We love our Tree House for so many reasons – the sand dunes, the beach, the miles of antique shopping, and the list goes on! – but there’s one part of our time up there that I always look forward to the most: The down time. The sliver of time in the afternoon when some of us decide to nap, read a book or pour the first beer. The time we fill bowls with sour cherries from the local fruit stand and sit on the stoop. The one – maybe only – moment of the day when the kids are napping or engrossed in a movie. But perhaps my favorite way to unwind during this time?
Board games (or card games or any type of game; I’m using that term loosely!) feels like a rite of passage if you’re spending time at a little lake house, don’t you think? It feels like a very cabin-y thing to do. I have memories of road tripping to the Great Smoky Mountains with my family and, hours later, finally settling into the home we’ve rented for the week (complete with overstuffed couches and paneled walls), and we always had games in tow. Thinking back, after long morning hikes and hours in the sun, retreating around the table with a stack of games was, like, the thing to do!
Maybe this is silly, but one of the main (only?) reasons we added storage to our DIY banquette was for the games! We needed a place to stash them – along with blankets and extra pillows, of course! – but they needed to be out of sight, too.
Not wanting to part with any of our games from our Chicago home, we made a list of our very, very favorites (with bonus points for nostalgia). Then we filled our online shopping cart to the brim and excitedly awaited for their arrival. We kept in mind all age groups, from baby blocks to Catch Phrase, and I’m looking forward to the day that these cardboard boxes begin to soften with love and use:
Our Favorite Board Games
Jenga | A classic, but not to be played during a nap!
Apples to Apples | The G-rated version of everyone’s favorite party game, so no one needs to feel embarrassed in front of their mom and dad.
Guess Who | This was, hands down, my favorite childhood game! I haven’t played it in years, but my heart swells knowing that I’ll get to introduce this to Lucy soon enough.
Uno | We played Uno a few weekends ago, and there are some new-to-us cards that have been introduced (and I’m still on the fence about, so time will tell). It’s an oldie but a goodie.
Connect 4 | We picked up the ever-familiar red and yellow set, but I noticed that they’re making beautiful wooden versions now!
Codenames | Our first time playing Codenames was with this awesome crew (miss them terribly!), and it was just as fun as everyone promised. But, oof, it’s hard for someone like me who is incapable of brevity.
Scrabble Deluxe Edition | If I thought I was terrible at Codenames, I’m even worse at Scrabble. But! I’m challenging myself to be a better wordsmith, and it starts with this. We sprung for the Deluxe Edition, because what’s more annoying than someone accidentally knocking the table and having your letters slide around? (I’d hate to be that person.)
Monikers | You’ll laugh ’til you cry, and it’s probably best you wait until the kids go to bed. It’s great for larger groups, and you’ll want to play it again and again (and again!).
Catch Phrase | Our old standby, and it never disappoints. What to watch out for: Heated arguments over who was holding the game when the buzzer goes off.
Blockus | Scott’s parents introduced this game to us last Christmas, and we were instantly hooked. It’s like the Tetris of board games, but more challenging – and it forces you to use your noodle.
Heads Up! | Although this is an app, it’s too good not to include. When all else fails and you’re not packing heat, I guarantee that someone has their phone. Tip: The ‘Friends’ category is worth the download alone!
We were thisclose to picking up another set of Cards Against Humanity (the 90s Nostalgia Pack is calling my name!), and we’ve also heard great things about What Do You Meme? (Have you played it?) And guys, I know we’re forgetting about so many, and I have a feeling that we’re not the only ones passionate about a competitive match with friends and family. So, tell us, which games are your favorites? We have a lot of empty banquette space to fill!
My friend introduced me to Subjective Guess Who for those of us adults with fond memories of playing it in first grade. Instead of the classic objective questions (Does this person have red hair? Does this person have a mustache?) you ask totally subjective ones: Would this person go to the library to study instead of going out on a Saturday night? Does this person have multiple cats?
Guaranteed to be wrong nearly every single time and guaranteed to want to play again. Highly recommend.
Oh my, yes! That sounds right up my alley.
Dixit, Bananagrams, Love Letters, Exploding Kittens (we have the expansion packs) and Sushi Go! are all regulars around ours. Love Letters and Sushi Go are particularly good for adding to a bag for a day out.
Ohhh so many of these are new to me! Thank you!
Great list! Bananagrams and good ol’ Clue are two of my favorites.
My favorite group game is Pandemic. It is a cooperative game, which is fantastic to play with those people who can be, shall we say, a little grumpy about losing (or gloating about winning). For a two person game, Raptor is great.
Settlers of Catan has a rep for being super nerdy but it is really really fun! My husband and I play just us two all the time. (Get the 5-6 player expansion while you’re at it, so you can play with more people.) Dominion, Carcassonne, and Monopoly Deal (a bazillion times better/faster than regular Monopoly) are our other family favorites.
