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Hi there!  Tanya here. 

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Recess. Adventure. Discovery. 

Great games for family vacations

Great games for family vacations

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What do board games have to do with family travel?  Everything if you're anything like us!  We love to spend most of our time playing and exploring outdoors, but sometimes we need a break from the sun, or the weather isn't cooperating, or we have a free evening back at our vacation rental or campsite.  Since we often travel by mini-van hitched up with our Stowaway Max Cargo Carrier, we always have room to take along our favorite board games.  

We've reached the EVERYONE'S READING WELL stage.  Hallelujah.  This means all four of our kids play more complex games independently and our younger two don't need to partner with mom or dad, unless they want to.

Here are seven of our current favorite board games - tween and teen approved!  (Bonus: There's a #8... I mention a very fun, quick, addictive card game at the end, as well as some games we want to buy in 2017!)  Many of these are strategy games.  Some are short games --about 30 minutes-- and some are best saved for when you have 90 minutes to 2 hours to set it up and dive in.  A lot of these have won awards, and most can be delivered on your doorstep in a jiffy with Amazon Prime.

Anomia - Party Edition (6 decks of cards)  3-6 players, 25 minutes

Anomia:  a form of aphasia in which the patient is unable to recall the names of everyday objects.  Ok, so this is not so much a strategy game but rather a quick-on-your-toes, pay-attention, category type of game.  It can be your turn anytime and anyone can be your opponent.  Play when the symbol of your top card matches the symbol on an opponent's top card.  Be the first to blurt out an example from the category given on your opponent's top card and you win their card. The person with the most cards at the end of the game wins.  If you are playing with younger kids, make it easier on them by assigning them one category to stick with the entire game. 

Dominion 2-4 players (we've played with more), 30 minutes

Dominion is a game of building up your deck of cards.  The deck is your Dominion.  It holds your Treasure cards, Victory cards, Curse cards, and Kingdom cards (or action cards).  You start of with just 3 measly Estate cards and 7 Copper cards, but in the end you aim to hold a large stack of Gold, Provinces, and Kingdom cards.  The player with the most Victory points in their deck at the end of the game is declared the winner.  The neat thing is it comes with 24 various sets of Kingdom cards, but you only use 10 sets to play a game.  The game developers suggest 5 different set-ups, but you can make up your own.  The game combinations are endless and no two games will turn out the same.  This is a very fun game once you get the hang of it.  Advertises for ages 13+ but my youngest has played since he was 7 years old. 

Pirateer  2-4 players, 30 minutes

This "game of outrageous fortune" is one of strategy, where the tides quickly change.  The object of the game is to leave your port, take the treasure, and move it back to your home port anchorage before someone else steals it from you.  The ending is usually a surprise and their are several versions of play.  The boxed Pirateer has been deemed a collectible, but you can still find very good used copies of it at a reasonable price.  We have been playing it for over a decade.  

Scotland Yard  3-6 players, 60 minutes

If you are Mister X, you will stay undercover to elude the detectives chasing you until they run out of moves.  But, if you are a detective , your goal is to snag Mister X by moving onto the space where he is presently hiding.  Move around the streets of London via taxi, bus, or the Underground and log Mr. X's locations when he's forced to show his head.  Playing as Mister X is my favorite!  This game by Ravensburger has been around since 1983. 

The Settlers of Catan 3-6 players, 60-90 minutes

Another favorite strategy challenge, this award-winning game was developed by Klaus Teuber in Germany and first came out in 1995.  Roll dice and trade resources in order to build roads, settlements, and cities.  Use development cards along the way and win the game when you're the first one to earn 10 victory points!  No two games are alike since you can construct the land differently each game.  

If you are a big family like us, you should totally get the 5-6 player expansion pack.  We think the expansion set makes the game more fun, interactive, and complex.  And with 5-6 players, you don't wait around for your turn since you can build and buy in between opponent's turns.  

Splendor  2-4 players, 30 minutes

Golden Geek Board Game of the Year (2014)!  In Splendor, you go back in time to the Renaissance era and become a rich merchant.  Use your resources to build up mines, transportation pieces, and artisans so that you may turn raw gems into gorgeous jewels.  Not kidding, my kids beat me every time.  My brother hooked us on this game last Christmas and then he sent it to me for my birthday.  I love pulling this game out when we have 30 minutes to spare before making dinner.   (Buy the digital adaptation of Splendor on Android, iOS and PC.) 

Ticket to Ride  2-5 players, 60 minutes

Based on "Around the World in 80 days," players compete to see who can make the most of their train ride throughout the United States in 7 days.  Players collect matching train cards to enable them to place their train cars on the board to fulfill their chosen routes.  Earn points by finishing routes and bonus points by having the longest connection of train cars across the board.  Great, easy way for kids to learn major cities across the United States. Several separately sold versions include travels across Europe, India, Asia, and more. 

Here's the one card game I just gotta mention:  EXPLODING KITTENS.  For 2-5 players, it takes 2 minutes to learn and 15 minutes to play.  It's fun, whimsical, hilarious, and addictive. We bought this less than a year ago and we've loved it so much the cards look like they're 20 years old.  Make sure you buy the red box / the non-explicit version.  They also just came out with an expansion pack called Imploding Kittens.  Don't worry, no real kittens exploded in the making of this game.  

On our wish list:  Forbidden Island, Carcassonne, Colt Express, Isle of Skye, and Codenames.  The last two were the 2016 Spiel Des Jahres Winners!    

What are your favorite games your family likes to play together and why?  We'd love to know!  Please leave a comment below. Thanks! 

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