Every once in a while you need a good game--maybe it's a party where you need some cheap entertainment or maybe it's just a family night where you want something that adults and kids can play--but I love finding a good game, it can provide hours and hours of fun and promote some priceless conversation.
Here's my list of favorite games, some require a purchase others require nothing but a good group of people. It's always nice to get recommendations for these kinds of things before investing twenty or thirty (or more) dollars so if I've missed your favorite please let me know because I'm always in the market.
1. Catchphrase. This one's been out for a while but I always enjoy it. You pass the little round gadget around a circle where players for two teams are seated alternately. The timer ticks as each player tries to get the others on his/her team to guess which word the gadget is flashing. Once the timer runs out the game lets out a beeping sound and whichever team is holding is game is penalized--kind of like hot potato. You can set the game to different categories if you wish but I've found that even the kids can play it, though occasionally they'll have to skip an unfamiliar word. We've played it plenty of times at family parties.
2. Prese prese. This game needs no pieces or products, just a group of people sitting in a circle. One person is designated as the president (or "prese" which is pronounced "PREZ-ay," the words are Spanish and they fit better that way), one as the vice president (or vice, pronounced "VEES-ay"), secretary (secre, pronounced "SEC-ray") and the rest of the players are just numbered one, two, three, etc. The players sit in order of rank around the circle, president to lowest number, and it's like concentration, everyone slaps their hands on their laps twice then snaps their fingers twice--all together in the same rhythm.
The president starts out by saying (in time with the rhythm as everyone slaps their laps) "prese, prese" then pauses for two beats as everyone snaps twice, then when everyone slaps their laps a second time the president calls out someone else's name in time with the rhythm. It could be "vice, vice" or "three, three" or whatever, but whoever it is that he/she calls out picks up the game and is in charge of repeating their own title followed by someone else's title. On and on in time with the rhythm until someone messes up by either missing a beat (even a little bit) or by calling out their own name twice accidentally or any number of other goof-ups. If someone messes up the game stops for a minute as he/she goes to the end of the line (or circle I guess) and the bottom of seniority.
Everyone else moves up a spot and in this way everyone tries to work their way up the chain of command by being on-game. It may sound silly but it really is a fun game, and even the teens I know like it.
3. Pinochle. You may remember me mentioning that I didn't know how to play Pinochle but would like to learn? Well some friends read that post and happened to be in the market for a new set of Pinochle partners so we got an invite to learn how to play. We had a fabulous time and I've liked the game ever since. I need to get them over for another game, my skills are getting rusty. Ha! Like they were ever sharp to begin with!
4. Wallyball. If you like racquetball and you like volleyball then wallyball might be the game for you. It's volleyball played in a racquetball court where you can play the ball off of the walls. I did a post about it last winter so for more details I'll direct you there.
5. Scattergories. I love word games and trivia games and particularly like classics like Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary but Scattergories is my favorite, it just never gets old for me.
6. Stare. But this, THIS is a new game for me and I think I might like it just as much as the classics. We played it with friends a month or two ago and had a terrific time. It's pretty simple, you get a card with a picture on it and you're allowed 20 seconds to look at the picture before the other players ask you detailed questions about what you just saw. Strictly a test of memory. Sounds easy, right? Well we got our bottoms whupped and it wasn't pretty but it just goes to show how fun the game is because I still had a good time even though I lost so pitiably. There is a junior edition too.
7. Golf. The card game, not the sport. This is one of our traditional games we play as a family when we're out camping or something like that. It's played with a regular deck of face cards where kings are zero points and aces are one point. All other face cards are 10 points and all cards besides them are their regular point value. The dealer deals out four cards to each player who places them in front of himself either in a line or in a group of four as a rectangle. The player is allowed to look at only two of the cards. ONLY TWO. The player must remember those two cards and the rest of the deck is placed in the middle with the top card turned over as a discard pile.
When it's your turn you can choose to pick a card from the discard pile or from the deck but you must discard one card on every turn. The object is to get as few a points with your four cards as possible--remembering that kings are zero and aces are one--by drawing, swapping cards and discarding to get the fewest points possible. You don't know what two of your cards are so it's always a gamble to replace them with a new card, but when you think you have the fewest points on your turn you "knock" instead of drawing, then everyone else gets one more turn before turning over their cards to see who really did have the fewest points. If you were right and you are the lowest then you don't get any points but if you're wrong and someone beat you then you get triple what's in your hand. Fun fun fun.
8. Scrabble. Oh how I love Scrabble. Traditional, challenging, strategic, thought-provoking, and (sadly) played no more around here. This post explains it pretty thoroughly and someday I'm hoping he'll play with me once again. If I let him win.
9. President and Scum. Another terrific card game that I've played for years and never grown tired of. The kids love it now and we'll play for rounds and rounds. Here is a post from last year that has all the wherefores and how-tos.
