Monday, November 22, 2010

The Board-Game Round-up


Dear Ones,

On the off-chance you'll be celebrating Thanksgiving later this week, I've posted a Sparkling Cranberry Centerpiece here, and the world's best Brussels sprouts here.

(Oh, and also: I *did* do something with the leftover cranberry syrup!


I stirred two packets of plain gelatin into a cup of boiling water until it dissolved, then stirred in two cups of the syrup and stuck it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Delicious.)

But the main reason I'm writing today is to post the board-games round-up I've been promising for, oh, I don't know, a year? I am so lame. But I swore I'd get it up in time for the holidays, and here I am, doing that. As always, if we generate a bunch of credit on Amazon, I'll do a give-away. Of board games, of course! That will be so much fun! Also, I will happily try to answer any questions you ask in the comments section here.

Okay, to sum up: we play a lot of board games. I think I've mentioned this before, but one of the things I love about board games--and Michael actually read this somewhere--is that they're totally pointless, and so when you play a board game with your child, you're saying, "This is time I want to spend with you." It's simple, but really quite lovely, don't you think? I'm assuming that you already have Scrabble, Yahtzee, Boggle (which our kids prefer to play without a timer), Chinese Checkers, and Bananagrams--all of which are crucially excellent games. So what I'm doing here is introducing you to some games you might not know, in particular some of the European-style board games that we love: these are strategy games that involve very little luck and very little boring down-time; they tend to be deceptively simple to learn and wildly complex to play, and they are almost always physically lovely, with heavy-duty, beautifully made wooden and cardboard pieces. Also, they're often relatively expensive--but I have never regretted investing in one, since we get so much play out of them. If there's a gamer's store near you--you know, once of those places where a bunch of fragrantly-male adolescents is exclaiming over their Magic cards--see if they offer a game night where you can come and try a game that you're thinking of buying; besides the wise preview factor, it's also a fun (free) night out. Most of the games I mention here are good for kids 7 and up, though Birdy has been playing them a bit longer than that (not that she had a lot of choice in the matter). A word of warning: once you play these games, some of the games you've been loving for years (Monopoly, Clue, Sorry, Uno) will suddenly seem so boring you will wonder what you were thinking.

The European-style games:


This might be our all-time favorite game, although New World (see below) is definitely contending. For one thing, it's lovely: you lay out forest, meadow, and river tiles (there's not actually a board) to create a stone-age landscape full of woolly mammoths and fish ponds and rambling woods. And for another, it's just this crazy mix of simple (draw a tile, lay a tile) and mind-blowingly strategic This is the first European-style board game we ever played--we borrowed it from a friend before buying it--and, as a person who grew up with such maddeningly-competitive-but-numbingly-boring games as Monopoly and Risk, I honestly had no idea that a game could be so engrossing. Brace yourself for a bit of culture shock when you unfold the directions: there's a steep but swift learning curve, and I swear it's not actually that hard to play. I also love it because it's finite: as with all the Carcassonne games, you simply play until you run out of tiles, which takes around 45 minutes.
2-5 players
Ages 7+



The play is very similar to Hunters and Gatherers (or to the original medieval-themed Carcassonne which is, strangely, our least favorite so far), but this one has a westward-expansion theme, and offers a different style of play: quicker and more fluid, with lots of short-term strategy. You're building farms, towns, and roads (instead of meadows, forests, and rivers), but the play is very easy to learn if you've learned any of the other Carcassonne games--kind of like learning Italian if you already speak Spanish.
2-5 players
Ages 7+

[edited to add: I wrote "westward expansion," and didn't even pause over it, until now, because I am in it to win, and never think holistically about the themes of these games, but: "westward expansion"? As in, the near-genocide of native people? I don't know. Stick with Hunters and Gatherers maybe. . . ]



Every time I play this game, I say, "I think this is actually my favorite board game," and the kids say, "You always say that." It's a cross-country train-themed game, and you're trying to complete various routes (from the Destination Tickets you draw) by laying out trains (using the Color Cards you draw). It's both insanely easy to learn, and truly challenging to play; the game's designer describes it this way: "The tension comes from being forced to balance greed – adding more cards to your hand, and fear – losing a critical route to a competitor." Greed and fear! And also, a little bit of screwing other people. But it's so much fun, I swear. And you really don't know who is going to win until it's all over--which I love, especially compared to a game like Monopoly, where usually you're spending more than half the game experiencing your own agonizingly slow defeat.
2-5 players
Ages 7+



