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Oh Wonderful Board Games

Finally! The days of Candyland and Chutes and Ladders are beyond us. Don't get me wrong; those games were fun for awhile. But there's only so much of Gramma Nutt and Queen Frostine -- Princess in newer versions -- that one parent can take.

But before we delve into the next phase of children's board games, many thanks to Jen for her wonderful blogging last week. It was great to have a baby (and baby issues) on board. And now, back to those games.

Between mornings at the beach and pool and afternoons at the pool and beach, 5-year-old discovered a love for Sorry, Uno and Battleship. He taught his best friend. He taught his 3-year-old brother (who amazingly picked up some strategy.) He made up new ways to play Battleship. I'm willing to bet that a year from now when we ask what he liked about the beach, he'll have forgotten Boogie boarding and the "wipe-out;" he'll have forgotten collecting shells; he'll have forgotten watching the dolphins jumping early in the morning; he'll have forgotten biking with his friends. And he'll remember all the games we found in the rental house.

Okay, maybe he won't forget all of it. But he's made it clear that he LOVED those games, so much so that he sometimes lagged behind most of the rest of the household in getting anywhere because he wanted to play "just one more game." And it reminded me of the family game nights we used to have when I was a kid. I think it's time to start them with my offspring.

Are board games a way that you spend quality family time? Or is it one of those old-fashioned things that seems to be dying out? What unexpected interests have your kids developed on vacations?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  August 13, 2007; 8:30 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers
Previous: A Soundtrack for Parenthood | Next: Lessons From a Three-Year-Old


Games are a very important part of our Family Time. This weekend, we even pushed bedtime back because we got involved in a loud, raucous game of Quiddler. Laughed for a couple of hours, and everyone had a ball. WE also play Uno, Battleship, Cadoo, a game that I can't remember the name of but it was made by National Geographic, and you can learn neat geography fact, Quiddler (a great game for spelling and adding!) and all kinds of card games. Holiday gifts alway include some sort of new game. I remember playing games with my family, I have an older sister that's single and childless that hosts an annual board games party for all her friends (bring your own game and one munchie, and she has great prizes for winners!), and now I have at least a weekly game night for our family. But we generally have some game out a few nights each week, because we all enjoy it so much. Maybe it's like reading...families of readers tend to have kids that are readers (that's us, too), so parents that grew up with a game night, have game night themselves.

Posted by: AG | August 13, 2007 9:04 AM | Report abuse

My husband and I love to play board games and card games. Our favorites to play lately include Blokus (our 3 & 5 year olds love it), King Oil (anyone else know this vintage game?), Scrabble, Upwords, Pictionary, etc. My kids love a game called Cariboo right now, and of course, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, and a couple of German games our au pairs have brought. My husband loves to play strategy games like Risk but I'm absolutely terrible at it, so it's become kind of a joke. I would not make a good general or colonel. Can't wait to see what other people play. I hope I get some ideas for new games!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 13, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

I was wrong about the name of one game my kids play -- it's Cadoo, just like AG posted. Whoops. But what a great idea to have a board game night!!!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 13, 2007 9:09 AM | Report abuse

My family is 4 generations of Scrabble addicts, but some new games have managed to get some interesting penetration into our addiction:

Settlers of Catan - a trade/politics game that I have only recently been able to get in English (I believe it is Dutch or German originally). Very addictive and interesting variation in every game thanks to a novel playing board. Also available via X-box live for those of you with video game addicts.

Ticket to Ride - Train mogul conquest game with rules that are simple. Small pieces, however, not appropriate for little kids. As much (or as little) strategy as you like.

Munchkin - The older generation does not play D&D like my family, but the mockery this game makes of it is lots of fun for those of us in the know.

Posted by: David S | August 13, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Blokus is great, my (adult) friends and I play it and it's very competitive. It's a good game because it's simple to learn and play, but complex enough to be really challenging. We also play Settlers of Catan, which is a strategy game set in a medival world of trading. The board is made up of tiles, so it's different every time and really fun once you get into it. Much shorter and simpler (and more peaceful) than Risk. Catch Phrase is also a popular game that's a cross between Taboo and Hot Potato.

By the way, for adults, Dirty Minds is a HILARIOUS game. Basically it gives clues that seem to lead to something dirty but is actually a perfectly benign object. We were laughing so hard it was hard to ask the questions.

Posted by: Em | August 13, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Okay, that's two votes for Settlers of Catan, and I'm going to put it in my Amazon cart. Thanks, David S and Em!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 13, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I can also add a vote for Settlers of Catan. It can be hard to find as it is not carried by most major toy stores, but you can generally locate it at stores that specialize in Role Playing games (although it is not a role playing game). Although it is listed as being for older kids (I think 10 or 12 and above), my 9 year old loves it and even my 5 year old enjoys playing for the first hour or so. The game has very rich strategy elements in it as well as teaching planning and bargaining skills. It also comes with expansion packs that extend the gameplay. We have the Cities & Knights pack as well as the Seafarers pack. For parents who have issues with the war themes of most strategy games (like Risk), this is a good game to consider. The only real competition of the game is to see who can build larger settlements first. Great game...

Posted by: Dad of 4 | August 13, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

We love board games! There are a wonderful way to learn how to respond to life's ups and downs. This may sound simplistic, but if you have a child (or spouse!) who responds badly to losing, investigate games that take multiple rounds and just don't keep a score. Good examples are Rummikub, Boggle, Pictionary, or be brave and just don't keep score as in Scrabble.

