Fun for Everyone: The Evolving History of Board Games

Fun for Everyone: The Evolving History of Board Games

The delightful hobby of playing games isn't a modern invention. While people in ancient times didn't have Pokemon Go to entertain themselves, they still spent hours of fun games both inside and outside of their households.

It is unknown who the innovators were who first started to play games. Perhaps the earliest games were created in prehistoric times, when gaming tools would have been made of wood or bone. It is impossible to conclude which is the oldest game in the world, but discoveries made at archaeological sites in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq have unearthed an ancient game that is still a mystery for archaeologists. It seems that games quickly became a very attractive source of entertainment, a valuable diplomatic gift, a portrayal of wealth, and desired artifacts for the afterlife (perhaps with a perception of extra leisure time following death?)

A screen painting depicting people of the Ming Dynasty playing Go, by Kanō Eitoku.

Ancient Games of Prestige

One can only imagine what kind of games normal people could play in the distant past and what were the usual ways to entertain children. Ancient resources describe some games, but it is unknown how many of them were available to everyone. Certainly, the number of people allowed to play some games increased over time, but it is unknown how many games were accessible to all in the earliest years.

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Archaeological evidence suggest that ancient Egyptians enjoyed board games. Even Queen Nefertari, the famous wife of Ramesses II, was portrayed in her tomb while playing a board game called Senet. The second most famous game in ancient Egypt was Mehen. It is unknown which game is older, however, material evidence presents Senet as the first.

The Egyptian game Senet.

The first evidence of the game Mehen is as old as 3,000 BC. It was very popular during the Old Kingdom, and remained prevalent at least until the Third Intermediate Period. Mehen was played on a board which looks like a snail shell at first glance, but actually represents a snake. The most detailed playing pieces were shaped like lions. The set of pieces included about three to six game bits and a few small marbles.

Mehen game with gamestones, from Abydos, Egypt. ( CC BY 3.0 )

On the other hand, Senet was known in the Pre-Dynastic period. The game was played on a grid of 30 squares arranged in three rows. The exact rules are unknown, but it seems that it was played with two sets of pawns. The game was played as a way to contact deities. It was believed that the successful player was protected by gods like Ra, Thoth, and Osiris. The connection to the last god explains somewhat why this game was often placed within tombs. Senet was so popular that it was even referred to in the Book of the Dead.

A game box and pieces for playing the game of Senet found within the intact KV62 tomb of King Tutankhamun. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

The famous Royal Game of Ur differed from ancient Egyptian board games as it was also available to normal people. The game is about 5,000-years-old, and is one of the enlightening artifacts that exposes details on the mentality of the ancient people of Ur. It is a racing game based on a set of knucklebone dice. This game spread to neighboring countries and was also played by Egyptians.

The Royal Game of Ur. ( CC0)

Druidic Fun and Medieval Stones

Another very interesting game was one discovered in a tomb dated to the 1st century AD. It belonged to a person known as the Druid of Colchester. The discovery of this artifact was a lucky surprise because it seems the game is complete. An article titled Your Move Doctor! describes the game board and other finds the Colchester archaeologists made in Stanway:

''Delicate excavation gradually uncovered the fragile remains of the game board with the pieces still more or less as they had been left 2,000 years ago. The wooden board had rotted away almost entirely, except for its corners where close contact with its L-shaped metal corner pieces resulted in the survival of some wood. The gaming counters must have dropped by around 15 mm (the thickness of the board) as the wood decayed, and there seems to have been some slight sideways movement of the pieces, presumably because the board was jolted at some point in the burial process. But by and large, there had been surprisingly little movement of the pieces, and this has allowed us to guess at how the board was laid out. What seems to have happened is this. A roughly square pit was dug for the grave. The bottom was ledged so that one end was slightly deeper than the rest of it. A long wooden box (or at least some sort of wooden partitioning) was then placed in the deepest part of the grave so that it was a tight fit across one end of it. The gaming board was opened up and placed slightly askew on the bottom of the box. The pieces were set out in their starting positions, and a few pieces were moved as if a game had started (we will come to this in more detail later). The cremated remains of the dead person were placed on the board, either as a pile or in a bag - we cannot tell which. The medical instruments were then laid either directly on the board or on a shelf in the box. Various other items were placed in the box.”

Recreation of the game board which was dug up in a possible Druid’s grave ( liberatedway.wordpress.com)

This remarkable discovery is one of the most fascinating pieces of evidence about games in ancient Britain, however, it is unknown what the game’s origins are. Roman soldiers brought many games to Britain to play during long evenings next to the fireplace. The Roman game s often had their roots in the Middle East or Greece - which also had strong gaming traditions.

Illustration of alquerque being played, from ‘ Libro de los juegos’ (13th century). ( CC BY SA 4.0 )

In the later years, people still enjoyed playing board games. You can find some of the most magnificent examples of those games in very surprising places. For example, there are drawings of the Mayan king Montezuma II watching his nobles playing a game known as Patolli.

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During medieval times, Arabs and other groups from Somalia to Asia Minor, and from Persia to West Africa, played a game known as Tab. It seems that the game may have some similarities to the ancient Egyptian game Senet.

Patolli game being watched by Macuilxochitl.

The Heritage of Old Games

Nowadays, people still love to spend time playing games. Board games have also managed to remain popular over the millennia. However, they are no longer symbols of wealth and status, instead they are available for almost everyone to enjoy.

Many of the games from ancient times spread across countries and similar games appeared on every continent. People have needed entertainment and distraction from the daily toil since the beginning of humanity, and many have been able to find enjoyment and mental stimulation in board games.

An oil on canvas painting titled "The Game of Knucklebones (Les Osselets)" (1734) by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin.


12 Fun Family Games Everyone Will Get a Kick Out of Playing

Monopoly is officially out—and these games are here to take its place.

Planning a successful family game night is easier said than done. First of all, your family likely spans several generations, which means you've got to cater to a range of interests and direction-following abilities. And second, a lot of the family games on the market these days are just plain boring.

That's why we've rounded up the top family games in each category, from card games and trivia games to word games and music games. Whether you're searching for an action-packed party activity or an alternative to your usual Friday night Monopoly rut, we've got you covered.

Best Team Game: Rollick! The Hysterical Team Charades Party Board Game

If you love getting on your feet and laughing out loud during family games, Rollick! will soon be one of your favorites. Rollick! draws on classic team-based charades with fun variations, like playing backward or in reverse. The game comes with a whopping 756 clues, a one-minute timer, and a score sheet. It's perfect for families big and small and keeps younger kids as entertained as teens and grownups.

Best Card Game: Exploding Kittens

The Exploding Kittens card game is stunningly simple and wildly popular—it was even named the most-backed project in the Kickstarter history. The object of the game is clear: Each player takes turns drawing cards until someone draws an exploding kitten. When that happens, they're out. Of course, there are a few strategic ways of saving yourself from these dynamite cats, but that's for you to figure out. You can play with between two and five players, and despite the explosions, it's appropriate for all kids of ages.

Best Trivia Game: North Star Games Wits & Wagers Board Game

If your family is a pack of trivia buffs, Wits & Wagers should definitely be on your list of the best family games to play this year. This trivia game goes far beyond basic movie questions and historical facts it also draws upon your knowledge of the other players. After you write down your own answer to a question, you'll bet on other players' answers with gaming chips. It's a great way to get to know each other better and also learn some fun new trivia along the way.

Best Word-Based Game: Winning Moves Tile Lock Scrabble

You already know Scrabble as the classic word game that calls on both your extended vocabulary and your ability to strategize. But it's always been a bit unwieldy—if a toddler or the dog (or, let's face it, your elbow) gets near the board, the entire game is ruined. Winning Moves' Tile Lock Scrabble has a unique new design that keeps the letter tiles firmly in place, so you can enjoy this family game with a newfound peace of mind.

Best Portable Game: Spot It! Freeze

Spot It! is a matching card game with a number of fun variations, so you can customize your gameplay to your family's size and the ages of each of the players. Essentially, each card features several images and every pair of cards features one image overlap. When it's your turn, it's your job to "spot" that overlap before time runs out. You can play for minutes or hours, making it the perfect game to play anywhere from a doctor's office waiting room to an hourslong road trip.

Best Musical Game: Spontuneous, The Song Game

Whether you're an ultra-musical family or your crew can't carry a tune, this family game will have you laughing out loud as you try to stump each other with song lyrics. In Spontuneous, each player writes down "trigger words" that serve as inspiration for other players to break out in song. If the other player can't sing five words of a song that uses your chosen "trigger word," you win! You can play Spontuneous with four to 10 players, and it's best for kids and adults ages eight and up.

