The one form of play that was open to me as a kid was board games.
My Grandfather was a champion chess player as a kid and he loved nothing more than showing me all the tricks that he used to beat his high school opponents. We never played competitively as he always said there would be no contest, so the amount of actual fun that we had was questionable – once more it was just another lesson.
Since I’ve been married to my wife, who brought a son from a previous marriage with her, we’ve been discovering loads of great board games that we can all way play together. The world of board games has expanded well beyond Chess in the last 30 years; there are now a tonne of games ranging greatly in game play style, difficulty, duration and themes – so I thought I’d run through a few of our favourites to give a complete beginner an idea of what there is out there!
Thanks to Amazon you can get a lot of these games dead cheap, either used or new. If you can’t find them for the right price there, then you can always head on over to eBay, as long as the set is complete (including instructions) then it doesn’t really matter how battered the board or pieces are.
Traditional Board Games
Board games have been round for a long time – Chess, for example, can be traced back as far as the 6th Century, with the rules changing very little since then. Other games, such as Checkers or Backgammon have been round for even longer, some historians have evidence to suggest that these kinds of games have been around for as many as five-thousand years. Boards and pieces can be bought for next to nothing, because of their simplicity – however, you can have a bit more fun with it and make your own set if you’d like!
Try: Basic games like Snakes & Ladders to educate young kids on the basic and then ramp up the complexity.
Classic Board Games
When most people think about board games their minds go instantly to the modern classics that have caused endless family arguments and have led to tantrums that have rocked dinner tables the world over. Monopoly, first published in 1935, has a reputation for being long and divisive – this is mostly due to the lack of strategy involved in the game, however this can make it a fun game for younger kids to play, as there are relatively few tactical decisions to be made – just don’t be surprised when tantrums ensue if someone lands a hotel on Mayfair…
Try: Starting early if you want to finish a game of Risk or Monopoly, these games can take up to 6 hours!
Role Playing Games
Everyone loves to play a bit of make believe and although kids can initially struggle with the amount of detail involved in playing one of these games, the end result can prove to be a rewarding experience that truly takes the whole family on an adventure within the confines of their living room. Games like Munchkin, a card based role playing game, are simple to grasp for younger minds and are a great introduction for people of all ages.
Try: Getting your family excited with little bits of costume or put on themed music to really help immerse the players.
Strategy Board Games
Lastly, if Chess feels a little bit too sombre as a family activity, then there are a tonne of other fun strategy games, most of which have their origins in Europe, that offer a fun diversion and won’t have you scratching your heads for hours on end. Tile based games, like Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan are quick to setup but have a deceptive amount of depth, offering hours of replay value, as well as a good education in strategic thinking.
Try: Incorporating one of these board games into your evening along with food, for a well rounded, fun dinner party.