Board games, it appears, are making a comeback – see a recent piece in The Guardian. I, myself, have always loved board games – there is no on/off switch, they can be competitive or collaborative and they can be hilarious: try describing ‘socks’ without using the words ‘feet’, ‘clothes’, ‘pair’ or ‘smelly’ against the clock (Don’t Say It) and I don’t think anyone in my extended family will ever forget the image of my children’s granny trying to act out a bull in Junior Cranium.
Board games work across generations, bringing together the youngest and the not-so-young, sometimes with hilarious results (as just described). They can also be enjoyed over a meal and a glass of wine with your closest of friends. Perfect.
So switch off the TV, smart phone, iPad, Wii, Nintendo, Playstation, etc, etc and open a box of intrigue, strategy or just plain hilarity.
Ingenious by Reiner Knitzia, published by Esdevium Games This game is genious because of its simplicity. Very quick to learn (my seven year old grasped the objective and rules instantly), yet absorbing and very beautiful to look at. The board is laid out in front of the players who each start with a rack of six tiles (each tile has two colour symbols on it, 2 different or 2 the same). The game progresses with players taking turns to lay down a tile, making sure that one of the symbols on the tile being laid abuts a symbol of the same colour and shape on a tile already placed. Tiles are scored by counting the number of straight lines emerging from the symbols on the tile placed. The player then records the score for each symbol on their own scoreboard and refreshes their hand. However, there is a very clever twist to this game. When the board is filled, each player’s LOWEST positioned marker defines his result and the player with the highest ‘lowest’ result wins. Therefore, you really have to make sure that you score with all your coloured tiles and not leave one colour trailing behind.
Don’t Say It! Published by Paul Lamond Games Can you get your team member(s) to say “cow” without saying “moo”, “milk”, “beef” or “animal”? It’s harder than it sounds and hilarious too! Playing against the clock can leave you completely tongue-tied when trying to describe the simplest of everyday objects. Each card has a main word that a team member has to describe to his team but without using the words underneath. The cards are coloured coded, some scoring more points than others. The game can be set to different levels of difficulty – easy, medium or difficult. The difficulty levels are determined by how many words you are NOT allowed to say as you try to get your team to guess the main word. So younger players may choose ‘easy’ (can’t say two words) while older members may choose ‘medium’ (can’t say three words) or ‘difficult’ (can’t say four words). Don’t Say It is an excellent game for building up children’s vocabulary and developing skills in describing objects and finding alternative words. I have used this game a lot in classroom settings too and all the children love it. Without fail.
Labyrinth published by Ravensburger What looks like a straightforward maze game is transformed by the fact that the playing board and hence the maze is constantly changing. You think you have worked out a straightforward route through the maze to the next piece of treasure …but WAIT… one of your opponents has blocked your way by inserting the extra tile. The game can be easily adapted for younger children by allowing them to choose which treasure they are going after before their next turn. Ordinarily you have to look at and find the treasure on the top card in your stack. Labyrinth involves lots of strategy and sequential thinking skills. Sometimes it can be fiendishly difficult to see a route through the maze and just when you think you’re there, it all changes once more. Frustratingly good fun.
Carcassonne published by Z Man Games Another tile-laying game (there’s no board at all). Each player takes it in turn to lay a tile down, placing it side by side to a tile already laid and building up roads, cities, monasteries and fields (along with rivers, inns and cathedrals if you have the expansion packs). Gradually the area surrounding the famous French city of Carcossonne is created. As the landscape grows, players choose whether or not to place one of their followers with each tile laid – a knight if placed on a city, a robber if placed on a road, a monk if placed on a monastery and a farmer if placed in a field. When each feature is ‘completed’, then the follower scores points for its owner. When playing you are required to make decisions all the time, where to place each tile in order to build and complete features, where to place your followers (they run out quickly so they have to be used optimally), at the same time keeping a watch on how your opponents’ features are developing. Carcassonne is a fast moving game which is different everytime it is played.
Junior Cranium published by Hasbro This game is an absolute joy for bringing together several generations together for one hour of laughter and fun. Players either team up or fly solo to complete challenges – crafting objects in clay, acting out secret words, drawing secret words, all for others to guess and answering questions or seeking specific objects against the clock. The results, or should I say the attempts, can be hilarious. Junior Cranium allows children to perform and be creative in a safe and fun environment. Highly recommended.