Top 10 Best Family Board Games

Let’s host a family game night!

One of the best ways to spend quality time together as a family is to play a board game. That is one of the reasons why this top 10 list of the best family board games was so important to me.

And it had to be good! Not just another top 10 list on the internet. I wanted family-tested board games that are actually FUN to play regardless if they are on the shelves of your local toy store.

Top 10 Board Games for families to play together as chosen by Kids Activities Blog - shown board game with words "Top 10 Board Games" in library setting
What is your favorite board game to play as a family?

So, I went to the source of all board game knowledge in my house…my husband, Greg. He agreed to create this list of family-friendly games that can be played with players of different ages {yay!} and so I am going to turn it over to him and I can promise that family game night will never be the same…

Holly asked me to compile my top 10 list of board games every family should play for Kids Activities Blog.   I am a certifiable board game geek, so I was more than willing to comply.   And I’m her husband so I do what I’m told.

How the Family Board Games Were Chosen

Because of the wide variety of games out there, I have developed some criteria for my list:

  • First, these games primarily fall under the category of strategy board games.   No Apples to Apples, no Wits & Wagers, no Balderdash (although that last one is really fun).   Specifically, no party games.   These are board games like we used to make in this country but are now primarily produced in Germany.
  • Second, no card games.   I have nothing against card games, but I am focusing on board games.   With a board.   Boards are awesome.
  • Third, these games need to be accessible to families.   Hard core 3 day long 20-sided dice rolling marathons need not apply.   These need to be games that can be enjoyed by adults and children about 8 to 10 years old and up.   And they need to run about 2 hours or less, preferably closer to 1 hour.  Family game night shouldn’t mean family stay up all night!
  • Finally, these games should be fun and competitive.   When you finish playing, you should want to play again.   And while you’re playing, you should enjoy it enough to want to win.

One other caveat: this is my list.   These are games that I like that I think others should try.   There are many great games not on this list, often simply because I haven’t played them yet.   If you play games, please give these a try.   If you don’t, most of these are excellent gateways to board gaming.

Strategy Board Games vs. Luck Board Games

To aid in deciding on a game, I am providing a Strategy-Luck Spectrometer to indicate where each game falls on the Strategy-Luck spectrum relative to other games on this list.

What Age Can Play the Board Game – Fun to Age Ratio

I have also developed a Fun to Age ratio.   This is my Fun Factor divided by the lowest age that can play.   My Fun Factor is determined by how quickly you will be having fun, and how much fun you will have.   Remember, ultimately it’s all about fun.   So the higher the Fun to Age ratio, the more accessible the game and the more quickly the entire family should be having fun.   If you’re new to the games on this list, you may want to try the ones with a higher Fun to Age ratio first.

Children Ages & Number of Players

While we always want to include the whole family, for this list most games are listed at ages 8 and up which may leave out some younger kids.  A great way of including little kids in the family game night festivities is to create a partnership where younger players are teamed up with players at higher skill levels so no one is excluded.  This will also give young children a way to learn your favorite games over time.  

Favorite Family Board Game Resources

While I have primarily drawn from my own experiences to compile this list, I should acknowledge the following websites which are invaluable sources of board game information:   Funagain Games, Board Game Geek, DiceTower and Spielbox.

Family Board Games on phones & tablets

Many of these board games have iPhone/iPod/iPad editions available.   I feel this is both good and bad.   While this provides for some great mobile gaming options and a fun way to learn how to play, these will hopefully be an adjunct rather than a replacement for the traditional board game.   One of the points of this list is to get the family around the table playing a new board game, not to create another solo video game experience.   Remember, boards are awesome.

Top 10 Family Board Games

Here at Kids Activities Blog, this list was originally published over several weeks, but this article has been updated to include the top 10 board game list along with links to more information to make it an easier reference for family game night!

Let’s get to my Top 10 Board Games for Families starting with number 10.

Streetcar Board Game Box
#10 best family board games is Streetcar

10.   Streetcar

Board Game Designer: Stefan Dorra

Publisher: Mayfair Games

Players: 2 – 5 (Components for up to 6 players)

Time: 45 to 60 min.

