Game night is one of my favorite times and some of the best games for family game night are tile games. There is something so satisfying about manipulating sturdy tiles while working towards the oh-so-important goal of besting your opponents!
If you want some recommendations for the best tile games, sometimes known as tile-based, or tile-placement games, read on!
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What Is a Tile Placement Game?
A tile placement game is just like it sounds. The main manipulative element in game play is a set of tiles. The game may use wooden tiles as in dominoes or Qwirkle, plastic tiles as with Scrabble, or heavy cardboard tiles, like those used in Settlers of Catan.
Tile-based games may use secondary elements like playing cards, dice, tokens or meeples, but winning the game will rely on tile placement.
Why Are Tile Games Fun?
Tile games add variety to family game night. They may not be as portable as games that only rely on a deck of cards, but they require creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Many tile-based games use rectangular tiles, but many of the games on this list use tiles in a variety of shapes that add fun visual interest to game night and game tournaments.
Use these sportsmanship tips to help your little ones who have trouble with their emotions if they don't always win, but we also have recommendations for cooperative tiles games!
What Are Some Classic Tile Games?
You probably already know many classic tile games. Scrabble and Bananagrams, for example, use letter tiles. Mahjong tiles display Chinese characters and symbols. Dominoes uses tiles marked with quantities, and the modern classic, Rummikub, is played with numerical tiles.
Word Based Tile Games
The most well known word based tile game is Scrabble, of course. But why not try one of these, kid-friendly alternatives.
1-8 players, ages 7 and up
Find it: Bananagrams classic | My First Bananagrams (ages 4 and up)
This classic game is very similar to Scrabble, but without the board. Plus, it comes in a cute banana-shaped pouch! When the kids were younger and had few spelling skills, we played as teams, with each adult paired with a child. Now there is a version for developing spellers.
2-8 players, ages 10 and up
Find it: Word-A-Round
Word-a-round is best for kids who already know how to spell fairly fluently. It's also an excellent travel game. Each round tile contains multiple words spelled in a circle. Players race to decipher the words before anyone else!
MORE: 15 Best Word Games for Kids
Numerical Tile Games
Some, but not all, of these number tile games do require math skills, so choose appropriately, based on the ages of players.
1-8 players, ages 9+
Find it: Sumoku at Amazon
Sumoku is a favorite of my math-loving son. Sumoku is a cross between Scrabble and Qwirkle, but with math! Read our Sumoku game of the month feature for tips on playing with kids, whatever their skill level.
2-4 players, ages 8+
Find it: Classic Rummikub | Large Number Edition
As in the Rummy card game, the object of Rummikub is to use up your "hand" (in this case numbered tiles instead of playing cards) by creating numbered runs and sets. Players put together new runs and sets as well as strategically reorganize the tiles already out on the table. The first player to use up their tiles wins the round.
You can read my tips for making the game more enjoyable when kids are at the table in my Rummikub game of the month feature.
2-6 players, age range varies depending on game
Find it: Double Six Dominoes | Double Nine Dominoes
Your basic dominoes are great for math learning! Kids will learn quantity recognition, patterning and basic addition and multiplication skills (such as skip counting by 5). Advanced players will enjoy flexing their number recognition and addition skills with a set of double nine dominoes instead of the classic double six. There are many ways to play dominoes; find the basic rules here.
MORE: Favorite Math Games
Visual Tile Placement Games
This is the largest category of tile games, and there is something for every age and skill level.
2-4 players, ages 8+
Find it: Azul at Amazon
Azul's stunningly colorful game design was inspired by azulejos, a type of decorated ceramic tile introduced to Spain by the Moors and made popular in Portugal by King Manuel I. Players become tile laying artists, and must strategize over three phases of game play: choosing tiles, laying them and prepping for the next round. The object is to collect the most points by creating lines of 5 consecutive tiles. Each line of tiles must contain only one of each type of tile. The game ends when one player has completed a row, but here's the twist–that player is not necessarily the winner! Strategic problem solving and planning are required!
2-4 players, ages 6+
Find it: Qwirkle classic version | Qwirkle Cubes | Bonus Pack
Quirkle is one of those rare games that a 6 year old and an adult can enjoy equally, which is no doubt why this award-winning game is so popular! Players put their strategy, problem solving, and visual discrimination skills to the test while they work to create sequences of colors and shapes. We've played this game so many times, I've lost count.
MORE: Best Award-Winning Games for Every Age
2-4 players, ages 7+
Find it: Blokus | Blokus Duo | Blokus XL
Blokus always reminds me of puzzle video games, but manipulating actual 3D pieces works kids' brains in a different way than staring at a screen. We featured Blokus as a game of the month for its awesomeness at giving my son's concentration, spatial thinking, and patience skills a workout. Plus it's fantastic for math learning, too.
