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Every week the EFG staff will be defining a gaming term that is either confusing or ill-defined. Please leave a comment with any terms you find confusing and we will try to include them in future editions!


The gaming definition this week is applicable to board games and tabletop role-playing games, the term applies widely beyond gaming:

Analysis Paralysis

The term Analysis Paralysis is common in board games. However, it is applicable in all gaming, and within decision-making in work and life in general. With Analysis Paralysis many choices are available, often too many choices. The decision maker out of anxiety or a fear of making the wrong decision my take excessive time making their decision, or in extreme cases make no decision at all.

In-game settings, the player spends an excessive amount of time considering their options and plotting the implications. This excessive time can often negatively impact other players by extending the game time and forcing long waits between turns. Often players overthink their options. It can be very frustrating for other players in the game when the gameplay time is extended for this reason. These long wait times take away from the game experience of other players. There are multiple ways to address and mitigate some of the decision making which will be discussed below.

History:

The idea of being paralyzed by decision-making is an old one. We can see a reference to it, though not used by name, in Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Cat. The fable tells of a Fox and Cat that each has tricks to escape the hounds. The cat only had one trick and the Fox had “a whole sackful”. Once threatened by the hounds, that cat did its one trick for an escape without hesitation. The Fox meanwhile started and restarted with different tricks and was unable to escape. You can read the full story here. The idea of the fable is that one may have so many options their failure to act on any of them can be detrimental.

The phrase Analysis Paralysis is credited with being paired together in an 1803 pronouncing dictionary. These words became paired for their rhyming, and also for the memorable phrase they created. The concept has long existed but this phrasing captured it in a more concise manner.

Ways Minimize Analysis Paralysis

With Analysis Paralysis being an old problem, there is a classic game that has come up with a solution. In Chess, players can use a Chess Clock. This is a special clock with two clocks so players can track their available time to make their moves.

Strategies to Minimize Analysis Paralysis in Gaming:

  • Timers/chess clock: By limiting time it reduces the negative impact on other players. A timer provides incentives to prevent overanalyzing the choices, as well as a hard stop to analyzing choices.
  • Choose games with limited choices per turn. By starting with fewer choices it reduces the need for a long analysis of choices.
  • Slowly include games that add more choices. Rather than jumping right to a game with many choices, try to increase the game complexity and choices available incrementally to build the habit of a short decision-making time.
  • Perfect decisions are not the key, so building a culture where perfection is not the goal. The culture at a gaming session is critical to the comfort of players overall, but it can play a major factor in decision-making. If a player feels safe to take a risk and not worry about negative comments they may not be so fixated on making the “right” move.
  • Focus on your main objective, if there are multiple. In more complex games there are usually multiple parts of the game and aspects to focus on. When there are many decisions to make, it can be helpful to go back to the main objective to limit the scope of your choices.

Strategies To Minimize Analysis Paralysis Outside of Gaming

  • Focus on your main objective, if there are multiple: Just like in gaming, when there are multiple objectives, what is the main or most important one. Use that to guide your focus and narrow the relevant choices.
  • Set a time frame/ timer: Create a hard time limit if one does not already exist. Time limits help to focus the analysis by having a firm ending time.
  • Prioritize the Options: Try to eliminate some of the less optimal options. One great strategy is making a list so you can see the options and then cross off less important or optimal options.
  • Take a break: If you are able to, take a break from analyzing your choices. By stepping away from the active analysis you can come back with fresh eyes to the options to aid in decision-making.
  • Ask for Advise: If there is an expert or someone more experienced you can seek their insights and thoughts. They may have a valuable perspective to focus on the most important options you have in your decision-making.

Final Thoughts

Analysis Paralysis is often a term used in gaming, but is certainly not limited to gaming. Many of the strategies above can be applied to all aspects of decision-making. If you find yourself frozen, and struggling to make a decision see if one or more strategy helps you.


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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A lot of gamer parents ask us about how to get started with playing tabletop RPGs with their kids. In fact, we’ve given (and heard) so much advice that we thought we would just put it all down on a page and publish it here on EFG!

This list isn’t the be all and end all for playing RPGs with your children, but this is going to be a great place to start. Take a look below, and make sure to let us know in the comments if we missed anything.

Note: Most of the text here will refer to Dungeons and Dragons, but the majority of these tips will be applicable to any tabletop RPG out there.

Start with a Kid-focused RPG

Lots of gamers have dreamed of playing Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs with their kids for years. It stands to reason that some of those gamers would design their own games to help fill in that void. Darcy Zalewski from the Stay at Home Gamers suggested playing some of those games first!

Some examples include:

Hero Kids

No Thank You, Evil by Monte Cook Games

The Tales of Equestria Tabletop RPG

Establish The Ground Rules

Lots of tabletop RPGs are full of rules, charts, and tables to search through to help understand how to play the game. But, those aren’t as important as the general rules for playing at your table.

You will likely have your own rules, but some suggestions are below:

  1. Respect is key. Make sure to respect your fellow players and the DM.
  2. Be courteous.
  3. Don’t draw in, or rip up game books that are loaned to you. Treat them like your own toys.
  4. No cussing or inappropriate jokes.
  5. If everyone isn’t having fun, then no one is!

Focus on Shared Storytelling

A lot of folks assume that the story comes from the DM, but that’s actually untrue. At the end of the day tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons are collaborative storytelling games. This means that everyone is working together to make an interesting story. I think it is important make sure kids understand that.

The story isn’t just happening TO them. It is happening AROUND them. Let them describe their actions whenever possible. Encourage them to talk about how their character does the things they are doing. That adds layers to the experience for everybody!

Let Them Drive (Unless They Aren’t)

It is important to let the kids drive the bus. They might take wrong turns, get hyper-focused on something weird, or kick your sandbox over in any number of cruel, unusual, and exciting ways. Let them do it. As long as they are engaged and enjoying the experience you have won!

With that said, Dungeons and Dragons depends on the players to direct the action. The stories expect the players to move forward, find clues, and discover the solutions. Kids (and even inexperienced players) can have trouble with that. Which means their indecisions can stagnate the experience for everyone. You, as the DM, are the only person who can fix that.

There are lots of great Dungeons and Dragons Products out there, and lots of them have previews online. Make sure to check out what they can add to your campaign!

Keep It Short!

Adults that play Dungeons and Dragons can play for hours without real breaks. We often brag about marathon gaming sessions. That isn’t going to be possible with younger kids. They just don’t have the attention span to focus on these games for long periods of time.

Instead, make sure to plan for your gaming sessions to be more compact and to take more breaks. You won’t make as much “progress” through stories (especially if you are using adventure modules), but they will be more engaged in the experience.

