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5 Games To Play With Your Kids While Enjoying Them Yourself


Can playing games with the entire family give the same gaming experience as playing with your friends? Below is a list of games that I've found work best for me and my kids together (ages 5, 7, 10, and 12).

The Parental Dilemma

If you are anything like me, you take your games seriously. You love the interactions, immerse yourself in the theme, savor every detail, and do your best to crush your friends while playing. However, if you're also like me, when your five-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter spot you with a colorful box with a shape of a board game, they immediately want to join in. Naturally, being a good parent, you eventually run out of excuses and agree. But then you have to switch from gamer mode to parent mode: ensuring everyone has a role, nobody is losing too badly, no one gets eliminated, everyone knows the rules, and trying your best to keep the peace.

So, how can you manage all that and still have fun? You need to find the right games! The following games are rated on four criteria: how much effort you need to put in as a parent, how much the kids enjoy it, the risk of tears, and the challenge of including a young child who doesn't fully understand adult games. These games are intended to be playable by the whole family: me, my two almost-teenagers, my first-grade daughter, and my adorable five-year-old who is still in kindergarten and can't yet read.

Camel Up

Try your luck at the ancient sport of camel racing! This fast-paced, slightly crazy gambling game has you placing bets on the camels as they race. However, the camels don’t always behave as expected; they can stack on top of each other, get spooked, or leap forward with help from the audience. Some even go in the wrong direction.

This is a gambling game made into a board game. There is an amount of strategy here, but mainly you try to be the first one to place bets on the wining/losing camel.

Parental labor effect: 7/10.

I often found myself reminding each player to take their turn, explaining their options, and gently encouraging them to play. However, because the game is so simple, it generally flows smoothly.

Kids fun factor: 8/10

There’s not much to explain here—everyone loves to gamble.

The offended kid effect: 9/10

Since no one knows who placed the best bets until the end, no child feels like they’re losing throughout the game. I rarely have a crying or upset kid after a Camel Up session.

The random Player effect: 7/10

My youngest doesn’t fully understand the game, but that doesn’t stop him from winning occasionally. Since the game is based on luck, all players are essentially random players.

Overall: 8/10

This game isn’t a serious one and isn’t always our first choice. But once we start playing, we usually play at least twice because everyone has so much fun.

Don’t Mess With Cthulhu – Deluxe Edition

In the world of cosmic horrors, as we all know, the population can be split into two groups: The tough investigators seeking to uncover the universe's horrible truths, and the mad cultists who try to… You know… Also seeking to uncover the universe's horrible truths, but in a really really bad way. This Cthulhu game is a light, easy-to-learn, and surprisingly fun secret identity game.

Each player receives a role—investigator or cultist—and a bunch of cards. Some cards are beneficial for the investigators, some for the cultists, and some are useless. The starting player also gets the flashlight, which he use to uncover a random card from another player. If an elder sign is uncovered, the investigators advance. If the great Cthulhu is revealed, the cultists win immediately. The player then hands the flashlight to the player he investigated, who then controls which player to investigate next. Occasionally, the cards are shuffled and redistributed to increase the game's overall chaos.

Parental labor factor: 9/10

This game runs particularly smoothly. There are few choices to be made, and aside from bluffing and accusing each other of lying, there’s not much for parents to manage. I could relax, focus on the game, and enjoy watching the kids try to deceive me.

Kids fun factor: 7/10

The kids loved the game's overall chaos. From my little five-year-old to my teenager who tends to lose focus, they all seemed really engaged.

The offended kid effect: 6/10

The good part is that the game rounds are short, and there is no player elimination, so kids don’t take losing too seriously. However, it was frustrating for my youngest child when he couldn’t make any useful moves. I could feel it was too hard for him and he knew it.

The random player effect: 9/10

My youngest (5) acted like a random player, as the intrigue part was too complicated for him. But this actually made the game more challenging for everyone else, increasing the total chaos intended for this type of game.

Overall: 8/10

We all enjoyed the game, kids and parents alike. It was a bit too much for my youngest, who struggled until he finally won a round by himself. I would recommend it for kids ages 6 and above as a light social deduction game that can be played with the whole family.

Cash n’ Guns

After a job well done, it's time to share the loot evenly. The problem is, each player has their own definition of "evenly."

