Educational Board Games

If your children have reached a certain age and you are thinking about buying them a board game or two - perhaps something you used to enjoy as a child, like Monopoly or Mousetrap ...


Put your credit card away.

(for now)

The fact is, there have been many many great board games invented this century, and they are so much more stimulating and more fun than any of those old games that we grew up with.

On this page I will recommend a few to you that I have played and enjoyed myself.  They all have historical themes to them or are otherwise educational for young people.  Honestly though, that is not the reason that you will want to play these games over and over, with your friends as well as your family.


Top Games

Stone Age

Want to feel what it was like to live in the stone age? Perhaps you don't.  Why would you? Back then they did not have central heating, the internet, or Game of Thrones.  And there was always the threat of being eaten by a dinosaur.

(Only kidding about the dinosaurs. That was a test.)

If you do want to know though, the board game Stone Age will give you an insight into what it was like.  It is a wonderful game with a beautiful board filled with great artwork, and a gameplay system which is possibly unlike anything you have ever played before.

Stone Age is a fine example of the game genre known as "worker placement games".  Each turn players place members of their tribes in locations such as forests, hunting grounds, and quarries; there, they collect resources for the tribe, which you combine to build huts or enhance the civilization.

I love this game.  The rules might seem a little daunting at first if you are not familiar with this type of game, but there are plenty of online videos to help, and after you have been playing a few minutes it all becomes clear.  My ten-year-old loves it too. I think if I was playing with anyone younger than ten I would play without the cards, then it would be much simpler!

The Downfall of Pompeii

This is a fun little board game where you arrange your Roman citizens on a map of Pompeii then run like the clappers when the volcano erupts.  It also comes with a little plastic volcano that you throw the people into if they do not escape quickly enough.

The gameplay is fun, and it is quite tense when the lava spreads throughout the city and your people start getting hemmed in; you have to choose who to save.  There is a bit of strategy, but it is not a difficult game to learn.  The rules are quite simple and my ten-year-old picked it up very quickly.

In terms of educational value, players benefit from immersing themselves in Roman history, and they will always remember Pompeii, Vesuvius, and AD79. I do have one minor niggle though, and that is that in real life the lava did not actually flow through the streets of the city.  As a historian then, I can only really recommend this game to you if you promise that if you buy it you will explain that to any youngsters you play it with. 

Thank you.


Memoir 44

I have seen some reviews of this game that say it is the best two-player board game ever, and to be honest I am not sure I can argue with that.

You control little green plastic soldiers in a re-enactment of the World War II Normandy landings.  It might sound like a scene from Toy Story but actually it brings history alive in a way unlike anything else.  There are expansions available too that cover other battles.

The gameplay is very well designed - an 8 year old could pick it up easily but it is still challenging enough for teenagers and adults.

The Great Fire of London 1666

Okay, I admit it, I have not actually played this one.  The reviews I have heard are pretty good though. You are a wealthy London landlord in 1666 when the fire strikes - you have to protect your own property while trying to sabotage your opponents.

If anybody wants to send me a copy of this I would be more than happy to review it properly.


Of all the games on this list, Brainbox is the most blatantly  educational – it is basically “hey kids, let’s make a game out of learning!”. 

We were given this as a Christmas present when my daughter was eight, and I thought at the time that there was no way she was ever going to agree to play it, let alone enjoy it.  I was wrong though – she loved it, and badgered me to play it again and again!

Each turn a player draws a card full of facts on a particular topic, and has ten seconds to memorise as much as they can before passing the card to another player.  The other player then turns the card over and reads out a random question on the topic from the back of the card and the first player has to answer it.  If he gets it right he keeps the card. The player with the most number of cards at the end wins.

It is surprisingly good fun actually,  The game must have been quite a success as there have been lots of different versions of it released. The cards are well made and look nice, and the topics are quite interesting (I especially like the “World History” version)  – I learned a few things myself actually! 


Timeline is another game that is blatantly educational but fun.  Players have a hand of cards that each contain a historical event (like the invention of the steam engine, or the birth of Henry VIII) and they have to place them in the correct position in the timeline.  And that’s it.  I should say though, that it is surprisingly enjoyable, and stimulates conversation and quite a few laughs.  Recommended for anyone who is interested in history.

Risk / Shogun

Risk has been around for ever, and a lot of serious gamers are quite sniffy about it.  I played it hundreds of times as a kid though, and loved it, so I feel I have to recommend it. It is, in case you don't know, the game of global domination - moving armies and rolling dice. 

It really is an educational game too - you spend so long analyzing a map of the world that you cannot help but memorize it.  Even now, as an adult, I often amaze non-Risk players with my ability to confidently point to Irkutsk or Siam on a map.

The Truth is however, that there are better games than Risk around today. 

Take Shogun for example.  It is a similar game to Risk, with a few extra complexities (which are great when you get the hang of them, but might make it unsuitable for younger children).  Instead of a map of the world, you have a map of feudal Japan. Instead of rolling dice you have a tower you drop cubes into (trust me, it's cool). You also have a great historical theme.


Here's another game based around a map and with a historical theme.  The theme this time is the spread of bubonic plague around medieval Europe, carried by rats.

I know, I know, it does not sound like fun for all the family, but it is.

Valley of Kings

Valley of Kings is a card game, of a variety known as "deck building" games, where you try to collect better hands of cards than your opponents.

There are some more famous deck-building games out there, like Dominion or Sushi Go, but I have selected Valley of the Kings because of its wonderful theme of Ancient Egypt and the idea of the pharaohs entombing their possessions. 

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is my favourite board game.  It is so much fun!  If there was any justice in the world it would be the best selling game of all time, and families would be sitting down to play it every Sunday afternoon across the globe.  But no, people keep buying Monopoly instead. 



In Ticket to Ride, players are railroad owners in the early days of steam.  The game involves drawing cards to collect sets that enable you to claim routes between cities by placing cute little miniature trains on the board.  Each player has mission cards that tell them what cities to aim for.  It is a friendly game and players are not pitched directly against each other as much as in some other games, but blocking and competing for resources does happen, and adds to the fun.

I have included it in my top ten of educational board games even though it is not explicitly “educational”.  I do not think the game designer sat down and thought to himself “how can I make a game that will teach people things”, but because the game is based on a map of Europe (or America, depending on which version you choose) players cannot help but learn some geography.  On top of that, playing the game involves strategy, planning ahead, and a little bit of arithmetic, and it has a lovely Victorian theme to it with a gorgeous board and lovely period artwork that stimulates an interest in history. And have I mentioned how much fun it is?


Well, that's about it.  

I hope you found my recommendations interesting.  I also hope that you take my advice and buy a couple of these games.  In fact, buy them all, you won't regret it.

~ Paul Perro, 2015