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12 must-have board games for families in 2021

board games for families
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No matter the time of year, good board games for families are always worth investing in. They can turn around a dull afternoon or give everyone something to do after Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners, offering quality time with loved ones that's also a welcome escape.

With that in mind, we've gathered a list of our top recommendations here - if you ask us, they're must-haves that should be in every collection. And because we've been careful to include a wide range of genres and difficulty levels, there should be something to suit everyone in this roundup of board games for families.

You'll find the occasional deal, too. Our bargain-hunting software is updated every 30 minutes with the latest offers and the lowest prices, so you can be sure that you're getting maximum value for money on family board games.

Board games for families - top 10

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Ticket to Ride

(Image credit: Days of Wonder)
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Ticket to Ride

(Image credit: Days of Wonder)
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Ticket to Ride

(Image credit: Days of Wonder)

1. Ticket to Ride

The best board game for families overall

Specifications
Players: 2 - 5
Ages: 8+
Difficulty: Easy
Setup: 2 mins
Lasts: 60 mins
Reasons to buy
+Very broad appeal+Loads of different editions+Extremely replayable
Reasons to avoid
-Theme isn't the most exciting

If you're full of food and feeling sleepy, the last thing you want is something complicated that'll tax your brain. This is why Ticket to Ride is so brilliant. While there are tactics involved, it's a much more laid-back experience. 

Players score points by creating train routes across a continent - in the standard game's case, North America. Whoever earns the highest score wins. Due to the fact that certain routes are worth more points than others, the battle is on to collect train cards and claim those lines before anyone else can. Yes, it's competitive, but not to the point that players fall out. This puts it in the running as one of the top board games for families right off the bat.

Not that your rivals are the only thing you need to worry about. Route cards shake things up too. Even though you'll get a bonus if your line stretches from one specific city to another, failure to do so before the end of the game will see those points taken off your total. This adds an undercurrent of strategy to proceedings. Do you risk trying to build a long trainline for maximum value? Or should you finish a bunch of shorter routes to score quickly?

As with so many of the best board games, you can expand on Ticket to Ride with a number of spin-offs. Besides a European version and copies set across Africa, Japan, France and the Old West, Amsterdam, the Nordic countries, and New York, you can also pick up a set that includes sea travel (not to mention a children's alternative called 'First Journey'). There's even a 15th Anniversary special edition with an updated map, new card designs, and gorgeous tin boxes in which to keep unique playing pieces. It's really rather lovely.

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Herd Mentality

(Image credit: Big Potato Games)
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Herd Mentality

(Image credit: Big Potato Games)
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Herd Mentality

(Image credit: Big Potato Games)

2. Herd Mentality

The best party board game for families

Specifications
Players: 4 - 20
Ages: 10+
Difficulty: Easy
Setup: 1 min
Lasts: 30 mins
Reasons to buy
+Everyone can play+Doesn't get outdated+Fun quirks (squishy cow!)
Reasons to avoid
-Cards lose appeal if overused

Herd Mentality is one of those evergreen board games for families; unlike so many trivia equivalents, it's not the sort of thing that's going to be outdated within a couple of years. That's because it hinges on what everyone around you thinks, not a set answer to a question.

Things kick off by drawing a card that poses a simple conundrum. For example, what's the best sauce? Players then scribble down what they think most people in the group will say. If they end up being right, everyone in the majority gets a cow token they'll add to their herd. The first to collect eight tokens wins. It's straightforward and easy to get your head around.

What's more, it's very replayable. The joy of this concept is that no two groups are the same. They'll all answer differently, so Herd Mentality is a family board game with a fair amount of longevity behind it.

Kids will love it, too. Besides quirky cow tokens with different hairstyles and accessories, anyone who is the odd one out gets lumbered with a squishy pink cow toy. That means they can't win until they've passed it onto someone else. Similarly, players are allowed to 'moo' at anyone who's taking too long to answer. It's a fun distraction and one that'll get everyone laughing.

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Spot It!

(Image credit: Zygomatic)
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(Image credit: Asmodee)
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(Image credit: Asmodee)

3. Spot It! (Dobble)

The best board game for families on the go

Specifications
Players: 2 - 8
Ages: 6+
Difficulty: Easy
Setup: 1 min
Lasts: 15 mins
Reasons to buy
+Suitable for all ages+Fast-paced+Short
Reasons to avoid
-Can become repetitive

You can usually tell how good a family board game is by looking at how many versions there are. And by that logic, Spot It! (or Dobble, if you're based in the UK) is a must-have. Along with the classic edition pictured above, you can get alternative versions based on everything from Spongebob Squarepants to Harry Potter. It's oh-so transportable too, making this an ideal travel game.

