As Christmas is approaching I thought I would put together a list of recommended children’s games. I’ve restricted this list to games that are easily available at the moment. The games are listed below in no particular order!
This is a delightful cooperative game where you are trying to work out which of the naughty foxes stole the pie. On your turn you can either decide to reveal more suspects or search for clues. Searching for clues enables you to identify what the naughty fox was wearing. This information can then be used to eliminate suspects until you are confident as to which fox is guilty! The fox gradually creeps towards his hole and if he gets there before you work out who he/she is then the players lose. This is a game for children aged 5 and over. I really enjoy playing this game with my children and if you would like to know more about it you can read my review here.
My First Stone Age
This is a competitive game where you are trying to be the first person to build all three huts in your village. In this game you travel around the board collecting resources (berries, pots etc.) which you use to purchase your huts. The game incorporates some elements of memory as you have to remember where the movement tokens are. I really like the way this game gives children some great choices to make. It makes them think about what resources they need to build the huts and also plan where they want to go to get them. The game is beautifully made and the components have a nice chunky feel to them. My First Stone Age is aimed at children aged 5 and over however I think you could play this with 4 years olds. Please note there is also a card game version of this game. I haven’t played this yet so I can’t comment on what it is like.
In Tsuro you are trying to be the last player on the board. You play tiles which create a path for your piece to follow. As the board fills up it becomes harder to choose a safe path for your piece and other player’s tiles may send you somewhere you’d rather not go. If two pieces collide or your piece goes off the board you lose. The last player standing wins! This is a great family game which you can play with children as young as 5 or 6. You can also play it with as few as 2 players all the way up to 8 players. This is a very attractive abstract game and it really works well with family members of all ages.
This is a wonderful cooperative family game where you are trying to rescue relics from a sinking island. Players work together to collect the relics, shore up the island and ultimately try to escape with the relics before the island is completely under water. This game is a challenge for adults and children alike as you really do need to work together to win. It has great quality pieces and lovely artwork on the tiles. The game says that it is suitable for ages 10 and over but I’ve played this with my children since they were about 6. It’s also worth having a look at Forbidden Desert, which is the sequel, as this adds a few more layers of complexity.
Carcassonne Amazonas or Carcassonne
Some of you may have heard of Carcassonne already which is a tile placement game. Tile placement is where you take a tile and then have to choose where to place it to meet certain rules. In the original Carcassonne you must match roads, cities and grassland. In Carcassonne Amazonas you are matching Jungle, Tributaries, Villages and the Amazon river itself. Once you have placed a tile you can choose whether to claim something on the tile for example a village by placing a meeple. These enable you to gain points when they are completed or at the end of the game. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins. In Carcassonne Amazonas you also have the addition of a boat racing element. My children are big fans of both the original Carcassonne and Carcassonne Amazonas. This game states it’s for ages 8 and over, my children who are seven can play this game really well. We use a slightly easier variant in the original game which is detailed in the rules but we play the main rules of Carcassonne Amazonas. There are many versions of this game and expansions for the original game. If you have younger children there is another version of the game called My first Carcassonne which is aimed at children aged 4 and over.
In this game you are racing through a dungeon battling monsters, dodging obstacles and other things that get in your way before finally defeating the monster at the end. The whole dungeon is represented by a deck of cards. Each player also has a deck of cards with symbols on them, everyone plays cards simultaneously to match the symbols on the monster card (or obstacle etc.). When all the symbols are matched you discard that card and start on the next one. You only have 5 minutes to complete all the cards and finish the dungeon. The game comes with an app for your phone or tablet which basically acts as a timer. It’s very frenetic and an awful lot of fun. This game states it is for ages 8 and over but again depending on the child I would say about 6 or 7 would be about right.
In Kingdomino you are trying to build yourself the best kingdom out of domino like pieces that you can. Your kingdom cannot be bigger than a 5×5 square grid. You can only place a piece in your kingdom if the land matches on one end, just like dominoes. On your turn the first player (determined in the first round by a random draw) can choose between four tiles but which piece they choose also determines turn order. For example choosing the best piece for your kingdom might mean that you are then last to choose in the next round. You are aiming to collect pieces with crowns on them and join them to other land of the same type. You win the game by having the most points at the end when all tiles have been placed. This game is really simple to learn and play, has lovely artwork and good quality pieces. The game states it is for ages 8 and over but again I would say that 6 or 7 years old children could play this.
