The best family board games are an honest-to-goodness treat for the whole clan. Nothing else brings a household together quite like the sometimes sedate, sometimes frenzied action of dice rolling, card drawing, and tile-placing fun. But with so many games out there nowadays and scores of ever more enticing boxed games hitting the market in 2023, it can be difficult to keep track of the best family board games around. That’s where we come in.
Surveying the best board games out there, we’ve selected the very best board games for family fun nights this year. None are overly complex, and most centre around a simple core mechanic that can be explained and picked up quickly. Their high player counts make them perfect for family occasions, and their affable themes – from cuddly pandas to ancient Greeks – will be a treat for all ages.
But if you’re a keen strategist interested in crushing your household rather than playing for kicks, don’t fret. While these games aren’t all as cerebral as the top strategy board games, all offer some depth for you to sink your teeth into, while offering immediate enjoyability for your less tactically-savvy family members. Building games, puzzle games, resource management games, and wordsmith games – there’s something for every family.
So, gather the kids, grab some snacks, and fetch your mum’s reading glasses, as we dive into…
The best family board games in 2023 are:
- Survive! Escape from Atlantis
- Camel Up
- Ticket to Ride
- 7 Wonders
- Machi Koro
Survive! Escape from Atlantis
Atlantis is sinking! Intrepid explorers, scouring the long-forgotten continent for prized riches and ancient artifacts, are ready to return home to bask in fortune and fame. But getting back safely will be no easy feat. Atlantis’ shores are being swallowed by the encroaching ocean and the ground beneath your feet is fast dropping into the abyss.
In Stronghold Games’ Survive! Escape from Atlantis, you’ll control a team of explorers as they evacuate the doomed, sinking empire for refuge on nearby shores. The game is mechanically very simple. Players remove terrain tiles to simulate the sinking Atlantis and roll dice to move their explorers, as well as dangerous creatures, across a small hex grid.
Focus on evacuating your explorers as fast as possible and sabotaging the escape attempts of your opponents. But make no mistake, the journey will be perilous. Sharks, sea serpents and troublesome whales abound to destroy your ships, gobble you up, or leave you swimming for your life.
The game’s abundant player interaction makes it a great pick for those looking for a readily digestible family board game with light strategy elements. It’s not spitefully competitive and won’t create any family feuds.
What’s the cutest animal on the planet? The panda. What’s cuter than a panda? A hungry panda who can’t stop chomping yummy bamboo. Matagot’s Takenoko takes this peak of adorability and translates it into a placid tile-placing game, with players cultivating a colourful garden to satiate a giant panda’s appetite and appease the Japanese Emperor, who has been slyly gifted the animal – and the difficult task of keeping it alive for the good of diplomacy – by his Chinese opposite number across the sea.
Choosing tiles to expand the size of a bamboo grove, players will carefully match colours to maximise bamboo growth while moving a diligent gardener across the board to plant new shoots. Be on the lookout, though. The panda isn’t only hungry, it’s also a little rascal and will happily munch down the bamboo you’ve so lovingly grown.
Aside from its adorable aesthetic, Takenoko thrives from its sprinkle of competition. Players are given competing personal objectives that can create tragic horticultural clashes. One player might be trying to grow as much bamboo as possible, while another has been tasked with feeding the shoots to the hungry panda. Simple turn operations and charming bamboo towers make Takenoko fantastic for a quick spin during your family board game night.
If one game could be classed as the ultimate family board game, it may well be Dixit, from Libellud. Dispensing with dice rolling and card counting, Dixit’s flavour of inventive storytelling is sure to get your creativity juices flowing and your imagination churning.
Players take turns selecting cards and weaving stories inspired by their varied illustrations. You might spin a rambling tale of epic proportions, whip up a quick comedy skit, or give a pithy single-sentence description that is as sharp as it is concise. In any case, you’ll need to think carefully about how your story relates to its source material.
After you’re finished narrating, players will pool together an assortment of cards and guess which one provided the inspiration behind your story. If they choose correctly, you’ll win some precious points, but if they guess a different card, another player will take the credit. Make your story too vague, and you risk no one picking your card, but make it too obvious and players will deliberately avoid your card to cost you points.
An easy game to pick up, Dixit’s appeal comes from its intuitive simplicity and engaging play. Stories can be wildly creative, yet tactfully nuanced so as to not give away your card. Playable between three and six players, you’ll be regularly popping this one out for some light family fun.
Gambling might not be the first activity to come to mind when thinking of fun family board games, but Plan B’s Camel Up does a fantastic job of recreating the thrill of the races through a quirky theme that feels less morally worrisome for a family setting than it may sound.
Players bet on racing camels as they sprint around the dusty track of an Egyptian racecourse. Rolling dice from a pyramid-shaped shaker to move the colourful camels closer to the finish line, players bet on which humped hero will go the distance first. The sooner you bet on the winning camel, the more dosh you’ll earn at round’s end, but make too many erroneous bets and you’ll soon find your coin purse empty.
Camels can overtake, move backwards, and even stack on top of each other to create columns of camel carnage, changing the course of the race in an instant and making your supposedly safe bet look like folly. It’s an eminently silly board game at heart, and its three-to-seven-player size makes it well-suited to a larger family.
Ticket to Ride
Railroads have been a mainstay of the board game community for quite some time, with many charting grand railroad expansions or simulating complex train management. But even if you’re not immediately enthralled by the hungry commercial pursuits of shrewd industrialists, Days of Wonder’s smash hit Ticket to Ride does a great job of translating the explorative excitement of railroad-building into an engaging cross-country adventure.