Yes to Carassonne and Monopoly Deal! My husband and I love those. I’ll have to check out your other suggestions. Thanks :)
Oh my goodness I love games and am excited to try some of these new to me games! Thank you for the suggestions! Some of my favorites are: Phase 10, 5 Crowns, Dutch Blitz (plus the expansion pack for up to 8 players), Left – Right – Center (also called LCR), and Tenzi (to include the littles – I bought a card deck of 77 ways to play Tenzi + a 100 pack of colorful dice on Amazon. The kids love to pick out their favorite color dice! There’s all sorts of fun renditions to play and keep their interest.)
My husband’s family loves really complex bird games, and through them I’ve come to love Ticket to Ride (the basic version isn’t hard but there are multiple boards each with their own twist) as well as Settlers of Catan. One of our new favorites is Azul, which seems to be popular with both kids and adults.
Yahtzee, Spot It and Skip Bo – cabin classics. We are really enjoying Ticket to Ride right now. And what about dominos or cribbage? Great topic :)
I’m hearing Ticket to Ride from so many! We’ll definitely look into that one.
My fiance LOVES board games, so we play them a lot. Lately we’ve been hooked on:Wingspan (released within the last year, but super fun)Terraforming Mars (really good – but you need to have a few hours of downtime)Corporate America (so much fun if you have a much of political science geeks. Takes time to learn to play correctly, but once you do, it’s fantastic)Kingdomino (great across many generations – my ten year old niece loves this and my six year old nieces love helping play this one)Guillotine (killing French aristocrats? Why not?)Pandemic (my parents, who aren’t into board games, loved this one so much they would stay up late every night playing it last time we visited)Forbidden Desert (great game because it is the players versus the game, rather than playing against each other)Ticket to Ride (super fun, plus it has a lot of expansion options once you buy the original game, minimizing the likelihood of getting bored)
I’m taking so many notes right now, haha.
We love Scattergories, Fauna (great for young minds!), Five Crowns, and Splendor! Even though my husband wins every time, it is our family-favorite! We also enjoy playing cribbage, but since I always win, for some reason we rarely play that one… Rollers is an easy one exclusively at Target (and often on sale for less than $10!). Say Anything is a personalized version of Apples to Apples where you get to write in the answers…fun to cater to each person playing! Monopoly Deal has been a great recent addition (I’m pretty sure I bought that one after seeing John and Sherry’s recommendation). But you HAVE to get Skyjo! It is such a wonderful game for many ages! I prefer games that aren’t intense enough to not be able to still converse with each other. Skyjo is the perfect game in every way! So definitely add Splendor and Skyjo to your beautiful concealed storage!
I love board games! They are my favorite to-do thing outside of Bullet Journaling! I’m going to love reading all these comments for even more game ideas. I sure enjoy your blog. Thank you!
Loving all these suggestions, thank you, Micah!
Catch phrase is one of my all time faves!
So simple, and it never fails to amuse us for HOURS.
Bananagrams, Gloom, Taboo (hilarious, and easier if you have the electronic game), Farkle, Spoons (standard deck of cards, with SPOONS), and lets not forget Cards Against Humanity :|
I love Taboo soooo much! It’s pretty similar to Catch Phrase though, which is why we haven’t played it in a while. Brings back memories!
I think I’m getting burned out on Cards Against Humanity! Is it just me?!
We got completely burned out on CAH. Strange as it seems when you are new to it, you can actually only play that game so many times before the novelty of the cards wears off. Once there is no novelty, no shock, it’s just not as fun. :/
We just know all the cards by heart now! Even with the expansion packs and everything, lol.
We are a HUGE board game family! Some of our favorites are: Love letter, Agricola (the 2 player version), Skulls, Bang!, Dominion, Pandemic, Backgammon, Pass the Pigs, Settlers of Catan, Munchkin, Cards Against Humanity, and Patchwork!
Concept is an absolute favorite around here. You can play for 5 minutes or an hour. The “rules” are really more suggestions. I describe it as “Charades for people who are too lazy to move around” :)
Hahahahha love that!
We LOVE tenzi. It is a dice game. Multiple ages can play. Get the big pack of dice and the pack of cards (77 ways to play Tenzi). So fun and fast paced.
We also LOVE Dutch Blitz. It is a fast paced card game. Crazy, but in a good way.
When our kids were little we played Story Cubes and Spot It. We still have them and will save them for our grand babies !
Another vote for Tenzi. Also Phase 10 is a current favorite at my house! And don’t forget poker chips…
When my husband and I got married, we bought a really nice backgammon set with some wedding money (also, just Google backgammon sets because some are gorgeous and insaaaanely expensive). We also searched for fun two-player games, and our favorite is Dominion. It was a but much at first, but we love it! And there are so many expansion packs. We love introducing it to friends. Also, hands down favorite for groups is Hanabi, a really fun cooperative game.
We love love love Racko around here when the grandkids come to visit. A little strategy and a little math and a lot of fun!
I heart Racko!
I like word games, so two of my favorites are Boggle and Upwords. Upwords starts out kinda slow, but it really gets going when the letters start stacking.