In this game you are building a bear park. Whilst this game might look daunting it’s very simple to play. You take pieces from the centre board and place them onto your park board. As you place them on your board you cover up symbols which in turn tell you what pieces you can choose to take next. The aim of the game is to fill in all your park and get the most points. Some pieces are worth more than others and you can get more points by being the first to complete the whole of one of your park boards. This game has a very Tetris like feeling and the artwork on the tiles is really lovely. This game also comes with a more advanced variant which you can include as people become more familiar with the game or as the child gets older. Again this is very much a family game that you would be happy to play with or without the children! This game is aimed at children aged about 7 or 8 years old.
Castles of Caladale
In Castles of Caladale you are simply competing to build the best castle! The gameplay is fairly simple you choose a tile from the central board and add it to your castle. There are three different themes on the castle tiles Stone, Tudor and Trees. When you add your tile to your castle you must match all the themes it touches, stone with stone for example. You can choose to rebuild your castle at anytime during the game. You win the game by getting the most points at the end. Points are gained by adding special tiles and also by completing your castle this means you have sky all the way around the outside. This game is simple to learn and play. It has a great visual appeal especially at the end when you get to admire your castle! It has lots of lovely little details on the cards, sleeping dragons, gnomes and fairies to name a few. This game states it is for children aged 8 and over but again depending on the child I would say about 6 or 7. Possibly younger if they just wanted to enjoy building castles with the tiles!
Go Go Gelato / Dr Eureka
These games are very similar to one another which is why I have put them together. In these games you are racing to be the first one to complete a challenge card. See the photos above for some examples of those cards. You complete the cards by moving the balls, without touching them, from cone to cone or tube to tube as fast as possible. These are a lovely mix of dexterity and logic. I think Go Go Gelato is the easier dexterity wise of the two but Dr Eureka might appeal more to older children. Go Go Gelato is aimed at children of around 6 and Dr Eureka at children of around 8 years old. You can read more about Dr Eureka in my review.
City of Zombies
In this game you battle zombies with maths! It is a lovely fun themed cooperative game when you are trying to defeat the zombies and survive until your rescue plane arrives. Every Zombie has a target number to defeat it. On each players turn they will roll three dice and they must use all of those numbers to defeat as many zombies as possible. You are allowed to add, subtract, multiply and power up/down (squaring) the numbers. The game also has special characters with different special abilities to play and can also be played on many different difficultly levels. My children really enjoy playing this game and because it’s collaborative you can easily help them a little with the maths if they are stuck. This game is aimed at children of around 6 and over.
Karuba is a competitive game where you are trying to build pathways through the jungle for your explorers to reach hidden temples. This is done by placing path tiles on your board to create paths along which you can then move your explorers. All the players have the same numbered path tiles and one player draws at random the number to be placed. You win the game by having the most points, you can gain these by collecting gems on the paths or by the relevant coloured explorer reaching its matching temple. The faster you can reach a temple the more points you can claim. This is another game that is just as enjoyable for the adults as the children. The game has really well made components and lovely artwork. The box says it is for ages 8 and over but again depending on the child I would say 6 and over would be about right.
This is a competitive card game where you are the captain of a submarine. In this game you are trying to collect different animal species, discover the biggest coral reefs and gather lost treasures! As you play the game you can also upgrade your submarine. The game is played over 3 rounds which represent how deep you are in the ocean, each of these rounds have 5 turns. On your turn all the players bar the current expedition captain are dealt cards determined by the level of their periscope (this is one of the submarine upgrades) from these they choose which ones they wish to play in front of them and which ones they will pass to the expedition captain. Each player will be building a section of ocean in front of them with the cards. The choice of cards will determine the amount of points at the end of the round and also any submarine upgrades. Total points are resolved at the end of the game and the person with the most wins. This is a fantastic family game, there are so many different ways to get points which gives lots of things to think about. This game states it is for ages 8 and over but again depending on the child I would say about 6 or 7 years old.
