Sunday, February 22, 2009

Games We Love

We are a game-playing family; our overflowing cupboards and shelves will attest to that. We have them in hallway cupboards, stuffed under the couches, in the living room ottomans, upstairs on the bookshelves, etc. I'm wondering, how many games do we actually own? I'm not talking video games or console games; good old-fashioned board or card games. I think I'll ask the kids to estimated the number and then go around and count them all. My guess is going to be 75.

To be sure, not all of them are played very often. And some come into favor for a while, are played daily, and then slip quietly back into oblivion. But we do have some that stand the test of time, that are played over and over again. Long-standing favorites at our house are:

The kids absolutely love this game. One person is selected to be the Whoozit and the rest of the players are dealt four cards. Players have to select two cards from their hand that they think the Whoozit would most like. Once the cards are handed, face-down, to the Whoozit, s/he then ranks them in order from least favorite to favorite, assigning chip values to each. Players receive the chips that their cards are placed in front of. Play moves to the right, so each player has a chance to be the Whoozit.

Why we like it: It is fun and fast-paced -- we can usually finish a game in 15-20 minutes which is important with a 3 year-old running around. However, we love learning more about the people in our family, their likes and dislikes and why they choose to rank things the way they do, and we also find it personally insightful. I mean, how often do you have to decide, " I like hamburgers or puppies better?"

I played this as a child and liked it but my kids border on being obsessed with this game. They play it at least three times a week, sometimes more. I don't mind -- is there any better game out there when it comes to learning map coordinates?

Blokus is an amazing strategy game and we DO play it the right way occasionally. However, what we like to do best is assign ourselves one of the colors and then, using all of those wonderful, odd shapes, try to build a perfect square or rectangle by carefully fitting the pieces together. Not as easy as it should be and completely addictive. As an added bonus, my 3 year-old also loves this game and will sit for a good twenty minutes placing the tiles on the game board in various patterns. Must be a geometry lesson in there somewhere, right?

The Clue card game is incredibly fun and fairly fast-paced. Instead of racing around a board game, asking clues, players are dealt a hand of cards with suspects, getaway vehicles, and locations. On a player's turn they can either draw a card and ask that question of an opponent (Show me all your red vehicle cards or Show me one suspect card) or, if they have all of the information needed, make their Accusation. Again, we like it because it doesn't take nearly as long as the original board game and because, although there is quite a bit of strategy involved, you also sometimes get the luck of the draw with really good cards (Show me ALL your suspect cards).

Nick received Othello for Christmas and was on a run of playing it for a long time. It is not as easy as it looks!! One player is white, the other black and play commences by placing tiles on the game board. If you "sandwich" another player's piece, that piece becomes yours and you flip it to your color. However, the piece can be flipped again and again as more tokens are placed on the game can lose an entire row of tokens if you don't strategize! A deceptively simple game that we have fallen in love with.

This is our newest find. Hayley got it for Christmas and we just started playing it. We are all addicted, especially me. All the letter tiles are placed face down on the table and each player grabs a pre-assigned number (we start with 15). Players then proceed to build their own crossword puzzle out of the letters. You can rearrange your crossword throughout the game so as new words occur to you, or new letters arrive into your pile, you can incorporate them. Once your original 15 letters are used up (or any one's), that player shouts out Peel! and everyone has to take another letter. If at any time you are stuck with a letter you cannot use, you say Dump! and return it to the pile -- but take 3 new letters. Play continues until the draw pile is gone; whoever uses all of their letters first, wins.

Why we love it -- well, spelling, of course! But, I like it because we are each building our own crossword and, unlike Scrabble, there are no points assigned to the letters. So, a kid focusing on spelling mostly three-letter words has just as much chance of winning as an adult. I think it provides a more even playing field for kids and parents to play together. Now, that being said, I do still help the kids. Often times, I will help them find their first word (it helps to start with a four or five letter word for obvious reasons!) or help them in the middle of the game if they're feeling stuck. But I have already seen some impressive words being formed by my kids, and that is exciting!

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