Best Classic Board Game: Catan 5th Edition

The engrossing Catan board game has developed a cult following since it was first released in 1995. Players assume the role of settlers of the island of Catan and take turns building settlements and finding resources. The game is designed so it's completely different every time, meaning it doesn't get boring or repetitive quickly. And while there are some elements of luck in the game, it also requires a ton of strategy.

Best Game for Young Kids: Hedbanz Family Guessing Game

It's often difficult to find a family game that's fun for everyone. But Hedbanz manages to be simple enough for small children to understand and action-packed enough to engage adults as well. In Hedbanz, you'll attach a card with a cartoon on it to your forehead and ask, "Who am I?" Other family members will give you hints and clues for one minute before you have to venture a guess at your identity.

Best Game for Big Families: It's in the Bag!

It can be hard to find a great family game if you've got a massive brood or a big event coming up where extended family members will all want to join in. It's in the Bag! is the perfect solution to your dilemma, as it can be played by up to 20 people! In this team game, you'll receive a set of words in a bag. Your team members will have you guess each word using three strategies: "describe it" (talking about the word without saying it), "define it" (using synonyms), or "act it" (classic charades).

Best Make-You-Think Game: Mindmade Games Debatable

Does your family like to disagree? Then Debatable is one of the best family games to play this year for your argument-prone squad. To start, two players are given a topic to debate. (The questions range from silly to serious. For example, "Is sending humans to Mars a waste of money?" And "Should all big life decisions be based on your horoscope?") When they've each made their argument, the other players must decide who won. You can play Debatable with between three and 16 players.

Best Mystery Game: Codenames

If your family likes riddles, puzzles, or escape rooms, you'll love a round of Codenames. To play this game, two members of your family will become rival spymasters who know the secret identities of 25 agents. Meanwhile, their team members know said agents by only their codenames. You'll use one-word clues to make contact with as many of the 25 agents as you can while avoiding your team's words and the unknown assassin.

Best Funny Game: USAopoly Telestrations Original 8 Player Board Game

Telestrations is one of the best family games whether your family is full of artists or, well, not so full of artists. In fact, the game might be even more fun (and a lot funnier) if you're not exactly aesthetically inclined. Telestrations is an amped-up version of Pictionary, in which your family will use dry erase markers and whiteboards to draw your interpretations of a series of words and phrases before other players guess at their meanings. The results are often absolutely hilarious, especially if your drawings got a little off track! For the games you definitely don't want to buy (but should definitely laugh at), learn the 30 Hilariously Bad Board Games of All Time.


The First Board Game

Most people don’t realize board games are actually pre-historic, meaning we had board games before we had written language. So, what was the very first game. Dice! A piece that’s essential in most board games today was the basis of humanity’s oldest games.

A series of 49 small carved painted stones were found at the 5,000-year-old Başur Höyük burial mound in southeast Turkey. These are the earliest gaming pieces ever found. Similar pieces have been found in Syria and Iraq and seem to point to board games originating in the Fertile Crescent. The Crescent is comprised of regions around the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates River in the Middle East. The same region that invented booze, papyrus, breath mints, and calendars, which are also required when planning your game night!

Other early origin dice games were created by painting a single side of flat sticks. These sticks would be tossed in unison and the amounted of painted sides showing, would be your “roll”. Mesopotamian dice were made from a variation of materials, including carved knuckle bones, wood, painted stones, and turtle shells.

Mesopotamian Four Sided Dice and Stick Dice

Knuckle Bone Dice 5–3rd Century BC from Greece/Thrace

Dice were eventually made from a large variety of materials, including brass, copper, glass, ivory, and marble. Dice from the Roman Era look very similar to the six-sided dice we’re used to today. There were also dice with cut corners (as seen in the image above), giving additional possibilities. They’re similar to high number dice from D&D and other roleplaying games.


The Best Family Board Games

It’s good to take a break from screens every now and then. The great outdoors has plenty to offer, but there are times when you’re stuck inside for one reason or another (like a surging pandemic). Board games are a fun way to gather everyone around the table to engage in some group escapism.

My family has had a board game night every week for the past year, and we’ve discovered some great family games. These are our favorites, created with the help of my two kids, aged 8 and 11. We didn't include board game classics that you probably know all about (or own), like Clue, Monopoly, Connect 4, Scrabble, Operation, Chutes and Ladders, Battleship, Jenga, Guess Who, Pictionary, and Risk. Check out our list of the Best Board Games to Play Over Zoom for other ideas.

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SOCIAL STUDIES AND GEOGRAPHY GAMES

Description: In International Pizza Delivery, users must delivery pizzas to all corners of the world using their latitude and longitude skills. The object is to delivery as many pizzas as possible in three minutes. For each successful delivery, the user earns the flag of the nation in which the pizza was delivered to. These flags may be printed out at the end of the game.

Continents and Oceans - Online Game

Description: This fun online game requires students to drag and drop the labels for the seven continents and the five oceans while the Earth is spinning. It is LOTS of fun, however, the game is very particular about where the labels are dropped.

Interactive World Map and World Map Games

Description: This is an incredible map of the world that allows students to explore an interactive map of the world, or, play games testing their knowledge of the nations or waterways of the world. Works on all devices!

Type: Interactive Map or Tour

Description: This awesome game is great for TEACHING latitude and longitude and world geography. In Coordinates, students learn latitude and longitude while learning the locations and names of the world’s nations. First, students are prompted to find the latitude coordinate. Once the latitude coordinate is found, the game locks the latitude position and the longitude lines animate into the map. Finally, students are prompted to find a point of longitude. If the clicked coordinates are close enough to the actual coordinates that they occur in the same nation, the student will have the opportunity to “guess” the name of the nation. If correct, students earn the flag of the nation that appears in the flags panel. Students also have 100 “coordinate points” to work with. If the actual coordinate is 95 degrees west and the student chooses 90 degrees, he or she will lose five coordinate points reducing the total, for example, to 95. The game ends when the student has no coordinate points left.

Description: This innovative USA Activity allows students to construct the United States by dragging and dropping the states to the map. States are illustrated with themes relative to each state. Students can choose from three different themes for each state, thereby making each "collage" different.

Description: This awesome resource allows students to make online collages featuring a continent of choice and its nations. Great world geography practice and collages print beautifully!

Ms. Information Games - the Constitution

Description: Ms. Information is traveling the country trying to re-write history with her false information! Can you stop her? She has traveled to the National Archives in Washington D.C. to change the history of the Constitution. Use your knowledge of this great document to foil her plan once and for all!

Ms. Information Games - Lewis and Clark

Description: Ms. Information is traveling the country trying to re-write history with her false information! Can you stop her? She has traveled to the Missouri River to change the story of the events in the Lewis and Clark expeditionr. Use your knowledge of these causes to foil her plan once and for all!

Ms. Information Games - Causes of the Revolutionary War

Description: Ms. Information is traveling the country trying to re-write history with her false information! Can you stop her? She has traveled to Philadelphia change the story of the events leading to the Revolutionary War. Use your knowledge of these causes to foil her plan once and for all!

Ms. Information Games - George Washington

Description: Ms. Information is traveling the country trying to re-write history with her false information! Can you stop her? She has traveled to the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. to change the story of George Washington's life Use your knowledge of our first president to foil her plan once and for all!

Ms. Information Games - Jamestown

Description: Ms. Information is traveling the country trying to re-write history with her false information! Can you stop her? She has traveled to the Jamestown Village in Virginia to change the story of the colony's early history. Use your knowledge o Jamestown to foil her plan once and for all!

Not Boring Jeopardy - American Revolution Edition

Description: This is a "jeopardy" like game on the American Revolution.. It's super fun for classrooms, individuals, or small teams, totally customizable. Uncheck "teams take turns" to make it more exciting for kids.

Not Boring Jeopardy - Founding Fathers Edition

Description: This is a "jeopardy" like game on United States Founding Fathers. It's super fun for classrooms, individuals, or small teams, totally customizable. Uncheck "teams take turns" to make it more exciting for kids.

Not Boring Jeopardy - 13 Colonies Editiion

Description: This is a "jeopardy" like game on the 13 colonies. It's super fun for classrooms, individuals, or small teams, totally customizable.


The Best New Board Games

Sure, the classic board games like Monopoly, Risk, and Battleship are still great fun. But the number of new games has exploded in the last several years as designers dream up space adventures, deck-building sagas, and zombie survival games. So order a pizza, invite over several (vaccinated) friends, and try out one of these.

Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers successfully ups the ante from its predecessor as it gets the gang back together for a massive Vegas job. You&rsquoll be trading in your masks for costumes and your guards for bouncers and pit bosses if you want to pull off your most daring heist yet. And Ryan Goldsberry&rsquos art really conveys the bright lights and the color you&rsquod expect to see on the Las Vegas strip.