If You’re Going to Go Big – Bring a Co-GM

Rob Kalajian of A Pawn’s Perspective regularly runs a game for ten kids. (WHOA!) He loves it, but he has found that it would be impossible without the help of his wife who co-DMs with him. This lets him focus on the story and the creatures while his wife helps make sure the kids are ready to take their turns. It minimizes downtime and ensures that kids get more direct attention from a GM.

Have (Quiet) Fidget Toys!

Kids will often have a VERY difficult time sitting still for a long time without fidgeting. Dice are terrible fidget toys because they are loud, and they can get lost easily. (Nothing is more distracting than a handful of kids rolling dice and dropping them on the ground.)

Make sure you have a small collection of quiet fidget toys on hand to give them something to fuss with. Some great suggestions are fidget spinners (that you can probably get for super cheap since the fad is over) and Play-Doh.

Simplify The Game!

Dungeons and Dragons is pretty complicated. You can take steps to simplify it though. Some examples of things you can do are:

  • Only give them the dice they need. A player will very likely only needs 2-3 different dice in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition (the most recent one).
  • Create a cheat sheet to go along with their character sheet that explains in simple terms what they should do when the
You don’t need to invent your own adventures either! There are plenty of pre-made adventures available!

Don’t Make Them Manage Their Stuff

Kids are notorious for losing things or failing to take care of them correctly. And, nothing can set a game back like a player having to find a new mini or to craft a new character sheet. The best way to solve that problem according to John Christopher over at Wooden Shoe Games is to collect their character sheets at the end of the session. That keeps organization nice and simple.

You could even store all of those character sheets in a binder with some sheet protectors. They’ll be virtually indestructible.

Make Sure the Villain Is AWESOME!

Treavor Bettis and Allie Deutschmann from the Difficulty Class Podcast both emphatically told me that villains for kids need to be cool. They don’t necessarily need to be interesting and nuanced like villains for adult players though. They can, and should, be completely over the top!

What do you all think? What tips do you have for playing tabletop RPGs with kids? Let us know in the comments!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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We talk a lot about flashy video games and freshly released board games on EFG, but today I want to take a moment to share the instructions for one of my family’s absolute favorite card games. We spend a lot of time playing Frustration Rummy as a family, especially on family vacations. We laugh. We yell. We talk a lot of trash. (Of course, we do. I’m there.) Frustration Rummy is a rummy-style card game where players compete to complete different steps (often called contracts) that each involves a different combination of cards.

Cards Required to Play Frustration Rummy

  • 4 players – 2 standard playing card decks with 4 jokers
  • 5-6 players – 3 standard playing card decks with 6 jokers
  • Wild Cards – Jokers and Deuces

The Rules For Frustration Rummy

  • Deal 11 cards to each person for each hand. (This is how we play as taught by my Pop Pop, but some versions have you draw 13)
  • A player’s turn begins by drawing the top card from the deck or the discard pile.
  • The player may then “meld” if they have the appropriate cards for the step they are on
  • Then they discard a card from their hand. Note: A player MUST have a discard at the end of their turn. There are no exceptions.
  • If a player “melds” and completes a step they will then be playing to “Go Out.” This ends the hand.
  • Each Step must be made by a player during a hand to advance to the next step. For example, if a player completes a step and then goes out and you did not, then you will remain on the same step and they will move forward.
  • All 11 steps must be completed to win – if more than one player completes the 11 steps during the hand, the lowest-scoring hand wins.

Frustration Peg Boards

You can definitely play Frustration and keep track of what step you are on using paper. (That’s what my mother insists we do.) But, there are very cool peg boards that help you keep track of things. You can buy them all over the place, but this is a very nice handmade one sold on Amazon.

Steps (Contracts)

Book – Groups of cards of the same number. The suit does not matter.

Run – Groups of cards where the numbers are in descending or ascending order. They must be in the same suit.

Note – You must have more natural cards in a book or run than Wild cards. You cannot even have the same number.

Step 1
2 Books of 3 cards
Step 2
2 Runs of 3 cards
Step 3
1 Run of 4 cards and 1 Book of 3 cards
Step 4
2 Books of 4 cards
Step 5
1 Run of 5 cards and 1 Book of 3
Step 6
3 Books of 3 cards
Step 7
1 Run of 7 cards
Step 8
1 Run of 6 cards and 1 Book of 3 cards
Step 9
2 Runs of 4 cards
Step 10
2 Books of 5 cards
Step 11 1 Run of 9 Cards
Table of the steps/contracts in Frustration Rummy

Notes and Reminders

  • A wild card may be replaced in any run (but not books) with the card it represents, but only if the wild card can be used to meld in that turn.
  • Additional melds of 3 cards can be played and more cards can be played on other melds after a player has completed their step meld.

Cards Games Similar to Frustration Rummy

Rummy is an old game that has been played the world over. As a result, there are countless variations. Some of the more popular versions are:

Phase 10 – This is a commercialized version that is packaged like Uno (and you’ll probably find them right next to each other). The biggest difference is that steps and contracts are referred to as phases.

Aggravation – The rules of Aggravation are similar to Frustration. The difference is that once you have completed your contract you can immediately start to work on the next one without waiting until the next hand.

Gin Rummy – This is more of a distant cousin with a focus on accumulating points as opposed to merely completing steps. You can find the complete rules for Gin Rummy here.


What do you think? Are you going to play our family favorite? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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The old adage “Laughter is the best medicine” is so true. Life can be stressful and uncertain. Sometimes, the only answer is a good laugh. Below is a list of relatively inexpensive games to make you laugh.

Chonky Donkey

Buy Chonky Donkey here on Amazon

Chonky Donkey has taken the party game and transformed the judge into the reader. In Chonky Donkey, just as in many other party games with cards and a judge, players submit a card to a prompt. However, this is where there is a twist, the judge is only a reader. As they read the cards summitted my their fellow players. the reader can not smile or laugh. If the reader smiles or laughs, the player who’s card they were reading gets the prompt card and the point. Should the reader keep a straight face the whole time, the reader keeps the prompt card and they get the point.

Exploding Kittens

Buy Exploding Kittens here on Amazon

Exploding Kittens is one of the silliest games in my collection, and is a family favorite. You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple. The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out.  Check out the review here.

Not Parent Approved

Buy Not Parent Approved here on Amazon

If you are looking for something to get everyone laughing then check out Not Parent Approved. It is played in the same style as Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, with one player as the judge and the rest of the players trying to provide the best answer to the prompt card. The game has a large range of cards, and for younger players, parents may want to screen the cards for content.

Happy Salmon

Buy Happy Salmon here on Amazon

Happy Salmon is really, really stupid. But, in the best ways. This is a great game for motivating your family to get up, laugh, and shout their way through a game. You can even buy two copies (there are two different color versions) so you can get up to 8 players. That is WILD.

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers

Buy Invasion of the Cow Snatchers here on Amazon

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers is also a single player game with a hilarious theme from Think Fun. In this game players are collecting cows represented by colored disks, and the red bull must be collected last. There are fences of different heights that add challenges to each puzzle.