Okay, this game too: when we play it, I'm a hundred percent positive that it's my favorite game. Partly it's because it's got this super-cool play element whereby you are completely involved even when it's not your turn, and partly it's because it is just another beautiful, beautifully designed strategy game where you're gathering resource tiles to build settlements, cities, and roads. There's lots of trading, which we think is incredibly fun, but which a younger child might find kind of stressful. Also, even though you only need ten points to win, it can take well over an hour. That said, one of the things I love about this game is that Birdy is just as likely to win it as anybody else, even though the whole time we're playing I am secretly thinking that her strategies are completely crazy. Go figure. There are lots of "expansions" you can buy to complicate play and increase the number of players, but we've never tried any.
3-4 players (more if you get an expansion)
Ages 8+



The summer we got this game, we played it every single day; we were obsessed. And we still love it. It's insanely demanding, strategy-wise, and yet it's easy to learn, and the sweet animal-themed tiles has made it lots of fun for Birdy, who had been initially put off by some of the other strategy games we were playing. Like the others, though, this one is beautiful--a mix of sturdy cardboard and wooden pieces--and it feels like it offers layers and layers of play: you learn it and think you get it, but then the more time you spend with it, the more you start to understand other ways to think about it. You're trying to fill your zoo with just the right number of animals (And if you get a mating pair you can have a baby! Yay!), and the play is finite (it's over when the tiles are gone) and there's no clear winner until the very end.
Note: we downloaded the expansions for free from the Rio Grande website.
2-5 players (but best with 3 and up)
Ages 7+




Acquire and Modern Art are Ben's two very most favorite board games--even though they're the ones we actually play the least because Birdy doesn't like either of them. And it's no coincidence. Acquire is a densely strategic game that's a little bit brutally competitive, like Monopoly that's been infused with testosterone. For instance, I sometimes feel like I'm going to punch Michael in the face when we're playing. They call it a "High finance game of speculation and strategy"--but really they mean "Screw or be screwed." You're trying to control the biggest hotel chains on the board, and along the way your children will learn terms like "merger" and "majority shareholder." If capitalism is not your bag, take a pass; but if you crave the catharsis of board-game rage, this is a great one.
3-6 players
Ages 10+  (Ben played younger, but he's totally obsessed with money)
Okay, of all of the mind-twisting games we play, this is the mind-twistingest. In fact, every time we play it, I say, "Oh, wow, I think I'm only just beginning to understand this game now." And we've played it, like, a hundred times. It's an art-themed auction game, where you're trying to get the other players to buy your paintings for a lot of money, but you're also trying to control who the most valuable artists are--and you need to think long-term, since the game progresses over four rounds. It offers some fun theatrical opportunities (you might auction off your paintings with a heavy accent, for example), but I for one feel like the art is a missed opportunity, since each of the paintings is uniquely ugly. Please note, however, that I'm the only person bothered by this fact.
3-5 players
Ages 10+

The other games:




Is it the vague Amish theme? The fact that it says "A Vonderful Goot Game" so campily on the box? I don't know--but make no mistake, this is one of our family's very most-played-ever games. In fact, we played it so much over the summer (it was the only game we took on our trip) that I got blisters from shuffling, and our cards, which had been new, ended up looking like something excavated from a ruin. That said, we often find ourselves being so very loud when we play this game--swearing and muttering and singing crazy songs--that we have sworn off playing it in public for a while. It's got a very simple Solitaire-style of play (stacking consecutive cards) and is all about speed and concentration rather than, say, strategy. It's a great game to play a few rounds of if you've got just 15 or 20 minutes to kill, and it's good with 2, 3, or 4 people. I'm never quite sure what makes it so much fun, but it is, and it has been our go-to birthday present for months.
2-4 players
Ages 6+



This is one of my own personal favorites, and it's a game we play often if we've got a bit of time, but don't have the full hour or hour-and-a-half that the Euro board games require. It's a rummy-type of strategy game, and you're trying to get rid of your 14 tiles by laying them out in runs or sets--but you can actually rearrange and pilfer from the tiles that are already out, which makes for a really challenging and entertaining level of play. That said, though, it's one of those great easy-to-play games that is just as likely to be won by the youngest kid as by the mathiest adult.
2-4 players
Ages 7+