To win Burgle Bros 2, players need to explore an unfamiliar casino, revealing tiles and their inhabitants while trying artfully to avoid bouncers or to cause too much commotion. Getting seen or slipping up forces players to take on heat in the form of tokens, but take on too much and it&rsquos game over for everyone. Each heist is unique, but they play the same way: find the mole, find the safe, crack the safe, and see what happens next. One of nine unique finales awaits players, and getting into the safe is often much easier than getting out with the loot. This caper might be challenging to win on your first play, but if you fail on one heist, the next in the game&rsquos nine-heist campaign gets a bit easier. Even having experience with the first game, we were surprised by the challenge of the sequel. But a wise friend once told us that a great game is one you enjoy losing.

As the giant cheese-person on the box may suggest, Cubitos will not be the most serious board game in your library. In it, players are racing to the finish line as quickly as possible by using custom dice to roll, re-roll, and roll again so that they can move, collect credits, and use special powers. The exciting thing is, every game, the dice have different abilities, and if you roll too many blank dice faces, you&rsquoll bust and miss it out on moving and buying new dice. Do you try to buy a few Reckless Cheese dice to get a lot of movement if you can avoid busting? Or do you hope that a Rollasaurus die will land face-up for you on this turn and let you move four spaces right away?

We like Cubitos because it&rsquos silly, fun, and surprisingly easy to learn. Plus, in our experience, players really like rolling a lot of dice at the same time, and it&rsquos really built for that. With multiple different abilities per die color and many different race tracks, Cubitos is a highly variable game that can really appeal to players who are looking for a fun racing game that&rsquos quirky and colorful.

Dominations: Road to Civilization is a sprawling, strategic board game. It challenges players to take a civilization in its infancy and use their knowledge and mastery to build camps, cities, and monuments over three ages. The core game is simple: every turn, you place a tile and collect Knowledge (the primary resource) based on that tile and the adjacent tiles. What happens next is where it gets interesting: do you spend that Knowledge on new cities? Do you construct a monument? Do you develop Mastery in certain skills to give yourself a future edge?

No matter what you choose, the game has a lot to offer over its two- to three-hour runtime, making it a great choice for players who are looking for a deep, challenging game that they won&rsquot need to spend the whole day playing. It also looks great on the table, with colorful tiles and 3D monuments that stand above the camps and cities to really give the game a sense of scale.

As travel becomes increasingly feasible again, portable games are a popular item. As a publisher, Oink Games essentially prioritizes travel with its line of extremely compact, fun games. One of its latest releases is the bluffing game Durian, in which you play as clerks in a jungle fruit shop. Every player has an inventory card in front of them that they can&rsquot see, and you have to decide each turn: Do you want to take another order, or are there more orders than your total inventory will allow? Ring the bell to summon the manager, but you better not be wrong. In either case, the now-furious manager shows up to penalize either the player who incorrectly called him or the player who took too many orders.

Oink Games, in general, focuses on creative themes, colorful art and simple-but-engaging gameplay. And Durian is certainly no exception to that rule. Its fast-paced play and quick turns are great for late-night gaming or even as a break between longer games.

Exit: The Sacred Temple is a new spin on the popular single-use escape room game series. In your typical Exit game, you have a series of riddles that you and your friends need to solve in order to escape a haunted house or a museum or a spooky roller coaster. The Sacred Temple flips that by encoding these puzzles into another puzzle, specifically, a jigsaw puzzle. Now, players have to assemble four puzzles over the course of a few hours in order to get the tools and clues required to solve these mysteries.

We&rsquore big fans of the Exit series at large and love what they&rsquove done with the jigsaw puzzles. Originally, the puzzles were just on cards, but adding the jigsaw component makes the game feel more tactile and interesting. And the puzzles are still a little challenging at times, even though they&rsquore smaller.

For those of us who dream of flipping the perfect pancake, Flapjack Flipout lets us make it into a reality. As the newest short-order cook, you&rsquoll have to quickly slap pancakes onto the griddle, flip them, and then keep them ready to fulfill orders. If that weren&rsquot hard enough, you have to compete against your opponents in real-time and hope that nobody drops a moldy pancake onto your stack. Flapjack Flipout is a challenging dexterity title for any player without experience flipping cardboard pancakes (read: everyone who hasn&rsquot played this game before), but that&rsquos part of the fun.

Flapjack Flipout, aesthetically, hearkens back to a classic Americana look and feel, which may be up your alley if you&rsquore looking to feel like you&rsquove stepped into a classic diner and now have to make more pancakes than anybody has ever seen.

Floor Plan is a quick game for pretty much any number of players. Each gets a blank space, and everyone shares a set of clients who have specific desires for the place they want to live. Players will roll dice each round and use the results to draw rooms of certain shapes and sizes as well as add features to the house in order to satisfy client preferences.

While we&rsquove all had some time to work on our interior design skills in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Floor Plan challenges players to design the walls of the house and how the rooms fit together and flow. It&rsquos a really fun theme for a game, and as a result, we&rsquove consistently enjoyed playing it. There&rsquos also a very diverse client pool, which can let players of all backgrounds see themselves in the game, which is important too. Plus, since you&rsquore relying on dice rolls, you can end up with some weird houses. The one you designed may not have any doors or windows, but it&rsquos got a great pool. And that&rsquos really what counts, right?

Dream Runners is an interesting one. Each round, a card in the center is revealed, and on that 3x3 grid there are bonuses to potentially gain, keys and chests to unlock, and nightmares to avoid. Players have sets of tiles that can let them take bonuses or block nightmares, and they need to make a grid of their own that corresponds to the center grid. Is it better to assemble your pattern so that you get useful bonuses? Or would you rather prevent harmful nightmares? You&rsquoll have to make these trade-offs in real time if you want to gain enough points to end up in the lead, as once one player finishes they start a timer for everyone else. What makes Dream Runners interesting is that the strategy is shifting and not obvious so much of what makes the best move at a certain time is what tiles you have, what card is in the center, and what rewards you want. As any good dream-centric game should be, Dream Runners is also engaging, colorful, and just surreal enough to draw players in. But the quick turn of an hourglass can always quickly jolt them back to reality.

Whether it was a blanket fort, a treehouse, or some weird clearing in the bushes behind your patio, many kids had a space of their own for pizza and adventures growing up. Fort, a new title from Leder Games, seeks to capitalize on that nostalgia by challenging you to build the best fort in the neighborhood by recruiting local kids with specific skills. That said, if you don&rsquot play with them on your turn, they might leave and go hang out with your opponent instead. Fort is an interesting twist on deck building where every card counts, and your opponents can take the cards that you didn&rsquot play on your last turn for themselves. It&rsquos one the more challenging end of deck builders, as players need to really think about the cards that they&rsquore taking and plan their strategy in advance, which makes for a really interesting challenge during the game.

We grew up playing Rollercoaster Tycoon, and we&rsquove always wanted a board game that can recreate the excitement of constructing our own theme park. Funfair, a spinoff of the Unfair board game series, does a great job in that regard. Players are given their own theme parks to fill with rides and upgrades and restrooms, and the local city gives you bonuses and incentives to make it the best park possible. Unlike Unfair, you also can&rsquot attack or dismantle your opponents&rsquo rides, meaning that this engine-building game is purely up to your park construction ability (and a bit of good luck). You literally build up your park, too, stacking upgrades under cards to make a giant attraction.

Funfair also looks the part, and that&rsquos pretty critical. The makers understand that the cards need to be loud and boisterous and exciting, and the game&rsquos appearance is as good as its play. This is a great choice for players looking for a little challenge, but not a lot.

We all know what color a Gamecube is. It&rsquos purple, right? Unless you had the silver one. Or that orange one. Barring that, how purple was it? These are the questions you&rsquoll have to answer if you want to win at Hues and Cues, a colorful party game. Each round, one player cues by providing an object or idea, and the other players try to discern the hue in question. You get points if you&rsquore close, but so does the player who gave the cue.

With party games, there&rsquos always a need to innovate in some way or do something a little different, and Hues and Cues achieves that here by providing almost too many possible color options. This inevitably leads to arguments and then (hopefully) laughter as players passionately disagree on the exact shade of red that corresponds to the word &ldquolove.&rdquo Party games are about that kind of silliness, though, and Hues and Cues does a great job with delivering a fast, simple, and often funny experience.

