woman carrying game stack in a blue dining room

Family Game Night – A Gift Guide!

Does your family play games? When I married my husband I had to learn to love games, as he loves them and grew up playing (mainly card games) and when we get together with his side of the family, that’s basically all we do! So our kids have grown up playing games, too. Admittedly I do not love all games, there are certainly good and bad ones and while my kids and husband have no problem spending 3 or 4 hours playing something, that’s my definition of torture!

When my daughter was in about grade 1, at parent-teacher interviews the teacher said, “I can’t tell if your daughter is just really smart or just plays a lot of board games.” (Spoiler – it was both haha!) I was SHOCKED! She didn’t know we were such a gaming family. What did she mean? She said that kids that play a lot of board games are better strategic thinkers and are basically SMARTER. Say WHAT? Playing games makes my kids smarter? Clearly, I had to get on board with this. (haha on-board…. get it?)

Over the years our tastes have evolved and the games we enjoy now are not the games we played when they were little, so I feel like we have a wide variety of experiences to draw upon here!

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woman carrying game stack in a blue dining room

I’m going to include MY personal favourite games because there are definitely some that we have that I have no patience for. (I’m looking at you, RISK!) Criteria for me is that games need to be not too long ( I max out around 1.5 hours!) and be interesting – that is, there aren’t long periods of inactivity for people while you wait for others to play. I have the attention span of a toddler when it comes to games! I made sure the games in this list are favourites of the whole family, tried and true!

So without further ado – here are the games in our game cupboard that get played time and time again:

a round up of family board games on a graphic

1) Ticket to Ride – We reach for this one maybe more than any other? This game is a fairly simple game where you are given cards that have train routes and you try to connect cities on the routes using your trains. It is strategic, but what I like most about it is that you don’t really know who is winning until the end when you count up your points. It takes between 1 – 2 hours max. We have played it with our niece and nephew and our kids from about age 8 and up, although they may not really “get it” until about age 10. But fun for adults, too!

2) 7 Wonders – this game seemed a little complicated to learn but after we played it once we were hooked. We bought this one last year at Christmas and played it every single day over the holidays, sometimes multiple times. The game is pretty short – less than an hour? And also strategic. You collect different cards to give you points and once again, it’s hard to tell who’s winning until the end. (See a theme here?) Ages 10 and up is what they recommend on the box and I would agree with that.

3) Pandemic – this is an interactive game where you work together to save the world from a pandemic. This one is super strategic and we find it pretty hard to win – we usually kill the whole world. Sorry, world. But we’ve won enough times to keep us coming back and if it ever becomes too easy, you can change it up and make it even harder. This one is great because you play as a team, so you are super involved in everyone’s turn, so there is zero downtime. Ages 8+, but as a collaborative game, you will probably be helping the younger players decide what to do.

4) Quirkle – this is a different kind of game than the ones above, in this one you lay out tiles (scrabble-style) to make rows of the same colour or same shape tiles. It’s pretty quick, easy to learn and not overly complicated, great for younger players, 6+.

5) Marbles – we first bought this game at a Farmer’s Market and upgraded to this beautifully handmade wooden board a few years ago. I would say we have played this game more than any other game, hands down. You can play with partners which is our preferred way to play. Camping trips usually involve a marbles tournament with teams and a chart and round robins and everything. This is great for young and old, it’s fast-paced and fun. A lot like Sorry or Trouble, I can’t explain why we all like it so much but we do! I would say this game is good for ages 5 and up.

6) Escape Rooms – OK so this isn’t a board game but we are obsessed with Escape Rooms in our family and often gift them as experiences! If you haven’t heard about escape rooms, they are rooms where you are locked in (figuratively – you aren’t actually locked in there of course) and have to use clues to find your way out. There are different levels of difficulty for these but I would say you need to be at least 10 or 12 to solve a lot of the puzzles. I’ve linked the one we go to in town but they have popped up in every City!

7) Sequence – This is somewhat strategic, you have a hand of playing cards and a board with corresponding pictures and you need to make sequences (rows) using your cards. Played in pairs, easy to learn and one we pull out often. Ages 7+

8) Settlers of Catan – I almost didn’t include this one on the list because it is not my favourite game, but my kids and husband LOVE it. I think I don’t like it because I can’t seem to win? It is very strategic, easy to learn but a lifetime to master? It usually takes a little longer (probably closer to 2 hours). This is for ages 10+ but I also see they have a junior version ages 6+ here (we haven’t tried the junior version. Maybe that’s the one I need?)

9) Left-Centre-Right – we bought this game last year after it was shared by another blogger and we keep this one for Christmas Eve or times when we have big groups together. It’s a dice rolling game based on chance, the last one standing wins. Everyone starts out with real money (at least that’s how we play it) so at the end, someone gets the whole pot. It’s fun to play with a group and loud and exciting, not strategic but more of a “something to do with a group” type of game to get everyone involved. Anyone can play this as long as they can roll a dice!

10) Uno – Fun for the littles and parents alike, you all know UNO! We played this a lot when the kids were little, a lot less now that the kids are older but it’s always great to find a game that the little kids like and you don’t feel like you want to poke your own eyes out while playing with them.

11) Throw Throw Burrito – this is a silly, fast-paced game that we bought for our 9 and 10-year-old niece and nephew last year and they love it. It a card game where you have to be quick on the draw and throw burritos at each other? I haven’t played it myself but my kids have played it with my nieces and nephew and they all thought it was great fun. It says ages 7+

Ok, I think that covers my favourites! I hope you found something for your next family game night!



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  1. Thanks for the suggestions. We play a lot of games as well ( kids are 17 and 20) and I always get one or two new games for Christmas so this gives me some ideas. The ones we often play – Exploding Kittens, Dutch Blitz, Love Letter- are a few favourites,among others. Not necessarily a board game but card games. We all pick one game to play for a game night.

  2. We have a lot of the same favs and not (Catan!). We are playing a lot of Rummikub now. Very fun and easy to learn (taught my 9 year old niece tonight!). We also played Werewolf (ultimate version) with a group over the weekend and it was a lot of fun. Azul is also fun. My daughter asked for Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza for Xmas but I haven’t played. She learned at summer camp and loved it!

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