The typical U.S. family has a deck of cards and a few games in the closet. Most have heard of few, if any, of the best family games to come out in recent years. This is too bad, because quite a few of these games are far more fun and interesting than just about every game invented before 1995.
This article profiles 5 modern strategy games that are terrific for the whole family, including ours.
Imagine you are the leader of a Stone Age tribe. To survive and prosper, your tribe must hunt for food, develop agriculture, gather resources, make and use tools, construct buildings, raise children, and develop civilization. If your tribe doesn’t strike the right balance, your people may starve, or may be surpassed by neighboring tribes.
You can experience all this with a game I strongly recommend for families:
Many modern games attempt to have some kind of theme. However, you know a theme is not transporting you to another time and place when you think primarily about optimizing efficient placement of colored cubes. That pretty much sums up many modern “Euro” games: Place colored cubes efficiently.
When we play Stone Age, the board components and graphics combine beautifully with game mechanics to immerse us in a way that’s rare for a board game. We feed people, we gather wood, we build buildings . . . And if our people don’t eat, they starve. It even comes with a dice-rolling cup made of rawhide. Please pass the stinky cup!
Dominion, which often takes less than 30 minutes to play, fits my sister’s criteria well. If I were to recommend a family collection of fewer than 10 board or card games to own, this would be one of them. It would be my top pick for very busy households.
The rest of this review combines two articles into one:
Description of Dominion’s game play and what makes it so good for such a wide variety of families
Magic the Gathering is a very popular collectible card game. Kids and adults who seriously pursue this game will stretch their minds and have loads of fun. However . . .
Magic the Gathering can be very expensive.
Some people end up spending thousands of dollars per year buying cards or participating in drafts. There is a collectible aspect to the game that can become more like addictive gambling or playing the lottery, leading to the phrase “cardboard crack.” Some people open hundreds or even thousands of packs of cards per year.
This post was inspired by a conversation with a worried parent and was initially intended as a parent guide, explaining how to get most of the fun and benefits of playing Magic while spending no more than the cost of a typical board game along with several expansions. The intent was also to approach the cost aspect of Magic as a tremendous financial learning experience far beyond the typical benefits of games.
However, now that I’ve finished this guide, I think it’s also useful for newer Magic players of all ages who want to maximize fun and minimize cost.