You won't find most of these games in Walmart, Target, or Toys R Us. However, you can find some of them in specialty game stores. In Greater Boston consider:
I just found the following website for locating game stores near a zip code:
Game Store Database. Double check their information because I see some of it is out of date for Boston.
The Games Themselves
When someone asks you to play a game that you haven't heard of you should ask the following two questions:
Here are my recommended games. I own all of them, have played them a
lot, and are happy to play them again or teach you how to play them.
They are all winners in my book.
Games for younger kids
In addition to my suggestions, consider the "Kids" section on FunAgain located
|Catch the Match -- You turn over any two cards and try to find the one object that exists on both cards. Any number can play and it probably works for age 5 and up. I haven't played for more than 5 minutes at a time.|
|First Hand -- 2 to 6 players ages 6 and up. You have to make your hand match what is on the card in the center of the table. A speed game in which all play at once. Teens have been entertained by this game. Probably good for 10 minutes of fun.|
|Right Turn, Left Turn -- 2 to 8 players ages 6 and up. You have to figure out directions using left and right. A speed game in which all play at once. This game is more of a brain burner than First Hand and people don't seem to like it as much. The two games can be combined to form a game in which you have to follow the directions and then make you hands into a certain shape.|
|Mama Mia -- a card game for 2 to 5 ages 10 and up in which you place pizza ingredients and occasionally order cards into the oven. At the end of each day someone bakes the pizzas and you see who got their orders filled. A mild memory game that may be too complicated for younger kids. No matter what, everyone enjoys the baking activity.|
|TransAmerica -- a mildly competitive track-laying railroad game for 2 to 6 players ages 8 and up. Has a map of the United States and each player has 5 city tickets they must connect together. Consider also TransEuropa. If people like TransAmerica, the next train game to learn is Ticket to Ride.|
you are the ring master directing 3 animals through their paces at the
circus. Plays with 2 to 6 players ahes 8 and up, it can also be
played as a solitare puzzle. The polar bear, elphent, and lion are
cute, large wooden pieces and they respond to 5 commands. In reality,
this is a bit like a computer programming problem; the solution is
never very complicated.
It seems that Jungle Smart is the same game with a different theme and may be slightly less expensive.
Light Games that are a quick teach and quick to play
|Fits -- a game for 1 to 4 players in which you slide Tetris-like pieces down a track and try to fit them together without leaving any gaps. This was a big hit at our 2011 family vacation. The idea is simple and everyone likes the challenge of fitting the pieces together.|
|Blink -- a card game for 2 (or 3) players ages 8 and up that takes 60 (!) seconds to play. Both players play at the same time. Virtually everyone likes this game and wants to play again (and again). It takes 30 to 60 minutes to play all 4 boards, and my experience is that everyone wants to play again.|
Fluxx -- a card game for 2 to 6 players
from ages 8 (you must be able to read) and up. This is a somewhat random game that takes from 2 to 30 minutes per game.
This game can be "taught" in under a minute! The rules start off real simple (deal 3 cards to each player, take turns, and on your turn draw a card and play a card). However, some of the cards you play can change the rules. Some like Fluxx and some hate it. As a computer programmer, I like it. I notice that there are several versions including Family Fluxx (a smaller, easier, family-oriented version for ages 6 and up) and EcoFluxx (created by Alison Looney while she was teaching kids about nature at the Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies).
Take 6 -- a card game for 2 to
10 players for ages 8 and up. Under this name the game is out of print. However, you can get it as
Category 5 (with a hurricane theme). It is also
known as 6 nimmt! (German edition) or
Tag 6! Ta 6! (Scandinavian edition).
Whatever you call it, there are 104 cards numbered from 1 to 104. Each player is dealt 10 cards and 4 cards are placed face up in the middle of the table. In each of 10 rounds players select a card and all reveal at the same time. The cards are added to the playing field from low to high according to certain rules. Unlucky players will collect cards which will count against them. There is strategy to this game and it takes several hands to begin to understand how it works. Plays best with 4-6 players but works with 2-10. The mechanism of everyone picking a card and showing at the same time makes the turns go quickly. Real gamers use this game as a filler while waiting for other games to end. You can play any number of hands -- usually 3-4.
