The 16 best family board games for 2021

07 January 2021

family playing a board game

Forget box sets - family board games can provide lots of rainy day entertainment. So we’ve rounded up the 16 best board games to suit all ages - truly the most fun you’ll find in a box this year.

If you’re looking to keep the family entertained without resorting to screens, board games are a winner with all ages.

Older generations love the nostalgia of hunkering down with a cosy board game on cold, rainy days. Kids enjoy the excitement and competition of it all, especially if you resist the urge to go all out ‘competitive parent’ and let them win every now and then.

You might want to dip into old-school classics, such as Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. Or you may prefer to try a brand spanking new title based on your favourite Disney film or the Harry Potter series.

If you’re looking for a budget- or travel-friendly family game, we’ve found those too. Here’s our roundup of the 16 best family board games. Just try not to fall out over which one you should play.

1. Best overall board game: Qwirkle

“We love Qwirkle.”

1. Best overall board game: Qwirkle

This tile-matching game is a favourite with Mumsnetters and one said, “Qwirkle was a great hit with my daughter (age eight) last Christmas.”

In the box you’ll find 108 wooden tiles with six different shapes in six colours. Using the tiles, players build lines of matching shapes or colours. Sounds simple enough, right? But strategy is needed in order to win the most points so you’ll have to flex some brain power to beat everyone else.

The game scores highly for its straightforward rules and fun factor on game review sites. Also, as it’s suitable from age six, you should be able to get most of the family involved.

  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 6+
  • Playing time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

Price: £18.99

Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

2. Best budget board game: Bananagrams

“Bananagrams is a bit like Scrabble but faster and more portable! Lots of fun for playing with different ages as you play your own game rather than using one board in the middle.”

2. Best budget board game: Bananagrams

An excellent budget buy, this fun game also ticks the ‘travel game’ box because it comes encased in a compact banana-shaped pouch.

There’s no pencil or paper – just 144 letter tiles which players use to spell words in their own ever-changing grids, all while shouting hilarious catchphrases including ‘peel,’ ‘split’ and ‘dump.’

There are several versions of the game, with a junior version suitable for kids who are just learning to read. The classic version is suitable for ages seven and over. Mumsnetters go bananas over this side-splitting word play game and we reckon you will too. Just don’t slip up!

  • Players: 1-8
  • Age: 7+
  • Playing time: 15 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

3. Best for small children: Orchard Toys Smelly Wellies

“Orchard Toys Smelly Wellies is a favourite here.”

3. Best for small children: Orchard Toys Smelly Wellies

Orchard Toys games are a safe bet for younger kids – they’re educational, ‘teacher tested’ and so much fun.

Smelly Wellies will appeal to most preschoolers and younger primary school kids, although older children might not want to get involved.

The premise is simple – players turn over cards to find matching pairs of wellies for their friendly monsters! There are two ways of playing the game, making it more adaptable to different ages and abilities.

  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 2-6
  • Playing time: 10 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

4. Best for teens: Articulate Fame

“Articulate is good fun.”

4. Best for teens: Articulate Fame

A great group game option for parties (remember those?), Articulate Fame is a new version of the classic fast-talking description game Articulate.

Ideal for celeb obsessives, teens and adults, Articulate Fame offers three speedy rounds. Round one is classic Articulate – describe as many celebrities as possible in 30 seconds. Round two – describe the same celebs using only two words. Round three – describe them again using only one word.

  • Players: Minimum of 4 players but it can accommodate 20+ players (obviously this isn’t permitted in the current circumstances)
  • Age: 12+
  • Playing time: 20 mins
  • Difficulty: Moderate

5. Best for the whole family: Ticket to Ride London

“Ticket to Ride is very popular with my 12- and 15-year-olds.”

“This is one of our 10-year-old’s favourite games – he loves the strategy.”

5. Best for the whole family: Ticket to Ride London

Praised for being simple yet exciting by board game fans, Ticket to Ride is one you can enjoy with all the family because it appeals to different age groups.

The original 2004 version featured a steam train ride across North America and has now branched out into other locations such as Nordic countries, Europe and New York.

It’s a firm favourite on our forums, with one Mumsnetter saying, “Yes to Ticket to Ride. We’ve got Europe, but kids are campaigning for other locations.” This London version sees players jumping aboard a double-decker bus to race each other past Buckingham Palace, the British Museum and Big Ben. If only the morning commute was this thrilling.

  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 8+
  • Playing time: 30-60 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

6. Best classic board game (with a twist): Trivial Pursuit Family Edition

“We love family Trivial Pursuit.”