Players collect train carriages and trade sufficient numbers to claim inter-city railway routes. Longer routes will require more carriages to purchase but also earn you greater points.
Additionally, you’ll be trying to complete secret, personally-assigned objectives by connecting distant cities with your railways to rack up big scores. Straightforward enough, the game gets spicy when you’re forced to balance immediate railway reward with long-term locomotive profit.
Ticket to Ride is a fantastic introduction to the world of board games for anyone whose previous experience hasn’t reached far beyond the Monopolies or Risks of the world. The mechanics can be picked up quickly and its jumbo board makes for some impressive tabletop gaming. You’ll be building a mighty railroad empire in no time.
Kingdom-builders have become a board-gaming staple, and Blue Orange Games’ Kingdomino is sure to make a fine addition to any burgeoning collection. As medieval monarchs competing for land, you and your fellow players will be vying for territorial tiles as you expand the borders of your cartoonish kingdom, racking up points along the way.
As its name suggests, the core game functions similarly to dominos. Tiles are dual-sided, with each end representing a different terrain type. Players take turns selecting a tile and connecting one end to a matching tile in their current kingdom, expanding its borders in the hopes of creating a neat 5×5 grid.
But you’ll also be on the lookout for the coveted crown tiles to earn extra points, as well as carefully arranging your growing kingdom in the biggest point-earning shape. There’s a healthy competitive element, too. While grabbing the tiles needed to expand your kingdom, players will be waiting to sabotage their neighbours as they snatch away the pieces they know are necessary for their rivals’ growth.
Perhaps you’re after something grander in scale. Not content with thriving towns, sprawling railroads, or speedy camels, you want to build something to last the ages and make an indelible mark on your family’s tabletop. In that case, Repos Production’s 7 Wonders might be just what you’re after. Charting the rise of burgeoning civilisations, the game sees players racing to build the ancient Wonders of the World.
At its heart, 7 Wonders is a card-drafting game that challenges you to balance short- and long-term goals. You might grab a resource boost for an immediate advantage, or think it better to bank on a discount for future purchases, or increase your military strength to overpower your opponents.
But it’s 7 Wonders’ novel turn-taking that creates its real charm. Players select and reveal cards simultaneously, before passing their remaining hand to the player adjacent. It makes for a tense game of anticipation as you desperately hope the card you need won’t be snatched up by other players.
7 Wonders has become something of a modern classic, and one of the most popular board games of the last ten years. Designed for three to seven players, with a playtime as short as half an hour, it’s a great choice for larger families or extended family gatherings. Don’t be put off by its scale or the sheer abundance of cards in the box – you’ll grasp the premise through one good read of the rulebook and soon be off on a gripping sojourn into the creation of a civilisation.
If you liked Kingdomino’s cutesy territory-building premise but weren’t a fan of its dominos-based rules or medieval setting, then feast your eyes on Machi Koro, by Grounding Inc. As the new mayor of an ever-more-demanding town, you’ll be constructing buildings to earn cash and fuel greater, grander, more glorious expansion projects as you race to build impressive landmarks that will make your city the envy of your family.
Machi Koro is a simple game. A die is rolled at the start of each turn to dish out money to each player, which is then spent constructing additional buildings to generate even more dough. Perhaps a sushi bar would make a fine addition to your metropolis, or a cheese factory might be more in vogue?
But keep your eye on the prize. Players race to construct ‘landmark’ buildings that return massive yields, but cost a pretty penny. No finicky points-scoring is needed, as the first player to build four landmarks wins.
A light serving of strategy – as players must decide which buildings to construct to maximise their income – and a wonderfully endearing art style combine to make Machi Koro a rewarding half-hour board game.
Sometimes you won’t have time to clear the table, clear your mind, and get everybody laser-focused and ready for a lengthy, dedicated excursion into the world of board gaming. For those looking for some quickfire family board game fun, Spin Master’s Santorini offers a snappy, but enthralling, puzzle option.
Aping the aesthetic of the game’s titular Greek island, Santorini sees players build a dense, glistening white city. Moving a worker around the miniature board and constructing towers one block at a time, players race to build a three-storey tower and be the first to stand atop it for all the world to see. But be wary. Opposing workers can prevent you reaching the summit of your completed towers, snatching away your victory.
For those who want to shake-up the formula, thematic ‘God cards’ can be assigned to each player, adding various powers. You might channel the divine power of Apollo to increase your worker’s movement distance or use Persephone to control an opponent’s direction. Santorini’s miniature size, alongside its masterful balance of ease of play and strategic depth , make it a great ‘filler’ board game for any family event.
Not all family activities should be competitive. When we’re spending time with our loved ones, sometimes we want to come together in effortless harmony. Hanabi, by R&R Games, is a cooperative card game that challenges players to work together to create the perfect fireworks display, and earn the appreciation of a demanding crowd.
Hanabi’s deck is divided into five sets of consecutively-numbered firework cards. Players take turns playing cards from their hand to build up those five suits in numerical order. But there’s a twist – players hold their hand back-to-front, revealing their cards to the other players at the table and keeping its contents hidden from themselves.
As a team, you can spend precious clue tokens to inform players about their hand, and hopefully advance your firework stacking. But don’t be too hasty. Clue tokens are earned by discarding cards, and you want to avoid throwing away the vital card needed to advance your firework stack.
Asymmetric information makes Hanabi a tense game of fraught decision-making and encourages shrewd communication to avoid any pyrotechnical calamities. Played between two to five players, Hanabi is perfect for a quick dive in, or even a longer session if you’re set on securing the perfect fireworks display.