As a dad to kids aged 7-15, I'm all about games that the whole family can play, but doing so with enough complexity to keep everyone engaged WITHOUT just being a party game - that's a mighty difficult balance to achieve. But I heartily recommend the delightful, whimsical Flamecraft from Cardboard Alchemy in which you get to build a town full of TINY DRAGONS!
We Didn't Start The Fire
As a Flamekeeper, you raise your artisan dragons to help out in shops, turning your town into a thriving, Dragon-loving community and attracting the rarest, Fancy Sun and Moon dragons to score bonus points. Different breeds of dragon (bread, meat, iron, crystal, plant and potion) provide different rewards when you visit the shops, or you can yourself improve the shops by adding Enchantments - again, making the town a better place for everyone! I will say that I bought my own copy of this purely based on the premise and aesthetic, and am so glad that I did.
Who's A Pretty Dragon?
Oh, this game is lovely. Beautiful art, staggering component quality - high GSM tokens and cards with lovely art , stitched Playmat, dragon meeples, dividers and plenty of baggies. But it's not just physically attractive - the gameplay is slick and manages to tread the line between versus and cooperative, as you are rewarded for helping the other players as you build the town and improve your dragons. Don't be deceived though, this is a more complex game than it seems. It comes with the BEST out-of-the box playmat I've seen (an elegant double-stitched table runner), and I love the extension content (again, all there in the box) - the optional helper dragons named after the design team, or solo mode's unlockable achievements in true video game style - it's all so good.
Bad Dra... Wait, No, That's Something Else Entirely
A very VERY minor gripe for Flamecraft - I would like the goods tokens to be different shapes as well as different colours, simply from accessibility. Notably, the deluxe wooden tokens, coming later this year, are this exactly. In addition, arguably, it's more complex than it seems which may actually put some folk off. It's quite challenging for 8-10 year olds, I suppose, and though they're not the recommended age, they WILL want to play it! Also, apart from the fact that it does take up a bit of table space (though again - it has great presence), I'm really struggling to find a quibble... maybe a quickstart? This is a game that has non gamer and young gamer appeal, so I guess a bit more mass market accessibility? I'm clutching here, though, because the rulebook is clear and well structured.
Real Dragons, Reasonably Priced
Highly recommended, it's a perfect next-step game to get folk playing something with a wee bit more of a challenge from the likes of staples such as Catan, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride.