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Playing board games has always been a way for people to connect, especially with family. As a kid, my family spent rainy days playing marathon rounds of Monopoly and winter nights meandering through the rooms of Clue trying to solve the murder. We had epic matches of Sorry and threw in an occasional round of Parcheesi but what mattered most is that we were together learning to compete, whether there was a humble victory or a gracious loss. Families bond over board games.

I passed on my passion for board games to my own children, and it is a pattern that has served us well over the years. While the games of my childhood were part of our repertoire, we added Trouble as a perennial favorite as well as Boggle and Scattegories as the boys got older. When asked to recall their favorite board games, they quickly rattled off these titles and then some, so yes, we have spent a lifetime around colorfully patterned square boards with varying rules and game pieces.

What’s New in Board Games:  Cooperative Play

To stay current when looking for inspiration for board games to play, I went right to the source, my nine-year old twin nephews and their 4-year old brother. It appears that Monopoly never gets old as one twin prefers this classic and any type of strategic war inspired game.

However, the 4-year old quickly proclaimed Candyland as his favorite but expressed some frustration when landing on the “swirl” because you lose two turns. I hear you, kid, as I remember my own frustration when I would almost reach the top of the board, a certain victory in sight, only to be sent back to start for landing on the wrong candy-inspired spot. 

What I learned next from this wise 4-year old and his mom speaks directly to the newest generation of “gamers.” 

Cooperative play board games are the current trend. For these games, the players work together toward the common goal whether it is rescuing or escaping or strategizing; you are in it to win it as a team. 

Peaceable Kingdom has created a niche for cooperative play board games with titles such as Hoot Owl Hoot, Count Your Chickens, and Race to the Treasure, all of which involve working together for the end result. In Hoot Owl Hoot, players work in unison to help the owls fly back to their nest before the sun comes up. The pieces are color-coordinated making this matching game perfect for preschoolers. 

Another cooperative play board game for preschoolers is Max an adventure about a cat who loves to chase small creatures outside. This masterpiece was lovingly created as a nod to a real life Max the cat; players are encouraged to work together using logic and cooperation to save the animals from spunky Max.

A final nod to cooperative games is one of the 2020 Toy of the Year Awards winners:  Heist. Not only is this a cooperative game, but it is an electronic fast-paced team challenge.  During a game of Heist, players work together to crack a safe by completing a series of tasks along the way to grabbing the $50 million prize. Recommended for ages 7 and up, the entire family can work together on this mission!

Back to the Classics

While Monopoly remains on everyone’s list of favorites, the game has come a long way since being introduced in 1935. The classic version is a gem with its unique rules and game pieces (who doesn’t want to be the Scottie dog?) but it has had many incarnations to appeal to all ages and interests. A Junior rendition has been created as well as Star Wars, Mario Brothers, and Spiderman, but the latest form to gain recognition is Ms. Monopoly which features inventions and innovations made possible by women in history.

Other favorites such as Life and Clue have created new versions of their family and group oriented games to appeal to the masses including Junior adaptations and themed versions as well. And who doesn’t enjoy a good round of shouting out the answers? If so, Outburst, also available in Junior form, might be the game for your family. It provides age-appropriate content, fast-pace fun, and unlimited players.

Another take on an old favorite is Pictionary Air, an electronic take on the classic drawing game that causes a game night full of laughter. Instead of scribbling your picture on paper for your partner to decipher, this rendition has participants literally drawing in air. This game is a winner for all ages and family members as witnessed at a recent holiday gathering when each round had the cousins in stitches!

Win, lose, or cooperate, there are plenty of board games to choose from in which the entire family can participate. Keep in mind, it’s not necessarily about winning, but how – and with whom – you play the game.

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