When the holidays–and the cold weather–hit, it’s the time I make sure our games are in good shape. As in, half the cards from UNO aren’t missing and there is actually Monopoly money in the Monopoly game. As opposed to the play kitchen. (I know you feel me, mamas.) With more than a few kids and relatives visiting over the holidays, here are a few new family games made by smaller companies we’ve added to our repertoire this year. Plus, this is a great time to stock up, with all the last minute shopping deals, whether or not they make it in time to go under the tree.
These are all available through our affiliate Amazon, but check shops like Target and your local toy boutiques too, which are most likely to carry games from indie brands. We love supporting our neighborhood shops over the holiday season, plus each purchase comes with the guarantee that you’ll have it in your hands the same day.
Consider this Tic Tac Toe 2.0 (or Tic Tac Toe on steroids?) with the fun of added dimensions that add up to 64 X’s and O’s. My kids are obsessed with this indie-designed game and while it’s designed for two players, we tend to play in round-robin tournaments, or just take turns. Here you need to get four in a row instead of three and with so many possible combos, it really works your brain. Plus you won’t get bored of it nearly as fast as regular tic tac toe.It’s recommended for ages 8 and up but I think that’s a bit old; my 7-year-old loves it. Sometimes we even let her win.
We like Gamewright toys like Elephant’s Trunk for preschoolers, and Rory’s Story Cubes which is still a top pick in all of our homes. I tried a bunch of their new games this year, and by far the favorite has been Slamwich, a simple game for up to six players, played with gihugic cards shaped like all the components of a sandwich. It’s all about slamming a pile of cards under certain circumstances, and then collecting them, like the card game War. There are some other rules to make the game more challenging but you can keep them or leave them based on the age of your kids. 5-year-olds should be able to play with other young kids, but might have trouble winning against a competitive ten-year-old sibling. There’s also a Slamwich collectible tin that looks like a lunchbox, that would make a nifty gift.
Speaking of Old Maid–a name which is definitely long past its prime–we love the modern reinvention of it in Bold Maid. This awesome, artist-design card set not only looks amazing, but you have to read up on how the funky characters are designed after real people in Jane A Burns’s life, like DJ, Dot Dot, and Polly Peanut. It makes me love this game, love the artist, and want to order 20 sets of these.
Another smash the cards and take them game that my kids seem obsessed with these days is Moustache Smash. Maybe because my youngest is obsessed with moustaches. Each player (you’ll need 3-6 of them) gets a different one to “wear” (i.e. hold up) and if it matches the card you’re playing you smash the card with it. The fastest gets a point. Of course half the time my kids end up skipping the game and swatting each other with moustaches, or making silly voices and putting on a play with moustached-characters. That works for me.
We discovered this fun game by Blue Orange a few months back, and it’s great for families with kids of all ages; as Christina put it, you don’t even have to “pretend” to lose if you’re an adult. You study the ocean-themed card, then have to draw some images that challenge both your memory and hand/eye coordination. And skip the scoring with very young kids. It’s fun no matter what.
I really love wooden game versions of classics, like the wooden Connect Four we recently shared. This Colorku is no different. It’s basically Sudoku (which I still pronounce Soduko, sigh), only using colored marbles instead of numbers. I love it as a great logic game that kids about 8+ can play on their own, but it’s really great with the whole family trying to help each other out. You can also manage the chaos by going around the table and taking turns placing a marble which really adds the pressure. But the best part is there’s no loser. Or if there is, it’s all of you.