When it comes to family game night, it’s easy to just dust off the tried-and-true from your closet. After all, those classic board games have their charms — and, for many, a nostalgic kick. But, let’s be frank: Some of them aren’t terribly fun, especially for adults.
So when you’re tired of sliding down chutes and climbing up ladders and trudging through Candyland, but still want face-to-face play time with your kids, consider these terrific new alternatives for tabletop fun. (Yes, I’ve play-tested them all.)
Abandon All Artichokes features a charmingly illustrated deck of cards, and, well, that’s all you need. Each player starts with 10 artichoke cards, and your goal is to deal yourself a five-card hand that doesn’t contain any of them. That’s done, on your turn, by adding another veggie card to your hand and performing its actions (i.e., an onion card lets you compose an artichoke from your hand, but you must then put the onion card on another player’s pile). The game plays swiftly, and there are only a few rules to learn. It’s got a high “let’s play again” factor and is great for throwing into a bag when taking a trip or anticipating waiting at an airport or restaurant.
Haba Games has become a leader in creative games for younger kids. And for a shelf full of good reasons. Snail Sprint!, for instance, takes the standard roll-and-move game and adds fun by having the pieces race not only on the board but also over the top of the tin box it’s packaged in. In Haba’s Rhino Hero, players take the unlikely title beast higher and higher in a card-stacking structure in an effort to score the most points without bringing the whole building crashing down.
A bit more decision-making is required in Fabled Fruit, from Stronghold Games. On each turn, you move your animal token to one of six locations, each offering a different action. The goal is to collect enough fruit cards to create juice combos. What makes the game special is that once a pile of location cards is emptied, it’s replaced by a new variety — and there are 59 in the game. Want to play again? You can start with the same cards or move on to the next ones, providing a new set of actions and challenges.
Blurring the lines between game and toy, Funko Games’ FunkoVerse Strategy Game takes smaller versions of the company’s collectable pop culture figurines and sets them against each other in easy-to-play competition. The individual games are fun, but the bigger kick comes from combining sets. You can have Harry Potter characters square off against Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny from “Space Jam.” Or — no kidding — have the Joker and Catwoman vie for victory over The Golden Girls. Yes, those Golden Girls.
Disney takes a similar mix-and-match approach with its Villainous line of games from Ravensburger. Here, each edition contains a set of cinematic baddies, each with their own objective. Jafar, for instance, has to acquire the magic lamp and get the Genie under his control, while Maleficent needs a series of curses. Player interaction is minimal — this one is more about choosing actions to match a character’s devious ends.
For pure silliness, try The Table is Lava from R&R Games. Here, players toss cards to expand an “island” and populate it with wooden meeples, attempting to knock off opponents in the process.
Want to avoid competition altogether? Many newer games can be played cooperatively, with all players united on a quest. Ravensburger’s The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game creatively allows your crew to play a series of distinct adventures paralleling those in the hit 1987 film. Complete one task, turn the cardboard page, and discover another.
Lou Harry has written about tabletop games for more than a decade. When not rolling dice, he’s found time to author more than 30 books, including Kid Culture and The Biggest Trivia Book Ever (both from Cider Mill Press), and Creative Block (Running Press). By day, he edits Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists. @louharry