Family Game Night 2009

From the time I was young, I was always a game player. My first memory of games is the nightly games of Milles Bornes I would play against my mother. From there, I became a big time board game player. My friends and I used to have regular Monopoly games, and shockingly, our biggest problem was with the banker cheating. In college, we used to play games of Risk that lasted more than a week.

I still yearn for some of the games from my youth. I loved Skittle Bowl with the wooden pins; somehow, the crashing of plastic pins just doesn’t sound the same. Or the classic game, Rebound, with the long orangey board. I used to love Masterpiece, as that was the closest anyone ever got me to an art museum.

After I got married, the games continued. We would have How to Host a Murder parties, which was how one of my friends became my brother-in-law. The tradition continued after my wife and I had kids. We still love Scattegories, Pictionary, and with today’s technology, games like Scene It! come to life in whole new ways on DVD. I’m still upset that the movie and TV DVD game Shout didn’t catch on. Of the new games introduced during the most recent years, that was my favorite!

There is nothing compared to playing games with friends and family. You can talk about bonding, quality time and those positive aspects from playing together. I love it because it’s fun, people of all ages can play, and it’s one of the best ways to spend time. I don’t play games with the intention of learning more about my friends, but it’s amazing what you accidentally learn about friends or kids when playing, and the bonds you find that you didn’t know existed.

During these tougher economic times, there is no more affordable form of great entertainment that will give you hours of fun and provide an alternative to more costly forms of entertainment. (The economic downturn of 1987 saw a boom in games, particularly for adults. It was the heyday of Pictionary, for example.) It’s amazing how games are also timeless. We still have more than 50 games in our basement, and we play games that have been around for 20 years or more, but they still can feel new when we play, precisely because we’re playing them now.

Take a Friday night, gather with the kids and/or friends, and pull out some games. If you don’t already do this, you’ll be amazed how much fun you can have and how rich and exciting the time you spend together can be.

Below are some of our favorite games for game night. There a hundreds of great games to choose from, but these are a small group of some of my favorites, why I like them—and why I think you will too.

As you go down the list, you’ll notice a few favorites missing. No Scrabble. It’s my wife’s favorite game, but not my 1st choice for Game Night… No Life or Clue? I like those also, but I could pick 100 games I like. Lesser known titles like Wits N Wagers are fun. And I wanted a unique variety.

Did I miss your favorite? Disagree with me. Let me hear what you have to say!


Games are listed in order of when their 1st edition was launched

  • Tripoley Deluxe Special Edition (1932)

    By Cadaco

    This game is for the card lovers/card sharks who can multi-task or multi think. Essentially, you’re playing Michigan Rummy, Hearts, and Poker at the same time. All the cards are dealt, and then you play each game. Sounds crazy, but it’s really simple and you get the hang of it pretty fast. It really solves a dilemma when everyone wants to play a different card game because this is 3 games in one!

  • Monopoly Here & Now World Edition (1935)

    Monopoly is probably the most famous game ever invented. You can almost call it a staple of growing up, and it’s played around the world. The question is: What edition is best? The classic, if you love dealing out those dollars. Star Wars or Disney editions (or any of the special editions for everything from favorite movies to hometowns) for those die-hard fans are always cool. I like Monopoly Here & Now because the spaces on the board have more meaning to me. St James Place, Pacific Avenue or the Reading Railroad—and Depression Era Atlantic City—don’t have the same meaning today to me than features from cities like London, Shanghai, and New York. The old energy sources have been replaced by modern versions, like wind and power. The houses and hotels are also updated to reflect today.

    The biggest change to this version is the electronic money management bank. The unit makes transactions easy, and if you want to take a break, your information is stored. If you love the classic, this version might not be for you. However, if your kids like technology and you want the feel of modern times while playing Monopoly, this edition is reflects today’s world.

  • Yahtzee (1956)

    By Hasbro Games

    If you played this dice game before, then you’ve probably seen a “Yahtzee Dance” at some point. It’s like scoring a touchdown in football, in that you often get a celebratory dance. Though spiking the dice is optional.

    You get three rolls to roll 5 of a kind. Otherwise, you need to strategically fill in your scoring pad of 3 and 4 of a kinds, full house, small and large straights, and your basic of 3 of each number to get your “on top” bonus. This dice game is easy to play, and plays best with from 2 to 5 people. What we like best about this is that it’s a fast play and people generally want to play several times. There’s a great balance of strategy and chance, and it’s easy for people of all ages to play together so it’s ideal for the family.

  • Million Dollar Password (1963)

    By Endless Games

    Million Dollar Password is based on the game show hosted by Regis. (He doesn’t need a last name!) This is a game that needs to be played by four people—two teams of two. Quite simply, you give one word clues to a partner to have them guess a particular word. It’s that easy to play, but being clever and strategic is the key to winning. When playing this game, you’ll learn who’s on the same wavelength as you.