The reason for its popularity isn't hard to figure out - this is one of the simplest yet most charming board games for families. To get specific, Spot It! is a quicker, more elaborate Snap; all you have to do is match the pictures on a card before your opponents do. Because they're littered with random, differently-sized symbols, that's surprisingly tricky... but is still accessible for players of any age from six and up (and if we're being honest, yelling out the right symbol before anyone else can is satisfying no matter how old you are). 

These straightforward mechanics mean that Spot It! can be played over and over again without losing its shine. Thanks a 15-minute runtime, younger players won't become too fidgety either.

Even if the novelty does wear off, there are a few variant rules included within the pack to tackle once you've mastered the standard game. You can also try alternate versions based on animals from around the world, numbers and shapes, camping, a waterproof edition to use beside the pool, MLB, and NFL as well if all else fails.

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Catan

(Image credit: Catan Studio)
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(Image credit: Catan Studio)
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(Image credit: Catan Studio)

4. Catan

The best strategy board game for families

Specifications
Players: 3 - 4
Ages: 10+
Difficulty: Moderate
Setup: 5 mins
Lasts: 60 mins
Reasons to buy
+Strategic+Very replayable+Unusual mechanics
Reasons to avoid
-Some rules can be frustrating

Catan is seen as one of the best classic board games for good reason; it's deep yet easy to get your head around, strategic, and very replayable. Having been on shelves since 1995, it's also got a proven track-record in the family board game arena.

This one's all about resource management, and your goal is to build a civilization that's bigger and better than anyone else's. However, you'll have to keep your enemies close in order to get the upper hand. You see, players need to trade with opponents if they want certain items. Bartering becomes a lifeline.

Even though it's a straightforward premise, cunning is the name of the game here. Because the board and all its resources are randomly placed (and you need nearby towns to use them), clever placement of buildings is essential. Similarly, players must figure out which areas offer the best chance of paying out; resources are subject to probability-based dice rolls, so it's wise to weigh up your chances of striking lucky when the time comes to expand. The result is a fascinating balancing act. 

Catan's focus on trade keeps everyone chatting, too - especially when swapping resources may bring your opponents closer to victory. That makes it an ideal board game for families that want some tactics to wrap their brain around.

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Rapidough

(Image credit: Drummond Park)
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Rapidough

(Image credit: Drummond Park)
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Rapidough

(Image credit: Drummond Park)

5. Rapidough

The best charades board game for families

Specifications
Players: 4+
Ages: 8+
Difficulty: Easy
Setup: 2 mins
Lasts: 30 mins
Reasons to buy
+Hilarious creations+Kids will love it+Artistic skill not required
Reasons to avoid
-Not enough longevity

If you want an alternative to Pictionary, Rapidough is perfect. As the name suggests, it has players using dough to make objects suggested by cards instead of drawing them. That means it's the ideal board game for families with kids - they'll love how hands-on it is.

Rapidough isn't just for children, though. The resulting creations / monstrosities are frequently hilarious, and it's a good laugh trying to figure out what your teammate has cobbled together. In other words, artistic talent isn't required. It's actually funnier if you don't really know what you're doing. 

For those who prefer a competitive edge, Rapidough also has plenty to offer; if your opponents win a round, you lose a chunk of dough. That makes it progressively harder to build with.

Because you work in teams, this is a great co-op experience that'll be a hit at everything from parties to more casual get-togethers. Especially due to the fact that anyone can become involved. All you need is the willingness to have a go.

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(Image credit: Stonemaier Games)
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(Image credit: Stonemaier Games)
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(Image credit: Stonemaier Games)

6. Wingspan

The most relaxing board game for families

Specifications
Players: 2 - 4
Ages: 10+
Difficulty: Moderate
Setup: 5 mins
Lasts: 60 mins
Reasons to buy
+Simple mechanics+Easy to learn+Beautiful art
Reasons to avoid
-Takes a while to learn

Both beautiful and engrossing, Wingspan has more than earned its place as one of the most beloved modern board games for families. In fact, it's the winner of the esteemed Spiel des Jahres award and sells like hotcakes. That tells you a lot about how good it is.

As you'll have probably guessed, Wingspan puts birds in the spotlight. In fact, your objective is to attract as many as possible to your nature reserve. The mechanics behind that are truly more-ish; you put down bird cards to get more food and eggs, and this allows you to play even more bird cards. It's strangely addictive. 

You don't need to worry about it being overly complicated, though. It may take a few turns to get used to, but Wingspan is easy once you've gotten the hang of things. This allows you to bask in the game's gorgeous artwork, not to mention the clever egg and birdbox playing pieces. 

As such, Wingspan comes highly recommended as a family board game. Particularly because there's a lack of direct competition - you'll enjoy the experience regardless of whether you win or lose.

