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Its true, kids — long ago, there was a Time Before Wii. Before these new-fangled E-Lec-Tronics came around, we played games with tiny wooden pieces on unfolded pieces of fancy cardboard. And we liked it!
The good news is, nostalgia is totally on-trend and its even been updated! If youre looking for some vintage entertainment this season, gather your loved ones, frenemies, and rivals together, pull out some board (yes, people, thats with an a) games, and kick it old-style with these 14 classic and new family favorites.
N. B. dont really kick it, the pieces will go flying, and that takes most of the fun out of it.
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Cant go wrong with this one — in this economic climate, it may be your only chance to call forth your inner capitalist! And theres an opoly for every age level and interest, from dinosaurs to universities to fantasy baseball. Regardless of the theme of your particular board, the premise remains tried and true: Land on properties, buy them, build on them, and charge everyone else ridiculous amounts of money to visit them as you build up your bank account. The latest versions bring this classic game into the 21st century with debit-card readers, more readily recognizable properties, and new game pieces (including a Starbucks latte!).
Regular versions: ages 8+, 2 or more players
Junior versions: ages 5-10, 2 or more players (great way to boost basic arithmetic skills!)
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A long-standing, favorite tormenting tool of older siblings everywhere, this classic game still holds strong. Be the first to get your pieces all the way around the board to safety while you slide around and knock other players back to the start. The new version features ball-bearings in the pieces (so you can really knock the other guy out!), game boards you can build, and even a special SpongeBob version of Sorry.
Ages 5+, 2-4 players
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This is a classic that involves minimal artistic skill and lots of gesturing wildly. Players pick a secret clue and draw it on the board so that teammates can figure out what it is before the timer runs out. New versions (Pictionary Junior, Pictionary Man) are aimed at the younger set, but you can always use the grown-up version with a list of kid-friendly words. Youre almost sure to end the game with hoarse throats and lots of laughter!
Regular version: ages 12+, 3 or more players (lots of players increase the fun, exponentially!)
Junior version: ages 7-14
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A relatively recent addition to the board game market (developed in 2000), Blokus proved so popular that it already boasts four physical versions, multiple copycats, and a smartphone app. This Tetris-like game won an award from MENSA (for exercising the brain), and board game lovers everywhere rave about it. The premise is to build from one corner of the board toward the center using shaped plastic blocks the catch is that they can only touch on the corners. Strategy and a great sense of spatial relations are needed here, but even young players can join in, and there are several different sets of rules to play by.
Ages 5+, 1-4 players (or teams)
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The favorite game of amateur detectives everywhere! No matter how long its been around, nobody tires of figuring out why Colonel Mustard was in the study with the candlestick. There are new, contemporary editions featuring The Simpsons, Harry Potter, and the characters from The Office (play is the same though) as well as a DVD-enhanced version, which features an animated butler serving up the clues (but alas, no Tim Curry!). A junior version exists, too, but it can get tedious pretty quickly. Stick to playing the grown-up version and letting the littlest detectives play on your team.
Regular versions: ages 9+, 2-4 players
Junior version: ages 4-8
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6: TRIVIAL PURSUIT
This is an absolute must in every board game collection and great for a crowd. There are 6 game pieces, but its well-suited to playing on teams. Players move their pieces around the board and answer questions from each of 6 categories to fill up their pie. Each game comes with a box of 400 cards (the Anniversary and Family editions feature questions of varied levels of difficulty), but if you play often enough, you might find you need to update your cards periodically. There are more than 20 editions of this classic game, including those for gaming consoles, iPod, and smartphones (which defeats the purpose of playing it as a board game but might pique your kids interest).
Regular, Anniversary, Bet-You-Know-It, and Themed versions: ages 9+, 2 or more players
Family version, ages 8+
Junior and DVD versions, ages 6+
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This is a classic that never fails to entertain the younger crowd because of the die-tossing popper! Pop the die, move your pieces around the board, and get back home before anyone else does. The trouble is, you can get knocked back to the start if someone lands on your spot. This game hasnt changed much since 1965 though you can now find plenty of themed versions and spin-offs. One fun variation is called Pop n Drop Penguins. The concept is the same, but the game pieces are penguins (surprise!), and there are a couple of spots on the icebergs where you can make your opponent fall into the icy waters below. Kids cant get enough of this one, and parents will appreciate the nostalgia and the friendly competitiveness.