Age: 10+ (My recommendation: 8+)

Fun to Age Ratio Average Rating: 10

Type: Railway

Strategy—-x—–Luck

I’m beginning my list with a light strategy game called Streetcar.

This is the first of several railway type games on my list, and is definitely one of the most accessible by the widest variety of family members.   My family is actually more familiar with the original German edition of the game called Linie 1, but Streetcar is the version sold in this country.

Streetcar is a tile laying game in which you create a trolley route that connects specific stops on the board.   At the beginning of the game, you are assigned 2 or 3 stops (depending on the level of difficulty you choose) to connect with rail tiles between your two stations.   The rail lines created on the board are shared amongst the players.   But because each player has a unique agenda, competition for the direction of rail lines becomes stiff.   On each turn, rail tiles are placed or upgraded depending upon the player’s needs.   You want to create the shortest, most efficient route possible but as the rail line grows, your route will likely become more circuitous than planned as others work the route to their benefit or just try to thwart your efforts.   Once you’ve completed your route, the second half of the game begins as you race to move your trolley through your route.   The first player to complete his route wins.

Streetcar Board Game board
Streetcar board game in play. The more we play this game, the more we like it!

Streetcar utilizes an unusual movement technique (you may move one more than the previous player’s movement) that eliminates the die-roll used in the original version of the game.   We actually prefer variant 2 in the rule book, which gives the player the option of this movement technique or rolling the die.  Ultimately though, it’s building your rail line during the first part of the game that is the most satisfying.  

Streetcar has a high Fun to Age ratio, and is a good choice if you’re new to board games.

Similar game: San Francisco Cable Car by Queen Games.

Empire Builder Board Game Box
#9 best family board games is Empire Builder

9.   EMPIRE BUILDER

Board Game Designers: Darwin Bromley and Bill Fawcett

Publisher: Mayfair Games

Players: 2 – 6

Time: 90 to 240 min.

Age: 10+

Fun to Age Ratio Average Rating: 6

Type: Railway

Strategy—x——Luck

Empire Builder is a classic crayon-based railroad game of goods shipment.   This was my first introduction into the railroad genre and remains one of my favorite examples of the transportation theme.

This is a medium weight strategy game, but despite the rather daunting instruction manual, it’s actually quite simple in concept: build railroads and ship goods.

It is considered a gentlemen’s game of concentrating on one’s own development rather than impeding the progress of others, and what is truly exciting about the game is watching the growth of your railroad empire as you progress from short affordable routes to longer, more profitable ones.   That doesn’t mean it isn’t competitive, though, as land and rights to enter cities can be limited.

The game board is a map of North America, including the United States, Mexico and southern Canada.   Train routes are constructed by drawing lines with a crayon between mileposts which are evenly spread throughout the map.   There is a cost for each line drawn between mileposts, with a premium on those that go through mountains, over water and into cities.   Each player has a railroad token which moves along his route, picking up and delivering goods.   Trains can be upgraded to move faster, carry more goods, or both.   Each city supplies one or more type of good.   Players are given three demand cards, each of which has 3 cities and the good that city demands with the amount it will pay.   The further a city is from a given goods supplier, the higher the payment.   Once a player completes one of the demands on a demand card, he receives the appropriate payment and the card is discarded and a new one is drawn.   This continues until a player connects six of the major cities and has $250 million in cash.   That player is declared winner.

Empire Builder Board Game Board
Our kids love Empire Builder and the strategy involved gets more complex the more you play!

The crayon system may seem a little antiquated, but it actually works pretty well.   Crayon marks easily wipe off the board between games.   However, it should be noted that only the washable-type crayons supplied with the game are guaranteed to wipe off.   Don’t use regular crayons, as they may leave permanent marks.   Some hard core players have made plexiglass covers for their boards to keep them clean.