Posted by: frugal mom | August 13, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

There is an entire subculture of boardgame out there. Settlers of Catan, Carcasssonne, and Ticket to Ride are only a few. Too bad more interest isn't given to them as video games, but the money just isn't there. Look at to see just how many boardgames there are.

Posted by: john | August 13, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

If you enjoy Settlers of Catan you should get the supplement for it called Cities and Knights. It makes the game even more interesting.

I recently discovered this cool game called Caylus. It's great.

Posted by: JC | August 13, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

My family plays the game of Life every New Years eve. It's a bit boring unless you are forced to name your spouse and children. The worst names ever get used, and everyone has a great time eating snacks on the family room floor.

As for cards, my younger sister and I loved Mille Bornes when we were younger. It's a driving milage game with accident cards and safety cards. There's a good explanation of the game on wiki. She used to hop up and dance when she got to say "coup forre!" She did the same thing after winning at Uno. Thankfully, she's outgrown that habit. We used to play just about every day after school. I didn't take French in school, but when I was driving in Normandy this year, I understood most road signs thanks to the bilingual cards in that game.

Posted by: Navy Gal | August 13, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Classic board games and basic card games are essential for kids in multi-generation families. My teen and pre-teen girls happily chat and eat ice cream over a Scrabble board with their 70-something grands who live out-of-state. It breaks the ice, gets everyone laughing and lets the elders see them at their relaxed best. We took board games to my Mom's assisted living facility and got a hotly contested round of Monopoly going in the sunroom. Mom kept an index card with my then-10-year-old's best Scrabble words next to her bed, to prompt her memory of Claire's impressive vocabulary. Try making extended family memories with a Nintendo - not!

Posted by: Nan Connolly | August 13, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, there's also a kids' version of Settlers of Catan. It's called Kids of Catan, and it's godawful expensive, but it's quite cute. It comes with a whole city's worth of blocks, and all of the resources and pawns are wooden, as well. My five year old niece enjoyed it.

DD isn't even two yet, so she isn't into board games. But when we get together with DH's siblings and parents, we're always playing. Quiddler is popular, but we usually end up playing poker or thumbing through Hoyle's for an interesting card game.

Posted by: NewSAHM | August 13, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

We play many, many boardgames in our family. Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan are a few that we like and play a lot. There are so many games available out there and so many good ones. If you start with these and like them then you can go anywhere you want next. If you have younger kids, try Gulo Gulo (my 4-year old loves it). If you have older kids, maybe they would enjoy a deeper game like Puerto Rico. We play ALL of these games.

Posted by: bnords | August 13, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

My family loves Uno - especially the newer versions that have some sort of flashing/blinking/rotating piece of equipment at the middle.

We still love Scrabble in our family. Actually, I occasionally get depressed - my husband is dyslexic and understandably doesn't like to play. Having moved halfway across the country, I'm still trying to find someone to play Scrabble with me!

Apples to Apples, though, is my favorite "new" game. I've gotten my entire family hooked on it. Granted, it's more fun to have a few glasses of wine and play it with the adults, but playing it with the kids is fun, too ;)

Not a Settlers of Catan fan, sorry. I did try it at a couple of game nights, and while I found it diverting for a while, I just can't get into it.

But I think the classics are still my fave. Acquire. Twixt. Clue. Mille Bornes. Risk. Yahtzee. Monopoly. Othello. Not to mention card games - endless varieties of Poker, Gin, Hearts or Spades.

Basically, check out the Games Magazine "Games 100" issue (the December issue, but you usually have it by late October) and cruise for good new games if you don't like the classics. You can always find something cool...

Posted by: Chasmosaur | August 13, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

We are HUGE board game fans. In addition to those mentioned by others, we enjoy chess, checkers, mancala, and more.

Posted by: 21117 | August 13, 2007 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Ticket To Ride has an expansion-pack consisting of additional routes, plus a larger quantity of the train-cards. In this expansion-pack, the cards are bigger, more like regular playing-cards in size, and easier to handle than the tiny cards of the original game. There are many places to buy these games on-line -- places such as have everything. I'm surprised some commenters here indicated they had problems obtaining these games. Maybe your local Wal-Mart or game-store won't have them, but they're easy to find on-line.

Posted by: billyho | August 13, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I tamed a very difficult four-year-old with an excellent game entitled "Froggy Boogie" which is simple, colorful, and well within the reach of a three-year-old. DON'T SETTLE FOR THE SAME OLD GAMES THAT YOU FIND AT WALMART -- get online and find the new kid games that are far better and more fun to play.

Amazing Labyrinth
Froggy Boogie
Burg Appenzel

Posted by: Sagrilarus | August 13, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Oh, one other thought about Settlers of Catan. My family recommends that you use the Cities and Knights of Catan expansion pack, which virtually makes this a brand-new game (and to most of our group, a more interesting one.) In addition, consider adding some of the various "Catan" customer-suggested options such as factories, because they can add a lot of variety and interest when you get to the point of wanting something new. Google "Catan" and you'll find a lot of variations. Or order "Das Buch" which is a 200-page book. It's in German, but contains all of the illustrations you'll need to add 30 or 40 different variations of "Catan". There's an (abbreviated) English explanation for most of the variations. You'll need to scan-in osme of the new images, and then print them on a full-page Avery label, then cut out and stick on a spare hex piece, and you have your new game-board piece. A little work, but worth it.

