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If you're craving to connect with your family the old-fashioned way—face-to-face sans portable electronic devices—board games are great ways to spend some quality time. They are, once again, rising in popularity, due in large part to the cultural backlash spawned by screen-based and online games, which have all but replaced the need for actual human interaction.
Now, thanks mostly to Millennial gamers driving the trend, classic titles are getting modern-day reboots (think: Life, Monopoly), along with a slew of new rollouts (Azul, Food Chain Magnate) that test our abilities to communicate and cooperate—without the need for digital handholding. In fact, according to The Washington Post's take on things, 2016 was a banner year for board games—and their production has steadily climbed ever since. (The market research company, Technavio, predicts that the global board games market will grow by $5.17 billion between now and 2023.)
There has never been a better time to revive your boring old games cabinet to foster fun-filled family nights that celebrate healthy competition.
Here, the best board games.
This two- to-12 player game is for folks (aged 7 and up) who love games of strategy and chance: The goal is to simultaneously play a card from your hand and place a chip on a corresponding space on the game board in order to get five in a row. Although it seems pretty simple to do, landing the perfect sequence is deceptively so.
It's a fast-paced, team-based, spy-themed word game in which players try to guess each other's “secret agent identities” in response to one-word clues. It's ideal for two to eight (or more) players, aged 14 and up. In it, teams compete until someone makes contact with all of their agents first, all while avoiding the "assassin."
No collection of family board games would be complete without this absolute classic that was conceived way back in 1931. The game can be played with two to four players (or four teams) and lettered tiles (with varying points values) are combined to form words, crossword-style, on the game board. Although it's designed for those aged eight and up, it's the most fun when it's played among those with similar reading, spelling, and skill levels.
This hexagonal board game of trading, strategy, tactical skill, and luck makes it a favorite among die-hard board gamers both for its easy rules and its fast pace—it takes roughly one hour to complete. The objective is to "tame" the remote isle of Catan by trading, building, and settling its many regions, and ultimately beat out other players in building cities, roads, and monopolies to “conquer” the resource-rich territory. There are numerous expansion packs, too, including a version for five to six players (rather than the standard three to four), one for younger kids, and even a "Game of Thrones" edition.
Although its origin story is a somewhat sad one, this Depression-era game has remained one of the best (if not the best) family board games of all time. Land grabbing, dirty deals, and yes, building monopolies are all fair game as you progress around the board until opponents go belly up. Perhaps as notorious as the game's cutthroat practices (more than a few familial battles have been fought in its name) is the fact that it takes several hours to play; it's best for two to six players, ages eight and up.
If the dog-eat-dog dynamics of Monopoly aren’t your speed, consider this cooperative game in which everyone works together to stop the spread of global outbreaks and epidemics before mankind is wiped out. Players take on roles (doctors, scientists), applying their creative problem-solving skills in ways that are at once, complex, strategic, and extremely fun. This game is ideal for teens and adults, with two to four players.
Boardgame-to-movie spinoffs are rare indeed, but the fact that this 1948 classic (back then, it was called Cluedo) spawned a successful cult film only helps cement this whodunit's celebrated status. Two to six players, ages eight and up, compete to solve a murder, set inside a sprawling mansion, to determine the location, the weapon used, and the guilty party.
This race-and-chase game is surprisingly addictive—and its rules are super-straightforward. Dice are cast via the classic, Pop-O-Matic bubble and each player's four pieces need to round the board. The trick is not getting into "trouble" (aka getting bumped back to square one) and circling the board before any of your competitors. It's especially fun for younger kids (aged 5 to 15) and is designed for two to four players.
Like the addictive 1980s-era computer graphics game, Tetris, this game, too, requires strategy and spatial reasoning. Square tiles (red, blue, green, yellow) must be placed next to those of the same color and cleverly positioned to block those of your opponents. Whoever fits the most of their own pieces on the board wins. The game is appropriate for two to four players, ages seven and up.
This one's kind of like Scrabble, but with a three-dimensional twist. Lettered tiles are stacked horizontally and vertically to build new words or add to existing ones onto the lazy Susan-style rotating game board: the higher you stack, the higher your score. For two to four players, aged 10 and up.
Any number of players, aged six and over, take turns being the Doctor, performing a series of very precise, nail-biting extractions to cure Cavity Sam of his questionable ailments (think: brain freeze, Charley horse, funny bone). Sloppy technique trips off the dreaded buzzer.
A notorious brain-buster for even the most die-hard trivia fanatics, this family-style version—just one of hundreds—is designed to be played by kids (ages eight and up) and adults alike, with questions that test one's age-appropriate knowledge; it's also designed to be faster-paced than the original Genus Edition.
Players, aged six and up, are mouses scampering through a maze-like, booby-trapped game board, collecting bits of cheese to build a Rube Goldberg Machine-style snare in which to ambush other mice, all while trying their best to circle the board and trying to be the last mouse standing.
Basically, whoever finds their way through the labyrinth wins. But the journey to getting there is a veritable treasure hunt filled with a cast of mythical characters like a dragon, a princess, and a ghost (among others). It's a quick, easy to learn, and paths that must be carved through the maze continuously change during play. Although this four-player game is designed for kids aged eight and older, much younger children, too, can get the gist.
Chess isn't for everyone—and even adults find it difficult to master. But this stress-less version walks players through everything (including proper board setup) via innovative cards that illustrate how to move the pieces they picture. All you do is set up the board and shuffle the cards to get things going. It's a fun way to introduce little ones to the Game of Kings, and maybe you could even learn a thing or two.