My Top 10 Board Games

During the summer time, my daughters spend Monday through Friday with me. We set aside one night a week to be family game night. Even during the school year, when they’re with me most weekends, we regularly play games together. Because of this tradition and it being the middle of summer time, I decided to let them help me out with this month’s Top 10 list.

I’m counting down our favorite BOARD GAMES. Your favorites may differ, but these are the ones we play (or have played) regularly.


#10 – Candy Land

My oldest daughter is 15, and my twins are 12, and they insisted that Candy Land be on the list. Maybe they were being nostalgic (well, as nostalgic as their ages allow) and wanted something from their younger days. We debated Chutes and Ladders, but they liked the simplicity of Candy Land—merely moving ahead to the next colored space or far ahead/back to one of the character spaces. I remember them all wanting to be the one to draw the Princess Frostine card, not because it would move them closer to the finish but because she was a princess!


#9 – Blokus

Every Christmas, there are three games under the tree, one addressed to each child, though the games are really for all three of them. After all, with the three of them and me, there are four of us, which is pretty much the perfect number to play most games. One year, this was one of the games, and none of us had heard of it. The daughter who unwrapped the gift didn’t look too pleased. Well, after playing it once, it became the hit of that Christmas season! It’s a strategy game with Tetris-like pieces, and the goal is to get as many of your pieces on the board while blocking your opponents. The catch is that you can only place your pieces touching only the corners of your previously placed pieces. You can touch sides of other players’ pieces. Thus, it’s a simple game to learn how to play but there’s strategy to master.


#8 – Bonkers

This was a game I remember from my own youth in the 1970s. Somehow, it popped into my head a couple years ago. I thought my kids would like it, so I searched eBay, found it, and bought it. There were some subtleties in the rules I didn’t remember, but once I figured them out, it turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s a continuous track game board, and after rolling the dice and moving, players place a card on their spot on the track. The cards instruct players to go forward or backward a certain number of places, with the goal to get to the “Score” spaces and not the “Lose” space. What makes it cool is that the board will look different every game because of the variety and variability of the movement cards. That, along with the long path combinations that can be made, are why my girls enjoy it.


#7 – Life

I’ve played Life with my daughters, and it’s different than how it was when I was younger. You can change careers now in the game! There are new spaces to reflect contemporary society. But the basic gameplay is still the same—go through life and make as much money as you can, navigating the financial and social ups and downs of the twisty-turny board. I remember many games landing on more “a boy/girl is born” spaces than I had room in my little car token! It’s a fun game, and I love playing it with them.


#6 – Scrabble

My girls are only starting to get into Scrabble, and they’re familiar enough with it from Words With Friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love Words With Friends because I can play with my friends whenever I have a chance to make a move. But you don’t necessarily need to know the words in WWF—it won’t let you play something that’s not a word, so you can guess. Can’t do that with Scrabble. Sure, you can put down something that looks like a word but isn’t, but you open yourself up to a challenge. That’s where being a science teacher has come in handy for me, as I’ve played science words that a particular opponent didn’t know, only to emerge unscathed from her challenge and ultimately win the game!


#5 – Quelf

Maybe you haven’t heard of this game, but you should. I’m part of a Meetup group that meets regularly to play board and/or team games, and this was one that was in our rotation. After playing it once, I knew it was a game my girls would enjoy. There are five different decks of cards, and you draw one based on which color space you’re on. There’s silly, obscure multiple-choice trivia. There’s a fun round-robin category listing task. Others make you draw or act something out. If you get the question right or complete the task, then great. If not, you take a penalty, which is going back a certain amount of spaces. Then there are rule cards, and breaking the rules bring about penalties. For example, my oldest daughter had a rule card that required her to say “Serves you right, Captain Poopy-Pants” whenever someone went back spaces. I had to pick one of my opponents and, during her turn, convince her to join the Dark Side, but I had to say it like Darth Vader. The game could last a long time with broken rules and penalties, but it’s always going to bring about laughs.


#4 – Pictionary

Every summer, I introduce a new “classic” game into their repertoire. This summer, it was Pictionary, and it was a blast. We played several games, mixing and matching the teams as best we can—right now, each team gets one of the twins. My girls are really bright, and they’re also artistic, so I was impressed by many of the drawings they created. I think back to a game of Pictionary I played with friends in college. One friend on the other team had to draw the word WHAT—obviously in the “difficult” category. I think I would have been completely stymied about what to do, but what my friend did was extremely clever. He drew something, and as his teammate guessed, he scribbled over the drawing and started a second unrelated drawing. As his teammate guessed on that one, he scribbled it out and went to a third unrelated drawing until the teammate screamed, “What is it?” And now I’ve taught all my followers how do draw the word WHAT in Pictionary.


#3 – Clue

I started them on Clue Jr. when they were younger—learning who ate the piece of cake, when they did it, and with which beverage. Then I moved them up to real classic Clue. Now we play other versions, particularly Harry Potter, also. But I didn’t just teach them the rules, I taught them how to really play—to pay attention to everyone’s guess and then who wasn’t showing them cards. After all, if you can figure out which cards nobody has, then those cards must be in the envelope! The result is that any one of us can win the game, and usually, at least two of us reach the conclusion around the same time, and the winner just comes down to whose turn comes first. Then, after the game, the girls all show off and announce who had which cards! And while we’re on the subject of Clue, Mrs. White, the maid, is being retired from the game and replaced by Dr. Orchid—a female with a Ph.D. About time!


#2 – Monopoly

Here’s another game that I taught my girls many of the subtleties to win. Trading has to happen because the game stalls until people build houses and hotels. The orange and red monopolies are the most successful. There’s a big jump in rent between two houses and three houses. There are only a limited number of houses in the game, so not building all the way to hotels can block other players from serious building and serious rent collecting. Sure, these skills are important to win, but there’s still an element of dice-rolling luck, so any of the four of us can win. We have a few different editions of Monopoly, such as the Red Sox and Doctor Who versions, and we also enjoy Monopoly Empire, which is a version of the game that ends quicker. The girls chose it as number two, so the only thing the game didn’t have a monopoly on was the top spot.


Before getting to Number One, here are five games that aren’t played on or with a board, but they’re ones we play and therefore deserve an Honorable Mention:

Family Feud – We only play this one when we’re with extended family (I have three nephews), and it’s always lots of fun.

Jenga – Gotta love this game, particularly how tense it gets when the tower gets higher, and then how the tension is gone when it collapses.

Scattegories – I was thrilled when I learned my girls had played this elsewhere when I gave it to them. Almost as thrilled as when I name that one thing in a category no one else thinks of.

Taboo – Perhaps my personal favorite game on this list, mostly for the really cool buzzer that comes with it.

Uno – How much fun is it to play the “Draw Four Wild Card” on someone who only has one card left?



#1 – RISK

I think back to a few summers ago when I introduced Risk to my girls. Because the game can last long, we started immediately after an early supper ended. They seemed a little intimidated by the number of pieces involved, but they liked that the game board was a map of the world. I explained the game to them, even showed a practice attack and redeployment, and then we played. By random assignment of territories, I started the game with half of Australia, so I took over the rest—a typical strategy of mine. We played for about an hour or so, building up armies, each of us controlling about one-fourth of the board, and then they asked for dessert. I went into the kitchen to make ice cream sundaes and then I returned to the game. An hour later, I was the first to be conquered, and my three girls started laughing hysterically. While I was away from the table, they allied themselves together to eliminate me. Yeah, they’re quick learners, and since then, I don’t leave the table when we play!


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