To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.  Learn more


The best family board games in 2023

Nik Rawlinson
24 Jan 2023

Enjoy some quality together time with our selection of the best family board games, from just £16

Humans are social animals – and we like to play. It’s no wonder board games have been popular since ancient times. Whether played with counters, cards or dice, the best board games bring us together and allow us to have fun as a family, without the need of a broadband connection, controller or widescreen TV.

Some of the best-known board games have proved their worth over the ages. Cribbage, backgammon, chess and draughts (or checkers as it’s known in the US) remain popular, but they’ve been joined by a wide range of modern games of unimaginable diversity. Some require planning and skill, others are entirely based on luck, and many combine the two to varying degrees. Get the balance right, and you’ll find a game that you’ll happily come back to, again and again, year after year.

Here, we’ve picked out eight of the best family board games you can buy. You’ll find them below. Before that, though, we’ll take a look at what you should consider when choosing the best family board game for you.

READ NEXT: The best board games for kids

Best family board games: At a glance

How to choose the best family board game for you

Board games can be expensive, so you want to make sure you choose one that the whole family will enjoy – and keep playing for years to come. Knowing about the different types of game can help you choose. Four of the most common include:

Ancient board games, which have been played for centuries. The equipment required to play them will often be less intricate (with the possible exception of chess, which is also a strategy game), reflecting the limited technology available at the time of their invention.

Area control games, such as Cathedral or Risk, which are won by dominating areas of the play board, either by filling them with their own pieces or by blocking off sections to deny other players entry. Carcassonne, which is usually considered as a German-style game, also has a strong area control element.

Strategy games, which require the player to think ahead, often several moves, so they can get their pieces in position or the cards in their deck arranged for a longer-term benefit. Chess is perhaps the ultimate strategy game, but others such as Mancala and Qwirkle also require some forethought and planning from the best players. German-style games, sometimes also known as Euro style, Eurogame or European games, are characterised by an overarching mission, an element of randomness, and not much in the way of luck. Examples include Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride. Such games often require a degree of forethought.

How long do you want to play?

Some games can last hours. Others are over in a matter of minutes. In reality, there’s no sweet spot, as every family member has their own boredom threshold, and what can keep mum and dad engaged for a whole afternoon might be too long and drawn out for the kids.

We’ve given an idea of average play times in each of our reviews, based on manufacturers’ recommendations and our own experiences. If you can afford to invest in a small collection of games, choosing a range with varying play times lets you pick and choose depending on both mood and how long you can spare.

How big is your family?

Board games afternoons are great for bringing the family together. They’re a time when everyone can sit down in one place, without the TV blaring, and enjoy some quality bonding time. You therefore need to make sure your chosen game can accommodate all those who want to play. In many cases, games can be enlarged with add-on packs (as with Carcassonne, for example), and sometimes there are multiple editions for different numbers of players (as with Tokyo Highway and Mancala). If your family is too large for everyone to play solo, there’s always the option of pairing up and playing as teams.

What about age ratings?

Most board games have minimum age ratings, and we’ve included manufacturers’ recommendations in our reviews. We don’t think there are any hard and fast rules here, though. None of the games we’ve selected features horror or violence (indeed, if you’re looking for games that tackle more grown-up themes, then have a read of our guide to the best board games for adults instead). Rather, the stated ages are the point at which a player is likely to show an interest, and have a fair chance of understanding what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to try a game designed for eight-year-olds and above on a six-year-old, though. After all, many adults have no idea or inclination when it comes to an “adult” game like chess, and would be beaten hands down by a clued-up five-year-old.

READ NEXT: The best two-player card games

The best family board games you can buy

1. Carcassonne: Best strategy board game

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

The aim of this city-building game is to score points by claiming territory, abbeys or roads, by placing a limited number of people (or “meeple”) on one of the 71 tiles that you pull at random from a bag. Every time you place a tile, it must extend a feature already present on the gameboard. So, you might line up the end of a road on one of your tiles with the end of a road already in place; a section of city with part of a city already laid; or an empty field with the side of another tile showing nothing but grass.

There are limits to what you can claim. If an opponent has already claimed an incomplete city, for instance, you can’t add a city tile to it and station your own meeple there – but if your partially claimed city and another player’s partially claimed city were to join up, the player with the most meeple in place in the combined city would claim all the points.