Another rummy-style game, though this one is simply a deck of cards, which makes it great for travel. You need to complete 10 "phases"--ten specific hands--in the correct order, without falling behind your opponents, and it's a game that Ben and I play together a lot, just the two of us, even though it's fun with more people (but slower too). It is somehow engaging without being exactly strategy-driven, and it's also small and inexpensive enough to be a good stocking stuffer.
2-6 players
Ages 7+



Surely you've played Blokus, right? You're trying to fit as many of your pieces out onto the grid as you can--more than anyone else does--before you run out of space. There's, like, one rule, but somehow the game is crazy-spatially-challenging. It seems to involve some really particular part of your brain, because when we play with our friends Peggy and Nina, who are both math professors, only one of them is good at it. But Birdy, who plays with her own "snuggle" strategy ("I'm snuggling all your pieces, Mama!") often wins. The only downside is that you really need four people for it--no more, no fewer--which is slightly limiting, since often 3 of us will want to play, and then we've got to rope the other person in.
Best with 4 players
Ages 5+



Rumis is like Blokus taken into a third dimension: you're recreating imaginary Incan architecture (there are a number of boards you can use) and you've got to get more of your pieces out than your opponent. It's challenging, quick, and varied--and fun for both adults and kids.
2-4 players
Ages 6+

We first played this game at the hostel where we were staying on Cape Cod, and we always call it "Globbet"--I think because Ben used to say "Pliget" instead of "Piglet." It's a beautiful, wooden 2-person game that is divinely simple and pure strategy. And even though it gets described as a "tic-tac-toe" game, it's got some crazy elements (you can "gobble" a player's pieces with your own) and is almost chess-like in its intensity--but much, much quicker to play, obviously. I admit that sometimes Ben gets it out and I say, "Oh, Ben, pick something that won't make me have to think so much," but I tell you that only as a lame confession, since I tend to think that thinking is a good thing.
2 people
Ages 7+


Farkle is another of our favorite travel games, since you just need the six dice and a score sheet, and play is quick--for instance, you can get in a few rounds while you're waiting for your burgers, as long as you lay a napkin on the table to mute the sound of the clattering dice. It's simple to play (you need 5s and 1s to score) and it's not so much a strategy game as a gambling one: we are forever slapping our own foreheads and bemoaning our own greed and foolishness. Plus, it's so much fun to say, "Excuse me, I farkled." If you aren't giving this as a gift, and if you already have 6 dice from your Yahtzee set, then you can simply look the rules up on-line and skip the whole packaged aspect of it.
From 2 to loads of players
Ages 5+



Guess who demanded that I include this game in my line-up? I'll give you a hint: she's the youngest person in my family. And she's the person who still wants to play Guess Who if it's just her and me on what she calls "a date"--when Ben and Michael happen not to be home. This was the first game Birdy really loved, and it's a great introduction to the process of elimination (what the Cat in the Hat calls "calculatus eliminatus"). Plus, it's very quick to play! Which is good, because it's also boring and forces you to ask weirdly reductive questions about race and gender. I'm just saying.
2 players
Ages 5+
Even though we don't play this anymore, I need to give Sorry a little bit of love here. When the kids were younger, it was our favorite family board game for ages. It's mostly a game of luck, but I actually love it for the way it teaches kids resilience in the face of getting screwed--especially because, in our family at least, you have to say "Sorry" with an irritatingly drawn-out mix of meanness and irony whenever you send someone's piece back to home. And you've just got to comport yourself with grace in the face of it: a good lesson, I'm not even kidding. (Hasbro calls it "the game of sweet revenge.") Plus, it's a pretty fun game, a pleasantly mindless one, and the kind that's never over til it's over.
2-4 players
Ages 6+

Okay, that's it for now! I hope you'll use the comments to opine, inquire, and offer your own suggestions.

