Board Games For Kids 2019: A SuperParent Holiday Gift Guide
If your kids love board games, but you're not sure what they might like, we've pulled together some of the best kid-friendly games out there that should definitely be on your holiday radar.
We've played a lot of board games this year, especially with our kids. If you want to know what to get for that burgeoning board game fan in your life, we've got the scoop on just a handful of the best board games to play with your family.
Best Board Games For Little Kids
Invasion of the Cow Snatchers
Invasion of the Cow Snatchers isn’t really a tabletop game in the way we typically think of them. There are no winners and no losers (except for maybe the poor cows getting abducted by aliens).
Instead, Invasion is part of ThinkFun’s line of logic games that challenge players with a set of 60 increasingly difficult puzzles rated “easy” through “genius.” The game consists of a deck of cards, a plastic tray, a number of different barrier pieces in a variety of heights, magnetic cows, cardboard crop circles, a clear lid, and a UFO to pick up the cow magnets.
Whether you’re looking for something for your young one to enjoy on their own or a fun way to teach logic principles, Invasion of the Cow Snatchers is a great option. The fast set-up (and reset if you fail) for each puzzle makes it fun and low-friction to experiment with solutions. The crafty puzzle design leaves players feeling confounded one second and brilliant the next. Finally solving a diabolical layout delivers a satisfying sense of success that makes Invasion of the Cow Snatchers an easy recommendation.
You can read our full review here.
Invasion of the Cow Snatchers can be purchased online and at your friendly local game store for $29.99.
This was a bit of a surprising game for us to bring home from Gen Con, but I was immediately taken with it when we demoed it in Gamewright's booth on the showroom floor.
Trash Pandas is a "screw your friends" and "push your luck" game, where the aim of the game is to stash as many treasures as you can in your hidey-hole before you run out of cards to draw from the "trash can" (the deck). Each player rolls a die and executes on that action, which could include drawing a card, stashing a card, stealing a card from an opponent (if there are no Doggo cards in their hand), taking any token that hasn't been taken, or being a bandit.
The bandit roll is a little weird, but it allows you to draw the top card from the trash can and reveal it to the other players, giving them the opportunity to stash the same card you drew, but these cards need to be stashed face up. And, for every player that stashes a card, you can draw another card to add to your hand.
You can roll the die as many times as you'd like, but if the roll matches what's already come up and there's no token to take, you bust and can't continue.
Trash Pandas is reminiscent of another Gamewright game called Sushi Go, where it's important to count the number of rolls (or in this case, treasures) in each category to make sure that you hit the threshold that will net you the most points.
This game is a hit with our youngest kiddo, especially, and she's pulled together some seriously bonkers strategies and beats us every single game. Yup. She's only six. Ouch.
You can pick up Trash Pandas online and at your friendly local game store for $8.79.
Christmas Lights: A Card Game
What better way to get into the holiday spirit than with a card game based on Christmas? This adorable game challenges you to collect cards containing light bulbs and plugs to match light patterns on special cards you draw at the beginning of the game. The catch is, you can’t actually see the cards in your own hand. Instead, you’ll hold your cards facing your opponents. As the game progresses, you’ll swap cards with your opponents or draw cards from the deck to try to create a light strand matching one of your pattern cards.
While some luck is involved (that is, you may accidentally give your opponent a card they need without knowing it), strategy comes into play, too, since, for one, you’ll need to remember the cards you pull from others, since you won’t be able to see them again once they’re in your hand.
In addition to this main game, Christmas Lights comes with a rulebook for 11 bonus games, including two that can be played by a single person.
You can purchase Christmas Lights: A Card Game on Amazon for $9.99.
Best Board Games For Older Kids
Transformers Trading Card Game
Transformers TCG is a two-player game (though house rules can easily be implemented for team play or free-for-all multiplayer). The game can be played in three ways, depending on player age and collection size. The most basic version uses only the attack, defense, and health numbers on each character and colored boxes on battle cards that bolster one of the two stats during combat. Rules text is entirely ignored here, which makes the game more accessible for pre- and early readers.
The battle cards aren’t just used to enhance attacks and defense. In the advanced starter game, each player will have a small hand of them to play as one-time actions and permanent equipment attached to characters. Some of the character cards also have abilities like drawing more cards for your hand or flipping additional cards in battle to do more damage or sure up defense. Out of the starter box, each player has two characters of their own and share the battle card deck.
Once players have large enough collections, they can start building their own decks. Each character has a star rating indicating its power. There’s no limit to the number of characters you can field, but their star total must be under 25. A battle deck of 40 cards is recommended.
