A Beginner’s Guide To: Board Games

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.…

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Water Play: Safe, Summer Fun

It might feel a little late in the year to be discussing all the fun that you can have with water…

…but it’s still worth mentioning in case there are any international readers out there who are stuck for things to do in the summer heat.

When I was a kid, I remember wistfully looking out of the window during the summer at the other kids in the neighbourhood, racing around in their front gardens with water guns or jumping into the car with beach balls and towels, ready for a day at the beach or the pool.

My grandparents were a little too old to frolic with me in the back garden and they were always a little worried about letting me run out into the great unknown with neighbours – I guess they’d read some horror stories in the tabloids about kids going missing and couldn’t bear the thought of the same happening to me.

Thankfully I managed to catch up on years of water play this summer with my family and I thought I’d share some of the things we got up to, in case you were thinking about buying a swimming pool for next summer or simply planning out your next big holiday abroad.

Water Fights

Although they sound rather violent, a good water fight can be just the thing to cool off on a hot summer’s day and it can be a great way of exercising too! I found that there are a few key components necessary to making a good water fight. As much as you can have a lot of fun with just the two of you, there’s a lot to be said for getting a big group together.

To make the chaos that much more fun you can also consider buying a wide variety of weapons such as water guns, balloons and even sponges to mix things up!

Safety Tip: Make sure that there are towels on hand, that you’re outside and everyone has grippy shoes on to avoid slips.

Casual Pool Games

Swimming pools present a great opportunity to fool around and have a laugh with your family. Thanks to my job in property management, I managed to score a few days in private pools this year and got to try out a few games that I’d heard of. Marco Polo is a classic game that can be played with two people. If you have more people in your party then you can think about playing Shark and Minnows (a simple game of tag). Older kids and adults can also exercise caution and carry each other on their shoulders, this is known as a Chicken Fight.

Safety Tip: Make sure that all swimming pool covers are removed before get the kids in the area, jumping onto these can be dangerous.

Water Sports

There are a number of more competitive sports that you can play in a medium-sized pool, these usually require a few bits of kits but can prove to be a great way of passing some time and creating some friendly rivalries between friends. Games like water polo require goals and, if possible, a level swimming pool. If you don’t have the resources for these then you can always by a cheap waterproof projectile like a Waboba ball, Nerf Vortex or beach ball and play a simple game of catch!

Safety Tip: It’s important that players are matched physically in these games, if not then younger players are at risk of getting injured.

Extreme Water Fun

There are certain water-based activities that you simply can’t do in the comfort of your own back garden – should you wish to take your water based play to the next level, you can take your family to a water park or indoor water adventure centre. Huge slides, fountain jets, wave machines, rubber dinghy rapids – the variety of activities are endless and I’ve not even mentioned the likes of kayaking, rafting or sailing!

Safety Tip: Whenever you take your kids to a public place make sure they know where the life guards are and where to meet you if they get lost.…

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Getting Outside: Extreme Family Activities

Outdoor pursuits have never been more popular and for good reason.

When once derring dos such as scaling cliff edges or cycling down rough forest trails were reserved for adventurous Indiana Jones-types, today, thanks to numerous adventure companies, anyone can have a crack at them.

In the last 20 years or so the nature of the outdoors holiday has changed completely. The tents and sited caravans have got more spacious and comfortable, the equipment that we cook on has got more efficient and it feels like every year there’s a new kind of fun activity that you can try your hand at.

Holidays, when I was a sprog, consisted of our odd little family trundling up the road to a campsite with my Granddad’s old battered Force 10 canvas tent, struggling to heat up a can of beans and then struggling even harder to go to sleep as both my Grandparents competed to out-snore each other. Thankfully my camping holidays have improved somewhat since then!

With so many fun activities that you can get involved with these days, it can be hard to make your mind up as to what you should try. As with all outdoor play activities, you’ll need to make sure that your entire party is comfortable with taking part and that they meet whatever height restrictions that the instructors set.

Mountain Biking

Britain is home to some great mountain biking trails that offer a healthy mix of challenging inclines, varied terrain and fun downhill sprees. Your party will need to all be proficient cyclists and you should thoroughly research your route before you embark on it, so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s also imperative that you’re wearing the correct protection gear. Falls can be quite common place on these trails so you should wear knee pads and elbow pads on top of the standard helmet – just to be safe.

Safety Tip: Always carry lights, pump and repair kits on you – just in case!

Kayaking & Canoeing

I’ve already mentioned how much fun playing in water can be, but have you considered taking your water play out onto the open water? Kayaking or canoeing can be just the thing to spice up your family holiday. You can usually rent them from vendors at the beach for 45 minutes to an hour at a time, or you ca book a half day session with an instructor who will take you through the basics and then guide you on your very own aquatic adventure!

Safety Tip: The boat vendor should always include life jackets with your vessel, don’t go on the water without one.


A sport that is often overlooked by many, archery is a fun hobby that can be easy to pick up in the space of just a couple of hours. You can purchase archery sets online through popular vendors, though it’s always a good idea to get instruction before you try your hand at it. There are loads of places that you can grab a bow and arrow at across the UK, but it’s always best to get some form of instruction before you try attempting to hunt any rabbits…

Safety Tip: It’s vital that you follow the instructor’s commands, the tips of the arrows might be blunt but they can still deal great damage to people.

Rock Climbing

There’s a vibrant rock climbing scene in the UK, supported by a network of thousands of climbers who constantly share their climbs through sites like UKClimbing.com. Once more, this is the kind of activity where an instructor is absolutely essential. There are loads of indoor climbing centres where you can take your family to get to grips with the basics before heading outdoors to tackle a real cliff face – equipment hire is usually cheap, just make sure that all your gear is thoroughly tested and in good nick before you do anything!

Safety Tip: Make sure your instructor is properly licensed and certified before you head out on your excursion.…

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