Fun Family Games – Supersized Encore!

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A few months ago, Dad Kingdom reviewed eight games aimed at Preschool children. We wanted to see if any could be enjoyed by the whole family, or if adults were destined to die slow and boring deaths from mindless “roll & move” mechanics (I’m looking at you, Candy Land). Well, the reader response was tremendous, so we’re back for an ENCORE! As it turns out, fun family games aren’t as hard to find as I originally thought! Many have recently said that we’re in a “golden age” of the board game industry, and I’m beginning to realize that this sentiment applies to children’s and family games as well. There’s no need for dry Milton Bradley “classics” with cheap plastic components when you can play delightfully well-made gems from the likes of Iello, Blue Orange, Gamewright, Peaceable Kingdom and HABA. I know it’s cliche’ to say, but kids seriously don’t know how good they’ve got it made!

Cauldron Quest

If your kid loves witches or wizards, this is a “must-have.”

My 3-year-old daughter wasn’t quite ready for Cauldron Quest a few months ago, but kids grow up incredibly fast. Now that she “get it,” she likes the circular movement and avoiding the wizard’s hat. Her favorite part is revealing the secret potion ingredients. If your kid loves witches or wizards, this is a “must-have.”

As for me, I’m fond of the co-operative gameplay mechanics. However, I don’t love when the secondary dice get involved. It doesn’t spoil the game, but the regular six-sided dice feel anti-thematic. I prefer the primary dice with fun thematic icons (hat, lightning, etc.).

The components are okay: Thick cardboard tokens, good dice, green plastic pawns and a big wizard’s hat. Although, I think that a big purple hat deserves a big sturdy base.

Dr. Eureka

Dr. Eureka is one of several Blue Orange games based on logic, objective-matching and speed. (While teaching the game to a young child, just omit the “speed” part.) Dr. Eureka, Dr. Microbe and Go Go Gelato! are all very similar, but there are some differences. My daughter struggled at times to complete the pictured objective without “cheating” (holding some of the colored balls in her hand). To be fair, so did I – those balls are tricky. Plus, mix a preschooler and small round components – you’re just asking for stuff to roll under the couch!

Dr. Microbe

family games
Elusive little bugs. (Photo by Heath Washburn – DadKingdom.com)

Every kid is different, but Dr. Microbe came more naturally for my daughter (compared to Dr. Eureka). She liked the “which of these is unlike the others” and “fill in the blank” logic puzzle. She also loved using the orange forceps to pick things up – I have to agree, that part is fun. A plastic organizer insert wins a point from me too.

No offense to the other “doctor,” but I prefer not to chase colored balls all around the house. If I HAD to find a negative, I could presume that this game is not good for grandparents with vision challenges (tiny microbes) or arthritis (squeezing forceps).

Dr. Microbe is one of our favorite family games now, but will be even better when my kids are slightly older and we can focus on the “speed” aspect. After that, I’m eager to introduce my favorite objective-based game, Takenoko.

Feed the Kitty

It could be taught to a two-year-old, assuming they will sit still long enough.

This is the most accessible and easiest to learn game in the bunch. It could be taught to a two-year-old, assuming they will sit still long enough. Unfortunately, it’s simplicity makes it fairly boring for adults and older kids. My daughter loves it, it’s cute, but the mechanics get quite repetitive.

Feed the Kitty has a plastic bowl, two dice and a pile of wooden purple mice. Players take turns rolling the dice and following the icons – either put a mouse in the bowl, take one out or pass one to another player. This process continues until one player gets rid of all their mice. Simple, right?

Flying Kiwis

family games
Princess spectators watch the kiwis fly. (Photo by Heath Washburn – DadKingdom.com)

Say hello to our one and only projectile game! I love good box design and inserts that help keep pieces organized. In that sense, Blue Orange has found a spot in my heart (With the help of few little baggies). There’s very little setup time because the box for Flying Kiwis IS the game board, made to look like a wood crate. Cool stuff!

Pick one of the four colors, aim your kiwi launcher and fire away! They’re fairly inaccurate, but not frustratingly so. This really is a fun game for all ages. I certainly don’t mind when my daughter pulls this one off the shelf. The kiwi tokens have just enough weight to maintain a trajectory, but they’re light enough that getting hit with one will elicit laughter, not tears. I’m a little worried about how much the launchers will degrade over time. But, so far, so good! Still, it would have been nice to include a few replacement elastic bands – just in case.

Go Go Gelato!

Add this to the list of family games where you are tasked with completing the objectives shown on the cards. Unlike the two “doctor” games, this one involves more dexterity. Sometimes the cones and ice cream balls must be stacked precariously! You’re not supposed to touch the ice cream – only the cones – but of course my daughter doesn’t really follow that rule. Nevertheless, we have a lot of fun working together to solve the sugary-sweet puzzles. Naturally, I crave dessert afterwards. Not a good game if you’re dieting!

My only wish is that the ice cream balls weren’t perfect spheres. First, ice cream scoops aren’t perfect. But, more importantly (to me at least), spheres like to wander off. As with Dr. Eureka, who’s the one to go chasing balls when they roll off the table and under the couch? Daddy, that’s who.


Master Fox

family games
Foxy lady. (Photo by Heath Washburn – DadKingdom.com)

A tactile awareness game that involves wearing masks and blindly feeling around for animal shapes? How fun! Despite my daughter getting frustrated – she didn’t like having a mask on her face and had trouble feeling differences in the wooden pieces – this game has a uniquely fun premise. It has potential to be a bigger hit when my preschooler is a little older and better able to feel the slight differences in pieces.

