Brain-Drain-Busting Family Games
Bananagrams Party Edition
Ages 7+, $16.99, bananagrams.com
Released last month and available exclusively at Target stores or target.com, Party Edition adds 14 new wrinkles into the classic game, via “chaos-inducing” Party Power tiles. You know that beautiful word grid you carefully constructed? Watch out: The Re-Gifter, The Thief, and Switcheroo are just some of the tiles opponents can use to wreak havoc on your hard work.
Ages 5+, $14.99, thinkfun.com
Move your body while exercising your mind. Give the spinner a whirl and perform the pose on the corresponding Yoga Pose Card. If you can hold the pose for 10 seconds, you keep the card; the first player to collect a card in each color wins. This is a fun game of flexibility, balance, concentration, and luck. Yoga fans can also check out two other family fun offerings from Think Fun: Memory Yoga and Yoga Cards.
New York 1901
Ages 8+, $37.35, blueorangegames.com
Players race to acquire land, develop lots, and raise skyscrapers during 1901’s building boom in lower Manhattan. This is a fantastic 2- to 4-player strategy and resource management game for families. Players have to think strategically, as they decide where and how to build, as well as how to fend off other developers. This is a very fun, engaging game that is gorgeously presented via artwork and high-quality game pieces. A game runs about 45-60 minutes — not too short, not too long. It’s also a great way to introduce younger players to the popular tabletop gaming category of resource management games.
Ages 8+, $10.99, gamewright.com
The object of this dice game is to fill your map of the U.S. with numbers, depending on the number rolled and the dice color (which corresponds to a region). The trick? Neighboring states can’t have numbers that differ by more than 1. That sounds easy, but it’s challenging, and it will have your brain chugging. A super game that can be played solo or with any number of players. A must-have for number lovers!
Ages 4+, $29.95, amazon.com
This noncompetitive story-telling adventure offers five variations of game play, from solo storyteller to group. In the basic game, a player draws eight Story Pieces from the blind bag (for instance: a stoplight, unicorn, birthday cake, monster, deserted island, boots, skateboard, and a boy) and makes up a story incorporating all of them. Families can tell tales as a group and incorporate any of the 24 Story Place cards (from the White House to outer space) to provide a setting. This is a great game for kids who have a hard time losing (as there are no losers) and also a fantastic way to keep young imaginations churning.
Go Away Monster!
Ages 3+, $14, gamewright.com
This is a fantastic first game for your soon-to-be Player 2. Two to four players take turns pulling pieces out of a bag to complete their bedroom game board. Anyone who draws a monster shouts, “Go away, monster!” and banishes it to the monster pit. The game ends when everyone has completed their bedroom board and all the monsters are in the pit. You can also play competitively, in which the winner is the first to complete his or her bedroom.
Math Dice Chase
Ages 8+, $6.99, thinkfun.com
Families can keep math skills sharp with this very fast, fun game of hot potato. Players sit in a group, handing a set of dice to two players opposite each other. Players roll their dice at the same time, multiply their numbers, yell out the correct answer, and quickly pass the dice to the next player. The goal: Multiply correctly and pass your dice quickly so you don’t end up with both sets. Younger players can use Math Dice Chase to practice addition and subtraction skills.
Bring Your Own Book
Ages 12+, $14.99, gamewright.com
Grab a book, any book, and head to the table to play Gamewright’s Bring Your Own Book. One player pulls a prompt card and acts as the judge. The other two (or more) players search their books for the most entertaining answer. Prompt card examples run the gamut from “A line in a ransom note” and “The secret password to a magical cave” to “A one-liner from an action movie.” Grab a book — any book — right now and try to answer those yourself; you’ll be amazed how fun it is. While the suggested age range is 12+, we played with kids 8+ and they had a blast.
Ages 4+, $11.99, wethead.toys
This water roulette game won’t stop brain drain, but rather cause water to drain on your brain. Fill the helmet with water and give the red pins a spin. Players pull the pins one by one, until they hit the pin that unleashes the water onto the player wearing the hat. Families can also download a free Wet Head Challenge app for iOS and Android devices. A player wears the hat and answers a trivia question. If they answer correctly, they can pass the hat to the next player. If not, they pull a pin and hope for the best. The app also offers a recording option to capture every drenching second.