Posted by: billyho | August 13, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

You Settlers of Catan Shills need to stop it with the propaganda and go back to boardgamegeek where you belong. Despite your unwillingness to accept it, families still prefer the classics like Yahtzee, Sorry, Monopoly, and Clue.

Posted by: Jim | August 13, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

What age do kids normally get into board games? My son's friends (age 3-4) really aren't into them beyond memory games and the like.

Posted by: DCer | August 13, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Families don't "prefer" the classics. Families simply walk into a store completely clueless, look at the shelves, and buy something that they already know.

It's a feedback system. If people won't buy them, stores won't stock them, and vice versa. Luckily for us, we now have the web.

The vast, vast majority of people I introduce these games to never go back to the old antiquated games of dice and no decisions.


Posted by: Jim | August 13, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

We were stationed in Tokyo when I was growing up, so I learned Go. It's a great game, that can be easy to learn, but involves strategy (Pente may be like it, I am not sure).

Posted by: Caroline | August 13, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

From what I hear, family board game nights are still big in Europe and in Utah. Plus, I believe I read someplace that board gaming is on the rise nationally as well. Perhaps it's because of the recent influx of some of Europe's better board games, or maybe it has to do the the Parker Brothers (?) recent "Family Board Game Night" ad campaign. Either way, I'd like to think that more and more families are turning on to playing games together and spending time together, especially since games can grow with you. You may eventually outgrow Candyland, Battleship, or Monopoly, but there are literally thousands of board games out there that you can grow into. It's a healthy, social, mentally stimulating hobby that can bring thousands of hours of happiness and socializing over a lifetime.

Posted by: Sean | August 13, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

My husband grew up playing nearly every board game there is and we have inherited them. He is great at modifying games to meet the abilities of our 3 and 5 year old. Their current favorite is Can't Stop, an early 80s game that requires adding the total of 4 dice in different combinations.

I love Milles Bourne, but it took me years to find one for ourselves. And it doesn't have the cool green card holder! Still a fun game though. Coupe Ferre!!!

Posted by: Burke Mom | August 13, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

No one has mentioned another classic - Cribbage, which is another fave card game in our family. There are lots of rules to learn at first (probably best for 10+), but the objective is simple and the games move quickly, allowing for multiple rounds. For families, it's great for math skills and analytical thinking. There are rule variations for 2, 3, or 4 people.

Posted by: Andrea | August 13, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Have you guys tried Life? You get to drive a little car around the board making money and getting a family. It's my favorite!

Posted by: JT | August 13, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Try "Catch Phrase" and "Shut the Box" (great for kids learning math). Gosh, I forgot all about Milles my dad used to say..."coupe the fourre".

Posted by: Ellen | August 13, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I grew up playing board and card games with one set of grandparents - they introduced me to Mille Bournes (which prompted me to take French in high school!) and Uno, and Aggrivation (which is a board game that my grandfather made in his workshop, based on a pattern from an old crafts magazine) and endless variations on Chinese Checkers and such (he loves to get game patterns from his friends). I still end up learning a new game almost every time I go see them.

My family now isn't too big on games - we play Pictionary (with extensively modified rules) in our church social group once in a while, and have played Apples to Apples a few times (DD loves it, and learned it at a church camp). My inlaws play dominoes a lot - specifically a game called Chicken Foot. I'd never heard of it before them, so I have no idea if it's common or specific to the family, but it's addicting, lots of fun, and takes just enough time to make everyone crazy without it turning into a Monopoly or Risk-style marathon. I love it!

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | August 13, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

When you buy Ticket To Ride (and probably some of the other games by the same company), you get a special code which allows you to play ALL of their online games "free" for 6 months. The site is If you don't have the code to play free, there is a small charge. Ticket To Ride can be played against live players, or robots. They have the American version, plus a couple of European variations. The Ticket to Ride online game is exactly like the real game, extremely well-done. Only one person needs to have the code -- he is the one who has to INITIATE a new game, but his online friends (who don't have codes) can join free after he has "opened the door", so to speak.

Posted by: billyho | August 13, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

My brother-in-law bought a game called "Gulo Gulo" for my kids. They love it -- even the 3 year old.
Since then, he's brought them more, "Hamster Roll" (I think it's German, though, and called "Hamsterrolle", or something like that), "Villa Paletti", "Walk the Dogs", "Loopin Louie", and "Rat a Tat Cat".
My 4 year old and 7 year old boys love them all. (The 4 year old needs a bit of help with some of them and gets bored faster than the rest.)
I'm not sure where to get all of these games, but my brother-in-law says he gets them online, since Target and Toys R Us doesn't carry them.

Posted by: samantha b | August 13, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

People outgrow monopoly? Really? That's a shame....

Posted by: Mama | August 13, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

by DCer at August 13, 2007 10:39 AM

"What age do kids normally get into board games? My son's friends (age 3-4) really aren't into them beyond memory games and the like."

A tough question - I seem to recall that I started playing boardgames with more complex rule-sets (like Monopoly) when I was about 7-9.

