What sounds fill your holidays? The rattling clatter of dice being rolled? The noisy hubbub and authoritative scripting of a new game being set up? The gentle whirrrr-thump of a deck of cards being shuffled? The quiet of intense concentration prior to a play being made. The joyous exaltation of a good play – or a spectacular win? The frenzied agitation of trying to beat the clock? Or the deflated “oomph” of being the one left “holding the bag” when the timer runs out?
The sounds of camaraderie, of healthy competition, perhaps even the not-quite-so-pleasant sounds of disappointment all add to the memory-making and family-as-friends making that we want to dominate our home environment. Exuberant, good-natured verbal sparring? Yes, that’s just another way to say “I love you” and “I enjoy spending time with you.”
In our home, we know we’ll be playing games. We know there’ll always be some new games among the birthday or Christmas gifts. We know we’ll pull out the family favorites (current ones are Qwirkle Cubes, Tenzi, and Spot It!). We know we’ll master at least one new game (last year’s was Richard Scarry’s Busy Airport Game). [Can you guess that we’re teaching a young, third generation to enjoy games?] And it’s something we all look forward to, something we all know we’ll be doing, something that has defined holidays in our home.
If your household doesn’t ring with the sounds of games being played, then maybe this year is the year to change all that. Turn off the TV. Put aside the tablets and laptops and look each other in the eye across the game table – or the card table – or the dining room table. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find it’s more fun to Quirkle than to squabble. Check out our family favorites – but also consider expanding your horizons. Here’s some of our new company favorites to try.
If you haven’t heard of this one yet, it’s a hilarious twist on the telephone game. Players start with a written clue, illustrate it in the dry-erase booklet, then pass it on to the next player. That player guesses what they’ve illustrated, flips a page and write what they think the phrase or object is. The next player flips the page and draws a picture of what the previous player wrote. And on it goes, until each player’s original book comes back… but never with the same message! Original game is for up to 8 players, and a 12-player game is also available.
Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans will enjoy this version of Monopoly made especially for them. The custom game board features iconic locations featured throughout the Hobbit epic film trilogy (An Unexpected Journey, Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of Five Armies). The playing tokens are beautifully detailed to represent well-known items from the films.
Quick! Look for a card that shows a cupcake and a horse, but not a shark. With this great visual game the whole family can play, you’ll be frantically searching for a card that meets the right criteria to win! The first player to find a card that meets the requirements collects a card. For young and old alike, there is no reading required, so even your very littles have a chance to win! 1-6 players; game time runs approximately 10 minutes.
The concept is simple: imitate the hand positions on each card, but move fast! The last person to successfully imitate the shown gesture loses the round. Speed isn’t everything, however. There are some cards whose hand positions are physically impossible. Failing to recognize an impossible position can trip you up, meaning yet another lost round. A quick and easy game at 10-20 minutes, it’s great to play with kids, and up to eight players can participate.
Ticket to Ride
This game has become one of our favorites. 2 to 5 players connect rail routes between major cities and attempt to complete them in the most direct route possible. Strategy is not too complicated so younger players are not at a disadvantage. Games are 45-75 minutes depending on the number of players. The basic game covers North American geography, while TTR Europe has slightly different rules and covers Europe and eastern Asia. TTR 1910 is an expansion that allows 3 more variations of the basic game.
Everyone plays at once in this fast-paced game, moving cards to the shared piles in the center, as they compete to be the first to use all of the cards in their “wood pile”. The first player to eliminate their wood pile yells “Dutch Blitz!” to win the game. Easy to learn, fun to play, this adicting game has been one of our favorites to play at home and on the go. The original game is for 2-4 players, but bigger families can use the expansion to add four more players. Simple color and number recognition makes it great for young players too!
This spelling game takes elements of Scrabble®, pick-up sticks, and barrel of monkeys and rolls them into one. Included in this set are 100 plastic hooks, each with a letter of the alphabet. Players compete to build words by hooking letters together on their chains. (Hooks come in three colors to represent different point values.) Be careful not to drop a letter, or you score no points for the round! The person who hooks the longest and highest-scoring words is the winner. 2 or more players.
Wouldn’t charades be easier with a partner? Now it is! Players guess charades that have two parts with two actors. Each round has a theme, which helps narrow the guesses. For example, the theme may be “Not Quite Enough” and you and your partner have to act out the phrases “drop/in the bucket,” “close/but no cigar,” “cherry/pick,” “fall/short,” “half/baked,” and “slim/pickings.” Game includes161 double-sided themed cards for lots of charades. Actors and guessers receive points for each correctly guessed item. The charades are tricky, but the laughs are plentiful! 3-8 players.