Empire Builder can be long, particularly with more players.   However, this is easily adjusted by lowering the cash requirement for winning.   You can also remove the negative-effect Event Cards which occasionally pop up in the demand card pile and slow players down.   The rule book contains other variants for faster games as well.

Empire Builder has spawned numerous games with other country maps, such as EurorailsBritish RailsNippon Rails, and Australian Rails.   There are many railroad games out there, but for me none capture the spirit of goods transport and railroad growth any better than Empire Builder.

Empire Builder game information.

best board games monopoly sets
#8 best board games for families is Monopoly

8.   MONOPOLY

Buy the Monopoly Board Game Here: Monopoly Board Game

Board Game Designer: Charles Darrow

Publisher: Parker Brothers

Players: 2 – 8

Time: 120+

Age: 8+ (My recommendation: 7+)

Fun to Age Ratio Average Rating: 10

Type: Real Estate

Strategy——–x-Luck

I know what you’re thinking, Monopoly?!   What kind of gamer’s list includes Monopoly?    Well, mine.   It may barely fit into the category of strategy game, but this classic game is the granddaddy of board games and still can be really fun to play for a wide variety of ages.

I expect everyone knows the game, so I won’t get into a gameplay description.   The common criticism of Monopoly is that it goes way too long because of its last man standing  denouement.   That’s right, I used the word denouement.   Actually, you should be able to get a good game in by 2 hours if you follow a few words of advice:

  • First, get your fastest, most focused and math-intensive player to act as banker.
  • Second, don’t dawdle.   Pass the dice quickly.   You can have fun without inane chit-chat (actually that rule applies to any game you play with me, which is why I’m called the board game fun police ).
  • And third, aside from a few slight tweaks discussed below, FOLLOW THE RULES.   No free money on Free Parking.   No free hits as debt payment.   Those types of changes delay player bankruptcy and subsequently lengthen the game.
best board games monopoly
I collect Monopoly sets and this is one of my favorite game board sets.

As for the tweaks, one thing our family has done is eliminate the $1 bills.   Just round everything to the nearest $5.   It affects the game very little and speeds up banking considerably.   Another thing to consider is once the game is down to two players, you could set an ending point such as X number of times around the board and the player with most assets wins.   Or just let them duke it out as quickly as they can but it can be a tough watch for those who are already out.

There are tons of Monopoly versions out there.   I know, I have a bad habit of collecting them.   Try to stick with just a plain ol’ Monopoly board.   I find if you have a good banker you can play faster than with the electronic credit card system, which I think is unintuitive and clunky.   But if you like it, go for it.

Most importantly, revisit this classic family game.   It might surprise you.

iPhone/iPod/iPad editions are available.

Monopoly board game information.

Railways of the World board game box
#7 best family board games is Railways of the World

7.   RAILWAYS OF THE WORLD

Buy the Railways of the World Board Game Here: Railways of the World Board Game

Board Game Designers: Glenn Drover and Martin Wallace

Publisher: Eagle Games

Players: 2 – 6

Time: 120+ min.

Age: 12+ (My recommendation: 10+ if motivated)

Fun to Age Ratio Average Rating: 4

Type: Railway

Strategy–x——-Luck

I am fairly new to Railways of the World so I’m not going to pretend to know all the ins and outs yet.   I have included it on this list because it looks like it has great potential to become one of my favorites, and it has been garnering rave reviews as an excellent medium-weight strategy railroad game.   For purposes of this list, this means it falls into the heavier strategy category.   If you are new to the games on my list, I would not start with this one.   But if you want something more challenging that older kids will enjoy, give this a try.

As with most of these heavier strategy games, though, the first few plays may go a little slow and all the mechanics may seem tedious.   But if you stick with it, the steep learning curve can be very rewarding.   The play involves establishing railroad links between cities which allow you to deliver goods.   The goods are represented by wooden cubes that are randomly placed throughout the cities at the start of the game.   Each cube is colored to represent a certain type of good.   The cities each have a corresponding color which indicates a demand for that particular good.   Money is first acquired through the issuance of bonds but is earned after every round based on a player’s income level.   Income levels increase with the delivery of goods and the completion of certain goals.

