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Puzzled about Family Games?

This holiday season we've been inundated with requests for games that are fun and interesting for the whole family. Our longtime Toy Editor and stalwart game player Ruth B. Roufberg suggests, "If you'd like to try some family games at your home, start with favorites you already have on hand. Let family members take turns choosing which game to play next. "

When selecting games to add to your collection, Ruth offers the following criteria to consider.

  1. Choose games with easy-to-learn rules so you can spend your time playing, not referring to instructions.
  2. Avoid fiercely competitive games. You're playing with family, not enemies. Choose games that kids have an equal chance to win, and shun anything resembling schoolwork.
  3. A little competition is fine; after all, in the real world kids have to learn to win and lose graciously. Favor quick-playing games so there will be time to play enough rounds so everyone wins some and loses some.
  4. Select varied types of games (action, strategy, cards, cooperative) such as those described below.
  5. And remember, it's a game.

BLOCKHEAD is a classic building skill game for any number of players. Take turns adding one of the 20 odd-shaped wood blocks to the tower without causing the stack to tumble. You can play many rounds in a short time, deciding whether it's more fun to play daringly or cautiously. Ages 6 and up, $8. (Pressman, 800-800-0298,

SET is a game of visual perception in which players try to form "sets" of three cards in which each attribute (color, shape, quantity, and shading) are either all the same or all different on each card. It may sound complicated, but youngsters often catch on faster than adults. Learn the game on the company website, where a new challenge is posted every day. For any number of players, ages 6 to adult, $12. (Set Enterprises, 800-351 7765, Also available on

SNAPSHOTS ACROSS AMERICA will recapture memories of past vacations or inspire your next one. The game is played with photo cards of the top tourist attractions from all 50 states. Transportation Cards take players by car, train, boat, or plane to their next destination, where they can play a Tourist Attraction Card. But Bad Weather Cards can slow their effort to be first to reach seven different tourist sites. There are enough car tokens for up to 6 players, but you can improvise tokens for additional players. Ages 8 and up, $20. (Talicor, 800-433-4263,

SECRET DOOR is a game of intrigue and mystery in a mansion where thieves have hidden jewels and artifacts they have stolen. Players must find the treasures before midnight to prevent the thieves from escaping with them. This is a cooperative game, which means that instead of each player competing against the others, everyone is part of a team that discusses ideas, shares strategies, and works together to beat the real adversary: the advancing clock. Up to 8 players, ages 5 and up, $14. (Family Pastimes, 888-267-4414,

LIFESTORIES provides a format for family members to share their unique stories based on their own life experiences, hopes and dreams. Answering questions such as "Describe something you liked about your childhood" or "If you had more money, what would you change about your life?" helps family members get to know each other better and fosters a feeling of closeness. Up to 8 players, ages 6 to adult, $30. (Talicor, 800-433-4263,

CUBE CHECKERS - One simple change transforms classic checkers to a far more engrossing game. Instead of disks, the playing pieces are cubes with sides numbered from 1 to 6. All cubes start with number 1 facing up. After each non-jumping move, a player may turn a different cube to the next higher number, thus increasing its power and preventing it from being jumped by a lower-numbered cube. A cube that becomes a 6 by turning or reaching the opposite side of the board becomes a king. Parents enjoyed playing as much as kids. Ages 6 to adult, $21.95. (DCP Games)

And see our Family Games for Family Fun list for more great games.

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