Board Games For Couples & Families

I’ve had a number of people ask me for board game recommendations for couples, families or friends who want to have fun while trapped in the house. My husband and I have a growing collection and a very specific focus on co-operative and indirectly-competitive board games. Here’s a quick write-up and details of our favourites.

Disclaimer – husband & I run on the nerdy side so many of these are not mainstream at all.

Terms:
Co-operative: players work together to win.
Competitive: players actively try to stop each other from winning.
Indirectly Competitive: only one player wins, but limited ability to affect each other (like golf). Good if players tend to get heated.

Incan Gold
Players see who’s brave enough to adventure deeper & get more treasure as things get more dangerous. Like a game of ‘chicken’.
Simple.
Indirectly competitive.
Short play time.
Very fun & casual.

Forbidden Desert
Explore a random desert made of tiles. Find parts to fix your blimp & escape. Quite fun. Lends it self to story telling roleplay if that’s your thing.
Co-operative.
Medium length.
Medium complexity.

Galaxy Trucker
Build your spaceship by placing Tetris-like tiles together to try & make the best ship before the time runs out.
Great for visual people who are good at visual puzzles like Tetris.
Can be frantic & funny.
Medium complexity.
Short-medium length (you can decide how many rounds).
Indirectly competitive.
Expansions available. Great group game.

Pandemic
A classic & very popular game.
Try to cure diseases before they spread across the globe.
Co-operative.
Medium complexity.
Medium-long play time.

Pandemic Legacy Season 1 & 2
The single best game my husband & I have ever played. This is a ‘legacy’ style game meaning you destroy the pieces as you play & each session builds on the previous one. Cure diseases around the world, work as a team. Improve your character.
Different than normal Pandemic.
Very, very fun & rewarding. Feels like a true adventure.
Complex but worth it.
Med – long playtime.
Co-operative.
Must play with same partner or group every time.
12-24 play sessions included. Game is destroyed by the end.
A tad expensive.
More seasons available.
Highly, highly recommended.

Smallworld
Like a more casual & silly version of Risk. Capture territory & use the abilities of your race.
Competitive.
Medium complexity.
Med-Long play time.

Codenames
Try to get your partner to guess related words.
Wide appeal.
Easy.
Med playtime.
Use a timer to avoid long periods of waiting.
Competitive. Partner based.
Quick setup/put away time.

Alhambra
Place tiles to build the fanciest palace. Great for visual/spacial puzzle folks.
Easy.
Medium play time.
Indirectly competitive.
Quick setup/put away time.

Dominion
Deck building game. Choose cards to make the most advantageous play deck. Try to get rich. Great for math lovers, card counters & casual strategy folks.
Easy.
Short play time.
Indirectly competitive.

Zombies!!!
Explore a city overrun with zombies. Random tiles are placed, slowly revealing city streets. Move your guy around, avoid zombies, enter buildings to find supplies & ammo. Get to the helipad.
Players can work together or not.
Medium complexity.
Medium-long playtime but you can shorten it by making the helipad appear sooner.
Competitive.
Nice visual style & pieces in this game. If you like The Walking Dead – this will be fun.
Expansions available.

Terraforming Mars
Competitive.
Place tiles to terra-form Mars more than other players.
Nice sci-fi empire-building theme. Fans of The Martian novel might like this.
Med-complexity.
Medium-long.

Gloomhaven
Top rated game on Board Game Geek.
Most people aren’t hardcore nerds enough to play this game. LOL. But I want to illustrate to anyone reading, that board games run the full range of casual to complex, wide appeal to specialized appeal. And the quality of some games is WAY beyond what you see in most stores (with real thought & great physical pieces put in to their design).
You can find very story-driven games that progress further each time you play.
Couples who are in a rut of just watching tv each night, might find real joy in exploring the world of board games. And kids at about 10 years old can play all of these games with adult help. 😊
Gloomhaven is a $150 beast of a game that weighs more than my 4 year old (seriously, the box is almost a crate!) But we have gotten several dozens of hours of fun from it & are only half-way through. This is a deep, high-quality, very long game. You absolutely get what you pay for – a ton of value in this game. But way overkill for casual board game folks.
Co-operative.
Complex.
Very long.
Highly strategic.
Legacy style game – you unlock and put stickers on things as you play.
Each play session is a new adventure that builds on the previous. You level up your characters. Buy equipment. The game gets harder. Feels intense. Quite hard.
Very long set-up and put away time. Suggest having an area where you can just leave it.

Dead of Winter
A fun co-op zombie apocalypse game with NPC survivors to take care of, weapons to find, locations to visit and group quests to solve. Has a mechanic where one player might betray the rest – you can remove that if desired. If you like The Walking Dead tv show/comic you’ll like this.
Co-operative.
About 1-1.5 hour play time.
Quick setup/put away.
Expansions available.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
No board or dice. You get a case booklet & you talk to witnesses & gather clues.
Players work together reading & jotting down clues. Try to solve the case.
Mainly reading & talking.
Simple game system, but complex mysteries to solve.
Takes about 2 hours per case.
Quite fun.
A must for mystery fans.

Lord Of The Rings – Living Card Game
This is a strategic deck-based game similar to Magic The Gathering, however each game follows the stories from the books, and 2-4 players can play together. There is a starter set of cards and expansions introduce more cards and quests to improve your deck. Very fun if you like MTG but want to play co-operatively. Quests are played in story order.
Co-operative.
Medium-long play time.
Medium-hard difficulty.
Can get expensive if you buy a lot of expansions.

Arkham Horror
Fans of the horror genre or the Cthulhu myths will love this game. Play alone or as a group of paranormal adventurers and save the world. Travel dimensions, visit locations in a city and try to stay sane.
Fun group game, supports 1-8 players.
Co-operative.
Nicely themed.
Medium-long play time.

Exit – Escape Room Games
There are many of these inexpensive one-time use, at-home escape room in a box games.
Very fun.
Several difficulty levels.
About 1 hour to play.
Co-operative.
Very fun & feels great if you ‘escape’.

Honorable Mentions:
– 7 Wonders
– Shadows Over Camelot
– Space Cadets
– Netrunner
– 5-Minute Dungeon

Final Words

Well, these are our favourites. If you shop for board games, I recommend checking out Board Game Geek for information and reviews, it is the largest forum about board games and has a ton of information. For shopping, it’s great to support small local game stores. Our favourite who ships games competitively priced is 401 Games and is located in Toronto, ON, Canada. They ship to Canada and the USA.

For some games you might find small plastic organizers with dividers to be helpful.

Above all, have fun!!

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