Being that quite a few of us board gamers these days are starting families of our own in addition to the importance of spending family time where youngsters are around, it is rather tempting to avoid the hobby of gaming in these scenarios due to the demand these little humans take on our time and their lack of understanding of complex rules. However, after reaching certain ages, these little humans turn into competent challengers, particularly when selecting the right kind of game. But what are these titles? Luckily, just in time for the half term, we here at C&G have come up with a comprehensive if incomplete list for you to start with. We'd love to hear your own thoughts on this too so if you have some suggestions, please comment below!
Blank (Hub Games, 6+, 2-6 Players)
Let's start off with a game, a legacy one no less, by the lovely chaps at Hub Games (previously known as The Creativity Hub) who made the relentlessly present and fun Rory's Story Cubes. This one is really simple, a hand management game where the goal is to get rid your entire hand first. You can only play cards of matching colour or number onto the central pile, and there are also rules that affect the game, some constantly active and others that are only in effect when a card is played. Once the game is over, the winner gets to create a brand new rule by writing it on the card, and this really is a chance to let your creativity shine. Dave played it with his class and one rule courtesy of his student was whenever a certain card is played, the person has to reveal their deepest fear; somewhat surprising but proof that this game by its end will be completely distinct from the others! Great, brisk fun for kids and adults alike.
Magic Maze Kids (Sit Down!, 5+, 2-4 Players)
Those who follow us regularly will know we love the original game 'Magic Maze', a frantic yet mostly silent cooperative game about moving archetypal fantasy characters through a mall, and so a kids version will be welcome news to those looking to introduce their offspring to this magical formula. The kids version tames it down somewhat, limiting it to four players and losing the special actions, but the core concept was so enjoyable that even this version is good wholesome fun for the family. In addition, due to the cooperative nature and clever movement system, there is still that real sense of joy in completing the goal before time runs out!
Incan Gold/Diamant (pictured) (Eagle Gryphon Games/Iello, 8+, 3-8 Players)
This fun and simple push your luck game is all about escaping from a temple with as many diamonds as you can carry. Ever growing dangers as well as increasing loot mix risk and reward with a very easy to learn system, as on your turn you either decide to stay and venture further, or leave with what you've got. This formula makes for some tense moments! Not only that but it will also teach any younger players some numerical stuff, such as how to divide up loot fairly, and also that gambling doesn't always pay! Knowing that it is heavily luck based (with a bit of guessing your opponents decisions) helps adults to enjoy it while also still giving kids a fair chance at winning the game. Yes, Ben might say it's flawed and 'broken', but in mine and Dave's experience we've never encountered any problems with that, and still have a lot of fun playing it, adults and kids alike!
Ice Cool (Brain Games, 6+, 2-4 Players)
Dexterity games tend to favour adults due to the skill difference, but with a game like Ice Cool the focus is on fun and excitement, and as a result the game becomes something that both the older and younger generations can enjoy! You play penguins in a school, taking turns to be the hall monitor whose goal is to 'catch' the others by bumping into them, with everyone else trying to avoid them while also collecting fish by sliding through certain doors. The most fun comes from close calls as well as trick shots, specifically where you can leap to the other side of the board by vaulting over walls, and there is very little penalty for trying something wild like that, so kids tend to love this game. Even adults, due to the unpredictability of the penguin pieces, will still learn something almost every time, so if you're looking for a light, quick physical game, Ice Cool won't disappoint!
No Thank You, Evil! (Monte Cook Games, 5+, 3-5 Players)
A favourite of Dave's, this is the best game for introducing children to the world of RPG's thanks to its very easy to learn system and its ability to scale to children of different ages. One person takes the DM role (aka 'The Guide') and steers the others through an adventure with a very simple dice roll/skill check system, but introduces more strategic elements like the 'Try Harder' which allows a limited pool of tokens to be spent to make things easier. There are also puns or references to pop culture that adults will enjoy too, much like Pixar films do. 'No Thank You, Evil!' allows for creativity, storytelling and can be wrapped up in less than an hour so neither you nor your companions will get bored. And even better news, if you are reading this before June 6 2018 you can get in on it by backing their Kickstarter for the reprint with added stuff, hurrah!
My First Carcassonne/Ticket To Ride First Journey/Catan Junior (Various)
Thanks in part to the success of many new games that focus on families and encouraging children to play, it seems that some of the most recognisable brands in gaming are catching on to the potential new audiences now in play. With trimmed mechanics and much shorter playtime, these games all take the same approach in taking the games core and aiming to make it fun for all, though for full disclosure, because these are the only games on the list we've not played ourselves, we can't personally vouch for them. Based on the company's reputations however we do have high hopes that these offer the equivalent of gateway gaming that their parent editions offer, but to a much younger crowd.
In A Bind Jr/Yogi (Stuff By Bez, 4+, 3-7 Players)
In A Bind (now rebranded as Yogi) is one of our favourite party games, in which players will contort themselves into some of the most ridiculous positions in pursuit of victory, and the fact that a junior edition exists is great news for anybody planning to go to a multi-generational party in the near future. Removing some of the more physically demanding cards and introducing animal sounds, as well as mitigating the penalty for failing, makes this a very fair and very enjoyable game for all ages. In A Bind Jr is still available but only while stocks last so go and get it while you can, but if you can't find it, the designer has said that Yogi is very much a family friendly game so there's no excuse to get involved with this excellent physical party game!
There are obviously a whole bunch more games that we could have included in this article, and while some of the ones we've listed below don't necessarily fit our brief of games that can be played by kids without being enjoyed fully by adults, we figure it is down to you to decide how important that factor is and we should let you know about them so you can decide for yourself. Encouraging more multi-generational gameplay can only be a good thing!
Geistes Blitz Junior - A simpler take on the classic reaction game with cute animal tokens instead of furniture
Dobble - Another reaction game with multiple modes, with some black magic at work where each card only ever matches with one symbol on every other card
Rhino Hero - A physical game about a superhero rhinoceros, and stacking up cards in a tower, try not to be the one who topples it
Blokus - Popular mainstream game with enjoyable mix of luck and placing tiles for up to four players
Bananagrams - A crossword based word game that challenges everybody to come up with interlinking words as quickly as they can. A good vocabulary builder!
OK Play - This travel game is so easy to learn even the youngest won't have a problem picking it up. Perfect for games to take on holiday!
Feature by Russell Chapman