I love being a dad to a couple of future gamers.  I’ve been a serious board gamer since being introduced to Euro-style games in college and the hobby has continued apace the past 20 years.  Over that time I’ve also written for a number of RPGs, hosted a gaming podcast and have been a panelist about gaming and education (I’m available for bookings).  My wife and my best friends are all gamers and my kids are pretty much doomed.  They’ll be gamers one way or another.

For this upcoming Father’s Day, I want to recommend five games that my kids and I love to play together.  I’m not including any classic board games, but looking to give you some new ideas for game time with the kids, whether they be yours or someone else’s.  We’re in a great time to introduce kids to gaming, so, in no particular order, here’s my picks:

Ticket to Ride: First Journey

Publisher: Days of Wonder/Asmodee
Ages: 6+
Players: 2-4
Time: 15-30 mins
BGG Score: 7.2
Amazon Price: $27.99 (Buy now)

The Ticket to Ride series is an excellent introduction to board gaming for any age.  Each variation on the original theme adds slightly new complexities and refines the gameplay while adding new maps from around the world.  TTR Junior is a simplified version of the original game with fewer cities and potential routes available around a map of the United States and Canada.  The new art for the game is bright and playful and adds recognizable symbols to each city on the map, aiding those kids who might not be able to read the city names quite yet.  It remains fun for adults, but allows kids to join their parents in a new classic.

Click Clack Lumberjack

Publisher: Gemblo, Inc.
Ages: 5+
Players: 2-7
Time: 10 mins
BGG Score: 6.5
Amazon Price: $24.95 (Buy now)

I came across Click Clack Lumberjack at GenCon 2016 and fell in love with this variation on the dexterity games.  After carefully stacking tree trunk pieces with bark slotted delicately on each side, each player takes a turn whacking the stack, trying to knock off just a piece of bark.  It’s a surprising amount of fun and there are several optional rules meant to scale the difficulty of the game (how to score points, etc) meaning adults and children can play with different goals and still play together.

Box of Rocks

Publisher: Haywire Group
Ages: 12+
Players: 2-38
Time: 5-15 mins.
BGG Score: 6.5
MSRP: $14.99 (Buy now)

This game.  It’s a trivia game where a) you don’t need to know anything, b) you compete against a literal box of rocks, and c) you’ll lose half the time.  The concept is simple: Answer a trivia question where the correct answer is either 0, 1, or 2.  Shake a box of three flat rocks (2 with an I on a side and blank on the other, 1 completely blank) and see what the box’s answer is.  Whoever is right gets a point.  First to 3 points wins.  I played this with my 7 year old, selecting questions that at least made sense to him, even if he would have no idea what the actual answer was.  He beat the rocks on the first game, but his mom didn’t.  He’s been running around telling anyone who will listen that his mom is dumber than a box of rocks.  I’m in a lot of trouble, but it’s worth it.

Animal Upon Animal (Tier auf Tier)

Publisher: HABA
Ages: 4+
Players: 2-4
Time: 15 mins.
BGG Score: 6.9
Amazon Price: $25.00 (Buy now)

This dexterity game is a favorite of my youngest.  Cute wooden animal tokens get stacked one by one on top of an alligator.  The nooks and crannies, curves and points of the animals make this difficult, but even the smallest hands can get the basics quickly.  The goal is to place all of your animals successfully first.  If they fall, you add them to your pile.  Lots of fun and super adorable.  HABA has a great line of kids games with the quality you’d expect from German board games.

Meddling Kids

Publisher: Pandahead Productions
Ages: 7+
Players: 2-6
Time: 60 mins.
RPGG Score: 7.2
Amazon Price: $5.99 (Buy Now)

(Full disclosure: I worked with Pandahead Productions on their RPG X-Crawl and have a long friendship with the creators of this game.)

Want to introduce your kids to RPGs without the blood and violence we love?  Want a straightforward system that allows kids the freedom to play without bogging them down in complex dice rolls or tables?  Meddling Kids has that and a Scooby-Doo-esque atmosphere that brings kids into the hobby in a safe and fun environment.  A group of plucky young kids team up with an anthropomorphic animal friend to solve mysteries and save the day. Kids get to play out the scenarios, trying to somehow find and capture the bad guy for the police to arrest, using a 3d6 check system with their four basic attributes: Strength, Moves, Smarts and Health, as well as several of the 26 abilities listed in the 96-page book.  Players can choose from one of several character archetypes to help round out the team.  Each person has their strengths and weaknesses, but everyone is a valuable member of the team.

For older players ready to learn more about RPGs and how to run games, the book helpfully includes chapters titled “Let’s Pretend” and “Building a Story.”  This can aid in getting older brothers or sisters to play with their younger siblings by giving them the reigns of their own campaign.  Meddling Kids is campy, Saturday morning cartoon fun and embraces all that entails.