There's a moral component to board games, so much could depend on the speed of your child's psychological development. Games like Monopoly, Catan, Risk, and Clue require a child understand a rule as being about being right and wrong; as opposed to just punishment avoidance. (I am subscribing to a particular theory of moral development here, but even within the diverse understanding of social science I think the "you need to reach a certain point in moral development to understand and enjoy a boardgame" would be true.) Some games, like Uno, Sorry, or Chutes and Ladders (or an old favorite, Mousetrap) would be better to start with as their rule sets are a bit more straightforward.

As a parent (who will be more patient than his friends) you could start by playing with him. Just be prepared that it may be a bit more of a "teaching" experience than a "playing" experience.

Posted by: David S | August 13, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

The Mayfair Train Games "Empire Builder" system games are a lot of fun. Not for the very young, but 7-8 years old or so should be able to play with adults until they get the rules. (there is a variant version with trolly's for the younger set). Counting, addition, geography and map reading all come into play.

You draw your track on the board with erasable crayons, and each version is a different map, North America, Europe, Russia, India, Australia, Japan, and a couple of fantastic places, the Moon and a fantasy land where the trains are dragon powered.

Posted by: KDT | August 13, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Daddy Cool is a cute game that's easy enough for kids but enjoyable enough for adults; its a simple 'push-your-luck' die rolling games with adorable polar-bear pieces.

As kids start getting a little older, there are a ton of fantastic games out there (which are all great games for groups of just adults as well!)

Zooloretto is an easy game themed around building zoos; its got lots of decisions to make where you try to take the best pieces to score points for your zoo, while avoiding getting stuck with pieces you don't want.

I'll also echo the suggestions of Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, Ticket to Ride, etc. All good games!

Posted by: Brian | August 13, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

My two-(nearly three)-year-old is really into Candyland, but none of the rest of us can figure out what rule set she's using. Her favorite card game at the moment is 52 card pickup. That said, I'm hoping she (and her little sister) will end up liking lots of different board and card games. I remember Careers, Emergency, Risk, Othello, Uno, and other such games being some of the few times my brother and I would really play together well.

I'm also looking forward to getting someone else in the house who's interest in playing a few rounds of Fluxx -- a great rules-changing card game similar to Uno but way better.

Posted by: tcr25 | August 13, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Go is an excellent classic deep strategy game with simple elegant rules, popular in Asia but increasingly popular also in the west.

Blokus and Rumis are easy to learn games about geometric placement of pieces, good for kids learning spatial skills and also excellent games period.

Master Labyrinth is a nice fantasy-themed maze strategy game I have played with a 10-year old who quite enjoyed it.

Tantrix and Trax are tile-placement games with very nice durable Bakelite tiles in a handy carrying pouch; simple rules, attractive pieces. Tantrix has randomness and works for 2-4 players; Trax is pure strategy for 2 players.

There are many more excellent games than the boring stuff you find in grocery stores. Like many, I recommend visiting to learn more about boardgames.

Posted by: russ | August 13, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

My son is only 10 months, so we're not into the board games yet, but definitely will be! However, I've played board games on several occasions with one of my friends and her kids. We've played Apples to Apples many times with them (there is a kids version of the game). It is such a great game, because it not only helps with word association, it makes you think about what other people are thinking. And it is a lot of fun seeing how the kids associate things.

Posted by: Kristin | August 13, 2007 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Pass the Pigs! No board (sort of like Yahtzee), but tons of fun!

Posted by: Silver Spring | August 13, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

There is also a "Settkers of Catan" card came, which is very much like the board game but can be played with only two players (the board game requires at least 3, I think).

We also had a game I just loved as a kid called "Master Labyrinth), which was this wonderful game where the board was a maze made up of moving tiles. At every turn, you moved the maze to try to pick up new items. For kids who like mazes and strategy games, it's a great one (

I'm surprised no one has mentioned chess!

Posted by: reston, va | August 13, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Ooh! Speaking of Life, has anyone else played the Pirates of the Carribean version? It is even better than the original!

Posted by: 21117 | August 13, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Avoid Settlers of Cataan - it just takes too long to play. Worse than Monopoly.

My daughter likes card games: Munchkin, Apples to Apples, Aquarius, Fluxx, Set, Bohnanza, Klunker, Get Bit! (I guess technically they're not all 'card' games in the sense of drawing/playing cards, but they all *use* cards, at least. And all are great games.)

Some other ideas: Kill Doctor Lucky, Icehouse (various games), Bandu, Jenga, Cathedral, Yahtzee, Connect Four, Checkers, Chess (sometimes, you just have to return to an old simple classic).

Posted by: aelfric | August 13, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

My kids love to go to my girlfriend's house and play PIT. I just can't get into all the "pressure" and yelling. One of my kids loves to challenge me at Boggle but since I am the queen of vocabulary and (Scrabble anyone? :), I usually win (restricting myself to 4 letter words or more [he gets to make 2 letter words and use the plurals]w/no plurals allowed. We also have just "rediscovered" Parcheesi. My husband doesn't like board games (unless it's RISK) or card games. Does anyone know how to play Euchre? Haven't found anyone who knows how to play since I left Ohio 20 something years ago...:(

Posted by: momof3boys | August 13, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Settlers of Catan says it's for three or more players, but DH and I have had a lot of luck playing with just the two of us.

That said, I'm totally going to look up the card game and some of the variations...

