so how would you talk to other players? This doesn’t work with younger players for the first few games, but when playing with a five and seven-year-old, I found when we added this in for game four and onwards it worked well and added a lot to the game. Essentially it makes the game harder, and the successes more of an achievement, which after a few games is what you will be crying out for.

This is a great fun little game I would recommend for anyone looking to create a narrative based challenge for their family to play over a few consecutive game sessions. It’s a perfect addition for any week away or time when you may be at home with your loved ones more than usual and are playing more often. So, yeah, now!

13 Monsters – Best for competitive familes.

Age range - 5 and up

Easy to learn? - Yes

Easy to set up? - Yes, but takes around 10 minutes to lay all tiles 

Fun factor - High

Social factor - High

 

Remember those memory games you played as a kid? You lay out a bunch of tiles and flip two over at once trying to find a pair? Find a pair and they are yours. Keep going until all pairs are found. Simple right? But also, a little dull. After a few games, you realise there really isn’t much going on, and this is suited to much younger gamers for one or two games before they gather dust somewhere.

Well, the team at 13 Monsters decided to try and fix that! They saw the opportunity to take this tried and trusted mechanic and turn it into an actual game! The result is a really fun memory-based game with enough twists to make this appeal to families in a whole new way.

In 13 monsters, the pairs you are looking to create are either the legs, body or head of a monster. Create a complete monster from three pairs, and you can then go to war! Your monster can start fighting other players monsters, fully formed or otherwise in order to steal their tiles. You do this by throwing five dice. You are looking to roll the highest score from matching numbers. You can have a few re-rolls based on the strength of your monster. Your opponent will then roll the same dice to try and beat your score. It is an enjoyable mini game that makes the attacking feel fun, even and fair.

Your powers grow as your monster’s increase in strength, based on their formation. A pure monster formed from all the same tile type will allow you to turn over three tile son your turn, instead of two for example.

The game can be quite long and slow to start, so the rules suggest starting with each player having one fully formed monster to begin with. This cuts the game length in half from an hour to around 30 minutes, and players can attack from the start making the game a lot more fun.

There is also an expansion for this which brings in armour, shields and weapons. There are also new powers to help you find your pairs quicker including the hilarious ‘Oopsie poopsie’ rule, which lets you say you didn’t mean to flip one tile, if you don’t see what you like, turn it back and try again! This may come to Kickstarter or retail next year.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants a bit more take-that to their game night. If the idea of fighting and taking pieces form your family appeals then this is the one for you. It is not done in an aggressive way, it’s just monsters fighting after all! But I love how they have taken the classic memory game and added so much to it.  

 

Zombie Kidz Evolution - Best for multiple games nights.

Age range - 5 and up

Easy to learn? - Yes

Easy to set up? - Yes

Fun factor - High

Social factor - High

Zombie Kidz Evolution is such a fun game! The mechanics are so simple. There are zombies attacking the school and you need to get rid of them and lock the four gates so no more can get in. You do this by moving one space into an adjacent room and remove any zombies that are there. If you and another player are ever by a gate at the same time, you can add a lock, but only after these two players high five of course! Add four locks and you win. It’s so simple and quick.  A game can last five minutes. But this is a legacy game. This means that it evolves each time and you will do things to the pieces that will permanently change the game for ever. New rules, characters and powers will come into effect that make this so fun! This happens by reaching certain landmarks and then being rewarded by opening a new envelope full of game changing goodies. Your kids will be so excited by this, as a concept it is thrilling! It feels like the game is constantly changing and it means games will rarely just be a one-time thing. We always play three to five games at a time, trying to reach the next milestone and envelope each time.

The game is brilliantly designed for kids too. Even if you lose the game by running out of zombies to add when you need to do so, you still progress towards the next envelope. Every game, win or lose, gets you closer to the juicy contents inside the next envelope and there are thirteen to open in the box. You will need to play the game 30-55 times to get this final envelope. This is important for a few reasons.

