Kids in our family start playing games long before they are proficient readers, so it is important to have games that do not require reading, or at least don’t require all players to read. Below is a list of some of our favorite games for non-readers. While this list was make with kids in mind, I like playing all of the games on this list whether there are kids playing, or it is a room full of adults. This list may also be helpful if you play games with adults who don’t speak English well.
Big Picture Apples To Apples: This is one of Gideon’s favorite games. This game plays very similar to Apples to Apples, but the cards in the players’ hands have pictures instead of words. Someone has to read a card to start each round, but the rest of the players just have to look at pictures to decide what to play.
Indigo: There are no words in this game at all (except for the directions). Players take turns placing hexagonal tiles with paths drawn on them. As the paths are played, gems slide along toward the edge of the board. The goal is to make the gems exit the board on sections that are marked with your color. One interesting aspect is that (in a 3 or 4 player game) you share exits with other players, so there is a bit of cooperation, but you are trying to win for yourself.
Zooloretto: This game is pure fun! You have a board that represents your zoo, and your goal is to fill it with animals. Players draw animal tiles that are placed on trucks. Then players pick these trucks and unload them in their zoo. You can even get baby animals, which are adorable. All of the kids love this game. Review
Carcassonne: New Edition We have the old edition of Carcassonne, but the new edition is the same (plus some free expansions). This is another game with no words – just tiles with pictures and meeples. On your turn, you place a tile and maybe a meeple. It is simple to play, so any kid can join in, but the strategy is complex. Review
Splendor: There is not much theme in this game, but it is still a great game. You are using gems to buy cards, which give you points. On your turn, you can either pick 3 more gems, or buy a card. The cards also give you discounts on future purchases. So if you buy 2 red gem cards, you can pay 2 less reds on all future cards. As you buy more cards, it is easier to afford more cards. The rules for this game are very simple, but like all the games on this list, it is fun for adults too. Review
Rise of Augustus: Isaiah loves this game. One person pulls tiles with symbols out of a bag. All of the players can then mark that symbol on one of the cards in front of them. Once all of the symbols on a card are marked, the card is finished. All of the cards give you points, and most of them give you a special ability or a one time action. When someone completes their 7th card, the player with the most points wins. Some people have described this game as glorified bingo, but it is a lot more strategic, and a lot more fun than Bingo. Review
No Thanks: A numbered card is flipped up. You either take the card (and all of the chips on it), or place a chip on it. At the end of the game you add up you cards and subtract the number of chips that you have – low score wins. If you have any cards with consecutive numbers, you only count the lowest one. Simple, but has a surprising amount of strategy, and a little bit of a push your luck aspect. Review
Survive Escape From Atlantis We just got the 5 and 6 player expansion for this so that the whole family can play. The board has an island made up of land tiles, and all of your meeples are on the island. Your goal is to get them off the island and to safety before the whole island sinks. Be careful because there are whales, sharks, and sea-monsters that your opponents will try to send your way. Most of your meeples will get eaten, but your score points for any that make it to safety.
Tumbling Dice: I made my own version of this since it was out of print, but it is supposed to be reprinted soon. Basically you roll dice down a staircase and score points for any of them that stay on for the whole game. For each die, multiply the number that is rolled by 1, 2, 3, or 4 based on which step it is on. We like to play with some 4, 8, 10, 12, and 20 sided dice to make it more exciting (and so the kids have to practice more math). Review
Fauna – The best trivia game I ever played! What makes this animal trivia game great is that you don’t have to know the answers. You place cubes on a map trying to guess where animals live (most live in more than 1 region on the board). You also can place cubes on numbered tracks to guess stats like the animals weight, length, or tail length. You score points for correct answers, and for guessing close to the right answer. There is strategy in this game too, because you get your cubes back if they scored points, and lose cubes for incorrect answers (you get one incorrect one back each round). Review
I hope that you have fun playing these games with your non-readers so you aren’t restricted to Candy Land and Uno for the next few years.