Posted by: NewSAHM | August 13, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

We have an entire coat closet stacked with games, many mentioned here. We had to give up our weekly(ish) board game night when our son was born. He's almost 4 now and we've tried to get him to learn to play, but he doesn't quite know how to sit still long enough to learn any rules. He got Boggle Jr for Christmas and all he wants to do with that is build houses with the cards and letter blocks.
Any ideas on how to get him to play? He can sit still for a decent amount of time to do 24-100 piece puzzles, but can't quite grasp taking turns and complex rules.

Posted by: Kirstin B | August 13, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

We love Wise and Otherwise, in which each player tries to complete an "old saying" and the other players try to guess which is correct. Like Balderdash, but with sayings instead of obscure words. My 9 and 12 year old create sayings that quickly devolve into absurdity, which leads to much family laughter.

Posted by: 2kids | August 13, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

My family has had hours and hours of fun playing a card game called Nertz. It is fun for all ages and the youngest ones have been playing since they were 5 or 6. It takes concentration, math skills and speed. We have had Nertz tournaments while on vacation together and over the course of a long evening, have determined a reigning champion. Lots of fun!!

Posted by: jgc | August 13, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

My family has had hours and hours of fun playing a card game called Nertz. It is fun for all ages and the youngest ones have been playing since they were 5 or 6. It takes concentration, math skills and speed. We have had Nertz tournaments while on vacation together and over the course of a long evening, have determined a reigning champion. Lots of fun!!

Posted by: jgc | August 13, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Kirsten B -- buy your boy a copy of Froggy Boogie or Pitchcar, which will teach him the basics of taking turns and being patient. Once you clear that hurdle other games will be much easier to bring into the mix. This is about the earliest age you can expect patient game play, but you need to nurture the skill. Both of the games I've mentioned above are fun for small kids, but don't numb the brain of the average adult.
Pitchcar is pricely, but one helluva good fun game, even when the kids are in bed!


Posted by: Sagrilarus | August 13, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Kirsten B -- buy your boy a copy of Froggy Boogie or Pitchcar, which will teach him the basics of taking turns and being patient. Once you clear that hurdle other games will be much easier to bring into the mix. This is about the earliest age you can expect patient game play, but you need to nurture the skill. Both of the games I've mentioned above are fun for small kids, but don't numb the brain of the average adult.
Pitchcar is pricey, but one helluva good fun game, even when the kids are in bed!


Posted by: Sagrilarus | August 13, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

by Kirstin B at August 13, 2007 01:38 PM:

"Any ideas on how to get him to play? He can sit still for a decent amount of time to do 24-100 piece puzzles, but can't quite grasp taking turns and complex rules."

Like I was saying to DCer earlier, it may just be that he hasn't reached the developmental stage for certain levels of board games yet. 4 years is pretty young as far as so-called moral development goes and it may be a few years before certain games.

It sounds from your description, however, like he's enjoying motor/shape recognition type games so he might like something like Pictionary more. Or Jenga. Not precisely board games, but something that fits in the same genre.

Posted by: David S | August 13, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

@momof3boys: oh my gosh-- my mom's side of the family is from ohio and they all go bonkers for euchre-- play for hours when we all get together. she plays it on yahoo games to tide her over.

@Nan Connolly: as someone who grew up in the video game and nintendo generation, i have some great memories of playing duck hunt and mario with my cousins, thanks. we played board games too, to be sure, but that doesn't mean we wrote off other forms of entertainment.

Posted by: sarah | August 13, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I have two kids 8 and 12. We recently started playing three handed bridge and now it is their favorite. Sometimes "adult" games can be fun for kids too.

Posted by: david | August 13, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse

There's a PotC version of Life?! What's it like?

Posted by: to 21117 | August 13, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Wow! I just looked up some of these games. They are way to expensive for me. Give me a deck of playing cards any day.

Posted by: Scott | August 13, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

by Scott at August 13, 2007 02:11 PM

"Wow! I just looked up some of these games. They are way to expensive for me. Give me a deck of playing cards any day."

You are right when you say board games are comparatively expensive. High replay value can make up for this, however.

This is not to discourage playing cards, which in addition to being relatively inexpensive are easily portable, multi-function (multi-game?), and cross generations and nationalities. The rules sets for most card games are often a bit complex for young children, though there are a few that are good. I would play Go-Fish with my grandmother when I was younger and would be her bridge parner for a while (she was an avid bridge player).

It seems like there might be a good book called "Card Games for Kids" or "Cards for Small Children" that someone might be able to recommend, though I cannot.

Posted by: David S | August 13, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

For those of you in Northern VA, there's a great game store in Chantilly (just off 28 and 50) that has tons of board and card games, as well as all the role-playing merchandise. Sometimes they'd open the box and let us take a look at the pieces, rules, layout, etc just to let us make sure we actually wanted to buy it.

I don't live in NoVA anymore, but when we did, we'd stop by there every month just to see what new games they were carrying. The owners were always very good at making suggestions for us based on our previous purchases and interest.

I find that even though I live in a smaller city with more game stores per capita and one seriously high geek to non geek ratio, the game stores here aren't as accomodating.
Although one place did pull down and open the $400 all-wood version of Settlers of Cataan. That was cool. Useless, but cool.