10. Mafia. Another party game that is always fun--this one takes a group of about twelve or so though it's flexible. Everyone draws a slip of paper, two of which are marked with "cop" and two of which are marked with "mafia." Whoever draws one of these slips keeps it quiet--it's a secret who got which paper. One person has to play the boss/mediator and will not draw but will help everyone else to navigate the game.
The boss tells everyone to close their eyes, then tells the cops to open their eyes--so they can discover each other. The boss then has the cops close their eyes and has the mafia open theirs--once again for recognition--then close them. Then the game begins. The boss once again has the cops open their eyes and signal who they think is mafia then the boss quietly signals back whether they were right or not. He has them close their eyes again then has the mafia open theirs and pick someone that they want to eliminate (or "kill" if you're feeling violent).
Once the mafia have closed their eyes again the boss announces who is dead and whether or not the cops were able to determine who the mafia were (no names though). Then the game opens up to the rest of the players and they're to decide which person they think is mafia--this is usually done by a simple vote mediated by the boss. When all the players have voted for whoever they think is most likely to be mafia that person is then officially out of the game--eliminated. At that point it's fine for them to say what job, if any, they held. That's one complete round. On and on the game goes, round after round, with mafia killing off person after person, trying to kill off the two cops and the cops trying to figure out who is mafia and then convince the rest of the group to vote the mafia out. It's hard for the cops to convince everyone who is mafia without looking suspicious or attracting the attention of the mafia who want to find out who the cops are so they can kill them. Got it? The game ends when either the two mafia or the two cops are killed off. If the mafia are the only ones left then they win and the group loses, if the cops can get the mafia voted out then they and the rest of the group wins. It's a group-against-mafia thing.
Confusing but really fun--a classic family game around here but I have to say I'm the world's worst mediator/boss because I always forget the steps to each round. Once I forgot who the mafia had killed and when everyone opened their eyes I couldn't remember who was then eliminated. D'uh. But give it a try and see if you're better at it than I am.
11. Settlers of Catan. A terrific German board game where, in true take-over-the-world fashion, you seek to build up your roads, settlements and cities through collecting resources by a roll of the dice. It's not crazy-hard to learn (we play as a family and the kids don't have any trouble keeping up) but there are a lot of small intricacies and you need to pay attention--it can get rather dicey with competition and the game can switch directions on a single round of play, throwing a new player into the lead.
Don't play it with someone who tends toward aggression--it could get ugly--but it's a five-star game for sure. We've been playing it nonstop since Christmas and need to get the expansion edition because our 4-person game can't accommodate the whole family. Everyone wants to play.
12. Apples to Apples. Also an amazingly fun and entertaining party game that we've enjoyed a lot of lately. We've even been able to play with the kids and even Lillian can play with a little help. Everyone holds cards that each have one item on them. It could be anything from Elton John to erasers to Elmer's glue. Players rotate the roll of judge who draws a card from a separate deck that has an adjective on it. It could "zany" or "dirty" or whatever and the rest of the group throws in the card from their hand that they think best typifies the adjective played. Then the judge gets the final say on which card fits best and the player who played it gets to keep the adjective card as a trophy. The player who collects five cards first wins. The kids love it, though they also have a junior edition of this game too.
13. Acquire. Just what it says, the player who collects the most wins--it's the American system at its best! It's kind of like Monopoly, but without the dice and the element of chance. It's kind of like Risk because you're trying to take over the financial world but without the army guys. It's been around since the 1960s but it's a family favorite that my sister and her husband introduced us to years ago. The only problem here is that the original game has been "out of print" for some time and now is only available used through sites like ebay. You'll see other versions of the game, even some with similar covers, but beware because unless you've paid over $100 for your version or inherited it, it's probably not the real thing.
That's 13 and I'll stop there but here are five more games that have come highly recommended that are sitting, waiting for me in my Amazon shopping cart for our next game purchase:
Munchkin--A card game that's a spoof on Dungeons and Dragons where you battle such enemies as the Potted Plant, the Drooling Slime, the Plutonium Dragon, the stoned Ogre, Don the Horny Helmet and Boots of Butt-Kicking. Very popular with the teens.
Ticket to Ride--A board game representing a coast-to-coast railway journey where you compete to complete your track. There are various versions of the game that set it in different locales but you get the idea. I've heard it's also fun.
Aggravation--This is one I loved as a kid that kind of reminds me of Chinese Checkers. Very fun and easy for young children. I'll probably put it on Santa's list for the coming year.
Puerto Rico--Another German strategy game (what is it with those Germans??) where players play different roles (plantation owner, builder, trader, etc.) in colonial Puerto Rico. It has the advantage of a historical twist but it's supposedly great fun to play.
Tikal--This game got such amazing reviews that it immediately piqued my interest. I don't know much more than what it describes on the product page but I've decided it will be our next game purchase.
If you're up for a double dose Scribbit, I'm posting this week over at Design Mom--see you there!
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