Christian got a great game for Christmas. The object of Carcassonne (photo above) is to build a medieval landscape using tiles that have roads, farm, cities, and cloisters on them, scoring as many points as possible for claiming and completing the various items. Friends have told us that the game can get quite cutthroat, but we (and I'm trying hard not to be smug about this) really enjoy the cooperative alternative. Helping each other build an aesthetically pleasing country (with no square holes in the topography) has been more fun than scoring at someone else's expense every time. The game suggests that it is for ages 10 and up, but even 5-year-old Tess can play with a little coaching.
Patrick and I are big fans of Settlers of Catan as long as we can play with our friends Herb and Elizabeth. They are both smarter in general and better at this particular game than we are, but are so kind and apologetic as they win that it's fun and instructive every time. We can only play three or four times a year; Settlers requires a significant investment of time. Fortunately, their kids and ours can amuse themselves together quite well when we get together.
Karen and Ron introduced us to Pick Two. This game now rivals Big Boggle as my favorite game ever, and it's way more fun than Scrabble (no more interminable waiting for someone to set down a word). Apparently, it's now being marketed as its own game, but all you really need is a set of Scrabble tiles (I like playing with three sets at a time).
Turn all the tiles face down; each player draws seven tiles. Turn them over all at once and begin building your own crossword puzzle, freestyle, right on the table--no board needed. Scrabble word rules apply. When you've used all your tiles, shout out, "Pick two." Each player chooses two more tiles to add to their own puzzle. When all the tiles have been taken, the first player to use all his/her tiles wins. You can keep score if you wish, subtracting the values of the unused tiles from the losers' scores, but we never do this. A potentially hilarious option is to require each player to tell a story using all the words in his/her puzzle. Our kids love this game; it's quick and challenging. We're happy to help James and Hope with their construction, but Tess is happy making up her own words.
I love to sit with the family around the table, everyone glowing in the lamplight as they concentrate on the play at hand. What do you do when it's too dark and cold to play games outside?