I sometimes ask people if they want a game with numbers or colors and, depending on the answer, show them Take 6 or Coloratto.
|Coloretto -- a card game for 3 to 5 players ages 8 and up. You are trying to collect many cards of your 3 colors (which can change as the game progresses) and none (or few) of the other colors. The game causes you to make hard decisions and greedy players end up with a lot of different colors.|
|Blokus -- this is a colorful tile-laying game (pieces similar to those in Tetris) for those with good spatial skills. It plays 2 to 4 players (I prefer 4) ages 5 and up. People like this game and it takes no time to learn.|
|For Sale -- this plays 3 to 6 ages 8 and up. First you spend your limited money bidding on and purchasing houses (the cards have great artwork). For the second half you turn around and sell the houses. The most money wins. The game has two great mechanisms, goes quick, forces tough decisions, and plays in about 15 minutes.|
|No Thanks! -- this plays 3 to 5 ages 8 and up. Each turn you either take a card (usually bad) or pay a chip. No one wants the cards but eventually the bribe gets too large to pass up. Plays in 10-20 minutes and is a good filler game. I love the decision process and seeing how people new to the game handle it.|
|Diamant -- plays 3 to 8 ages 8 and up. The theme is you are going into a cave, collecting as many jewels as possible. However you only get to keep them if you leave the cave before some disaster happens. This is a simple push your luck game that takes about 20 minutes to play. I have used it with people new to gaming and they all like it. I have also played it around a bar where some have been drinking. Push your luck games work well with groups and this one is no exception. It is a little expensive for what you get and it is often out of print. As of 2006, there is an American version called Incan Gold.|
|Incan Gold -- plays 3 to 8 ages 8 and up. This is the rethemed version of Diamant. I own it but haven't played it yet. If I played Diamant with you and you wanted to purchase it, get this version instead.|
|Take It Easy! -- plays 1 to 6 ages 10 and up. As you place small hex tiles on your board, you try to keep the colored lines in each of 3 directions unbroken. Once placed the times can't be moved. When the board is full, each unbroken line scores the length of the line times the number on the line. The largest score wins. Everyone seems to like this game as the mind likes to find patterns. The rules are simple and it takes about 15 minutes to play. One player can be the "caller" which is an activity kids enjoy.|
|Set -- plays 1 or more ages 6 and up. Everyone looks at the 12 cards on the table and tries to find 3 cards that meet a certain property -- the same feature doesn't exist on 2 of the 3 cards. The first to find such a set collect the 3 cards and they are replaced. This game has a steep experience curve. Someone who has played twice can probably beat someone who has never played. Also, it may be better for younger players to practice by themselves. It can be a brain burner, and it can become very competitive. I have also found it useful in situations where people don't speak any language in common.|
Ubongo -- plays 2 to 4 ages 8 and up.
Each player is given a set of cardboard Tetris-like pieces. Everyone
is given a puzzle board and a die is rolled to determine which of the
6 sets of pieces must be used. At the same time players locate their
3 (or 4 if the player is more advanced) pieces and try to fit them
into the space given. Players collect gems based on the order they
finished their puzzle.
I find the gem collection part of the game is lame, but the puzzle part is very strong and often people just want to solve puzzle after puzzle. Good for people who like spatial puzzles. Slightly expensive.
|flowerpower -- a 2 player game (can be played by yourself) for ages 8 and up, The game contains cardboard domino-type tiles with one of 10 flowers on each end. Players "plant" tiles in their garden while attempting to build large patches of identical flowers. There is a common garden in the center of the board which can cause mild conflict. Also, 3 times a game you can plant weeds in your opponents garden in an attempt to disrupt their efforts. Some feel the game is more an activity than a real game. However, better players win more often so there must be some strategy. The competition is mild, the artwork well done, and the game is soothing to play. Unfortunately, it is often out of print.|
& Wagers -- a 4 to 7 player party game for ages 10 and up. This
is a very clever trivia game that works even for people who hate games
like Trival Persuit. Everyone writes down a guess to a question,
places the guesses face up on the betting mat, and bets on which guess
is closest to the correct answer, even if it's not your own. I am not
much into party games, but find this one a winner.
If you have younger kids, consider Wits & Wagers Family for ages 8 and up.
