Family Game Night :: 13 Must Own Board Games

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Family Game Night :: 13 Must Own Board Games

Who doesn’t love a family game night? It can be hard finding quality games these days. We’re a game loving family, insanely so. I grew up playing games with my siblings, and thankfully my husband is an even bigger game fiend than I. He’s actually in a few board game groups on Facebook (and let me warn you, those folks are cray!), but thanks to some of those groups we’ve discovered some really fun games that ALL of us can enjoy! I’ll give you the run down on my kiddo’s ages to help you out and let you know which kids can play what games. I have an 8 year old, 5 year old and a 2 year old. Most of the time game nights happen after the 2 year old is in bed, but I have a few on this list that even she can play (and enjoy)! We love a double win game, one that is fun to play but also serves an educational purpose (I’ll be addressing those as well).

Cootie {click to order}

This game is a classic! Surely we all grew up with games like this one, along with Don’t Break the Ice and Don’t Spill the Beans. Cootie is great for all ages. You can work on counting (both the number on the dice, as well as what that gets you)! We don’t suggest this game as an independent game, as there are so many pieces that could be lost.

 Dragon Snacks {click to order}

We discovered this gem around Christmas time. We’ve destroyed the box, but the game is self contained, so yay! Again, all three kids enjoy this game, and we show grace to the 2 year old. This is a great hand-eye coordination game, as well as memory. Wave your hand over your dragons’s head, his reflective tummy becomes clear and you can see 4 different colored treasures inside. Then he will go dark again and his nose lights up one of those colors. You then stick your hand inside trying to remember where the (blue) treasure was. This is also a great independent play game, as the kids can mostly play without a grown up if needed.

 Zingo {click to order}

Zingo is exactly what the box tells you, Bingo with a Zing! There are multiple versions of this game so it can vary on age appropriateness. We personally have the picture/word version, but there are sight words, numbers and more! There is an easy to use dispenser that sets out two tabs at a time. Players must check their game boards against the dispensed tabs. If there is a matching piece they must call it out before grabbing (SHOE!) and then place it on their game board. Once your board is complete, you yell “ZINGO!” This is also a great independent play game, as the kids can mostly play without a grown up if needed.

 Hackin Packin Alpaca {click to order}

You may or may not have been sucked into this game during the Christmas holidays as well. This game is fun for all, and even though the 2 year old isn’t so great at it, she likes when it “spits” at her and she gets wet! So this game does have a water element, but it’s not going to drench you or your surroundings. There is a compartment you fill with water, and the Alpaca’s head is a timer; each turn you push his head down, and you have to stack an item and push his head again to stop the timer. If you can’t stack in time, he literally spits water at you. This game is always full of laughs, although it also comes with lots of conversations that ONLY alpacas are allowed to spit. This game can be somewhat independent, but we only allow an adult to fill and empty the water tank. Be SURE to fully empty the water tank to avoid gross growth.

Ticket to Ride – First Journey {click to order}

We absolutely love this game series! There are grown up versions – U.S. and Europe – and even some really awesome expansion packs. They used to have a really amazing app as well, but then they went and upgraded it and blerg. Anyway, we play Ticket to Ride a lot with friends, and the kids were always asking to play “Trains.” Once we discovered the kid’s version we were sold! This game consists of making train routes from city to city using your playing pieces. Both the 8 & 5 year olds enjoy this game, and we played a few times as a “team” with the 5 year old until he grasped the concept. The cities are also illustrated so the kids don’t have to be able read in order to play. You start the game with two Tickets to complete, and you draw colored cards until you collect enough of one color to lay a train. There’s some strategy involved in this, as well as planning, as you can often connect routes to reduce wasting trains. The kid version is a quicker play, typically around 15-30 minutes, and you aren’t penalized for incomplete tickets. This is possibly our most played game, though not an independent play game for the kids.

Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza {click to order}

Y’all, I just can’t with this game! It’s new to our collection thanks to a recommendation from a friend. This game is HILARIOUS! Adults and kids (our 5 & 8 year old play) alike … this game is for everyone! Again, there are a few modifications we make for the kiddos, but even with those, this game is fast and fun. Picture this: everyone has a stack of cards face down in front of them, and the first person flips their card and says, “Taco” despite what image is actually on their card. The next person flips their card stating, “Cat” (can you see the pattern?). IF – and only if – the word you are slotted to say matches the image of the card you flip over do you slap the pile! The last person to slap gets stuck with the pile and starts the Taco, Cat, Goat, Cheese, Pizza rotation over. This game is incredible for hand eye coordination and hilarity! There are also some random cards thrown in (gopher, gorilla and narwhal) that have their own rules. When we play with the kids, we don’t implement the “other” card rules; we use them as practice. The “other” cards are a bit too much for our kids to incorporate. If you have older kids, that can add a level of fun to the game, though. This isn’t an independent play game for us, but we all love to play! And as you can guess, the 5 year old *usually* has the biggest deck by the end of the game!