Ages 5-12, 2-4 players
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One of the best games for mixed age groups, Cranium is a loud, exciting mash-up of your favorite classics. Utilizing players talents (or lack thereof) in drawing, acting, sculpture, spelling, trivia, and other areas, its a team-based game that is sure to keep everyones attention. The original version can be too difficult for anyone younger than 12 or so, but the folks at Cranium have developed several kid-friendly spinoffs and variations. The Family Edition of the original game holds its appeal for all ages.
Regular version: ages 16+, 4 or more players
Family versions (Cranium Family, Brain Breaks, Cadoo, Cranium Wow): ages 7+, 4 or more players
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There is neither glitz nor glamour in this game. Jenga simply consists of 54 rectangular wooden blocks stacked in a tower, after which the blocks are removed one by one by players from the tower and re-stacked on the top. If youre the one to topple the tower, you lose! Remarkably, several toymakers have created variations of this game, including a multi-colored version and one in which the players shoot a foam block tower with cardboard discs. Also, for grownups, apparently there are limitless drinking-game versions to be found! The original, however, uses strategy and engineering concepts just as often as it relies on luck, making it a challenging and entertaining game for all ages.
Similar balance/strategy games that are better suited to the younger set are: Dont Break the Ice, Sevi Equilibrio, Sevi Noahs Ark, Plan Toys Bug Balance
Original Version: ages 6+, 1 or more players
Similar kids games: all suitable for ages 3+ (some small parts), 1 or more players
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Granted, the buzzing noise can get a little grating, but this is not the Operation of your childhood! No longer do you need to bite on a stick while the barber pulls your tooth! The latest versions of Operation (Silly Skills and Rescue Kit) have updated body parts, new sound effects (boy, do the kids love the gas bubbles ), and multiple levels of play, which let even the littlest surgeons in the house take part. Be forewarned that the little pieces are still easily lost, and toddlers find them hard to resist. You can buy replacement pieces from Hasbro, but youll still want to keep them out of your kids mouths. That said, this is still a very good game for a small family game night, and there are also a handful of movie-themed versions (Cars, Shrek, Toy Story, among others). It will be easy for the grown-ups, but your patience will be rewarded tenfold by the expressions of sheer joy and excitement on your kids faces.
Ages 5+ years (or until your hands shake too much!), 1 or more players
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Its hard to get away from the electronic versions of Scrabble these days. Theyre ubiquitous wait, how many points is ubiquitous worth? If you can pull yourself away from the Facebook version, you might find that the original game with those beautiful fake-ivory tiles lined up along your little wooden rack is incredibly satisfying. Its a game that strengthens vocabulary and critical thinking skills and one that all members of your family can enjoy. Its never too early to start your new reader on this game — even if she mostly uses 3 letter words (just be careful with the toddlers, those esophagus-sized tiles look mighty tasty ). Scrabble variations are endless, and some of the newer versions (Upwords, Flash) have been well-received, but the basic premise is the same. Wth these games, get to know a lot of long, obscure words spelled with Q, and youre sure to become a superstar!
Most versions (Classic, Flash, Upwords, Slam): ages 8+, 2 or more players
Junior versions (Scrabble Junior, Alphabet Scoop): ages 5+, 2 or more players
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12: CHUTES AND LADDERS
This is an oldie thats still a good addition to your board game collection. Its not a tough game to master, and it wont be too exciting for anyone over age 9, but its an essential game if you have young kids. The concept is simple: Spin the dial, count your spaces, and sometimes youll get to take a ladder shortcut, or have to slide back down to an earlier square. Its a game of chance, and in that respect, it can hold an adults interest (it moves quickly enough, too). More importantly, it teaches young children about things like good sportsmanship and basic math skills.
Ages 3-7, 2-4 players
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13: MOUSE TRAP
Look out, Rube Goldberg! Unleash your inner crazy inventor as you work together to build a mouse-catching contraption and race your mice around the board. Dont get caught in the trap! This game is aimed at the under-teen set though parents will enjoy it, too. Younger kids will definitely need an older child or an adult to help with the set-up, but the game itself is not too complicated. There are lots of small parts, so keep an eye on the little ones when you play. Its pretty hard to play this game with any missing pieces, but it is exciting to see how the whole mechanism works together once the trap is built!
Ages 4-12 (and their grown-ups!), 2 or more players
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Who doesnt love Twister? Okay, if you have a bad back, you might want to be in charge of the spinner, but kids and adults alike cant help but enjoy contorting themselves into ridiculous positions based on the spin of a dial and the location of the colored dots. Even the toddlers will want to (try to) get in on the action! As a bonus, when the kids go to sleep, Twister can become way more interesting for the adults left in the game room
Ages 5+ (younger kids might not have long enough limbs!), 2-4 players (more fun with more players
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