Railways of the World Game board
Railways of the World board game is great for older kids who play with complex strategy.

The components of the game are absolutely stunning.   The graphics, tiles, cards and other pieces are of very high quality and the game board is just beautiful to look at as the game progresses.   The game is sold as a basic set which allows for numerous expansions.   Included with the current version of the basic set are two game boards: Railways of the Eastern U.S. and Railways of Mexico.   A general rule book is provided as well as rules specific to each map.   Consolidating these rules may be a little awkward at first.   I recommend getting a general idea then just diving in.   You may not get all the rules correct the first time, but the discovery of the game’s depth is half the fun.

The game itself has a somewhat interesting history.   It is basically a repackaging of Railroad Tycoon The Boardgame, which was developed as a simplified version of Martin Wallace’s classic Age of Steam with a naming license from the computer game Railroad Tycoon.   Age of Steam was also re-imagined by Martin Wallace as Steam, released by Mayfair Games in 2009.   So if you want to get even deeper into this type of railroad genre, try Steam or Age of Steam.

If you are new to railway games and want something with more substance than Streetcar, I would recommend trying Empire Builder first.   But if you feel you’re ready for something heavier, Railways of the World is just the ticket.

Railways of the World board game information.

carcassonne board game box
#6 best family board games is Carcassonne

6.   CARCASSONNE

Buy the Carcassonne Board Game Here:

Board Game Designer: Klaus-Jurgen Wrede

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Players: 2 – 5 (up to 6 with expansions)

Time: 30 min.

Age: 8+

Fun to Age Ratio Average Rating: 9

Type: City Building

Strategy——x—Luck

Carcassonne is a light strategy game of tile laying and token placement.   This game is very accessible by a wide variety of ages.   It plays fast and the decision making is minimal.

Your table acts as a blank slate onto which the board is built by players one tile at a time.   The board grows into a landscape which includes roads, cities, fields and cloisters.   Players earn points by placing tokens (followers) on the growing board.   The larger the token-occupied space grows, whether a city, field or road, the more points earned.   Once a city or road space is completed and cannot be made any larger, the token is returned to the player and may be re-used.   This mechanism creates a short-term versus long-term dynamic; the longer a token sits in a non-completed space, the greater chance you have of earning more points.   But if you’re not recycling tokens, you run the risk of having none to play on new emerging roads and cities.   Tokens placed on fields are not returned and are only scored at the end of the game, so field placement should be used sparingly.   Tokens can also be placed on a cloister, which scores points based on how many adjacent tiles are placed.   If all eight surrounding spaces become occupied by tiles, the token is returned to the player.

carcassonne board game board
Carcassonne board game changes with every game which can be challenging and fun.

The beauty of the game is not just the intriguing decisions that are created with each tile placement, but also in the growing landscape that begins to resemble a puzzle.   Tiles have to be placed so they communicate correctly with all adjacent tiles, so as the game progresses some spaces will not accommodate any remaining tile.   This very often results in stranded followers that you won’t get back before game end.

Carcassonne has been extremely popular since its introduction in 2000 and is an excellent gateway game for people new to board games.   While it is a great game with a unique tile-laying mechanism, I do find some of the scoring methods a little tedious and headache inducing.   But it’s nothing you can’t weed through with a little patience and Tylenol.   There are a ton of expansions and stand alone spin-offs available, which enhance the games re-playability.  

Excellent iPhone/iPod/iPad editions are available.

Carcassonne board game information.

puerto rico board game box
#5 best board game for families is the board game Puerto Rico

5. PUERTO RICO

Buy the Puerto Rico board Games Here:

Board Game Designer: Andreas Seyfarth

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Players: 3 – 5

Time: 90 to 150 min.

