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Playing Games with Kids: Quarantine Edition

We wrote an article a little while back listing five games that are great to play with your kids. We always envisioned this being a series of articles that we would add to over time, but we never thought we’d come up with another edition so soon. With the current shutdown state of the world, now seems like a good time for round two! We live in interesting times, and families at home could use some advice on great games to play together. We hope everyone is healthy and safe during this time. On a side note, this crisis may disproportionately affect small businesses. One small way we can use our hobby to help is by supporting some of those small businesses that passionately work to bring unique new games into the industry. Check out our list of small publishers at the end of the article and consider buying games directly from them.

When you don’t have a lot of time to play a big complex game, sometimes you just want a little filler. There are few games more fun in a filler role than No Thanks! In this game, you are trying to get the lowest score possible, avoiding cards from a deck numbered from 3-35. Nine cards are secretly removed from the deck and each player gets 11 chips to start. Then the top card of the deck is turned over and players in turn have to either take the card, or pay one of their chips on to it to pass. This continues until one player takes the card and all the chips on top of it. Each card counts as its value against your score, so the higher the number, the more motivated you are to skip it. However, if you manage to make runs of cards, only the lowest value card counts. So, a run of 14, 15, 16 will only score the 14 against. You can imagine that if you have the 14 and the 16, getting the 15 is pretty important. Hopefully it’s not one of the removed cards! At the end of the game you add your scores and remove a point for each chip you have in your possession. The lowest score wins! No Thanks! Is simple to teach and affords hours of fast, fun decisions for the whole family.

I’m always impressed when I play games with kids how creatively they think. As we get older, we tend to become more rigid in our thought patterns. Kids see the world in a completely different way. This can be evidenced with a game like Codenames. The idea is to communicate words to your team from a grid of 25. The trick is that you can only use one word to get them to guess as many as possible each round. Making things even more difficult, a rival team also has words hidden in the grid that you may accidentally identify if you misinterpret a clue, and there’s a hidden Assassin word that will cause you to lose immediately if chosen. On your turn, you give a one-word clue about some of the words you’re trying to get your team to select, followed by a number of words you think your teammates will be able to guess from the clue. If they make a wrong decision, they end their turn early, but they can also decide to not guess the full amount if they feel unsure about which word you were indicating. Codenames is one of those games that gets better the more you play!

There’s nothing like a spooky family game, especially if YOU get to do the scaring. In Haunt the House, you play ghosts trying to scare aware some pesky ghost hunters in your house. Each hunter enters one of the rooms of the house and they have a different set of creaks, moans, bumps, and chills that will scare them away. On your turn you can play a scare card face up to a room and use the special power of the room, or face down hiding information from the rest of the table. When you think enough scares have been played on a hunter, you can yell ‘BOO’ on your turn and flip over the cards played to see if they have been successfully driven from the house. Everyone who played at least one scare card on them gets a reward, but only the player that yelled ‘BOO’ collects the hunter and the gear they were carrying. The more gear you collect, the more points they are worth at the end of the game. Haunt the House is a great game to introduce kids to the concepts of bluffing and push-your-luck.

Based on the wonderful book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet is a fantastic game that rewards multiple re-plays. As you could guess, you are creating your own 4x4 tile planet from four different distinct tile types. Planets made feature different types of animals, trees, roses, sunrises, stars, and even volcanoes. The value of these features are dependent on the scoring characters that you select. You may have lots of snakes on your planet, but unless you have the Vain Man (who scores you 4 points per snake), they are worthless for you. The start player chooses a pile of tiles and reveals one for every player in the game. They pick one and then choose which player selects next. This continues until the last player takes the last remaining tile. Going last isn’t too bad, because that means you get to go first in the next round. The Little Prince is one of those games that can change on a single turn, but you’ll have so much fun playing it over and over again!

Seiji Kanai’s mini game is a wonderful life lesson. The goal is to deliver a love letter to the Princess. How that plays out is a series of simple micro-turns. Players are dealt one card and on their turn, they draw one and then play one card, executing its action. The cards represent members of the royal court and they each have their own power and rank. The Guards allow you to choose a player and guess what card they might have in their hand. If you’re right, they’re eliminated from the round. The Priest allows you to look at one other player’s hand. The Baron allows you to compare your hand with another player, eliminating the lower value. The Handmaid offer you protection from elimination for a round. The Prince forces another player to discard their hand. The King allows you to trade hands with another player. The Countess must be discarded if you hold it with the Prince or the King. Finally the Princess is the most powerful card, but if you’re forced to discard it, you lose the round. The rules are deadly simple, but you can employ a fair amount of strategy in them. If you are the last player standing in a round, you win a token of affection. Win four of those and you win the game and the heart of the Princess. Because each round is a little mini-challenge, your kids will lose …a lot, but that’s the beauty of this game. The stakes are so low, that losing doesn’t feel as bad as it does in a full-length game. Your kids will learn and grow from that experience.

Check Out These Small Publishers

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