Five family games to try this winter

We spent the spring teaching the kids Rummoli, Poker and Blackjack — and the fall rediscovering oldies like Pictionary, Careers, Scrabble, Monopoly and Clue — so our family was ready for some new-to-all-of-us games when Christmas rolled around.

Between the generosity of family members and Santa Claus, our family received plenty of entertainment.

At eight and 10 years old, our kids are in the board game sweet spot. They’re old enough to understand the rules of just about any game, but still young enough that they want to play with us. Hooray! 

From card games and puzzle games and games where the pieces look like literal candy, here are five games that I highly recommend you try this winter …

BLOKUS ($20)* 

I had no idea what this game involved when I ordered it, but the colourful plastic pieces looked like Tetris bits and bobs, so I expected the game would be to fit the pieces together, Tetris-style. It’s actually nothing like Tetris — surprise! 

Four players are required, or you can play with fewer people and take turns playing for the “ghost player(s).” Each person starts placing their own plastic candy-like pieces, snaking them across the board, and the trick is that your own pieces can only touch by their corners. 

The object of the game is to use up as many of your pieces as possible, and it’s addictive. My sister and brother-in-law and I spent hours playing this on Christmas Day, and now the kids love it, too.

QWIXX ($16)*

While the instructions seemed a little complicated at first, Quixx is almost a cousin of Yahtzee. Lots of rolling dice, lots of marking off results on your own score sheet, and the risky element of whether you should accept a bad result or cross off something. 

But because some of the dice rolls are shared, Quixx is a much more communal game than Yahtzee (where you’re basically just each playing your own solo game). We really liked this one, once we got the hang of it.

BANANAGRAMS ($25)*

This game has been out for years, but we just received it for Christmas and it’s already a big favourite. It’s like a fast-paced version of Scrabble where you build your own “board” right there on the table in front of you, so you never have to moan because someone “stole the spot” you’d been eyeing.

Bananagrams is a lot livelier than Scrabble, with everyone yelling “Peel!” and “Split!” The only downfall is that our kids beg for help completing their own boards. (Our son spent his first round creating words that ran south to north and east to west, so we needed to clear up some basic Scrabble ground rules first.)

To keep things fair, our family’s Bananagrams routine is that I use up all of my letters and then “pause” my own play to help each of the kids, while my husband continues working on his own board. Then I can go back to my own board, helping out as people need it. (In this type of situation, Scrabble’s slower, one-person-at-a-time pace would be helpful.)

KANOODLE ($15)*

OK, so this one is more of a puzzle than a game, but it’s a puzzle that is played like a game — with 200 different rounds/challenges. I bought this twisty puzzle for our son because he famously solved one very quickly as a preschooler, and I thought it would be fun for him. 

I had no idea this version had so many different levels, including 3D challenges where you have to make the pieces fit into a pyramid. Pretty soon, we were all taking turns with it — seeing which level we could beat before we were stumped. I couldn’t do any of the flat puzzles, but I like the 3D versions because it tells you where to place most of the pieces and you’re left with only a couple to figure out. 

This is a good two-person challenge where one can set up the puzzle like the handbook describes, and the other person can be challenged to fit in the remaining pieces. 

THE MIND ($19)*

This freaky, totally silent card game is something you need to try! It’s mostly just a simple deck of cards numbered 1-100, and you need to silently communicate with the other players so you can “read each other’s minds” and know how to place the cards in numerical order.

There’s a trick to conquering this game (which is explained in the instructions, but they suggest you try it first without reading that section). But even knowing the “trick,” it’s still incredibly difficult to complete a round correctly. 

It’s also weirdly satisfying when you and your family members stare at each other, silently press your palms against the kitchen table, then slowly, silently, begin to read each other’s minds and complete an entire level of the game without saying a word. (Much more enjoyable than the fiery toddler years, when the kids shrieked through endless rounds of Hi-Ho Cherry-O and Snakes’n’Ladders.)

One Comment on “Five family games to try this winter

  1. ohhh I love this! Some great games to buy ahead for next year. Some of our favorite games from this year were Sorry, Boggle, and a nice set of poker chips to play cards with.

    For what it’s worth – do not, I reapeat DO NOT – buy Deer Pong. It is loud and obnoxious, and like carnival games where your balls never go in the cups. It’s also pretty flimsy and the cups are always falling off.

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