53 comments:

  1. Teafortwo1:47 PM

    Did you used to get "Games" magazine when you were growing up? We did; we're inveterate game players, we Brickleys. Parchesi was a particular favorite. I bought Finn a copy of Qwirkle this past Christmas, and it's not been as big a hit as I'd hoped. The National Park version of Monopoly our next door neighbors had out on the discard pile gets a lot of use. You are correct that some of the games are pricey. But those are usually the ones that are totally worth it. We have a magnetic set of playing cards that my husband had growing up and they're still lots of fun.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  2. Hello, Favorite, if long-absent, Blogger. Where, please, is the brussels sprouts recipe? I really need it.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Thanks for this list! We've got the original Carcassonne, but that first one you mentioned sounds really fun. Our favorite game (like my whole family... brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews) is Flux. They have several versions (zombie, Monty Python) and it's just a pack of cards. The game is pretty random; you'll be saving up a certain set of cards for a win and suddenly the rules change (thus the name of the game). It does have strategy, but it's also the luck of the draw. Lots of fun and easy to tote around. Warning, the games can last forever, which is one of the things we like about it.

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  5. I love Settlers, but I am SO bad at it. Terribly bad. I don't know what I'm missing.

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  6. Great post! We have very similar taste in board games. I bet your family would also really like Dixit. http://www.amazon.com/Asmodee-5511302-Dixit/dp/B001OH9EDW/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=IQWD75WVJCTYJ&colid=2L9TCKTUT8WUU

    "Storytelling is the name of the game in Dixit, winner of both the French and Spanish board game of the year. On each turn, one player becomes the storyteller. This player makes up a sentence from one of the six interesting and abstract images in his hand. The other players select from amongst their six images the one that best matches the sentence made up by the storyteller. They each then give their chosen image to the storyteller who shuffles and lays the images down on the table. Everyone then votes on which image they think is the storyteller's. Points are scored (or not scored) based on vote tallies. The game ends when the last card has been drawn. The player who is the furthest on the scoring track wins Dixit!"

    Jishaku is a really fun magnetic game too...http://www.amazon.com/Distribution-Solutions-LLC-4102968-Productions/dp/B001CZ0IG8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=toys-and-games&qid=1290458698&sr=1-1

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  7. TeaforTwo: Parchesi! I always think of it as a cross between Chinese Checkers and Sorry, but maybe I better reacquaint myself with it and find out. Qwirkle we have too, and I like it.

    DeannaBeth: link trouble, but it's up now. Sorry!

    Wendy: Yes, Fluxx is a great one, too. I don't love it as much as Ben does--but that's because he really, really loves it!

    Kate: Uh oh. I'm worried that I'm going to go on some kind of board-game spree. Those both look fantastic. And Dixit reminds me of that whole other type of game that I love: the Dictionary game, or Balderdash. . .

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  8. Rummikub! I adore that game. Once my brother and I played it for three days straight while bored stiff on vacation in Saskatchewan. Love that game.

    Hee, my word verification is asdic.

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  9. AnythingforBenBirdy6:59 PM

    PERFECT timing as I'm heading back to the 'expensive' i.e. not walmart or toysrus store in 2 days with my no tax coupon (13% and I forgot the coupon at home!). What is your favorite for the younger set - 3, 5 and virtually 8 - perfection is fun!

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  10. Tina G9:22 PM

    Thank you Catherine, this was a very timely post- love the way you described every one of them : )
    Cannot wait to try a few new games- we have only a few boring ones because I cannot stand games with complicated rules! (I love playing games, just not figuring out then explaining the rules OVER and OVER)My own mother didn't have the patience for checkers, so I was really deprived as a child, LOL!

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  11. Thanks Catherine...I am always looking for new game ideas...man we are sorely lacking it seems after reading this!

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  12. Oh, this is a wonderful list, thank you!
    If only my husband would play.
    I once asked him why he didn't want to play a board game with me and he told me "because you might win."
    Issues?
    We actually did play and enjoy Blokus which my sister-in-law brought on a camping trip once.
    And I had to laugh at "Guess Who?" Most of the game pieces to that game can be found in the American Airlines non-rev (employee travelers') lounge at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. And whenever we are stuck there while travelling, that is what my 9 year old son pulls out and wants to play.

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  13. Ellen1:26 AM

    Fantastic list! Living in Europe, I would think getting these would be pretty easy.

    Thanks for doing this in time for Christmas!