    Parents and grandparents may remember the original TV show or the home game that was a huge hit in the 1960s and 1970s, but this is still a great game that’s all about communication.

    And here’s a bit of trivia: Betty White is the only celebrity to have played on every version of the Password TV show.

  • Uno Flash (1971)

    By Mattel

    Who hasn’t played the card game UNO? This fast-paced game of drawing and discarding has enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes—and laughing. The object is to get rid of all your cards, but the game changes on each play, so it’s not as easy as it sounds. But it ishilarious good fun—and simple enough that everyone can get it and enjoy it.

    However, if the classic version doesn’t give you enough chaos and unpredictability, there’s UNO Flash. The electronic version picks who plays next, so you need to pay attention. UNO is easy to play, as all you need to know is numbers and colors, but UNO Flash make takes UNO to a frantic level.

  • Phase 10 (1982)

    By Fundex

    Phase 10 is a rummy type card game that is based on Liverpool Rummy. It’s called Phase 10 because there are 10 different phases you must complete before winning. For example, Phase one is 2 sets of 3. Phase 4 is 1 run of 7. The phases get harder as you go along, but it really gets interesting when you have different people trying for different phases. Best for 3-6 players

  • Pictionary (1985)

    By Hasbro Games

    Playing Pictionary is like playing charades, but on paper. You draw your clues instead of acting them out. The best part is you can be a lousy artist and still win (yours truly!) It’s about imagination, being clever, and having a quick pencil. Virtually anything is allowed… except letters numbers or symbols. This is another game that will astonish you on how smart you kids are and give you insight into how well you communicate. This game plays best with 4 to 8 people.

  • Scattergories (1988)

    By Hasbro Games

    Scattergories is a Silver family favorite. The name Scattergories is for the different categories, but when we play it’s for the bodies scattered all of the carpet with our lists ready to write. It’s easy: You get a list of twelve categories, and you then have to write a word that fits into each category that begins with the letter you rolled on a special die. You then have three minutes to come up with your answers. But the trick is you can’t have the same answer as anyone else in the room, or else it gets crossed off. Which means, if you’re playing with your spouse, you’re doing a lot of crossing off! Games are quick, you can play with someone young as a team, and it’s a load of fun.

  • Taboo (1990)

    By Hasbro Games

    This game can be played with four people, but it’s even more fun with 6 people, so get a gang together and get playing.

    You draw a card and have to get someone to say the word on the card without saying any of the Taboo words, which are also on the card. So if the word on the card is Baseball, you need to get your teammates to say baseball, but you can’t use “pitcher,” “hitter,” “pastime,” “sport” or “game,” as any of your clues. “Jeter,” “Pujols,” “Dodger,” or “Fenway,” however, would be good clues.

    You then have to see how many cards you can get right before the timer runs out. And, the best part is someone from the other team watches over your shoulder with “the buzzer” if you accidentally use a word not permitted. There’s no board here, so you can play anywhere, and it’s a fun interactive game where everyone can be relaxed, but you need to be sharp to win. (If you haven’t noticed, playing the games is fun, but I like winning also!)

  • Rummikub (1995)

    By Pressman Games

    This game is another great game for those who love card games. It’s easy to play, and the strategy is the same as with Rummy; you’re either building lines of numbers or colors. There are two jokers involved, and that really can change the game. The game starts slowly, but as the tiles get placed, it gets faster and more strategic. The key here is to be patient. In this game, the tortoise usually beats the hare. Best for 3 or 4 players.

  • Apples to Apples (1998)

    By Mattel

    This game is all about comparisons of things, and you’ll often be amazed, shocked and amused on how people think. There is a different judge on every round. Everyone gets dealt cards with nouns on them, and then the judge draws a green card with an adjective for all to see. The other player then chooses their noun, which they think best describes the green card. The judge then chooses which they think is the most appropriate; which makes it a little bit like dealing with the judges of figure skating or gymnastics in competitions because you wonder at times what they’re seeing or thinking!

  • Battle of the Sexes 2nd Edition (1998)

    By Imagination Entertainment

    This is the 2nd Edition, and I recommend it clearly over the first as the questions and rules are a little clearer. Essentially, it’s a game the pits men against women in a trivia showdown, and you get to see how little the opposite sex knows about "stereotypical" male and female subjects. We’ve found that this plays best with at least 2 members of each gender.

  • Cranium Family Edition (1998)

    By Hasbro Games

    This new edition of Cranium is a great way for parents to compete against their kids (and parents should get used to losing). The four basics of Cranium are still here in 16 different brain-stretching activities: Star Performer, Creative Cat, Data Head, and Word Worm, but you get to flip some frogs and sculpture some clay in challenges. Cranium has always been a family favorite, but with a shorter playing time (about 40 minutes at the maximum), this game moves quickly. The other thing we love about this game is that the emphasis is on cooperative play so it puts all members of the family on a level playinf field. If you like a game of different fun challenges, this is it!

