Top 14 Best Family Board Games – Dad's perspective
Trent Howell
United States
Utah
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Posting the Top Board Games lists for each member of our family these last few weeks has kept me thinking about which board games, card games, and party games I’d include on my list.

The hardest part for me is narrowing down the list because I love playing so many games. I love the social interaction, the thinking, the strategizing, the cool themes, the variety of game mechanics, and the twists of luck. So for me, the best board game will always come down to “it depends”.

It depends on who’s playing the game. The number of players, age, length of time, interests, and capabilities all factor into which game is the best to play for a particular situation. And I enjoy the challenge of trying to pick the right game for the moment.

I’m so used to picking games for others and what best fits a situation that I don’t typically think of my own favorite games. So I’ve got to ask myself some simple questions.


What are my “go-to” games?


1. If I could just sit and play games all day, which board games would I want on the table?
2. Or better yet, what are the games I could play over and over and not get tired of playing them?
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1. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Trent Howell
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Memoir ’44 is the first “war game” that I’ve played. And in my mind it’s still the most approachable and fun. Sure there are war games that go a lot deeper. But for me, I love the balance of simplicity and strategy in Memoir ’44. Every time I play, I still get heightened anticipation of what’s going to happen next. I love the challenge of playing the “underdog” side for each scenario. And there are so many scenarios to play (those included in the rulebook, posted online, or self-created), that I could really play Memoir ‘44 all day and not get tired.
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2. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
Trent Howell
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Dominion is another “simple on the surface” game with a ton of replayability. Play an Action, Buy a card, Clean up by discarding and restocking your hand and do it again. This deck-building game is cram-packed with variety in getting your deck of cards to work well for you in order to buy victory points. Randomly starting with 10 sets of cards in play to add to your deck each game creates an endless supply of possible combinations. And adding expansions opens so many more possibilities. What an addiction.
 
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3. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:31]
Trent Howell
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We still haven’t posted a full review of Power Grid, but the more I’ve thought about it recently the closer it gets to a reality. I love the thinking that happens in Power Grid. It’s such a constant mental effort for positioning that it’s hard to realize a couple hours have gone by. From the power plant auctions and city networks to the fluctuating resources and player order, every element needs to be watched and evaluated to determine when the right time is to make a move. I also think Power Grid has one of the coolest expansions for a board game. It’s called Power Grid the Robots and it essentially adds AI players to the game. The robots are made of 5 parts that are randomly picked which indicate what the robot will do at each phase. You can add as many random robots to the game as you’d like which is a great way to add additional players to the mix without them being there. Now a 2-player game can turn into a 4- or 6-player game if you’d like. Pretty cool addition since it adds yet another element to keep in mind. I’d play Power Grid all the time if I could consistently get opponents who are up for a couple hours of the mental effort.
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4. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:137] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
Trent Howell
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While I may not play Carcassonne continuously for a full day, it’s a game that’s just fun to play and I could play it many times in a row. I love building out a countryside that’s unique every time. Like other board games I enjoy, the basic play is very simple and straightforward but allows for a lot of options to keep it fresh. And getting a couple Carcassonne expansions helps with that variety. We’ve added the ‘Traders and Builders’ and ‘Inns & Cathedrals’ expansions and really like the additional elements and scoring opportunities they bring. And the best thing is that every time we play we simply choose which elements we want to include for that game. Fun stuff.
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5. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:456]
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Kingdom Builder is another great family game with a lot of variety built around some basic game play that I could play repeatedly. In every game you randomly select only 3 (out of 10) ways to score points for that game. You also randomly select 4 (out of 8) boards to set up the landscape for playing on. So every game has a different layout and different ways to win. Plus there are special abilities that are dependent on each board, so those variations will also help determine the best way to maneuver to get points during the game. Great simple play with the element of luck in the card draws, but I love trying to figure out how to combine the abilities with the cards to strategically place my pieces just right to get the most points. Enough depth to keep me thinking the whole game. And those are the type of games I love.
 
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6. Board Game: Hive [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:204]
Trent Howell
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For a more strategic, 2-player abstract game I’ll pull out Hive again and again. There aren’t any elements of luck in Hive – it’s all strategic. But it’s also a quick game. While it’s chess-like in the sense that all the pieces have their unique way to move, it isn’t even close to the length of a chess game. You could play Hive many times over in the same time of a chess game. And you don’t need a board to play Hive. Any flat (or relatively flat) surface will do. I also love the travel bag that makes it so easy to grab and go. And now Hive Pocket is available which has smaller pieces and includes the two expansions (Mosquito and Ladybug). It seems that everyone I’ve introduced Hive to quickly ends up getting their own copy.
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7. Board Game: Sequence [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:3066]
Trent Howell
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I need to take a step out of my “selfish” mode to add Sequence to my list. While Sequence doesn’t meet my criteria listed above as one of my “go-to” games, it does hit one ever important element for me – my wife loves it. It’s a great game to play with many players in teams. But it’s also great as a 2-player game. And while I don’t think I’ll ever get her to sit down and play Power Grid, she will gladly play Sequence and not get tired of it. And in my book, that makes Sequence golden for me as well.
 
