A brief guide to family friendly tabletop gaming options during the lock-down.
Since we're all looking at the possibility of being quarantined in the future, and any of us with kids are trying to find ways to keep everyone home and happy, gaming is an obvious choice for many of us, and one that should definitely be considered for anyone who hasn't thought of it. There are many family friendly games available that can keep both young and old entertained (and everyone in between). Let's have a look at a few types of games and some examples, to give you a few ideas to try with your family:
WE'LL FACE THIS TOGETHER!
Co-operative board games would be my number 1 suggestion for this situation. Since the games mean the whole group of players work together, and usually win or lose the game as a whole group, there is none of that "bad winners" or "sore losers" animosity in the air, which is really important when you're all going to be stuck in the same area for a lengthy period of time. Co-op games also tend to encourage more of a socializing aspect and the teamwork and strategies involved in most of the games are a great way to get one's mind off of what's going on around.
Ironically, the first game that comes to mind for me to suggest for these types of games is Pandemic, where each player takes on the role of a specialist in battling a worldwide outbreak of infections. Others games that can also be great immersive co-operative experiences are: Castle Panic, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Forbidden Island & Forbidden Desert, and A Touch of Evil.
WE'VE FACED WORSE ODDS THAN THIS!
Role-playing games are an excellent way to pass the hours, and of all my gaming experiences, whether they be board games, card games, PC or console games, whatever, I have the strongest and fondest memories from role-playing games. In most role-playing games, one player will take on the role of a Game Master, essentially running the game and overseeing things as the story unfolds, while the rest of the players take on the roles of heroic characters in the scenario and work together to overcome the obstacle or quest. There are also so many different role-playing games available, with several centred on famous franchises, so besides literally endless possibilities of setting and stories that can unfold, there is likely to be something that appeals to everyone. Another amazing thing with role-playing is it is definitely something that does appeal to all ages. I've been role-playing since I was in primary school, and still do today.
As I said there are so many games available, and even if you're entirely new to the concept, most of the games have an easy to follow rules guide, and there are plenty of videos on the internet which will show you examples of role-playing games for you to get the idea of how they work, or even a summary of the rules, so that you can jump right in pretty quickly. Some games I'd recommend for new players that are also younger player friendly, would be: Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars (D6 System especially), Dread (which uses Jenga towers instead of dice, which can have an added aspect of fun, and definitely adds to the tension of the game), Mouse Guard, Pathfinder, and for an old-school system that was just very easy to learn and very solid to play - Cyberpunk 2020.
WE'VE FACED, ERR, WORSE ODDS TOGETHER?
I didn't want to include these games in either of the above sections, as they kind of fit both categories, but there are board game versions of some role-playing games, or board games that run in a similar way to a role-playing game. Many of these use the same dynamic of having a Game Master play for the monsters and make sure the game is fair and fun for everyone, but some of these games actually have a built in system allowing for everyone to play co-operatively and the enemies or story progress is automated by the game itself. Although these games are often seen as a bridge between board games and the more involved role-playing type of games, in many aspects they are in their own category. Most of these games have a "dungeon crawl" scenario, where the players' characters work together to overcome obstacles and foes through combat, sneaking, and tactics, which is often set in a maze or labyrinth type of playing area. Some games, like Mice and Mystics, although run as a "dungeon crawl", have a higher focus on the story and setting (in this case the characters are adventurers who have been turned into mice by an evil magic, and must try to escape the castle as rodents). The games usually encompass a lot of the strategising and tactical planning involved in role-playing games, but with more of the direction and focus of a board game.
A few great examples of these types of games are: Mice and Mystics, Gloomhaven, Doom the Board Game, Descent, and various Dungeons and Dragons board games.
EVERY MAN FOR THEMSELVES!
While I wouldn't generally suggest too many competitive games for being stuck together for an extended period, as sometimes these games can cause tempers to flare and arguments to erupt, there are a few games that, while players compete with one another, the focus remains squarely on the game itself, and fun and social interaction are still priorities. When playing any game with the family, but especially competitive ones, just remember to keep in mind that the object of the game is to have fun, and really, to keep everyone both entertained for hours and also happy in each other's space.
Some great games that are either individually competitive, or team versus team, are: Dixit, Zombicide, Hey That's My Fish, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Catan, Codenames, Jenga, and Munchkin, to name but a few.
LEAVE NO-ONE BEHIND!
While there are so many amazing newer games available, let's not forget some of the classics that, if played with the concepts of "keep it fun" and "an entertaining and sociable way to pass the time" are kept in mind, can still be fantastic choices to do with your family. Games like Scrabble, Pictionary, Cluedo, Apples to Apples, Uno, or even Risk, could be enjoyable and keep everyone engaged in something for hours on end.
Card games like Magic the Gathering can also be played as both one-on-one tournaments or in groups, with many official and home-brew game types around. There are also many traditional playing card games that can be played, even with younger people, that can also keep everyone busy for hours at a time. And then let's not forget puzzles, as the young and old alike can keep their minds occupied while figuring out how all the pieces fit together.
With so many options on the table, and with most of them being so readily available that even if you don't own them already, you could order them from the comfort of your own home, we can keep our loved ones safe and indoors during this trying time, without everyone going nuts or feeling like they're trapped under house-arrest. So why not use this time to bond with your family, experience something new, or try out some different gaming ideas than you're used to. Just remember to have fun and stay safe!
Boardgame and graphic novel enthusiast. Marvel or DC? Image. Old-school gamer. Avid role-player. Kermit for president. I believe that werewolves will rule the world one day.
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