Posted by: grabthar | April 4, 2013

Family Time

By:  Jim Ferguson

I’m fortunate enough to have a terrific wider family, and we gather together every 2 years in a central location (northern Wisconsin — I have family from San Francisco to Brooklyn) for a reunion.

Of course I bring board games. Not that we didn’t find enough things to compete in before I started bringing them: legendary tournaments in Scrabble, Croquet, and Canasta are part and parcel at each gathering. I don’t bring any additional word games, because I do not relish getting slaughtered by my aunts, uncles, and cousins. But what to bring?

Before you say “Telestrations”, don’t worry, it’s already on the list and has been a hit the last two reunions. Big hit.

I always bring something for younger players. Pitch Car was good, Abandon Ship was fun, though the kids were a bit confused by the classic Knizia rule whereby the first rat to make it to the deck scores zero. These kids are all 2-4 years older now, so they’re ready for LeHavre now, right?  At the very least they’ll be able to join the adults playing Take It Easy.

What games have you had success with with a group of willing non-gaming adults? Should I stick with something like Ticket to Ride or Tichu or perhaps try something that might be more of a reach? How about deduction games? I’d like to hear what has worked, and what hasn’t too.


  1. Hey, Jim! There appears to be a significant division of ages in your group. It might be difficult for the younger children to play the games I would recommend for “non-gaming”, but willing adults. So, I’ll note where I feel the games are limited or have good crossover potential. Some of these games may be difficult to locate.


    Ticket to Ride – As you mentioned, this is an excellent introductory game for adults, yet also engaging for dedicated gamers.

    Take it Easy / Connections – Excellent choices, as they are both easy to teach and learn.

    Take 6 – Fun card game that can accommodate a lot of folks — up to 12, I believe. Children should be able to play this, too.

    Great Dalmuti – Another fun card game that should be playable by nearly all ages. I heartily recommend using funny hats and forcing folks to change seats as their roles change.

    David & Goliath – Very fun game that should be easy to teach, but may be a bit too nasty for young children.

    Time’s Up – My favorite party game. It never fails to entertain and cause lots of laughter. It does require Charade-like performances, so any shy folks in your group may not enjoy this.

    Reverse Charades – GREAT party game that gets everyone involved.

    Hilarium – Another great party game that never fails to cause uproarious laughter. Warning: It is VERY noisy!

    Gumball Rally – Light, fun racing game that is also appropriate for children. Plus, it is designed by Ted Cheatham!

    10 Days series – Another excellent choice, as it is easy to teach and play. It is Racko meets geography! Certainly something both children and adults can enjoy.

    Parade – Fun card game with interesting twists. May be a bit beyond the younger children’s ability to grasp.

    Igel Argern – Older race game that has dozens of different variants. Both adults and children just love racing those hedgehogs!

    Ave Caesar – Light race game that has enough card management and a touch of nastiness that adults should enjoy. Young children who have not et learned the spirit of competition might be a bit put-off by the slightly nasty edge.

    Bazaar – Classic Sid Sackson game that is easy to teach and play, but has some interesting choices.

    Relationship Tightrope / Drahtseilakt – Fun, challenging card game that children may be able to play, but is more for adults.

    Vegas – Dice rolling fun, but with some interesting choices. A bit of nastiness that might be off-putting to the young children.

    5ive Straight – Great partnership game of trying to get five pegs in a row. I heartily recommend this.

    Swat! – Fast, fun card game of collecting scoring sets. Lots of table-slapping that could get out of hand with young children.

    Just 4 Fun – Very similar to 5ive Straight. Very good game. Only plays with four players.

    Zirkus Flohcati – Knizia designed card game that is easy to learn and play … and fun!

    I could go on and on, but hopefully this will provide some good options.

  2. Lighter games that play more people…

    Escape: The Curse of the Temple. Bang! Citadels Zooloretto 7 Wonders Dominion

    two copies of Roll Through the Ages, and San Juan

    Frank Hamrick

  3. I’d recommend Resistance. Even with non-gamers, it only takes one playthrough to figure out, and it plays quickly. With the right crowd, the game is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had. Not sure what ages I’d recommend for it. We’ve had 9-year-olds play it and it works fine, though they can make a mistake and give something away. So can adults, though. :)

    I’d also recommend Timeline, That’s Life, No Thanks, Incan Gold, Who’s the Ass? (I don’t have Great Dalmuti), and For Sale. Those are my go-to family/non-gamer games.

    The Adventurers is also always a hit with my family. Very light and fun atmospheric/thematic game. And if they can handle the cutthroat aspect, Survive is a blast as well.

  4. A few others that I overlooked:

    Dancing Dice – Fun, dice rolling game that most ages should be able to play.

    Diamant (Incan Gold) – Great introductory, push-your-luck game for all ages.

    King Me! – Another great introductory game that all ages should be able to play.

    Fill or Bust – Fun, fast, push-your-luck dice rolling game. All ages can play this.

  5. Nottingham is not the greatest card game ever, but most people I’ve tried it with have fun with it. It plays 7, and by the nature of game play, you can have one person sort of emcee the game play. (You draw a card each turn and the person decides whether to keep it or use its action, the emcee can remind people of what the action when the card is flipped.)

    In a similar vein, I like the original Beowulf as one where an experienced player can give guidance without actually making decisions or telling the others what to do. This is a hand management game, and can be played thinking 2-3 turns ahead. So you remind people this is what’s happening in this spot, but over the next few turns you’ll also probably need X and Y. It’s a push your luck game, and can have some fun tense moments as people get into small duels of card flipping. Plays five.

    I second the Adventurers recommendation. Either set. These are great looking games that will draw people to the table. Cleopatra and the Society of Architects is another great looking game with decent game play, though possibly a bit more complex and less frenetic than the Adventurers.

    King of Tokyo should appeal to the younger (and young at heart).

    Dixit is a good game for an imaginative group.

    For trivia style games, I’ve had a lot of fun with mixed groups playing Smarty Party, and it plays up to 8. It goes around in a circle with each person giving one answer from a list, so it’s not something where the person with the most trivia knowledge is going to dominate.

  6. I’ll throw out a couple/few, even though Greg did a phenomenal job (and I’m adding a few to my future list). Nothing below is so important to purchase if you don’t already have it.

    Word on the Street – tug of war for two teams; we have had success with multi-generations. Can pretty easily play to 10-12 participants.

    Bananagrams – each person has their own crossword puzzle, game says plays to 8, though you might want an upper limit of 6-7. And it will feel familiar to those that play scrabble. I know you didn’t want any more word games, but maybe this would be something for them while opening them open to the idea of other games they didn’t know existed can be fun (or something like that).

    Risk (reinvented) – the newer version (make sure it says 3 ways to win) will be comfortable to most but has just a few twists, namely winning is objective based instead of trying to conquer the world. Game time is closer to 60-90 minutes and gives the “Risk” feel without the duration. And you might be able to find one on craigslist for $5-10.

    Good luck,

  7. Thank you all for your recommendations. I’ll be picking a few new games up to take along in a few weeks, and giving them away at the end of the reunion.

    I should mention that this group has already been exposed (at previous get togethers) to Time’s Up and to The Great Dalumuti. Indeed, we generally made ‘crowns’ out of whatever we had at hand, and the Lesser Peon is always in charge of refreshing drinks and getting snacks.

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