Codenames has now come out long enough ago that we&rsquore experiencing a wave of successors. And it&rsquos nice to see how various games iterate on its very successful formula. In Letter Jam, from the same publisher, rather than guessing a collection of words, you&rsquore trying to guess a collection of letters that your partner has given you, so that you can assemble them into a word. Each player has one letter face-up in front of them, but they can only see other players&rsquo letters, not their own. To spell a word, players number the letters in that word, meaning that you will have a word composed of letters that you can see and the one letter that you can&rsquot, giving you space to figure it out. The problem is whether &ldquo*ell&rdquo means tell, fell, bell, or something else entirely.

This cooperative word game is great for groups of players that are excited to work together and will enjoy the occasionally hilarious ending where you have to form a word out of whatever letters you think you have. Letter Jam&rsquos spin on classic word game formulas makes it a great successor and a welcome game for any party night.

Ever try to describe a dream to someone, only for it to completely fade away? MonsDRAWsity is much the same way, as players have only a scant few seconds to look at a monster card before they need to describe it to the rest of the players, who have to draw it based on the description. After a few minutes, drawing time is over, and everyone votes on the monster that they think is the most accurate. The artists&rsquo pick gets points, but if the player describing the monster votes for the artists&rsquo pick as well, they get points too.

Many players hate drawing games, saying that they&rsquore bad at sketching. But that&rsquos kind of the point here. Add in probably bad information and your monsters may look even scarier than they&rsquore supposed to. You end up with some real nightmares on the marker boards, and it&rsquos frequently very funny.

In Rosetta: The Lost Language, players have to decipher a mysterious set of glyphs found at a remote location. One player, the Author, has a special role. They choose the meaning of the glyph and help players solve it. What makes this game exceptional is when players guess a word, if it&rsquos close, the Author has to draw the word, translated into the same language as the game&rsquos set of glyphs. Does one part mean &ldquowater&rdquo? Maybe that squiggle means &ldquoperson.&rdquo Rosetta is a daring and exciting word game even for players that don&rsquot love drawing.

Personally, we&rsquore huge fans of word games, and Rosetta is one of our favorites. There&rsquos added complexity given how the glyphs can change meaning based on the player, the location, and even the orientation. It&rsquos also a small-box game, meaning it&rsquos great to travel with and plays well at a variety of player counts.

When kicking off a game night, it helps to have something quick. Something that seats a few players, takes a minute to learn, and you can play until more people show up. Sequoia is a great recent example. In it, players have five dice. During a round, all players roll simultaneously, secretly choose one die to discard, and make two pairs from the remaining four. Once all players are ready, they reveal and place one tree token on the spaces equal to the pairs&rsquo values. So if we had a seven and a ten, we&rsquod place one tree token on seven and one on ten. After ten rounds, players get points if they have the most or second-most tree tokens on a given space.

With quick play and great art, Sequoia may not be a particularly high-complexity title, but it provides a nice runway to more complex games or serves as a great way to wind down after some more challenging titles. And it&rsquos been known to start feuds between players competing aggressively for the same spot.

For players looking for a longer, multi-game experience, Sleeping Gods is a hefty title that promises up to 20 hours of gameplay per replayable campaign. You play as the captain of the Manticore, lost in a strange sea under a stranger sky. As you explore the world you now find yourself lost in, you will need your wits and the skills of your crew to find totems and wake up the gods with the power to send you home.

Not just a visually striking experience, Sleeping Gods also has a deep and interesting narrative fueled by player choices as they cross the seas. Help, ignore, forsake, fight, or even steal all of these options are available to you and more in various narrative quests you can try. Even with a map and all the answers, the campaign may not be the same twice with new cards and new questions emerging after every play. Red Raven has done an excellent job with Sleeping Gods it feels like the next step of the work they&rsquove done on previous titles, like Islebound and Near and Far.

In the past couple of years, roll-and-write games went from a relatively obscure genre to a fairly popular one. It stands to reason that we would start seeing more hybrid titles emerge, and Sonora purports to be the first &ldquoflick-and-write&rdquo game, adding dexterity to the genre. A game of Sonora is essentially four different mini-games, with your flicked disc determining which of the four games you play and the number on the flicked disc representing the value you can use for that game. Players spend a round flicking discs onto the board, and once all players&rsquo discs are down, you resolve them. This may mean exploring the ruins, the canyon, the mud cracks, or the creek bed, if you want to win. Each area plays differently, as well: the canyon uses your value to draw shapes, the creek bed lets you trace a path, the ruins has you cross off circles and the mud cracks lets you use your value to create triangles to surround symbols for points.

Dexterity games are some of our favorite games in the genre, and Sonora does a great job giving players a colorful backdrop to flick these discs into, as well. We were impressed with how puzzly Sonora is, and each of the four games is a cool experience. Players who don&rsquot mind moving around the table a bit but still want to have some strategy, too, will appreciate it.

Sorcerer City has players take on the role of local magicians tasked with rebuilding a city after monsters attack. Unfortunately, those monsters keep attacking, so you keep rebuilding, and you have to do so quickly so at least some commerce can happen. It&rsquos a bit like a combination between a deck builder and real-time Carcassonne, as players rush to place stacks of tiles and build districts of the same color to get points that they can use to buy increasingly useful tiles.

The game&rsquos a blast if you enjoy playing in real time there&rsquos a lot of strategy as to which tiles you buy, what tiles you place where, and dealing with the monsters that attack and what they do to your city. And you have to do all of that planning on a timer. Given that the monsters can be swapped out every game, the same strategy never quite works twice, making for new excitement.

There&rsquos a strange subset of games that are as much fun to watch as they are to play. There may be no better example than Stay Cool, a new party game from Scorpion Masqué. The premise is simple: One player has red cards, the other has blue cards, and they both take turns asking a question to a third player. That third player must answer either aloud or with a set of lettered dice. The problem is there&rsquos a timer, as well, and the red player and the blue player can ask their questions fairly rapidly. How good are you at multitasking?

Stay Cool achieves what many party games aspire toward, which is a limited form of player trauma. And it looks great while doing it. The graphic design is clean, and the colors are bright and inviting to distract from the increasing difficulty. Stay Cool may be the most fun when it&rsquos not your turn in the hot seat, but even then, it&rsquos a great time.

Strike is a classic dexterity game with a fresh coat of paint, as Ravensburger recently re-released it after it went out of print. While this latest version has the same rules and gameplay, it&rsquos still an excellent edition of one of the all-time greats. You throw one of your dice into the center of the play area, and any that come up with the same value get taken out of the center and placed in your stock of dice. If all the dice show different faces, you can throw another in or end your turn. Also, if any dice land on X, they&rsquore removed from the game entirely. The part that makes it most fun is that if you ever empty the center, your opponent must roll all of their dice into the center on their turn. This may (and often does) mean that your opponent has to leave some of their dice in the center after their turn, and you might be able to steal them with a good roll. If a player runs out of dice in their stock, they immediately are eliminated, so you can imagine the tension of rolling all of them.

Strike is tense, fast-paced, and incredibly silly, so this is an excellent title for families, as long as you can keep the dice in the bowl.

Suburbia is another title that got a new edition this year, and this one adds bright, colorful art to a classic city-building tile game. You&rsquore trying to balance three often-competing factors: your income, your reputation, and your population. It&rsquos unfortunately very difficult to increase all three at once. For instance, building a massive garbage dump might be lucrative, but nobody wants to live next door to it. The tiles that nobody wants to add to their town gradually become cheaper until that expensive university is practically free, making it very attractive.

Suburbia was one of the first longer board games we played before that, we had mostly been dabbling in games that took less than an hour. And it&rsquos a great start for players looking for more complex titles. There&rsquos a lot to keep track of in this one, from the way that tiles lost value over time to the challenge of balancing income versus reputation versus population. For players that really crave the excitement of building up their own town or are starting to want deeper, more strategic play, they may find that this colorful new edition of Suburbia is exactly what they&rsquore looking for.

It&rsquos very hard to make a list of games that doesn&rsquot include at least one set in the Renaissance, and our pick from the latest batch is The Castles of Tuscany. To win, players must create an appealing region to rule by gathering cards that allow them to play tiles that provide extra actions, bonuses, or even another turn. The cool thing about The Castles of Tuscany is how these actions and bonuses chain together to provide points in different ways. The player with the most points after three rounds wins.

Ravensburger did a good job balancing complex and interesting gameplay without making it overwhelming for new players. While you can specialize in one tile type to start, you won&rsquot be able to win without a variety. This lets players pick a strategy that works for them at the beginning and grow that into a potential victory as they learn the rest of the game&rsquos mechanics.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine has already earned its share of attention. It&rsquos won both the Spiel des Jahres and the American Tabletop Awards Casual Game of the Year, and it&rsquos certainly deserving. In this cooperative trick-taking game, players leave hearts, spades, and euchre behind as they try to journey to the edge of the solar system and discover a new planet.

