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Family time is definitely a priority in our house. One of our key family time strategies has always been board games. They’re (nearly) free, you can play in summer or winter, and friends can be easily added to the fun when they are over.
When we had toddlers, the options were obvious (Candyland, anyone?). As the kids get older though, we’ve had to adapt, change, and “up our game.” We struggled with family game nights for a while, stuck between Chutes & Ladders and the games listed below. We played a few card games, but nothing we all loved. We were introduced to Catan by a colleague a few years ago, and our love of family game night returned.
Here is my list of the games that have brought us together around the table on many weekend afternoons and evenings for a game (or three) everyone enjoys. I’ve included some information about the ages my kids started to enjoy each particular game, but your mileage may vary.
Have younger kids? Check out my list of favorite games for the 7-11 crowd HERE.
5 of the Best Games for Older Kids and Teens
Dominion: 2nd Edition Board Game. This deck-building game is fairly simple in concept, and you can learn to play fairly quickly. But developing a strategy and working to fine-tune it requires some thought. That’s the beauty of this game. Because you choose your 10 cards from the many available options, every game is different. The cards interact with each other in unique ways, and the game has it’s own flavor. The rules stay the same, though, so other then developing your strategy and learning about the cards, there isn’t a huge learning curve.
My kids began playing Dominion around age 8, but they continue to develop their technique and be challenged in play 3 years later. They’ve also started to beat me every once in a while!
One word of caution: once you purchase the base game , you can start playing Dominion right away. There are multiple expansions, though, and they’re a bit addictive. You might start wanting them all pretty quickly!
Catan 5th Edition is an adventure game where you create a world, settle upon it, then build roads and more settlements to develop your kingdom. The object of the game is simple: score the required number of points (10-14) before the other players. Points are earned as you develop your kingdom. However, robbers (and other players) are there to cheerfully sabotage you along the way.
This game was actually our first foray into strategy-heavy board games for big people. We started playing Catan 5th Edition when our (then) youngest was just 7. At the time, he was able to pick up the basics and play along, but his strategy didn’t develop fully until around age 10. That’s ok, we still had a lot of fun!
Catan has both extensions and expansions. Extensions allow you to take the game from 4 players to 6 players. Expansions give you new pieces, and new scenarios, to change the game up even more.
Ticket To Ride is a bit simpler then the two games above, and can be played well the very first time. It has very little learning curve, and the strategies are more limited. There are plenty of opportunities for fun, though, as you sabotage and block each other’s railways and secure the best routes for yourself.
There is still a bit of randomness mixed in because of the shuffled cards, so that usually keeps it from being a totally lopsided game (great if you have kids like mine who tend to get discouraged if they’re clearly getting creamed). My kids started playing this game at ages 9 and 11, with no problems.
Power Grid is a Eurogame all the way. There is a lot of strategy and very little luck in this game, and this appeals to some of my family members more then others. Power Grid mixes fun with learning, because you must balance the importance of buying resources, producing power, and expanding your grid.
Power Grid is definitely a game where you enjoy seeing the fruits of your labors if you invest wisely at the beginning. We love it because it’s quite different from any of our other games, and it feels like a real accomplishment to climb to the top of the grid. My kids enjoyed power Grid from about age 10 and up)
Puerto Rico is a game in which you settle Puerto Rico. Create your plantation, bring in settlers, plant crops, and sell your goods. During each round of play, you choose a role to enact during that round. If you’re mayor, each player gets a new colonist, but you get two. If you choose to be the settler, you get discounted buildings for your new plantation. During the game, you’re earning victory points by completing the production cycle. The colonist with the most points at the end wins.
This game is one where it is difficult to see the best strategy until you have played 2 or 3 times. Please don’t give up on it the first time! We liked it much more once everyone understood how things develop over the course of the game. That understanding makes it possible to start figuring out how to determine which choices benefit you most. My 11 year old enjoys the game, while my 9 year old still finds it difficult.
Whew! That was quite a list.
I hope that it inspires you to bring family night back, or just add something new to the routine. Board games with teens are fun and possible, if you choose the right games!
What games do your older kids and teens enjoy? Let me know in the comments!
I’ve also shared my list of favorites for kids ages 7-11. Check it out here.
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