Although there’s an element of luck, in that you can only play with the tiles you pick at random from the unseen stash, winning at Carcassonne requires a fair amount of planning, strategy and thought. As such, you need to put aside longer for a game than you would for, say, Cathedral or Mancala, below. It’s addictive, though, and with several expansion packs to choose from, it’s one you can grow over time.

Key specs – Minimum age: 8; Minimum players: 2; Maximum players: 5; Average game time: 60 minutes

2. Ticket to Ride: Best board game for travel fans

Price: £54 | Buy now from Amazon

This one is a dream for fans of long-distance rail travel. Take cards from the deck and, when you have enough of a single colour to match the length of a section of track of the same colour, you can claim that route by placing your carriages along its path on the board. The aim is to place as many carriages as possible before the end of the game, scoring points as you do, while also completing set routes that you must keep secret from other players.

The board itself is a rail map, which in the original version covers major cities of the United States and Canada. There’s only a limited number of links between each city, which means opponents can end up claiming the tracks you need to complete your secret routes, forcing you to take a longer, round-about path of multiple connections if you’re going to achieve your goal.

The original Ticket to Ride has spawned many spin-offs. Although we’ve linked to the US board above, there are versions for Europe, Africa, the Nordic countries, Poland, New York, San Francisco, London and more. And, when you’ve played each of them, there are expansion packs and a limited edition pink charity train set to explore. It’s also available as an app for mobile devices.

Key specs – Minimum age: 8; Minimum players: 2; Maximum players: 5; Average game time: 60 to 120 minutes

3. Cathedral: Best tactile board game

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

Cathedral is a beautiful game made of carved wooden pieces. You might even want to leave it on display when you’re not playing.

The board is an empty city of 100 squares, around the edges of which run the turreted city walls. The pieces themselves are the buildings that sit within the walls. Players take turns to place one of their own irregularly shaped buildings within the city walls, until none of the spaces left are the right size or shape to take any more of their own pieces. At the end of the game, each player counts up how many spaces their unplaced buildings would have occupied, and the one with the lowest score wins. There could be a draw, of course, in which case a rematch is called for, and it’s even possible for both players to score zero, as the city walls can accommodate all of the pieces if placed appropriately.

But what about the cathedral, after which the game is named? That’s the first piece played. It doesn’t belong to either player, but they can build against it, and use it to section off areas of the board if they manage to construct a barrier from one city wall to another. Do this early enough, and you’ll seriously restrict the area in which your opponent can carry on playing.

Cathedral is a wonderfully tactile game, beautifully made, and attractive to look at. It takes no time to learn and it’s quick to play: you could easily squeeze in a round on a coffee break.

Key specs – Minimum age: 6; Minimum players: 2; Maximum players: 2; Average game time: 15 minutes

4. Tokyo Highway: Best construction board game

Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon

Here’s an unusual game, in which players construct a series of aerial highways using round blocks and what look like lollipop sticks. None of the highways can be level, so you must make sure that the pillars at either end are at least one block offset from each other. This makes it more difficult to balance your cars on each section of road, which is key to winning the game: the first player to have positioned all of their cars on the highway wins.

There are two versions of Tokyo Highway – for two and four players – several expansion packs, and even official Tokyo Highway Wax, which you can apply to the cars and road surfaces to increase adhesion, allowing you to position road decks at more extreme angles. If you have both the two- and four-player versions, you can also buy additional cars in green and purple, which don’t appear in the original packs, to turn the combined set into a six-player game for party games nights.

Key specs – Minimum age: 8; Minimum players: 2; Maximum players: 4; Average game time: 30 minutes

5. Mancala: Best ancient board game

Price: £17 for two-player board | Buy now from Amazon

Price: £65 for four-player board | Buy now from Amazon

Mancala is an ancient strategy game that’s thought to date back to ancient Egypt. It’s easy to see why it’s still popular today. A mancala board consists of two or four sides, depending on the number of players, each of which accommodates several pits and a goal. At the start of the game, an equal number of stones is placed in each pit, and when the first player has been decided, they take every stone out of one of their pits and share them out, one stone at a time, into the neighbouring pits, working around the board. When they pass their own goal, they drop one in there, too, but while they may end up placing stones in other players’ pits if they’re holding more stones than will fit into their own side of the board, they’ll never drop one in another player’s goal.

