In the period of time between graduating college and before leaving for graduate school—a period of roughly four years—I played a lot of games of the board and card variety. I’m not a super competitive person—unless we’re playing Rook, my favorite game of all time—but I love how quickly fortunes can change during a really good game. Sometimes you’re losing and then you’re winning, or vice versa, and this vicissitude of the game is thrilling. There are still some magical times when the stars align (otherwise known as when parents have put their kids to sleep around the same time) and we can play a quick game or two. Here are some of my faves.*
*Note: I’m not explaining the rules to each one. You’ll have to Google, Bing, etc. it when you’ve got a spare moment or two.
Rook: This is my absolute favorite game of all time (it's so true that I had to say it twice in this post). It’s a four-person card game, so you can’t play with just anyone. I’m usually paired with my husband Daniel, a very strong player who only occasionally angers me with his Rook-play. When I lived with my fabulous roommate, Hannah, we used to play on the weekends until the early hours of the morning. (There were a couple of crazy nights until we played until 5 am. Crazy kids.) I think that you can play with regular cards, but I love the Rook deck that you can buy from almost any grocery store, some gas stations, and of course, Amazon. I’ve heard that Rook is similar to Hearts, if that gives you some idea of the kind of game I’m talking about.
Speed: This is a two-person racing card game in which each player tries to play all of the cards in their hand before the other player can. It’s a frantic, hand-shaking, mind-stuttering game where the tides change quickly and the victor is often decided in the very last second of play. These games are fast so they’re perfect when you have five minutes or so between responsibilities or other fun.
Shanghai Rummy: A family favorite. Each competition consists of ten different rummy matches, each with different objectives (i.e. two runs of three in one hand; a run of seven and a set of three in another). I love this game because I might bomb one match but I might come out on top on the next. Or I might bomb each of the ten matches and have to swallow my pride and remind myself that I’m not a competitive person so I shouldn’t care that my step-mom is trash-talking and humble-facing.
Spoons: A perfect card game to play with adults or with the older kids in your life (probably 6 and older). The objective is to get four of a kind in your hand at once and/or to grab a spoon before all of the spoons in the center of the table are gone. This game gets kind of raucous—there’s usually a lot of table-smacking and thumping and occasionally arm-wrestling—and everyone loves it.
Dominion: A medieval-themed strategy game in which you try to acquire the most property. It’s really fun, challenging, and hip amongst board-game-people-in-the-know (like my brother and sister-in-law).
Ticket to Ride: Each player tries to extend their railroad the farthest distance across the United States. I’m going to repeat what I said for Dominion: It’s really fun, challenging, and hip amongst board-game-people-in-the-know (like my brother and sister-in-law). If you have kiddos in your life, try the kids’ version. I haven’t played that version but I bought one for my nephew and it seemed to be popular.
Yahtzee: I would guess that most of you have played Yahtzee. I usually lose this game, badly, but I still like playing. This is another game that I think can be a fun adult and older kid game, or fun for just adults. If you’ve played, you probably know how amazing it is to get Yahtzee and also how upsetting it can be to have to put a very low score in your four, five, or six rows. Thank God for Chance.
Monopoly: The trouble with Monopoly is that if you are a poor graduate student or just stressed about money in general, it’s not fun to stress about money in a board game, too. But I still love this game and the mad dash to scoop up properties. The yellow and green ones were always my favorite (amen?). When my siblings and I played we got $500 every time we passed Go and we only paid reduced rates for the tax squares, and yet, somehow I almost always ended up bankrupt. [Now that I'm re-reading this last sentence, it's sounding more and more like a certain president-elect who also took more money from the "game" than he should have, paid reduced taxes aka no taxes for many years, and has also been bankrupt. Yuck, yuck, yuck.]
Bananagrams: A super fun word game that can also be stressful if you have a reputation as a wordsmith to maintain.
What are your favorite games? Send them my way!
About the Author
When my toddler and infant sleep--or are otherwise engaged--I write, read, and eat lots of chocolate.