Families that play together … keep their sanity


Last year, I wrote an article about games that bring the family together. This year, the coronavirus situation practically guarantees that families will be together, likely through Passover and beyond. So, what games can families play to stay connected in a positive way and to save their sanity – and possibly, the whole world? The ideas below can help you get started.

Pandemic (from Z-Man Games): It’s a no-brainer to include this modern classic on the list. In this cooperative game, up to four players work together to stop diseases from spreading across the globe, and everybody wins or loses together. The rules are fairly straightforward, and it’s easy to adjust the difficulty level if the game becomes too hard or too easy.  $39.99.

There’s also Pandemic Legacy. This version is story-based, and the choices you make in Chapter 1 will be felt all the way through Chapter 12. As you play, you’ll modify the board and cards to reflect your victories and losses. By the conclusion, your group of players will have created a unique and memorable story, with a board that you can still play on! $69.99.   

Dungeons & Dragons (Wizards of the Coast): The image of D&D players as awkward nerds is at an end. D&D’s Fifth Edition is a vast improvement over its predecessors and the classic role-playing game is now more popular than ever, thanks in large part to live-play video streams and podcasts from “The Adventure Zone,” featuring three goofy adult brothers and their father, and “Critical Role.”

At its heart, D&D is just a game of make-believe with funny dice. One player is the Dungeon Master, who acts as the game’s referee and a foil towards the other players, who take on the roles of magically-powered adventurers. The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set retails for $19.99 and comes with everything you’ll need to get started, including a pre-written adventure.

Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder): Another modern classic, and the 2004 Spiel des Jahres winner, “Ticket” is a set-collection game with short, simple rules. Players earn points by building rail networks across the U.S. and Canada. The basic game sells for $50; for variety, maps of Europe, Asia and more are also available.

Azul (Plan B Games): This game, which won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award, in 2018, for board and card games, features players trying to furnish a Portuguese palace with decorative Moorish tiles. Whoever does so most efficiently, and with the least amount of breakage, wins. The game has simple rules and appealing chunky pieces; it’s challenging enough for adults, but accessible to kids as young as 8. $39.99.

Photosynthesis (Blue Orange Games):  This gorgeous, abstract game models the way trees grow and compete for light in a forest. Players, represented by three-dimensional trees of different sizes, jockey for position on a landscape that changes as trees grow and fall. The game is easy to learn, too – most of the rules are centered on a simple 1-2-3 mnemonic. $39.99.

There are plenty of deals out there for board games, so shop around. Online game stores are likely to offer better prices than the all-in-one shopping sites.

If you’d like more recommendations, or have questions, feel free to send me an email at mschemaille@jewishallianceri.org.

Stay healthy, and happy gaming!

MICHAEL SCHEMAILLE (mschemaille@jewishallianceri.org) writes for Jewish Rhode Island and the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. He has been playing games for as long as he can remember.