  • Blokus (2000)

    By Mattel

    My 18-year-old-daughter calls this “Best Game Ever!” And she’s right: This is probably the best game you never heard of. In 2003, it was voted Europe’s Game of the Year. It’s really easy to play: Each player must begin at one of the corners of the board, The order of play is blue, yellow, red, green, Each new piece that is placed on the board must touch another piece of the same color, but it can only touch at the corners, never along the sides. If you can’t play a tile, you miss a turn. When you run out of tiles, you win. There is so much strategy, yet it’s so simple to play. You’ll be amazed at how engrossed kids get in this game that’s basically so simple. You will, too. While you can play with fewer than four people, this game is best when played by four.

  • I Spy Eagle Eye (2000)

    By Briarpatch

    I Spy games are great for kids five and older. There’s no reading, but you really have to search to find what you’re looking for. It’s really easy; everyone looks for an object, first to find it rings the bell, and you get that card. I like this with kids in the 5-9 age category. Easy to play, and fun. There are more than 10 different I Spy games, but this is my favorite.

  • Scene It? (Various Editions) (2002)

    By Mattel and Screen Life

    Scene It? is a trivia board game brought to life through movie and television clips. There are trivia questions, but the real fun is the “my play” and “all play” questions coming from the footage from the enclosed DVD. The other great thing about Scene It? is that you don’t have to sit around a table, but you can all lounge around in one room.

    The big question is: Which edition is for you? The Disney 2nd edition is great, especially for the younger kids, especially when they beat their parents. Movie Edition 2 is better when your kids are older than 12. My favorite edition (as a father of 3 teenage daughters) is Scene It? Squabble (a lesser known edition) which pits the men vs. women, answering questions that are meant for the opposite sex. This game is great for 4 people or a party.

  • Wig Out (2003)

    By Gamewright

    This is a frantic card game that plays best with 4-6 people. Best part is everyone plays at the same time. You have to match different hairstyles. Once you fet rid of all your cards, you yell “WIG OUT” and you win.

    The game play is that easy, but with everyone playing at the same time, you have to be ready and focused. If you don’t like quick-pace hectic game play, this probably isn’t for you. However, if you like frantic, you will love this card game.

  • Tip of the Tongue (2004)

    By Fundex

    This game is a blast! The questions are fairly easy, such as: What’s the hard candy that has a hole in the middle? But the tough part is you only have 2 seconds to come up with the answer, and if you hesitate, the buzzer goes off. You can alternate games, rounds or who is the question reader. The crazy answers you get in two seconds are pretty wild because it’s all about what’s on the tip of your tongue.

  • Bananagrams Set with Banana Leaf Score Pad (2006)

    By Bananagrams

    It’s a word game that centers on anagrams, with some similarities to Scrabble. The difference are that there is no board, no special bonus squares, and you don’t get slowed down when you play with those who don’t have patience (moi!). You are basically making your own crossword (you don’t have to share!), and are rewarded for speed. And you can bend the rules; create handicaps so the game will even out when playing with kids.

  • Big Brain Academy Game (2007)

    By University Games

    This is a game for those who think they are “smarter than everyone else,” or at least smarter than everyone else in the room! If it sounds familiar, it was inspired by the Nintendo DS game. It’s all about answering the most questions correctly in 5 different categories: Analyze Compute, Identify, Memorize and Think. But it’s not just getting the right answer, speed is key. This game is the ultimate brain test.

  • Sorry! Sliders (2008)

    By Hasbro Games

    This game is new, and I’ll sum it up in a few words. Imagine playing Shuffleboard but with oversized Sorry pieces, with up to 4 people each having their own runway, and scoring based on the original Sorry. This game reminds me a little of Rebound with the pieces on sliders, but there is quite a bit of skill involved. It’s easy to play, you can master, but then someone can knock you off.

    This is a great skill and action game that makes a nice complement to the other games on this list.

  • Texas Hold Em Poker Set in Aluminum Case (2008)

    By Cardinal Games

    Poker for kids?

    Absolutely. Kids love playing poker. It’s a card game with chips, clear winners and losers and full of luck and strategy - and you get to bluff. There are tons of board games that have a betting/chance element, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re promoting gambling. Sit down with a group of 5-9 people and play poker for fun. The kids will love it!

    When playing with the kids, we’d offer a prize for the winner, whether it would be a couple of bucks, or a special candy treat.

    This set includes poker rack, felt layout, 200 quality poker chips, one deck of poker playing cards, dealer button and easy instructions.

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