Lately, we've been inviting experts like game store managers and owners to weigh in on their favorites. This time, we caught up with Jason Parsons from Gepetto's in Del Mar, San Diego. He shared his thoughts on the best board games for teens.
Parsons has worked at Gepetto's for nearly 15 years, and has a huge game collection himself. His shelves are filled with favorites, ranging from the 1960s to current offerings. He's loved games his whole life, and he and his wife are frequent players. Now that they have two teenage daughters, it was only natural to get them involved as well.
Parents know it can be hard to get teens interested in spending time with the family. We asked Parsons for tips on how to turn them into willing participants. “With teens you have to pay attention to what they’re into to figure out what game they’ll play with you," he notes. "Cater to their interests. This really matters in getting teens involved.”
Parsons shared his family's favorite board games for teens, and offered one last tip: “Don’t play a brand new game for the first time with a teen. Play it first on your own so you can talk about it and quickly go through the rules. This is a better experience for all and a good way to keep teens engaged.” Now you're ready to find some new family favorites for yourself!
Parson says: “This is great for kids who are in drama or like to put on a show. I personally like to do a British accent when I play. Even if teens don’t want to do the voice themselves, it gets them more engaged. This game is all about tricking each other, which is fun for all.”
In this hour-long game, one player takes on the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham, while the others are Merchants trying to stock their market stalls with premium wares. The Sheriff is on the lookout for contraband, and can question Merchants and demand to inspect the wares at any time. If the Sheriff finds some, the Merchant suffers. But if the Merchant was telling the truth, the Sheriff has to pay the price! (3-6 players, ages 14+)
Parson says: “You get to pick your character, and you don’t know who is going to betray you at the end. It’s exciting to find out who did it.”
Build and explore a haunted house tile-by-tile in this game of suspense and strategy. Watch out for spirits and evil omens, but also beware of the traitorous player who's out to betray the rest. Each game takes about an hour, and it's a different adventure every time. (3-6 players, ages 12+)
Parson says: “This one has been around for a long time. You play in a dungeon and you have to be willing to backstab one another. If your teen doesn’t like being confrontational, it might not be for them. But if they do, they’ll love it.”
Munchkin has been on lists of board games for teens for years. It's a dungeon adventure game where you compete with friends to fight monsters. You can get the deluxe edition of this game and many expansion packs. Gameplay can generally go between and hour or two. (3-6 players, ages 10+)
Parson says: “This is a cooperative card game of one of my favorites, Dungeon. There’s also an app that is for the phone. It’s a fun and quick game. It’s really rewarding because you’re all playing together.”
Rather than competing to see who gets the most treasure, all players are in it together in this fast and fun version of Dungeon. Slap down your cards quickly, trying to match the symbols on the Dungeon card. You all win together, or you all lose! (2-5 players, ages 8+)
Parson says: “If your family likes Monopoly, but you don’t want to play for four hours, Catan is a great option for teens. For those who don’t like domination games, it’s not fun. But it’s still a good one for a lot of teens.”
Catan has become a beloved family board game, spawning plenty of expansions and spin-offs. The original is terrific for teenagers, as players aim to trade, build, and settle their way to dominance after being shipwrecked on the island of Catan. You'll need strategy and a bit of luck to win a game, which takes 45-90 minutes. (3-4 players, ages 10+)
Parson says: “This is a very popular game for teens. Someone gets to be Mr. X, and they disappear from the board so you have to track them down. They leave behind the hints and you have to trap them.”
The mysterious Mr. X moves around the City of London game board in an attempt to elude the other players. These players work together as detectives, trying to track down and land on Mr. X’s (hidden) location. Set aside at least 45 minutes for a game. (3-6 Players, Ages 10+)
Parson says: “One person gets to be the shark, Bruce. You don’t know where the shark is, yet you have to be prepared for when the shark attacks your boat. It reminds us of Scotland Yard. It has a mystery element where you don’t know where the shark is, and it’s really engaging for all.”
Why not combine family movie night with game night? First, check out the screen classic Jaws, then give this 60-minute strategy game a try! The unique double-sided game board adds an extra twist to this exciting contest. (2-4 players, ages 12+)
Parson says: “This comes with dice and these tetris-like pieces. It’s a great one if you like puzzles. It’s perfect for my youngest daughter, who doesn’t like those dominating or confrontational games.”
If you're looking for board games for teens that really challenge their intellect, this one is a great place to start. Players roll the dice and place blockers on the grid where indicated. Then they race to see who can fit their puzzle pieces onto the board around the blockers first. (1-2 players, ages 6+)
Parson says: “It’s an adventure card-building game, and you build your team of explorers as you play. When my kids’ uncle came out to visit, it ended up being a great way for us all to bond.”
Use the best cards from your deck to search for the lost city of El Dorado. Assemble a team of scouts, scientists, and more as you strive to be the first to reach the golden border and its treasure. Look for expansion packs to build a more immersive game experience as you progress. (2-4 players, ages 10+)