Tried & True Family Board Games

April 16, 2020

Some of my first memories are sitting across from my Grandma up at the lake with vintage Old Maid cards fanned out in my hand. Along with my cousins and siblings, we spent hours playing SkipBo, checkers, Clue, Othello, Spoons, CandyLand, Battleship, and War. The games weren’t fancy, but they were tried and true.

That’s what we’re looking at today – games that stand the test of longevity and ages. Many games come and go, some so complicated you can’t even get through the directions, and some so trendy that no one wants to play them more than one season.

I also become frustrated when games claim to be “family friendly” but really are not appropriate for kids in content. These are all clean fun for all.

As we strive to be more balanced in our digital lives and habits, board and card games that build thinking skills, connection, and family unity are more important than ever!

Here is my list of solid family games:

Games for All Ages:

Clue – Is there any game more well loved than this one? A classic “who done it” mystery, Clue has been around forever, and will never go out of style. I like this collector’s edition.

Blink – A quick, high-intensity easy card game, this sharpens the mind and reflexes. The competitive nature of this game makes it really fun for all ages.

Catch Phrase – This is one of our large group go-to’s. You pick a category, answer a question on a timer, and try to pass the game before the buzzer goes off. This game keeps everyone engaged the whole time it is played making it one of my top picks. No one gets “out.”

Snake Oil – I love this game because it causes everyone to think critically and creatively. It also practices public speaking skills. You have to “sell” an idea to another player in the group. This can get really funny.

Othello – I’ve been playing this game since I was really young. It teaches strategy and critical thinking. All ages can play, and it’s easy to learn.

LCR– or Left, Right, Center may be our kids very favorite. Over Christmas we had 20 people ages nine to sixty seven playing this game for prize money (everyone brought four dollars). You can imagine how happy my nine year old niece was who won the big pot at the end. It’s a fast moving dice game that can be played with chips, candy, or other prizes.

Happy Salmon Card Game – Like Blink, this is another fast paced card game that is quick and easy to play – plus kids love the fish shaped pouch.

Bananagrams – Scrabble takes a really long time to play, which is great some days, but Bananagrams is the quick version of Scrabble, making it perfect for every day. This version has “wild” tiles which makes it fun.

Chess – Proven to build intelligence and IQ, teaching kids to play chess is a really good idea. In grade school, one of my kids’ favorite teachers set aside one afternoon a week for chess competitions. Brilliant, and such a gift to each child in the class. Chess is one of those games that grows with age, increasing in strategy and difficulty. No Stress Chess is great for those just learning.

Games for 12+

These games involve more strategy or complex thinking. Some kids may be ready for them younger than 12 (some of mine were), but I used that as a general guideline.

Risk – I’m amazed at how intense the Risk games get between cousins in our family. Truth be told, some may have ended in fights a time or two. My daughter and sons love this high-strategy, tactical game equally. Some of the cousins are in college now, and to this day this is one of the first games they reach for when together. Great for critical thinking.

Code Names – We play this a couple of times per week. This is a high level thinking game that requires some serious connection skills between seemingly random or opposite things. It’s really fun and can be played in teams as well. This is one of my top games for teens hands down.

Origin – Ok – I LOVE THIS GAME! The cards give you common sayings and you have to write a (fake) origin of where it came from. For example, the card may say, “Hit the sack.” The person with the card reads everyone’s explanations out loud, as well as the “correct” one, and everyone guesses the real origin. We end up laughing really hard in this game and it’s also fun to hear where all of the sayings we say or hear all the time originate.

Ticket to Ride – A fun, award winning game, each player tries to build trains that enable them to build railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. My teens often reach for this game as well. You can block people and really frustrate opponents, which is an added sibling benefit at times 🙂

Pandemic – New to us, this game I must add to the list because it is about an out of control virus outbreak (hello, COVID19). The goal is to work together to keep four deadly diseases at bay and avert global disaster. The edition I linked to is the current prime option, but you can get the older, much less expensive version through various sellers on Amazon.

Throw Throw Burrito – Anything that involves a version of dodge ball and throwing things is a winner in my kids’ book. This is a card game where each player tries to match sets of cards faster than their opponents while simultaneously ducking, dodging, and throwing squishy burritos. Yep, it’s that fun! A new favorite for sure.

Exploding Kittens – I’m throwing this game in because it is my sister’s family’s favorite game to play. They have two college kids and they are continuously grabbing for one. A few of the cards may need to be pulled with younger kids, but not many. We don’t have this one yet, but plan to try it soon!

Ok that’s it. A round up of classic, favorite family games. Now it’s time to hear from you…..

What are your favorite games to play?

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