There have been four waves of Transformers cards since it was released last year. These waves have included the original wave, Rise of Combiners, War for Cybertron: Siege I, and War for Cybertron: Siege II. Each of these waves have had a number of cards to change the "meta" of the game and improve player decks for different strategies. It's a lot to get into for a quick "check this out" review of the game, but if you want some deeper strategies, check out Vector Sigma.
You can read our initial review of Transformers TCG here, but know that the game is completely different when you add in more cards than just the base set.
Transformers TCG booster boxes and starter sets are available on Amazon. You can also go to any number of big box retailers for individual booster packs and starter sets, but full booster boxes might not be available.
Harry Potter Funkoverse
Each Funkoverse game comes with at least two three-inch Funko figures based on characters from the theme you’ve chosen. In the case of Harry Potter, the two-player game includes Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy, while the larger game includes Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Bellatrix Lestrange, and Lord Voldemort.
Both games let you choose from the same four scenarios, but gameplay takes place in different areas on a two-sided game board. Specifically, in the two-player version, games take place either in the Potions Classroom or the Forbidden Forest, while the 2-4 player game lets you play in Diagon Alley and the Room of Requirement.
Even though the games include different boards and characters, both have the same basic gameplay rules and scenarios to choose from:
- Leaders: Knock out your opponent’s characters to earn points. Knocking out their leader is worth more points than knocking out a secondary character.
- Flags: Similar to the video game mode “Capture the Flag,” this one asks you to move your character(s) into your opponent’s base on the other side of the game board and stand next to their flag to earn points.
- Control: Move your characters to “Control Points” on the board to take them over and gain points.
- Territory: Move your characters into a Scoring Area on the board to gain points.
All four scenarios also use special point tokens that are placed on specific places around the board. Interacting with a score token earns you a point instantly, so you can strategize whether to go after these tokens or focus on the overall goal in each game.
Funkoverse has an interesting premise (and adorable vinyl figures), but if you’re looking for a complex experience that will really test your strategic thinking, this isn’t it. (Stay tuned for that.) It’s a more casual experience that kids can easily understand, but it may even be too simple to keep their attention after multiple playthroughs.
Here's our full review of Harry Potter Funkoverse.
You can pick up Harry Potter Funkoverse online and in stores for around $25 (depending on the version you choose).
Vast: The Crystal Caverns
In Vast: The Crystal Caverns, players take on one of five roles: the noble Knight, the hungry Goblins, the sleeping Dragon, the cursed Thief, and the Cave itself (which serves as the game’s map and is formed differently in each playthrough). In most games of Vast, the goblins try to emerge from the shadows to kill the knight who seeks to slay the dragon before it wakes from its underground slumber and escapes the cave, which is trying to expand completely and then collapse in on itself and kill all who walk its halls. Then there’s the thief, skulking in the shadows, trying to steal treasure from other players in order to break his eternal curse.
At its core, Vast is a dungeon crawl, making it accessible for younger players. The content is completely safe with playful art (there’s no blood or graphic descriptions). However, the fully asymmetrical nature of the game does make it a bit harder to teach.
Leder Games has done everything to make Vast as accessible as possible, with a great rulebook, individual player tips guides, and player boards that are both attractive and informative. All of this should help players ease in. The complexity delivered by Vast’s full asymmetry is the biggest barrier to entry, but also its most rewarding feature.
You can read our full review here.
Vast: The Crystal Caverns is available at your friendly local game store and online for $59.95.
Villainous is almost like solitaire coupled with "mess with your friends" moments. Each Disney villain in Villainous has their own agendas to fulfill. And, depending on whether you're playing the base game or you've got an expansion or two, you have a number of different villains to play as across a multitude of Disney movies.
Each villain has different villain deck, fate deck, game board, and goals to achieve in order to win the game. There are similar rules that are overarching for all villains, of course, so there are consistent mechanics, at least. But other than that, you'll need to learn how to play with your Disney villain alongside keeping a wary eye on the other villains around the table.
If you have some strategy fans in the house, Villainous is fantastic. It's a ton of fun if these kinds of games are already your jam. If you're looking for lighter fare, check out Funkoverse, which we've talked about earlier in our guide.
Check out our full review of Disney Villainous.
You can pick up Disney Villainous online, at your friendly local game store, and at Target for $34.99.
Best Board Games For Teens
Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid
Renegade Game Studios and designer Jonathan Ying have come together to distill the essence of the Power Rangers shows and Boom Studios comics into a cooperative game for one to six players. The core box includes the five original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, four monsters from the original show, one boss (Rita Repulsa, of course), foot soldiers (putties and super putties), and all the tokens, cards, and dice you’ll need.
Throughout the game, players will experience rounds that flow from deploying foot soldiers and monsters, moving around the four regions of Angel Grove, and combatting enemy forces to reduce panic throughout the town. Winning Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid is a test of endurance. Your Rangers will need to manage the threats until Rita deploys, and fight her at least twice.