Posted by: Kirstin B | August 13, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Games rock! I could have spent many more hours playing rummy or pictionary than my family desired. Having a regular game night together I think is an awesome idea for any family- and though most games are silly teams based, if you just have fun with it, I have found you can adopt any game for singles or other groups.

I also vote for Catan if you want to do the "day long intricate rules" type thing. It's one of the few where it's not about "take over/destroy/kill them all" but much more about making your own little place work as well as you can.

Posted by: Liz D | August 13, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

We had great fun playing Chinese Checkers with the little ones last week. Four-year old daughter was really into learning the rules and trying to take out Mom and Dad. Two-year old picked up random pegs and placed them randomly in the holes. Everyone was laughing.

Posted by: Preschool Dad | August 13, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Thinkfun games has some really good and reasonably priced board games. I was at a children's museum in Columbia, SC, and picked up a spatial thinking game called Rush Hour - you're in a little red car on a grid and you have to figure out how to move the cars in front of you to get out. My son (now 6) has been playing it since he was 4, and he really enjoys it. I think it's what taught him how to be a really good chess player - another great board game. I also vote for Scrabble - a great way to teach them how words are put together.

Posted by: DaddyG | August 13, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I found that the Carnium folks ( have a number of games, and many for kids. Our daughter oved playing Balloon Lagoon.

Also, Rio Grande Games ( has a ton of good games as well. We have a good 7-8 games from just them. Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, Bohnanza, Transamerica, etc. Try their Chicken Cha Cha Cha (in which our 6 year old daughter has been undefeated for close to 2 years, beating all of our adult friends!) and Pick Picknic

I'll second Pass The Pigs and Ticket To Ride (though we seem to like Ticket To Ride: Europe better).

The classics are nice and all, but we really like these Euro-style games.

Posted by: ATL Dad | August 13, 2007 3:43 PM | Report abuse

This past winter in Pennsylvania, we got bored and invited several other families over to play games. We all pitched in and ordered pizza. With the variety of ages and skills, we started by playing charades. The kids and adults had a blast. Then we split by ages and the kids played apples to apples while the adults got the 80s Trivial Pursuit. It has become a monthly tradition and we switch houses.

At a recent family reunion, we pulled out Yatzee and had a blast! Now my kids want to play every night. Less than 8 bucls and hours of entertainment. Can't beat it.

Posted by: Former NoVa mom | August 13, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Games teach a lot. At a minimum, with a simple game where you roll the dice and see what happens, you at least get some social skills to get along with others for the duration of the game.

But games like "Settlers of Catan" are really much better at teaching critical thinking, as is chess, Scrabble, Upwords, Stratego, Othello, Gobblet, Quarto, Twixt. One of our favorites is "Puerto Rico."

While I have a copy of "Diplomacy", I will leave the playing of that to others. I dread how this game of backstabbing will transpire. We do play some "Risk."

Posted by: Loudoun County Family Gamer | August 13, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Settlers takes about 25-35 minutes with experienced, focused players.

Posted by: Loudoun Family Ganer | August 13, 2007 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Ingenious -- excellent game if you want to try something new. Five minutes to learn how to play, under twenty-five dollars.

Carcassonne -- the poster child of modern games. Remarkably different, and well worth its inexpensive price Ten minutes to learn how to play, under twenty dollars.

Coloretto -- A fine, fast card game with simple rules, but interesting play. Five minutes to learn how to play, under ten dollars. delivers to the DC area in two days via standard shipping. Other online retailers are available. You won't regret giving one of these to a board game player for Christmas or birthday.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 13, 2007 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe no one has mentioned 'Sequence' - one of the best all-time quick-to-learn strategy/luck games of all time. I've played with - and lost to - 10 year-olds who simply figured it out and drew the right cards. Along with Milles Bourne, one of the greats.

Posted by: Jojo | August 13, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I buy board games for my wife's 4th or 5th grade class every December. I shoot for educational games as much as possible. We play-test many of them first before they go out to the kids. We have never had a dud. The kids play the games during rainy day recesses (and sometimes during sunny days too). There is always a hue and cry from the kids and their parents about where to find the games. Our favorites have included "Settlers of Cataan" (previously mentioned and just played last night with the neighborhood kids), "Totally Gross - the game of science" (the parents absolutely loved this one), "Totally Awesome - the game of fantastic feats," "Go-Mental, "Sentence Says" and "Postcards from North America" (the last three were found at the Chicago International Toy and Game Fair). Because she is teaching 4th graders now, we are trying to find money-related games so they can work on their math skills and their ability to make change in their heads. I don't recall the name of the one I found last year but the kids found it to be fun. We are such nerds and we love it!

Posted by: mattr | August 13, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

We love card and board games. Right now, we play a lot of Yahtzee, Skip Bo, Apples to Apples, Monopoly, Dominoes, and Uno. We've also started keeping a puzzle on the coffee table for ongoing entertainment. Just finished a 550 piece puzzle and will be shopping for a new one soon.

As for prices, watch Toys R Us for sales. I think they have at least one really good sale each year. I have a friend who will buy them 10 at a time and hold on to them for gifts throughout the year.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | August 13, 2007 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Apples to Apples is great and also has a kid version with easier words for young ones. Sequence, Uno, Monopoly are other tops in our family along with Taboo.