This is a simple game. There’s loot on the table, and everyone has a gun. The game takes place over 8 turns, during which each player can decide to load their gun with one of their only three real bullets or to fake it. Then, everyone simultaneously points their gun at someone. Once all guns are drawn, a final countdown begins, and at the end, each player must either take cover or shout "BONZAI!" and hope for the best. Whoever is still standing and didn’t get shot gets a share of the loot. It's as simple as that.

Parental labor factor: 6/10.

There are lots of countdowns and guidance needed in this game. It can be a bit daunting.

Kids fun factor: factor: 9/10

The kids love this game. I found that they particularly enjoy pointing guns at each other.

The offended kid effect: 7/10

The main issue is that sometimes a player gets constantly targeted each turn, which can be frustrating. I've had my share of crying kids who didn’t get a chance to do anything because they always had to duck. Some parental management is needed, especially when playing with younger kids.

The random player effect: 8/10

It is a bluffing game. Actually, little kids who don’t understand how to play often tend to be more predictable. On any way, that didn’t seem to bother anyone.

Overall: 7/10

The kids love this game. As a parent, it can be a bit draining. But when you have the energy, it can be a fun game to play.


OK, so we all know this game. After COVID, pandemic is to board games what NVIDIA is to the semiconductor industry – right time, right place. In this cooperative game, you are all trying to save the world from four(!) different plagues. In general, cooperative games are great to play with your kids, as you can always steer the younger ones to make the right moves so the experience isn't ruined for the older kids. Everyone feels like they play a significant role.

Parental labor factor: 6/10.

There’s a good chance you’ll end up cunningly running your younger kids turns. Along with the regular game management it usually takes.

Kids fun factor: 7/10

I’ve found that this is a good way to pass the time. The kids aren’t overly excited, especially the youngest ones, but they do enjoy it when you win together.

The offended kid effect: 9/10

As a classic cooperative game, everyone is important, everyone feels important, and no one loses alone.

The random player effect: 7/10

Once in a while one of the youngsters insists that he must be the one who cures this particular disease, even if it doesn’t make sense in the game. Over the years, I’ve decided to treat this as a fun little random difficulty increase. It helps counter the fact that my kids always want to play at the easiest levels.

Overall: 7/10

This game feels like a classic, akin to Monopoly or Clue. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but it is a good, simple cooperative game, which is generally great for families of all ages.

8Bit Box

If you are not just a simple normal parent, but an old one, you'll be delighted with this retro 8-bit arcade game console simulator. The game is beautifully designed like an old gaming console and comes with "controllers," each containing three different programmable wheels. Besides the controllers, there are various complementary game pieces and three "game cassettes"—small boxes with even more components! Each cassette is its own game, but all games essentially involve bluffing, programming, or pushing your luck using the neat controllers.

Parental labor factor: 8/10

These games are easy and fast-paced, so not much management is needed. The gameplay generally flows smoothly.

Kids fun factor: 8/10

Everyone loves playing with the controllers! The games are well-designed, and the kids were pretty enthusiastic about playing.

The offended kid effect: 6/10

Some of the games involve player elimination, which can be catastrophic for those affected. Additionally, I noticed that in certain games, my older kids realized early on that they didn’t stand a chance of winning, leading to an immediate loss of interest. The game could be better designed to mitigate these issues. However, it's worth noting that all games are relatively short, allowing for a fresh start if needed.

The random player effect: 8/10

The games are simple, arcade-style experiences. My 5 years old actually did well on most them. He even won a couple of times. As mentioned before, in luck-based games, all players are essentially random players.

Overall: 7/10

This offers a nostalgic experience for parents and a new one for kids. It’s not too deep or complex but works well as a family game. I wanted to give it a solid 8/10, but the player count is a significant issue. One game can only be played with an even number of players, and another works only in 4 players, which can be restrictive (they do offer a 3 player variant though).

Honorable mentions and final thoughts

"Saboteur" is another game that works well with my kids. When they insist on playing something and I'm really tired, I can always pull out the 5-minute game of "Zombie Dice" for a fun bonding experience of brain-eating. Another highly recommended game, especially with youngsters, is "Dragon Cave," where all players take on the roles of both brave dwarves and the mighty dragon who lurks in the cave.

In conclusion, the best games I've found are light, fast-paced, and usually revolve around one simple mechanism. Cooperative games mitigate the risk of crying, push-your-luck games level the playing field, and bluffing games works for kids as they are for adults (I've discovered that my princess daughter is suspiciously good at deception and bluffing games).

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