Games families play

From this millennium

If Wishes Were Fishes:
This board game, which originated in Germany in 2007, challenges players to buy and sell fish at the best times, sometimes using a special power called the fish’s wish and setting the fish free instead. The game relies a little on luck but a lot on thinking and planning, as space for storing fish is limited.

This tile-based word game launched in 2006 has won many awards, including this year’s Game of the Year from the American Toy Industry Association. A sort of simplified Scrabble that’s highly portable (the tiles come in a bag that looks like a banana and is more or less the same size), it was developed by a family of three generations spanning in age from 7 to 75.

30 Seconds:
Designed by a South African in the early 2000s, this ‘quick-thinking, fast-talking’ game is easy to learn, tests your wits and incites (usually happy) hysteria. It won the South African Toy Association’s Game of the Year in 2004. A junior version was released in 2003.

Settlers of Catan:
An award-winning fantasy board game developed in Germany, it has since appeared in 30 languages. Players are required to build settlements, for which they earn victory points. The game has had many spin-offs, including a card game and video games.

From the 1980s board-game boom

Developed in the 1980s from the parlour game ‘Dictionary’, Balderdash requires players to come up with plausible-sounding definitions of obscure words. While a good vocabulary helps, it’s more important to know how to bluff to win points. In 2006 Beyond Balderdash, with new words and definitions, was released.

Trivial Pursuit:

Designed by two Canadian newspapermen, this board-game version of the schoolyard game of ‘General Knowledge’ was dubbed ‘the biggest phenomenon in game history’ by Time magazine when it was released in the 1980s. The game is available in over 17 languages, with a variety of special editions, including ‘Baby Boomer’, ‘Young Players’, ‘The 1960s’ and ‘Book Lovers’.


‘You call that a horse?!’ This ‘game of quick draw’, developed in the 1980s, in which team members must use a pencil and paper to illustrate a word within one minute, famously gave rise to so many squabbles that couples were often not allowed to play on the same team.


This ‘shedding’ card game (where you try to get rid of your cards while preventing others from getting rid of theirs), developed in the 1970s, has led to an amazing variety of spin-offs. Hundreds of themed decks are now available, including Barbie, Elvis, Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Manchester United and The Simpsons Uno cards, as well as special Uno games and video games.

Old favourites

‘It was Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the library.’ In the late 1940s, a solicitor’s clerk from Birmingham designed this game of deduction, in which players must solve a murder mystery. Last year, the game was given a facelift, including an updated cast of characters.

The board game that was rejected back in the early 1930s by Parker Brothers because it had over 50 ‘fundamental playing flaws’ is today available in 37 languages, including Braille. The South African version was given a makeover in 2002 to better reflect more desirable real estate, with Sandton, Hyde Park, Plettenberg Bay and Franschhoek making it onto the board. The new World edition features Cape Town as the third-most-valuable property (along with Paris and Belgrade). A card game called Monopoly Deal is also available.

As popular today as when it first hit the market (as Criss-Crosswords) in the 1930s, this old standby has sold 150 million sets in 121 countries and is available in 29 languages.

What board games do you play with your family?

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