Monday, January 9, 2012
GREAT BOARD GAMES FOR GROUPS
I like to host get-togethers where kids and their parents can interact with each other in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. As the mother of two teenage boys, I think that’s important. The teenage years are not a time when you want your kids to stop talking with you. I want to keep the communication channels open with them, and I like getting to know their friends too.
I also think it’s important that we parents plan activities that get our teens off their computers and iPods and interacting with other people. I’m referring to good “old fashioned” face-to-face talking. I see too many teens today, spending time “with” their friends, while each is plugged into his or her own electronic device. Sure, they might be sitting next to each other, but they’re not talking with each other. As parents, we should be doing what we can to get them interacting more. Otherwise, a lot of teens will sit in the same room together while staying “plugged in” to their iPods and iPads or other electronic gadgets. They’re not talking to us, they’re not talking with each other, and they’re not developing good communication skills. (Forgive me, but I have a communication background and this is “my thing.” I’m not “in” to all the passive forms of entertainment like playing solitary computer games and watching TV.)
What are some things we’ve done to generate communication at our house? Well, we bought a ping pong table last year, and put that in the game room. My sons really like playing ping pong with their friends, and with their friends’ moms and dads too. We hosted a murder mystery party last year where both parents and teens had character parts. We’ve also hosted a lot of Bunco parties and swim parties. One of the best and most entertaining teen- and pool-related fun has been two years in a row we had a “polar bear” event in the pool during winter break, where we watched 15-20 teens take turns diving into the pool in mid-December, and afterwards they all crammed together in the hot tub. We didn’t heat the main pool water and the air temperature was in the 40s. Those events definitely got the parents and teens laughing together…and caused me lose my voice I laughed so hard!
Another idea, which I wanted to focus on here, is to pick up some board games that can be played as groups. Sometimes we’ll have the teens just play the games by themselves; other times we’ll have the teens and parents all playing together. Here are my family’s favorites:
1. WOULD YOU RATHER?
This game really generates a lot of conversation. It consists of 800 “Would You Rather?” questions, along with all the game pieces, score pads, timer, etc. Players take turns drawing a card, each with a question on it. You get questions like, “Would you rather spend 2 hours in a room with 100 wasps or sleep one week in a room with 2 rats?” “Would you rather eat a one-gallon container of apple stems or eat a dozen banana peels?” “Would you rather be a pathetic wannabe or a wasted has-been?” Players can’t pick “Neither” as an answer; they have to choose one, and doing so always leads to a lively discussion.
Players win by correctly predicting the group consensus to each of the questions and completing certain challenges. The challenges can be the most fun of all. Last time my sons and their friends played this at our house, we just about choked in laughter as we watched the teens use lipstick to write “Sponge Bob” on my son’s forehead, and later, to apply mascara to one of the more burly guys in the group. This game is a great way to really get to know your friends, and to just have some good-natured fun.
2. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
This is another game where participants draw from packs of question cards. The questions are either on general interest topics (“List five of the most dangerous jobs.” “List five body parts that have three letter names.” “Fact or Fiction: Dogs see only in black and white.”), solicit opinions and preferences (“Do politicians lie more than they tell the truth?” “How many times per week do you wash your hair?” “Is it acceptable for a 50-year-old man to marry a 25-year-old woman?”) or relate directly to the group of players (“Who here is most likely to have met somebody famous?” “Who here can hold his or her breath the longest?” “Who here watches the most television?”). The question is read, and everyone writes down their answers and paper.
The object of the game is to come up with the same answer that all the other players are choosing. Basically, you’re guessing what others are thinking. The more you think like everyone else, the better you score, even if it’s not exactly the “correct” answer. If you answer differently than the other players, you get a penalty card. Once a player gets eight penalty cards, the game is over. Everyone who didn’t have eight penalty cards is considered a winner. Of course, whether you’re a winner or the loser, the fun in playing the game is just trying to figure out how other people are going to answer. Again, these are questions that generate a lot of conversation. Last time we played this game, three days later there was still a lot of discussion about—and attempts at proving—who could hold their breath the longest.