The Crew has missions to complete, each with their own task. In one, you may be required to make sure a certain player wins a trick with a specific card in it. In another, you may have to take certain cards in order. And in a third mission, you may have to ensure that one player takes no tricks at all. As the missions increase in difficulty, you may end up with more of a challenge than you bargained for. The game isn&rsquot light on content, either: it boasts 50 unique missions in the starter box, with more being created online (and a sequel coming out soon).

Usually when you play a mystery-solving game, the winning player is whoever is the fastest. The Key: Sabotage at Lucky Llama Land complicates that a bit by challenging players to instead be the most efficient. Players choose a case color to solve and then take cards from the center in real-time to try and puzzle where the sabotage happened, who sabotaged the ride, and what they used. But not every card in the center is relevant to your case. And not only will you be penalized for grabbing the wrong card, you might get led astray.

Sabotage in Lucky Llama Land is geared toward fans of deduction games who are looking for something competitive to contrast the more cooperative escape rooms and puzzle box games that have been rising in popularity.

If you&rsquod like to solve a mystery but want something more space-focused, The Search for Planet X is an excellent deduction game. Players take on the role of astronomers trying to figure out the location of a mysterious planet against the backdrop of the night sky. It cannot be detected normally, so you have to use your cosmology skills and the process of elimination to determine all the places where it can&rsquot be. To paraphrase a famous detective, once you&rsquove eliminated every possible location for Planet X, the only spot that remains must be where it is.

Planet X also uses a free app to drive gameplay, ensuring that the night sky will be different with every game. On top of that, it&rsquos got beautiful art, making it a complete package.

Umbra Via manages to stick out as a pretty unique theme, as it challenges players to build a shadowy road in an ancient garden to reunite the missing pieces of their souls. Players do so by drawing tokens from their bags and placing them on tiles to bid on which tiles they want to take. As players win tiles, they place them into the center area so that they can try and create or cut off paths that they control, allowing them to collect special double-value tokens from a reserve.

Bidding and area-majority games can be difficult to get into, if you have difficulty determining the value of a tile or a location. But Umbra Via is different. Part of it is almost certainly the art and the theme, as it manages to be mysterious and somber but not spooky. The other part is that it&rsquos easier to understand the impact of your bid, as you&rsquore trying to get the most tokens on a tile so that you control the path that&rsquos created. Umbra Via is a solid game that&rsquos pretty easy to learn, as well, if you&rsquore looking to try something new and novel.

Sometimes you&rsquove just gotta fight it out. Unmatched: Cobble & Fog lets you get your revenge on your high school English class by pitting Dracula against Sherlock Holmes, the Invisible Man against Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or any combination of the four. Cobble & Fog is a sequel to the original Unmatched, and it seems like iteration has done well for the series, as the new characters have their own distinct and interesting mechanics, as well as two new maps. The character miniatures look fantastic as well, with great details.

The Unmatched series as a whole boasts fantastic gameplay and high-stakes combat for two (or four) players, so we were glad to see this iteration on the series adding in even more well-known characters. Plus, with Marvel-themed sets also on the way, players will finally be able to make Little Red Riding Hood fight Deadpool, if they so desire.

Nemesis is the most cinematic, immersive game we&rsquove ever played on a table top. Like a cardboard reincarnation of the sci-fi horror classic Aliens, you and up to four other Sigourney Weavers are jolted awake from cryosleep on a starship and quickly discover that, oh god, something horrible is happening. As you move from room to room, rediscovering the sections of your ship in a haze of delirium, you start to realize. there are creatures aboard. Then they attack.

Much like Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game, in Nemesis, all players are seemingly working together. You need the help of your companions to flee, fight, hide, and survive. But everyone also has a secret objective. Most are harmless, like beaming out a message home in the communications room, or getting to the control room to make sure the ship is headed to Earth. But some objectives are delightfully nefarious, like making sure that one specific player dies before the game ends. Nemesis&rsquos tension is that without teamwork you are sure to lose the game in a hopeless melee of graphic gore, but who can you really trust?

Prospective players should be aware that Nemesis is both very complicated and brutally difficult to win. There are countless built-in elements of chance that pepper the game, and you&rsquore never quite sure where and when the next alien will attack. Nevertheless, we found Nemesis to be incredibly immersive. You have so many options and choices each turn, and an aching, unrelenting mistrust and fear (heightened by our group&rsquos decision to play the Alien Isolation soundtrack on repeat) follows you from start to finish.

The big challenge of modern board gaming is that there are so many games released every year that it&rsquos often hard to know where to start. Abandon All Artichokes solves this problem in a number of ways, both by being a great title for players new to board gaming and by being pretty easy to set up and playable in under half an hour.

Abandon All Artichokes is a simple and tightly competitive deck builder, or a game in which you are playing from a deck of cards and trying to increasingly add good ones to and remove bad cards from your hand. This game challenges players to, at the end of their turn, successfully draw a hand of five cards with zero artichokes in it. Unfortunately, as players start with their own deck of ten artichokes, you&rsquoll need to use other vegetables to your advantage to get rid of them. You may end up playing a broccoli card to compost (remove from the game) an artichoke if you have more than three in hand, or using an eggplant to compost an artichoke and then pass two cards to an opponent. Abandon All Artichokes is quick, straightforward, bright, and colorful, making it an appealing addition to your game shelf and a great title to get players excited about modern board gaming.

There are many different reasons to like a board game. For some, it&rsquos the art that gets them excited. For others, they&rsquore looking for an interesting game that rewards strategy. Others still crave some novel twist on a game type they&rsquore familiar with. Adventure Mart manages to please all three groups, as it presents an interesting take on deck building by challenging players to run a fantasy store for adventurers and make bids to try and sell local heroes the weapons, potions, and upgrades they&rsquoll need to save the realm.

Adventure Mart does a lot of things really well. Forcing players to bid means that you can&rsquot just do what many players in deck builders do and ignore your opponents you have to keep an active eye on what they&rsquore doing if you want to win. Adventure Mart also allows for a lot of different avenues for success (accumulating money, collecting valuable items, or just making a nice store), giving players a real feeling of ownership as they play. Add in some extremely cute art and you&rsquove got a solid (and challenging) game.

As with Letter Jam, if you&rsquore a fan of the incredibly popular word game Codenames, you will absolutely adore Decrypto. Teams of up to four players work to craft cunning three-word clues while cracking the opposing team&rsquos codes.

Here&rsquos how it works. Each team has their own secret board of four hidden words. (For example: 1. Pizza, 2. Duck, 3. Vampire, and 4. Domino.) Everyone on each team can see their teams&rsquo words but not their opponents&rsquo. Each turn, one team member privately pulls a card with three numbers on it, and then gives three clues that lead their team to pick the correct words matching those numbers. Your clues could be &ldquodots&rdquo, &ldquopepperoni&rdquo and &ldquoquack.&rdquo And your team could figure out, oh, you likely mean 4-1-2.

Here&rsquos the issue. Your opponents are always listening, and they get a chance to intercept first. If you give obvious clues like &ldquopepperoni,&rdquo the next time your team gives a closely related clue like &ldquoItalian&rdquo or &ldquofood,&rdquo your opponents will be able to guess you&rsquore likely still referencing word #1. That&rsquos dangerous. If you correctly intercept your opponents full code twice, you win the game. As rounds progress, teams gradually begin to piece together what your secret words are, so you&rsquore best off if you give opaque and tangential clues.

Who knew medieval Portuguese artisans were such a cutthroat bunch? Azul is a brilliant abstract game for two to five players. To play, you&rsquoll take lighting-quick turns drafting tiles from a central market. Your goal is to collect sets of identical tiles, which you&rsquoll use to fill in your personal boards for points at the end of each round. But this is no solitaire. If you&rsquore playing right, you&rsquore often just as concerned about thwarting your opponent&rsquos plans are you are grabbing the tiles that will work best for you.

With simple&mdashbut not simplistic&mdashrules you can explain in less than three minutes, Azul is a delight for all ages. Because it moves so quickly, relies so much on strategy, and is so easy to explain to new players, breaking out Azul is always a hit.

Res Arcana is a fantastically dense strategy game that you can pull out, play, and pack up in as little as 30 minutes. In the game, you and your friends take on the roles of various practitioners of the occult and alchemical arts. With hands of complex but easy-to-understand cards, you&rsquoll weave magic, monsters, and machinery together in clever combinations to rapidly increase your stock of magical essences that can quickly win you the game.

Perhaps it&rsquos no surprise that a game about alchemy has found a way to distill and transmute heaping mounds of strategy into such a compact and speedy mechanic. Each time we&rsquove played featured radically different game-winning engines for the champion player. And we especially love how Res Arcana&rsquos brevity conjures a certain, unshakable tension that&rsquos easy to delight in. Each turn feels important, and each decision feels potentially game-ending.