Gateway games which have a little more to them and take about 45 minutes to play
The term "gateway game" refers to a game which avid gamers can enjoy
and which those new to gaming might enjoy and not be overwhelmed. An
interesting discussion of such games took place
here. Some gamers make lists of such games. One such list can be found
In addition to my suggestions, consider the "Family" section on FunAgain located here.
Ticket To Ride -- plays 2 to 5 ages 8 and up.
This is a great train game. Players gain points by laying track and
The rules are simple but the game is ever changing and has more depth and replayability than one might see at first. This game has been so successful that there have been two other, more complicated, versions and you can play all of them online (for free). However, you should get and play this board game first. It plays well with 2 to 5 players but each number of players is slightly different. The board gets crowded with 3 and 5 players and some people refuse to play those versions. People can get in each others way and tension builds to see if you can accomplish your work before someone else blocks you.
If you enjoy this game, consider the Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 expansion.
Dominion -- plays 2 to 4 ages 10 and up.
This is a card game in which you win with victory point but need money
to buy more cards. You start with a small deck of cards containing 3
victory points and 7 copper (worth 1) which you shuffle and place face
down to be your draw pile. Each turn you deal 5 cards into your hand,
may play an action (if you have one) and may buy something with your
money. What you purchase, the cards you played, and the remaining
cards in your hand (!) go into your discard pile, and you deal 5 more
cards for your next hand. If your draw pile is empty, reshuffle and
go again (this happens a lot in the early parts of each game) — some
call it "the shuffle game".
Each game is play with 10 "action" cards. When played, an action card lets you do something good, like draw 3 more cards or take 2 more actions or purchase 2 cards this turn instead of one. Some actions also act against the other players, but there are ways of defending against or mitigating these attacks.
Dominion was the "hot" game of 2009 and there have been 5 expansions with more planned. It plays in 30-45 minutes and, in my experience, partway through the first game a newbie will be saying "wow, this is a great game". Most people will want to play a second and third game. One weekend I played 14 games with my parents.
Each action deck contains 10 copies of the cards. The game contains 25 such decks and a typical game is played with 10 of these 25 selected at random. Part of the skill is deciding how these 10 cards interact and how to gain more money and eventually more victory point faster than the other players.
A few people don't like the game because they feel it is more like group solitare. There is truth in this because the player interactions are not too strong so mostly you are shuffling and dealing your deck and waiting for your turn. My enjoyment comes from seeing how my decisions change the course of the game for me. While I prefer to win, I have enjoyed playing 10 games in a row and only winning one of them.
A Dominion Teaching Idea (For those easily overwhelmed) can be found here.
Carcassonne -- plays 2 to 5 ages 8 and up.
I have always liked games whose board evolves as the game is played.
Carcassonne contains 72 square tiles which contains parts of roads,
cities, farms, and cloisters. Each turn a player draws a tile and
adds it to the evolving board. It must connect to at least one part
of the existing board and whatever edges touch must have their
features match. That is, a road coming out of one time must connect
to a road going into the adjacent tile. After playing a tile the
player may place one of his markers on a feature on that tile to
indicate ownership of that feature. At certain points in the game the
features score points and the player with the most points at the end
I love this game (especially the artwork and the way the game unfolds) and it plays well with 2 to 5 players. It has been very popular and there are many expansion sets available. Each adds more tiles and more rules. Allow new players to master the basic game and you will get a lot of mileage out of this game.
Cartagena -- plays 2 to 5 ages 7 and up.
The theme is pirates escaping from jail in 1672. I consider it
Candyland for adults and it also has a Chinese Checkers aspect to it.
Each turn you do up to three actions. Each action can be to play a
card and advance one of your 6 players to the next available symbol
that matches. This is the Candyland aspect. The other alternative for
an action is to "fall back" (move a piece backwards to the next
occupied space) and collect 1 or 2 new cards. The game has a 2 steps
forward, 1 step backward aspect. If someone creates a chain of, for
example, most of the "hat" symbols then the next player to play a hat
can get a man from the jail all the way to the boat. This is the
Chinese Checker part of the game -- creating and using long chains of
The game is a great 2 player game and also works well for 3 and 4. I find that 5 players can drag if people aren't quick taking their turn. The board is made up of 6 2-sided pieces which are mixed up and set up different each game. The game has been in and out of print so get it when you can.
|Ra -- plays 3 to 5 ages 12 and up. This is a clever auction game with an ancient Egypt theme. My folks like it and I have played it 100's of times. It has been out of print but is available again. Get it while you can.|
Lost Cities -- 2 player card game for ages 10 and up.
