5 Games That Are Just as Fun To Play With as They Are to Play

Common kitchen wisdom tells us not to purchase single function tools. You want something versatile and useful in ways broader than simply slicing a watermelon in one go. Now, the obvious next step would be to apply that principle to your board game collection, right? Not so much? Hear me out. Board games are incredible. They help us practice a number of social, mathematical, and problem solving skills. Skills that are incredibly valuable to mushy young minds. But there are times when my four year old does not have the patience for me to walk him through very structured game turns, and just wants to play with the shiny plastic bits. Which I get… sometimes more than I care to admit. 

So, I’ve compiled a list of 5 board games that are just as fun for kids to play with as they are to sit down and actually play. 

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1. Dropmix

This one is almost cheating because I bought this game for myself with little intention to actually play the competitive version.It was purchased primarily as a toy for myself. Dropmix uses a specialized board that connects to a tablet or phone through bluetooth. Customized decks of NFC chipped cards interact with the board to create music. Each of these cards contain a portion of a popular song. It could be the violin portion of “Call Me, Maybe” or the vocals to “Chandelier”. The magic comes in when the board and app work seamlessly to mix the elements of songs together. Each time you place a new card on the board you are changing the mix. There are five slots for you to drop your cards on the board, and the base set comes with four decks. My son loves exploring the possibilities and finding the right mix to stand up and dance around to. We love this and have never even touched the competitive mode. 

2. Downforce

This board is from the expansion: Danger Circuit

I’ve only been a parent for four years, but I’m told I was a child once. From what I can remember, toys that look like cars and roads have always been something that piqued the interest of youngins. This seems to still be accurate, as I’m frequently asked to pull Downforce off of my shelf so we can have a quick race around one of the four tracks we have available. The base set has a two sided board, and the expansion (pictured) has another two sided board. While the tracks are vibrant and colorful, the real draw is the set of six plastic cars with which to race around with. As a game, I adore Downforce. It’s exciting, fairly quick, and easy to learn. For my kid though, it shines as an exciting toy.

3. Echidna Shuffle

This is hands down the cutest game on my shelf. Echidna Shuffle is a clever little puzzle game for children. You have to move pieces around the board while attempting to transport your bugs to stumps on the board. But the dozen, chunky echidnas are just the cutest. They look like toys, they feel like toys and the board looks like their naturally cute habitat. On top of that there are a bunch of insects, all of which can rest on the back of each of the adorable little chunkers to be carried around the board. And like everything on this list, it’s also just a good game.

4. Santorini

Santorini is a beautiful and tense game where players compete to build and be the first to stand atop a tall structure. There’s a lot of back and forth and clever thinking involved in playing it. Or, you can do as we do most of the time in my house, dump out all the pieces, set up the board and start building your dream city! The four-tiered buildings all stack perfectly. The grid-like nature of the board makes it fun to place the buildings directly into the square…or not! Whatever you want. Santorini looks like you’re building a city on a big cliff and feels just as cool as it looks. 

5. Fireball Island: The Curse of Vulkar

This is a big one. Restoration Games (the same company behind Downforce) takes board games from the past and updates them for modern audiences. Well they outdid themselves on the toy factor for their remake of the 80s cult-classic game: Fireball Island. This time it’s bigger and meaner than ever with a shiny new title: Fireball Island: The Curse of Vulka. A giant 3d island board with trees, pathways, bridges, ladders and the pivotal Vulkar towers above the table. While the game itself has players racing to grab treasure and dodge marbles, it mostly sees the light of day in our house because it’s so fun to play with. The giant volcano-esque protector of the island is there to wreak havoc. You drop a handful of marbles into a hole in the top of his head and they all go careening down the board, knocking over people, bridges, and ladders. The pure mayhem is the draw here, and while the game is something that I love, I’m happy to just play with the island and all it’s fireballs with the kiddo. 

This topic is so far from exhausted it’s not even funny, and I’m sure we’ll touch on it again. But needless to say, board games can be so much more than the competitive family bloodbath they are meant to be.


  1. Ryan | Dad Suggests

    July 2, 2019 at 4:18 am

    This is a fantastic idea for an article! And really great choices too. And Dropmix sounds pretty awesome. Thinking about the games in our collection, I think I could add almost anything from HABA to this list. The wooden components in games like First Orchard have always been played with as toys as around here.

    1. Daniel Robison

      July 2, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      Thanks! Yes, Dropmix has been a huge hit. I picked it up because the prices have been dropping so low and my kid can’t get enough of “the song game”. I need to grab a bunch more HABA games too. He’s a big fan of actually playing First Orchard, so I’m curious how he’d like the others.

  2. Tom Rose

    July 3, 2019 at 11:32 am

    Great article. Great list. I would add Castle Panic. My kids love knocking down the castle bits with the orc tokens.

    1. Daniel Robison

      July 3, 2019 at 1:35 pm

      Oh, great add! I think we’ll have to do a few follow up lists for this one as well. There’s so many good options!

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