Shaky Manor

Buy Shaky Manor here on Amazon

Shaky Manor is a game unlike any I have ever played before, where each player is given a tray containing eight square rooms each connected by doorways. Players place an meeple, a ghost, and three treasure chest cubes into the tray. They then shake the tray to try and get the meeple and the cubes into a designated room without the ghost. The first player to do it five times is the winner. The game is noisy, silly, and loads of fun!

Hoagie

Buy Hoagie here on Amazon

Hoagie is a sandwich building game where each player is trying to build the perfect sandwich without any part getting spoiled by three oogies. It has a level of gross that kids and adults will find entertaining.  Hoagie is a light game that can be played with multiple ages all together making it a great game for the whole family. See the review here.

Unstable Unicorns

Unstable Unicorns is a card combat game that features whacky unicorns as you build an army. The art is adorable and gameplay loop as you pass between turns feels very similar to Magic: The Gathering (and I mean that in a good way). We enjoy it every time we play.

Go Nuts for Donuts

Buy Go Nuts For Donuts here on Amazon

Go Nuts for Donuts is a card drafting and set collection game where players are trying to collect the best donuts to eat.  Really, what better topic for a game can you have beside collecting donuts! Player bid on the different donuts available in the donut row. Players bid in secret, and at the end of the bidding players may only collect those donuts where they are the sole bidder. Each kind of the 21 kinds donut ( and two beverages) has either points it gains you, an action you can take immediately upon retrieving the card, or both. The artwork and text on the cards are fun and adorable and sure to make you smile.

What Do You Meme: Family Edition

Buy What Do You Meme?: Family Edition

What Do You Meme is a hilarious game that invites players to create funny memes using a stack of funny pictures straight from the deepest corners of the internet and a huge deck of caption cards. The problem is that the original version of the game is a bit… grown-up for our tastes. The good news for all of us is that there is a bespoke Family edition of the game that replaces the sex and drugs with fart jokes (which just makes it all around better in my opinion). Just look at the box. It’ll all make sense. This is the definitive edition of the game!


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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People of all ages have enjoyed Chess for ages.  Not only is it a fun pastime, but it also provides many benefits for children, including developing critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and strategic planning.

 Teaching your children how to play chess can be a wonderful way to spend quality time together. It also gives them a lifelong hobby they can enjoy. In this post, we will go over the basics of chess, including the movements of the different pieces, as well as some tips on how to teach your children the game in a fun and engaging way. We’ll even throw in a little extra and share some strategies that might help them improve their game (and maybe yours too)!

The Basic Rules of Chess

Each player takes turns making a single move. Players cannot choose to skip a turn – they must make a move. Each chess piece moves in a specific way and must be moved according to its legal movement. (see below). Pieces cannot move through pieces of either color without either:

  • stopping (in the case of a piece of the same color) 
  • capturing them (in the case of a piece of the opposite color).

How the different chess pieces move:

There are 6 different pieces in chess. 

  • King: The king piece can only move one square in any direction.
  • Queen: The Queen is the most powerful piece. It can move any number of squares in any direction, horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
  • Rook: The Rook can move any number of squares horizontally or vertically.
  • Bishop: The Bishop can move any number of squares diagonally.
  • Knight: Knights move in an L shape, two squares in one direction then one more space after a 90-degree turn.
  • Pawns: Pawns are interesting. They can only move forward one square at a time. The exception is on their first move where they can move forward two squares. They can only capture other pieces diagonally.

Castling

Castling is a special move in Chess, and is the only move where two pieces move within one turn. It is a special rule where your king can move two spaces to its right or left. Simultaneously, the rook on that corresponding side moves to the space on the opposite side of the king.

There are four key rule the must be followed in order to complete a castling move. First, the king and rook must still be in their starting squares, and never moved over the course of the game. Secondly, all of the spaces between the king and rook need to be clear of other pieces. Third, the king may not be in Check. Finally, the spaces the king will travel and land on may not be vulnerable to attack in the next move.

Ending the Game

As the game progresses, players must be mindful of the concept of “check” and “checkmate.” When a player’s king is under attack, it is in “check.” When a player’s king is in check and there is no way to move the king out of the attack, it is “checkmate” and the game is over. 

Tips for teaching your kids how to play chess. 

Here are some tips on how to teach your children the game of chess in a fun and engaging way:

Start with the basics: Begin by introducing your child to the different pieces and their movements. Let them practice moving the pieces on the board and familiarize themselves with the layout.

Use visual aids: Children often learn better through visual aids such as pictures and videos. There are many resources available online, including interactive chess tutorials, animations, and diagrams that can help explain the rules and different strategies.

Play with them: Playing chess with your child is the best way to teach them the game. As you play, point out the different tactics and strategies you’re using, and explain the reasoning behind your moves. Engage them into deciding what moves are best to make. Instead of just telling your child how to move the pieces, ask them questions and get them to come up with their own moves. This will help them think critically and develop their problem-solving skills.

Keep it fun: Remember that the most important thing is to make the learning experience fun and engaging. Use humor, praise, and positive reinforcement to keep your child motivated and interested in the game.

Be patient: Teaching your child chess can take time and patience. Make sure you’re ready for a long-term commitment and that you’re there to guide and support them along the way.

Story Time Chess

One product out on the market designed to help teach young children how to play Chess is Story Time Chess. This unique Chess set is formatted in a simple way that is approachable to children as young as three-years-old. What makes Story Time Chess unique is they have created a story to explain how each chess piece moves with reason for their movement within the story. So for example, the King is scared, so he moves on tiptoes and very slowly. This provides a connect to the children on why the king only moves one space. There are also exercises that go with each piece/character to teach their movement. Besides the storybook, the game has standard chess pieces, but they have a small slot. These slots allow parents to put in a picture of the character that corresponds to the story. This visually helps coordinate the traditional piece with the character in the story.

Story Time Chess has gotten wide praise and has won quite a few rewards. Two notable rewards are winning the 2021 Toy of Year Award, and winning the Mom’s Choice Awards.

Ways to Encourage Engagement

Reward their progress: You could give rewards for progress made. For example, every time your child successfully checkmates you, or every time your child beats an opponent (even if it’s you). This can make the game more engaging and fun for your child.

Show them professional games and Grandmasters: Show your child some professional games, videos and even watch live games with them. This will help them understand the game at a higher level and provide a good motivation for them.

Five tips to Improve Your Skills 

Study the basic tactics: Learn common tactical motifs such as forks, pins, double attacks, discovered attacks, and so on. There are many resources available online, including chess puzzles and instructional videos.

Analyze your own games start to finish: After you finish a game, take the time to analyze your own moves, both the good and the bad. Try to understand what went wrong and how you could have played better. The endgame is the stage of the game where there are fewer pieces left on the board. It can be a great opportunity to improve your technique and find the best way to finish the game.

