Thus, a family game night in our house may move immediately from Blue Moon City to Fish Eat Fish to Vinci. It is all about balance. I hope to talk in later posts about some of the modifications we make to "meatier" games to allow all-inclusive play with the entire family. But today I want to talk about what we look for in a good family game:
- RICH THEME -- Above all else, we are suckers for theme. A good rich theme makes for an engrossing experience and makes the rules easier to grasp and remember. Well-themed games also tend to have the kinds of bits that make our children (and us) drool with delight.
- PLAYING TIME -- Unless it is an exceptionally engrossing game (Railroad Tycoon) we prefer our games last no more than 1 hour. If we expect the 3 year-old to play and last the entire game, it had better last no more than 30 minutes. There are obviously exceptions to our preferred playing time, but ideally a good game will last between 20 and 60 minutes.
- EASY TO LEARN RULES -- Asking the entire family to sit down for 20 minutes and listen to me read the rules is asking a lot! If the rules feature more than about 4 to 5 pages, I will play the game by myself first to get a feel for the basic rules before approaching the family with it. This saves headaches for us all. It is always best, however, if we can crack open the box and learn together. That way we all get to share the excitement.
- FUN! -- A game has to be fun. After several plays we need to be able to all share the fun and excitement of playing. If it falls flat in the fun department we are less likely to take it off the shelf and play very often. Life is too short to waste time playing games that are not fun.
- EVERYONE CAN GET INVOLVED -- I already mentioned this, but we prefer games where everyone can get involved in some aspect of the game. Whether there are dice to roll, tiles to draw, or pieces to move, we want everyone to get involved in every game if possible. Games that engage the entire family get much more playing time in our house.