The concept behind Photosynthesis is so simple, it&rsquos brilliant. Each player places two trees in a hexagonal, game-board meadow. As the sun rotates around the meadow&rsquos six edges, your trees soak up sunlight&mdashunless they&rsquore behind and in the shade of other trees. You spend your sunlight like a currency to grow your trees taller thereby collecting more light and making a longer shadow to cast on your opponents. Or you can spread and grow seeds to make more trees. To gain points, fell your giant trees faster than your friends. That&rsquos it.

Because of its sheer logicality, Photosynthesis is an absolutely perfect game to lure in folks new to the world of modern board games. Veteran gamers will find much to love as well. Sure, flora aren&rsquot known to be the most cutthroat of nature&rsquos organisms, but you can revel in touches of nakedly competitive meanness as your shadows smother you opponent&rsquos ill-laid shrubs.

Planet is a hands-on, tactile game for two to four players with simple rules but mind-bending geometric play. At the beginning of the game, each player holds aloft their inchoate planet: a giant, faceless dodecahedron (basically a blank, 12-sided die). Each round, players will flip over a stack of magnetic tiles that snap onto their planets. These tiles have biomes on them&mdashdeserts, mountains, oceans, jungles and arctic tundra. Moving clockwise, you&rsquoll draft these tiles, and stick them on any free side (and at any orientation) of your slowly evolving world.

After a few rounds players start to compete for animal cards, each printed with the rules for who nabs them. For example, the giraffe might go to the current planetholder with the biggest desert that touches a jungle, and the blue whale might go to the planet with the most unconnected oceans. Usually the planet with the most animals wins.

While the game is quick and simple to learn, Planet demands a creative spatial awareness that we found fantastically challenging. This makes Planet great for players of all ages or ideal to break out on family game night.

The publisher can&rsquot legally say it, so let me do it for them. This is basically Jurassic Park: The Game, in all its &rsquo90s glory.

In Dinosaur Island, you compete with up to three friends to build the most lucrative and exciting dino park. You&rsquoll take turns genetically reengineering dinosaurs, hiring research and marketing specialists, constructing park enclosures, shops, and restaurants, and mopping up the blood as your dinos inevitably run wild and maul visitors into a fine pulp.

Beyond the stunning &rsquo80s artwork, sturdy components, and amazing Mesozoic theme, Dinosaur Island shines in its balance and potential for replayability. There are routes to victory for numerous styles of dino parks, but the best part of Dinosaur Island is just how dismissively the game treats security failures and dinosaur breakouts. Much like in the movies, it seems that no amount of escaped raptors or decaying former customers will stop future investors and park attendees from lining up at the gate.

Here&rsquos what happens when you insert the political dynamics of Star Wars into Brian Jacques&rsquos Redwall series: You get Root, the best asymmetric strategy board game of the decade.

In Root, you and up to three other friends will battle to conquer the woodland as one of four (furry or feathered) factions. Will you choose the overextended feline Empire, a massive force struggling to dominate through sheer might? Or an aging warrior caste, the avian old-guard aiming to retake lost territory in spite of the limitations of their rigid code? Perhaps you&rsquoll pick the simmering insurgency of downtrodden woodland critters: the rabbits, mice, and foxes sewing the bitter seeds of resentment and rebellion. Or will you go full Lando and become a wily rouge, raccoon agent and play all sides to your benefit?

Root has it all: soldiers, rebels, and rogues. Combat, resource management, and diplomacy. Players must balance the many and diverse needs of each unique and challenging faction while ensuring a steady accumulation of victory points, which are achieved through building structures, spreading influence, fulfilling quests, or establishing control of territories.

Of course you&rsquove heard of the HBO series and the novels. But to us, A Game of Thrones has always been about the board game. The first edition debuted back in 2003, and with its characteristic mix of head-to-head warfare, short-lived alliances, and diplomatic backstabbing, it became an instant classic.

That&rsquos why we&rsquore so delighted with The Mother of Dragons expansion, which brings in fresh blood and expands this classic strategy game into unforgettable epic. The biggest change is that the player count has been upped to eight, with the addition of House Arryn and the Targaryens. Now you and your friends must balance cutthroat, Seven Kingdoms fighting with strategic cooperation to restrain the growing power of the Mother of Dragons across the Narrow Sea.

But undoubtedly the best addition in this expansion is the new vassal system, which turns the troops of unplayed houses into thralls under the holder of the Iron Throne. This has two benefits. Now you can play a fulsome game with less than a full table of friends (almost impossible before.) But even more importantly, losing players can now drop out when all hope is lost, without completely throwing the game. Given that the play time can reach well into eight hours or more, this is a beautiful and rare mercy in the A Game of Thrones universe.

Jaws is a cinematic game in two acts. In the first, three players take the reins as Brody, Hooper, and Quint to race across Amity Island as the lurking shark (your fourth player) gobbles up luckless swimmers like soggy popcorn. Lastly, after tracking and tagging the abyssal beast, everyone takes to the open ocean in a riveting final battle aboard the Orca every bit as intense as the movie&rsquos.

The great irony of Jaws is that it&rsquos certainly suited best for breaking out with players born way, way after the film&rsquos 1975 release. As an hour-long, weeknight family game, Jaws is an absolute must-buy. The rules are few and easy to grasp, turns move quickly&mdashespecially for the players working together&mdashand trying to remain hidden as the shark is gigglingly devious.

Still, after a roughly 45 year-late release, we only wonder what&rsquos next? A Dr. Strangelove collectible card game?

Wingspan is a breathtaking &ldquoengine&rdquo-building game where you and up to five friends compete to coax flocks of birds into nature reserves. You&rsquoll spend turns luring unique bird cards into one of three biomes, or playing the biome&rsquos special ability&mdashget food, lay eggs, or gather more birds. Each time you play a biome, your birds have a chance to use special abilities, often times creating long, clever chains of well-laid actions.

This game has more birds than a Hitchcockian horror. We&rsquore talking barn swallows, California condors, loggerhead shrikes, turkey vultures, and literally over 160 more&mdasheach with their own special abilities. You can play three separate games of Wingspan and never see the same bird cards twice.

But despite all the variety, this game is one of the most well-balanced we&rsquove ever played. Along with brilliant artwork and extremely high-quality components, the best part about Wingspan is discovering strange new avian engines to soar into victory.

Claustrophobia 1643 is an asymmetric, two-player strategy game of survival, hellfire, and demonic combat. The game consists of 20 different unique, playable scenarios&mdasheach of which lasts between an hour to an hour and a half. One player takes the reins of the infernal forces of hell, the other roleplays a rag-tag group of humans, and you both face off in a battlefield of twisting, tunneling catacombs.

Both players get their own detailed miniatures and rules to play. The humans start with a set number of warriors (four at most) while the demons are constantly spawning new friends into the game.

We were astonished at just how much fun is packed into these short adventures. Our favorite scenario so far was one tale of desperate flight, where our opponent&rsquos sole goal was to flee through a dozen sections of the catacombs into the daylight, and we had to send wave after wave of demons to stop him. He only needed two of his four crusaders to survive to win the game. None made it.

With over 150 hours of game crammed into a 22-pound box, Gloomhaven is immensity incarnate. Filled with what feels like countless playable characters and baddies, rule books more like tomes than pamphlets, and an immersive story that stretches across the far corners of its fantasy netherworld, Gloomhaven is easily one of the best games of the past decade.

It&rsquos a cooperative role-playing game. You can think of it rather like a figurine-focused campaign Dungeons & Dragons&mdashbut even more combat-oriented, played with cards rather than stats and dice, and overlorded by the box instead of a player game-master. The game is broken up into nearly 100 scenarios, which basically boil down to sweeping through a dungeon and then making choices to advance the story, slowly opening up new locations, new loot, and new cards to modify each character&rsquos abilities.

We loved the uniqueness of each playable character in Gloomhaven. They transcend the traditional D&D tropes that are easy to grow tired of: healer, magic user, ranger, frontline bruiser, and so on. Each character in Gloomhaven has an odd mix of abilities that blurs the lines between classic fantasy archetypes. The game also forces you to &ldquoretire&rdquo and switch characters periodically throughout the game, an act which would be devastating&hellipif you didn&rsquot already know how much fun the next character will be.

Call us old fashioned, but we struggle with board games that require an app. The infusion of technology mutes a bit of the spark&mdashthat ephemeral mix of friends and cardboard cutouts, plastic figurines and face-to-face interaction&mdashthat makes board games so joyful. So keep that in mind when we tell you Chronicles of Crime (app-ridden as it may be) is nevertheless worth your time. It&rsquos that much fun.