Posted by: jmbrown | August 13, 2007 5:10 PM | Report abuse

No one has mentioned "The Farming Game," either, which is a Monopoly-like game in that you go around and around a board. In the first quarter of the year (along one side) you can buy crops, along the other three, you harvest. Fabulous game, but expensive! Probably for kids at least 10 or 12 - there's a lot of math involved. I played all through grad school with my science-PhD friends, and we loved it!

Posted by: suebee | August 13, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Yes, we can't forget how useful Monopoly is. Kids learn to conduct money transactions, an important life skill. Let the kid be the banker, even if it takes extra time; they will learn. Similarly, letting kids use the dictionary in Scrabble is also good. Patience is a virtue.

Our fourth grader routinely out-Boggled his classroom teacher. They had to call in the lead teacher of the grade to give him a game. Of course he played chess pretty well at four and won the school championship in kindergarten. We used to play chess every night for three years from Pre-K to 1st grade, but now he mostly plays basketball. And Upwords.

Every seen the game closet in the film "The Royal Tennenbaums (sp)"? We have three such closets? And why not?

Posted by: Loudoun Family Gamers | August 13, 2007 5:18 PM | Report abuse

-- Not a board game, but I loved SIMON growing up. Teaches both pitch and memory. There's new-fangled versions of it now that include head-to-head challenges. Easy to learn and hours of entertainment without getting too boring too quickly.

-- I'm frankly amazed at the number of posters on here whose kids can get into Carcassonne, Settlers, etc. The rules are so complicated it took me, as an adult, ages to figure out how to play. (Of course, now I just love Puerto Rico.) If your kid has the patience to learn those rules and sit through an entire game, then good for them!

-- For all you Scrabble experts out there (I'm a player myself), I beg of you, designate a dictionary to use challenges that is NOT the Official Scrabble Dictionary(r). The words in there can be absolutely ludicrous and will make your child's English teacher crazy. (A past tense of "eat" is "et"? I think not.)

-- I used to love Monopoly, until I got crushed several times and came to realize that it really does very strongly reinforce the whole "rich get richer" notion -- you find this out quickly when you're losing, because you (1) can't afford to pay your opponent's high rents, and (2) have to sell your property to get that rent, and (3) can't then make more money because you've just sold off your properties. It's quite depressing actually.

Posted by: DCnDC | August 13, 2007 5:26 PM | Report abuse

stratego. i can't believe that nobody has mentioned stratego. my son loves it. he also plays moncala (sp?) and sorry. i'm going to have to go out and get some more games. he's getting a little old for chute & ladders.

Posted by: quark | August 13, 2007 5:29 PM | Report abuse

People dont outgrow Monopoly they just add to their options (Monopoly is still a fun game)

so are
Cloud 9
Robo Rally
Candy Land

You dont eat pizza everyday, or only apples, or only broccoli.

Boardgames are like food many varieties and tastes to whet and satisy ones appetite or pique their interest

(If I'm allowed to post links- I didnt see a no link in the full rules FAQ

Are 3 site with information/ buying options for a myriad of games

Those that stop learning/playing stop growing

Posted by: Anonymous | August 13, 2007 5:39 PM | Report abuse

People dont outgrow Monopoly they just add to their options (Monopoly is still a fun game)

so are
Cloud 9
Robo Rally
Candy Land

You dont eat pizza everyday, or only apples, or only broccoli.

Boardgames are like food many varieties and tastes to whet and satisy ones appetite or pique their interest

(If I'm allowed to post links- I didnt see a no link in the full rules FAQ

Are 3 site with information/ buying options for a myriad of games

Those that stop learning/playing stop growing

Posted by: Shawn | August 13, 2007 5:41 PM | Report abuse

People dont outgrow Monopoly they just add to their options (Monopoly is still a fun game)

so are
Cloud 9
Robo Rally
Candy Land

You dont eat pizza everyday, or only apples, or only broccoli.

Boardgames are like food many varieties and tastes to whet and satisy ones appetite or pique their interest

(If I'm allowed to post links- I didnt see a no link in the full rules FAQ

Are 3 site with information/ buying options for a myriad of games

Those that stop learning/playing stop growing

Posted by: Shawn | August 13, 2007 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I recommend Who, What, Where for older children and for adults. Lots of fun. There is a game called Quoridor which is a great strategy game. It entertains for hours, especially for those of us with a competitive streak.

Posted by: lca | August 13, 2007 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I loathe board games. My siblings used to beg me to play Monopoly, snakes and ladders, Life, etc, when I was a kid, but I just found them boring beyond belief. Now it seems there is a movement afoot that any family worth the name should have a weekly "family game night". Ouch! Fortunately, I like cards ok, so maybe I'll be able to get away with just playing cards with my kids.

Posted by: m | August 13, 2007 6:20 PM | Report abuse

I have taught kindergarteners how to play UNO - easy to learn, teaches how to take their turn, pay attention, and lose gracefully.

My husband and I grew up with board and card games, and still love to play. Old favorites include Monopoly, Scrabble, yatzee, Parcheesi, Mille Bourne, Battleship, Hearts, Spades, Bridge, poker, etc. New favorites are Apples to Apples, Blokus, Balderdash, games. Zelda is a kibbitzer's heaven here, and Mario Kart Double Dash is great fun for up to four players.

I think it works because everyone is involved, even for games too "old" or difficult. The little ones sit on the laps and pull the designated card to throw out - and help count out the pieces, something. We make it fun for everyone, and vary our diet, let them take turns choosing. Togetherness - yep, that's what it's about.