This board game is very similar to the classic party game, Dictionary. Players take turns reading words, names, initial, movies, or descriptions of unusual laws that probably nobody in the group has ever heard of. Each player makes up a phony—but believable—answer, that they turn into the dasher (the leader of the round). When the dasher has collected all the made-up answers, he or she reads them—along with the “real” answers—to the group. Players then vote on which answer is real. Points are scored to the players who guess the correct answer, as well as those who are able to bluff others to choose their answer as the correct answer. Believe me, there can be a lot of howling and cackling when this game is being played, especially as the dasher reads off that a “molebut” is a short, lumpy fish known as the seahog. Who could say “molebut” with a straight face?!! My kids sure couldn’t. The possible definitions that the kids came up with were pretty hilarious…but not necessarily things that I wanted to write down in this blog!
Another bluffing contest, Malarky is a game where players have to come up with answers to some pretty wild questions that are read to the group. For instance, “Why are there ridges on most stick licorice?” “Why aren’t there seat belts on school buses?” “Why does popcorn pop while other corn doesn’t?” “How did Levi’s 501 get their number?” “Why do roaches run away when a light is turned on in a darkened room?”
You don’t necessarily have to know the right answer; you just have to be able to come up with an answer that could fool everyone else. It’s a game everyone can play. If you’re a creative, right-brained type, you’ll be able to make up some creative answers. If you’re a left-brained “book worm,” all that knowledge you’ve stored up is going to help you select the right answers and make up answers that sound legit.
Players take turns acting as “host” for each round, who will be given the correct answer for a particular question. The “real” answer is listed on the card, which the host draws from a box. Everyone else has to make up believable answers. The “real” and made-up answers are all read by the “host” of that round, who has to try to keep a poker face the whole time, so that nobody knows when he’s reading the actual answer. Just like Balderdash, players vote on which answer they think is the right one. It’s funny to hear the made up answers, some of which sound so ridiculous you can’t help but laughing. And sometimes, the real answer is just as funny. Players are awarded points when their bluff answer receives votes or when they vote for the correct answer.
Last time we played this game at our house, we had six parents and seven teenagers playing for close to four hours straight. Parents and teens alike were all laughing so hard that by the end of the evening their sides were hurting. I think most of us also gleaned some interesting tidbits of knowledge as well. Before that evening, I never knew why stop lights are arranged in red, yellow and green, but I do now. We also can’t help but remember some of the made-up answers, which continue to make us giggle when we think about them.
This is a game that probably most people are familiar with, so I don’t need to describe all the ins and outs of how it is played. But I definitely wanted to include this game on the list. My oldest son naturally likes playing Pictionary because he’s been good at drawing from the day he could pick up a pencil. But even if you’re not an “artist” this is a great group game. Although it does help to be able to draw, it also helps if you are good at thinking on your feet. If you aren’t, this is certainly good practice!
To play, you divide your group up into two teams. We like to play guys versus gals, or teens versus parents. Sometimes there are words you have to draw that one group is much more familiar with that others. For instance, when we recently played, one of the words was “phonograph.” The parents all roared watching how a 14-year-old boy was going to draw something he had no real knowledge of. But then the laughs went the other direction when one of the parents drew a card with the name of a rap musician on it. So we have a lot of fun with this game. I think the friendly competition is a lot of fun. It’s also nice to see everyone playing together as a team and building that camaraderie.
You can probably find all of these games at your local Super Target, WalMart Super Center or Toys R Us. If not, you can find them on Amazon.com. They’re worth the investment…especially when on a cold winter evening when you’re relaxing with friends and there’s nothing on TV worth watching (which seems to happen a lot for us!). These games will get your group laughing…and interacting!!!