Level Up Game Night
If you’re like me you grew up with family game night: the same old games that grew stale and led to arguments as you got older, wiser, and more competitive. Or maybe you still play those games, but feel bored with the standard fare that somehow exists in every family cabinet. Seriously, how does every family have the basic games? Do they just appear when you have your first child? But I digress. If you’re looking to revive family game night I’ve got some news for you: there are a lot of new games better (in my opinion) than the ones everyone has. This list also works well if you want to get into games but like me, are really scared by the sheer amount of games that have descriptions that are even scarier. Honestly now that I’ve written it this list is kind of scary, but I promise any and all of them are worth your time.
The game of long nights, fights, and rules that never seem to be quite the same across games or families. Ah the memories, the friendship-ruining memories. Why do we still play this game? I don’t know, because personally there are so many better alternatives that are less rage inducing.
Catan is a board game with hexagon tiles where the goal is to create settlements, roll dice for resources, and expand faster than the other players. While it does have a competitive aspect, the less-capitalistic slant that is more about pioneering allows for a faster, more entertaining game. Dice rolls affect everyone positively except for the dreaded seven, making each turn a chance to advance or develop a new strategy. It can look scary and I’ve left this explanation short to try and keep it from seeming scary. It’s true, like most games it is easier to learn with an experienced player, but it’s a very fun game that allows for a lot of variation. And it’s quick enough — usually around thirty minutes for me — to have multiple rematches that give everyone a chance to win over the course of a night.
Amazon has it listed for ~$40
Ticket to Ride
Why are so many kids obsessed with trains? I don’t know, but the trains in this game delighted me and probably would delight any 6-10 year old who has just discovered locomotives. The goal of the game is to claim railway routes across North America, with longer routes getting more points. There’s a lot of strategy that comes in but the rules are “simple enough to write on a train ticket” as Ticket to Ride author Alan R. Moon puts it. It’s truly a balancing act, but allows for lots of different playstyles in the same game, making it very accessible to new and old players. Also the board just looks really fun and with many expansions to choose from, you can stretch your train lines across all parts of the globe! The game takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour.
Amazon has it listed for ~$40 with prime
It’s meant to teach you vocabulary, but it really just makes you want to be older, because your older siblings play it to show you how much older they are. Ok maybe that’s just me and my English major older brother, but scrabble is definitely a game that certainly has a certain skill requirement that makes it harder for some age or ability levels. Luckily if you like words there are other games that you can play and be good at, even if you suck at SAT vocabulary.
A fan favorite at every game night I’ve hosted, this game will give you endless playtime. The rules are really simple. There’s a 5×5 grid of words set up. Two players are the ‘spy masters’ for their team, and can see a card that tells them which words are theirs, the other players, bystanders, and the assassin. Each team can have anywhere from two to fifteen or twenty or however many you want players. The spymaster has to say a word that corresponds to which words are their team’s without using any word on the board or suggesting a word that isn’t their teams. It sounds complicated, I know, but I promise it is actually really easy, and super fun. Each game lasts around fifteen minutes I think, but honestly, I’m usually having so much fun I barely notice the time going by!
Amazon has it listed for ~$15 with prime
I think the coolest part of this game is that it can be played in any language. The game revolves around a deck of cards with surrealist illustrations that are unique and beautiful just to look at. The ‘storyteller’ picks a word, phrase, song, title, whatever they want that describes their card. Then each player chooses a card they think matches the phrase. All the cards are mixed up and the players have to try and guess which card is the storyteller’s. The goal is to have at least one player guess correctly, but not everyone in order to get maximum points as the storyteller and player. It’s a unique combination of strategy and creativity that is a really calming, quiet kind of fun. Each ‘storyteller’ lasts less than three-ish minutes, and each game takes about thirty minutes to an hour. No matter how much I play it, it never gets old, and it’s really accessibly to any experience level. Everyone looks at the same card in different ways, and it is basically a game version of ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.