Firstly. People often criticise games like this saying that once you finish it, you will then throw it away or never play again as you permanently change things as you go. So, it is a waste of money. Well, let me first ask you this. Do you own any game at all that you have played over 30 times? So even if this were true, you would still have got more out of this than you had from most other games you own.

Second, when the missions are done and all the envelopes are opened, you can still play the game. Sure, it won’t be as fun chasing after new challenges and milestones, knowing there are more rules, powers and characters to come. But it’s still a great game. And by this point, you will have unlocked everything the game has to offer and can pick and choose which bits to add each time you play. It moves from a legacy game to a customisable game. Still really fun, and yours. With all the memories of the previous 30 odd games to cherish.

Lastly, 30-55 games may sound like too much. You may be thinking you will never play it that much and so will never unlock all the envelopes. Well, remember the games are very quick. Max time per game would be ten minutes I would say. And I promise you, once you open that first envelope you will be hooked. At an average of 10 minutes per games, that is 300 minutes of gaming minimum. Five hours of fun. And this game retails on Zatu for under £20. Most would spend £20 on a pizza that they would enjoy for 20 minutes! 300 minutes seems good value to me!

I would recommend this to any family looking for a game that is a bit different, the legacy elements are a lot of fun, and will be sure to keep you coming back for more. Even after the final envelope has been opened. And minor spoiler alert, there may well be something in that final envelope that makes you want to come back for a lot more!

 

Miyabi– Best for a relaxing games session.

Age range - 5 and up

Easy to learn? - Yes

Easy to set up? - Yes

Fun factor - High

Social factor - Medium

 

Miyabi is a beautiful tile laying game that challenges you to create the most beautiful and points-worthy garden. This game, like Karuba, has an incredibly simple mechanic and rules structure. You will be playing with your family within minutes. The set up here is also very simple and as such this is a great entry level tile-laying game. But it still offers something for more keen gamers, with the base game coming with five little expansions all included in the box. This allows you to add extra layers of complexity and scoring options as you please. None of them make it difficult or inaccessible. Just fresh and exciting, each time bringing new rules, mechanics, components and scoring options to the table.

Miyabi is a polyomino game. Remember Tetris? Polyomino means you are adding tetris shaped tiles onto a board. It’s all the rage in board games right now. It is such a fun and satisfying mechanic, there seems to be a new game using this feature released weekly. Miyabi offers something very family-friendly with this tile-laying technique though. Aesthetically it looks beautiful. Mechanically it is very accessible. And the tactile feel of the large chunky pieces will appeal to smaller hands and fingers making this a perfect game for younger players too.

The rules are brilliantly simple but add a level of strategy that can be enjoyed by all ages. You are looking to lay tiles on the board. Each tile has one space filled with a symbol. The symbols represent plants, pagodas, trees, ponds or rocks that you are laying in your garden. You can only lay these symbols in their designated rows, and you can only lay a symbol in a column once per round. All very simple, and it keeps choices tight and enjoyable.

The end game scoring is where this game really sells itself to me as a great family game, I played the other day when my son was the only one to score points for reaching a fifth level with his tiles. He didn’t win overall but was delighted to be the only player to get this bonus score. My daughter scored the most points for having the most consecutive symbols on each row. Again, she didn’t win but was excited when she scored highest for this part of the game. The scoring rewards a more even game which is why neither of my children won overall this time as they were both chasing one sole goal. But I love how each player can approach the game so differently, and this example here, taught my children how to try and spread their bets somewhat and not focus on one sole goal. In subsequent games, both of them won a few times each by learning how to maximise their points a little more efficiently. I feel that this, right here is the biggest reason I play games with my children so much. I have seen such advances in their learning in both Maths and English, but also their concentration levels improve so much the more we play. I see them listen and pay attention so much more to instructions from teachers now, and I think playing games at home has helped with this. Miyabi is a brilliant example with the multiple scoring options and mini expansions to help with this.

As such, I would recommend Miyabi to anyone looking to bring a more strategic thinking game to their table. A game that may help their children develop their gaming and social skills and overall education. But also, a game that is really fun to play.  

 

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