While you haven't been looking, there's been something of a revolution in board games. 

Image credit: Matt Cobb

The memories of afternoons spent in friendly competition can still be re-enacted, but the games are now way, way better.

Why Board Games?

Board games are an interactive, social medium - in the best games, players must think on their feet, form long term plans, and interact with each other in meaningful ways in order to achieve their goals.

As an intrinsically social activity, there are also many valuable lessons for younger children about the social contract: concepts such as good sportsmanship, fair play, turn taking, co-operation – and maybe even a little bit of math.

(This is obviously all apart from being a great deal of fun.)

In today's piece, I'm going to recommend three family friendly board games: One competitive, one co-operative, and one team-based.

None of the games require much reading (besides to learn the rules) although some will require some visual acuity, and the accessibility of each game will be explained in greater detail in their individual sections.

All are language independent, accessible for many special needs, adjustable to be less or more complex, and great fun for players of all ages.

My First Bohnanza 

A cute card game about planting and harvesting beans, My First Bohnanza asks its players to plant sets of silly-sounding beans (Mean beans! Stink beans! Magic beans!).

Once you have enough beans in your set, you can harvest them for some gold.

The key concepts of the game are that you only have enough space to plant 2 different kinds of beans, and you must plant the beans in the order that you drew them from the deck – no re-arranging the cards!

The game also involves trading, as players must often try and get the bean sets they need by offering exchanges with the other players, meaning that you have to negotiate value and try and offer mutually advantageous trades.

You can also offer gifts!

One of the major advantages this game has are the adjustable rules – players can, for example, play with all their cards face up in front of them so that they can receive help and advice from other players.

This also removes the need to hold hands of cards.

Photo credit: Michael Maley

The rules can also be adjusted to add more types of beans, add additional fields, make it so that beans are worth varying numbers of gold when harvested, and require that fields be cleared before planting new beans.

With all the adjustable rules added in, the game is almost identical to its original edition, Bohnanza, and suitable for more experienced gamers looking for a higher level of challenge.


My First Bohnanza is a trading and set-collection card game about planting and harvesting cute beans.

Rulebook download

Learn to play video (note: this video is for the original version of Bohnanza, not My First Bohnanza, but the core principles are the same.)


Escape: Curse of the Temple 

A co-operative real time dice rolling game, Escape: Curse of the Temple sees players trying to flee from a cursed temple.

Work together to find keys and gems in order to make it out in exactly ten minutes!

Escape: Curse of the Temple is an exploration game with a soundtrack CD (also available as an MP3 download) that lets you know just how much time you have left.

As players venture deeper into the temple, they must find the exit and co-operate to save each other from curses.

Players win together or not at all, meaning no one feels left out or left behind.

The game works by all players simultaneously rolling sets of dice trying to find what they need.

Keys, movement, and torches are all good, as are gems and gold masks – but rolling a black mask means that dice is 'locked' unless a player rolls gold masks to unlock it.

Players can also use their own gold masks to unlock other player's dice.

Once the exit has been found by collecting enough gems, players must all make their way to it before time runs out!

Image credit: Mike Stevens

There are accessibility concerns with regards to being able to roll dice quickly and repeatedly, as well as the real-time aspect potentially being confusing and overwhelming – but the game will still work as a simple co-operative puzzle if you omit the time limit and take turns instead.

Also, certain curse tiles (play the game without speaking, lose any dice that roll of the table) can be omitted should they add undesired challenge to the game.

Additionally, should the use of a soundtrack not be desirable, the game has included sand timer (helpfully billed The Sands of Fate) that you can use to customize how much time you have – perhaps doubling the time limit if necessary.


Escape: Curse of the Temple is an exciting, co-operative dice rolling game about working together in real time.


Learn to play video

In depth accessibility guide (Courtesy of Meeple Like Us)


Codenames: Pictures 

Two rival spy agencies are on a mission to contact their agents in the field.

The problem: Each of their agents is using secret codenames to hide their identity. 

Which side will be the first to contact all of their agents without gaining the attention of the hidden assassin?

In Codenames: Pictures, two teams square off with a grid of images between them.

One player from each team is the spymaster, who must get their team to guess the images representing their field agents using a clue consisting of exactly one word and one number.

To use the above image as an example:

Flying: 3 will get the players to guess the piggy bank, the snowman, and perhaps the windmill – but what if only 2 of those belong to your team?

Or worse – the windmill is the dreaded assassin, and will make your team instantly lose! Would Circular: 2 be better? Oh, but that might make them guess the knight!

Image credit: Shut Up & Sit Down

This brain-burning puzzle is at the heart of Codenames: Pictures, and makes it a game of strategy and tension with every move. 

Teams can discuss clues amongst themselves, meaning that no one feels left out as their input is always important. Spymasters who give good clues get to feel clever, as do their teammates for picking up on their often slanted ideas.

While the standard grid is 5 x 4, grids can be made smaller in order to reduce the amount of information needed for players to give clues, or else they can stick to guessing rather than clue giving.

The Assassin card can also be omitted entirely


Codenames: Pictures is a guessing and clue-giving game for two teams.

Rulebook download

Learn to play video

In depth accessibility guide (Courtesy of Meeple Like Us)

Does your family enjoy family games night? Tell us which games you play and how you adapt them for your child in the comments below.

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