The theme is that you are going on up to 5 expeditions (by playing
cards from 2 to 10). Your score on each expedition is the sum of the
cards you played minus 20. So, before committing to go on a trip,
make sure you can make it. The catch is that the cards must be played
in increasing order and you only can hold 7 cards in your hand. You
will most likely have to start a trip and hope you get the necessary
cards to score well.
I have played many hands of Lost Cities and really enjoy it. It is one of the best 2-player quick teach games. Each hand takes about 10 minutes and we usually play 3 hands for a game.
|Can't Stop -- 2 to 4 players age 10 and up. This is a very clever push your luck dice rolling game. It is a bit more mathematical than Diamont (above) and players will need (or develop) a gut feel for the chances of rolling 4 dice and having a pair of them equal, say, 5. At each dice roll all progress on this turn is at risk. At some point you decide to stop (and consolidate your gains) or roll again and go bust (losing all progress this turn). It is a great game.|
Games that take at least 10 minutes to explain and 90 minutes to play
Many of these games have rules that will appear overly complicated if
you aren't used to these kinds of games. It is often better for
someone who knows the game to teach and play it with you. Usually
after one or two plays you will feel confident playing by yourself or
even teaching it to someone else. In other words, the games
aren't that complicated, and often have a logical flow that
just "makes sense" once you start playing.
In addition to my suggestions, consider the "Strategy" section on FunAgain located here.
Settlers of Catan -- 3 to 4 players age 12 and up.
Created in 1995, this is the game that started the Euro-game
revolution. It certainly got me back into gaming.
In 2009 Wired Magazine wrote a great article about it available
spawned several expansions and similar games. Get and learn the basic
game first and then figure out where you want to go next. I enjoy the
5 and 6 player expansion and the Seafarers of Catan (including its 5
and 6 player expansion). I haven't been a big fan of the Cities &
Knights expansion but I may not have given it a fair shake. Also, I
never really enjoyed the 2-player Settlers card game, but others
really like it.
The board consists of an island composed of hexagon shaped tiles (a new board every game) surrounded by water and trading port hexagons. There are 5 different types of hexagons (brick, wood, wheat, sheep, and mineral) and each hexagon was assigned a number between 2 and 12 as the game was set up. After an initial placement phase everyone will have two settlements (each at the intersection of 3 hexes) and two roads (along the cracks between hexes). The game is one of obtaining resources (by good positioning of settlements, lucky dice rolls, and skillful trades) and using the resources to build more roads, settlements, and upgrading settlements into cities. First player to 10 victory points wins.
If you want to get this game and not have someone teach you, consider the the following version which has a two step learning process and better written rules: Simply Catan. From what I have read this starts with a slightly easier to learn and faster game first (fixed setup, 7 points game, no development cards) and has an advanced version you can progress to later. It may also have higher quality components than the Mayfair version.
St. Petersburg -- 2 to 4 players age 10 and up.
In this game you use money to purchase cards which give you money or
victory points (or both). You need to spend money to get more money
but in the end the game is won in victory points so to have to balance
things. The game usual takes 6 rounds and in each round three
different types of cards appear and pay off -- workers, buildings, and
nobles. Finally there are special upgrade cards.
The game can be taught quickly and the special cards explained if/when they actually turn up. There are multiple strategies to this game and I have played over 100 games of it and especially like the artwork.
In 2008 the "New Society" expansion was introduced which I also enjoy playing. There is also a version of this game for the PC which allows you to play computer opponents. You can play a game in 5-10 minutes. It can be found here in the "downloads area".
Notre Dame -- 2 to 5 players age 10 and up.
I was first shown this in August and it is my current favorite.
Set in Paris at the end of the 14th century, players juggle money and influence markers at they attempt to control their rat population (to avoid being plagued) and earn victory points. The play is fast, the decisions important, and sometimes you have to go with the flow. While I do well in this game, I have used a variety of strategies so there is no magic formula.
