With Christmas approaching, I thought it might be useful to discuss those great grown-up games that kids can love too. Just in case you want to get them something more interesting than Mousetrap or Monopoly for Christmas!
Everyone’s favourite gateway co-op game is also a great game to introduce your kids to. Can you cure all four diseases in time to save the world?
The rules are fairly simple. Draw two country cards, take four actions (move or cure diseases are the most common), and then draw some infection cards adding disease cubes. The fact it's a visual game, played on a map with coloured disease cubes scattered around really helps, and letting the children draw the infection cards on your turn helps engage them.
The fact it's co-op means you can easily discuss actions together, letting the children make their own decisions while guiding them when needed. Adjustable difficulty mean that you can remove epidemic cards in the set-up so that victory is still achievable no matter the age and ability of your children, and you can give them the more straightforward role cards during their first games.
Highly recommended if you want something a bit more taxing than Forbidden Island, and if they do love it, there are plenty of expansions out there.
Imagine Cluedo mixed with Dixit and you have Mysterium. There has been a murder!! The victim has returned as ghost on Halloween, and several psychics have gathered to try and piece together what happened on that fateful night – through the interpretation of abstract pictures!
You have seven hours (turns) for the psychics to work out who killed the ghost, where, and with what weapon. The ghost (naturally) can't speak, and will try to influence them by giving each player between one and seven of the picture cards they have drawn from a big stack. These are all beautifully illustrated cards, but very abstract.
So, the ghost may pass over several cards of the same colour, or with sharp or metal things to illustrate a sword, or cards showing rain or the sea to try and indicate the bathroom. Because each card has so much going on though, trying to decipher these can be challenging.
It's another co-op game, it's great for children as the rules essentially boil down to “which of the cards in the middle do you think these cards are like?” There is also discussion where you can help them. A word of warning from my own experience though – if they want to play the ghost, you may not expect to win!
Descent: Journeys in the Dark
A dungeon crawler with an epic campaign that can span tens of hours for the adults. A fun “smash the monsters” game with great miniature figures for the children.
One player plays the overlord who controls the monsters, and the other players are the heroes who will have an objective dependent on the scenario. Again, the rules are fairly simple. You have two actions, including moving or attacking (pretty much all my children do!), searching or using the heroes’ special powers.
The overlord can also be played by children, although it's slightly more important here to make use of the special cards it gets, and will probably require you to set-up the game for them. Half the fun here is for the children to gang up and beat the parent, although there is a free companion app that lets you all team up against the AI overlord.
Each campaign can be played separately as a one-off, you can invent your own, or as the kids get more into it, you can play proper campaigns including levelling up and buying items between missions. And there are more expansions for this than you could imagine!
Ticket to Ride: Europe
Another very accessible game with simple rules but a lot of strategic depth. On your turn you either pick up two train cards, or lay down a set of coloured trains to place your little model trains on a route on the map, scoring points depending on the length of the route.
For younger children, that's enough and good fun. As they get the hang of it, you can introduce the mission cards, where you have to fill a secret route between two specific stations for bonus points, which in turn leads to more strategic train placement as you want to block others’ routes.
The game plays out within an hour, with turns fast enough that there is no downtime for the kids to be bored between turns. As with most of the other games on this list, there are different versions of Ticket to Ride, covering different maps around the world and introducing new mechanics if this proves popular.
My favourite “party game”. Word cards are laid out in a 5x5 grid, and each of the two teams has a spymaster who has an overlay showing some words as blue, some red and some neutral (as well as one assassin that ends the game).
The spymaster has to announce one word and a number to link as many cards as possible, i.e. if they have to link “Bear”, “Chicken” and “pet” they may say “Animal, 3.” The difficulty comes in make sure there isn't also anything else you could associate with animal among the remaining cards.
The rest of the team then work together to guess which words their spymaster means. Easy to play with children as the guessers, and it's also great fun to watch them be spymaster and see how their minds work, and encouraging them to try and to link two words at least each time.
For younger children, there are so many words supplied that you can replace any that may cause difficulty. Great for kids as can be set up in seconds and a game can last just a few minutes.
There is also a picture version which plays in a similar vein.