One of our favorite things to do as a family is to play board games. It brings back for me the memories from my own childhood when I played games with my parents. Since our apartment was small, we didn’t have many board games, but Battleship, backgammon, checkers, Russian version of Chutes and Ladders, standard card games, and Yatzee (with somewhat different rules) are games that I remember playing as a child. My German husband introduced me to involved strategy games of his youth – some of our adult favorites include Settlers of Catan and Carcassone. With some recent acquisitions we probably own a few dozens board games, logic games and card games, and it’s interesting to see Smarty develop her own preferences in game selection.
Disclaimer: Fluent reading is required for most of these games, and the rules might be difficult to grasp for younger kids. This is why I recommend these games to children in the second grade and higher (at the moment of my writing Smarty is 6 and entering second grade). In fact, most of these games are recommended for ages 9+. All links in this post are Amazon affiliate links.
We got Catan Card Game when our local Barnes & Noble store went out of business, and we certainly didn’t pay Amazon price for it. At the moment it’s Smarty's favorite game to play with me. What we like – easier rules that full-blown Settlers of Catan, a nice balance of luck and choice (strategy). Smarty also enjoys an element of accumulation and expansion (same reason for which she adores Monopoly). What I don’t like – it’s long! The box says 45-60 minutes while we were never able to get even close to finish in 90 minutes. I suspect that most kids (and adults!) will simply not maintain attention for that long.
Ticket to Ride is my personal favorite. We played it at friends’ house before Smarty was born, and I asked for it for my birthday a few years ago. Now Smarty is old enough to play it, and I am happy when she chooses it (versus blasted boring Monopoly!). What we like – sturdy game elements, natural learning of major cities of North America (we have Days of Wonder edition), a lot of strategy can be applied (this is why my husband usually wins). What we don’t like – also fairly long (over an hour, and you’d better take care of all small pieces, especially if you have a younger child in the house).
I am showing Amazon Yahtzee image here, but actually our beautiful Deluxe Yahtzee edition came from the garage sale where I paid $2 for it. Ironically, until I got that game I had no idea that Yahtzee is the same game I loved so much as a child. As I mentioned, standard Yahtzee rules are somewhat different from what I knew before, but this actually makes the game shorter. What we like – natural grasp of probability starts to happen once you play same dice game often enough. The game is short – if two of us are playing, we can finish a round in about 20 minutes or so. Smarty also loves that she can win. What I don’t like – an element of luck outweighs strategy, which is proven by a fact that Smarty consistently beats us at this game.
I have to grudgingly add Monopoly to Smarty's list of favorite games. She asks for it quite often, but considering that the game with three players takes forever, we rarely agree to play. I can see that this can be a great game eventually for sleepovers and such. What we like – natural learning about money, many choices to make, a lot of interaction between players and an element of surprise (income tax, anyone?). What we don’t like – length, and it’s hard to make it interesting with three players.
The recommended age for Apples to Apples Junior is 9+, but we played it even before Smarty started kindergarten. What we like – word play, trying to “play to a judge”. What we don’t like – requires four people or more to make it interesting, so we cannot play it unless we have a visitor or visitors.
Your turn – what are favorite board games at your house?