Winter Break Stretches On: How to Game with Your Family

Winter Break Stretches On: How to Game with Your Family

Last year I introduced my mother to the wonders of modern board games and it was amazing. Rather than loll about on the couch after consuming way too much turkey, we worked together to stop some diseases threatening to wipe out civilization. And while I haven’t converted her into a full-fledged gamer, you too can

Last year I introduced my mother to the wonders of modern board games and it was amazing. Rather than loll about on the couch after consuming way too much turkey, we worked together to stop some diseases threatening to wipe out civilization. And while I haven’t converted her into a full-fledged gamer, you too can reap major benefits by including your relatives in your gaming habits. Here are some tips and tricks to convert the non-gamers in your family:

Tailor it to their interests

I chose Pandemic for my mother because I hoped the medical jargon would remind her of nursing, which she loves. My partner and I bought Ticket to Ride for his father, who used to work for a railroad. With the new popularity of board games out there, you can try to find something to match what they’re interested in. Does your aunt talk about wanting to travel the world someday? Try playing Tokaido. Does your uncle wax nostalgic over playing Dungeons & Dragons as a kid? Introduce him to Dungeon World or Munchkin. Is your Grandma really, really into Game of Thrones? Marvel at her ruthless side by playing the board game.

Only bring games you know really well

I was looking over which games to bring with me, and picked up Apocalypse World, thinking that Mad Max: Fury Road would be just the hook to get some of my relatives to roll some dice with me. Then I pictured the awkwardness of playing a game that has Sex Moves with family members. While that might work for some, I really didn’t want to be part of that conversation. I’m still recovering from explaining some of the terms in Cards Against Humanity to my aunt.

Be flexible

Us tabletop gamers like to make jokes about rules lawyers, but there’s a time and a place to dot every i and cross every t while gaming. Is your very young cousin having more fun pushing your Ogre tanks around the board than planning a long-term strategy? Maybe just go with it and save your finely-tuned military plans for the next game night with your friends. If you have a hard time letting go of the rules, try to pick a game with clear, simple rules that are age appropriate. Hanabi is a elegant game where you try to put together a fireworks display from cards that you hold outwards, so that the other players can see them but you can’t.

Keep it short and sweet

All day gaming sessions are amazing with friends — less so with family. People get bored or tired, or want to spend some time catching up, so busting out your copy of Eclipse with all the expansions might not be the way to go, even if it’s the only time you have enough people around. Try for two hours or less to keep the boredom under control. Games like Fiasco, Forbidden Island, or The Quiet Year are all good picks.

Think over the dynamics

Is your family okay with a little healthy competition, or is it likely to result in hurt feelings, raised voices, and table flipping? There are cooperative games out there beyond the ones I’ve already listed if you’d like to foster some family togetherness, such as: Last Night on Earth, Betrayal at House on the Hill, or Dead of Winter. If you’re up for some conflict, try: Love Letter, Shinobi Clans, or Dungeon Command.

Whatever you play, have fun! Enjoy interacting with your family as elves, nobles, or the survivors of a zombie apocalypse, and may the dice rolling save you from discussing politics.

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