I used to LOVE boggle! Meeeeemoriiiiieeees.
We love playing games. Some of our favorites include: Carcassonne, Monopoly Deal, Otrio, Yahtzee, Skip Bo, Chess, and Battleship. I’m excited to check out some of the others mentioned in the comments!
We are currently living Monopoly Deal and Mexican train. Good for multiple ages…
We used to play Mexican train all the time!!
Clue, monopoly, scattergories, rummikub, Mexican train…game fan here :)
I’m currently loving Set and Spot It. They’re simple, fast, and easy for folks to learn. They both happen to be visual pattern-matching games, which I love. Let’s just say I get pretty competitive when I play them.
I get competitive when I play ANYTHING. ????
I’ve bought Taco, Cat, Goat, Cheese, Pizza 3 times already, one for us, and 2 to give away as presents. It’s so fun! This is the list I refer to when I need recommendations: http://benandbirdy.blogspot.com/p/ben-and-birdy-our-favorite-games-master.html.
HUGE fan of games around here. It’s common to find my husband and I playing a game, listening to music, and drinking a local beer on a Friday night after the kids are tucked into bed. It’s a great date night in! Our favorites tend to fall in the “roll and write” category: Quixx, Bloom, Laterns Dice, Greed, and Fishing for Words (Scrabble-like but a bit more low-key). We love Phase 10, and just played Five Crowns for the first time last night and it is super fun! My kids (6 and 9) enjoy Tenzi, Uno, and Payday.
That sounds like the PERFECT date night. (Give me all the date nights ‘in’!)
My favorite day nights, too. ;)
I’ll add in recommendations for Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan (Cities and Knights is our favorite expansion), and Exploding Kittens. Some of our favorites that I didn’t see already listed: Secret Hitler (Werewolf is another version and I grew up playing a version called Mafia with a deck of cards. This one is great for groups.), Telestrations (My friends and family literally never stop laughing when we play this game. My brother-in-law is deaf and I’m still learning ASL but all love all this game because you don’t need to talk to fully participate), and cribbage (no cabin is complete without cribbage.) We’re huge Code Names fans- it’s our go to.
Not a board game but a card game that I think maybe regional – Euchre
I grew up with my uncles playing this card game at weddings in mid-Michigan and my American Gov’t teacher taught our class how to play in high school!
We love Exploding Kittens, and we bought You’ve Got Crabs for some friends and they’ve been raving about it. Another lesser-known one is Chameleon. Kind of like Mafia, where you have to try and convince other players you know the code words and you’re not the Chameleon. It gives me a mild panic attack every time I get the chameleon card, but really fun with a medium or larger group!
Scattegories, Dixit, Settlers of Catan, Sushi Go Party and Dominion are all must-haves! A good way to improve at Scrabble is learning the two-letter words, learning the q-without-u words and training yourself to always try make more than one word for each play (like laying words alongside each other, and making a few 2-letter words at the same time as your larger word. Also, trying to use your blank to make a 7-letter word! Playing scramble-type app games (like Wordscapes) can help you with your word-finding skills.
My husband has been a huge board gamer for years and also has a podcast about board games! (Meeplecore.com) Now that we have two young kids, we are always looking for cool kids games too!
Exploding Kittens and Tenzi are SO much fun! Tenzi pro-tip, get the 77 ways to play card set but then just buy colored dice off Amazon so you have enough sets for everyone!
If you like card and board games, I highly recommend Sequence! It’s super fun and you can play with at least 6 people in groups of 2. Think of it as a deck of cards meets connect four with a mix of uno. I promise you it’s fun, easy and brings out the competitiveness you never knew you had!
Gosh, I’m taking notes on all these suggestions in the comments! We love the new UNO Cards and I think we had a record breaking 3 or 4 hour game with 6 of us on a family vacation this year! Scrabble with the deluxe board is a must; any other version just looks like agony. We break out Scattagories at holidays with really large groups, but at the end of the day we can’t get away from the classics. We’ve repaired our VERY old version of Stop Thief too many times to count! Clue is always so fun (especially if you play the whole game impersonating a French accent), even to listen to the antics from sofa. Pay Day has always been a great one to get kids into and to learn about money, but still be fun and not last too long.
Maybe this is why we like the old games so much, “I’m looking forward to the day that these cardboard boxes begin to soften with love and use” – So True!
Rummikub is our favorite!
I read ALL the comments, and was surprised to not see a new favorite of ours: Quirkle! It’s like Scrabble meets Dominos. We are on the hunt for games that we can play with our 6 year old (who only wants to make up her own rules to all games. Ha!), and this one is working out pretty well. Loving all the suggestions, and definitely adding some to my list!
I read ALL the comments, and was surprised to not see a new favorite of
ours: Quirkle! It’s like Scrabble meets Dominos. We are on the hunt for
games that we can play with our 6 year old (who only wants to make up
her own rules to all games. Ha!), and this one is working out pretty
well. Loving all the suggestions, and definitely adding some to my list!
My in-laws introduced me to Rummikub and I love it!