Get board, not bored. (Christopher Paul High via Unsplash/)
When work and real life responsibilities get to be overwhelming, the desire to just leave it all behind and set off on an adventure is compelling. Sadly that isn’t always an option, especially if all the time you have is a few hours between dinner and bed. Online gaming can be a thrilling alternative, but with many massive multiplayer games and live streams, new worlds can feel suspiciously like the world you’re trying to escape. Invite some friends or family members to a board game night instead, and try your hand at treasure-hunting, running a society of non-human creatures, or immersing yourself in avifauna. These are our favorites for the whole family.
Multiple expansions available. (Amazon/)
The beautifully designed board of this animistic game features a 3-D tree that holds a 128-card deck which offers hours of varied game play. Use your planning skills to establish cities with a team of critters and help them thrive from one winter to another. If you love fantasy and worker placement games, let your mind escape to a world where mice, hedgehogs, and squirrels lead, pebbles and berries are important resources, and there’s nary a human in sight. While up to four players can interact within the game, the focus is on individual journeys, so you can play solo if you’re feeling extra reclusive.
This game is more than owl-right. (Amazon/)
When it isn’t spring or fall migration, birders can feel a little let down. Why not build an avian habitat in your house with this engrossing and educational game for one to five players ages 10 and up? This is an engine builder game where you strategize to earn points as you develop the birds in your habitat. There are more than 200 artfully illustrated bird cards including song birds and predators, and the multi-colored egg pieces and birdhouse are delightful. Share and grow your knowledge of these striking modern-day dinosaurs during game play without worrying about them suddenly taking flight.
Great for groups with kids ages 8 and up. (Amazon/)
If you’re looking for an affordable game for two to six people that’s fun to travel with and is more exciting than a deck of cards, this is a great pick. It’s essentially a board game where the board is whatever surface you lay the pieces out on. The narrative may seem like it’s just another treasure-hunting adventure involving deep-sea diving from a submarine, but what makes it extra special is the complication that you have to share the oxygen on your boat in your quest for treasure, and it takes more oxygen to collect the most valuable treasure. Your greed—or that of your team members—may help you win, but it’s also a liability.
Watch out for pythons. (Amazon/)
If you have 45 minutes to an hour and two to four players ages 8 and up, accept a new job as skipper of a boat and set off on an aquatic journey full of perilous fun. Fans of the Disney Jungle Cruise attraction, which can be found at Disneyland in California, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and the Magic Kingdom will enjoy this game the most as a microcosm of their experience in between visits. Forget complicated strategy and immerse yourself in a classic adventure with mysterious clues, carnivorous vines, and man-eating piranhas, with some silly jokes thrown in to lighten the mood.