Games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders are designed for kids. They have simple rules, require almost no reading, feature colorful pictures, and usually require no meaningful strategy. These games are great for introducing children to board games, counting, and following rules, but children quickly outgrow them and adults are usually bored by them. If you are looking for an adult game that is good for kids, the following are the best choices on the market.
Sentinels of the Multiverse – This game has a few benefits going for it. First, it is cooperative and nobody can be knocked out of the game, no matter what they do. Second, it is has beautifully illustrated cards that are done in comic book style. And, most importantly, it is a game where you get to play as a superhero. Younger kids who can’t read well will pretty much be playing randomly, but you can easily adjust the difficulty of the game down a step by pretending the child isn’t playing the game. Once the kid fully gets the rules down, count the kid towards the game count and the child probably won’t ever realize the difference.
Lords of Waterdeep – This is one of the most basic worker placement games in print. Like many worker placement games, it uses a lot of symbols to depict actions. This high use of symbols means that even young players tend to be able to grasp what actions do. If the child is below reading age or only moderately proficient at reading, you will probably want to remove certain cards from the game that use a lot of text, but you should still easily have enough remaining to play pretty close to a normal game. Beyond that you have a simple game of resource gaining and expenditures, which is great for introducing children to the genre as a whole.
- Flash Point: Fire Rescue – This game is practically perfect for children, while still being complex enough for adults. In Flash Point you are a firefighter saving men, women, children, and even pets. You can’t be killed and you can’t get knocked out of the game. There is almost no reading involved which makes it friendly to even the youngest children. Children will love the colorful pieces and pretending to be a firefighter. Since you can set the difficulty of the game to easy, you should win most of the time, which is generally best when playing with children.
- Love Letter – While this game uses a moderate amount of text, it isn’t critical to understand the text to be able to play the game. In fact, playing completely randomly will often be nearly as effective as skilled play, unless you have truly mastered the game. That is the major advantage of this game. You can play with both adults and children, because adults know the rules and children can just play whatever card they want. They aren’t likely to win much, but they’ll have fun and that is what matters most.
- 7 Wonders – Like Love Letter, it basically doesn’t matter whether or not children understand what they are doing when playing this game. Each player controls a civilization and builds it up by drafting and playing cards. At the end of three rounds of play, final scores are tallied and a winner declared. The iconography is such that reading essentially isn’t required. Additionally, children should pick up the mechanics quickly, but even if they don’t, you can simply allow them to play randomly and that play will have negligible effect on the game. The simple mechanics and clear iconography means that it is a great learning game, especially since it doesn’t matter if children are playing wrong at first.