Ice Cool is a really fun game which involves flicking penguins. In this game you’re all penguins sneaking out of class to grab fish snacks. The game is played over a maximum of four rounds where you each take it in turns to be the hall monitor. The hall monitor is trying to catch the other penguins (by knocking into them) whilst the other penguins are trying to collect all the snacks. The round ends when someone has got all their snacks or the hall monitor has caught everyone. You gain points per snack you collect or penguin you catch and the player with the most points at the end wins! The game board is very cleverly made from the box which has several pieces stacked inside itself. This is a very fun silly game which again has been beautifully made. This game is aimed at children aged 6 and over.
Beasts of Balance
This cooperative game is an unusual mix of a dexterity game and an app. In this game you are adding creatures to a strange world, cross breeding them to create fantastical creatures and trying not to cause the volcano to erupt. The game comes with lovely pieces which you scan on a podium linked to the app, once scanned you must balance them on top and then that animal is added into the world on the app. As you balance more and more pieces on the podium you of course run the risk of it falling, this causes the volcano to erupt (unless you can rebuild very fast!) and the game to be lost. As a family you are trying to best your last high score! The charm of this game I think is in the strange and unusual animals that you can create which are all saved to a bestiary on the app itself. This game states it is for ages 7 and over but I think you could definitely play this one with much younger children as it’s cooperative.
Flash Point Fire Rescue
This is a fantastic cooperative game in which you play fireman battling to rescue people from a burning building. It comes with many different special characters you can play and it has different levels of rules complexity depending on age or ability. On your turn you have a variety of actions you can choose for example moving, opening doors, smashing down walls, putting out fires and rescuing people. You have to be careful about flashovers, explosions and in the worse case the building collapsing. You have to work together to rescue as many people as you can before the building collapses. My children love this game and again the component quality is very good. The board has two sides so you have some variability and the addition of more complicated rules means the game will grow with the children! This game also has many expansions some of which add new buildings (including ones which are ships, submarines & airplanes), new risks and new characters. The box states it is for children aged 10 and over but because this is a cooperative game you can easily play with children as young as 6 when using the easier rules.
This is a lovely cooperative family game in which one player is playing a ghost and the other players are psychics. The psychics are trying to establish who killed the ghost, where and with what item. The ghost however can only communicate by giving the psychics visions to try and steer them towards the truth. These visions come in the form of beautiful yet cryptic art on cards. I really like the way this game encourages my children to use their imagination and think creatively. The game also has the most stunning artwork on its cards! Again the box states it is for ages 10 and over but depending on the child I would say 7 and over would be about right. Although I would add that it can be tricky to understand their clues when they play the ghost!
Bugs in the Kitchen
This is probably the simplest game on my list but my children really like it. In it you are trying to steer a hexbug, a small tiny robotic bug, into your trap. You steer it by turning different utensils to open and close pathways through a maze of sorts. Which utensils you are able to turn is determined by a dice roll. This is definitely a game for kids rather than for adults but it’s also simple enough that they can just play it on their own. This game states it is for ages 6 and over but I would say as long as they understand how to roll a dice and use the result they could play.
This game looks like a simple balancing game but it really is more than that. In this game you will move blocks between stacks in order to match the criteria on one of your four cards. The cards give different combinations of blocks for example one might specify that a block must be the fourth one in a stack and another might state that three blocks can be anywhere in a stack on a specific colour plinth. This is a game that I have reviewed previously, you can find that review here. The game is aimed at children aged 7 and over. The only reason this game isn’t on my main list is because I think it’s quite hard to get hold of at the moment. It has only just been released and it will probably take a little while for it to become more widely available.
A few caveats here as I haven’t actually played this game yet but this is the game that I will be trying to get hold of for my children for Christmas. You can read a little about how it works in my interview with the designer, Jerry Hawthorne, here.
I hope you found my list helpful and I would love to hear what you would recommend!