Gift Guide: Favorite Board Games For All Ages

Back in the olden days, before the kids had their smartphones and their Nintendo tapes and their Tivo, families used to get together in a room, open a paper box, and remove a set of boards and pieces. By following a set of rules, families could play these “board games” together and have loads of fun until the candles burned out and someone died of dysentery.

You can relive those halcyon nights with these exciting boardgames that are great for the whole family (we play them all) and one that’s more fun at parties where adult beverages are being served. These are almost all play-tested by my family and peers and we all had a hoot.

Labyrinth – The best game for younger kids who can’t read good. To play, you put down a set of corridor tiles and draw “prize” cards. You move your piece – a wizard – along open corridors towards your prize. You can change the corridors by sliding a card into place to move things left, right, up, or down or even knock other wizards off the board. The winner collects the most prizes. It’s quite a bit of fun and quite inexpensive at $22.

Small World – This game is a bit more complex and requires more strategy, but there is little reading involved. You play a race of monsters or men trying to take control of a small world. You can destroy other pieces on the board by overrunning them and sometimes your race is destroyed and you have to pick a new one. Be warned: there are lots of small pieces and setup takes a while but it’s definitely worth it. Great for kids six and older and some adults. It’s available for $35 and is one of our family favorites.

Forbidden Island – This is a four-player cooperative game that pits you and your team against a collapsing island. In the game you hop from one of 24 island sections to the next and as the game progresses parts of the island “sink” and are uninhabitable. You play characters – a diver who can swim, a pilot who will eventually get you all off the island, a navigator who can move other players, and an explorer who can move diagonally. The goal is to grab four treasures and drag them to the landing where the pilot will get them off the island.

It seems a bit difficult at first, but with a bit of practice you can have a nice spot of cooperative fun. It’s also quite cheap at $13 and good for quiet gatherings or wakes.

Cards Against Humanity – What do you get when you put 550 horrible jokes in a box and make a bunch of people tell them to each other? About two hours of amazing fun. This board game is a lot like Apples and Oranges or Bubble Talk but the responses are just terrible. One player picks a card and offers up a phrase (“But before I kill you, Mr. Bond, I must show you ____”). The other players pick from a hand of responses that are too inappropriate to recount here. The game now costs a mere $25 (I paid over $60 a few months ago) and it’s a blast.