I attended a PTA meeting last year and listened to two sixth grade teachers give a proposal for a $500 grant to buy board games for their classrooms. I come from a family that loves and plays lots of games, and I was still amazed at what they shared and how much sense it made. They explained that reading and comprehension are closely tied to how much you WANT and NEED to understand what you're reading - and if you want to play a game, you want and need to understand the directions. They also talked about other skills board games can teach kids: cooperation, strategy, patience, sportsmanship. They got the grant. I asked my almost-12-year-old son to talk to his friends and come up with the Top 10 list below!
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1. Hero Realms/Star Realms
My son loves this game and I avoided playing it at first because it looked confusing. The basics of the game actually aren't that hard, but there are some cool ways to apply different strategies once you have the basics down. Buy one deck to start, and if you like the game, you can add on other Hero Realms and Star Realms decks to expand the game even more.
2. Stuff Happens
We played this at a neighborhood gathering, and it was pretty hilarious. It's a good group game for tweens/teens to play on their own or with adults. You try to guess how the game rates bad scenarios from "hangnail" to "seated behind someone puking on a roller coaster." The only downside is if you play enough, you'll start to learn the scores of your favorite horrible situations.
Anyone else remember this from their '80s childhood? I totally had this game - along with Hotels. My parents got rid of it years ago, which is a bummer because the originals are going for $375 on eBay. But a Kickstarter fund to the tune of $2.8 million revived it over the last year or so (they asked what game people wanted to see again and it topped the list). The new version keeps the basics of the old game and adds some new quirks. They also sell expansion packs if you want to get really fancy.
Can we get a holla from the Midwesterners who grew up playing Euchre? I thought this card game was a staple for all Americans until I went to college and realized every friend who hailed from beyond Ohio and Michigan had never heard of it. This four-person game pits one two-person team against another. It involves enough strategy to be competitive, but it's easy enough to play while chatting or eating snacks. My kids love it when we do tournaments at family gatherings because you keep changing partners and tables. We each throws in $5 at the start, and the person with the most points at the end wins the kitty. Euchrefun.com explains how to run a tournament and provides printable score cards.
We invited another family over for a game night and they brought this game along. The adults played something I don't remember in the kitchen, and the kids howled with laughter in the living room playing this one. I'm not sure what happened, but we found the cards under couches and in crevices for weeks afterward.
This one's a favorite for tweens, teens and adults. If you haven't tried it, put it on a birthday or Christmas list. If you have it, check out the other versions: Europe, Rails and Sails, Nordic Countries, Africa, France, United Kingdom, Germany, New York City 1960, India and Asia. We'll admit, we're a little bummed they don't have Central and South America. Maybe that's coming up next.
This game is a cooperative game, which means all players work together to beat the game itself. The game also changes every time you play because players draw a card that give them a special skill. Different numbers of players and combinations of skill cards create new game dynamics. I included Forbidden Desert, because that's the one we own and my son has played, but the original version of the game is Forbidden Island.
This is a fun game that combines strategy and luck as you try to get as many of your people to safety as possible. This game has been around a long time, so the newest version is a reboot that includes a few other options.
This one was a big hit with our word nerd family. When we played, everyone playing knew each other fairly well, so the inside jokes used to win the game added an extra layer of fun. But you don't need to know anything about your teammates or competitors to enjoy it.
I suppose puzzles aren't technically games, but they're still a great way to spend time with someone and relax. We had a Hardy Brothers puzzle going over the holidays and sucked my father-in-law and brother-in-law right in. Doing puzzles spans all ages. Tip: pick a puzzle without large areas with plain colors unless you want a serious challenge. We've had a Harry Potter puzzle going for months because all the solid black areas make it really tricky to sit down and quickly find a few pieces.