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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fun Family Games with Potential for Learning

As the title of my blog indicates, I normally focus on game based learning in the classroom. Two things happened recently, however, that made me think a quick turn to traditional gaming with the family would be appropriate.

I have a list below of some of our favorite board or card games that could be used for home school families or just as a good mental workout during summer vacation.


I first felt the need for this when I stopped in a Toys R Us a couple weeks ago to see what they have for games. I couldn’t believe the mass market has still not been impacted by the wealth of amazing new games coming from Europe and through other hobby channels here in the U.S.

An example of how much reading is involved on the cards
And then this past weekend my son wanted to play War of the Ring. I would never suggest this title to a family that is just learning about new games. It is a long, hard battle based in the world of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. It has a ton of pieces, cards with paragraphs of text and 21 pages of rules, so we only tackle this in the summer. I was impressed that my son (12 years old) can handle the patience and thinking required. He was raised playing games with the family, so even though he loves computer games, he is able to appreciate a slower, thoughtful exchange with plastic and cardboard as well.

I’m not an expert on related research, but I have played enough games with other children in the neighborhood or relatives when they visit. Though they are comparable in age to my own kids, there’s a considerable difference in what they will sit through. Of course there is much that they will not learn just from playing games like those below. But waiting one’s turn, winning or losing gracefully, remembering rules and working toward a goal are skills that have value well beyond the game table.

So here is a list some of the games we have enjoyed over the years. In gamer circles, my collection is quite dated and others would suggest more newer titles.  In researching any of these, though, it will be easy to find recommendations for other great games that might better suit your interests. If nothing else, the Boardgame Geek website will be of great interest to any would be gamer who has not yet discovered it. I will link to the entry for each game I mention below.

Settlers of Catan - This is the one that started it all for many of us in the hobby. If you haven’t heard of it, I’ll bet all these other games will be new to you as well.
Lost Cities Board Game - My son loves this one and usually wins. It plays quickly, it’s simple and provides many fun options each turn.
For Sale - I love auction games and when the kids were younger this was the first they could learn and enjoy.
Ricochet Robot - This is an odd one because people either love it or hate it. Those who like it can play for hours on end if the group is fairly matched.
Through the Desert - Much more fun than you’d expect from a game about putting camels in hexes. Simple rules make room for a lot of strategy.
Say Anything - This has been my family’s favorite party game for the past year or so. You might have seen this one since it does show up in some of the larger toy or book stores.
King for a Day - You won’t find this one in a store. I made this one and you can read more about it in this review.  (It's also worth mentioning that my family helps me playtest all the new games I make.)
Zendo - This is actually just one of many games you can play with Icehouse pyramids. It is a great game based on inductive reasoning.
Hey, That’s My Fish - Another simple game on a hex board, but this time the hexes vanish as the ice floe shrinks.
Forbidden Island - This is a cooperative game, so everyone wins or loses together. It’s a quick ride that generates a lot of excitement.

Contact me if you have questions about these or other games that are great for family fun and learning.  Also, I always recommend you check out Fair Play Games first if you are considering buying games.  The owner is a good friend of mine and I know they'll treat you right.

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