Family Fun for Real

What are your go-to family favorite games? As a child, we were a Scrabble-or-Canasta family. Friends in America introduced us to Euro boardgames 15 years ago, and we’ve been crazy about them ever since.

My state is currenly on lockdown for a week – no leaving the house except for essential shopping, work, medical, and exercise, as well as remote learning for school kids.

I’d like to achieve something concrete during this time, so as mentioned in my last post I’m clearing up my front room. We have one games cabinet and I need to cull our boardgames to fit in there. My daughter and I piled every single board game we own on the tables and… well, we have 87. That’s just ridiculous. Some are decades old, belonging to my husband – he hasn’t played them since before we met. We have 10 or so that we regularly play, and another 20 we enjoy a lot, but surely the rest can be thrown out, resold, or at least stored away until they’re forgotten about? To that end, I’ve ordered three huge heavy-duty storage crates!

I’ll take you on a tour of some of the games we enjoy as a family. None of these are the classic “roll the dice and move” games such as Monopoly. Euro games, if you haven’t tried them, well, you’re missing out! They’re often not particularly competitive, which makes them less stressful for kids, and for me. You build your own worlds rather than fretting too much about what other people are doing, so the experience is fun even if you don’t win.

Azul

This is so quick to learn that it’s the game we carry around with us whenever we visit friends and family and they want to try something new. And I’m a sucker for nice game pieces – this one has chunky mosaic tiles that feel lovely to touch. You pick up tiles from the center and place them in a mosaic pattern according to simple rules. As with many of these games, there’s not much point starting out with a strategy. Play along for half the game, dealing with the random aspects of the turn play, then decide on strategy to maximize points. I’ve bought myself the spin-off Azul Summer Pavilion for my birthday.

Wingspan

One for the birdwatchers – or not. We’re not, but we do love this game. Collect different birds and place them in one of three habitats to maximize point scoring and bonuses. This is one of those games where it’s not possible to see who’s winning along the way – wait until the end, add up all those bonus points, and you may be surprised how well you did.

Terraforming Mars

A more complicated card-based game with a science fiction theme (therefore, I love it!). This game is probably not for beginners to the Euro-style gaming world. We’ve been teaching our 10-year-old these games for a few years and now she picks them up faster than any of us, and she loves this one. She always remembers those obscure rules the rest of us forgot as soon as we read the leaflet. Play cards to build your Martian colony while collecting resources and spending them wisely. Game addicts for many of these games often produce deluxe versions, and for this one I’ve seen 3D-printed three-dimensional pieces for a truly immersive experience.

Bohnanza

This card game can’t be beat for ease of play and satisfaction. Plant cute cartoon beans in fields, and decide when to harvest them for maximum coins. Young kids can get the hang of this one quickly, but it’s one the adults will want to play over and over as well.

Puerto Rico

One of the original Euro games, and one of my very favorites. This has a classic Euro game play – each round, it’s someone’s turn to choose a “role” (planting crops, building a colony, harvesting and shipping goods, and more), and then everyone does that same thing, but their actions will vary depending on how their personal game is panning out. A great introduction to Euro gaming. Like many of these games, the first time through it may seem weird and incomprehensible, but halfway through everything falls into place and after that it’s a breeze.

Terra Mystica

This is a fairly complex game but again, once you get the hang of it, it’s lots of fun. You are one of several different races of mystical beings (Alchemists, Dwarves, Halflings, Mermaids, Witches, etc.), each one having different strengths or weaknesses that make your personal game unique. I don’t usually like territory games but this one has a lot more going on and you can usually choose to avoid conflict if you don’t like that aspect.

Patchwork

If it’s by Uwe Rosenberg, you know it’s good! This is the a simple and gorgeous game for only two players. It’s quick, easy to learn, and so satisfying. Buy and place comfortingly sweet patches, Tetris-style, on your board, collecting buttons (currency) for each piece that enable you to buy more patches.

Calico

The game is as sweet as the kitty on the box. We bought it for our cat-crazy girl. A similar idea to Patchwork, but a little more complex. Create a quilt to attract different cats while gaining bonus points for various configuations.

Galaxy Trucker

Saved this one for last. My daughter loves this game, but she doesn’t actually play. She creates the card pack of incidents for us and acts as game master, spinning a tale like a pro to take us on the adventure of a lifetime. Build a ship from jigsaw pieces (there are various expansion packs for more functionality), making sure to have enough shields, laser cannons, crew quarters, engines, cargo bays, etc. Then head out into space to face asteroids, pirates, and more. If you make it home before your ship falls apart, sell your cargo for space-credits. We play a “house rules” version of this game that’s evolved over the years to make it more fun and less stressful. Yes, it really is fun to watch pieces fall off your spaceship and wonder if you’ll make it home alive.

Do you have favourite family games? How many of these have you tried? Let me know if you have any suggestions for us to increase our collection – not that we have room for more!

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