Age: 12+ (My recommendation: 10+ if motivated)

Fun to Age Ratio Average Rating: 5

Type: Economic

Strategy-x——–Luck

Puerto Rico is a high strategy, low chance game of wealth building through changing roles and the special abilities ascribed to each.   I’ve included it on this list because its game play (if not its theme) is an interesting departure from most of the other games on my list, and it has been incredibly popular since being introduced about 10 years ago.   Puerto Rico is a reasonable entry into heavier strategic gaming and, as with Railways of the World, might not be the best choice for those new to board games.

puerto rico board game board
Puerto Rico board game is one we keep forgetting about and then have so much fun when we play it!

The game is played over multiple rounds; during each round, players assume one of several roles such as settler, trader, builder, etc.   Each role has its own special ability which the player utilizes for that round.   Roles change from round to round so the players will be exposed to different abilities and privileges as the game progresses.   Each player has his own board on which buildings and plantations are constructed and resources are processed into goods.   Goods are sold for doubloons which may be used to purchase more buildings, giving the player the ability to produce more goods and earn other abilities.   Victory points are earned through goods production and building construction and are maintained with victory point chips.   When one of several conditions is satisfied, the game ends and victory points are tallied.

Puerto Rico is a dice-less game with very little random chance.   One of the intriguing aspects of the game that gives it re-playability is that there are various winning strategies that can be applied.   If you’re tired of rolling dice, please give this a shot.   An expansion is available which introduces extra buildings.

There is also an iPad version of this game, but I don’t consider it the best way to learn the game.

Puerto Rico board game information.

elasund board game box
#4 best family board games is Elasund

4.   ELASUND: THE FIRST CITY

Buy the Elasund Board Game Here: Elasund the First City Board Game

Board Game Designer: Klaus Teuber

Publisher: Mayfair Games

Players: 2 – 4

Time: 60 to 90 min.

Age: 10+

Fun to Age Ratio Average Rating: 7

Type: City Building

Strategy—-x—–Luck

This is probably the most under-rated game on my list.   I hardly ever see it show up on best game lists, but it is easily one of my favorites.   In theme, it is a spin-off of Settlers of Catan.   The game mechanism bears a vague resemblance at times but the play is really quite different with more strategy and less luck.

The board is a 10 x 10 grid depicting the city of Elasund.   The rows of the city are numbered 2 through 12, skipping the number 7.   Players construct buildings by placing them on the grid.   Buildings come in different sizes and therefore occupy a variety of different grid layouts: 1 x 1, 1 x 2, 2 x 2, etc.   A die is rolled each turn, and whoever has a building on the row of the die roll may earn gold, influence or both as indicated on the building.   Buildings at least partially constructed on the more central numbers are therefore the most valuable as those numbers will get rolled most often.   Some buildings do not earn gold or influence but are worth victory points.   Besides the buildings themselves, you can also earn victory points by building the city wall or by constructing buildings on special spaces called trade fields.   The winner is the first to reach 10 victory points.

elasund board game
You have to try the board game Elasund! Really. Do it.

The genius of the game lies not just in the die roll mechanic, which is somewhat lifted from Settlers of Catan, but more in the way land is acquired for building construction.   Each player has five building permits numbered 0 to 4.   On a player’s turn, one possible action is to place a building permit on an empty grid square.   The gold cost to place the permit is equal to the permit’s number.   When a building is constructed, it not only has its own gold cost but also requires a certain number of building permits.   For you to construct a building, the grid spaces to be occupied must have at least the required number of permits and you must have the highest total value of those permits.   If you use someone else’s permit, you have to pay them the permit cost.   This bidding dynamic can get very competitive, particularly for land on the valuable central rows.   Another intriguing aspect of building construction is that, with a few exceptions, a larger building may replace a smaller building.   This means that your smaller buildings are not safe until surrounding land has been developed.   With several ways of earning victory points, Elasund has great re-playability as winning strategies may change from game to game.

Elasund is best with four players but can be played with two or three by adjusting the size of the city grid.   Really the only negative I have for this game is that it cannot be played with more than four players.   But if you’re looking for a four player game that’s relatively easy to learn with strategic variety, I can’t recommend Elasund highly enough.

