Over the years, game time at our house has become an individualized affair – my son playing League of Legends on his laptop, my daughter on her phone or iPod, me on the couch playing Crossy Road or doing my daily Lumosity workout, and my husband scanning eBay.
(You don’t think eBay is a game? Then you haven’t seen Randy play.)
Even these days, though, with teen and young-adult children in the house, winter break means new games and the urge to gather around one table again – electronic devices off (or at least off to the side) – and reconnect.
This year’s family fave is Qwixx, a dice game kind of like Yahtzee but different enough to be a whole new experience. The game was in one of the kids’ stockings on Christmas morning, and we’ve played it at least once a day since.
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Qwixx hits all the Tobias-family-game-night high notes: It’s portable, easy to learn, fun to play and strategic without being overly thinky. Each round takes only 10 or 15 minutes, perfect for those times when you want to play a game but don’t want to commit an entire evening. (You know we love you, Monopoly, but I’m looking at you.)
We continue to add games to our growing collection. But what struck me recently, as Hannah enthusiastically agreed to yet another round of Spot It, is that over the years, a few games have risen to the top of our family’s playlist.
Some are old games, some are newish. All have been tested by finicky teens and discriminating adults and declared to be infinitely playable. These are the games we go to again and again, especially when it’s freezing outside, which we consider prime board game season.
As always, most of the games are available at Imagine That Toys, an independent toy store at 29th North and Rock Road in Wichita. Others can be found online or at local discount stores:
▪ Qwixx (Gamewright, $9.99) – A recent favorite. In this quick-playing dice game, everyone participates, no matter whose turn it is. Players scramble to mark off as many numbers as possible on their score sheets – the more numbers you cross off, left to right, the more points you score. Each round takes only 10 to 15 minutes, and reinforces skills in probability, math and strategic thinking.
▪ Blink (Mattel, $9.99) – In this variation of the card game Spit, players race to get rid of cards by matching them by shape, number or color. Kids often dominate, given their sharp eyes and quick hands.
▪ Super Circles (Out of the Box, $9.99) – Because my daughter is such a master at Blink, this game appeared in her stocking this Christmas. Predictably, it’s just as fun. No turns, no waiting, just use your mental speed and quick fingers to be the first to match circles by color and play all your cards.
▪ Spot It! (Blue Orange, $12.99) – My friend Monica showed me this game over coffee one day, and I immediately went out and bought it. Another lightning-fast card game – are you sensing a theme? – Spot It is played with 55 circular cards, each decorated with eight symbols varying in size and orientation. There are more than 50 symbols in all, including hearts, snowflakes, dragons and lightning bolts. The object is to be the first to spot the one symbol in common between two or more cards.
▪ WordARound (ThinkFun, $12.99) – Who knew that positioning a word in one continuous ring would make it so tricky to read? The challenge in WordARound is to quickly figure out where the word starts and be the first to shout it out. It might sound simple, but I have been known to shout “Cheslun!” instead of “lunches” and “Loriesca!” instead of “calories,” much to my family’s amusement.
▪ Word on the Street (Out of the Box, $24.99) – This game requires two teams, so you can play it with two people or 24. On each turn, one team flips over a category card. Team members frantically brainstorm words that fit the category (example: “A place to hide money”) while the opposition tries to sidetrack them. The team must agree on a word and pull each letter of that word one lane closer to their side of the “street” before time runs out.
▪ Electronic Catchphrase (Hasbro, $21.99) – Players rattle off as many clues as they can until someone on their team yells out the answer. We pull this game out whenever we want a fun way to pass time, but I don’t think we’ve ever kept score. Some games are just cool like that.
▪ Phase 10 (Mattel, $9.99) – This rummy-type card game never gets tiresome. You can play with two people or six – or more with multiple decks – and it fits in your purse. For those ready to take the game to a new, more challenging level, there’s a Phase 10 Masters Edition.
▪ Heads Up (iTunes, 99 cents) – This app, created by comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, is a party game fave and the best 99 cents I ever spent. The player holding the smartphone tries to correctly guess a word or phrase based on the clues given by other players. Best part: There’s a video option that allows you to share the craziness on social media.