by Mary Jean Hudson

Everyone knows Mary Jean is an avid games player. Passed down from one generation to the next, she spends many a fun evening playing games with her husband and four children. There is never a dull moment in that household! Mary Jean also works as an operating nurse at a local hospital.

No money? No sitter? Don’t want to be bored? Why not be the board game hostess! It’s cheap, easy and you don’t even have to leave home for a great time. Playing board games creates family bonding. I asked my kids if they would rather play a board game or go see a movie. I received an overwhelming yes to the board game! When asked why, the response was, “It’s so much fun. It’s better than just sitting there not talking.” One of my ten-year-old twins said that there was nothing he’d rather do at night then play a game with the family and have a big bowl of popcorn for everyone.

Traditionally, our family spends holidays at mom’s house playing board games too. I asked my six siblings for their feelings on board games. “I love it; it’s so fun.” “Too bad we didn’t live closer to do it more often!” “It’s great … you can get really excited, yell and go crazy because everyone else is having a crazy time too!”

There are so many games out there, it’s hard to choose. Personally, I like games everyone can play. Too often games are limiting. For example, my husband would love to play the Lord of the Rings version of Trivial Pursuit, but the only one I know he could actually play with is my sister. Unless your group is heavily into specific topics, ie. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, movies, history, etc., it’s pretty hard to really play some games. Generic games work best. It also keeps the cost down. As I said before, we play the same games with the kids as we do with our friends. Here are our all-time favorites:

  • SEQUENCE is a great card based game. Our kids started playing around the age of three, almost four. We also play it with friends. It’s similar to playing tic tac toe with cards and poker chips. If you recognize numbers you can play.
  • RUMOLI or MICHIGAN RUMMY is another favorite for both groups. Number recognition is again the only skill. Play for pennies, popcorn seeds or buttons with the kids and exchange them for the winner’s chocolate bar; or better yet, save the crying and just declare a winner. Adults can bet pennies during the game and then collect in real pocket change for adult coffee money.
  • BLURT goes over very well too. The game includes a section for 7 – 12-year-olds, another for 12 years to adult and also a French version all-in-one. Our kids all play that too. What do you call material you wear on your head? The first person to blurt out “hat” takes the point. Not recommended for those looking for quiet entertainment that night!
  • DOMINOES 12 or 18 (in the tin can) provides a multitude of games in one pack. Our favorite for both young and old is “Chicken foot”. If you can count dots, you can play. The only thing you need is a big kitchen table.
  • MAD GAB is my personal favorite. Each card has a “hard side” and an “easy side”. I think you might need to be consuming a fair bit of alcohol to play the “hard side”. The game’s a total scream. If you can read, you can play. However, it’s more fun for teens and adults you are quick and crazy. Basically, a phrase is spelled out phonetically. You read it and must “know” what you have read. Everyone else seems to know what you’ve said, except you. It’s some type of mind quirk between your brain and your mouth. My kids can play, but even the ll year old just doesn’t seem to understand that I don’t know what I’ve just said. For example, I read, “Hit Sewn Hatch Her Hull” and she yells, “That’s it. You’ve got it. Man, you’re so smart, mom!” Yet every time, I haven’t got a clue what I’ve read or said, even though it is clear to her (It’s so natural). I hope when she’s 15, she’ll still think I’m brilliant!

“Games night” for our adult friends is always lots of fun too. It brings friends and acquaintances together for a great time, whether they share common interests or not. No conversations about politics, religion or the weather. It’s a great way to have a memorable party with our work friends and skip the office gossip. We play the same games with them as we do with the kids. For our adult games night, three or four pairs of people work best. Any more and we’d need another game going. The only rule we enforce is “no kids”. We want to be able to escape from our own group of friends for sheer fun. We don’t need to be quiet, don’t have to watch our conversations or actions. Sometimes we regress to childish behavior and we are glad children are not present to misinterpret things. Usually, the table has a couple of snacks provided by the host and someone else– host or not – brings a dessert to finish the night. Quitting time is midnight, game over or not. The startup is around 8 p.m. once the small ones are in bed. That gives us enough time to have at least one great game and a lot of laughs.

Get the tradition going in your house and you’ll never regret it. Whether for camping, rainy days, winter nights, or anytime, it’s entertainment for the whole gang. Cheap, easy and great fun. A kitchen table, a few chairs, and a light is all you need. Popcorn is a perk according to the kids. Make a tradition. “Set Bacon Hinge Ahoy It”*. Board games are “Awe Haze Could Furl Half”**.

*Sit back and enjoy it. ** Always good for a laugh.

Email me your favorite family game and the ages it’s appropriate for. Let’s all get in on the fun.

Here are some recommendations:

  • CANDYLAND – great game for little kids who want to learn their colors and understand the basics of playing a board game.
  • ALPHABET BINGO and COLORS & SHAPES BINGO – simple and easy for pre-schoolers
  • UNO – a super easy card game many ages can play, especially with pre-schoolers who are trying to master their numbers, colors, and some basic strategy.
  • DECK OF CARDS – Learn how to play Old Maid, Go Fish, Crazy 8’s, War, Euchre, etc.
  • TROUBLE – a fun game for four people. You only have to be able to count to 6 to be able to play. Good for a wide range of children who will include very young kids.
  • SNAKES AND LADDERS – another all time favorite for very young children. Easy, fun and can include older kids as well.
  • BATTLESHIP – Boys tend to like this game of strategy. Two can play this game. All they have to be able to do is recognize the alphabet and numbers 1-10.
  • JR. MONOPOLY – Great game for kids to teach them adding and subtracting of money. Sr. Monopoly improves their skills and incorporates more strategy.
  • FIVE CROWN – A great card game based on a five suited rummy-style play for boys and girls over 7.
  • S’QUARRELs – A simple card game for children 6 and up that is a lot of fun.
  • YAHTZEE – A fun game with dice and score cards. All in the luck and your strategy.
  • DUTCH BLITZ – A fast moving card game for teens and adults that are a lot of fun if you’re quick and competitive.
  • WITS & WAGERS – A board game that is great for adults, teens and tweens. Don’t need to know much, but take some great guesses.
  • SCATTERGORIES – A fast paced game to think up words in a category beginning with a particular letter. Fun for tweens, teens and adults.

There are a lot of games available on-line for free, as well as others in app form for your phone. Enjoy! We are never too old to have some fun!!

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