5 Great Family Board Games to Take Camping
It’s summertime, and for us that means ample opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy nature. We’re very lucky to have lots of lakes and rivers and woods nearby, and there is a plethora of state parks for us to choose from. This time of year is by far the best chance for our family to get out our tent and get out to the woods for a little camping. And family board games are always very high on our list of camping essentials.
The great thing about a family camping trip is that everyone is guaranteed to be unplugged and focused on enjoying each other’s company. By design, there’s a whole lot of sitting around. Maybe we’ll go hiking or swimming during the day, and mealtimes typically stretch longer than usual in the relaxed atmosphere. And of course there’s the campfire to enjoy. But inevitably there are large swathes of time that need to be filled by some sort of activity.
The board games on this list are some of our very favorite ways to fill that time at a campsite. As you might be able to tell, we leaned heavily into the theme of camping in the woods while choosing these games. Convenience or portability wasn’t at the top of our list of criteria, but, at the same time, none of the games on the list requires a complex setup either. You certainly wouldn’t want hundreds of little pieces that would be easily lost.
Our children are currently 6 and 3, and these are our favorite games to bring with us to campsites. Every game on the list could easily be played on the ground or on a picnic table. They’re all currently playable by our 6-year-old, and I know we’ll be playing all of them for many more years. And, perhaps most importantly, they all do a great job of setting the mood for being in the great outdoors.
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1. Trash Pandas
Designed by Lisa Eskue & Michael Eskue and Published by Gamewright
Haha! Now you know what kind of list you’re in for. I can’t not laugh at the name Trash Pandas. Too funny. Not only is this another fantastic game from Gamewright, but it will always bring back fond memories of that time the raccoons scared us to death and woke us from our sleep as they were scavenging our picnic table. Camping memories at their finest.
Trash Pandas is a press your luck dice game in which you’re competing against the other raccoons to collect and stash the best trash. And the names for the scraps they find might be the best part of the game. Fish is “feesh”, chocolate is called “yum yum”, and bananas are called “nanners”. It’s adorable like the way Earl and Mooch talk to each other in the Mutts cartoon.
The cards and the components are pretty top notch, and the art by Kwanchai Moriya is definitely a highlight. But best of all is the fact that Trash Pandas is the absolute perfect game to play at a picnic table surrounded by your camp trash in the middle of the woods. Maybe it’s the best reminder to take care of that mess before going to sleep you’re going to get.
Designed by Michael Matschoss & Alex Randolph and Published by Ravensburger
There’s a different treasure hidden under each tree in this game. And, in our version, they’re all treasures from some of your favorite classic fairy tales - like beans from Jack & the Beanstalk or some of Rapunzel’s hair. As you move about the board you can go up to trees and peek under them to see what treasure is hiding there. But there are lots of trees in this game, and that means lots of things to remember.
One treasure card is revealed at a time in the castle. The first person to go to the castle and tell the king which tree he can find the treasure under gets that card, and the first person to earn three cards wins - and gets to be successor to the king! This game is deviously tricky, because it can honestly be a very intensive memory challenge. But I’ll never cease to be amazed at how well our 6-year-old can memorize those trees.
Enchanted Forest first came out in 1981 and it’s an absolute classic. Go ahead and set this little forest up on the picnic table on your next camping trip with the kids. You’ll have a blast pretending you’re an adventurer tromping through a magical forest in a setting like that.
Designed by John Yianni and Published by Gen42 Games and Smart Zone Games
2-player strategy games are some of my very favorite games to play. I’m a chess teacher at heart, after all. I particularly have a fondness for perfect-information strategy games - a battle between two minds with zero element of luck. Games like Chess, Othello, Onitama, and Blokus are good examples of this. We have even put together a list of strategy games to play if you love chess.
Recently Hive has very much joined this exclusive list of games that scratch that chess itch. And, guess what, the pieces are all bugs! What better way to celebrate hanging out in the woods all night?
Each of your bugs have different types of movements, and, in order to win, you have to surround your opponent’s queen bee. That’s pretty much it, but don’t forget be fooled into thinking the game is simple. After all, the extremely complex game of chess can be explained very similarly - the pieces all have different movements and you win by trapping the king.
Hive is by far the most portable game on this list too. The pieces are beautiful, heavy tiles. Toss them all in a zip-up bag and you’re ready to go. You also have a few choices for purchase. We chose the original because of the larger pieces, but you can also choose the smaller Hive Pocket or the black & white Hive Carbon that both include some of the game’s expansions.
Designed by Walter Kraul and Published by ThinkFun
There isn’t another game in the world better at setting the atmosphere for a night in the woods than Shadows in the Forest. It’s just not possible. This game is all about atmosphere. The further away from street lights the better, the more clouds and trees blocking the sky the better.
There are creatures in this game known as Shadowlings - and their mission is to stay in the dark. There are trees and rocks they can hide behind, but there is a single lamp in the game controlled by the Seeker. If the light ever touches a Shadowling - it’s frozen and must be rescued by a friend. If all of the Shadowling manage to congregate together while staying completely out of the light, they win.
Complete darkness is exactly what you want. In fact, the game must be played in the dark. So wait until the sun sets, and put this out on the picnic table, or maybe even bring it into your tent with you. There’s a bit of an eeriness built in to this game - because of the creepy shadows cast out from the little lamp. And I can’t think of a better time to role-play being little Shadowlings staying out of sight and hopping behind trees than sitting in the woods with the kids.
If you want to read even more about Shadows in the Forest - make sure to check out our full article.
Designed by Nick Hayes and Published by Mattel
I am absolutely in love with Spirits of the Wild. It’s a 2-player strategy game that’s very easy to learn - but it’s full of just enough complexity and variability to make it incredibly satisfying. And the charm is off the charts. The entire game just gives off a certain elegance, and I am very much entranced.
Both players have a board with a variety of constellations on them - animals like rabbit, beaver, and turtle. And between the players sits a dish full of colorful stones. Using action cards, you might add stones to the dish from the bag, and you might take stones from the dish and place them on your card.
Similar to the scoring in something likeYahtzee - you have choices on what sets you’re going to try and complete. Finishing the turtle constellation might be worth the most points, but it’s the most difficult to complete. You also have to factor in the coyote, who can be moved to block your opponent from adding to one of their animals, and the spirit stones, which have the power to double the points from any section.
The celebration of nature in this game - and the theme of spirit animals and constellations - fits in absolutely perfectly with sitting under the night sky with the family. I can see us bringing this one out to the forest for many years to come.
Do you ever take board games with you on camping trips? What’s your favorite game to play with the family out in the woods? Tell us in the comments!