Playing board games as a family is an excellent way to bond. I remember many enjoyable Saturday evenings as a child, sat around the table with my parents and my sister, immersed in a game. We always ended up laughing and having fun. Playing board games with our children is one way to maintain close relationships - these days, it is often all too easy to sink onto the sofa and turn on the TV rather than engage in conversation with other family members. As children become older, board games are still fun (and are a fantastic, traditional, alternative to computers and games consoles). With older children it is even more important to find activities (like board games) that can be enjoyed together, as shared activities can prevent children and parents from becoming distant. But what are the best family board games to play when you have older children?
Skill and Strategy
Many of the best board games that can be enjoyed with older children involve an element of skill and strategy as opposed to plain old luck. This encourages children to develop quick, strategic thinking and the motivation to use skill as well as luck to outwit other players. Below is my list of some of the best board games for families with older children:
Settlers of Catan
The Settlers of Catan is an award winning game, with bartering amongst players as one of its key elements. It is a very popular board game, with excellent reviews - certainly one of the best games you can buy if you have children aged 10+. Success comes with clever, strategic thinking and intuition.
Players begin with two roads and two settlements - the idea is to use the resources available to create further settlements and cities. To do this, players must use the resources available - these being brick, wool, ore, grain or lumber. There are 19 different terrain hexes - these produce resources depending on the roll of the dice. Players with a settlement on the terrain dictated by the roll of the dice may collect the resources produced and use them to produce roads and cities. Alternatively, resources may be traded with other players,
The idea of the game is to be the first player to collect 10 victory points. 1 point is awarded for each settlement, and 2 points for each city. One of the best points about Catan is that the game is different each time it is played - there are many ways to play and the board will differ slightly every time. This means that Catan is a game which does not become boring and predictable, but remains entertaining and challenging no matter how many times it is played. 3 or 4 players are required to play.
In this excellent game, Mr X must outwit Scotland Yard detectives by moving anonymously around the board whilst secretly recording his moves and whereabouts in a log book. Mr X takes his turn and moves, but - unlike the detectives - his position is unknown to the other players as he does not move a counter. A player is chosen to be Mr X at the beginning of the game - his aim is to outwit the detectives by successfully making 24 consecutive moves without getting caught. Mr X's time is up if another player succeeds in occupying the same spot, thus capturing the notorious villain. If a detective accomplishes this, then that player is the winner of the game. But if Mr X does make 24 consecutive moves without being captured, then he wins instead. At varying points in the game, Mr X must reveal his position on the board, allowing the detectives to set chase. Mr X must then use his wit and strategy to get away and fool the detectives. It's a great game for children and adults from 10 years plus. 3 players are required to play.
Risk is an excellent game for adults and children aged around 10 +. It is an exciting game based on world domination, and was first enjoyed as early as 1959, although it has been updated several times since. There are options for play - either players use their army (identifiable by color) to conquer the world; alternatively you can undertake secret missions. Risk is another strategic game, acquiring a combination of luck and skilled thinking. Like Monopoly, it does have a long playing time, but it is great fun and is ideal for families with older children. Boys will probably be drawn to it because of its army-conquest nature and opportunity to acquire power (which can just as easily become lost) but girls can enjoy it too. If you are looking for a board game to play with the over 10's, right up through the teenage years, then Risk is undoubtedly one of the best.
Is there anyone who hasn't heard of Monopoly? The ruthless, money-making board game is one of the oldest and most successful ever made - and today, more than seven decades after its first release in 1934, it is still going strong. It's an amazing achievement, but why? Well, we all like making money and trying to become top dog - and what is the saying again? Money makes the world go round (or at least an evening of family fun!)
Monopoly does, of course, have one downside - it can sometimes turn into a very long game, at which point you have to decide exactly when to stop and total up your assets. Aside from that, Monopoly can certainly awaken the hidden ambitious nature in many of us. I remember many evenings playing Monopoly with my family as a child, building up my empire and hoping that I would be lucky enough to land on Mayfair before anyone else.
Monopoly is advertised as suitable for children from 8 years plus. It can be a good tool to teach children about the management of money, in a roundabout, fun manner. Some children are naturally cautious, and will purchase properties carefully, ensuring that they are not existing on the brink of debt (unless bad luck prevails). Other children (like my son) will carelessly splurge on as many properties as possible, before sitting back and reaping the rewards (or heading for bankruptcy, as they rarely hold enough money back for emergencies). A lesson in a board game is often a lesson in life, so to speak.
The original Monopoly has been around since the 30's, but recently many alternatives have been released. We have Monopoly Simpson's, with its modern day electronic banking, plus Monopoly City, with which you can build 3D empires containing massive skyscrapers, schools and stadiums. Somehow, I don't think Monopoly is going anywhere!
Chess; Checkers; Backgammon (for 2 players only
Chess, Checkers and Backgammon are all classic board games that require a high element of skill and are well-suited to the older child. I will mention them only briefly, since most people have already heard of them. Also, they are not true 'family' board games, since each one of them can only accommodate two players at any one time.
Checkers is probably the easier of the three games to play. Its rules are relatively simple, although to become a true champion, a certain understanding and technique comes into play. For anyone who doesn't already know, one attempts to become the winning player by 'jumping' over the other contender's pieces, thus eliminating them from the game. Pieces must try to reach the other side of the board by moving forwards diagonally, one piece at a time. If this is achieved, that piece becomes a 'king', meaning that it can move backwards or forwards and is much more powerful. Checkers is a game that requires concentration and thought, but not in the league of Chess.
Chess is played around the world - in fact, it is thought to have been enjoyed for more than 1500 years. A few serious contenders even dedicate much of their lives to playing chess, forging a career out of this strategic and highly skillful game. It is an excellent game to teach children, if you know how to play yourself. Chess is a game that involves thwarting the other side - it can continue for hours and often has to be deserted and returned to at a later stage. With its pawns, bishops, knights, queens and kings, and varying ways of moving, Chess is not a game that can be quickly mastered, but improved upon over time. It can encourage concentration, critical thinking and reasoning, as well as a degree of patience and the stimulation of the intellect. Teaching your child to play Chess is a skill that they can carry through life.
Backgammon is another extremely old, classic board game. Basically, the dice is rolled by one player and pieces (there are 15 per player) are moved accordingly. This is a strategic game in which two players must try to remove all their pieces from the board using skilled tactics.
Astro Gremlin on October 10, 2012:
Settlers of Catan is terrific and not that complicated.
Polly C (author) from UK on November 20, 2011:
Hi teriyaki - thanks for your reading and for your useful comment. I have simply written from my own experiences playing board games and my older son is a bit obsessed with Monopoly, so it must work for some people! He is a bit obsessed with money too, so it probably suits him. I haven't actually played Carcassonne before, hence it not appearing on the list - we will have to give it a go!
teriyaki from Croatia on November 20, 2011:
I'd agree with everything... except Monopoly. Imo if you want to chase people away from board gaming as a hobby just give them monopoly as the first game to play. It is so unbelievably broken on so many levels it's amazing its still going strong.
And I'd definitely add Carcassonne to the list - Kids love to play with those little tiles (and grown-ups too :) )