Zeus on the Loose {click to order}

My mother-in-law brought this game into our lives, and we aren’t mad about it! This is a great numbers game. The kids playing definitely need to know their numbers 1-10 as there is addition and subtraction involved. Since our 8 year old is capable, she often does the math part for herself and her brother. This is a really fun way to practice your math skills. There are also mythological god cards that each do something to the current number status like subtract 10, round to the nearest 10, reverse the current score, etc. The point of the game is to get the center deck to 100 AND have possession of the tiny Zeus figurine. Every time you can get the center deck to a multiple of ten, you get Zeus. Certain mythological god cards will grant you ownership to Zeus, too! This is not an independent play game for the kids, but it is an easy play and a great way to sneak in some educational practice.

5 Minute Dungeon {click to order}

We’ve reached the not-for-our-two-year-old games, but the 8 and 5 year old are fully vested in this game. However, when we play with the kids, we often play without the timer (so if you’re a strict rule follower, keep scrolling!). This is a game where everyone works TOGETHER! This is huge plus for us, as we often tell our kids our family works as a unit. There is an Avenger’s version to this game, which I’m sure is awesome. There is a timer app you can download that will keep time for you (and has fun voices). This is a really fun game played by the rules, and each level is literally 5 minutes – win! There are multiple levels, so it can run up to 30 minutes or so. Again, we play without the timer because the timer stresses our kids out. Each player is given a special power to help aid the game, particularly when you get stuck. And again, promotes team work! For us, this is not an independent play for the kids, but definitely fun for the family!

 Catan Jr {click to order}

So, if I’m totally honest, I don’t love the grown up Catan version. I’m not great at it, and I get really frustrated. That being said, my 8 and 5 year old love this game (and I don’t hate it). The Junior version is smaller (read: quicker to play). The 8 year old almost always kicks our rear at this game, and usually by buying ALL the Coco Tiles. This game is a bit of strategy play (the 5 year old hasn’t fully grasped that concept yet, but he still has fun playing). It also provides a great saving/buying lesson. For us, this is not an independent play for the kids, but definitely fun for the family!

 Exploding Kittens {click to order}

This is one of the games my husband found, and  I immediately questioned. And yet, it turned out to be an amazingly fun game for the 8 and 5 year old (and I almost ALWAYS win, so you know it’s my favorite)! I don’t love the drawing style of this game (ha! But that’s my own complaint) but it’s so much fun! This game was a super successful Kickstarter. It’s a bit of strategy, risk, and hilarity play … all rolled into one. The point is to be able to avoid drawing the Exploding Kitten card at all costs, and if you DO draw the Exploding Kitten you’d better pray you have a diffuse card! You could potentially have LOTS of cards in your hands, so younger players may need a card holder. This is not an independent play game.

Trap Door

This one is really just mean to include as it’s a game from the 1980’s that I inherited from my mom. I loved this game as a kid, and now my kids get to enjoy it, too! It’s very similar to Sorry, just more fun! Maybe you’ll get lucky asking your own parents if they saved any of your childhood games, as we all know retro is better and so much cooler!

One Night Werewolf {click to order}

This is another game that the husband discovered! One Night Werewolf is very similar to the old group game, Mafia, where each player has a “role” to play and in the end you try to work together to accuse the correct killer, AKA the werewolf. The great thing about this game is that it has an app that works seamlessly alongside the game so that EVERYONE can play, and no one has to sit out as the narrator. Both our 8 and 5 year old love to play this game, too. We just have to fully review each characters “job” since the 5 year old can’t read his character’s name. This game is more fun the more people you add to it, but our little party of four has a lot of fun playing it at home, too.

Card Holders {click to order}

Okay, you got me! This isn’t a game, BUT if you’re going to game with tiny hands (whether yours or theirs), you may want to consider investing in a good card holder! There are tons of options out there. Here we have a set of store bought ones, but if you look in the back, my husband has made a few with spare pieces of lumber we had lying around. A quick search for “hand cut card holders” will give you all the guidance you need.

I hope you enjoy these games as much as we do. Let us know which games you get, and if you have any suggestions, we’re here for it! We’re always willing to add a great game to our game closet!


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Trix Raney
Trix started her life in Georgia after living in Myrtle Beach, Tahoe City, and Nashville, her (now) husband wrangled her into a life of Bayou living here in Baton Rouge. She’s the mother of six; a vivacious 9 year old, a curly haired 6 year old, their hurricane of a youngest 4 year old, and 3 sweet babes taken far too soon. She’s well versed in potty humor & innuendos while perfecting the art of sarcasm on the daily. When she’s not busy living the home school life, complete with yoga pants & coffee she is running her business Rane or Shine Designs.


  1. We gave our grandson the adult version of Ticket to Ride for his 12th birthday. I was really excited to play with him until we began reading the instructions! If anyone has played that version and has a very simplistic explanation of the rules, I would LOVE to have it! My hope is that his mom and dad will find the time to sit down and figure it out so we can all play!!!


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