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8. Board Game: Catch Phrase! [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:2091]
Trent Howell
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Catch Phrase has been my favorite party game for a long time. While there are many new party games that give it a run for its money as my favorite party game, Catch Phrase has withstood the test of time. It’s all about trying to get your team to guess a word or phrase and quickly pass it to the other team. Players are rattling off guesses as fast as they can so it gets passed to the other team. Because once the timer goes off, whichever team isn’t holding the disc gets a point. There are plenty of “get your teammates to guess the item” type games, but none seem to have as much pressure as Catch Phrase. The annoying time clock that expires randomly so you never know how much time you really have is perhaps the best element. And we love the new digital version so we don’t have to squint so much. Lots of laughs.
 
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9. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:260]
Trent Howell
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Lord of the Rings the Confrontation delivers a fantastic 2-player, head-to-head experience. Liking The Lord of the Rings story definitely adds to the enjoyment of the game. When you’re playing as the fellowship trying to get the ring into Mordor, your mission truly feels hopeless and you don’t have a clue how you’ll get it done. But you forge ahead. The funny thing is that when you’re playing as Sauron’s forces, you also feel like it’s an uphill challenge because of the unique special abilities of the fellowship. It’s so cool that both sides have their work cut out for them. Tense every time and I love it.
 
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10. Board Game: Castle Panic [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:814]
Trent Howell
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I love playing cooperative games as a family. As such I knew I’d be putting a cooperative board game on my favorites list. The tough part was deciding which one I love the most. Pandemic was the first we played and it was a great hit and still highly recommended. And Forbidden Island is fantastic for families with younger kids. I love Shadows Over Camelot and Battlestar Galactica as well and think having a traitor in the mix is fantastic and keeps everyone on their toes. But even with those great cooperative board games, my vote goes to Castle Panic. I love it most for a couple main reasons – the first reason is that it’s tense from the opening turn and doesn’t let up. It truly does feel like panic as the monsters advance quickly and just keep coming. The second reason I love it is that a game of Castle Panic plays quickly. Turns keep moving at a good pace and all players feel a part of it the whole time. I love a game that creates a memorable experience by getting players involved emotionally. Just writing about it I can feel my blood pressure rise. Bring on the panic!
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11. Board Game: Code 777 [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:1377]
Trent Howell
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There aren’t many great 5-player board games. But Code 777 is such a game. And when I think about deduction games, Code 777 hits the top of the list. It may seem a little tricky at first, but that’s just for your brain to start warming up. Players are trying to guess the 3 numbers in front of them. They can’t see the numbers but everyone else can. One by one players draw a card, read the question and answer it based on what they can see of everyone elses’ numbers. So when you read and answer a question you’re helping everyone else. And when they answer a question you need to pay attention to figure out what it means about the numbers in front of you. Code 777 is definitely not a party game. And you won’t have a riotous time while playing. Instead, with Code 777 there will be a lot of quite pondering and head scratching. Fantastic deduction board game!
 
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12. Board Game: Ultimate Mastermind [Average Rating:5.86 Overall Rank:5760]
Trent Howell
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Ultimate Mastermind comes in at a close 2nd for me on the deduction board games list. It’s such a close second that I have to put it on this list as well. Mastermind is a very simple puzzle game where players can take turns trying to stump their opponent. I prefer Ultimate Mastermind over the original Mastermind simply because there are more spots to guess. With the original there are only 4 spots that need to be guessed in order. But with Ultimate Mastermind players have to guess 5 colors in the correct spots. For a quick puzzle, deduction game it’s hard to beat Mastermind.
 
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13. Board Game: Blokus [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:527]
Trent Howell
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Blokus is simply a great board game. It looks great. It’s colorful. It’s simple. It’s playable by anyone. It doesn’t take long to play. Yet it can also require tough decisions. And all of that adds up to a great game. I think I also love it from those old Tetris days of trying to fit shapes as compactly as possible. The cool thing about Blokus is that because your pieces can only touch corners with each other, you have to be creative in how you block the other players. And you also have to be careful not to get too fixated on a particular opponent because before you know it, another player will sneak in and cut you off. Blokus is a nice light, quick game that’s always fun to play.
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14. Board Game: The Resistance [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:181]
Trent Howell
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Because I have so much fun every time I play The Resistance, it’s a great way to top off this list of best board games. In fact we just played 3 games of The Resistance a couple nights ago and I would have loved to keep playing. The social dynamics of The Resistance are fantastic. It’s a double-blind hidden identity, deduction game without player elimination that keeps players guessing the whole time. Trying to figure out who’s on which side is tons of fun. Analyzing every player move and decision can keep the doubt and accusations flying around the table. But playing just one time isn’t enough. The real fun comes in the subsequent games because then you start to understand how different players act and react. I love how the game play carries across multiple plays of the game. It’s like a Pringle – you can’t stop with just one.
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