We pick our favorite board games in the fantasy genre to bond with your kids over.
Walking into a gaming store can be quite unnerving for parents who are on the desperate hunt for the perfect board game for their kid(s). The golden age of board gaming is upon us, and aisles are stocked with games from all sorts of genres, publishers, and complexities. If you have an early elementarian who has the intellect of a tween, but the attention span of a toddler how do you know which beautifully packaged box to spend $50 dollars on? Should you buy a game that uses customized decks, or maybe have a cooperative game night where the whole family plays as a team? There are so many options that your head could rapidly inflate and brains would splatter all over the 4,000 expansions of Munchkin.
Relax, take a deep breath. This is the part where your good friends at Nerdy With Children step in. We know you have your favorite games that you like to play with your adult friends. After all, this isn’t your first visit to the gaming store. So, before you waste $45 on a game that your child is going to throw a temper tantrum over, heed our advice on fantasy board games that parents will enjoy playing with their kids. Keep in mind this is a list of board games in the fantasy genre that include a physical board or cards. If you are using this list as a gift buying guide, then it’s probably best to ask the parent what skill level their kids are at. Finally, if you have a recommendation to the list, please leave it in a comment and we’ll try to add it.
Board Games For Young Kids
These games are good for starting out around 4 years old. You might not be able to play all the rules or even finish the game, but hopefully, this list gets your child hooked. Remember to read the cards to your kids.
For years, Catan has been a gateway game bridging the gap between the casual gamer to a more sophisticated hobbyist. Boardgames are like wine, they’re an acquired taste, but unlike alcohol, there are no issues for getting your kid hooked at 5 years old. This version of Catan is all about collecting resources without all the arguing.
Godzilla and King Kong meet Yahtzee. It’s basically the classic arcade game, Rampage. My 4-year-old son recently fell in love with this one. Choose a monster and prepare to destroy Toyoko. The first player to score 20 victory points or defeat the other players is the winner. Play up to six, but best with four or less. Keep in mind there is a card purchasing mechanic that will require you to do a little reading to the kiddos, but they’ll pick it up fast. Each card has fantastic art that will keep them engaged. I suggest playing Epic Roll first, due to how both games have a push your luck mechanic as well. Epic Roll isn’t nearly as competitive.
The first cooperative game on the list has your team building a path to the treasure before the ogre gets it. You’ll need to collect three keys to unlock the chest. Parents, please buy some co-op games and teach your children the most valuable lesson to being on a team. That lesson is to let all the players make their own decisions during their turn. There’s nothing worse than having a player try to tell everyone else how they should play when it’s their turn. Get this game and prevent raising that kind of adult.
At first look, Horrified looks like a game that is only meant for older kids and adults who love the classic Universal monsters. However, don’t be fooled this dice-rolling coop game is simple to play, but also entertaining for adults. It’s been making appearances at my table since my kid turned 6. Highly recommend it when the little one and the rest of the family need a game everyone will enjoy.
Castle Panic is a favorite at our house even when my son doesn’t join in the fun. Castle Panic is a co-op game that will force everyone to play as a team, while you fend off monsters that are trying to attack your castle. This “My First” version is much more simplified than the original game by pitting little kids against monsters coming from one direction instead of multiple ones.
Outfoxed is perfect for those families that love games like Clue and other who done it type games. A fox has stolen Mrs. Plumpert’s pot pie and the detective chickens are hot on the trail. This co-op game teaches your child how to use deduction to figure out which of the different foxes is the thief before they are able to escape the scene of the crime.
Does your child love trains? Ticket To Ride is a great competitive game that pits you against other players in a race to build complete routes across the country. As you complete routes, you’ll earn tickets with your goal being the first to claim the golden ticket. This simplified version allows up to 4 players and can take less than 30 minutes to play.
Here’s another competitive game that is based on an original board game. Dragomino is the little kid version of the popular Kingdomino. This card drafting tile-placement will teach your child how to plan ahead and match their tile to the ones already in play.
