What’s your favorite board or party game?

by Honolulu Mother

Amazon has done a couple of sales on board games recently, probably in anticipation of the holidays, and it’s got me thinking about games for a crowd, or just a family game night.  I bought Escape: The Curse of the Temple for this year and have high hopes for it, especially since each round of play is so short that agreeing to play isn’t an hour-long commitment.  I’m also considering God Hates Charades, a promising-sounding mashup of Charades and Cards Against Humanity that might be perfect for a theater-loving extended family where the youngest is a cynical twelve.

Do you have favorite games, past or present? I’m thinking especially of the ones played with multiple people in the same place at the same time, though feel free to share your favorite solo games too! This can include not just board games, but computer or gaming system party games like Dance Central or Mario Kart. I always enjoyed Cranium, though I haven’t played it for years — perhaps it’s time to introduce it to the kids! And I do indeed like Dance Central. How about you?

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51 thoughts on “What’s your favorite board or party game?

  1. We like the Great Dalmuti (sp). It is a card game that can be played with four or more players, is inherently unfair, and we make certain players wear hats.

  2. DH and I are split on this. I like card games like Hearts, Spades – and for a while (pre-kids), I was in a beginner’s Bridge group. DH only likes cards if he can use them to make structures.

    DH likes xbox and various computer games which I find stressful. I am not a particularly visual person and have trouble processing visual info quickly.

  3. SSM, I’m like your DH in having a slight aversion to card games. Which is odd because my daughter adores them, as well as doing card tricks. She has a pack of cards in her backpack at all times. We keep having to buy those huge multi-packs of playing cards at Costco.

  4. Need this post. Trying to find a game for Christmas for the whole family ages 12-86! My parents always drag out Apples to Apples which is getting lame for the kids but the God Hates Charades is a bit too blue for the older generation. Would love any recommendations.

  5. I’m liking Telestrations right now, which is also my rec for Moxie. But I want to throw away the little dry erase boards and give everyone a bunch of spiral-bound Steno pads.

  6. We are in the process of transforming our playroom. We don’t need the space so much for toys anymore (sniff sniff). We are making it over into a media room for watching sports, and because we all like Texas Hold ‘Em, we are putting in a poker table. DH is very excited to host his monthly poker night.

    The boys are telling me that they need 2 smaller TVs, so that 2 gaming stations can be set up at one time in order for them to be able to have friends over to play. It sounds like from some comments here, that might be right? Any insight into how to set this up would be great.

    For straight up games, I love Battleship with the kids. Also Boggle, Sorry, and Pictionary. And Scrabble! I love all of them.

  7. The boys are telling me that they need 2 smaller TVs, so that 2 gaming stations can be set up at one time in order for them to be able to have friends over to play. It sounds like from some comments here, that might be right? Any insight into how to set this up would be great.

    Yes, for a lot of games you cannot play with two players on the same console, you need to play online. All you need are two TVs and two game consoles, which both need to be connected to the internet obviously. You need to make sure you have a decent internet connection to handle it. Two shouldn’t be a problem.

  8. I like playing Magic the Gathering with my kids. I would probably be totally into it if there were places where middle aged women could meet to play. Game stores are kind of hostile turf.

    I also really like Dominion

  9. I have some helpful bridge tutorials; if anyone wants them, send me a PM.

    Dominion is great. Among other “German-style” board games (highly interactive, finite time frame), I’d recommend Splendor, Codenames, Pandemic (cooperative game), Lords of Waterdeep (and then Agricola if you love LoW). PowerGrid is excellent but on the more complicated end of things. We just got into King of Tokyo– a lot of fun. The two classics (Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride) are very good. I’m forgetting a few, but that’s a good start.

  10. @ DD – when you say 2 consoles, do you mean 2 playstations? So each TV has to have its own playstation (or xbox or whatever)? Just want to be sure I get it. And here’s a dumb question – even if we do that, it’s still just 2 players, right? We couldn’t get a crowd of kids, could we? That’s really the goal, is for them each to be able to have a couple of friends over.

