Family game nights are a great way to spend quality time together. “Games can encourage critical thinking, lighten the mood and get everyone talking about a particular subject,” says Vincent Paone, author of game review site Dad’s Gaming Addiction. Plus, kids get a kick out of beating their parents every once in a while. Take a tip from someone who’s “been around the board,” and find your next favorite family game in Paone’s top picks:
Ticket to Ride
(2–5 players; ages 8+; average play time 45–60 minutes)
Draw cards of different colors, then play the cards to create routes between cities and earn points in this easy-to-learn railroad game. “This is probably one of the most-played games in my household,” says Paone. He suggests starting with the original U.S. version before testing out Ticket to Ride: Europe and other expansion packs.
Settlers of Catan
(3–4 players; ages 10+; average play time 75 minutes)
Collect resource cards representing wool, lumber, grain and more and use them to build roads and settlements across the board. Some games require you to sit quietly and wait for your turn, but not this one—no matter whose turn it is, any roll of the die could award resource cards to you.
Roll For It!
(2–4 players; ages 8+; average play time 20–40 minutes)
“An incredibly simple dice game with a small element of strategy mixed in,” says Paone. It’s easy to learn and quick to play, so it’s great for casual players. He suggests combining the separate red and purple versions of the game so you can play with up to eight people at bigger family gatherings.
(2–4 players; ages 10+; average play time 30 minutes)
Pretend to be a Renaissance merchant and collect different-colored tokens to buy cards and earn points. “One of my favorite games of all time,” says Paone. “The components are top-notch and beautiful to look at and the game play is deceptively simple. I can’t recommend this game enough.”
Machi Koro: Deluxe Edition
(2–5 players; ages 10+; average play time 30 minutes)
As the mayor of your own (imaginary) city, build businesses and landmarks using cards and the luck of the dice. Every player has the chance to cash in on a dice roll, no matter whose turn it is, so there’s constant action. Paone suggests starting with the Deluxe Edition, which includes the original game and two expansions, for the best replay value.
(2–4 players; ages 8+; average play time 20 minutes)
Use card combinations and dice to capture and defeat nasty creatures like Gooey Globs, Spooky Spiders and Giggling Goblins in this “game of dice and daring” that debuted in 2015. Where else can you slay a dragon in less than half an hour?
Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
(2–4 players; ages 8+; average play time 30 minutes)
Players lay down tiles to collect colored cards, then use the cards to form sets that earn points. The challenge? The tiles have colors on all four faces, so your opponents receive cards when you play a tile, depending on which color is facing them. The charming artwork and imperial-China theme made this one of the best games of 2015 for Paone.
(2–5 players; ages 8+; average play time 30–45 minutes)
Teach kids about spelling and finance—the fun way—in a game Paone calls “both educational and different.” Spell out the longest word you can to earn coins, then buy patents on letters and earn royalties anytime another player uses them to spell a word.
Getting the whole gang together can be fun, but stressful. From organizing food to entertainment, we make it easier with our Guide to Planning Family Gatherings article.