The wooden animal meeples are wonderful. The fox masks were surprisingly sturdy (and obviously cute). I’ve found that all the Iello games have fantastic illustrations. This one has big colorful cards depicting which animals you must blindly search for to satisfy the mischievous Master Fox. This is one of the more original family games in this entire comparison!

Monster Chase

family games
Get in the closet, monsters! (Photo by Heath Washburn – DadKingdom.com)

Yet another Iello game with great lively artwork! I don’t love memory games, but Monster Chase is the most fun memory game I’ve ever played. Each monster has a toy that they’re afraid of and players must remember where that toy tile is located. Then when their toy weakness is matched, yell “get in the closet, monster!” and put them in the beautiful closet-shaped box. (My daughter loves yelling at the monsters and her enjoyment is contagious!) Additionally, there’s room to grow with more difficult rule variations. (Fun fact: Monster Chase is designed by Antoine Bauza, legendary creator of 7 Wonders and Takenoko.)

I really like the closet box and the rich monster illustrations on over-sized cards. If I had one gripe about the components, I would prefer thicker cardboard tokens for the toys – they’d be easier to handle and flip over.

Outfoxed

family games
Fox taking a stroll. (Photo by Heath Washburn – DadKingdom.com)

Another fox game! Gamewright (maker of the exceptional Sushi Go Party!) has produced a wonderful Clue “who-done-it” variation for families. Players must march around the beautifully-illustrated town to discover clues and figure out which fox is the thief. Clues are analyzed using the handy dandy clue decoder. It’s a clever little system using a series of dots to represent physical characteristics and accessories (glasses, a scarf, etc.). Which foxy thief has a top hat, an umbrella and a monocle? Hurry and solve the crime, before the thief makes it to their fox hole!

The components are pretty good. Cute plastic pieces organized perfectly in a plastic insert. I’d like the decoder to be more legible, but otherwise Outfoxed is an easy recommendation; A fun co-operative mystery game for the whole family.

Pengoloo

This one is a really cute memory game with sturdy wooden components. The wooden penguins are particularly well-made – with little voids for colored eggs to hide – but their details are not remarkable. It’s a perfectly fun game for children, but so many other games have set the bar extremely high for component originality and rich character. Maybe some varying facial expressions or penguin attire?

In Pengoloo, players take turns rolling dice – six colors – and searching for the corresponding hidden colored eggs. An endearing twist on the classic memory game. All in all, it’s another winner from Blue Orange games!

Rabbit Rally

family games
Winning by a hare! (Photo by Heath Washburn – DadKingdom.com)

The folks at HABA are practically experts in dexterity games, and I happen to think dexterity games make delightful family games. Rabbit Rally is a race where players use bridges of various lengths to try and reach carrots beckoning from the finish-line island. Unfortunately, your bridge selection is at the mercy of the colored die. As a bonus, this game can be played anywhere – even household items can be used as race obstacles!

*Note: Another popular HABA dexterity game is Rhino Hero. But, Dad Kingdom is going to hold out a few more months until Rhino Hero: Super Battle is released. Tell me THIS doesn’t look like fun for the whole family!

To be picky, it would be more satisfying for the wooden rabbits to “hop” across the bridges if the bridges themselves were screen-printed wood instead of punch board. Still, a strong contender among a slew of terrific family games.

The Three Little Pigs

family games
Building houses of questionable structural integrity. (Photo by Heath Washburn – DadKingdom.com)

Strategy is hard to come by in family games. Dexterity games like Animal Upon Animal and logic puzzles like Dr. Microbe are quite fun, but don’t involve any strategic choices. Now, The Three Little Pigs actually lets you make some choices – rare in this market segment. Do you roll for the sturdy brick, or use the cheaper straw to build your houses faster? Is your strategy to build several tiny houses, or stack a couple tall ones with multiple windows? Not a brain-burner for adults, but I still found the dusting of strategy to be refreshing.

I love the book-shaped box and plastic insert. In fact, all of the Iello games I reviewed have beautiful boxes and artwork. If the spinner were a little more sturdy I’d give the components a perfect 10.

Zazzy Pals – Canine Cardz

If Cauldron Quest is for witch lovers, Canine Cardz is obviously for dog lovers. This one is from a much smaller game publisher, but it still has some merit. Inside a functional travel case, Canine Cardz is just a deck of cards, a few colored bones and rules for many different games. While cute, it’s not anything incredibly original. Essentially, the various games are similar to – if not identical to – classic card games like War, Rummy, B.S., etc. Nevertheless, these are card games that I enjoyed as a kid, so I guess there’s something to be said for dressing up the classics.

20 GAME WRAP-UP

Whew! That’s a lot of family games! Combined with our last game comparison, we’re talking 20+ games overall! Thanks for sticking with us through it all.

Going strictly by Dad Kingdom’s overall ratings, we think the best of these 20 family games are Animal Upon AnimalDr. Microbe and The Three Little Pigs. But, we can also confidently recommend any game with an overall rating of 7 or better. Every family is different though; Pick a game with a theme and gameplay mechanics that will resonate with yours.

*Edit 9/25/17: Lately we’ve been playing a ton of Kingdomino from Blue Orange games. My daughter loves it even though she doesn’t quite grasp the scoring process. We have a great time drafting tiles and creating our kingdoms!

Most of these family games really impressed me with their production value. Some of the component quality even put to shame some adult games that cost twice as much! If you buy one, it’s likely to be enjoyed for years to come.

Dad Kingdom was not paid for these reviews, however free promotional product was received. Opinions expressed are purely that of Dad Kingdom and not the product’s manufacturer.
Dad Kingdom earns revenue through AdSense advertising and also receives a small commission percentage from purchases made through Amazon links. For details, read About Dad Kingdom.

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