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Articulate

(Image credit: Drumond Park)
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(Image credit: Drumond Park)
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(Image credit: Drumond Park)

7. Articulate!

The best trivia board game for families

Specifications
Players: 4 - 20+
Ages: 12+
Difficulty: Moderate
Setup: 1 min
Time to play: 30 - 60 mins
Reasons to buy
+Fast-paced and competitive+Can have 20+ players+Hundreds of cards included
Reasons to avoid
-Some won't like the pressure

If you're hunting down trivia board games for families, Articulate! is arguably the best choice. It's been delighting players around the world since 1992, and its popularity is rooted in the fact that anyone can get involved. It's easily the most accommodating quiz game we've seen.

No matter who's playing, everyone splits into teams and must describe as many words from a category as possible within 30 seconds. That isn't as easy as it sounds, though. For starters, you can't say what that word sounds like. You can't discuss what it rhymes with, either. Instead, you've got to think on your feet and come up with a good comparison before time runs out.

All the same, there's no need to be a font of obscure knowledge if you want to win. Articulate! offers surprisingly accessible questions from a variety of topics, and those subjects range from nature to actions you can perform (e.g. singing).  

Unlike so many family board games, it can also be played in a group as large as 20 or more. As long as you're divided into teams with at least two people per side, you're good to go. To put it another way, this is ideal for large family get-togethers.

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Sushi Go!

(Image credit: Gamewright)
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(Image credit: Gamewright)
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(Image credit: Gamewright)

8. Sushi Go!

The best card game for families

Specifications
Players: 2 - 5
Difficulty: Easy
Setup: 1 min
Lasts: 15 mins
Reasons to buy
+Fast-paced fun+Easy to grasp+...but difficult to master
Reasons to avoid
-Takes a game or two to get into

This bizarre but adorable game has the holy trinity of selling points; it's easy to understand, quick, and totally moreish. Because a match of Sushi Go! can be finished in 15 minutes or less, it's also the sort of thing you'll want to play "just one more round" of.  In other words, it's the perfect board game for families.

Straightforward rules have a lot to do with that. Sushi Go! challenges you to create the most appetising 'meal' from a deck of cards, and certain combinations earn points. Some give less but are easier to gather, while others only pay out if you collect the most of an item. 

There's the tricky bit. You see, everyone has to pass their hand of cards to the next player. That means you'll never be sure what you can choose next, so there's an element of risk and reward. What's more, part of the fun comes from stealing the last card your rival needs to finish their high-scoring dish.

The result is a simple but strategic family board game everyone can enjoy. If you've not tried it yet, you're in for a treat.

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(Image credit: Gibsons)
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(Image credit: Gibsons)
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(Image credit: Gibsons)

9. 221B Baker Street

The best mystery board game for families

Specifications
Players: 2 - 6
Ages: 10+
Difficulty: Moderate
Setup: 5 mins
Lasts: 60 mins
Reasons to buy
+Each case has a unique written story+75 cases overall+A more advanced Clue / Cluedo
Reasons to avoid
-Some clues haven't aged well

It may have been around since 1975, but 221B Baker Street is still one of the top board games for families. The easiest way to describe it would be as a souped-up Clue; although its mechanics are very similar, everything has been wrapped in a neat narrative bow.

Because it's based on the sleuthing of Sherlock Holmes, players will work their way through 75 murder cases. And, much like the books that inspired them, things begin with a good old-fashioned story. These are engaging enough to have been ripped from the pages of a Arthur Conan Doyle novel, and they give plenty of motivation to solve the mystery.

As you'd expect, players must uncover the killer's identity, identify the murder weapon they used, and reveal their motive for doing the deed. Unfortunately, these details are hidden throughout numerous locations that harbor more than a few red herrings. This provides an opportunity for tricks; everyone can 'lock' a location and hide whatever clue is inside, but that draws attention. The result is an exercise in bluffing. Will the hidden info be useful, or are your opponents sending you on a wild goose chase?

No matter what, you're in a race against time to gather the evidence, build a case, and then rush back to Sherlock's home of 221B Baker Street to smugly read out your theory. It's a thrilling chase that's lost none of its charm, even half a century after it was published.

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(Image credit: Haba)
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(Image credit: Haba)
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(Image credit: Haba)

10. Rhino Hero

The best board game for families with young children

Specifications
Players: 2 - 5
Ages: 5+
Difficulty: Easy
Setup: 1 min
Lasts: 10 - 15 mins
Reasons to buy
+Simple+Can be tactical+No reading
Reasons to avoid
-Might be frustrating for some

If in doubt, add superheroes. That's the logic of Rhino Hero and its beefed-up sequel, Rhino Hero: Super Battle. We can't argue. The end-result is a fun exercise of balance and steady hands, so it's earned a place on our list of board games for families.