Learn from the best: Study the games of grandmasters and try to understand their thought process and reasoning behind their moves. As you improve, it’s important to play against players who are better than you. This will help you to identify and improve on your weaknesses.

Keep it simple: A good rule of thumb is to keep your play simple and avoid overcomplicating things. Try to focus on the most important aspects of the position, such as king safety and piece activity.

Practice, practice, practice: The most important tip of all is to play as much chess as you can. The more you play, the more experience you’ll gain, and the better you’ll become at the game.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, teaching your child how to play chess can be a rewarding experience for both you and your child. Not only will they learn valuable strategic thinking and problem-solving skills, but they will also gain confidence and self-esteem as they improve at the game. By starting with the basics, breaking the game down into manageable chunks, and making learning fun, you can help your child develop a love for chess that will last a lifetime. Remember to be patient, encouraging, and to make it a fun family activity. With a little bit of time and effort, you can help your child become a chess prodigy in no time!


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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The Engaged Family Gaming team has the mission to provide information and support families who want to play board games with their kids (and video games too). We work hard to provide parents with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their children’s gaming. To facilitate this, we help parents who might not be “gamers” themselves learn to understand the games their children are playing and help them find great board games for their kids.

The “EFG Essentials” is a core collection of games we frequently recommend across different genres. The purpose of these essentials is to provide a starting point for families to engage with high-quality games. Below are our EFG Essential board games for kids.

Games for the Whole Family

Planted

Buy Planted here at Target

  • Card Drafting/Resource Management/ Set Collection
  • 2-5 Players
  • Age 10+

There is something very satisfying about caring for plants and watching them flourish. Planted takes the premise of collecting and caring for plants and couples it with beautiful artwork and components. This Target exclusive game had a high production value for the price. Players collect Resource Cards and Item Cards at the beginning of each of the four rounds. Then players draft their cards by picking and passing the cards to the right or left, the direction changes each round.

Planted plays over four rounds with a very simple card drafting mechanism. The game design keeps beginning players in mind. The player boards and nursery board do a great job of communicating clearly for the players. Each round players draw 6 Resource cards and 2 Item cards. Over the round players pick a card simultaneously, reveal and gather any resources based on their cards.

Planted takes some more complicated gaming mechanics and has streamlined their play as well as provided lots of visual support on the player boards, cards, and nursey board. For novice gamers this have become a great new gateway into set collection, resource management, and card drafting.

Chonky Donkey

  • Party Game
  • 3-8 Players
  • Age 12 +

Buy Chonky Donkey here on Amazon

Party games are wildly popular and easy to find, but may have a similar gameplay or theme from each other. Chonky Donkey has taken the party game and transformed the judge into the reader. In Chonky Donkey, just as in many other party games with cards and a judge, players submit a card to a prompt.

However, this is where there is a twist, the judge is only a reader. This game has question cards and answer cards. First the reader flips an answer card and all the players (except reader, who is in “the hot seat) submit a question card that they feels goes with the question, or is just ridiculous. As they read the cards summitted my their fellow players. the reader can not smile or laugh. If the reader smiles or laughs, the player who’s card they were reading gets the prompt card and the point. Should the reader keep a straight face the whole time, the reader keeps the prompt card and they get the point.

Ticket to Ride 

  • Route Building and Set collection 
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Ticket to Ride on Amazon!

Ticket To Ride is the quintessential starting place for families looking for the next level in board games beyond Monopoly or Uno. This is the game that was the starting point for multiple members of the EFG team to become passionate about board games.

During gameplay, players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout the United States. Each player is working on completing their own secret routes. If another player claims a path they need, the player needs to try and find another path to complete their route, if possible. This also adds a potential “take that” element to the game.

On each turn you can only take one of 3 actions: draw Train Car Cards, claim a Route between two cities on the board, draw additional Destination Tickets. The object of the game is to score the highest number of total points. Points are earned from completing routes, and lost for incomplete route cards. Each round allows for players to plan, think strategically, and make tactical decisions.

Ticket to Ride has expansions for other geographical areas (EuropeAsiaIndia, etc), in addition to First Journey for younger players. We love the fact that this game has so many version and appeals to such a wide range of players.

  • See our review of Ticket to Ride here.
  • See our review of Ticket to Ride First Journey here.

Sushi Go

  • Card drafting 
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Sushi Go on Amazon!

Sushi-Go takes place in the fast-paced world of a sushi chef, you must be the most creative and the fastest of all to be the best! The game comes in a cute tin and plays two to five players.

Players start with cards in their hand based on the number of players. Then select one card to play before passing the rest of their cards to the next player to choose from!  The game plays in 3 rounds. The strategy of the game lies in making the most of the cards passed to you, while trying to stop opponents from making the combinations they need to maximize points. The most interesting dynamic of this game is the chopsticks.  They are played in one round, and used on a subsequent turn to play two cards at once from the current hand.  The chopsticks get passed on to be used by someone else.

Sushi Go! is a fun game to play with anyone, and it is a light streamlined game that is a perfect first card drafting game.

See our review here.

The Crew

  • Trick Taking, Cooperative Strategy
  • 3-5 players
  • Age 10+

Buy The Crew on Amazon!

Multiple award winner, the 2020 Kennerspiel Des Jahres and 2021 American Tabletop Casual Game, the Crew combines two unique gaming styles, cooperative game play and trick taking. Players take on the roll of a space crew trying to complete missions. The rule books tells the story of each mission as well as the conditions players need to follow to succeed. Once a mission is completes successfully players can move on to the next mission. The game has 50 mission, which increase in intensity both within the story and in the requirements needed to be successful.

The Crew does a great job of adding small elements to each mission to make the difficulty increase. It is done in a gradual way that keeps the game approachable for families. For a small game, and modest number of components there is a lot of game packed into the small box.

The Crew Mission Deep Sea

  • Trick Taking, Cooperative Strategy
  • 2-5 Players
  • Age 10+

Buy The Crew Mission Deep Space

If you like The Crew, another adventure is available. In The Crew Mission Deep Sea, players search for the lost city of Mu beneath the ocean depth with in this sequel to the award winning game, The Crew. Using an easy to learn cooperative trick-taking gameplay the players take on different missions to tell the story. Completing each hand under certain conditions completes each mission and advances you through the story on your search for Mu. Just like in its predecessor, as you complete each mission additional rules and conditions might applied to future missions.

Abandon All Artichokes

  • Deck Builder (Deck Deconstruction)
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 10+

Buy Abandon All Artichokes on Amazon!

Winner of the 2021 American Tabletop Early Gamers category, Abandon All Artichokes has you build your hand of garden vegetables by deconstructing your deck of artichokes. In Abandon All Artichokes, players start with a hand of all artichoke cards. The goal is to abandon their artichoke cards and create a hand with other vegetables from the garden.

