My kids like to play games. They LOVE video games. I would be shocked if anyone was shocked by this revelation. I don’t mind playing video games with them, but I hate how little interaction exists between the family. Television events are okay, but they are low on my preference list. I prefer to interact with people, especially my family. So, in early 2016 I decided to change this up and started looking into board games. Board games provide us an opportunity to sit around the same table, with a common objective, have fun, and interact with each other. In fact, the ones we play, teach our children how to evaluate the situation, make plans, work them out, and think for themselves. I would consider all of these valuable skills everyone needs.
Of course one down side to board games, for most of us, this means winners and losers creating family rivalries (or fights). Shocking, I know, kids fighting with each other. Yeah, it happens and until the Lord returns it’ll probably keep happening. But I have no problem with winners and losers. It happens. It’s a part of life sometimes so it affords us the opportunity to discuss being a good sport (whether they win or lose).
But in researching and playing board games, we learned about the cooperative game (co-op). This gaming system is unique because you either win or lose as a team. Now we’re talking, now we can either sit around the dinner table and tell stories as a family about our glory or defeat together!
So, within the last year our family has picked up and played a few board games to enjoy our time together. Sometimes there is one winner and everyone else loses while sometimes we play co-op and go down in flames together. Either way, we have come to enjoy this and the kids have no problem giving up video games. My children range from 4 to 10. So finding a game for all of them can be difficult too. What I have found, with patience, your kids can play up in game levels. In fact, this fits my theory that children are smarter than we often give the credit for.
Of course, not only have we as a family enjoyed them ourselves, but they have been an excellent tool for fellowship with the church. We have game night about once every eight weeks. Each of them has been a hit, helping draw the church together with fun fellowship.
If you’re interested in some of these games for family or friends, here are some of our favorite board games (in no particular order). (Now, one caveat, these are not the traditional, found in Target, Walmart, or Toys R Us games. These are usually found online or in a game specialty store. In fact, boardgamegeek.com is a great place to look, get reviews, etc).
First, Ticket to Ride series by Days of Wonder. In this game, each player has destination points he or she must develop train tracks between. Usually, the longer the destination the more points a player receives. The person with the most points wins. This game is easy to learn, quick to set up, and fun to play. Depending on which version you buy, it is good for 2-5 players. The Nordic version gets a lot of play between the boys and me because it is more cut-throat. But it is a lot of fun and can be played in about 30 minutes to an hour. The European edition seems to be the most forgiving because it’s harder to have your trail blocked off by other players.
Second, Pandemic by Z-Man games. This is a co-op game for 2-4 players. Four different diseases are spreading around the world. Your team has to stop the disease from spreading. This game is extremely fun, easy to learn, easy to play, and yet not a guaranteed victory. Strategy and teamwork are essential to this game. This is one of those games where you can see victory in reach, then the game mechanism turns on you snatching victory from the jaws of defeat leaving you to wonder “what if?” Once you get the game mechanic down, a game will last anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Recently a longer, year long version of the game was published Pandemic Legacy. This version is fun because you physically mark up and change the board over the coarse of time altering the match. You win or lose individual months while trying to win the game in a year.
Third, Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle by USAopoly. Now, even if you’re like me and indifferent to Harry Potter, this game is fun. It is co-op (playing as a team) and a deck-building game. The team of Harry, Hermoine, Ron, and Neville (you can play 2-4) battle the villains. Each player starts with ten cards with different abilities. As the game progresses you can buy better cards to help support your team or defeat villains. This game is unique in that teamwork has more benefit than most co-op games. There is a lot going on in this game but it is extremely fun. There is strategy with a little bit of luck. I was extremely skeptical of this game when the wife picked it up, I repent, it is one of the most fun games we possess.
Fourth, Codenames by Vlaada Chvatil. This game is great for a group of people (6-10). It is challenging, fun, easy to learn, but entertaining. Divide the group up into two teams. There are a list of words on the table in a grid. Each team has a spymaster with a code. He or she provides the team a one-word clue and then the team has to guess what words the spymaster is referencing. If you guess the wrong word it could cause immediate loss for your team. It is so simple to learn, yet complex to play. Even in a game like this, you get to know how your friends think and learn a lot about each other too.
Fifth, Bang the Dice Game by Asmodee. This game is easy to set up, easy to play, and great for any age. We love this game because you can often play 2 – 3 games in an hour and it’s low maintenance. Our four year old knows the game well and can easily play it without help. Yet, I’ve seen eight adults play this game too and have a lot of fun. This is one of the best $15 you’ll ever spend on a game.
Sixth, Imperial Assault by Fantasy Flight. A list from our family needs a Star Wars saga on it. We recently got into this game and have thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a combination of role playing and miniatures game. It’s usually me verses the boys in this one. I’m the communistic Empire while they are the Rebel terrorists. But this game is fun because it’s a platoon verse platoon battle. The Empire is the game master, unfolding the battle throughout a campaign. The game comes with a puzzle map put together for different missions. Both sides get plastic pieces to represent the different characters (i.e storm troopers, a Wookie hero, Luke Skywalker, and etc.). It takes a while to set up and an hour or two to play, but it is a lot of fun. You can even custom paint the pieces giving them your own unique flair.
Seventh and rounding out my published list, X-wing by Fantasy Flight. This game blends a multitude of gaming concepts together: strategy, skill, creative ability, and luck. This game is a miniatures game for usually only two players. Both sides command a fighter squadron and fight to the death. There is strategy in how you “fly” and attack your opponent. This game requires major skill because you have to move a plastic miniature piece with a template and not crash into asteroids, other players, yourself, or move off the board. One must practice a lot to master moving. The amount of ships available makes the game very versatile. Each side can spend 100 points to build a squadron and a player will always want just 3 more points for his list. But due to the variety of options, squadron options are limitless. Yet luck is involved because sometimes dice are dice and the best laid plans can be wasted because the dice are not on your side that turn. This game is extremely popular and has a large community.
Other games to consider: Dead of Winter (co-op with a unique twist), Twilight Imperium (this is a 3+ player game that takes 8+ hours to play, it would be ranked #3 on my favorites list), Twilight Struggle (best 1 vs 1 strategy game around, bar none, #1 on my list), Armada (best miniatures game on the market, #2), and Robinson Crusoe (very hard co-op game, I joke 1000 ways to die, but winning this game takes patience, planning, and strategy. It is very rewarding). If you want more, here is a list of the top games on boardgamegeek.com.
I like to research before I buy. So first I check boardgamegeek.com. Then I watch a few reviews on YouTube. I then ask my local game store owner what he thinks (and buy from him to support local). He knows we like strategy, minimal luck, co-op, and hard. We get the game and watch YouTube “how to play videos, read the instructions, watch a round simulated, then get into it knowing game one will have many mistakes. Some game shops will let you rent a game to see. We did this with Robinson Crusoe. I recommend Sam from Dice Tower. (He’s a believer).
Know what you like and have fun. What a privilege to be with God’s people and fellowship with them. I’m thankful how He has used my time with the family and church to deepen my relationships with God’s people. My best friends are “nerds” like us. 🙂 What a privilege to have friends in your church.
What games do you enjoy? Feel free to leave a comment or tell us how you like to spend time together as a family, church, or friends.