The best Eurogames to play with your family

It’s time to start your family down the path of connection and fun with Eurogames.

I know, for a while it seemed like this point might never come, but at last it has. On this fateful day, we finally get down to naming names, getting games and settling in around the family night game table.

The list below comes with a couple of assumptions. First, I assume that the children in your family are at least 8 years old or older. Although you can play a couple of the games below with children who are under 8, you usually need to do that as a parent and child team rather than letting the child play on his or her own.

That being said, there are a lot of great Eurogames for families with kids in four to seven age bracket. We'll take a look at those in a future column.

And now, on with the show.

Aquarius from Looney Labs

Opening the list tonight is Aquarius, a small, fast playing game from the rocket scientists at Looney Labs. (Yes, they really are rocket scientists. No, I wouldn't make something like that up.)

Aquarius plays like a funky version of dominoes, using regular size playing cards as the pieces. Gameplay focuses on matching a card in your hand to one or more other cards already played on the table.

But in a twist from dominoes, each player has a secret objective which drives the outcome of the game. Special cards in the deck let players trade objectives, switch hands, move cards or even eliminate cards from the table.

Because most of the game is visual and players only need basic reading skills to deal with the other cards, Aquarius makes a good game to play with younger kids.

If your family's interests lean more toward sword and sorcery fantasy literature, take a look at another version of this game called Seven Dragons. Its gameplay works much the same as Aquarius, but the game's gorgeous dragon artwork and added mechanics set it apart from others.

Incan Gold from Gryphon Games

Do you look back fondly on the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indiana Jones explored the scary temple and then went dashing out with the treasure stuffed in his coat?

If that kind of action makes your family smile, then you should try Incan Gold from Gryphon Games.

In this game, players are brave explorers, delving into the mysterious and sometimes frightening depths of an ancient temple. The goal? Find the most treasure possible and take it back to your tent.

Of course, the fact that all of the other players want to do the same thing somewhat complicates your efforts.

And, just to keep things challenging, the temple itself is filled with all sorts of perils including rock slides, lava pits, spiders, snakes and the occasional zombies.

Don’t worry about playing it with the kids, though, because the artwork on the cards is family-friendly. Even the monsters are relatively good-natured.

This game requires no reading and only a little bit of strategy. You do need to know how to count, but only up to about 20.

The game is really built around the idea of pushing your luck, so kids will often do better than adults. And when things go wrong, cries of “I almost made it!” and “I told you that you should’ve stopped!” will echo around the room, making memories for days and weeks to come.

Because you shuffle the deck every time you play, every game is completely different. The game can also play up to seven people, making it a great activity for parties or family get-togethers.

Set from Set Enterprises

For a completely different kind of game experience, try the award-winning game Set from Set Enterprises.

Although Set is more of a thinking and puzzle activity than a true game, it still ranks as one of our family's favorite things to do. The fact that the game won more than 30 awards over the years shows that a lot of families out there have the same opinion. 

In Set, players lay out a grid of 12 cards and look for matches, known as "sets". There are no turns in the game, so as soon as you find a set, you call out and show it to your opponents.

Each card in the Set deck shows one to three matching symbols in a particular color and shading pattern. Your goal is to find a group of three cards where each thing about the cards -- shape of the symbols, number of symbols, color and shading -- is either the same or different.

Because of the interesting way the game defines the idea of a set, both children and adults can play and be competitive at the same time. The game also plays very quickly, making it a great after dinner activity before diving into homework or other family duties.

Set is entirely visual, so no reading is required. You can also adjust how challenging the game is by using either part of the deck or the whole deck.

All three of these games play in less than half an hour and engage the whole family. That is, after all, our goal for sitting down and playing games.

Next time, we'll look a trio of important Eurogames which are considered evergreen classics that every family should own. All three won the prestigious German “Game of the Year” award, which is like the Oscars of board games. They’re certain to please your family for years to come!