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Family Time Around the Table: Awesome Board Games to Buy

Updated on December 8, 2013

Family Time Around the Table

In an ever-constant struggle to provide alternatives to electronics, here is a list of board games we're purchasing for our family. To us, board games never go out of style. We can spend time in the evening enjoying each other's company, rather than going off to separate rooms. After some research, here's what we decided upon. Keep in mind, our kids are a range of ages.

ThinkFun Rush Hour

While Rush Hour has been around for some time, for some reason we're just getting it now. This game is often recommended by gifted teachers for ages 8 and up, and the other big plus is that kids can play on their own, learning independently, or team up with other players.

In Rush Hour, the player is a traffic cop in the Rush Hour Traffic Jam Puzzle where the objective is to get the red car off the road. A player picks one of the challenge cards (these cards have solutions printed on the back), and is required to set up the vehicles in a required pattern on the road grid. One by one, the vehicles move, until the red car can get out of the traffic jam. There are four levels of difficulty. This game received a national award from Mensa and is regularly used in elementary school math classes. The game includes clear instructions, and the box can be used both as a playing tray and for storage. This is a 1999 Parents' Choice recommended toy.

If you have children 6-8, try ThinkFun Rush Hour Jr., instead.


Pandemic is a cool idea, and this is what first caught our eye. We like that players must work cooperatively, so that everyone wins or everyone loses. There are so few games out there that are truly cooperative. This game has tons of replay value, and is for 2-4 players, ages 10 and up. Keep in mind that the more players you have with this game, the tougher it actually is. This game received an average of 5 stars for customer reviews.

In Pandemic, players form a team of specialists who must find cures for four diseases that have broken out in the world. They must do this before it becomes too late to save mankind. Players must play to their characters' strengths (including the Operation Specialist, who can build research stations, and the Scientist, who searches for 4 cards of a particular disease). The diseases are spreading fast and time is running out, so the group must stem the tide of infection in diseased areas while also finding a cure.


We have two children who love Scrabble, but a younger one who is not quite ready for a word game. That's why we love Qwirkle: it's a great alternative to Scrabble, and plays similarly. it's for ages 6 and up, 2-4 players, and has won awards from Mensa and was a runner-up for Games Magazine's best family games. A big selling point to us is that all of us can play Qwirkle and have fun.

Qwirkle is a tactile wooden block game, combining the logic and strategy of Set with the creative game play of Scrabble. A player creates columns and rows of matching colors and shapes. It's very straightforward in terms of its rules (you can play in no time), and players can score lots of points for placing tiles that touch multiple pieces and match both shapes and colors. The player with the most points wins, of course!

Magic Labyrinth

At first, we thought that Magic Labyrinth sounded video-game like (in board game form), and then of course, there is the Harry Potter thematic connection. In other words, this game sounded appealing from the get-go. It's for 2-4 players, and has a short play time of around only 15 minutes or so, which is sometimes another big plus. It's for ages 8 and up, but easily interests players into their teens.

In Magic Labyrinth, the apprentices to the Master Wizard have accidentally lost some objects in the labyrinth, and must now try to collect them before the Master notices that they are
missing. This magical maze has invisible walls that the wizards keep bumping into, forcing them to start all over again. Players have the opportunity to take on the role of one of the wizard apprentices and make their way through the Magic Labyrinth to collect as many of the lost objects as they can.

Haba Animal Upon Animal Stacking Game

Haba Animal Upon Animal Stacking Game is for our youngest girl. It's for ages 4 and up, and accommodates 2-4 players, though a single child could have fun with this game as well. It has a short play time of only around 15 minutes or so, which for this age range is always good, and animal themes are popular at a preschool level.

Animal Upon Animal is a dexterity game, which is useful for children learning to manipulate the world around them. It's a simple game, naturally, and the rules are quickly understood by all players. Players roll the die and either balance 1 animal, 2 animals, give an animal to another player to place, allow other players to chose the animal they place, or place an animal to the front or rear of the alligator. The pieces are well-made, and children can easily handle them. All in all, this is a good game for getting younger children to think without them knowing it.

The Settlers of Catan

The Settlers of Catan seemed like a good choice to us because it incorporates societal and cultural elements into a Sims-like (well, sort of) board game.  It's for 3-4 players, ages 10 and up, and Amazon gives the game a 5-star fun factor.  Overall, we are struck by how thorough and intriguing it is, and it has great replay value.

In The Settlers of Catan, players strive to establish colonies on the island of Catan.  The Settlers of Catan is an award-winning strategy game where players collect resources and use them to build roads, settlements and cities on their way to victory.  The board itself is variable, so every game is slightly different from the next, and no player is eliminated.  The goal of the game is to reach ten victory points on one's turn. 


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