The Bears have helped me write this post as part of their home-schooling this week. They selected which board games to include, staged and took the photos, agreed an order and have written some of the reviews themselves. We thought it might be a useful time for others to discover some new games to keep everyone entertained while stuck at home. With that in mind, we’ve selected the more unusual choices from our collection. For context, BB is now 10 and LB is 8. Without further ado, here is our top 11, as chosen by the boys.
11. Who knows where
We’ve put this game in last place as although it is good, it is definitely aimed at a tween/teen/adult audience because it’s HARD! You basically have to figure out where in the world specific places are – either Capital cities or landmarks. You can use an easier map which marks the countries and borders or a harder one which is just land masses. Much trickier than expected but good for geography and a nice one to play with grandparents (when it’s safe to do so).
10. Yeti in my spaghetti
A novelty twist on pick-up-sticks. Does what you’d expect but provides a bit of fun and fine motor skills practice for younger children.
9. Bug bingo
An insect themed version of bingo. This isn’t a particularly popular game with BB but LB loves it and will sit and play for quite some time. Personally, I don’t think it’s as rock’n’roll as some of the others further up the list but the pictures are beautiful and sometimes a calmer, more regulating game is a good idea here.
8. Throw Throw Burrito
This game is quite high tempo. It’s one where everyone plays at the same time which is good for children who struggle to wait and does make everything a bit more manic and fun. You basically have to make card families, getting your cards from your neighbour’s cast-off pile and discarding yours for the next player to pick-up, so everybody is manically picking up and throwing cards, trying to get the more matched ones than anyone else. LB says:
“When you have a full set of burrito cards, you can have burrito war or burrito duel or burrito brawl.” He’s right. It basically means that at random points in the game someone starts throwing a squishy burrito at someone else. We have had to add a ‘throwing gently’ rule as this could certainly get out of hand quickly. Great game, but comes with a side warning of dysregulation. Oh, and beware, dogs really like to eat the burritos, resulting in this terrifying spectacle:
I think he’s said it all really. A kind of wooden combination of football and air hockey. Really different, suitable for any age above little ones who would eat the pieces.
BB says: “This is one of my personal favourites. It is fast paced and a lot of fun to play. It is a two player game where each of you has a magnet under the table to control your player. Each of you are trying to get points by getting your player to hit the ball into your opponents goal. If you get 2 or more white dots attached to your character or if your character loses control and goes into the opponent’s half and if you go into your own goal/hole your opponent will get a point. It is first to 6 points.”
6. Tetris dual
A two player game, with play shifting between you, depending how well you do with fitting the pieces in (it tells you which shape to do next – you have to find the right place to put it to complete lines). If you leave a gap, play switches to the other person. It took us a while to figure out the settings but it’s a good game. All the addictive fun of the original game without the screen.
5. Genius square
BB says, “Genius Square is a fun, two player game where each of you will race to put all of their pieces on the board but it is harder than you think. You have to roll the dice and the coordinates that they all land on, you will put your wooden pegs on them. Then you can race with your opponent to be the first one to put all of your pieces in.”
Sometimes there is only one possible way to fit all the pieces into the board, sometimes several, but there is always a solution. I think this game is great and highly addictive. Probably more suitable for older kids as it could be quite frustrating if you aren’t evenly matched with your opponent, but it’s just as good for adults. My parents bought a set after playing at our house and are now using it a lot to entertain themselves during isolation. You can always play alone to improve your skills.
Grizzly and I picked this game up at a vintage shop as he used to have one as a child so it’s probably one for eBay if anyone wants one. It’s another manic one, trying to shoot the little discs into the other person’s goal with the mini gun and ball bearings. I think you can tell it was made before anyone got too concerned about health and safety! Very easy to pick up. Can be tweaked to your own rules – for some reason I don’t understand the boys always have a Playmobil pig in the field, which apparently makes the whole thing better.
2. Bears vs Babies (joint second)
There was some disagreement over which game should take the honoured spot of second place so a compromise was reached with both boys’ votes getting an equal footing. This is LB’s vote. Here’s what he has to say: “You can make a monster with any parts but when you have a weapon you can attach your tool what gives you more goes but takes some points away”
The basic premise is that you have to build monsters to fight baby armies. The babies are the baddies in this, but if you defeat them (by having monsters worth more points), you keep them. The player at the end with the most baby points wins. It sounds a bit crazy and it took quite a bit of getting our heads around the first time we played but once you know what you’re doing, it’s great. It says age 10 plus on the box but LB has picked it up really well, including all the wild cards and exceptions and is more than capable of strategizing to beat us. There is quite a lot of strategy involved e.g. if I do this, x could happen etc. You also have to keep running tallies of how much your monsters are worth, compared to other people’s monsters. It’s not straightforward, but as I say, LB has grasped it well.
I like the fact the box is small. I have been known to pop it in my (capacious) handbag to play in a café (pre-quarantine of course). Hours of fun and so different to anything else.
2. Bounce Off (joint second)
While BB enjoys Bears vs Babies too, this one pipped it for him. He says: “Bounce off is an action–packed, entertaining game, where 2 players bounce their balls onto the grid, trying to make the pattern shown on the card. You will have 8 balls each, one set yellow, one set blue. The first player to make the shape on the card on the grid will win the card and after all the cards are won, the player with the most cards at the end wins.”This is very much a game of skill. You either have it (like BB) or you don’t (like me). It gets pretty fast, furious and competitive between two skilled players and anyone can have a go. There’s no hours spent reading the rules with this one – open the box and go.
And, drum roll….in at the top spot is:
No debate necessary with this one – an easy number one vote from both boys. This game originates from India apparently and, I can’t lie, the board is huge. Storage issues aside, the game is fun. It is meant to be a two player game, with each flicking their striker in an attempt to pot all their pieces before their opponent. Think pool, except it’s your finger controlling the striker, instead of a cue. However, we have invented various twists on the game to suit ourselves. Because the board is so large, four people can easily take a side each and work together in teams. We have also played a version where you don’t stick to potting one colour but you can have a free-for-all potting any colour you like with the person or team who potted the most at the end winning.
We’ve played at the kitchen table or outside on the grass.
It is a skill game really but it doesn’t matter too much if you’re rubbish at it, it’s still fun. It takes seconds to learn but you could certainly perfect your skills at it over time.
*The board looks dusty because it’s covered in Carrom powder – you tip it over the board to help the pieces glide over the surface better.
We hope we’ve inspired you to try something different – I’m sure many of these games can still be purchased online in the current circumstances. If anyone has any comments for the boys, I’m sure they’d be grateful to hear them and I’ll make sure I pass them on.
We hope everyone is well and staying safe,
The Bears xx