Back to School Games
It is finally happening…
After a particular long spring and summer break this year, kids are going back to school this coming week. For many parents this might come as a welcome re-introduction of school, homework and bedtime routines. For the kids it might come as a long-awaited opportunity to re-connect with some old friends or a chance to make some new ones. Obviously, a lot of things will be a bit different this year but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the beginning of school. Board games can be a great way to ‘sweeten’ this time of transition. Family game nights will help us to continue to spend some quality time together. At school, games can be great icebreakers for some new relationships with other children, either between classes or during afternoon hangouts. Board games can also make great gift ideas to make the first days of school a little bit more special, or to take away some of the anxiety of meeting new classmates. Furthermore, they can give students a chance to connect with other kids away from heir cellphones and other mobile devices.
No matter what grade or age your children are, board or card games can make a great addition to everyone’s back-to-school supplies. If you are looking for some great ideas to get you started, here are some of my favourite titles for kids of all ages.
PORTABLE AND SMALLER GAMES
These games can easily be put in a backpack or pocket to take along to school. They are smaller in box size and play in a shorter time frame. They would be perfect for short breaks between classes or recess.
2-6 players, ages 7 and up
Forgetting something you saw only seconds earlier is one thing; remembering something that has never happened is the opposite experience. Both of these feelings come together in this memory reaction game. 36 object tiles are spread out around a deck of cards. These objects are each pictured on cards in the deck exactly twice. The cards in the deck are revealed one by one, and if you think that an object on a card has appeared previously, then you can grab the corresponding object tile and place it in front of you. Are you sure of what you saw? You better hope so because if a newly revealed card matches an object tile lying in front of you then you’re out of the rest of the round. Whoever collects the most points after three rounds wins!
2-4 players, ages 8 and up
Players take the roles of raucous raccoons, tipping over trash cans for food (and shiny objects). Players push their luck to acquire more cards but must stash them in order for them to count as points at the end of the game. When the deck runs out, the game ends and players compare their stashes to see who has the majority for each card type and score points accordingly. On a turn, the active player rolls a die in the hope of gaining the benefit of the roll result. With each roll, the player decides to keep rolling or stop and activate the dice results. However, with each additional roll, the odds of busting (getting a duplicate result) increase further and the player risks losing the progress they’ve made that round. When activating the dice results, the player will draw cards, steal cards from other players, and stash cards. Cards in hand may be used for their listed ability, but they count as points only when stashed. The player with the most points wins!
1-12 players, ages 6 and up
A simple and unique game that is fun while it sharpens wits and imagination. The game comes with 9 dice, each having 6 images or icons on its faces. You roll all 9 dice to generate 9 random images and then use these to invent a story that starts with “Once upon a time…” and uses all 9 elements as part of your narrative. Play it as a game for one or more players, or as a party game for three or more. Or play it as an improv game where each player contributes part of the story, picking up where the last one left off. Win award points for speedy delivery, inventiveness, imagination, drama and humour.
2-8 players, ages 7 and up
A simple and fast pace pattern recognition game in which players try to find an image shown on two cards. Each card features eight different symbols, with the symbols varying in size from one card to the next. Any two cards have exactly one symbol in common. For the basic game, reveal one card, then another. Whoever spots the symbol in common on both cards claims the first card, then another card is revealed for players to search, and so on. Whoever has collected the most cards when the 55-card deck runs out wins!
LARGER BOX GAMES
These games are a little larger in box size and more aimed to play around a table. They play in around 45-60 minutes and are perfect starters for family game nights or afternoon fun with friends.
3-6 players, ages 8 and up
A classic, simple, lighthearted game of storytelling and guesswork where your imagination unlocks the tale. Dixit invites you to use the gorgeous, imaginative artwork on the cards to tell brief stories. Each round, one player selects a card from his or her hand, thinks up a sentence, and plays the card facedown, telling the others the sentence conjured by the card. The other players all choose cards that they think match that sentence and play them facedown. The cards are shuffled and then revealed. Players secretly vote for the card that best matches the narrator story, and player whose cards are chosen to score a number of points. Of course, the real victory is not in amassing points, but in sharing a creative experience with your family and friends.
2-4 players, ages 10 and up
A charming and visually stunning cooperative board game. Instead of winning by competing with other players like most games, everyone must work together to win the game. Players take turns moving their pawns around the ‘island’, which is built by arranging the many beautifully screen-printed tiles before play begins. As the game progresses, more and more island tiles sink, becoming unavailable, and the pace increases. Players use strategies to keep the island from sinking, while trying to collect treasures and items. As the water level rises, it gets more difficult- more challenging decisions must be made before the island disappears.
2-4 players, ages 8 and up
A wonderful tile-placement game in which the players draw and place a tile with a piece of southern French landscape on it. The tile might feature a city, a road, a cloister, grassland or some combination thereof, and it must be placed adjacent to tiles that have already been played, in such a way that cities are connected to cities, roads to roads, etcetera. Having placed a tile, the player can then decide to place one of his meeples on one of the areas on it: on the city as a knight, on the road as a robber, on a cloister as a monk, or on the grass as a farmer. When that area is complete, that meeple scores points for its owner.
2-4 players, ages 6 and up
An exciting race for the Magic Cup is about to start but beware as the mysterious ruins are littered with obstacles and odd surprises. With a little luck and some skill with flapping bats to the right places, children will find the fastest route to their destination. Players take turns using the “catapult” to launch cloth bats at the game board. Depending on where the bat lands, the active player may move 1-2 spaces. If they land in the moat, they must take a Ghost card. The Ghost cards have various effects that can either help the player or hinder their progress. The first player that is able to get to the top of the castle wins the game and gets the golden bat trophy!
Adding some games to their back-to-school kit? Here are my top suggestions:
2-8 Players, Ages 7 and up
Work together to build a structure of several levels height.
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