The Best Family Board Games, According to a Board Game Designer

best family board games
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While you certainly can’t go wrong with Monopoly, this winter is the perfect opportunity to try out a new family board game. Today’s tabletop games can be just as engaging as their digital counterparts, requiring kids to move, draw, build, strategize and, most importantly, enjoy themselves. Best of all, unlike Monopoly, they don’t require a full night (or longer!) to complete.

Many game options are available, so we tapped an expert—Dominic Crapuchettes, a professional board game designer and founder of Maryland-based North Star Games—for his top picks for off-screen family fun. Discover his game recommendations below.

Happy Salmon will get your heart pumping as you run around the room to match cards with the other players. When you find a match, you celebrate together by performing the action on your card (high five, fist bump, etc.), then you throw the card on the ground and look for your next match. The first player to go through their 12 cards wins. Happy Salmon works great across several generations and is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face. 2 minutes, ages 6+, four to six players (or up to 12 people with two copies)

Monster Match is a speed game. Every round, two dice are rolled showing a number and a body part (arms, legs, or eyes). Players quickly scan the 10 monster cards on the table to find one that matches what is showing on the dice. Hundreds of speed games are on the market, but Monster Match is unique because multiple players can get a match each round. This allows younger kids to participate and have fun. 10 minutes, ages 6+, two to six players

Beasts of Balance is a cooperative game where players work together to build a tower of animals without any of them falling. The beautifully sculpted animals interact with a downloadable app, which keeps score for you and displays an interactive ecosystem of the animals you’ve played. Beasts of Balance sells for $100, but the unique experience it provides is worth every penny. 10-20 minutes, Ages 7+, one to five players

Rat-a-Tat-Cat is a simple strategy game that requires a mix of memory skills, calculated risk-taking and a bit of interactive bluffing. It’s a great way for kids to practice their addition skills while having fun and interacting with others. 10 minutes, ages 8+, two to five players

Wits & Wagers Family is a multi-generational trivia game where no one will know any of the answers. Players write estimates to a question, then bet on the estimate they think is closest to the right answer. Part of the game is about making good estimates, but a larger part is knowing which player to bet on depending on the category. This gives kids a fighting chance to beat their parents at a trivia game. 20 minutes, ages 8+, two to five players

Telestrations is a party game that combines drawing and the classic “telephone” game. In round 1, each player gets a word to sketch in a notebook before passing the notebook to their left. In round 2, everyone looks at the sketch, flips the page, writes what they think the word is and passes the notebook to their left. In round 3, everyone looks at the new word, then flips the page and draws a sketch of the new word. Rounds continue like this until everyone has their original notebook. Then players go through the notebooks and laugh at all the funny changes that took place in a chain of sketches. 30 minutes, ages 8+, four to eight players

Werewords is a mix between 20 questions and a secret identity game. The goal is to guess a secret word before time runs out by asking “yes” or “no” questions. But two of the players are shown the word before the round starts. One of these people, the werewolf, will deliberately try to steer the group in the wrong direction. They win if the word is not guessed correctly. The other player will try to get the group back on track without getting caught by the werewolf. 10 minutes, ages 10+, four to 10 players

Ticket to Ride is a light strategy game about making train routes across the United States. It has engaging gameplay that strikes a balance between luck, strategy and risk-taking. Ticket to Ride has sold over 11 million copies since it was released in 2004. 45 to 60 minutes, ages 12+, two to five players

About PJ Feinstein

PJ Feinstein is the editor of Washington FAMILY and the mother of two elementary school-age boys.

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