I think for many in the hobby, playing games is about having fun with other people – and that is no more so true when it comes to enjoying a game with the family. I absolutely love spending an evening solving crimes or building the best bird reserve there is, instead of sitting in front of the TV. It’s great to play a quick mint tin game while we wait for our food in the pub on a family day out. There are many opportunities to play games with the family, and the games don’t necessarily need to be family games.
It’s hard for me to recommend games that will work for you and your family, just as it is hard to recommend a game to anyone. Theme, illustrations, design, complexity, player count, game length and required tablespace are all considerations, and a game that works for one group may not work for another. So I can’t give you specific examples, but I will draw your attention to a few things to bear in mind when choosing a game.
When you play at home, you need to decide where you want to set up your game. Your table size will determine what games you can play, purely because some games will need a lot of room. If you can add side tables, you will have more choices, but even then some games come with huge, single boards that determine if they’re right for you or not.
The next thing to consider is the player count. If there are only two of you, then you will want to focus on two player specific games. If a game is touted to work for two players or more, be wary. Some games work well with three or more people, but become too competitive if played with only two. Two player specific games will be a perfect fit for you though. Of course, if there are more of you, then check that on the box of the game. Ideally, you want to find a game that can be played at a wide range of player counts, but that’s not always possible.
Now think about complexity, game mechanisms and game length. These will depend on who you intend to play with. It’s best to check game reviews and playthroughs to make sure a game is for you and your family. If you’re not sure, try lighter and shorter games first that have only one or two main mechanisms. It’s easier to work your way to more complex and longer games, than the other way around. You don’t want to start with a game that’s a disappointment for everyone and dissuades your family from ever playing again. Yet, sometimes you will be surprised by how much complexity younger players happily deal with. A game aimed at 12+ can be right for your 8 year old – it all depends.
Theme, illustrations and design are also usually an important factor. Sometimes a really complex game can be very palatable if the theme fits. Similarly, a really light game can suddenly be a lot more interesting if the theme creates an exciting atmosphere.
Also don’t rule out playing games while you’re out and about. There are a lot of games that come in a small box, but give you plenty of fun – and if you like something with more complexity, you will be catered for too. Just search for mint tin games, and you should find a good selection. Mint tin games are ideal, because they’re small and well protected, so they can easily take a knock or two.
You can also often repackage games to make them more portable. I have been able to put much from the Carcassonne Big Box edition into a small plastic container that is easy to transport – see my previous article Games on the go. I had to print my own scoreboard, but that’s not hard. You can find all sorts of plastic boxes for cheap if you look around, and you’ll find one that easily fits games that come in large boxes. After all, game boxes are more about standing out in a shop, than about being practical.
If you’re just not sure what game to choose, then find a games cafe near you. There are more and more opening up around the country, and they’re a great way to have a family day out and try some games to see what works and what doesn’t. MeetUp groups are also an option, but these are usually not aimed at families, especially if you’re bringing younger children.
Finally, there are quite a few events that encourage the whole family to try modern boardgames. A little bit of online research should give you some ideas. Some exhibitions are also family friendly, in particular UK Games Expo, which has a Family Zone, so bear those in mind as well.
As you can see, if you are happy to try something new, you should find plenty of options to get your family to join in the fun of playing modern tabletop games – and when you do, you will feel amazing.
Please let me know what experiences you’ve got with playing games with your family. Have you tried games cafes or events? What works for you? Are there any games that you were particularly surprised by – in a good, or a bad way? Please use the comments below to let me know what you found.