This is a great deck builder game for players new to that style of game, and has been referred to as a “my first deck builder” While the game is rated for age 10 and up this is a game that can scale down to slightly younger players. The non-artichoke vegetable cards have text with the actions the card allows. Young players being able to read the cards is helpful.

Qwixx

  • Roll and Write
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Quixx on Amazon!

Qwixx is a simple roll and write where all players participate in every dice roll. However, you must be strategic about the numbers and colors you select each turn. Roll and write games have a set of dice and each player has a scoring sheet. The genre of roll and write games have become more popular in the last few years, and Qwixx is the perfect game to learn the genre.

To play, there are six dice, two white, one yellow, one red, one blue, and one green. On a turn, the active player rolls and announces the total of the two white dice. All players have the option to mark any color on their sheet with the corresponding number.  The active player only has the additional option to add one white die with any one of the red, yellow, blue, or green dice to select a number on their record sheet. The more numbers you can mark off the more points you score. Players must choose carefully once you cross off a number you can not go backwards.

Kingdomino

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Kingdomino on Amazon!

Kingdomino, the 2017 winner of The Spiel Des Jahres (The Game of the Year), and combines the universal simplicity of dominoes with kingdom building. It is a tile drafting and placement game for two to four players.  The game is played in short rounds.

First, tiles are laid out in a field and players take turns drafting tiles based on the order of the previous round. Players draw domino shaped tiles and lay them out in their 5×5 block kingdom. only one side of their domino needs to match the land the connect to, but it can gain them more points if both sides match. The goal is to sort their kingdom so that they have large contiguous terrain (lakes, forests, etc) to earn points. Points are calculated by taking the number of continuous terrain times the number of crown icons found on any domino in that terrain. The gameplay is quick, easy to teach, and the game ages down very nicely.

See our Spiel Des Jahres 2017 article here.

Forbidden Island

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 10+

Buy Forbidden Island on Amazon!

Forbidden Island puts players on an island that is slowly sinking into the ocean, and they need to work together to gather treasures then escape. Each turn is filled with tension as players flip over cards that indicate which tile will sink (and thus shrink the board). As the game progresses it really feels like the world is sinking.

The tiles are laid out in a set island pattern, and six cards are flipped from the Flood Deck. As cards are drawn from the Flood Deck, the corresponding tile on the board is flipped over. Which reveals a blue tinted version of the same piece. This represents the location “flooding”. If a flooded location floods a second time (via the same flood card being drawn later in the game), that location is lost to the abyss and both the tile and the corresponding flood card are removed from the game. 

The randomness of the tile layout leads to huge variety and replay value. The difficulty can be scaled to all abilities based on how high the water level starts the game. Even at the easy setting can provide a decent challenge for some of the most experienced gamers.

See our review here.

Pandemic

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Pandemic on Amazon!

In Pandemic, two to four players take on one of several roles, such as Medic, Dispatcher, or Researcher, in their quest to cure 4 diseases before time runs out and humanity is wiped out.

Game play follows a standard turn-based approach. Each player starts their turn by drawing from an event deck to determine where the newest infections are.  Then, they use location cards to move around the globe, treating diseases to prevent outbreaks.  Finally, they draw more location cards to restock their hand.  If a player can get three location cards of a single color and can get to a lab, they can create a cure.  The cure that won’t immediately eradicate the disease. Rather, it will make the disease easier to treat.

There is one way to win (working together to cure all 4 diseases), and multiple ways to lose (running out of time, being overwhelmed by diseases, etc.)  Players can change the difficult by increasing the starting number of infections.

See our review here.

Tsuro

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-8 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Tsuro on Amazon!

Tsuro is a tile laying game for two to eight players with a beautiful Asian aesthetic. In this game you are a flying dragon. Your dragon is represented by a colored carved token. Tsuro consists of tiles with twisting lines on them, a 6×6 grid on which to lay these tiles and a token for each player.

Each player has a hand of tiles. On your turn you do two things: place a tile from your hand onto the board next to your token and move your token as far as it can go along the line it is currently on. You continue to move it until it is stopped by an empty space with no tile in (yet), the edge of the board, or if you collide with player’s token. If your dragon reaches the edge of the board or collides with another player’s token, you are out of the game.

The goal of the game is to be the last player left with a dragon on the board. The strategy, therefore, consists of trying to drive your opponents either into each other or off of the board. While trying to extend your own route in directions that will make it difficult for your opponents to hinder your path.

See our review here.

Zombie Kidz Evolution

  • Legacy/ Cooperative
  • For 2-4 Players
  • Ages 7+

Buy Zombie Kidz Evolution on Amazon!

Your successes or failures affect the game in your future plays of the game, in Zombie Kidz Evolution. This is a perfect first step into Legacy games. Legacy games are played over a series of sessions and what occurrences in previous sessions permanently changes the game and can influence the next events in the game. In Zombie Kidz Evolution you are working together to protect yourselves and drive off the zombies in the school. All the staff at the school zombies. The rules start off very simply, and as the game progresses new rules and abilities are added.

Zombie Teenz Evolution

  • Legacy/Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Zombie Teenz Evolution here on Amazon

The zombies are causing trouble around the town and you must work with your friends to find all the ingredients for the antidote to save them. Zombie Teenz is another game in the same world as Zombie Kidz Evolution. This is a stand alone game which can also be combined with Zombie Kidz Evolution. Just like in its predictor, this is a cooperative legacy games and evolves as you play. If your family likes Zombie Kidz Evolution, the this adds just a little more complexity and challenge for players.

Happy Salmon

  • Party Game
  • 3-8 players
  • Age 6+

Buy Happy Salmon on Amazon!

Happy Salmon is a great game for motivating your family to get up, laugh, and shout their way through a game. The rules also suggest being creative for a silent mode in locations where shouting is too disruptive. Each player gets 12 cards in their personal deck with three of each action card and the players who stand around a table. Each player shuffles their deck and flips it over so only one card is visible.

Once play begins, all players simultaneously say the name of the action on the revealed card. They are trying to find another player with a matching card. If no one has the same card the card moves to the bottom of their deck. If they find a match the two players perform the action and discard the card in front of them. The actions of Happy Salmon include: High Five, Fish Bump, Switch it up (where players switch places), and Happy Salmon (where players slap arms together) will leave players doubled over in laughter.  The first player to run out of cards wins.

Exploding Kittens

  • Player Elimination and Hand Management
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 7+

Buy Exploding Kittens on Amazon!

Exploding Kittens is one of the silliest games in our collection, and is a family favorite. There are fifty-six cards in the deck. The artwork is exactly what you may have come to expect from The Oatmeal. Characters such as Taco Cat and Beard Cat make an appearance alongside original artwork on each card. The game play is quite simple; the box claims it takes two minutes to learn. They weren’t kidding.