  11. I don’t think of Dominion as a board game like Settlers of Cataan (which I don’t care for particularly). It is more of a deck building game, related to MTG but simpler.

    I am not much of a game player. I detest traditional card games like bridge (which we were forced to learn in 8th grade English as part of a “leisure” unit – a month of bridge, ack). I sort of like Monopoly and Risk. Chess and checkers leave me cold. But I really like MTG because it is so open ended.

  12. Yes, I didn’t mean to imply that the GSBG are similar in mechanics. Dominion is quite different from Catan! I would recommend Splendor for you as your next foray into GSBGs.

    Monopoly and Risk are fine, but I appreciate the finite time frame of the GSBG’s; M and Risk can go indefinitely.

  13. We tend to play some old-fashioned classics — Oh Hell or 31 (cards), “crazy dice” or Yahtzee (dice). But we go in spurts — we had a huge Trivial Pursuit phase, followed by Pictionary; more recently, Taboo, then Apples to Apples, then Cards Against Humanity.

    I tend to like the games that reward making unusual connections — e.g., in Taboo, for “barracuda,” you can say “a song by Heart” instead of trying to figure out how to describe it without saying words like “fish” and “teeth” and “ocean.” And my sense of humor involves completely-unexpected-but-fitting answers. Ergo, Taboo, Apples to Apples, and CAH are big hits. I will definitely have to check the charades/Cards Against Humanity one. We have also liked Fluxx for the unpredictability (although you really need at least a teen-level audience — kids need to be at the level to have learned “games have clear rules and predictable outcomes,” before they can really take pleasure in the subversion of “rules” that completely flouted those expectation. But it’s a fine line — the Monty Python version of Fluxx has lots of “oops, the whole baseline of the game just changed, ha ha,” whereas the Cthulu version tends to be more fundamentally nihilistic (“oops, I’m screwed, no way I can win now, [bleep]”). I shouldn’t be surprised at this distinction (umm, yellow, Monty Python vs. Cthulu), but it was a good reminder that subversion of the game rules tends to be funny only in the context of larger adherence to the rules (people still have to think they can win).

  14. Settlers of Catan is great, so is Ticket to Ride. Also, 7 Wonders, Puerto Rico, and Alhambra. For Alhambra, if you are going to buy it, buy the Big Box version. We also like Pandemic and Carcassonne. Puerto Rico is the most complex, but my favorite. Kids went with their Dad to GenCon this year and brought back some new games. We will be breaking them out this holiday season.

  15. Mooshi, I’m sorry game stores are hostile. I went to high school with the guy who just opened this place: http://www.boardgamerepublic.com/

    It’s really great and not hostile to anyone. Keith was always a board game fanatic and spent years working as a board game designer. He went to UCSB and majored in film studies, so once again, be aware that engineering is not the only degree in the universe that leads to a happy life.

  16. I keep thinking DH and I should try to play more board games or even online games. He’s thinking about dialing down his practice and easing towards retirement, which means he’d be around the house more, which in turn means we need to find ways to interact without annoying the crap out of each other. But I’m a really sore loser, so that doesn’t help.

  17. I love card games and board games. Hate video games. I don’t think my hand-eye coordination is good enough for them. I really like team card games like euchre and bridge.

  18. I think maybe this vacation I will try to teach the kids pinochle. DH and I have another couple we play with a couple times a year and I really enjoy it. The kids have watched and wanted to join in. That might be fun on a rainy afternoon.

  19. RMS, my parents had a long-running Acey-Deucey competition that ran for years and years, until it became too obvious that the win-loss record was one-sided (in favor of my mother) and they gradually abandoned it. (It’s a variation on backgammon.)