6. Best classic board game (with a twist): Trivial Pursuit Family Edition

If you’re keen to introduce your kids to Trivial Pursuit, but aren’t sure they’re old enough to understand the complexity of the rules and questions, this junior version should hit the spot.

Featuring child-friendly rules and topics, it’s suitable for kids aged eight and above. There’s also ripe opportunity for giggles, as one Mumsnetter reported:
“Playing junior Trivial Pursuit with DS. Question: Which of the following sports does not involve horses? Possible answers: a) Polo b) Dressage or c) Water Polo. I so wish the answer was a or b.”

  • Players: 2–6
  • Age range: 8+
  • Playing time: 90 mins
  • Difficulty: Moderate

7. Best cooperative board game: Cauldron Quest

“My kids loved Cauldron Quest from age five. It’s non-competitive and the players work together against the game, so it’s easy to explain what to do without them feeling like you are helping too much.”

7. Best cooperative board game: Cauldron Quest

Let’s face it – family board game sessions -usually- occasionally end in arguments, especially if you’re a competitive type.

Cauldron Quest solves this issue by bringing players together to beat an evil force threatening the kingdom. If your common enemy, the wizard, blocks all paths before you can make a magical potion as a team, evil triumphs and everyone loses collectively.

Of course, if you prefer to have a clear winner every time you play a board game, Cauldron Quest won’t deliver this. But by encouraging collaboration, communication, problem solving and strategising, this game will teach your kids important skills without them realising – result!

  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 6+
  • Playing time: 20 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

8. Most appropriate for 2020: Pandemic

“Pandemic is actually a really good team game – family versus the board.”

8. Most appropriate for 2020: Pandemic

The priciest offering on our list, this classic game has never seemed more appropriate – or inappropriate, depending on where you stand on this sort of thing.

The premise is scarily realistic – four deadly diseases are spreading across the world and it’s up to you to contain the epidemics while researching vital cures.

Pandemic promotes cooperative play by getting all players to join forces in an attempt to save the world. In other words, you and your family will have no choice but to bond and work as a team – and let’s face it, in times like these, that can only be a positive thing.

  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Playing time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: Hard

Price: £31.95

Buy now from Amazon

9. Best for film buffs: Blockbuster Game

9. Best for film buffs: Blockbuster Game

The Blockbuster Game is perfect for film buffs of all ages. We reckon that it’s one of the best board games for parties too.

Players compete in a buzzer battle round, shouting out as many movie titles as possible before time runs out. The next round sees players acting out Hollywood films – cue hilarity when you get ‘Magic Mike.’

The game is suitable from 12+ but whippersnappers may struggle with the more (ahem) ‘nostalgic’ films.

  • Players: 4-12
  • Age: 12+
  • Playing time: 60 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

Price: £19.99

Buy now from Amazon

10. Best for Disney fans: Disney Villainous

10. Best for Disney fans: Disney Villainous

Cinderella and co get all the attention, but we’d rather go for a pint with Maleficent and the Queen of Hearts. If you’re a sucker for a Disney villain, you’ll love this wicked family board game from Prospero Hall and Ravensburger.

Disney Villainous gives House of Mouse’s bad ‘uns – including Captain Hook, Jafar and Ursula – a chance to rewrite Disney history and finally fulfil their evil schemes. If only those pesky Disney heroes weren’t lurking at every corner!

Since its launch in 2018, Villainous has proved so popular that three expansion games have been released, including the latest featuring Cruella de Vil and Mother Gothel. All together now: “Mother knows BEST!”

  • Players: 2-6
  • Age: 10+
  • Playing time: 50 mins
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Price: £34.99

Buy now from Smyths

11. Best travel board game: Dobble

“Dobble is very addictive.”

“Dobble, a symbol-matching game, is brilliant from the age of six.”

11. Best travel board game: Dobble

This simple, but super fun and compelling, word game does what it says on the tin. It also comes in a pretty nifty tin, making it an ideal travel game. Players turn over one card, then another and compete to be the first to spot the matching symbol on each one, which means you’ll need sharp eyes and quick reflexes.

Okay, so it’s not strictly a board game, but it’s so much more than a card game too. Straightforward for kids to learn and challenging enough for adults to enjoy, it’s ideal if you don’t want to shell out too much money.

  • Players: 2-8
  • Age: 6+
  • Playing time: 15 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

Price: £12.99

Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

12. Best for teamwork: Scotland Yard

“We all like Scotland Yard. DS is five and he usually teams up if he plays the robber or plays solo if he’s a cop. It’s a brilliant collaborative game.”

