Board games are a perfect way for families to connect, interact and have fun together. Here are 21 board games you may not have heard of. My goal is to change that. There is more to board gaming than Monopoly, Sorry, Jenga, Candy Land etc. I am not saying you shouldn’t like these games, if those games are a way for you to have fun with your family and friends, that is absolutely wonderful. However, in my opinion, there is a bigger and better world of games you are missing out on. Once you learn about them, you may never go back.
I did not put these games in order, the first game is not my number one family board game of all time. I love them all. There are also some games on this list that I do not own yet, but they are definitely on my purchase list. Her we go!
New York Slice
Warning: This game will make you hungry and want to order a pizza. You and your fellow pizza lovers decide are going to have to decide which slice to eat, or which slice to keep. There are a dozen kinds of pizza to work with, from Veggie to Hawaiian to Meat Lovers. Watch the Dice Tower gang play this game live here.
Do you like dominos? Have you ever wanted to build your own kingdom? Kingdomino will let you do that in 15 minutes, with a very familiar mechanism, dominos. Beautiful tile laying game, quick but challenging gameplay. Your family will love it. For a full game review click here.
Another tile laying game but this one feels like putting a puzzle together. Quick, fun, a 2016 Spiel Des Jahres (game of the year) nominee. Plays up to 4 players, however, if you have multiple copies you can play with more players, like bingo in that sense. Read my full review here.
Do you have young kids who like drawing? Doodle quest will let them do that and beat you at the same time. This game is so much fun to play with your kids, I cannot recommend it enough. Doodle quest is for kids 6 and up, although a 5-year-old can easily play this game as well. Players draw on separate transparent sheets and must trust their eyes in order to meet targets and avoid obstacles.
If you want the “adult” version of it (for ages 10 and up), try Looney Quest instead, you will thank me. Let Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) from Mad Men explain to you how awesome these games are.
A gorgeous game about pirates racing around the island of Jamaica. You can read my full review here. Plays up to 6 players.
The first game I bought. I cannot recommend this game enough. Chances are you have either seen this game or have heard of it. It is a cooperative game. You as a team are trying to stop 4 deadly diseases from spreading all over the world. Again, I have a full review here if you are interested.
If you like racing games and you like horses you must try this game. It lets you buy ownership in race horses and race them around the track. The gameplay is simple, and yes it involves dice rolling but different than what you are normally used to. Everybody towards the end of the game usually is standing up and shouting out the number of the horse they own. Fun, and plays up to 5 players.
Codenames won the 2016 Spiel Des Jahres (game of the year) award. It is simple in its design but challenging (in a good way) to play. Plays up to 8 players. You split into two teams. One player from each team is the Spymaster. He only knows the other agents by their codenames.
You randomly pick 25 codename cards out of 400 cards that come with the game and place them on the board creating a 5 by 5 grid. On his turn, the spymaster must give a one-word clue that relates to the meaning of the cards that are on the table. Be careful, one of the words your teammates might pick might be one of the agents of your opponent, or may even be an assassin.
If words aren’t your thing, try Codenames pictures. Instead of words on the cards, there are a bunch of pictures. You can even play this version with younger kids, or if you have both games you can mix them together. Tons of replayability, quick fun. Here is Rodney from watch it played, explaining the rules in detail.
Another wonderful cooperative game from the designer of Pandemic. This time you and your teammates are trapped in a desert. Your helicopter crashed and the only way to escape is to find the pieces of a steampunk ship, put them together and fly away before you run out of water or get buried under the sand caused by sandstorms. Sounds fun? Come on you can do it, you and your teammates will figure it out together.
If you want a simpler version of this, especially if you have kids younger than 10, try Forbidden Island.
You are in a summer camp for ninjas trying to impress the Sensei. Very clever card play, cute artwork. It is easy to learn and tons of replayability. I have a full review for this game here.
Bugs in the kitchen
This is such a simple but fun game I had to include it. There is a bug in your kitchen and you are trying to be the first player to capture that bug. The game comes with an actual battery operated toy bug that moves randomly. You roll a die and move the corresponding pieces on the board in order to force the bug to move a certain direction. If you have young kids they will love this game, you will too. Here is a gameplay with the Gamenight gang from Boardgamegeek TV.
Do you like chess? Great you will love Onitama. You are not a fan of chess because you don’t know all the expert moves, well that is great too, you will love Onitama. It is a quick playing chess like abstract game with beautiful components. Each player has 4 pawns and the master. A game usually lasts 15 minutes.
Escape the curse of the temple
Have you ever played a real-time board game? I hadn’t, until Escape. It is a 10-minute real-time dice rolling crazy fun game. Think of it as Indiana Jones being chased down by that big rock in the temple. Escape simulates that perfectly. It plays 1 – 5 players, it is a cooperative game, if you choose to play with 2 or more players. It comes with a soundtrack that is the timer as well. You have exactly until the end of that soundtrack to find enough gems and get out the temple that is collapsing. Good luck!
Beyond Baker Street
Do you think you can solve a case before Sherlock Holmes, the master himself? Prove it. In Beyond Baker Street you are a group of detectives investigating a crime together. Each player has a hand of cards that might give you the answers for the crime. One small wrinkle, though, you hold your cards facing out, and you cannot see your cards only your teammates can. You have to give your fellow detectives clues so they can guess what cards they might be holding in their hands and they have to do the same for you. Don’t waste too much time, though, if Sherlock solves the case before you do, you lose.
Another Spiel Des Jahres nominee. In Imhotep, you are competing architects trying to build Egypt. You select how many stones to ship to which construction site. If you take too much time deciding, your opponents may sail the ship that has your stones to a building site you don’t want. You can build the pyramids, the obelisk and other sites around Egypt to earn points, but you must be decisive and quick. A great family game full of different decisions.
Coconuts Crazy Monkey Dexterity Game
A bunch of crazy monkeys trying to get the most coconuts into a cup. A super fun dexterity game. Here is how it plays.
Another dexterity game, this time with penguins. You are a penguin and you are in high school (Icecool). You don’t want to go to class, it is boring. But one of the other players has other plans. He is the hall monitor. If he catches you, you are in trouble. Fun flicking game.
This is another game that I did a review for. If you like chucking dice, the theme of Vegas, you will love this game. Super easy to learn, will provide tons of fun.
Do you like Uno but want something with a bit more flavor and depth? Yardmaster is the perfect game for that. You are trying to load the right cargo to the right railcar and deliver them to their destination before the other players do. Rahdo explains how you can do that.
Welcome to the Dungeon
This is a great, quick, push your luck game. In Welcome to the Dungeon, you are trying to decide, do I want to go into the dungeon and fight off the monsters myself or do I pass and let someone else go in and watch them loose? Just a deck of cards and some adventurers (and their weapons), this game comes in a very tiny box and provides a boatload of fun. Watch a gameplay here.
From Haba, Adventure Land is a big box game that provides three different scenarios. The first one is the simplest one, perfect for beginners and young children. You control a group of adventurers to fight off fog monsters, collect gold while trying to avoid the Water Sprite, find swords and herbs to make yourself stronger, or find some companions. This game, like all the other games above, gives you a different starting setup each time you play.