Deluxe Giant Scrabble
Scrabble got popular again at our house when we splurged one Christmas on this gigantic board with a rotary base that lets every player see it right way up! Now we can hardly imagine life — or at least Scrabble — without it. At 25 inches (61 cm) on each side, the board has an imposing presence. Ridges between the squares keep the letters in place even when you indulge in a gleeful spin after laying down QUETZAL. The tiles are easy to read and handle. Teaching a child to read? The large letters and robust, colorful grid could make this a great tool! Mainly, though, it’s the ideal gift for word-buffs. How often do they get something this big? Amazon’s current price of less than $120 USD is a good deal for this ultimate in Scrabble boards.
Chess can be a painful game to lose, but you’ve got to lose to learn! At our chess table, beginners have the option of playing with “take-back allowed” so that a single disastrous move doesn’t have to cost the game. Our favorite set is the product shown here, which follows the classic Staunton design. This particular set is widely used by chess clubs and in tournaments, but it’s ideal for family use in every way: rugged, with sturdy weighted plastic pieces, and a flexible board that lies flat for play but rolls up for storage. It even comes with an extra queen in each color in case a player manages to gain a second one by pawn promotion. This popular, highly recommended set is selling on Amazon right now for under $20 USD, an outstanding value.
Teenagers and up
Risk, Vintage Edition
Invented in 1957 by a French film director, and a global gaming hit ever since, Risk lets you try out your fantasies of world domination without doing any real harm. If you are one of those who remain loyal to the classic rules of this long-popular game this is the edition to get.
Robo Rally is fast-paced fun! This is a contest of strategy in which you program your defective robot to race other robots across a hazard-filled factory floor. As few as two can play this game, but it allows up to eight, and the mayhem increases exponentially when more join in!
Eight and up
Monopoly, indisputably one of the great gaming innovations of the 20th century, is still a family favorite. Yes, the copyright has elapsed and there are now innumerable variations available, but for us, the classic game linked to here, the one we grew up with, did not need improving.
The Settlers of Catan
The compact packaging of The Settlers of Catan disguises a full-sized game where the fun comes from developing your nation by amassing the resources needed to build roads and settlements. The Settlers of Catan is easy learn, but its randomized terrain system ensures that it never grows stale.
Harvest Time is proof that a cooperative game, in which the players work together to achieve a goal, can be just as much fun as ordinary games based on competition. It is the community, not the individual, that wins or loses. Everyone works hard to plant and harvest their carrots, peas, corn and tomatoes before winter comes. When you help your neighbor, everyone wins.
Go Fish! is not a complex game. It can be played and quite possibly enjoyed with ordinary cards. Still, the attractive and colorful cartoon drawings of real undersea creatures in this version give you more than just a visual break from your regular deck. If you’re a mom or dad who likes to structure conversation and learning opportunities around play, this could be what you’re fishing for.