MORE: Best Games for Exercising Visual Perception Skills
1-5 players, ages 8+
Find it: Shifting Stones at Amazon
I like Gamewright's Shifting Stones as a game that kids can play but is still challenging for grown-ups. Players all have nine magical stone tiles in front of them. The objective is to score the most points by strategically flipping, shifting and matching the tiles to pattern cards.
2-6 players, ages 6+
Find it: Cobra Paw at Amazon
We featured Cobra Paw as a game of the month because we enjoyed it so much. It's a fast-based game that requires quick reflexes and visual perception skills. The object is to use your "ninja-like" skills to grab tiles that match the roll of the dice.
2 or more players, ages 6+
Find it: Acuity at Amazon
When you want a good looking tile game that even a 6 year old can play during family game night, reach for Acuity. Player aim to match the patterns on these oversized, colorful tiles. Even grown-ups will find that the game puts their mental and visual skills to the test!
World Building Tile Based Games
I'm playing a little fast and loose with the "world-building" aspect of some of these games, but you get the idea.
2-4 players, ages 8+
Find it: Kingdomino | Expansion pack | Queendomino
Kingdomino is a tile placing game in which players must make choices regarding how to build their kingdom. The objective of the game is to score as many points as possible by matching tiles based on terrain. But some terrains score more than others. Players must decide if they want to build a lot of low scoring terrains, or fewer high-scoring terrains. Your tile choice also affects the order of play for the next round so it's important to be thoughtful. We've throughly enjoyed this game.
SETTLERS OF CATAN
Find it: Settlers of Catan | Themed Expansion Packs
This European style board game requires a different type of strategic thinking from the other games on this list. Players act as settlers in an attempt to acquire land and buildings by hoarding resources and trading with others. Game play lasts longer than typical family games but kids who love this type of game that mixes strategy with role play and will love playing it with their friends. Think: teen game night! There are some really fun expansion pack themes like Pirates, Dragons, Knights and Starfarers.
2-4 players, ages 7+
Find it: Battle Sheep at Amazon
Every time you play Battle Sheep the playing space is different! That's because players start with 4 pasture board tiles that they take turns placing down to create the playing field. Kids are using advance planning and reevaluation right off the bat! Each player begins with 16 sheep and aims towards occupying as many pastures as they can. Players must chose between placing sheep or strategically blocking their opponents. We love this game that engages players' abstract thinking, strategic, and visual perception skills.
RIVERS, ROADS, AND RAILS
1 or more players, ages 3+ (as a cooperative game) or 5+ (as a competitive game)
Find it: Amazon
Players match cards together and create pathways of an ever changing network of rivers, roads and rails. This is an excellent choice for families who also like puzzles. Rivers, Roads and Rails can be played competitively in which players aim to be the first to use of their cards, or cooperatively in which families work together to use as many cards as possible. Bonus: kids LOVE to play with this game by themselves.
Tile Board Games
Yes, you can combine tiles with a board game and these imaginative games are perfect for kids who love magical worlds.
2-8 players, ages 8+
Find it: Tsuro at Amazon
The board changes every time you play, keeping players on their toes and constantly reassessing their strategy. Players use tiles to create paths along which they move their tokens. The objective is to create paths in such a way that keep you moving but force your opponents off the board. Players must anticipate their opponent's moves and problem solve in order accomplish both goals. It sounds complicated, but it's surprisingly easy to learn!
2-4 players, ages 8+
Find it: Amazon | Ocean Labryinth | Team Labryinth
Players make their way through an ever-shifting maze in pursuit of treasure. Each player begins with a set number of treasure cards and the player who collects all their treasure first, wins. The board consists of moving panels and on their turn, a player shifts the panels in an effort to further their own progress or hinder that of others. There is also a Harry Potter version of Labryinth!
Cooperative Tile Based Games
2-4 players, ages 10+
Find it: Forbidden Island | Forbidden Desert | Forbidden Sky
We love the Forbidden game series so much, we own all three versions. (It's an addiction, I confess.) Players must work together to survive encroaching disasters (floods, drought, storms, etc), while gathering items to ensure their escape. One of my favorite aspects of the game is that each team member has a different special skill, which increases communication between players.
More Tile Games
Here are a couple of fantastic games that don't fit neatly into any of the above categories.
HEADS TALK TAILS WALK
2 or more players, ages 3+
Find it: Amazon
Finding an engaging game to play with your kids as young as 3 is not an easy feat. So many board games are designed for older kids. Heads Talk Tails Walk gets kids moving, laughing and using the parts of their brain involved with reasoning and coordination. What better way to connect with your child than through laughter and pretending! I also love the sturdiness of the tile cards, just right for less-than-careful little hands.
2-4 players, ages 8+
Find it: Chicken War at Amazon
Chicken War is a really fun game with a hilarious premise. Game play consists of collecting a group of chickens with several similar elements and discarding the rest. It's a guessing came which requires players to use logic and deductive reasoning skills to amass a Chicken Army while taking out your opponent's Chicken Leader.
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