This past Monday was Family Day in Canada. It got me thinking about games that have been a big hit with my family. My love of games definitely has been inspired by nights playing games with my brothers and parents while we were growing up. We played lots of classics like Yahtzee, Euchre, Risk, Monopoly, and Clue. As I delved deeper into the hobby, family visits often included a game night or two. My family is always up to learn a new game, but with any audience there are hits and there are misses. Here are five games that were big hits and since being introduced make regular appearances on our gaming table.
Ticket to Ride
It’s no surprise that this Alan R. Moon classic would be a hit with my family. The rules are easy to pick up, the turns are very quick, and while there is some player interaction, it is not too mean or confrontational. In Ticket to Ride, you are collecting train cards and playing down sets to claim routes. You get points for the routes you build, and also for connecting cities on the map based on your Destination cards. What’s fun about TTR is how many different versions exist, each with their own simple tweaks on the rules. Lately, I’ve been loving the small box London and New York maps. They’re like TTR Express. Games last only about 15 minutes. The end sneaks up on you the first time you play, but as you get used to the timing, it’s the fun game you’re used to in much less time.
Yahtzee has got to be one of the first roll n’ writes. I mentioned that I played a lot of Yahtzee growing up and I think that’s one of the big reasons why I love dice in a game. I know for some strategy gamers, dice ruin a game, but I’ll take a little randomness anytime. There have been a ton of roll n’ writes designed over the last five years, with lots of creative and innovative applications. Given my family’s love of Yahtzee, it’s no surprise they’d also love other roll n’ writes and they do! None more than Qwixx and Qwinto. They capture the same bookkeeping feel of Yahtzee, but improve upon it by allowing each player to take part in every turn.
If BGG ranked the current hotness in my parent’s mind, Project L would be at the top of the list. Project L is a simple, beautiful puzzle game. You spend actions to collect colourful polyomino pieces and add them to the various puzzles you’re working on. When you complete a puzzle you’re rewarded with more pieces to use and end game points. Essentially it’s competitive puzzle building. Considering how straight forward a concept it is, it surprises me it took until last year for someone to come up with it. As soon as I played Project L, I knew it would be a hit with my parents. It had the beauty and tactile quality to make it initially appealing and the addictive game play to make them want to keep coming back. They liked it so much, I gave them my copy so they can play throughout lockdown. My Dad had been on a pretty long winning streak, but the latest I heard, my Mom had won the last few in a row. I’ll keep you updated on their ongoing competition.
I bought Cartagena for my nephew years ago under the recommendation of a friend. It turns out that was a very wise suggestion as it has since become a family favourite. In the game you work to move your crew of pirates through a series of tunnels to an escape raft waiting for you at the other end. You advance by discarding symbol cards and moving a pirate to the next available symbol of that type in the tunnels. This can lead to huge jumps if you time it correctly. The problem is that cards can be tough to come by. The only way to get new ones is to move a pirate backwards in the tunnel to the next space with other pirates. A space can hold a maximum of three pirates, and you gain one or two cards depending on the number of pirates on the space you retreat to. There is a lot of jockeying for position and careful planning that goes into this accessible and super fun game. When my family gets together for games, this is often a title that will hit the table.
Similar to Ticket to Ride, Splendor is all about collecting sets and making wise decisions as to when to cash them in. The theme is about setting up a global gem empire and while you start from humble beginnings, you soon will be trading in some of the finest shops around the world. In Splendor you have two simple action choices to make: you can either gain new gems (represented by awesome plastic poker chip style tokens), or you can claim a card (divided into three levels by cost and point value) by spending gems from your collection possible mixed with gems provided by previously purchased cards. You can make quick acquisitions to help your buying power or save up to get massive points in the level three cards. As your empire grows, you may be able to attract nobles which are also worth some points. Splendor is another one of those games that I brought home with me for a visit one day and never took back. It was a big enough hit with my family, that I wanted them to have the chance to play whenever they felt like it.