Amazon has it listed for ~$28 with prime
The mystery genre of game is a familiar one to the family standard. Usually it gives the most replay value in basic games because of its natural variation in each play session, but still I think there are a lot more interesting options out there that are waiting to be discovered. Get it? Discovered? Because we’re talking about mystery? …I’ll just leave the list here
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
If you loved those games of mafia at teenage sleepovers, you’ll love this game. There are two steps: night and day. Each player gets a special ability they use during the ‘night’ portion to try and discover who the werewolves are. The werewolves are trying to escape detection. The game lasts one night, and then the players have a time limit that can vary depending on people to choose a person to accuse as a werewolf. If they kill any werewolf, the villagers win. If the villagers kill another innocent villager, the werewolf team wins. I really love this game because it can support a huge number of players, and with the downloadable app, no one has to be the game master. The app also gives instructions to each role as their turn comes up during the night, which is great for first time players. With one night, each player gets a chance to participate and no one is knocked out of gameplay early. There are tons of expansions and while it can take a lot of time with more players, it becomes immensely complex and fun. Time varies a lot based on players but usually is around ten to fifteen minutes a round.
Amazon has it listed for ~$15 with prime
Two Rooms and a Boom
I discovered this game on accident when someone brought it to Game Club one day. It’s probably the most complex game of all these suggestions, but also the one that supports the largest number of players. If you have a family reunion coming or just a big party, this is the game for you. It plays 8-30+. How large is that +? I haven’t reached a number that doesn’t work yet. There is the Blue Team and the Red Team. The Blue Team has the president, and their goal is to keep him alive. The Red Team has the bomber, and their goal is to kill the president. As the name implies, it requires two rooms, or at least a long enough room to have two distant ends. Each room has a number of people with one person chosen to be leader. They have to investigate the other players to find who is who and attempt to help their team win by exchanging hostages and meeting their team’s win conditions. With more players, more roles are added with more win conditions. It is intricate, but that also means there is a lot of variation. It lasts around fifteen minutes, and is incredibly fun. If you’re feeling brave, this is the option for you.
Amazon has it listed for ~$25 with prime
Cards Against Humanity
Oh the humanity. I mistakenly agreed to play this with my parents, forgetting the immediate aversion I think most young people have toward acknowledging their parents as sexual beings. I learned so many things, many of wish I want to forget. So, in case you don’t want to get scarred or want a less suggestive game to play with younger gamers, here are just two great alternatives:
If the title evokes a slimy salesman, then that’s all the description you need. There are two sets of cards: one of clients, and one of products. The judge of the round draws a client card and chooses a side. The players have a hand of product cards and much choose two to make something they try to sell to the judge who acts under the persona of the client. Hilarity ensues. It’s a great way to encourage creative thinking and speech skills. Or just to come up with the most ridiculous product ever. Whatever your style, this game is great for all ages (and typically won’t scar you, though some of the ideas people come up with are impressively gross). Rounds can last from five to ten minutes, depending on how long you want to give people to try and sell their product to you, but either way it’s super fast and fun even just to listen to.
Amazon sells it for ~$15
Are you enjoying the superhero movie craze? Maybe you think it’s ridiculous. Maybe you, whatever your age is reader, like to dress up as Black Widow or Miss Marvel. Even if you hate anything to do with the word ‘super’, Superfight is a game you can enjoy. One person draws cards randomly to make a villain. The players use their hand to make a base hero, play an ability card, and draw an ability card at random for their hero. Then, they get the chance to buff or debuff other characters, their character, or the villain. I’ve made a giraffe with a dolphin head that shot lasers and somehow had chainsaws for hands but was a pacifist. Your imagination is truly the limit, and there’s a fun stupid kind of humor that can convince even the dirtiest of thirteen year olds to play. Each round usually lasts at most five minutes, which allows for a lot of rounds in one sitting. I’m pretty sure there’s a point system to determine a ‘winner’ but it’s more fun to just play fast and loose.
Amazon sells it for ~$30 with prime
I hope this list gives you some inspiration or confidence to try some new games! It can seem really scary, but the world of tabletop games such a great community that I tell everyone I can to give it a shot!