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  14. Erin K.3:40 AM

    thanks for the list! I've ordered a couple things for my boys. We like to play Crosswise - http://www.amazon.com/MindWare-36238W-Crosswise/dp/B001IUTP0C/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1290501497&sr=1-1

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  15. Excellent list. We also enjoy Munchkin - a card game definitely designed by those game-store geek boys, but great fun. We did sort through the deck and take out some of the racier cards (double entendre puns mostly, but things I didn't feel like explaning to the 8 year old.) Probabaly not so good for Birdie yet, but I have a feeling Ben would love it.

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  16. We play 3-person Blokus all the time (my kids are little - 7 and 5). It's definitely less challenging, but still fun! And one person (usually mama) can get completely blocked in and stuck.... that's less fun, admittedly.

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  17. Love the list (and all the real-mom info). Ticket to Ride, Rummikub and Phase 10 are three of our absolute faves (greed and fear! of course!!). You might check out the card game Blink for times when you have very little time... It's lightning fast. Rounds are like 1 or 2 minutes each, I'm not even kidding, and it's really fun. Also, the new Scrabble Flash is pretty fun. :)

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  18. Ooh, those first two look like a lot of fun, especially, and I spent a good 10 minutes in a toy store in Northampton while on a short vacation this past weekend mulling over the dutch card game, and ended up not buying it--dang, I wish I'd read this first! My younger two kids (5-year-olds) sadly love to play Candyland (and hate to lose Candyland). They also really like some of the cooperative games from Family Passtimes (http://www.familypastimes.com/), like Max, Harvest Time, Roundup and the Sleeping Grump. (We only have one of their games for older kids, which is not all that fun). We also have two of these animal bingo games (http://www.acornnaturalists.com/store/Childrens-Bingo-Games-C294.aspx?UserID=38380730&SessionID=PnYiJ2Fa7ayWFjDAVeda) that, if you play to blackout, everyone pretty much gets BINGO at the exact same time and you can avoid tears.

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  19. Here in France, games by the German (I assume) company Haba are pretty popular and generally excellent (also, the instructions are in several languages). My not-huge-board-game-playing daughters love "la danse des oeufs" (egg dance in English? No idea) which is silly but fun. For strategy, we have two - Mare Polare (again, in multiple languages) which is for youngish players (it's about eskimos trying to catch the right number of specific types of fish to make their special soup) and Viva Topo (multilingual) which is about mice trying to outsmart a greedy cat - good for those who don't like losing to brothers or sisters as the players kind of have to cooperate to beat the cat. But our all-time favourite is only (as far as I know) available in French: Mille bornes. It's basically a race between four cars to cover 1,000 km ("bornes" in slang) first, but all kinds of things can be done to prevent your rivals. The girls love it, even if it's quite long to play. If anyone understands French, this is a great game for younger kids (from 5up to about 9 I would say). We don't have any older kid games - my oldest is not quite 9 and her sister doesn't have the patience for long games (apart from Mille bornes, which she will play happily for over an hour).

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  20. Anonymous2:50 PM

    I'm posting a Brussels sprouts comment here 'cause I don't want to deal with logging in on the other site....

    I make Brussels sprouts the same way (minus the fish sauce , which I will now have to try!) and just love them. I wanted to mention that for kids who won't eat even these really yummy brussels sprouts, you can just food process them up and make a great pasta sauce - I usually add a bit of pasta water to thin it a bit. I have one kid who won't eat them as sprouts bout will eat them as "pesto" .

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  21. This is so great, Catherine! I grew up actually loathing board games, but have now come to love them. If only I could get my husband on board. Here's my one request (if it's not too crazy labor intensive), could you put in your description the minimum number of people required to play? We are a family of three and have been disappointed by some games that require four or more, which we don't usually have on hand. Thanks!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  22. Someone else knows about Dutch Blitz?!? I thought it was just my family. A staple at our summer cottage. Games often become quite heated. Thanks for giving it it's due. :-) Gobblet is another family favorite from your list. My dad is especially fond of it, and my kids love it when they can beat him! We will definitely be trying other suggestions from this awesome list!

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  23. I just have to say, "YEA!" I have been looking forward to this post for...a year? :) Thank you!

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  24. We mainly played card games growing up. My favorites were Spite and Malice (which, until just now, I thought was just Spite Malice -- also, one of my college roommates thought I had called it Spike and Alice and that's how I now refer to it) and Rummy.

    There's also a Phase 10 dice game. I think I actually learned to play it with regular dice, but they sell a specific dice set for it.