The game board has a clever shape which allows it to reconfigure for 3, 4, and 5 players. The two player version uses the 4 player board.
This is one of those games that most people want to play again immediately so they can tweak their strategy. Also, you aren't worn out after one game (perhaps after 4 games :-).
|Stone Age -- 2 to 4 players age 10 and up. I love this worker placement game for its clean design. It is not as complex as Agricola (described below) or have the fiddly rules that plague Egizia and leaves you with the "I want to play again" feeling. You start with a family of 5 and can grow it up to 10. You start with some food and need to get more throughout the game as you use it to feed your family. You also obtain various amounts of the 4 other resources which allow you to buy cards and build buildings for victory points. Your economic engine can be helped by growing your family, obtaining tools (which help with the dice rolls), and farming (which reduce the need for food).|
|Thurn and Taxis -- 2 to 4 players age 10 and up. The theme is building postal routes in Europe in the 1700's. You have to work with the cards available to you, plan routes and collect victory points before the other players. I like this game.|
Thurn and Taxis: Power and Glory -- 2 to 4 players age 10 and up.
This is sold as an expansion set to Thurn and Taxis. However, all you
need from the original Thurn and Taxis are the houses. Everything
else is new -- game board, city cards, etc. The game play is slightly
different from the original. I believe that if I were teaching one of
the Thurn and Taxis games to someone new, I would teach this one
first. It is simpler to learn and more forgiving for a new player.
Having played over 100 games of both versions of Thurn and Taxis, we enjoy both. Both work well as two player games.
Puerto Rico -- 3 to 5 players age 12 and up.
Currently the #2 rated Euro-game and one of my favorites. It is a
little complicated to teach but really logical to play (to me anyway).
Each player has a mat representing the island of Puerto Rico with a plantation in the south and a city in the north. On a turn a player picks a role and then everyone does that action. Roles include getting a free crop for your plantation, buying a building for your city, getting workers for your crops or buildings, causing production to happen which may give you barrels of goods, trading those good in the trading house for money, or shipping the barrels of goods for victory points. This is another game in which you need money to get more money and victory points to win the game. You need a strategy for each. On your turn you are trying to do what helps you the most and helps the other players the least.
There are several ways to play this with two players and I enjoy that version, also.
There is an expansion which adds variety for experienced players. There is also a PC version available which I have not played.
Power Grid -- 2 to 6 players age 12 and up.
In this game you spend money to purchase power plants (at auction),
fuel for those plants, and cities (including interconnect costs). You
get money back by burning the fuel and powering cities. We go around
that loop until the game ends and see who built and powered the most
cities. You are competing with the other players every step of the
way: power plant auction, purchasing fuel (4 main types of fuel and
the price goes up the later you buy), and building cities (we are on
the same map and can get in each others' way).
Some may find the game a little dry or a little bit of a brain burner, but it has depth and I like it. It comes with a double sided board so you can play the USA map or Germany. There are several expansion maps (e.g., France & Italy, Benelux & Eastern Europe). They also make slight rules changes which reflect the energy policy in those areas.
McMulti -- 2 to 4 players ages 10 and up.
Each player owns their own 6x6 plot of land and can purchase oil wells
(which may strike oil and turn into pumpers), refineries (turn oil
into gas), or gas stations (sell gas to the retail market).
Competition is through oil and gas markets. The more barrels of oil I
sell into the market, the cheaper it is for other players to purchase
barrels of oil from the market. Same for barrels of gas.
This simulation-type game was created in 1988, is out of print, and highly sought after with used games going for $100 - $500 on eBay. I enjoy playing this with 4 and will play with 3.
|Ticket To Ride: Europe -- 2 to 5 players ages 8 and up. Slightly more complicated than the original Ticket To Ride (so play it first). The map is of 1900 Europe and the games has been changed to allow you to more easily recover from being blocked (with stations). Everyone starts with one long trip and several short trips. No longer can you blame losing on not getting a long trip on the initial deal. The game also adds tunneling which has some uncertainty to it and ferries which require the locomotive cards.|
|Ticket To Ride: Marklin -- 2 to 5 players ages 8 and up. Currently my favorite in the Ticket To Ride series (but play the original one a few times first). This version has a third attempt to make the distribution of tickets fair -- there are two deck (short trips and long trips) and you choose from which you take your tickets. The main addition to the game is merchandise and passengers who ride your trains and collect the goodies. There are no stations so the stress of completing your tickets is back.|
|Ticket to Ride: Switzerland -- 2 to 3 players ages 8 and up. This is a slightly shorter version of the game with a map set in Switzerland and with a few other twists. I really like this version. It only plays 2 or 3 and you have 5 less trains to place.|
|Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries -- 2 to 3 players ages 8 and up. Like the Switzerland version, this is a slightly shorter version of the standard game with a map set in Nordic Countries. I got this for Christmas 2008 and have played it about 5 times so far.|
Tikal -- 2 to 4 players ages 10 and up.
