Could you suggest some games that adults and kids can play together? My 6 year old daughter is a great gamer, but I have trouble finding games suited to both of us. She usually beats me at Mancala, and we play Clue and Monopoly, but I'm looking for something more interesting. Perhaps Ticket to Ride?-- David
It’s our lucky day, David: yours because I recently sent a list of just such games to a friend of mine with a seven-year-old daughter, so I’ve already done the legwork on this one; and mine because … well, because I’ve already done the legwork on this one, so I get to compose an entire post just by cutting and pasting from my Sent mail folder. Sweet.
Here’s a few suggestions. I’m sure my readers can offer more.
Family Strategy Games
- A-Maze-Ing Labyrinth: This game is routinely cited as one of the very best for kids. Players race through an ever-changing maze, trying to acquire treasures and magical items. This is one of those rare “children’s” games you will find yourself playing with your spouse or friends, even after the kids have gone to bed.
- Pick Picknic: Players can either play chickens (and score points by eating grain) or foxes (and score points by eating other player’s birds), and your success will depend not only on what you choose, but what everyone else chooses as well. A neat little game of bluff and outguessing.
- Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers: There are a plethora of games in the Carcassonne line, but I think Hunters & Gathers is the best for children, as it captures the fun of the base game with even simpler rules. It’s part light strategy game and part jigsaw puzzle, as players assemble a map of a prehistoric landscape. Lots of fun, and another that parents will enjoy even absent the offspring.
- Cartagena: Imagine Candyland with pirates. And a dash of actual strategy. And … well, I guess I already mentioned the pirates, but they are a real selling point. Arr!
- Blokus: Blokus is one I recommended to adults in my 2005 Good Gift Games Guide, but the game is so simple that kids can play it as well. Though slightly more complicated, Ingenious is also a fine choice for an abstract family game.
- Chicken Cha Cha Cha: If you want to get your ass handed to you by a seven year-old, memory games are the way to go. And Chicken Cha Cha Cha is one of the best. This one skews a little younger — more to the five- to six-year-old set — but slightly older kids will probably like it as well.
Enchanted Forest: Attractive wooden trees are randomly distributed around the board, all of which are identical except for the pictures on their bottoms. You may peek at the image beneath a tree as you pass it on the path, but when the King asks for a particular item will you remember where you saw it? Aimed at the younger girl market, but enjoyable by all.
Dawn Under: This recent title was nominated for the “German Game of the Year” award last year. Players try to get rid of their vampire cards by finding like-colored crypts for them to sleep in. Sounds a bit macabre for a kids game, but the mechanics are simple and the illustrations are cutsey.
- Gulo Gulo: The great thing about dexterity games is that they level the playing field: adults can usually beat kids in strategy games, youngsters will typically whip their parents in memory games, but games like this are a challenge for everyone. In Gulo Gulo players are wolverines, trying to carefully steal eggs out of a nest without setting off the “Anti-Wolverine Alarm System.”
- Igloo Pop: Pick up a small plastic igloo, shake it, and guess how many small plastic beads are inside. That’s the entire game, but it’s remarkably fun — at least until your five year-old clobbers you at it.
- Klondike: This game won the “Children’s Game of the Year” award. Put a mix of gold and black marbles into a dish; the active player then has to “pan” for the gold, attempting to flip the black beads out and keep the gold beads in, while the others wager on the outcome.
- Secret Door, The: Family Pastimes makes a whole line of cooperative kid’s games, and this is reputedly their best. Race around the mansion, and try to deduce which three items have been stolen by thieves before the clock strikes midnight. It’s a take on the classic memory game, but with players working as a team instead of in opposition.
- Scotland Yard: One player takes the role of “Mr. X,” darting around London and attempting to elude capture; the rest play Scotland Yard, and coordinate their movements to trap the criminal mastermind. This game is geared more towards older kids (10+), but if a younger child is part of an older “good guy” team she’ll do just fine.
- Break the Safe: If catching thieves isn’t your thing, you could instead try to Break The Safe (and avoid capture) yourself. Players are secret agents, infiltrating an enemy’s compound and attempting to get away with his secret plans, dodging traps, guards, and dogs all the way. The game is played in “real time,” as the player frantically try to reach their goal before the clock ticks down to zero.
And by the way: Ticket To Ride might be a little advanced for a six year-old, but it’s a great game and you should pick it up anyway. If you’d like a train game that a youngster could certainly play and enjoy, take a gander at TransAmerica.