Chronicles of Crime is a mystery-solving game, wherein through a mix of cards and the game&rsquos app, you and your friends band together in a gumshoe detective&rsquos journey. You&rsquoll investigate disappearances, find stolen treasure, and even solve murders. With the prodigious use of a QR reader you can dive into the games world&mdashasking suspects about clues, or about one another&mdashand the app tracks and changes the story as you progress.

What&rsquos the most fun about Chronicles of Crime is that while you&rsquore playing&mdashas you&rsquore collecting DNA, analyzing a crime scene, navigating red herring leads and interrogating witnesses&mdashyou really do feel like you&rsquore solving a mystery.

We&rsquore still not completely sold on apps in games, but we are sold on Chronicles of Crime.

Endeavor: Age of Sail is a streamlined empire-building game of trade, warfare, and worldwide colonization. Over seven short turns (the game can be completed in as quickly as an hour) you and up to four friends will construct port buildings and lay claim to global trading routes and colonial outposts. Your choices will grow your empire&rsquos four cornerstones: industry, which lets you erect better buildings culture, which increases your population finance, which frees up actions you can take and influence, allowing you to own valuable governorships and obtain regional assets.

The reason Endeavor: Age of Sail is worth your time is because of just how much action and cunning it packs into such a short play period. Sure, there are heavier, more complicated strategy games with almost identical themes out there: say Puerto Rico, or Mombasa. But minute-for-minute and pound-for-pound, this welterweight outranks either of them.

Tiny Towns is simple but addicting strategy game with just a handful of rules. You and up to six friends take turns calling out resources&mdashcolored cubes of either wood, wheat, brick, glass or stone&mdashfor everyone to place within their personal 4x4 grid of a town. Your goal is to place the right resources in the right shape, so you can replace them with buildings. There are seven buildings everyone can construct (for example, you can turn wood and an adjacent stone to a millstone) plus a secret monument of your own.

The key in Tiny Towns is flexibility and foresight. You&rsquoll spend most of the game working around your increasingly congested hamlet, adapting your strategy as other players pick the lion&rsquos share of the resources you&rsquore placing on your board. Nevertheless, with simple rules and games as quick as 45 minutes long, Tiny Towns is great for families (with kids at least 12 years and up). But it&rsquos no kids&rsquo game. Play can be challenging and delightfully cutthroat when you&rsquore gunning to win.

In Santorini, your aim is to be the first to move one of your minions to the top of a three-story tower. Each turn, players pick one of their two minions and move it one space over grass and half-built towers on a 5x5 game board. After each turn, the minion you moved constructs one floor of a tower in a bordering space. Sounds easy, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Ignore the cartoonish artwork, the Duplo-esque game pieces, and the simple rules. This game is chess with more dimensions, where the most strategic, cutthroat player wins. Each player gets a mythical Greek hero card that gives them a special power&mdashlike building two pieces of tower or moving twice under certain conditions. With the cards, Santorini plays best as a three-player battle, where you and two other friends are continually self-balancing the game. You&rsquoll find yourselves ganging up on anyone close to winning, capping towers so they can&rsquot climb on top&mdashuntil somebody discovers a brilliant move no one can stop and takes the match.

Secret Hitler is a deduction-focused party game like Mafia or The Resistance, but with significantly more jackboots and accusations of fascist behavior. The game begins as five to ten players are each given a secret dossier containing a party affiliation card and a character card. The majority of players start as generic 1930s German Liberals, but a few are card-carrying Fascists&mdashand one of the Fascists is Hitler himself. Only the fascists know who each other are.

Each round, players elect a president and chancellor. Together, that duo secretly enacts one of three arbitrary government policies. The Liberals win by enacting six Liberal policies. The hidden Fascists try either to discreetly enact five Fascist policies together or (later in the game) to elect Hitler as chancellor. Every game will descend into a dark spiral of collusion, lies, and impassioned accusations. You&rsquove never had so much fun accusing your friends of being Hitler.

Clans of Caledonia is a fluid and impeccably balanced strategy game of mercantile expansion in 19th-century Scotland. You and up to three friends expand your clans&rsquo business empires across Scottish lowlands&mdashbuying, selling, and developing markets for goods like mutton, cheese, bread, and of course whisky.

Although bursting with game pieces and options for each turn, Clans of Caledonia manages to combine heavy strategy with notably simple and straightforward mechanics. One of the best is the open marketplace, where selling goods (like whisky) makes them cheaper, and buying them up will cause prices to skyrocket. This intuitive mechanic means you&rsquore constantly worried about how your sales and purchases will hurt or benefit your competitors.

Serious board gamers will also spy features from some of the best European-style strategy games, like Agricola, Terra Mystica, and even Settlers of Catan.

Rising Sun is an absolutely gorgeous game of intrigue, alliances, and combat, set in a mythicized feudal Japan. Most fun with the full five players, Rising Sun&rsquos antecedents are sure to be felt by veteran wargamers&mdashthere&rsquos a touch of A Game of Thrones: The Board Game, a sprinkling of Diplomacy, and a whole lot of Shogun in the mix. Play in Rising Sun is divided into three rounds, all of which start with a tea ceremony and end with battles in randomly selected territories across the board.

So what makes it so good? Unlike many of its precursors, Rising Sun is extremely fluid. During each of the three rounds of play, you can mobilize your soldiers to basically any corner of the board if you need. This dynamic ensures that you can&rsquot ever solely rely on your physical or strategic might. Your enemies can gather anywhere. So you&rsquoll almost always need to lean on deal-making with your ally, or at the very least enemies in détente.

While battles in Rising Sun totally lack randomness, each one is preceded by a blind bidding phase. These bids feel exciting and intense each time. They can often dramatically throw the balance of power or drain you of your reserves for future fights.

Betrayal Legacy retains the beloved formula of 2004&rsquos creepy classic: Betrayal at House on the Hill. You and your friends enter an abandoned house, grab a few wretched items and uncover a few terrible clues until suddenly&mdashmwahahaha&mdashthe haunt begins. One player is revealed to be a (hereto then unwitting) traitor, and you enter a bloody, horrific battle, usually to the death.

What makes this legacy edition so much fun is watching this tried-and-true formula evolve over each of the game&rsquos 14 distinct plays. You and your friends will take up various characters in centuries-spanning family lines, leaving your mark by adding, amending and destroying items, leaving ghosts in the haunted house&rsquos rooms, and even making significant changes to the game&rsquos core rules.

Betrayal Legacy&rsquos only major blemish is a conceptual one: as in the Jurassic Park series, the game never fully answers: Why do people keep returning to this den of death?!


5. Clue: The Office Edition for anyone who is still looking to scratch their Office itch after rewatching all nine seasons on Netflix and burning through the Office Ladies archives.

How to play: Who killed Toby Flenderson? What office weapon was used? And where at Dunder Mifflin did it occur? That's up to you to decide in this pop culture spin on the cult classic.

Number of players: 3–6

Promising review: "I bought these for my kids who are big Office fans and they love it! You could even play it with those who are not fans since it still follows all the rules of Clue." —Theresa F.

Get it from Hot Topic for $48.90.


Children's Activities - Games

In the 1840s, there were no television sets, stereos, or video games, but there were always enough people around for playing games. Families were large parents and several children, as well as an aunt, uncle, or a grandparent or two, lived under one roof. Children also played games at school, in the village, and at work parties.

Playing in the parlor

People who owned large homes often had a parlor. A parlor was a special room that was used for entertaining guests. When families invited neighbors to visit, they played games in their "best room." These games were known as parlor games. Parlor games often involved several people. Charades and Blind Man's Buff were popular parlor games. Guessing games, word games, and board games were also played in the parlor.

Table games

Some table games required a steady hand or quick wit to win. In other games, victory depended on the luck of the draw.

Dominoes - Playing dominoes was a favorite pastime the late 1800s. The game is still played today. Dominoes are flat, rectangular blocks called tiles or bones. Each tile has two groups of dots on one side. The dots range in number from zero to six. Tiles with the same number both ends are called doublets.

One dominoes game is called Draw. The tiles are put in the middle of the table, face down. Each player draws three tiles and looks at them. The rest of the dominoes are left face down in the "bone yard." Whoever has the doublet with the most dots lays it on the table. The second player puts a domino with a matching number of dots against the doublet. Doublets are put down sideways, as shown on the left. The next player must lay a match at the free end of a tile. If he or she cannot, the player must turn over new dominoes until a match is found. The first player to lay down all of his or her dominoes wins.