Posted by: Kate | August 13, 2007 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Wow, m. That's sad. Do you have ADD? Maybe you just couldn't sit still that long?

I grew up with Scrabble (still a huge favorite), Sorry!, Life, Parcheesi, Connect Four, UNO, and a host of regular card games with both of my parents since I am an only child. I still love a good Scrabble game and have played in the game rooms of cruise ships!

One I haven't played in while, but was good for a group in college is Scattegories.

Posted by: WDC | August 13, 2007 8:14 PM | Report abuse

My 9 year old daughter and I play cards when we want a little quiet time. Right now we are into RACKO. It has been around a long time, easy to learn, simple but challenging. We also love UNO and rummy.

Games and cards may be something special you can use to bond with one child, especially if the other family members aren't gamers, as in our case. Just a thought.

Posted by: scutler | August 13, 2007 8:16 PM | Report abuse

For young kids, I strongly recommend "Hey that's my fish". They can start playing it at age 4 but adults can play it and find it to be a challenge. It plays in about 20 minutes...

Posted by: Mark B | August 13, 2007 9:00 PM | Report abuse

We love games also. Current favorites include Up the River, Enchanted Forest, Labyrinth and Junior Labyrinth(Ravensburger), Trouble, Parcheesi, Monopoly. We also like Skipbo, Uno, and some other card games. The girls (6 and 8)will play Othello, Connect Four, and occasionally Mancala.

I was so glad to get out of the Candyland phase, but as others have mentioned, it is a good game to teach gaming skills. My older daughter used to have such tantrums if I got Queen Frostine, until the day I threw a tantrum when she got QF. She laughed at me and that was the end of QF tantrums.

Thanks for all the suggestions for new games.

Posted by: single mother by choice | August 13, 2007 9:01 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I love games, but our baby is still too small for them. There are so many wonderful games out there--from the forgotten classics to the new European games. Some of my favorites as a child were (going in age order): Memory, Old Maid, Chinese checkers, any really l o n g game such as Uncle Wiggly, gin rummy, Clue, and Boggle. As adults, I really enjoy Set (a great and very simple game which stresses mental flexibility), Apples to Apples (no stress), Acquire (a classic alternative to Monopoly), and Evo ( a fun, if slightly complex strategy game about evolving dinosaurs).

Posted by: Baltimore | August 13, 2007 9:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm a big fan of board games but rarely find anyone else who wants to play (no kids of my own, neices and nephews live too far away, adult friends have little interest). When I've managed to get some of my friends to play, I've had the most success with these:

Metro (board/tiles, subway building)
Illuminati deluxe edition (cards, societal manipulation)
Cosmic Encounters (board, planetary conquest with lots of weird aliens)
Nuclear War (cards, beer-and-pretzels game for people with a twisted sense of humor)
Kings and Things (board/tiles, combat with a wacky mix of characters)

Some of these are currently out of print, but they tend to come back periodically and are worth looking for on Ebay. I usually buy games at which has a wide selection and prices about as low as anyone else. I have no connection to Funagain or any other game company.

Posted by: Utopius | August 13, 2007 11:06 PM | Report abuse

For those without children or who can't find someone to play, I play some war games that are solo board games. "Ambush" (WWII ETO Army) and "Battle Hymn" (WWII Pacific/Marines) both provided me with hours and hours of playing time. "Open Fire" is a WWII tank game that was also fun. Both are very complex in their rules and took a few reads-through and some playing time to master. Now I have plenty of people to play games with so I don't play my solo games as much.

Posted by: mattr | August 13, 2007 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Great games that all members of a family can enjoy are Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne

Posted by: Surya | August 14, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

GAMES!!! How I love games. I don't think anyone mentioned Rook!! Rook rocks.

Pass the pigs was terrific and ironically makes a great drinking game (not that I condone that sort of thing, of course) but it was what it was back then.

During the years that I spent every waking moment at the pool the big thing was to play "Spit" (have no idea if that was the right name) which was a speed game of cards with 2 people. It was a cross of solitare style and the faster you could put the cards on the pile and had no cards you were the "WINNER!"

Quinto is a game that my brother invented is a lot of fun and bit of strategy involving checkers and cards:

Backgammon; kerplunk; trouble; othello; Mille Bourne (I have my original game with the tray!!); pictionary; guestures (guarantee gut-busting fun and great for all ages together); connect four (which came out way after Four Score); jacks.....

I can't wait until we can have real game nights (son is only 2.5).

Posted by: cj | August 14, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

WDC: in m's defense, not everyone likes everything. Not liking board games doesn't mean m has ADD or some other disorder - really!

I liked some board games OK. Others (pardon the pun) bored me to tears - including Monopoly, which is apparently a Classic, a Great Fixture of American Playtime, etc, etc. I occasionally liked a game of checkers, Scrabble, euchre, rummy, or whatever - but I was never a big fan. I wasn't ADD, and I wasn't glued to the TV either (we didn't have one); I read a lot, helped my parents cook, ran around outside and got into fights with my sibs, etc, etc. I mean, board games are nice, but a runaround game of SPUD (with the chance of legitimately getting to peg my brother with a ball) beat Monopoly any day.

Different strokes for different folks, that's all. M, I'm right there with ya.

Posted by: Three of Five | August 16, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

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