    My little sister and I used to play Guess Who? all of the time, but mainly I just like to rearrange my people.

    Oh, I also love Scattergories.

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  25. These recommendations are greatly appreciated! Now to decide on just a few to buy...

    Two of our favorites are Guillotine (card game where you collect points by sending bigger point figures (such as King Louis) to the chopping block - my 9 and 7 year olds could tell you all of the figures, their point values, and what the action cards (named things such as "Fountain of Blood") would allow you to do) and Quarto (looks somewhat like Gobblit but I like it much more. Kind of a 3 dimensional "Sets" type game - have you seen that one? Also a favorite of my older neices and myself (this is a game that women seem MUCH better than men, almost universally)).

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  26. Hi there. Follower from Scotland here, and my daughter (10) just ADORES Cluedo. Just when we think she's completely lost interest in the game (apparently that's her tactical plan) she manages to announce the correct suspects!

    Catherine... love your posts here and at Dalai Mama.

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  27. Hooray for board games! We love the European-style games, too. Thanks for the list--I see a bunch we need to try. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  28. Apples to Apples. Not really a board game, but so much fun! And great for people with any kind of wacky humor. Favorite memory: The judge's card was "masculine" the winner in the contest? "Manhattan" which always has to be followed with, "Get it?? MAN-hattan! Ha ha ha" and much snorting.

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  29. We love Quiddler! It's a word game where you have to use the cards in your hand to spell words and you get points based on the difficulty of the letters. I often get beat by my kids because I'm trying to be clever and rack up points while they just slam down two or three letter words with R and E and I'm left with nothing.

    In a Pickle is super fun and pretty mindless in a creative sort of way. basically you get cards with random items on them and have to arrange them by size. So Universe might be the biggest... unless you can play Dictionary. You can find universe in the dictionary, right?

    Pictureka is a fun "I Spy" type game and the board is random tiles so it's different each time. We modified the red cards to be "all search" instead of a bidding war because it's more fun. Basically we play them the same as the green cards only it's a race.

    Pit is our all-time favorite card game but you need at least four to play. It's a bidding war, lots of shouting and an obnoxious bell with a bit of the stock market thrown in. I learned this game in 2nd grade but adults love it just as much as the kids.

    Thanks for the game suggestions!

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  30. Thanks so much for this list! And just in time for Christmas. We love Settlers - we've been playing the expansion pack 'Cities and Knights' with my brother and sister-in-law every weekend for years and still aren't tired of it... I would highly suggest it, as an adult game though. I think my newphew is just catching on and he's 12.

    And I am totally going to look up Zooloretto - it sounds amazing!

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  31. Awesome game ideas! I am checking them out now.

    In our house was play a lot of Munchkin - Booty (pirate themed) and Rumis. There is also an Ugly Dolls card game given to first born that sees a fair amount of play. Munchkin is a lot of fun and it has several sub-genres (pirate, dungeon, western, vampire).

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  32. We used to play Dutch Blitz when I was little! Wow, I hadn't thought of that game for years. So fun...
    And yeah, whatever commenter mentioned Apples to Apples is so right. That is an awesome game that a whole family of mixed ages can play- provided no one is strictly literal or annoyingly metaphorical about their adjective interpretation!

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  33. Anonymous12:32 PM

    There's an article about what a great game Settlers of Catan is in today's (11/28) Washington Post, in the Outlook section. Its focus is how it's a fitting game for our times as Monopoly was when it was first produced.

    Robin

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  34. First of all we LOVE Sorry around here, too and also do the long drawn out Soooorry!
    If you can Youtube the Carol Burnette episode about the Sorry game. Very funny!
    Also I just added 2 of the games from your list into my Amazon cart I am guessing they wont be on sale for Cyber Monday but at least there's free shipping and that makes me happy , too,

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  35. Anonymous2:09 PM

    Thanks, Catherine! I am so excited - you have eased my Christmas shopping burden considerably. Can't wait to get my hands on many of these games!

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  36. What a great post -- thanks! Other favorites around our house are Yam-Slam, which is a quicker, friendlier version of Yahtzee; the ubiquitous Uno; and Trouble.