You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple. The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out. 

This game is a lot more fun than one might think it would be. It plays very quickly and is very easy to learn.

Check out the review here.

Evolution: The Beginning

  • Engine Building
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Evolution: The Beginning on Amazon!

The Evolution Series by North Star Games has multiple games in this line. In the Evolution games you are evolving your creatures with various traits to help their survival. Each animal needs to have enough food or they die out and can go extinct. There is something for everyone in this series. For elementary age students you can start with Evolution: The Beginning. This is a simplified and streamlined version of the game good for ages eight and up. For older children: Evolution, Flight (which is an expansion), Climate, and Oceans.

The Evolution: The Beginnings the perfect lighter family game. It has streamlined the game elements of the Evolution series. For players new to engine building board games this gives a framework for that genre of game that is easy to understand. An engine building game is where the players are building something that will ultimately produce points for them in the game. The theme of Evolution is also very engaging to a wide range of players. It can be played with a wide range of players.

Block Ness

  • Area Control/Basic Resource Management
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Block Ness on Amazon !

Loch Ness Monsters are taking over the Loch, in Block Ness by Blue Orange Games. Players are vying for the limited space and trying to make their monster the longest before running out of room. To keep space limited and challenging at all player counts the number of players impacts the size of the loch (play space).

Each player gets 12 segments of their color monster, including a head and tail. Each segment is slightly different, they vary both in length and height. As players add to their monster, they can place a new piece horizontally or vertically only. Monster pieces can also (and eventually will need to) go over other monster pieces. The must be taller than the existing piece to cross over.

Block Ness is a great family game, and it plays well multi generational. The rules are very easy to learn and only takes 15 minutes to play, making it a great addition to family game collections.

Splendor

  • Engine Building
  • 2-4
  • Age 10+

Buy Splendor on Amazon !

Splendor

Blending a  balance of easy to learn rules and deeper strategy, Splendor is a fantastic game for older children and grown-ups alike. Splendor is a simple and elegant set collection game for two to four players. This is a game that is easy to teach, quick to learn, and will take a long time to master. The bottom line here; Asmodee has a huge hit on their hands as this has become one of our family’s favorite games.

In Splendor, players take on the role of Renaissance jewelers who are working to build their prestige and attract the attention of wealthy noble patrons. They do this by gathering resource tokens and spending them on development cards that represent new designs, tools, mining operations, and store fronts. The game is essentially a race to fifteen prestige points. Players acquire gems in order to buy mines, which in turn provide more gems (and ultimately points). While the gem-dealer theme may feel thin at times, the card drafting mechanic and  engine-building gameplay will quickly make this a family game night staple.

Check out our review! 

Skyjo

  • Set collection
  • 2-8 players
  • Age 8+

Skyjo is a great addition to any game collection. It supports of wide range of players and scales well at all player counts. Being able to support up to eight players is a huge asset. It is challenging to find a game, which is not a party game, that supports such a high player count. Skyjo’s rules are simple and easy to learn. It fits a casual gaming and multi generational gaming setting.

Players receive cards face down at the beginning of the round they reveal three cards. On their turn a player can either draw a revealed card from the discard pile, or they can take a card from the draw pile. If a player selects a revealed card from the discard pile, they must use it either for one of their face up cards or flip over a card and use it there. Should they choose an unknown card from the draw pile, then players can either substituted for a visible card or flip a card as well.

The round ends when 1 player has revealed all of their cards. One final turn occurs for the remaining players. Finally, players reveal their remaining cards and calculate points. There is a risk to ending the round, because that player must have the lowest score or their points are doubled. Additional rounds are played until one player meets or exceeds 100 points. The player with the lowest score wins the game. There is one special condition in the game.

Check out our review here.

Drop It

  • Dexterity/ Abstract Strategy
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Drop It on Amazon!

Some of the best family games are easy to learn, but hard to master. Drop It has very simple rules and can be taught in minutes, yet has enough strategy within the simple rules to keep it engaging for all members of the family. Do not be deceived by the bright primary colors of the game, Drop It is more than a kids game!

In Drop It, each player has a collection of shapes in one color, and players drop them down the vertical game board to try and score points. The challenge come in meeting the criteria to score points. Along the side and the bottom there are colors (or shapes depending on the set up you select) and if your piece touches the side of the same color it does not score any points. Pieces also may not land touching another piece of a matching shape or color. The player with the most points when they run out of shapes wins.

King of Tokyo

  • Push Your Luck 
  • 2-6 Players 
  • Age 8+

Buy King of Tokyo on Amazon!

Attacking Aliens, Rampaging Lizards, Giant Robots, Mutant Bugs, and Ferocious Gorillas: this game has them all! King of Tokyo is a game for two to six players that combines a board game, a dice game and a card game. You play as one monster whose main goals are to destroy Tokyo and battle other monsters in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo!

At the beginning of the turn, each player rolls six dice. The dice show the following symbols: numbers 1, 2, or 3 (representing Victory Points that can be earned), a lightning bolt (representing Energy that can be earned), a heart (representing Healing), and a claw (representing Attack). The player with the most Attack dice goes first (the fiercest). Each turn consists of 4 steps: rolling and re-rolling the dice, resolving the dice, buying cards and using their effects, and the end of turn decision.

The fiercest player will occupy Tokyo, and earn extra victory points, but that player can’t heal and must face all the other monsters alone! When you add in cards that can have a permanent or temporary effect, like growing a second head, body armor, nova death ray, etc., you get a VERY exciting game. In order to win the game, one must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 victory points, or be the only surviving monster once the fighting has ended.

See our review here.

Fire Tower

  • Area Control and Hand Management
  • 2-4 Players
  • Age 14+

Buy Fire Tower on Amazon!

Most fire fighting games are cooperative, but in the game Fire Tower, you compete with other players to protect your fire tower from the fire and spread the fire to your opponent’s tower.

Players are working to defend their Fire Tower, the nine squares in the corner of the board, and to breach their opponents. In the Fire Tower squares fire can spread, but water and fire breaks can not be used. Players take  a range of actions depending on the card they play. There are Fire cards that spread the fire regardless of wind direction.  Water cards put out the fire in a small area. Fire Break cards create areas the fire is unable to burn, but may not be added to adjacent spots with a Fire Break. Once fire reaches the orange square in the corner that player is eliminated. The player with the last unburned tower wins.

See our preview from when this was on Kickstarter here.

For Young Gamers

Rhino Hero

  • Dexterity
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 5+

Buy Rhino Hero on Amazon!

Rhino Hero is a competitive  3-D stacking game where players are building a tower of cards and moving Rhino Hero up the tower.  This is a great games for younger players and involves no reading.