In a refreshing change of pace, Rhino Hero isn't weighed down by lots of rules or reading. It's a delight for kids who struggle to read as a result, opening up the playing field for younger children to get involved. All they need to do? Construct a card tower. Well, sort of.

It's not unlike Jenga, to be honest; although your aim is to use up all your cards, everyone's working on raising the same tower. Things start to get precarious the higher you go, particularly when you have to move the Rhino Hero token from one layer to another. Talk about pressure.

As an added bonus, those cards have a few special abilities up their sleeve as well. For example, some allow you to force your neighbour to lose their turn or pick up another card. Meanwhile, Rhino Hero: Super Battle adds extra tokens and troublesome hanging monkeys for extra difficulty.

Best of the rest

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Haunted Mansion board game

(Image credit: Funko)
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Haunted Mansion board game

(Image credit: Funko)
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Haunted Mansion board game

(Image credit: Funko)

11. The Haunted Mansion: Call of the Spirits

The best spooky board game for families

Specifications
Players: 2 - 6
Ages: 8+
Difficulty: Moderate
Setup: 2 mins
Lasts: 30 mins
Reasons to buy
+Smart, engaging adaptation+Strategic yet accessible+Lovely design and artwork
Reasons to avoid
-Duel mechanics could be improved

Looking for something a little spooky but not too scary? Disney's Haunted Mansion board game is an excellent choice. It's the tabletop equivalent of trick or treating with your kids - you're enjoying all the fun of Halloween without the horror. 

Because it's based on the Disney ride, your goal is to 'socialize' with as many of the mansion's ghosts as possible by collecting their cards. A few give you points there and then, while others offer a bigger pay-out later if you can complete the set. That leaves you with a fun conundrum: do you go for a quick and easy buck or hold out for a larger payday? Seeing as your opponents will be weighing up the same problem, you can foil their plans by going after the ghosts they need.

However, that doesn't mean players are your only issue; the ride's iconic Hitchhiking Ghosts are here to cause chaos too. If they pass through your token on their travels around the board, you'll be left with a 'Haunt' card - and the only way to get rid of them is by using up one of your limited actions each turn. Because the person with the most Haunt cards at the end is penalised, you've got to balance gathering ghosts with keeping yourself safe.

This gives Haunted Mansion a great mix of strategy and reward. As a result, it's the perfect board game for families that want a taste of the witching hour but aren't ready for something more intense like Betrayal at House on the Hill.

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Jungle Cruise board game

(Image credit: Ravensburger)
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Jungle Cruise board game

(Image credit: Ravensburger)
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Jungle Cruise board game

(Image credit: Ravensburger)

12. Jungle Cruise

A great board game for families with kids (or Disney fans)

Specifications
Players: 2 - 4
Ages: 8+
Difficulty: Easy
Setup: 2 mins
Lasts: 60 mins
Reasons to buy
+Perfectly captures the ride+Good-natured humor+Gentle gameplay
Reasons to avoid
-Not a lot of strategy

Even though it shares a name with the movie starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, the Jungle Cruise board game has its roots in Disney's classic ride. This is a whimsical, light-hearted adventure, and your job is to transport passengers through the rainforest while watching out for perils like a pride of lions or groan-inducing dad jokes. Unfortunately, your wards have a habit of wandering off. The more you get over the finish line, the more points you'll have at the end.

As a way of spicing things up, players will also need to be selective about who they focus their attention on. That's because your passengers belong to esteemed families, and one group is the new owner of the Jungle Cruise company. The trouble is, you don't know which it is - and it changes every time you play. To figure out the mystery, you'll have to take detours for clue tokens scattered across the board... all without tipping off your opponents as to what you find.

True to the story of the ride, things are always going wrong too. Represented by cards with difficulty ratings that dictate how many passengers or pieces of cargo fall overboard, these dangers affect certain sides of the boat (which may or may not contain people, depending on where you've chosen to sit them). That means you'll have to be tactical about which encounters you choose to face.

This makes Jungle Cruise a fun distraction that's easy to get the hang of but still offers enough complexity to keep players engaged. It's a real beauty as well thanks to theming that perfectly captures the Disney Parks ride.

More board game recommendations

Want more suggestions? Looking for something specific? Don't forget to check out our range of other board game guides. No matter whether you're hunting down a beloved classic or something for a party, we've got you covered.

Keen to try roleplaying games, on the other hand? Don't forget about the best tabletop RPGs and our feature on how to play D&D online.

Benjamin Abbott

As one of the site's Hardware Editors, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to Lego buying guides. I've been writing about games in one form or another for almost a decade (with bylines ranging from Metro.co.uk and PC Gamer to TechRadar), and have worked at GamesRadar+ since 2018. I can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.