I have a confession to make: I'm not a fan of complex board games that have tons of pieces and chips. One time we played Puerto Rico with a group of friends, and it took 3 hours to fully understand the rules as we played. That wasn't much fun. Now I look at the back of a board game, and, if I see lots of parts, I just put it back on the shelf. I know, I'm probably missing out on a lot of fun, but I'm a simple person with simple needs.
I also like to find games that I can play with my whole family, which, in my case, means my wife and two daughters. A complicated game is going to fail with my family.
Here are my top 10 family board, card, dice, and party games, in no particular order. These are all generally played around a table.
The classic murder mystery game. We have the classic version and the Harry Potter edition. We prefer the classic version.
A racing game and the playing pieces are little cars that you move around the track. You control a car and bet on who you think will win.
This is the game we play the most. We play it every time we visit the grandparents or anytime they visit us. The girls play it anytime they have friends over. It's just the best. It's a drawing game that's like the old "telephone" game. It's best with five or six people. Each player draws a picture. The pictures are passed to the next person, who tries to guess what it is. Then they pass the drawing to the next player, who draws what they guessed, and so on. The end results are often hilarious.
Oh, come on. You know what Yahtzee is.
5. Zombie Dice
An easy game where you roll 13 dice, then try to eat as many brains as you can before you get shotgunned. You can pick up and re-roll any "footstep" dice, but if you roll 3 shotgun blasts, you're dead and you don't get any points.
Roll the letter die to see what the words have to start with, flip the sand timer, and try your best to come up with answers that fit the category on the list.
On your turn, you place a tile on the board that contains different pathways, then you move your piece as far as you can along the path. You also move your opponents' pieces along any new paths you create, setting them up to fall off the edge of the board.
Another classic game. Pay bills, make deals, and try to survive until the next paycheck.
9. Go For It!
The Game Where You Can Have It All! This is a game from the 80s that isn't in print anymore. I remembered it as a kid and bought one off eBay. It's still a lot of fun. You can buy cars and houses or go on exotic vacations. It's always funny when someone gets a $400,000 house (by 1980s standards) and another player might get a fancy $800 stereo system instead.
10. Joking Hazard
Let me be clear, if you're playing this with your family, this is not a family-friendly game out of the box. We went through all the cards and set aside about 25% of them that were inappropriate. It's still hilarious, even without those cards. My kids love playing this, especially with their friends.
There are exceptions to our rule that do have a lot of pieces and look very complicated, but they're actually deceptively simple games to learn:
1. Machi Koro
It's a card-based city building game. Your goal is to develop your city faster than your opponents.
It looks complicated because of all the different cards and train pieces, but don't be fooled. The cards are simply color coded, so that if you play 3 red cards, you can put down 3 sections of train on a red route. It doesn't take long to understand the basic rules, and then you can start strategizing.
Catan does look overwhelming at first, and the instruction book that comes with the game is daunting. But you get into a rhythm quickly. The board has a bunch of octagon pieces that are numbered. You roll the dice. Look for the octagons that match the number you rolled. Anyone who has settlements that border those octagons can collect the appropriate resource cards. The goal is to get a certain number of Victory Points, which you can get in a few different ways, but it's easy.
Don't be afraid to try new games! Especially with card games and party games, the rules are usually very simple and you can learn them as you play.
Do you have any family game favorites that I didn't mention? Let us know!