Families around the nation are looking for ways to have fun outside of screen time. Kids are too! A recent study reports that our combined screen time during Covid is upward of 19 hours a day! We’re on screens for meetings, checking our widescreens when we’re board, updating our lives via screens and connecting with friends on screens. When we’re all done we do our shopping on screens, get some exercise (often via a screen or at least with a podcast or some music) then veg out for awhile playing a game or watching a show on a screen. The only thing we’re not currently doing on a screen is sleeping, and they may even figure that out soon.
So what are we to do? We’ve talked before about Analog Adventures, by which I mean adventures you get to have at the pace of real life, without artificial rewards programmed in (no flashing lights, like buttons, algorithms, or microtargeting), and still allow the fun and interactivity of other adventures.
So how far should we go for fun? You should pick games that inspire God-given talents (gifts/passions/interests) and that line up with your family expectations for content (Your whole family should know this if you have a Family Tech Framework. If you don’t, you need to make one! We made an online resource to help with that!)
LET’S GET STARTED!
This list is curated with your real-world family in mind and I hope it’ll provide you with hours of fun opportunities to teach all kinds of life lessons (how to lose well, and win well for that matter, being two of them).
In each category I’m going to share three games. Each will:
- age appropriate
- content that I would, and have, let my children play
- <1 hour to play
- a showcase of unique game ideas to spark your interest
This list is in NO WAY exhaustive. If you have a local board game shop near you please check it out. Caveat: Do not just walk into a Games Workshop or a Wizards of the Coast at your local mall and ask them what you should buy. Those are shops dedicated to some pretty specific franchises that I can’t really stand behind. I’m talking if you have a local board game shop that sells games with the end-user in mind, not just with moving product.
Games for <5: This is where the classics are awesome!
- Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, Sorry, Memory,
- Zingo: players have a card they need to fill. Two cards are given at a time and players must recognize and grab answers that match their cards before others do.
- Hi Ho Cherry O!: My kids loved this one! It does have small pieces, so be aware of your family, but gameplay focuses around spinning an arrow and adding pieces accordingly.
- Outfoxed: Gather clues to help catch the fox before it leaves town!
- Hoot Owl Hoot! Co-operative game where you work together to help all the owls reach their nest before the sun rises.
Games for 6 – 9 year olds:
- Qwirkle: like scrabble, but with shapes and colors! This game just keeps getting better as the players get older. It gets very intense when some dedicated adults set their minds to it. =)
- Carcassonne: a 2-5 person puzzle. You play a single tile, can lay one of your tokens on that tile, and work together to find places to build your roads, towns, fields, and monasteries.
- Blokus: like 4 player tetris. Simple, fun, fast.
- Ticket to Ride: Collect multi-colored tickets to be the first person to travel the most high-value tracks on the map. I’ve played it with children as young as 4, but the six to nine year range is optimal. Beautiful artwork, fun pieces for the kids, and a wide range of strategy depending on how you want to play.
Games for 10 – 12 year olds:
- Mad Gab: word game, lots of zany phrases, a fun twist on a classic up-front game.
- Quest for El Dorado: changing map, strategic card laying, some chance, opportunities to be competitive (impede opponent’s play)
- Settlers of Catan: cooperative card sharing, need opponents to win, your new Monopoly.
- Dixit: This is a fabulous game! You give a one-word clue so that some, but not all, of the other players can guess your card. It has beautiful water-color artwork and is a wonderful way to practice words.
- Apples to Apples Jr.: A lead player chooses a card with an adjective: “funny”, “scary”, “respectable”. Players then pick cards they think will win the vote of the card judge.
- Super Fight: Imagine you’re in the ultimate battle arena of all time. (History channel used to have a program called “Deadliest Warrior” where they would pit different fighters against each other and ask “who would win?” — The Samurai or a Viking?) Basically that’s what’s happening here, but on a ridiculous extreme. Each player gets a hero card and an attribute. Players then go around the circle and determine who would win: Chuck Norris on Fire or a Polar Bear with Laser Arms? There is no right answer. Each player makes their case for why they’d win and then the group votes on who they think should advance.
Games for 13+ year olds
- Dominion: Collect treasure and build your card deck to acquire the most valuable lands. (note: a couple cards you may choose to remove – some witches, magic, etc).
- CodeNames: great game-night option for group play. You try to get your team to guess the right cards using one-word clues. If they pick wrong they may lose a turn, or worse.
- BattleTech. This link is for the older version of the game because the information is more accurate. If you want pictures of the modern game check out BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat. Mechs do all the fighting, pilots rarely die, and who doesn’t want to drive around a 50 ft. tall robot? Basically the movie Pacific Rim in a board game.
- Power Grid: Develop your power grid to power the most cities. Involves bartering, economics of purchasing fuel, and some wonderful discussions on the cost/benefit of certain types of energy (nuclear is awesome, but crazy-expensive…especially as demand goes up!)
Bonus: Instead of Dungeons & Dragons…
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. There is a growing batch of young people who love the intrigue, adventure, and narrative style of games like Dungeons and Dragons. Many parents find the game off-putting because they don’t want to have to constantly deal with topics like demons, magic, etc. EotE is a fantastic option because it pulls the focus off the leveling / killing of monsters and puts it on the story. Someone does have to run the game (called a Game Master), but with a little bit of work this game can be a huge win for kids. I’ve personally played this game with a group of young people aged 12-14, one of whom had special needs, and found it to be an amazing opportunity for all four players to have together as a group. The GM carries most of the rules so the players just get to be a part of a fn story. The Star Wars universe has minimal troubling lore and the games include very little of the Force itself. Most of the game is just trying to make it on the outskirts of a broken galaxy.
If you want to research games on your own I highly recommend Board Game Geek. Check out some of the highest ranked games in lists like:
If you want help developing Analog Adventures, or creating a Family Tech Framework, check out Gospel Tech’s Online Workshop designed for families to do just that!