The holidays can bring families together in ways that provoke unwanted drama. So, it can be helpful to structure some of that free time. The controlled chaos of family game night can provide a reprieve from boredom, chores and bickering.
We have an annual family tradition of testing a crop of new board games with our children in an extended family game night. And since our children have reached ages where spending time with family is far more enjoyable when their friends are also involved, this year, we invited our 17-year-old daughter’s friends to join us. Our 14-year-old son agreed to referee.
First, we attempted a board game inspired by internet searches. Autocomplete is designed for three to 10 players, ages 18 and up, although it seemed fine for younger teens, as well. The concept is simple: Two teams have one minute to guess the top 10 internet searches for a given prompt, read from a card. A judge keeps score while everyone yells out their guesses as fast as possible.
Feeling a little overconfident, my husband and I challenged our daughter and her two friends, while our son took on the role of judge. Once the card was read and the timer started, we started yelling out whatever came into our heads. The guesses were, at times, bizarre and nonsensical. Our son said it was often difficult to determine who gave an answer first, or which ones were being repeated. In a close call, Gen Z barely edged out Gen X for the win.
For the next challenge, we took on a social deduction game called The Chameleon. The game is designed for three to eight players, ages 14 and older.
In each round of play, a secret word is selected from a topic card. Everyone gets a code to figure out what the word is, except for the player who gets a chameleon card. When the round starts, every player has to quickly call out a word related to the secret word. The chameleon must bluff through this round. Once everyone has said a word, the players vote on who they think the chameleon is.
Everyone agreed that the accusation and guessing parts were the most enjoyable aspects of this game, but that the overall game was overly complicated.
We also had trouble figuring out the scoring mechanism, and what fun is a game if you can’t gloat about winning?
Our testers were just getting warmed up by this point, while the Olds were starting to lose steam. Fortunately, we were ready to test our final game, Blockbuster Party Game, which is designed for four or more players, ages 12 and up.
In this setup, teams compete to guess movie titles based on clues given in different ways, from one-word hints to charades. We split into two teams, and my husband and I claimed one of the teenage movie buffs for our team. This was a smart move. Otherwise, we would have been shut out.
In the first round, each team chose a person to go head-to-head in a quick-fire buzzer battle. Given categories like “Famous trilogies” and “Movies with a zombie in it,” these two players shouted out movie titles and slapped a buzzer. The first player to run out of ideas lost the round.
The winner from the face-off then picked three movie title cards. The player had to get their teammates to guess the title within 30 seconds using one of three techniques: acting out the plot, using a quote from the movie, or describing it in one word. The team that collects a film from every genre wins.
Those with extensive movie knowledge have a huge advantage. Our early recruitment strategy -- and collective years of movie-watching -- paid off, and the Olds, plus a movie-savvy teen, bested the Youths.
As we’ve learned over the years, there is an ideal moment to conclude game night: as soon as you can declare victory.