    The Munchkin games are really fun if your family members are at all geeky. (And OMG, apparently they’re branching out — I saw a ‘hipsters’ version when I was getting that link!) My kids also love playing Mad Libs with friends and cousins. And Avalon, a variation on Mafia, is another big favorite that I try not to get pulled in for because they just keep going. and. going. when they play it, round after round.

  20. Lark, for consoles my understanding is that the “party games” fill in the niche of something you can play with a bunch of people over — things where people can jump in and out, take turns playing, compete against each other with a bunch of controllers on the same console. The dance games (only 2 at once, but with ‘party mode’ it’s easy for people to jump in and out) and Mario Kart are the ones that come to mind, and if you have a Kinect some of the minigames in Kinect Adventures or Kinect Disney where you’re doing a lot of ducking, jumping, leaning side to side to get around obstacles.

  21. OH, you know what else my kids do as a party game is Google Feud, because you can do it with teams. We have a Chromebox hooked up to our tv so they do it that way, but you can use any computer.

  22. Another vote for Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne. DH’s family is very into dominoes, so we play that as well. They also love card games, which I hate, so I try to steer everyone to dominoes.
    DS and friends play Pandemic and Munchkin.

  23. For three year olds, Diggity Dogg is my very favorite board game. I’m getting ideas for our family. DS1 was in charge of the opening game at Scouts and we introduced him to Pictionary for that.

  24. @ DD – when you say 2 consoles, do you mean 2 playstations? So each TV has to have its own playstation (or xbox or whatever)? Just want to be sure I get it. And here’s a dumb question – even if we do that, it’s still just 2 players, right? We couldn’t get a crowd of kids, could we? That’s really the goal, is for them each to be able to have a couple of friends over.

    Right on all counts. Each TV needs its own playstation. It’s hard to get a big crowd even if they bring their own consoles and TVs/monitors because at some point you overload your internet connection.

    There are some games where you can play multiplayer on one console – Call of Duty is the only shooter game as far as I know, but other games like Madden let you do it – so depending on what games they are playing you can get more people playing at once.

  25. My siblings and I used to play chickenfoot dominoes when we were kids. Until one brother procured a raw chicken foot and threw it at another brother when he called out chickenfoot.

  26. For the board game type stuff, we like Wits & Wagers, Ruckus, Man Bites Dog, off the top of my head.

  27. +1 for Denver Dad on the video game deal. Kids usually travel with their consoles because THEIR game is loaded on their console. It is a WHOLE thing to mess with someone else’s game. For parties they do have these party vans that come with a whole video game set up and like 16 kids can play together.

  28. “My siblings and I used to play chickenfoot dominoes when we were kids. Until one brother procured a raw chicken foot and threw it at another brother when he called out chickenfoot.”

    We play Mexican Train dominoes, which is similar and comes in the same kit. It’s a fun game, especially the part where the winner gets to toot the train horn and dance around the table … that might be after a few drinks during the game!

    I like the tactile sense of playing with dominoes or chips or other playing pieces. We played Rummikub for the first time recently and it was enjoyable. It includes elements of Rummy but uses tiles.

    I’m getting ideas from this thread for new games. I’ve never played pinochle, for instance.

    Catch Phrase is a good game for a party. It moves quickly and usually generates both laughs and expletives.

  29. Okay – let me ask this. If the goal is not so much a party, but just one or two friends over, what’s the ideal set up in a former-playroom-turned-media-room?

  30. Lark – a games room (like an arcade). Air hockey table, darts, small basket ball hoop…
    Comfortable seating and access to food and (soft) drinks.

  31. Lark, if you’re talking about video games, then what you mentioned – two TVs with a playstation or xbox on each one. (or three or four :) )

  32. A few more small observations:
    –Taboo is great for messing with people who like to talk before they think.
    –I concur on 7 Wonders and would add RoboRally for some folks.
    –Smaller GSBGish games: No Thanks, For Sale, Double or Nothing, Incan Gold.
    –I mentioned CodeNames earlier along with GSBGs, but it’s more of a party game (with words/clues).
    –Dixit is another Apples/Apples-ish game, with bizarre art.

