So, you’ve declared it’s Family Game Night. You’ve managed to convince your teenagers to stay home AND off their phone for at least a few hours.
But, by the time you’ve got the game set up and figured out the directions, you’ve lost their attention, and everyone is watching Netflix instead.
Does this happen at your house? No worries, it happens at mine too! In the gaming world, this is what’s called a “steep barrier to entry,” which really means, it’s a pain in the ass to figure out on your own!
Enter…the board game cafe. They're popping up in towns and cities all across the country and they're making board games more accessible. Maybe we really can give our kids that fun board game experience like we had when we were young?
I reached out to David Minken, a board game expert and father of three in Calgary to ask about the resurgence of family gaming. He says board games are making a big comeback because families are craving more quality time together, without digital noise and social media distractions. “Life gets busy, life gets cluttered and you think connecting is liking something on Facebook, instead of actually committing time to somebody. When you’re playing a board game, that's what you’re doing, you’re saying, “I’m committed to spending time with you,’ “ says Minken.
I learned a lot about board games from Minken; I figured out why I don’t really enjoy games like chess. He calls it a “perfect information game,” which means the information is 100% available to both players and the better player will ALWAYS win. These games can be frustrating and intimidating for newbies.
Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, there are “roll and move” types of games such as Monopoly and Sorry. These games are based largely on luck and while these might be great for young kids, your teens and tweens can get bored quickly.
So, is there anything in between? There’s been a big evolution in the board game industry over the last couple of decades. New, modern board games, sometimes called Eurogames since they started in Germany, are taking the gaming world by storm, and enticing many of us back to a hobby we once enjoyed.
“Modern board games have found ways to blend the balance between luck and strategy in such a way that it is appealing and accessible to the average Joe,” says Minken.
He says there are games out there for everyone - even your teenagers - and it’s often just a matter of finding the right one.
If you go to a board game cafe, a Games Master can help you select a game that’s right for your family based on their interests, the number of people playing and any age restrictions.
I also learned that the age limits on many games are simply a guess because game developers are too cheap to put the games through actual child testing. So, a game that says 12 and up might actually be ok for your 10-year-old.
A board game cafe also gives you a chance to play before you buy. Plus, it can often be a nice break for mom if the cafe serves food and drinks (some are licensed).
So, if you are ready to move beyond Cranium and Pictionary, and looking to try something new, here are some suggestions for great board games to play with your teen or tween this holiday season. Play them at a board game cafe or a kitchen table near you!
This is a wonderful bluffing and social game. To win, you must master the art of lying while looking your opponent directly in the eyes. Merchants must bluff their way past the Sheriff to deliver their goods to market.
A classic for those who want some more strategy, without the burden of too many rules. Players try to claim routes on the board, which is a map of North America. There are expansion maps available to change things up after many plays.
This game is pure fun and chaos. Each player plays a train robber who is trying to rob the most loot throughout the course of the game. There is a lot of "take that" as players punch, shoot, and loot their way through a cool 3D train.
This is simply the game telephone, but instead of whispering to each other, you draw pictures. This is a super fun party game that is great to play with families or a group of friends.
Players are merchants of the Renaissance trying to collect chips and cards to buy gem mines, transportation, shops, etc. This does not involve math and the first person to 15 wins. It is recommended for ages 8 and up.
This is a 2-person game. The goal is to build the most beautiful (and high scoring) quilt using the game’s currency which is buttons. Despite the theme, even boys like it!
If you love Solitaire, there’s a good chance you’ll like this game. Players must try to discard all 98 cards onto four discard piles to win, but they need to do it in the right way. This is a cooperative game for 1 to 5 players. This is also great for travel.
This is a party game where two teams, led by rival Spy Masters, compete to see who can make contact with their agents first, using clues and words on a board, all the while trying to avoid the Assasin. Need four people to play.