This dexterity game directs players were the wall cards need to go on each turn.  Players have wall and ceiling tiles.  On their turn, the player first builds the wall in the place indicated on the ceiling tile and then place their ceiling tile.  Actions indicated on some of the ceiling tiles and those benefit the player, such as skipping the next player.  The game ends when the tower fall, a player places their last roof card, or all the walls are built. 

Animal Upon Animal

  • Dexterity
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 4+

Buy Animal Upon Animal on Amazon!

Animal Upon Animal is a dexterity game perfect for young games, where players are stacking wooden animal pieces.  On a turn, players roll a special die to determine what happens on their turn. If the player rolls one pip they add one animal, two pips the add two animals, the crocodile image has the player place one animal on the table touching one side of the base animals, therefore further expanding the base. The hand icon has the active player choose one of their animals and give it to another player who then has to add it to the stack. Finally the question mark icon has the other players determine which animal the active player has to add to the stack.

Should animals fall off while a player is trying to add one to the stack, the player who was placing the animals takes them if there are one or two that fall. Should more than two fall one two are kept and the rest returned to the box. The game ends when a player runs out of animals to stack, and the last player to place their piece can declare victory.

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

  • Set Collection
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 3+

Buy Sneaky Snacky Squirrel on Amazon!

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is where you are collecting acorns to feed your hungry squirrel.  At the beginning of each turn you spin the spinner and that dictated the color acorn you can take or if another event occurs.  If a player lands on a storm cloud their acorns get blown back onto the tree. A sad squirrel means you lose a turn.  The thieving squirrel picture allows the player to steal one acorn from another player. The first person to fill their log with acorns wins.

This is a great simple game for very young gamers.

Hoot Owl Hoot

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 4+

Buy Hoot Owl Hoot on Amazon!

Hoot Owl Hoot is a cooperative game where players work to bring the owls back to the nest.  The goal is to get all the owls back before the sun comes up.  Each player has three cards dealt in front of them.  Players choose a color card to play, and draws a card to refill at the end of their turn.  With a color card the player selects an owl and move it to the next corresponding space of that color. If a player has a sun card they must play it, and the sun moves one space on the tracker. The difficulty can be increased by adding more owls to put back in the nest.


The EFG Essentials are reviewed and updated every few months to make sure we have the most current information for our readers.


The EFG Essential Guide Collections

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Essen Spiel 2022 took place from October 6-9, 2022 in Essen Germany. It is one of the biggest board game conventions in the world and is a big opportunity for publishers to showcase their offerings ahead of the Holiday season! We didn’t make it to the show this time, but publishers have been shouting to the mountaintops about their games! Below is a list of nine games from the show floor that we are very excited to play!

Gummiland

(Age 6+, Blue Orange Games)

Gummiland is a deck-building game meant for younger kids. The components are adorable to begin with, but the premise definitely suits it. Players are competing to capture all the Gummiz using adorable fruit cards.

Mech A Dream

(10+, Blue Orange Games)

Mech A Dream is a worker placement, engine building game set in a far flung future where humans and robots live side by side. Robots don’t have dreams in this world and this game is all about building machines that make dreams for the robots! I love the graphic design on the components that have been revealed so far.

Mist Over Carcassone

(8+, Z-Man Games)

We love Carcassone (and all tile laying games for that matter), over here. A new version with a spooky theme just seems like an absolute win. I’m particularly intrigued by the cooperative elements as they haven’t been a part of the Carcassone world before.

Turing Machine

(14+, Le Scorpion Masqué)

I have no idea if this game will even be fun, but The Turing Machine includes an “analog computer” that does calculations using perforated cards. Its a deduction game where you either cooperate as a team or compete to crack codes using the computation that are only possible using the computer within the game itself. I’m absolutely fascinated by how this could work to the point of distraction.

Evergeen

(8+, Horrible Guild)

Evergreen is a board game from the same designer as Photosynthesis and shares some of the same themes. This one is all about planting trees and placing other objects to help build a complete ecosystem. The components look lovely and I always appreciate a science themed game. Linda, our managing editor of board games, is very excited for this one.

Peter Pan

(Age Unknown, Zatu Games)

Peter Pan is a deduction game where each player knows the location of both a lost boy and one of Captain Hook’s pirates. Players can only share that information to each other via picture cards that provide clues. Then players venture through Neverland trying to find the lost boys and avoid the pirates.

Animals of Baker Street

(10+, IELLO)

Animals of Baker Street is a deduction, puzzle solving game featuring cure animals and a Sherlock Holmes theme. It is a cooperative game with a limited number of puzzles to solve, but it looks like there should be enough content in the box to keep it entertaining for a while.

Starship Captains

(12+, Czech Games)

Starship Captains is a 1-4 player eurogame that combines action selection and engine building. You manage a crew and operate a starship as you go on adventures and face different challenges. This is one that I absolutely must play as someone who loves Star Trek and other similarly themed games.


Those are just a few of the games that were featured at Essen this year. We’re sure that we missed some. Let us know in the comments if you found any that didn’t make it onto our list!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Here at Engaged Family Gaming, we love to talk about how teachers and homeschool parents alike can use games to teach different subjects. We have already talked about board games that can help you teach math and board games that can help teach reading. This time we are going to talk about board games that can be used to help teach history.

History is a tricky subject to teach using board games. They, generally, are too abstract to be able to realistically represent events that took place in the past. However, they can help teach the subject in two ways. On one hand, some of them are great at helping people memorize important dates, events, and historical figures. On the other hand, there are also games that are designed well enough to help capture the theme of a historical event. Both of these approaches can be a big help when trying to teach children about a given historical event.

Take a look below and see eleven games we found that can be used to help teach history in one of those two ways.

Lewis and Clark

Lewis and Clark is a game themed around the adventures of the two famous explorers of the same name. This is a period of American history that is often glossed over so having a fun tool to help explain what exploring what was an undiscovered country at the time is a good thing!

“The year is 1803. Take on the role of a team of explorers tasked by President Thomas Jefferson to chart the American West. Befriend the natives, live off the resources the land provides and be the first to set up camp on the Pacific coast. Players will have to manage hands of cards representing characters who will help to gather resources, recruit Indians and move forward in this race to discover the route from sea to shining sea. Beautifully illustrated, Lewis & Clark will have players reliving the exciting voyages of some of the most famous explorers the world has ever known”

Timeline Series

Timeline isn’t a single game. Instead, it is a series of games that features all sorts of different categories like Music & Cinema, Americana, American History, etc.

Gameplay is straightforward. Players are each given a hand of cards that have events on the front and their corresponding dates on the back. The goal is to slowly create a timeline of events. Players do that by taking turns placing their cards in the correct place on the timeline in relation to other events. If they guess correctly, then the card stays. If they do not, then the card is discarded and they have to try again.

This mechanic helps to reinforce players’ knowledge of when events happened in relation to each other.