Another game with hex-shaped tiles whose board evolves as the game
progresses. You are on an expedition exploring Tikal in search of
hidden temples and treasure. Each turn you get 10 "action points" to
spend on moving people, digging on temples (increasing their value),
digging on treasure (which you keep in your hand), or several other
actions. There are 4 scoring rounds in the game and each temple
scores to the person who has the most men on that hex.
You always have lots of decisions -- logistics of getting men to where you need them, when to dig, what to defend, when to give up and go elsewhere. It is a good game but can drag with 3 or 4 players or when someone overthinks their turn. You are not involved when it is not your turn.
Acquire -- 3 to 6 players ages 12 and up.
This game is from 1962 and I still have my 1966 version. It is now available
As the game progresses hotel chains will be created, grow, and merge to form even larger chains. Each turn you may purchase up to 3 shares of stock (the price depends on the size of the chain). Your stock increases in value as the chain gets larger. However a big payoff is holding the most stock in a chain that is merged out of existence as you get paid a bonus. With some luck and some skill, you will have the largest net worth at the end of the game after all bonuses are paid and all stock sold.
RoboRally -- 2 to 8 players ages 12 and up.
You program your robot through an obstacle course in an attempt be the
first to touch the flag markers in order. The programming is easy --
you are dealt cards with instructions like forward (1, 2, or 3 spaces),
backward, turn left, turn right, or turn around. You program the next
5 actions for your robot. The obstacles include walls, conveyer
belts, pushers, lasers, and the robots of the other players.
The fun comes when we all execute our first instruction, then the next, etc. Often someone miscalculates and it can be funny to see what happens. Also, as we all race to touch the first flag we tend to get in each others way. The game has rules for resolving conflicts and one of you won't be where you expect after a conflict. Every robot has a laser and fires it at the end of each program card so some robots will take some damage. Increased damage limits your programming options and eventually you must shut down for repair or die and use up one of your 3 lives.
There isn't a lot of down time since everyone programs at the same time and then moves at the same time. I would have enjoyed playing this game as a kid but it wasn't invented until 1994. I still enjoy it now and there aren't a lot of games that get better with more players. You need the robot interaction so try to have at least 4 people in the game.
|Maharaja -- 2 to 5 players ages 12 and up. Another game of several alternatives each turn with limited resources. This time you are building houses and palaces and traveling from city to city in India. The maharaja visits one city each turn and pays money to the people who have built the best in that city.|
|The Princes of Florence -- 3 to 5 players ages 12 and up. You are head of an Italian Aristocratic dynasty and build buildings, cultivate parts, and invite artists and scholars to create fine works in your court. This game has some auctions and a lot of resource management. I don't find it has quite the logical "flow" of Puerto Rico but it is still a good game. Some people like the Tetris aspect of fitting the buildings together in their Palazzi.|
|Goa -- 2 to 4 players ages 12 and up. You are trading spices in a game that requires lots of resourcce management and decisions. We like it.|
Agricola -- 1 to 5 players ages 12 and up.
In Agricola (Latin for "farmer"), you're a farmer in a wooden shack
with your spouse and little else. On a turn, you get to take only two
actions, one for you and one for the spouse, from all the
possibilities you'll find on a farm: collecting clay, wood or stone;
building fences; and so on. You might think about having kids in order
to get more work accomplished, but first you need to expand your
house. And what are you going to feed all the little rugrats?
This is currently the #1 rated game and I really like it. It is complicated, and even playing the "family" version is complicated. However, it has a good flow to it and people seem to like it.
Other game resources
Revised: $Date: 2010/10/07 15:50:08 $