It’s good to take a break from screens every now and then. The great outdoors has plenty to offer, but there are times when you’re stuck inside for one reason or another. Board games are a fun way to gather everyone around the table to engage in some group escapism.
My family has had a board game night most weeks for a couple of years now, and we’ve discovered some great games. These are our favorites, selected with the help of my two kids, ages 10 and 13. We didn’t include board game classics you probably know all about (or own), like Clue, Monopoly, Connect 4, Scrabble, Operation, Chutes and Ladders, Battleship, Jenga, Guess Who, Pictionary, and Risk. For more ideas, check out our list of the Best Board Games to Play Over Zoom.
Updated July 2022: We added Port Royal, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game, and an honorable mentions section.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.
If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more. Please also consider subscribing to WIRED
A Simple StarterLabyrinth
One of the first board games we played together as a family, Labyrinth is simple enough for anyone to grasp. The game board is a maze, and you must collect a set of treasures based on the cards you’re dealt. The fun part is how you can change the maze by pushing one tile onto the board and another off every turn. Carve out a route for yourself, but also consider how to block your opponents.
Photograph: Exploding Kittens
Cute, Dangerous CatsExploding Kittens
This deceptively simple card game is easy to pick up but has layers of strategy as you try to avoid exploding kitten cards. It combines fun elements from classic card games, like Scabby Queen, and adds a modern twist. There’s just enough complexity to make things fun, but never so much that it gets confusing. The card art features some cute, and not so cute, cats with all sorts of special powers to turn the tables on your opponents. When it starts to get old, the expansions do a great job of breathing new life into the game.
Photograph: Z Man Games
For Working TogetherPandemic
It feels a little strange playing this during an actual pandemic, but the beauty of this game is that it’s cooperative. Each player has a role, and you work together to eradicate four deadly diseases before humanity’s fate is sealed. It’s often exciting, encouraging communication and group strategy. The key to success is taking advantage of each player’s unique abilities, and you can complete a game in less than an hour. There are also some deep expansions if your family likes it.