The Grizzled

There is a lot of attention placed on World War 2. It is regularly studied in class. It is the subject of nearly countless movies and numerous video games and board games. World War I, on the other hand, is not often given much attention at all. This is in spite of the fact that it is a fascinating war that took place across several continents and featured cavalry, navy, air combat, and trench warfare.

The Grizzled is a cooperative game that helps right that wrong by putting players in the combat boots of soldiers trying to survive trench warfare until Armistice. The emphasis of this game is on avoiding the hardships and pitfalls that soldiers would have dealt with. If even one member of the team died, then the game is lost.

This is by no means a “light” topic, so parents and teachers should tread carefully. But, then, World War I is as tragic and terrifying as it is interesting in a historical sense. So if you are going to teach it, you may as well go all in right?

7 Wonders

7 Wonders is a drafting game where players take on the roles of seven great ancient civilizations. Gameplay is divided into three “ages” that help demonstrate the development of human civilization through antiquity.

The game may not depict actual historical events, but it does a fairly good job of explaining how civilizations develop and the interdependence between resources and great scientific or artistic achievements.

Twilight Struggle

I’m 35 years old. So I don’t remember the vast majority of the decades-long standoff between the United States and Russia. Twilight Struggle is a game that uses clever mechanics to help illustrate the delicate balance of power and aggression between the two nuclear powers.

This game is a bit on the long side and can take a long time to teach, but you would be hard-pressed to find a game that is better at helping visual and tactile learners understand one of the more pivotal periods in modern world history.

Memoir ’44

Memoir ’44 is hex based miniatures combat game that thrusts players into battles that mimic historical events during World War II. This is done using units, tactics, and victory conditions that mimic some of the famous skirmishes that took place throughout the war.

There are multiple expansions as well that include different sections of terrain and different parts of the war.

This likely isn’t a game that will teach much about World War II on its own. But, it is a great game to play while talking about some of the reasons behind the war and how it ended. Memoir ’44 illustrates that sometimes the best job a game can have is to keep the students interested while the real teaching is happening elsewhere.

Axis and Allies

It is impossible to talk about board games that can be used to teach history without at least mentioning Axis and Allies. A&A is a strategy war game where two to five players take on the roles of either a member of the Axis (Germany or Japan) or a member of the Alliance (United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union). It isn’t just about battle though. Players control both the military for their chosen country AND its wartime economy. Victory is given to the country that captures major cities across the world.

Axis and Allies presents a historical scenario and encourages players to change history over the course of a few hours!

Ticket to Ride – Multiple Editions

I know. We probably put Ticket to Ride on every one of these lists, but we can’t really help it. The game is almost universal in its appeal and in its applications.

Ticket To Ride is not going to be a history lesson in and of itself. But, several of the expansions are ties directly to the expansion of the railroad system that crisscrosses the entire country. Besides, you likely already have the game anyway for other reasons (or at least you should) so why not have another reason to pull it out and use it?

Catan Histories of America: Trails to Rails

Catan is a classic euro board game. This version includes a fixed board that is a reasonable facsimile of the United States. The same rules apply here as in the standard version with a few exceptions. The biggest among them being that the win condition is the delivery of all of your goods across railways.

This is a great game to help discuss the westward expansion of the population of the US and the rise of the Railway system and its importance to the US economy at the time (and now)!

Sapiens

Sapiens is a game where players take on the role of a clan chief that is exploring a fertile valley looking for a new home for their people. This is a tile-laying game with an exploration theme. The art style is bright, colorful, and engaging in a way that will keep players interested as you talk with them about the challenges that faced early man as he fought for survival.

Founding Fathers

Founding Fathers is a strategy game that takes place during the dawn of the United States. Players take on the role of famous political figures like George Washington, John Adams, and others all the way up through Abraham Lincoln. Players work together to solve problems like war, financial panics, and eventually the division between the North and the South.

This is an excellent way to help reinforce the struggles of forming and guiding the United States. This is not a game for early gamers, but is rated for players age 8+.

For Additional Games to Support Learning


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There are times when game recommendations come from unexpected sources. I was quite surprised to hear about a game going to Kickstarter through a fan page for the small company Svaha

Frya is a card stacking game abstract strategy game with 68 cards which funded on Kickstarter in 2021.

Game Overview

  • 1-4 players
  • Ages 4 and up
  • Playtime 5-25 minutes

Gameplay

In Fyra, each player selects a “team” color. The goal of the game is to be the player with the least of your color showing when you run out of cards. Each card has four corners. The corners may be the same or different colors in the four colors: purple, yellow, blue, red.

To begin the game, two cards are placed in the middle next to each other face up. Each player receives three cards. On their turn each player puts down only one card. The must match what is under it exactly. If a portion of their card (one, two or three corners) match what is under it they draw a card at the end of their turn. Part of the card may hang off the end, and the pile grows outward with each turn.

If a player is able to match all four corners of their card they do not need to draw a card. If there are no matches at all the player puts their card adjasent to the cards and must draw two cards. When a player runs out of cards they are out of the game.

To scorce, the player who has run out of cards counts the number of corners with their team color showing at that point of the game. Play continues until only one player remains with cards.

Family Game Assessment and Final Thoughts

Fyra is a game with a wide appeal and wide accessibility, playable by children ages 4 and up. That said, it has enough strategy for grown-ups. With no text to read and only colors to match Fyra is approachable by every level of gamer. An additional feature is the distinctive designs on each color to accommodate players with color blindness or play in poor lighting. The rules are very easy to learn. The game teaches in just a matter of minutes at a rough minutes. Even with the easy rules, the strategy is challenging. This is a game that is easy to learn and hard to master.

Where to Find Fyra


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One thing that a LOT of homebound families have been doing these last few weeks is puzzles. I’ve seen so many pictures of happy families smiling over completed jigsaw puzzles I could burst! But, I know a lot of families out there might be getting frustrated! Some of those puzzles are tough.

Puzzles are a big deal in our family. My mom would ALWAYS have a puzzle on the dining room table if she didn’t need the surface for other things. She loves to build puzzles with her kids and grandkids so I thought to myself, “Who better to consult with than the master?”

So, without further delay, here are some tips from the puzzle master herself!

  • Place all pieces on the table face up
  • Sort for outside edges.
  • Figure out the main color themes of the puzzle
  • Sort the pieces by color (this is a great job for younger puzzlers!)
  • Fit all outside edges together to make a frame if you can
  • Work on large swaths of color or obvious shapes
  • Keep completing shapes until you feel like you have most of the obvious ones put together
  • Sort those shapes by size
  • Consult the picture on the box when you get stuck
  • Look for clues – letters, straight edges, faces
  • When you get stuck? Move on and try another area.
  • Share the experience and work as a team!
  • Don’t give up! All puzzles have a solution!

Did these tips make you want to grab a puzzle for yourself? Head to this Amazon link and grab one (or ten)!


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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