Tiddlywinks - Almost everyone has heard of tiddlywinks, but few people know how this game is actually played. Players use a disk called a shooter to flip smaller disks called winks into a cup that sits in the middle of the playing area. The object of the game is to be the first player to sink all of his or her disks into the cup. In the past, players took this game very seriously and practiced flipping winks in their spare time.

Pickup sticks - Pickup sticks, or jackstraws, was a very popular game among North American settlers. The game originated with American Indians. It was originally played with straws of wheat. To play, all that was needed was a pile of wood splinters or straws. Some fancy pick-up-stick games had ivory straws. Modern versions of jackstraws use wooden or plastic sticks. The sticks are heaped in the middle of a table. Each player takes a turn removing one stick from the pile. The challenge is to do so without moving any of the other sticks.

Cards - In the early 1800s, most children's card games were designed to be educational. Card games helped children learn about math, geography, history and science. Some card games even taught girls about cooking.

Board games

Chess, checkers, and backgammon have been pastimes for older children and adults for hundreds of years. In the 1800s, new board games became popular. They were designed to be played by the entire family.

Teetotum - When people played board games in settler times, they did not use dice because dice were associated with gambling. Instead they used a teetotum, a top with numbers along the side. When the teetotum stopped spinning and fell on its side, the number facing up was the number of moves the player was allowed to make.

Morality games - Board games had themes that were supposed to improve children's minds. For example, in Snakes and Ladders, the ladder squares had pictures of children doing good deeds. When a player landed on one of these squares, he or she moved several spaces ahead. The snake squares had pictures of children being disobedient. The player who landed on one of these was sent back several squares.

Educational games - Some board games were educational. They drilled players on subjects like science, literature, and history. Some of the most popular games, such as Round the World and Geographical Lotto, taught geography skills. Games such as Picture Lotto and Familiar Objects were designed to teach younger children words and objects. The World's Educator was a challenging game for older players.

Outdoor games

Annie Over - This game needed two teams, a ball, and some kind of barrier, like a log or a table, or possibly low wall. Teams stood on either side of the barrier. The team with the ball was "it." They yelled "Annie!" and throw the ball to a member of the opposing team. If the child didn't catch the ball, then that team was "it." If he or she catches the ball, the teams have to change sides fast. While the teams are running to change sides, the one who caught the ball tries to hit an opponent with the ball. If he or she succeeds, the child who was hit changes teams. The goal is to eliminate the other team.

Baseball - Baseball as a formalized sport was just gaining popularity in the 1840s. It originated with the British games of cricket and rounders. There were many American versions of "Base Ball," with just as many different rules played by children in their villages, soldiers fighting in the Civil War, slave children in the South, and many others. The first formalized rules for the game were introduced in 1845 in New York. The game probably would have been played by the soldiers at Fort Scott, but the formalized rules would probably not have been followed until the late 1840s or early 1850s. For more information follow the link, baseball history .

Graces - The game of graces was played by two players, either two girls or a girl and a boy. Boys did not play Graces with one another because it was considered a "girl's game." Each player had a stick. Using the sticks, the players tossed a hoop to one another. The game was meant to encourage children to move gracefully.

The information on this page was primarily taken from Games from Long Ago written by Bobbie Kalman published by Crabtree Publishing Company. Used by permission.


Vintage 1980s Play Examples From The Beginning Of The Technology Revolution

We have over 200 examples from the Eighties in our new 1980s Section with up to 25 examples for each year

The 80s had a very distinct personality to its pop culture phenomena. It was in the 80s that we saw the first mass explosion of hysteria for new playthings, with the 1983 winter shortage of Cabbage Patch Dolls. One of the biggest pop culture crazes of its times, the individually named and crafted Cabbage Patch Dolls join the ranks of the dolls of each decade, reflecting the eternal power of the doll.
Trivial Pursuit, a response to a few decades of mass information and the development of world wide pop culture, also appeared in 1983 and remains today as an after dinner favorite to show off all that Jeopardy worthy information you keep locked away.
Flash forward a few years, and the electronic age kicks into gear with the introduction of hundreds of new kids play ideas that could talk, move about and imitate favorite cartoon characters.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hit it big at the end of the decade, unleashing a blitzkrieg of marketing on the nation, and other 80s favorites followed with shows like Transformers or He-Man. The "action figure" craze started by GI Joe in the 60s exploded.
Soon, Nintendo kicked off the home video game console era (after a failed start by Atari) and childrns gifts were not only complex, but incredibly expensive.

Eighties Toy Examples include My Little Pony, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Star Wars Figure Set, Pound Puppies, Dukes of Hazzard Set, Talking Alf, the Storytelling Alien, Matchbox Car Sets


The Surprising Benefits Your Kids Get From Playing Board Games

If you bring out board games on cozy Friday nights or over long holiday weekends, know that your kids get big benefits out of this special family time. In addition to teaching them about teamwork, patience, and how to win and lose gracefully, board games can actually benefit kids' brains and language development.

Read on for the nine incredible benefits of board games, and refresh your stash of games with the new Dog Man Board Game: Attack of the Fleas. It'll be up to your kids to save the city in this action-packed board game based on the beloved Dog Man series — which is a great way to get them even more invested in reading.

1. Board games offer opportunities for early learning.

Even simple games help young players identify colors, count spaces, and develop hand-eye coordination and dexterity in moving cards and pieces around the board. Plus, learning to wait your turn and follow the rules are important lessons that serve kids far beyond the living room floor.

2. They get older kids' brains buzzing, too.

Board games are an easy way to encourage healthy brain development in older kids and teens. “Strategy games are useful in helping the frontal lobes of the brain develop,” says Beatrice Tauber Prior, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, author, and owner of the private practice Harborside Wellbeing. “Those frontal lobes are responsible for executive function skills, which include planning, organizing, and making good decisions."

3. They boost their language skills.

Board games can be a sneaky way of helping school-aged kids work on skills they’re struggling with. Have a reluctant reader? A round of the BOB Books Happy Hats Beginning Reading Game will help them expand their vocabulary and flex their spelling skills.

Meanwhile, games in which players have to remember several pieces of information at once (who did what, and where) might help a child who’s having trouble with reading comprehension — all while still having fun.

4. They sharpen your child's focus.

“Board games, when played without interruptions, can help lengthen a child's attention span,” says Prior. But to reap the benefits, everyone needs to commit to seeing the game through to the end.

“If your family sits down for a game of Chinese checkers, be sure to complete a full game without everyone checking their phone, asking Alexa to play a song, or turning on the TV for the latest football scores,” adds Prior. “Finishing a board game without interruptions will help lengthen the declining attention span of kids in a world filled with digital distractions.”

5. They teach the value of teamwork.

Board games often offer kids meta-messages about life: Your luck can change in an instant, for better or for worse. But in addition to teaching them that nothing is guaranteed, board games are a good way to encourage kids of different ages to team up and work together — something they'll need to do throughout life. Form teams of older kids working with their younger siblings, or choose a game like The Brainiac Game or Race Across the USA, which have questions tailored to grades 1-6, so everyone’s challenged fairly.

6. Board games are an alternative to time out.

The next time you find yourself going through a rough patch with one of your kids, consider playing a board game together instead of sending them to their room. “I often use board games as a mechanism to work on the parent-child relationship,” explains Regine Galanti, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and professor at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University in New York City. “They can also be used to increase frustration tolerance in a child.”

In other words, taking turns and practicing patience during a game — even when things don't go their way — can help little ones practice more respectful responses than stomping off and slamming their bedroom door shut.

7. Board games soothe anxiety.

They may help anxious kids learn how to navigate friendships more easily. “Because they're structured, board games can provide an easier way to build interpersonal relationships with peers, since the child knows what's expected of them,” says Galanti. For kids who struggle with striking up conversations with others, Galanti recommends games that promote structured opportunities for chatter, such as guessing games.

8. They show kids how to be a good loser.

“If you're playing with a child who has low frustration tolerance, and losing is really difficult for them, allowing them to break the rules at first can make the game more tolerable and fun for them,” says Galanti. “But my goal is often to purposely play by the rules and encourage them to use coping skills and promote resilience when things don't go their way."

For instance, you might say: "I'm so proud of you for staying calm even though you picked a card you didn't like. I hope next time you pick a good one!"

9. Board games are a great way to unplug.

The lack of technology required to play board games makes them special. They are a simple way to get quality, screen-free time with the kids — and you might be surprised by how much they love playing. (Here are more screen-free activities to keep your kids entertained during the holidays this year.)

"Families are struggling to find the balance between digital and real-life connections, but board games provide a tool for that emotional connection to each other," says Prior. Order pizza and make it a way to celebrate the start of the weekend together!

Want even more book and reading ideas? Sign up for our Scholastic Parents newsletter.


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