Elasund board game information.

ticket to ride board game box
#3 best family board games is Ticket to Ride

3.   TICKET TO RIDE

Buy the Ticket to Ride Board Games Here:

Board Game Designer: Alan Moon

Publisher: Days of Wonder

Players: 2 – 5

Time: 30 to 60 min.

Age: 8+

Fun to Age Ratio Average Rating: 11

Type: Set Collection with Railroad Theme

Strategy—–x—-Luck

The first time I played Ticket to Ride, I didn’t like it much.   I was expecting a new take on the transportation railroad theme and was disappointed to find there was no goods transport to be found in this game.   I revisited the game several years later with different expectations and this time I got it.   It is what it is, and what it is is not a typical railroad game but rather a set collection game with a railroad theme.   And a flat out terrific one at that.   It has the highest Fun to Age ratio of all games on my list and is not only a fantastic gaming experience for beginners but for experienced players as well.

The game board is a map of the United States.   Cities are connected to one another by routes, indicated by from one to six spaces depending upon the length between them.   Many of these routes are of a specific color and some are gray.   Each player has 45 train tokens and each time he claims a route, he places those tokens on the route spaces to indicate ownership.   Routes are claimed by collecting the corresponding number of correctly colored train cards.   Gray routes can be claimed with any color set.   When a player has collected the set he wants, he turns in the cards and claims the route.   Wild cards are available which can be used for any color.

ticket to ride board game board
If you are new to the games on this list, START with Ticket to Ride…you won’t be disappointed!

At the beginning of the game, players are given at least two destination tickets indicating cities the player should try to link.   Each link has a value: the further the cities are from one another, the higher the value.   The player does not need to follow a specific path but just needs to claim routes that somehow connect those two cities.   At the end of the game, the ticket values that the player has completed are added to his score.   Those that he did not complete are deducted.

On each turn, a player may perform one of three actions:   draw colored train cards, claim a route or draw more destination tickets.   This is a very nice balance of decision making; there aren’t too many choices to be confusing, and the decisions you make can be critical.   Do you keep trying to collect train card sets before tipping off to others the routes you want, or do you go ahead and claim a route before someone else does?   And drawing more destination tickets is always a risky proposition.   The more you complete the better, and there is always the chance that you will draw a new one that is easily completed from the routes you’ve already claimed on the board.   But if you get stuck with one that you don’t get completed by game end, the point deduction is often devastating.

Ticket to Ride is a light strategy game, but this is what makes it accessible to many ages.   And despite the lack of depth, it has high re-playability because it’s just plain fun.   To augment the re-playability, there are several expansion sets and stand alone sequels in the Ticket to Ride series, including Ticket to Ride Europe which adds a few new elements to the game.

If you’re completely new to the games on my list, this would be the first one I’d try.

Excellent iPhone/iPod/iPad editions are available.

Ticket to Ride board game information.

settlers of Catan Box
#2 best family board game is Settlers of Catan

2.   THE SETTLERS OF CATAN

Buy Settlers of Catan Board Game Here:

Board Game Designer: Klaus Teuber

Publisher: Mayfair Games

Players: 3 – 4 (up to 6 with expansions)

Time: 60 to 90 min.

Age: 8+

Fun to Age Ratio Average Rating: 10

Type: Civilization Building and Trading

Strategy——x—Luck

The Settlers of Catan is THE modern classic board game.   It has probably done more to draw attention to German board games than any other since its introduction in 1995 creating many a board game enthusiast.   Settlers of Catan provides for a highly interactive board game experience, since one of its primary mechanisms is trading between players.   And since resources can be earned by any player on any turn, players are always engaged.

The basic game consists of multiple hex tiles, each depicting a land type which produces a specific resource (wood, brick, wool, grain and ore).   These tiles, plus the non-productive desert tile and surrounding water tiles, are used to create the game board representing the island of Catan.   Number tiles, each with a number from 2 through 12 excluding 7, are then randomly placed on the land tiles.