Cooperative games are the absolute favorite in our home. Cauldron Quest is no exception. Work together to uncover the ingredients to stop an evil spell from being cast. It’s fairly easy, depends on a little bit of luck, but ultimately relies on you to use deduction and calculate risks.
Board Games For Older Kids
What happens when you take a game like Sorry and make it actually fun to play? You get Talisman. A wonderful spin on the traditional board game ruleset. Roll the die, move that number of spaces and follow the text on the board. Simple enough for an 8-year-old, but still enjoyable for mom and dad. The mechanics are rather simple. Move around the board, complete quests, and kill monsters to level up and ultimately win the game. Be warned for those of you with antsy offspring: This game can take a few hours to finish. Up to six people can play the game at one time, but it tends to lag with more than four. The detail on the miniatures is great and player vs. player combat takes a back seat. This is a great game to intro your children to more RPG elements.
If you want something a little more on the competitive side that is great for four players then you should check out Small World. The board is a map broken up into different “territories,” each with their own terrain and resources. You choose a race — like Dwarves or Skeletons — and take over as many territories as you can. Each race has its own unique abilities and advantages. Unfortunately, races will go extinct, and you’ll have to choose another one. Think of it as a kind of evolution. The gameplay has been referred to as a civilization-building game. That would be like saying pre-Algebra is comparable to Calculus. However, your family will most likely enjoy Smallworld, especially with four players. The game is recommended for ages 10 and up, but kids 7 and 8 should be able to pick up on it with a little coaching.
If you are looking for a cooperative game to play as a family, then Castle Panic is one of the best on the market. Hordes of goblins and orcs are attacking the castle, and it’s up to you to stop them. The only way to survive this onslaught is to work as a team and coordinate your attacks. This is an excellent game to teach team-building skills. With up to six people playing together, you can trick siblings into getting along as they slay enemy after enemy. The game relies on analytical skills more than just plain luck. Younger kids can join in if you are willing to guide them during their turn. Imagine a simpler version of Pandemic or Arkham Horror, a stepping stool to those more complex games.
Dungeons and Dragons fans finally have something to play with their children, well actually this game has been around for a very long time. However, this is a newer version with updated artwork. Choose your character and explore the Dungeon for treasure. Hurry! You must escape. This game is basically an introduction to DnD. It’s a family game centered around fighting monsters and looting treasure. Your seven-year-old should be able to pick it up. This is on my wishlist for my own son. I’m looking forward to him being old enough to play it.
Does your family love a good maze? What if that maze was always changing? If the answer is yes, then Labyrinth is the game for you. Players take on the role of a wizard and compete to find the treasure hidden throughout the maze. During your turn, you add a tile that changes the maze in an effort to stop other players from succeeding.
The Pandemic series are wonderful, challenging, co-op games. The newest edition pits your family against the evil forces of a secret cult bent on bringing back the old ones and destroying Earth. You’ll take on the role of an investigator and work together with your “colleagues” to try to seal the gates and stop the evil cultists. Easy to learn, but quite challenging even on the easy setting. Cthulu Pandemic teaches your children to plan a few steps ahead and how to prioritize goals. You can also take this opportunity to introduce your older kids to the world of HP Lovecraft. Don’t get frustrated if they find the classic horror stories a little too boring, just bring those elements into the family game night.
Most games featured on this list are either co-op, where everyone plays on the same team, or competitive. Codenames is a team-based game that lacks violence or a race to the finish mechanic. Actually, it’s very abstract and that’s why I wanted to include it on the list. Although because of this, kids might struggle with the concept at first. To play, you lay out a grid of 25 cards and break up into two teams. The cards are double-sided allowing you to either play with pictures or words. A player on each team is selected as the clue giver and is allowed to draw a random answer key that corresponds to the 25 cards. During a turn, each team takes turns giving a one-word clue and a number that represents how many cards are related to the clue. Their team must try to choose the right cards for the given clue. The rules are fairly simple, but the game is hard to master. If your family doesn’t like the Marvel universe, then you should skip this one. Don’t worry there are other themes for Codenames.