12. Best for teamwork: Scotland Yard

In this cops and robbers chase game, players work together to catch a villain on the streets of London. One player takes the role of the mysterious Mr X while the rest work together as Scotland Yard’s finest.

It’s a great way of getting family members cooperating with each other, especially if you have younger players on board. The game is suitable for eight years and older, but there’s also a junior version for children age six and above.

  • Players: 2 or more
  • Age: 8+
  • Playing time: 60 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy

13. Best strategy board game: Castle Panic

“Castle Panic is a favourite with my eight-year-old and 11-year-old.”

13. Best strategy board game: Castle Panic

It’s all about the strategy with this fast-moving defence game. Players band together to defend their castle from armies of monsters attacking from the forest on the edges of the board. Players either win together or lose together – it’s all or nothing.

Mumsnetters love Castle Panic for the collaborative aspect. Who doesn’t like to see your kids playing happily together rather than bickering?

At almost £30, it’s not a cheap option by any stretch, but with games lasting up to an hour, you should get your money’s worth.

  • Players: 1-6
  • Age: 10+
  • Playing time: 60 mins
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Price: £32.41

Buy now from Amazon

14. Best for Harry Potter fans: Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle

“Best game ever."

14. Best for Harry Potter fans: Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle

Forget Diagon Alley. Hogwarts wannabes need look no further. Award-winning Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle should tick all your wizard-related needs.

Players can choose between assuming the role of Neville, Ron, Hermione or Harry himself. Their challenge – to defend Hogwarts against evil forces and the Dark Arts. Working together, players must come up with tactics to drive back the enemy, using magical items and spells.

It’s a detailed game with lots to remember so it’s not suitable for younger kids. It can last a mind-boggling 90 minutes in total too, so make sure you’re happy to be in it for the long haul. Play it right though and you’ll be a wizard too, just like Harry.

  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 11+
  • Playing time: 30-60 mins
  • Difficulty: Moderate

15. Most adaptable board game: Labyrinth

“Labyrinth – we love it. You can play in several different ways to make it easier or harder depending on the kids’ ages.”

“Labyrinth is brilliant. I hate board games ordinarily, but I’m always happy to play this.”

15. Most adaptable board game: Labyrinth

Reviewers say this is a family game for all ages because there are various ways to play according to ability. In Labyrinth, every player is a treasure hunter searching for spoils in a fast-moving maze. You can’t have a long-term strategy because the board is constantly changing.

It’s great for teaching kids the importance of quick decision-making. It’s competitive rather than collaborative because players are pitted against each other, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition, right?

This is also the best board game for two players that we’ve found – although it can accommodate up to four.

  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 7+
  • Playing time: 30 mins
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Price: £16.99

Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

16. Best for pre-teens: Monopoly Roald Dahl Edition

“I loved playing Monopoly with my dad when I was younger because he never just let me win, but taught me strategy.”

16. Best for pre-teens: Monopoly Roald Dahl Edition

Let’s face it, Monopoly is one of the greatest board games ever. You’ve probably played it at least once in your lifetime – as well as having at least one blazing Monopoly-related family row too.

This high octane classic board game does tend to bring out people’s, erm, argumentative side. As one Mumsnetter put it: “I’m way too Gordon Gekko with Monopoly.”

With this in mind, it could be wise to make a pact with your fellow players not to not take it all too seriously. Then again, the fact that this version is based on the books of Roald Dahl might help.

It’s not cheap but the box alone justifies the price tag, thanks to the gorgeous Quentin Blake illustrations. Players compete to invest in legendary locations including Wonka’s chocolate factory and Crunchem Hall. But beware of Witches, Giants and jail!

  • Players: 2 or more
  • Age: 8+
  • Playing time: 30-60 mins
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Our verdict: the best family board games

For teens, we rate Articulate Fame – the fast-moving description game that provides endless laughs. Our favourite for pre-teens is the Monopoly: Roald Dahl Edition – a great twist on a modern classic. Our favourite game for younger kids is Orchard Toys Smelly Wellies as it provides lots of hilarious, age-appropriate fun.

Overall, the best family board game is Qwirkle – a firm favourite with games reviewers and parents alike for fast-paced all-round family fun suitable for most ages.

How we chose our recommendations

Most of our recommendations for family board games came from families themselves. We searched the Mumsnet forums for posts about which family board games Mumsnetters really loved. We also researched various game review sites to find the best-rated titles, including budget games, travel games and games for all ages.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.

Mumsnet carries some affiliate marketing links, so if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale (more details here).