Each player grows his colony by building settlements and roads.   Settlements are built at the corners of the land hexes and roads are built along the edges.   A settlement may therefore touch up to three different land hexes.   A player may start at two different locations on the board but subsequent constructions must connect with those already on the board.   Each dice roll produces resources for any player who has a settlement touching a land hex which has the corresponding number tile on it.   Settlements may be upgraded to cities, which produce double.   Resources are then used to build more roads, settlements and city upgrades.   There are also development cards for purchase which allow for a variety of actions, provide soldiers for a player’s army or simply give the player victory points.  Settlements and cities are worth 1 and 2 victory points respectively.   The first player to earn 10 victory points wins.

There are punitive mechanisms in the game as well.   There is a robber token which stops the resource production of any land tile it sits on.   The robber may be moved by any player who rolls a 7.   The 7 roll also forces all players holding more than 7 resource cards to discard half of them.

Settlers of Catan board game
We have spent hundreds of hours playing Settlers of Catan game…it is awesome.

Multiple expansions and scenario variants of the game are available.   Most notable are the Seafarers and Cities and Knights expansions.   Seafarers adds more land and water hexes, as well as boat production.   Boats essentially function as roads built on water.   Cities and Knights adds many new components to the game, increasing complexity and game time.

I have described the basic game of Settlers of Catan.   The truth is Settlers of Catan is highly customizable and a variety of different game board suggestions are provided by the publisher.   As you become more familiar with the game, you will find experimenting with various game board set ups to be half the fun.   I like to set up multiple smaller islands separated by water and discoverable face-down land and water tiles.   The rules can also easily be modified.   For example, I don’t like the negative effect of the robber, so we don’t use it.   Players still lose half their cards when a 7 is rolled but the stifled resource production does not occur.   (That sound you heard is the collective gasps of Settlers of Catan purists.)   I also don’t care much for the arbitrary effects of the development cards, so I set up the game board so colony expansion carries more of a premium.

Settlers of Catan is commonly criticized for one primary reason: the random resource production from the dice roll.   This can get frustrating at times especially when you’re behind.   Event cards have even been created which are drawn instead of rolling the dice, eliminating some of the randomness by distributing the dice roll numbers according to probability.   We’ve tinkered with these as well as combinations giving players the option of rolling the dice or drawing an event card, and have ultimately decided we like the simplicity of the dice roll better.   I have come up with a way for players to improve their luck, however, by creating a new construction item:   the aqueduct.   This costs the same as a development card and is represented by a road piece extending from a settlement (or city, which can support two aqueducts) toward the number tile in the center of an adjacent land hex.   The aqueduct changes the number on the land tile by one towards the number 7 for that settlement or city; so for example, if the number tile is a 4, that settlement now produces that resource when a 5 is rolled.   This is just another example of how the game can be changed or enhanced to suit your preferences.

Settlers of Catan is sold as a basic set for 3 or 4 people.   An expansion adds the necessary pieces for 5 or 6 players.     If you find that you like the game, don’t hesitate to get the Seafarers expansion with its 5 or 6 player expansion as necessary.   I consider Seafarers almost essential and rarely play without it.  The Cities and Knights expansion will change the game more drastically, but it’s a very worthy addition if you want to add depth to the game.   The requirement to buy the 5 or 6 player expansion for the basic game and each new expansion is another criticism of the game, but that’s just the way it is.   Don’t let it stop you from trying this fabulous game, though.

It really is a great family gaming experience.

Settlers of Catan board game information.

acquire board game box
#1 best family board games is Acquire

1.   ACQUIRE

Board Game Designer: Sid Sackson

Publisher: Avalon Hill/Hasbro

Players: 3 – 6

Time: 60 to 90 min.

Age: 12+ (My recommendation: 10+)

Fun to Age Ratio Average Rating: 8

Type: Stock Speculation

Strategy—-x—–Luck

Acquire is not only at the top of this list but is also my all-time favorite board game.   It is a simple but sweat-inducing abstract game of stock speculation and corporate merger which moves fast and keeps players engaged the entire game with strategic thinking.   While it may not capture the interest of the younger members of your family, those 10 and up should get up to speed quickly and the intensity will keep adults locked in.  I think of it as the classic game that no one has ever heard of!