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  37. Thank you for this. We play a lot of games in our house as well and love to mix it up thought producing and mindless ones as well. We love the German game: Mensch Argere Dich Nicht. (it means "do not get angry, man") and my 7yr old still says Mensch air conditioning. Came out in the early 1900's and Sorry/Trouble would be similiar. Many different ways to play.
    Can you please tell us the place where blank board games could be purchsed? It was mentioned a long time ago and that is something I would love to look at as well.
    Thanks.

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  38. Shari, those blank board games are at barebooks.com, here: http://www.barebooks.com/gameboards.htm.

    And, oh, I am so behind in commenting, because I'm just loving this thread. I realize, in reading your comments and experiencing Thanksgiving, that I left out a crucial type of game: the party game. I'm going to add our favorite to the list, which is Beyond Balderdash (a version of the Dictionary Game). Oh, and Lojo, Apples to Apples too; we find the junior version perfect for kids.

    Oh, and Magic27: Mille Bornes does exist in English. We go through phases of playing it. Ditto Harvest Time, Blink, Clue, Quiddler, oh, so many games you've all mentioned here.

    Amy: I added ages and ideal numbers.

    On your (collective) advice I ordered Munchkin for Ben and Birdy for Christmas! The chainsaw gave me pause, as did all the comparisons to Dungeons and Dragons. But still. . . . I may also order Dixit.

    Keep it coming. This is so great! xo

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  39. My family's favorite game right now is Pass the Pigs. It's basically Farkle but instead of a bunch of dice you have two little rubber pigs with a dot on one side. The points are calculated by how the pigs land- for example, a "snouter" is when one lands resting on its snout- and if they land on their side with one dot up and one dot down you lose all your points. It's great for traveling because it comes in a checkbook-sized case. It's a great party game too.

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  40. thanks so much, I will check it out. Also, forgot to mention Bendominos and Tri-Ominos are also go to games that you can play a couple of rounds or as long as you like.

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  41. I love that Birdy suggested Guess Who! It reminded me that I loved that game when I was young, and it would be a great game for my 4 year old! Good choice, Birdy!

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  42. Kimberly B9:27 PM

    We love the two-player Carcassone game, The Castle. I've played it hundreds of times. Also, Hollywood Blockbuster looks kinda cheap but is really fun, especially if you like Ticket to Ride and Modern Art. Ben would probably go nuts for Power Grid, too. It melts my brain a bit, though. Ra is really excellent....on and on....

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  43. We love board games too! (I think me especially.) Phase 10 and Rummikub - the whole extended family gets into those! Our kids really like Pictureka and Cluedo and the grownups in our family love Taboo and Pictionary.

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  44. Thanks Catherine, this is fantastic and will really help me out at the moment.

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  45. Our current favorite game is by Zobmondo and is called You Gotta Be Kidding - the crazy game of "Would you rather..." Each player takes turns reading a scenario such as... Would you rather lick a frog or eat one bite of rotten fruit? Players try to guess how the others will answer but most of the time we ignore the board part of the game and just enjoy reading and discussing the scenarios. You can play this anywhere. I've played it with kids as young as 6 all the way up to high school and everyone loves it. It's a great conversation game!

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  46. Just saw one of your readers mentioned "You Gotta Be Kidding." I call it "Would You Rather" since that's the main part of the game. We got that as a gift last year and the kids love the gross choices! Your list is wonderful.. I think my kids would love to try the Zoo game, especially since I have an 8 and 5 year old.
    Thanks for a wonderful blog!! Always makes me laugh!!

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  47. Do you have CAMP?? SO great-- my kids love it and you can *really* all play (it's wild animal trivia game)-- with different levels of difficulty and all sorts of fun animal facts thrown in....we can't recommend it enough!!!

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  48. I'm very late to the conversation but am loving all the suggestions (and finding kindred spirits!). I'd like to recommend Wise and Otherwise, which is a game where you have to finish a phrase with your own ending as well as guess the correct one. It says ages 12 and up, but we let my son and nephew, both 8 at the time, play just to humor them, and then ended up creaming us.

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  49. We just got Ticket to Ride for our 9-yr-old daughter for Xmas. Can't wait to play!

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  50. Carol1:51 PM

    I still find myself going back to this post more than a year later, as my kids get older. This is a great list, especially combined with the comments!

    We got Blokus last year, on your recommendation, and often play with 2 or 3 by using blue painters tape to cover a few rows and columns, thus making the board smaller. By changing the number of rows you cover, you can vary the difficulty.

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