Eventually, all of the stones will end up in each of the players’ goals and the pits will be empty. At that point, the one with the most stones in their goal wins.

It sounds simple, and it is, but, as with all the best games, there’s a variety of strategies you can employ for a more convincing win. For example, if the last stone you drop ends up in your goal, you get another turn – and another chance to put a stone in the goal. And if the last stone you drop ends up in an empty pit on your own side of the board, you can transfer that to your goal, too, along with all the stones your rivals hold in the equivalent pits on their own sides of the board. That means it pays to keep an eye on which pits your neighbours have emptied, and to empty the same pits on your own rack.

Like Cathedral, Mancala takes no time to learn, and it never gets boring, although our preference is for a four-sided board, and either three or four players, which can frequently see best-formed plans being ruined before your turn comes around again.

Key specs – Minimum age: 6; Minimum players: 2; Maximum players: 4; Average game time: 15 minutes

6. Qwirkle: Best tile-based board game

Price: £23 | Buy now from Amazon

Qwirkle is the perfect mix of chance, strategy, and very simple rules. Each player picks out six tiles, which they lay in turns. You can lay as many as you want at a time, with the aim of building up sets on the table. A set could be six tiles of the same colour, each showing a different design, or six tiles of the same design, but each of a different colour. You earn a point for every tile laid, and if one of your tiles completes a set of six, you get an additional six-point bonus.

It’s wonderfully simple, and the minimum recommended playing age is just six, but you soon come to realise there’s a strategy to playing well. Perhaps you’ll keep back some of the tiles you could lay until you hold enough to make up a full set of six – or to prevent your opponent from making six themselves. And, if you’re smart, you can lay tiles that span multiple sets and rack up points from multiple sources.

There are several versions to choose from, including the regular “full size” game, a travel edition and Qwirkle Cubes, in which you play not with tiles, but coloured dice showing all six patterns on their faces.

Aside from the tiles and the bundled pouch from which you pick them, you only need a pen and paper to play: the board is your kitchen table.

Key specs – Minimum age: 6; Minimum players: 2; Maximum players: 4; Average game time: 30 minutes

7. Sling Puck: Best physical board game

Price: £12 | Buy now from Amazon

This is a fast and furious game that’s best played as a series of rounds, with the winner of each game remaining at the board so they can play a new opponent. The board is split into two, with each half enclosed within low walls. The central wall, which keeps the two halves apart, has a narrow opening, just wider and taller than a single puck. Each player must use the elastic band spanning their play area to slingshot their pucks through the opening into their opponent’s arena.

The idea is to clear your own half of the board entirely, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. For starters, you need to be fairly accurate if you’re going to get your puck through the opening. Then there's a chance you’ll be right on target, but coincide exactly with your opponent doing the same thing, resulting in each of your pucks ricocheting off each other and back into your own play areas. Worse still, they might get more pucks into your half of the board than you do into theirs, putting you in a worse position than when you started. If they manage to do it five times over, you’ve lost!

Key specs – Minimum age: 5; Minimum players: 2; Maximum players: 2; Average game time: 5 minutes

8. Kluster: Best skill board game

Price: £20 | Buy now from Game

The ‘board’ in this game is a small area marked out by a loop of cord. Each player is given a handful of magnetic stones, which are all slightly different shapes and sizes, so have slightly different magnetic properties. This introduces a high degree of randomness.

Players take turns to place a single stone inside the corded area without disturbing any of the other stones. If they do, the stones will snap together – or cluster, hence the name – and they must take all of the clustered pieces out of the corded space and into their hand. The idea, as you’ve probably worked out by now, is to be the first to get rid of all of your stones.

Although you’re not allowed to touch any of the stones that you or other players have already put within the loop of cord, you can move the cord itself to make space, even if that means some of the stones within it move in the process. Likewise, you can use the magnetic field of one of your own stones to move a stone already in play – so long as it doesn’t end up sticking to another stone, or the stone you’re holding.

At 14, Kluster has a fairly high minimum recommended age, which is explained in the box as being due to the fact that swallowing the magnets could be dangerous, they could damage electrical equipment, and they could interfere with the proper functioning of pacemakers.

Key specs – Minimum age: 14; Minimum players: 1; Maximum players: 4; Average game time: 10 minutes

Read more

Best Buys