For non-gamers, there’s a whole world of tabletop games out there that might seem intimidating to dive into. Even as a seasoned and regular gamer, I occasionally find myself struggling to keep up with the introduction of new games. Nevertheless, there are a few games that I keep coming back to, and which over the last few years I often use in the classroom during the kids’ break time. In today’s post, I’m highlighting three such games—great family-friendly games that are very affordable—so if your kid is sick of Scrabble or Monopoly, you might want to have a look at these.
Best played with 4 to 6 players
Overview: In Codenames, you draw 25 cards from a pile of 200 cards and lay them out in 5×5 tiles; each card contains a word (and they’re double-sided, so that’s 400 words in all to choose from). The players are split into two teams, then each team elects a player to be the spymaster. Each of the two teams has 8 to 9 words from the 5×5 tileset that its members (field operatives) must guess correctly, and it is up to the spymaster to provide the correct clues.
What’s fun about it: This is a highly contextual game that requires a lot of thinking out of the box. The competitive nature of the game encourages the spymaster to link one clue to multiple words on the table, so that his/her team can win the other by guessing all of their words in the shortest order. There are a lot of laughs to be had when spymasters get creative, or when players start making unexpected boo-boos in their guesses.
2) The Resistance: Avalon
Best played with 5 to 10 players
Overview: This party game may seem immediately familiar to those who have played social deduction games like Mafia, Murderer and Werewolf. Players are split into two groups: Loyal Servants of Arthur (good guys) and Minions of Mordred (bad guys). Both groups must try to win by Succeeding (for the good guys) or Failing (for the bad guys) three out of five quests (the nature of which are never really described). This is really simpler than it sounds. On each player’s turn, that player gets made Leader, and he/she chooses 3-5 members to go on a quest. The outcome of the quest is determined by whether or not any ‘Fail’ cards were placed down by the chosen members (only the Minions of Mordred can place ‘Fail’ cards).
What’s fun about it: There is a lot of backstabbing fun to be had here. It’s one of those games that foster plenty of communication, as players try to discredit one another while building up credibility of their own. Furthermore, there are different roles that change up the game significantly. Merlin, for example, knows who the Minions of Mordred are; the Assassin must try to guess who Merlin is; Percival knows who Merlin is… and so it goes on. This is a game that my students always look forward to whenever we have time for it.
3) The Three Little Pigs
Best played with 4 players
Overview: The Three Little Pigs is a push-your-luck dice game in which you try to build as many complete houses as possible. There are 3 components to a house—a door, a window and a roof—and these components are engraved as their respective symbols on the five included dice. Among the five dice, there are two with a wolf symbol on one face. On each player’s turn, the dice are rolled, and if the player’s not happy with the results, they can re-roll the dice up to two more times. The symbols at the end of the roll determine what the player can buy, and if the wolf comes, that player gets to be the big bad wolf for that turn, choosing a house from the other players’ collections to blow down.
What’s fun about it: You get to be the big bad wolf and blow down others’ houses. Seriously, though, while the initial stages of the game are a rush to build as quickly as possible, it’s when the game nears the end that the tension (and humour) around the table pick up, as everyone rushes to become the big bad wolf. Expect plenty of cheers and laughter as the player who had gotten quite cocky with his tall brick house gets it blown down.
Just the tip of the iceberg
There are many more games I can recommend, but I figured I’d start with my three most played ones. My students, who had never heard of games beyond Monopoly and Scrabble, had their opinions changed overnight after being introduced to games like the three aforementioned ones. I hope this mini-list has been helpful, and if you’ve got some to recommend as well, I’d love to hear them. Thanks for reading, and have a great week ahead.