If you’re chomping at the bit to get your children into Dungeons & Dragons or any type of RPG then you should seriously consider Adventure Begins. My kid loves this game. It’s easy to play, but allows for some real creative story-telling. A perfect gateway for adults that want to experience role-playing games as well. Pick a character, choose their personality, grab their gear, and go hunt down one of the four bosses in this epic adventure.
If you are looking for a cooperative board game that’s a little more advanced, then pick up Legends of Andor. Perfect for gamer families with children that are getting bored with simple games. Two to four players work together to save a kingdom from the evil encroaching from all sides. A campaign-style game where sessions can take up to 90 minutes, especially once you get to the later missions. My favorite part of this game is that you learn the rules by playing. Early missions teach you a new concept so your family doesn’t have to learn everything at once. While the rules are not super difficult to master, our group had to replay several because we kept failing to win. Your child needs to be able to understand advanced strategy concepts so I recommend this for kids around 10 years old. Mostly for children that have longer attention spans. Overall, it’s a great bonding experience, and when you win you’ll actually feel like you accomplished something. Every player will have a role in completing each mission.
This competitive card game is not only super simple but super quick to play. It’s a player versus player battle royal that the whole family will love. We’ve played this game for hours and purchased all the expansions. Grab your favorite character and jump into the battle. This is not a CCG, you get everything you need in the box. Highly recommend the Monster Madness expansion as well.
If you have a larger family, then you might think you can only play party games during the family game night. Blah, that’s simply not true. Clash of the Cards involves three to six players who are trying to build two armies and be the first to score 1,000 army points. This isn’t a simple bookmaking game as there are over 30 specialty cards that can be used in a variety of ways. Of course, you can also attack and defend against other players as you battle it out for the most points. I highly recommend teaching your children how to play spades or similar strategic games before breaking this one out.
Team up with the family as you take on the role of your favorite Marvel superhero to take on the meanest villains on the planet. Marvel United is a wonderful co-op where you are forced to strategize as a team to overcome the different obstacles before taking on the main villain.
If you’ve ever play Betrayal at House on the Hill then you’ll be familiar with this Scooby-Doo addition. The game starts innocently enough, you’re all working as a team trying to uncover clues at a spooky old mansion. Then, all a sudden someone triggers a haunt that kicks off a unique adventure involving all the players. Who will be evil? Will all players work on the same team? You won’t know until you get enough clues. There’s even a simplified rule set for younger players.
One of my favorite game themes utilizes logical deduction. I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I’m fascinated with taking risks and making educated guesses. These are the fundamental building blocks for Statistics and that’s exactly what your kids will learn when they play Love Letter. With only 16 cards in the game, you try to outwit your two to four fellow would-be suitors and have a secret love letter delivered to the princess. The rules are fairly simple, but you’ll spend hours trying to outplay your opponents. Lots of fun for a small family.
Imagine a game where the rules are always changing and no matter which strategy you decide on there’s still a chance all your efforts will vanquish in a single turn. Monster Fluxx is that game. With artwork hailing from the classic Universal Monster movies, two to six players try to change the rules of the game so they can meet the conditions of victory. That’s right, not only do the rules change but so do the terms for winning. Sound like a nightmare? That’s what makes this game so great for kids and adults. Everyone is on an even playing field and losers can come away winners with just the right play. I highly recommend your children learn to master UNO, before playing this.
You’re a zombie and you want to eat brains. How many brains can you eat is what this push your luck, dice rolling game is all about. Super simple and a shorter alternative to Yahtzee or King of Tokyo. A great filler budget game when no one has a lot of patience. Not to mention, a zombie game appropriate for all ages. Can you eat all 13 brains?