Friday, November 2, 2012

Family Time Fun 


by Kathleen, 11/2/12

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is spending time with my family, just lying around eating and of course, playing games and doing puzzles. We frequently do a Christmas puzzle over the Thanksgiving weekend to start getting us in the mood for the holiday, but we also always play lots of games. Some of my very best Thanksgiving memories are playing Trivial Pursuit with my Mom and Dad after an early dinner while football played on T.V. in the background. Sensory overload? Perhaps, but we always had a blast and laughed and talked, which didn't necessarily happen as much if we weren't playing a game. Making my family play a game was a great way for us to actually pay attention to one another. If we didn't play a board or card game after dinner, Mom got too busy with cleaning up dishes, Dad would start reading, and I would try to get out of helping clean up to go play on my fancy, new Apple IIe (o.k., so I'm old), and even though we may all have been in the same house, we weren't really spending quality time together.

Another thing those days taught me was that not all games are for all people. My Father hated Scrabble, which was always a favorite for my Mom and me. Usually I could always talk them into playing Trivial Pursuit, but I, being young, couldn't ever compete. There were other games over the years that my family loved, but it was challenging to find just the right game to make everyone happy. For that reason, I thought I'd share with you some of my family's current favorites. My husband is legally blind so it makes playing certain board games challenging for him. Here are some of the ones we play most often!

Wits & Wagers Family

Wits & Wagers is a well-loved and highly awarded series of trivia games, that make the genre fun even for non-trivia nuts by adding in a mechanic that lets you bet on other players answers. In this family-friendly version, the betting is simplified by giving each player a large meeple and a small meeple to divvy up among guesses they think are the best. Containing kid-friendly questions, dry-erase boards and markers, and wooden meeples, Wits & Wagers Family is an easily travelling version of the classic game, and great for all generations!

To me, this is a much more fun trivia game than Trivial Pursuit ever was. It gives kids a chance of possibly winning while maintaining the fun of trivia games. I would think kids of about 5 or 6 and up could play this. Even younger could play on a team. There is also a new version, Wits & Wagers party, which would be good with slightly older kids (maybe 10 and up).


A great abstract strategy game, Qwirkle uses wooden tiles with different colored shapes that players arrange in lines – either by shape, or by color. There are rules that make placement sometimes challenging, and the winning player is the one who can make the most scoring lines of tiles and keep the other opponents' scores low.

I love this game. It is like Scrabble with shapes and colors. We began playing this as a family when my son was about 4 years old, but it is still a regular for our family and on game night with friends. All ages and skill levels love this game and it can be easily adapted for younger children. It can also turn into a pretty strategic game when played by adults. It won the Spiel des Jahres last year (German Boardgame of the Year award - like the Oscars of boardgames), even though it was created by an American woman.


A beautiful, simple game of tile laying strategy, this game is especially easy to learn for new players. This game is fast and easy, with enough strategy thrown in to make it fun for even hard-core gamers. This is one of the favorites in Labyrinth's aftercare programs, and is regularly played and won by children as young as 1st grade! You are building a maze of paths and trying to remain the last person on the board. It plays in about 15 to 20 minutes, and can support 2 to 8 players which is one of the reasons it is a party favorite.

Ticket to Ride

In Ticket to Ride, players collect cards of various types of train cars that they then use to claim railway routes in North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who fulfill Destination Tickets – goal cards that connect distant cities; and to the player who builds the longest continuous route.

Although this one is a little tough for my husband because he can't always see all the cities on the board, he still really likes it. This is one of the very best games to introduce friends and family to Euro-style board games. It is pretty quick, definitely less than an hour, and easy to learn. I would think that a child of about 7 or 8 who has experience with games could play this, but it does take a bit more concentration and may be better with slightlyolder kids or adults.


This is a classic that I learned from my grandmother. It was my favorite all through high school. It is kind of like the card game Rummy, but soooo much more fun with lots more perceptual reasoning. My husband and I are both pretty good at this game, somy child has had a hard time competing, but he is now starting to get it. We do have to help him. This is definitely the one that makes my husband and I the most competitive. It can get ugly!

Two by Two

The floodwaters are rising and the animals need to board the ark!

In this deceptively simple game, players move their boats around a steadily deteriorating landscape, matching pairs in order to rescue stranded animals.

Animals that are rare at the end of the game are worth more points than those that are common.

This is a new family favorite and we will probably play it this Thanksgiving. It is simple and the animals are cute. I love trying to get the super rare unicorns. We frequently read the Shel Silverstein poem, The Unicorn, before or after playing. It has always been one of my favorite poems.

I'm sure you can imagine, as the owner of a game store, my family and I play a lot of games, but these are some of the ones we return to again and again. My son and I have a lot of other favorites that we frequently play, but when my Mom heads to town we are more than likely to bring one of these out. If you'd like to have a new game for the holidays, stop by and talk to our knowledgeable staff. We can help you find a game that is just right for you and your family. We also have a huge selection of jigsaw puzzles and travel games.