Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Top 5 Classic/Family Board Games

I’m afraid with today’s entry, you’re not going to see the... best of our gaming sensibilities. You won’t see any mention today of games like Chaos in the Old World or Bohnanza. That’s not to say the games we’re going to talk about suck, but it does mean I’m going to admit to loving at least 2 or 3 games I don’t get much chance to play or talk about. The Gamer Wife and I have decided to share our top 5 classic board/family games. The rule is simple: each game has to be available in most major brick and mortar stores like Target, Wal-Mart, or Toys R Us. We've each chosen our top 5 games separtely and come together to form our side-by-side lists and would encourage any willing readers to step forward with their top 5 as well in the comments section below. Brace yourself for some non-regulated trading, pull up the color-coded random movement cards, and roll the dice on some family fun.

5. Hopeless Gamer: Connect Four The Gamer Wife: Puzzles

HG: I’d like to think that I started my top 5 out with a game that actually offers up quite a bit of strategy by playing strictly by the rules. A lot of the games found on the shelves of Wal-Mart require a lot of finagling and rules tweaks to make fun. Connect Four is pure strategy. Who needs games like Go or Chess when you can play vertical checkers (it’s not vertical checkers)? This one makes the cut because it’s the first game I can remember being good - no, practically unbeatable - at.

GW: I know I’m toeing the line on including this, but there’s something incredibly relaxing about sitting down with a 1,000-piecer and letting your mind go blank for a few hours. Some people meditate; I love puzzles.

4. THG: Sorry! GW: The Game of Life

THG: Here’s were we go downhill, and it was all going so well! I make no apologies for my love of Sorry! the game. There is no regret for me when I express my love for a game that anyone can mindlessly play amongst friend and family and share a drink with around the holidays. No, I am not sorry one bit for my love of this mercilessly-viscious game of familial color-coded revenge.

GW:  I haven’t actually played this game in years and I doubt it would be much fun as an adult, but I have such fond memories of playing it as a kid that I had to include it. There was something so real and significant about choosing your career path and putting those little pink and blue pegs in your little car to represent a growing family. For me, this game represents the innocence of youth and the feeling of having your whole life ahead of you.

3. THG: Scategories GW: Monopoly 

THG: Contrary to what the Gamer Wife might tell you, I do not hate playing all games where letters and words are a central focus. Scategories has the excellent advantage of bringing people with very different backgrounds towards some common ground and a good scoring structure to play a game with. This game rewards you for having lived your life and being able to draw upon it. Everyone likes music, but thinking of a singer that starts with “G” could neat you “Gwen Stefani” or “George Harrison” - both valid answers from (very likely) two very different people.

GW: I know most people hate this game (The Hopeless Gamer topping the list!), but I frickin’ love it and think that if you find it boring, you’re playing it wrong. My Monopoly is cutthroat and ruthless and entirely based on the wheeling and dealing aspect – a sort of Monopoly merged with Diplomacy, and I’m damn good at it… I guess it’s not surprising that no one ever wants to play with me…

2. THG: Jenga! GW: Risk

THG: It’s true that my love of Jenga actually stems from Dread - the quirky horror RPG that uses a Jenga tower for its conflict resolution system, but since then I’ve really grown to love the little nerve-wracking wooden tower. Although I haven’t bought any of the numerous variants out there that have popped up, I’d love to give them a shot. Add in the fact that Jenga is the granddaddy dexterity game of them all, and there’s no better representative of the genre to put on the list. 

GW: A serious game of Risk is like a night of heavy drinking – it seems like a great idea beforehand and is a ton of fun during, but ends in tears, bad feelings, and a vow to never do it again (but somehow you always do). Sincerely, I don’t know that I actually *like* Risk, but at the same time, I love it and crave it like a druggie craves their next fix.

1. THG: Risk GW: Scrabble

THG: Anyone who knows me knows that this is the boardgame that made me take the leap from no gaming to the hardcore Hopeless Gamer I am today. There would be no blog if it wasn’t for this game. I played the hell out of this thing all through high school and college. Although the average number of Risk games played per year nowadays has greatly decreased in favor of games like Dust, A Game of Thrones, or even Tide of Iron, this one is still the classic it’s always been (even with the very nice newer rules additions with the latest edition). I think everyone who has ever stepped inside a gaming shop has probably long before then played a game or a hundred of Risk.

GW: As an English major and word nerd, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this one. I enjoy that it’s a game you can actually get better at by studying, and love scoring the big points with words like “aa” and “qat.” It’s just too bad that what I call strategy, the Hopeless Gamer calls cheating, and I usually have to trade a game of Scrabble for a few rounds of the Game of Thrones LCG.

That's it! If you'd like to comment on who has the better list (specifically the list without monopoly or scrabble on it), please leave a comment so the wife and I can have quantifiable evidence to show who has a better taste in classic board gaming!


  1. Could I make a Top 5? I don't know, but I have to agree with GW: If you find Monopoly boring you're not playing it right. My mother would accuse me of not "playing nice" when I refused to pay rent that my brothers forgot to ask for before rolling the dice. I tried to point out that the rules clearly stated I didn't have to pay, but apparently that wasn't ok with Mom. Monopoly should be as ruthless as Diplomacy.

    Besides Monopoly, which my family stopped playing with me by the time I turned 12, here's 5 games I remember playing before I started seriously playing board games (as if there was ever a time I wasn't seriously playing board games).

    Clue (& Clue: Master Detective)
    Trivial Pursuit
    Axis & Allies (when my buddies & I played it was found in Toys R Us!)
    and in case you don't want to count A&A:
    Bargain Hunter

  2. Haha, fantastic! I feel so vindicated! :D

    Uno's a good one... lots of fun memories of playing that one with my dad. Bargain Hunter I'm not familiar with, but will investigate - never too late to add a new classic board game to the collection!

  3. One of our favorites that is available in the big box stores is Sequence. It covers many age ranges and can scale from 2 players to many many more (we've had up to 12).

  4. Good group of games. Although I'm not sure how puzzles work into this batch. Since it's not multi-player.


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