The game board is a 9 x 12 grid, with columns labeled 1 through 12 and rows labeled A through I.   There are 108 tiles, one for each grid space on the board and labeled for that space – for example, 1-A, 1-B, 2-B, etc.   Players start with 6 randomly drawn tiles and play one per turn.   A new tile is randomly added to the players hand at turn end, so players maintain 6 tiles throughout the game.   When a tile is played directly adjacent to a solitary tile already on the board, a hotel chain is created.   As more connecting tiles are added, the hotel chain grows and its stock value goes up.

There are 7 different hotel chains and 25 shares of stock for each available for purchase.   Once a hotel chain is created, stock may be purchased in that chain.   Players may purchase up to 3 shares of stock per turn and the player creating a new hotel chain gets 1 free share in that company.   Stock value goes up as a hotel chain grows, but the game is not simply one of stock acquisition.   The most important element of the game is merging of different chains.   When a tile is played that connects two chains, the smaller company is dissolved and its tiles become part of the larger chain.   Bonuses are paid to the players who own the most and the second most (major and minor interest holders respectively) shares of stock in the dissolved company.   All players who own stock in the dissolved company now have the opportunity to sell those shares, keep them in case the company is revived, or trade them 2 for 1 for shares in the new company.   The game ends when one of two conditions is met and one of the players decides to call the game.   Each player then liquidates his stock, all final majority and minority bonuses are paid out, and the winner is the player with the most money.

acquire board game
Holly grew up playing Acquire on any given random Saturday night with her family.

As already stated, game play is simple but intense.   There isn’t a large variety of decisions to be made each turn; primarily, players have to decide which tile to play and which company’s stock to buy.   However, players must continuously monitor what other players are buying and decide how to balance short term cash flow from mergers with long term growth in stock value.   While game play is an abstract representation of stock speculation, the competitive wealth building is very realistic.

Acquire has a rather interesting history.   It was first published in 1962 as part of 3M’s bookshelf game series.   The game board in these editions is small but made of sturdy plastic with recessed spaces for each tile so they don’t slide around the board. Avalon Hill purchased Acquire in 1976 and initially produced a similar bookshelf-style game, although by that time component quality had decreased.   By the 1990’s, Avalon Hill was publishing a much inferior traditional board style with cardboard components and tiles that could easily slide around the board.   Hasbro bought the rights in 1998 and in 1999 produced a version under the Avalon Hill brand which had renamed companies but improved hard plastic components and tiles that fit in place as they did in the original version.

And now the bad news.   The current version was released in 2008 and is once again a flat board with cardboard tiles that don’t fit in place.   Please don’t hesitate to buy it if this is the only version you can find.   The game play experience remains intact – just don’t bump the table.   However, my recommendation is to find one of the 3M bookshelf versions from the 1960s.  These are often on eBay for very reasonable prices.   If you’re lucky you may find one of the 1962 versions with wooden tiles.   Absolutely awesome.

Acquire is just simply one of the best games ever and has stood the test of time, remaining very much at home with the current crop of German board games.   This may not be the first game on my list that you try, especially if you have younger children, but it is the one you MUST play.

Acquire board game information.

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What is your favorite family board game to play together? When is the next family game night?

11 Comments

  1. I’ve never heard of this game! My brothers and I loved playing board games when we were kids, and I inherited most of our family board games. My oldest daughter is 4 and has started expressing an interest in board games, so I’m looking forward to playing more games with her as she gets older. I’ll have to watch for this game in a few years. 🙂

  2. We played it with the boys tonight. Rhett who is 6 can play by himself, but needs a bit of help every once in awhile – he actually won the game so maybe we gave him TOO much help!

  3. Looks fun! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  4. One of the game stores in our area actually rents games. Boardgame Revolution lets you rent a game for 10 days at 10% of the cost of the game. And then when you return it, you can apply what you paid for the rental to the cost of a game purchase (either the game you rented or any game in the store).

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  6. Was the rest of this series ever written?
    I can’t find it..

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