If all four locations panic at the same time (by reaching their designated enemy figure limit), you’ll lose immediately. If Rangers are defeated with no extra lives left at the command center, it’s also game over.
I adore this game, and I can’t wait to see where Renegade takes it with its upcoming Phase Two Kickstarter. For now, our family of Power Rangers has a host of monsters, bosses, and heroes to play through. This one will be visiting our Command Center often.
Check out our full review here.
You can pick up Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid in stores for a regular price of $90. Amazon currently has it on sale for $57.99. There are also a number of expansions and extra characters available, so keep that in mind when you're looking to purchase.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
Out of the box, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game includes a three-part adventure path called “The Dragon’s Demand.” This amounts to nine different quest steps (scenarios) plus a tutorial that serves as excellent on-boarding. That’s a lot of content packed in, as the campaign is replayable with different combinations of classes for one to four players. There are 12 characters to choose from, each of which will grow as the party earns experience. Along the way, these characters will be able to improve their gear, and specialize in one of two different roles.
Every PACG game includes similar setups, with a number of locations (determined by number of players) to explore. Each of these is paired with a small deck of cards comprised of items, weapons, armor, spells, blessings, allies, barriers, and monsters.
Players are on the clock, as a deck of blessings called “the hourglass” ticks down with each new player turn. When that deck runs out, the game is over and the players have lost. This helps keep things focused, leading to about 90 minutes per play session for those that are familiar with the rules.
The goal of each game is to defeat the scenario’s villain (likely multiple times), by “closing” a number of the locations such that the big bad has nowhere to run when beaten for the final time. While the general setup is the same each time, different scenario conditions (called “dangers”), locations (each of which has its own modifiers), and henchmen change how you’ll need to play.
Lone Shark Games and Paizo have refined the original experience into something truly special. If your young players can read fluently, there’s no reason not to gather them around the table for this. They may need some strategic assistance, but this is a cooperative game with well-implemented difficulty scaling. As long as one person can guide your new adventurers, there’s plenty of fun with or without the “Curse of the Crimson Throne” adventure path.
You can read our full review here.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is available online and at your friendly local game store for $59.99.
Sorcerer isn’t a deck-building game. It’s a deck-drafting game. Instead of slowly building your deck and becoming more powerful throughout the course of play, you’ll begin with a complete grimoire of cards.
The grimoire isn’t determined just by the sorcerer you select. You’ll also take turns with your opponents choosing a lineage and a domain. Each features a different set of minions and spells, as well as a unique playstyle. The result is that you’ll have a complete deck of 40 cards after the drafting phase.
Unlike many card combat games, Sorcerer isn’t focused on reducing your opponents’ life points to zero. Instead, your minions will attack your foes’ creatures in one of three locations. Any damage not absorbed by opposing minions increases your control of that location. The first player to reach 12 control points in a location claims it. The goal is to dominate two of the three locations before your opponent can do so. Once a battlefield is taken, control cannot be further contested.
Sorcerer is a wonderful blend of genres that offers a great deal of customization and variability. It subverts the standard “reduce your opponent’s life to zero” goal of many card combat games, which in turn creates interesting risk-vs-reward choices at each battlefield.
Check out our full review of Sorcerer here.
You can pick up the base game of Sorcerer online and at your friendly local game store for $27.97.
Jaws is a board game that unfolds in two acts, with up to three people playing as Hooper, Chief Brody, and Quint from the movie and another person controlling Jaws. The Amity Island crew and Jaws are working in opposition, as the shark wants to gobble up as many swimmers as it can before being detected, and the crew wants to detect the shark as early as possible to prevent more people from becoming shark food.
The first act of the board game is spent navigating the beaches and ocean sectors of Amity Island, using deduction to detect where Jaws might be based on the number of swimmers he’s eaten and where they had been before they disappeared. While the crew is doing their thing to figure out where the giant menace of a shark is, Jaws is doing his own thing.
Once the crew successfully tags Jaws with two barrels, the board is flipped to the Orca, the iconic boat from the movie, and the crew has to figure out a way to kill the shark lest they become human-flavored chum. The shark, the crew, and the boat have hit points (although the sections of the boat have separate breaking points for damage versus full destruction).
The fact that the game is different each time that you play, especially if you change up strategies to include more complexity or more teamwork or whatever makes the most sense for that session, means that Jaws can be enjoyed many, many times before the gameplay gets stagnant.
(Our full review is here.)
You can pick up Jaws online and at Target for $29.99.
Disclosure: With the exception of Trash Pandas and Christmas Lights: A Card Game, all of the items on our list were provided to SuperParent for coverage purposes. Our coverage remains objective.
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