    Stereotyping y’all, but I’m really surprised that the proportion of GSBG’ers is so low here. My sense would have been that this activity is eminently Totebaggish! Anyway, at this point, if I had to recommend one game for people looking to give GSBGs a look, I’d start with Splendor or Ticket to Ride (European if you can handle the geography of Europe vs. America).

  33. We really like Rummikub. I learned to play years ago from my grandmother, and I play now during the summer at the pool. The parents played with their kids in teams until the kids were old enough to play by themselves.

    Other favorites are Sequence and Blokus. DD loves Monopoly and Sorry. She had so many kid versions of Monopoly before she could play the real game. I can’t stand Monopoly, but I will play once in a while so I can avoid the guilt trip.

  34. @ Eric schansberg – our Settlers of Catan is actually in German as we bought it very early on. The Ticket to Ride European version has some extra rules that if you are playing with teens or adults who aren’t into a lot of strategy games gets very confusing quickly.

    For all – Fundagain Games and Board Game Geeks are two websites we use to vet games. It used to be easier on both sites to see which games were award winning, so now we use https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Game_of_the_Year_awards_(board_games) on wikipedia to link to the various award lists.

  35. GSBG?
    Golden State Bulb Growers
    Gonadal Steroid-Binding Globulin
    Graduate School in Bioinformatics and Genome Research
    Great South Benefits Group

  36. Rummikub is a hit here – really works for anyone who knows how to play rummy and understands the basics of dominoes. We also like Encore! which is a music lovers game – you have to know lyrics or how the song can fit into a general topic. I was turned onto it by DH’s family – everyone from the kids to the grandmother played that one. Always in teams.

    We have Hasbro’s family game night for the Wii, so we’ll play those versions of our favorite board games we don’t own. We also play Scene It a lot (a dvd based game), and a few others in our closet.

    Apples to Apples is a hit when we have friends over – usually after the littles are in bed so we can be a little more adult. Cards Against Humanity is another one we like. I’ve play Fluxx before and like it, but man, is it tough to understand. Milleborne is another favorite.

    Ticket to Ride is fun. We also have Trivial Pursuit, and a few other classic board games.

  37. ROcky – I think it means “German Style Board Games”… but that’s only from context clues in this post…

  38. Agreed. TTR-Europe is better long-term and if people aren’t bugged out by geography. As with any other game, you can relax some rules early (e.g., tunnels and maybe train stations) and then add them the second time. To your point, we own TTR-US since we often use that to break in newbies and is easier to handle.

    Board Game Geeks is a terrific resource. I should have mentioned that before! Cardhaus Games has good (Amazon-ish) prices, but from a smaller company. I’d also recommend watching instructional videos on-line or having veterans teach you how to play.

  39. I am not a big board game person – neither is DH. We both like Cards against Humanity though. When I was a kid, I loved to play Hand and Foot with my grandparents, but I don’t know that I’d remember all the rules now! :)

  40. Taboo is my new favorite non-board game, great to play with large groups of people. I love Clue and used to love the game Masterpiece, but can’t remember that much about it.

  41. A couple not already mentioned that are good when covering really wide age spans are Whoonu and Left Right Center. Whoonu is by Cranium, and we never keep score. Players get cards that have different, random things on them, and people have to guess which one they prefer. It generates a lot of laughs. Left Right Center is a dice game that is easy for kids to catch on to. We play with dollar bills, so the winner gets a pool of cash.

  42. Rhode, Encore sounds great! Thanks for the suggestion.

    If I do get the God Hates Charades game I’m planning to bowdlerize it by pulling the most inappropriate cards . . . or maybe I should truly bowdlerize it by writing in something wholesome instead!

  43. I was happy to learn about GSBGs — never heard that term before. Maybe I’ll finally try Ticket to Ride.

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