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Playing Games

So I have this sudden inclination to find some new games to play as a family. I don’t have a long history as a gamer or anything; I played a little bit of Risk and Axis and Allies as a high-schooler, but that’s about it. Becky and I play chess every once in a long while, but she’s established a history of being able to beat me in chess at will, so it’s less entertaining (for me, at least) than it could be. There are a few games at which we’re more or less even; Boggle and cribbage come to mind.

So there it is. We’re boring when it comes to games. Our kids aren’t quite old enough to be included in the games yet, so that makes things a bit more of a challenge. But it still seems like we should expand our horizons a little.

I’ve perused the shelves at Walmart and Target, and frankly there’s not much there that interests me. Most of them are either re-releases of Milton Bradley staples (yet another version of Monopoly!) or games that require or encourage vast amounts of pop culture knowledge. Even a game like Apples To Apples (which I’ve played before and enjoyed) requires a level of pop culture knowledge that escapes most kids and some adults.

I’ve heard some of my nerdy friends about other games that might qualify as good strategy games that pique my interest. Settlers of Catan seems to be the archetype; I’ve also heard good things about Carcassonne and Dominion. I’ve got two basic parameters for selecting a new game: it needs to be something that can be played two-player, and it needs to be something that a bright child of 7 or 8 could conceivably learn and enjoy.

So, friends and gamers, what say you? Can you make any game recommendations for a family that needs to move out of the Milton Bradley era?

11 Comments

  1. I may be able to help here, as I have recently started buying games that kind of fit into the categories you mentioned. Dominion and Catan are 3-4 player games, so scratch those (fun) games off the list until you are sure of having more players. They are kind of expensive to keep on the shelf. However, you can play Catan Dice with any amount of players and you get some of the Catan elements.

    Carcassone can be played two player and will be enjoyed by the kids when they learn how to play.

    Family Business is a pretty fun little card game you can play with two people. It’s more fun with more people. However, you may or may not want the children playing. It has a Hit List and a St Valentine’s Day Massacre. It’s a mobster game.

    Lost Cities is an entertaining card game for two. You are supposedly “exploring” lost cities, but you’re just playing a card game and trying to score points. Check it out.

    Forbidden Island is a fun game you can play with two players, though it is more fun with four. The island you are on is slowly sinking and you have to collect 4 treasures and make it off before everything sinks. It is a good one for kids.

    That’s a good start. Let me know if you want more ideas.

  2. Courtney Courtney

    Tobago!

  3. Jason K Jason K

    Dominion is absolutely the way to go here. It’s 2-4 player (T and I play together). Last weekend I taught the older kids (8 and 6) how to play and they really enjoyed it. The 6 year old is a pretty good reader, so that helps. I have to provide some help in resolving some of the cards, but that’s no big deal. Come over some night and I can introduce you to it. šŸ™‚

  4. I concur with Dominion as a great two-player game. Misty & I play it regularly, and at 7 years old Eli is now getting to the point that he can play it.

    Carcassonne is a good two-player game, and can be played by older kids.

    Blokus (http://www.blokus.com/) is a great abstract game for two to four players, and can also be picked up by about a 6 to 8 year old kid.

    My list of games at http://granades.com/2009/12/09/how-to-choose-board-games-in-many-easy-steps/ is still okay, though I would add Race for the Galaxy, which plays well with two players and is complex but not too complex.

  5. Keith Grant Keith Grant

    Both Dominion and Carcassonne are good options; both are playable with two players. Carcassonne is probably a little more approachable for a less-serious gamer. Dominion is approachable if you buy the base set, but as you play it and add in the expansions, the strategy really starts ramping up (especially the Intrigue expansion; don’t start with that).

    Courtney mentioned Tobago which is a lot of fun. A much more casual game; less strategy intense.

    Check out stuff by Days of Wonder. Just about every game they do is excellent. There’s the Ticket to Ride series; Smallworld is supposed to be good, but I haven’t played it yet; Colosseum (bid on gladiators, Comedians, lions, etc and try to put on the best show in your roman colosseum); Mystery of the Abbey (think “Clue” on steriods); Pirate’s Cove (sail around to various islands, finding treasure and battling other pirates along the way)

    I would also say, find a local game store, not a chain like Wallmart. They will certainly have a better variety to choose from, and a better knowledge base to point you in the right direction.

  6. Keith Grant Keith Grant

    …note, I’m not sure which of those Days of Wonder games are playable with two, though.

  7. Dominion is fantastic. Laura and I play it all the time.

    Carcassonne is great. I’ve only played it a couple of times, but I enjoyed each time a lot.

    Agricola is another on to look at if you have time on your hands. The game mechanics don’t change much when you add players. But it is rather complex. Don’t play it with kids.

    Settlers is of course classic.

    Also, Citadels is a really under-rated (and in my opinion, classic) card game.

    If you’re looking for a really simple game that’s really, really deep, look at the game of Go. There are basically six or so rules, all very simply, all build around 1 (!) gameplay mechanic. I’ve played Go with people from 6 year to 50 years or so. It’s always fun for a sit-down game.

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about the approachability of Ticket To Ride, Power Grid, and others in that genre.

  8. Courtney Courtney

    I forgot to mention earlier — have you looked at the card game “Flux”? It’s excellent with kids, can be expanded from 2-6 players (I think), and is just plain silly. Very fun.

  9. Roger Roger

    Ooo, I like Fluxx.

  10. I picked up Fluxx and Carcassonne today at Barnes and Noble. Fluxx is already a hit with Laura (age 6 and a half). I’m not sure she’s fully aware of the strategy… but she beat me the first two times we played, so she’s got most of it.

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