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Remember the pure thrill of passing Go and getting that hefty Monopoly payday of $200? The joy of deducing that Clue’s Colonel Mustard had done it in the billiard room with the candlestick? Or the delight in knocking your mom or dad or sister or brother’s marble right back to home in Sorry! or Aggravation?

In an era where we’re all so plugged in—to the Internet, to Facebook or Twitter, to our iPhones, to the TV—board games offer a slower, face-to-face kind of fun that stands the test of time.

No batteries or electricity required—just ask Salt River Electric Co-op member Dee Dee Ford-Keene of Bardstown. During a power outage in 2004, Ford-Keene and her then-boyfriend Howard dusted off their Scrabble board and played by candlelight. Married since 2005, the pair still spend summer evenings playing Scrabble by candlelight on their patio.

“There have been many nights we’ll play until midnight, three rounds or more. We do get pretty competitive, for sure,” says Ford-Keene, who has fond memories of playing Scrabble as a child with her aunt, the late Tillie Ford, in Taylor County.

A staple of family game nights, classic games like Candy Land, Life, and Monopoly—which debuted 75 years ago—somehow still have the power to excite 21st-century kids who’ve grown up playing virtual games on their Wiis and Nintendos.

At Letitia Hughes’ Glasgow home, board games and card games (like UNO, which they pronounce “You-Know!” in honor of the Hart County town nearby) get pulled out whenever her daughters, Mariah, 12, and Malena, 6, need a break from all the screen time.

“I’ll say to the kids, let’s play something without batteries. Because they have a Wii and they have a Nintendo and all that stuff, too, but there’s something, maybe nostalgic, about (playing a board game),” says Hughes, a Farmers RECC member.

Blue Grass Energy Co-op member Elizabeth Bartlett of Nicholasville agrees. She salvaged a tattered old version of Hi Ho! Cherry-O from her grandparents’ Morganfield home and now plays it with her 4-year-old-son, Cooper.

“It’s such a cute little game. I have such fond memories of sitting up in my grandparents’ bed playing it during holidays,” she says. “So it’s so great to share that with him, now.”

Board games become a part of our lives, spanning generations. They are tangible reminders of cherished family time.

Jo Ellen Horn of Harrodsburg still has the same Monopoly board she bought as a newlywed 47 years ago, when that was the only entertainment she and her husband, Don, could afford. The money is all curled and bent now, but it still plays just the same. Horn’s 7-year-old grandson, Parker, asks to play Monopoly whenever he comes to visit.

Betty Inabnitt of Eubank has had the same Upwords game for 18 years. It’s provided hours of fun on hunting and clogging trips with her niece as well as get-togethers with her four daughters, seven grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

“With all the ways of communicating through technology these days…face time with your family can be in short supply,” says Luke Warren, public relations director of North Star Games, which produces the popular new games Wits and Wagers and Say Anything.

Plus, board games offer a big bang for your buck. For $10 or $20—far less than taking a family of four to the movies—you get a game that you can play over and over again. In the midst of the troubled economy, board game sales have increased by more than 20 percent in each of the last two years.

So, if you haven’t had a game night in a while, break out a board game. There’s no better way to pass a cold winter’s night with family and friends.


Whether you’re after a tried-and-true classic or a newer game, we hope this list will help you pick a winner.

For Young Children (ages 3-6)

• Candy Land
• Chutes and Ladders
• Hi Ho! Cherry O
• Memory
• Cootie
• Ants in the Pants
• Don�t Spill the Beans
• Don�t Break the Ice

• Cranium Cariboo
Kids match by colors, numbers, shapes, and letters to hunt under doors for hidden balls to unlock the treasure. A different game every time.
• The Lady Bug Game
No reading required, so it’s easy for young kids to play even without adult help. Be the first to avoid the praying mantis, collect enough food, and get your ladybug home.
• Curious George Discovery Beach Game
Hunt under hidden windows for various items (a crab, a treasure chest, a blue fish) that have washed ashore in the sand. (Everything, including the “sand,” stays neatly inside the box, for no mess!) A fun new take on matching and memory combined.
• Curious George Hide and Seek Zoo
Includes a unique walkie-talkie (which young kids love) that sends George on missions all over the zoo to feed and care for animals, and clean up messes. But when it says “The Animals Have Escaped,” kids get to put on animal masks, included, and have a quick game of real-life hide and seek. A fun mix of board game and get-up-and-go fun.
• Zingo!
A fast-paced, energetic variant of Bingo. Kids enjoy pulling the Zinger forward to reveal two mystery tiles, and then try to be the first to call out the tiles that match the images on their cards. Multiple award winner, including Toy of the Year 2009.

For Older Kids (ages 7 and up)

• Monopoly (8+)
• Life (9+)
• Clue (8+)
• Sorry! (6-11)
• Aggravation (6-12)
• Trouble (5-9)
• Battleship (7-14)

• Blokus
Encourages strategic thinking and spatial awareness. A Mensa Select award winner. Match colored tiles of different shapes corner to corner to block your opponent. Winner is the one who places the most tiles.
• Qwirkle
A new twist on dominoes. Match tiles end to end by color and shapes. Multiple award winner (Mensa Select award, Parents’ Choice Gold award, Major Fun award). Encourages strategic thinking.
• Stare! Jr.
Stare at a picture on a card for 30 seconds, then put it away and answer questions about what you saw. (What was the clown holding in his left hand? What color was the girl’s purse?) The more you remember, the quicker you’ll make it across the board to “home.” Encourages attention to detail and strengthens visual memory.
• Scene It?
Watch movie or TV clips on a DVD then shout out answers to questions about them. Available in an array of incarnations, from Disney to Harry Potter or Twilight.

For Families

Any of the traditional
games listed above or below

• Cranium
Multiple-activity game challenges players to build things out of clay, perform charades, sing, or draw.
• The Settlers of Catan (ages 10 and up)
An award-winning strategy game where players collect resources and use them to build roads, settlements, and cities on their way to victory. The board itself is variable, making each game a little different from the next. A best-selling game in both Germany and the U.S.
• Ticket to Ride (ages 8 and up)
This award-winning game challenges players to complete multiple train routes connecting major cities. Players earn points by claiming routes across North America, connecting destination cities, and completing longest routes. Highest points win. Requires 2-5 players and can be played in less than an hour.
• Wits and Wagers Family (ages 8 and up)
Each player writes down a guess to a fun question. Then players try to score points by choosing which guess is closest to the right answer.
• Bananagrams
Think Scrabble without the board. Letter tiles come in a banana-shaped pouch, perfect for travel.
• Pictureka!
Be the first to spot hidden pictures and earn “mission” cards to win. Players either have to find a specific matching image or objects that fall into a category like “things that can fly.”
• Education Outdoors Camp Board Game
Kids compete against adults to move their pieces to camp first by answering rounds of increasingly difficult questions about animals, nature, and the outdoors. Dr. Toy award winner and iParenting Media award winner.

For Adults

• Scrabble
• Upwords
• Trivial Pursuit
• Balderdash
• Pictionary
• Sequence

• Wits and Wagers
You don’t have to be a trivia buff to enjoy this multiple award-winning game. Each player writes a guess to a question such as “In what year did the bikini swimsuit make its first appearance?” or “How many feet wide is an NFL football field?” Then you bet on who you think has the right answer. You win by making educated guesses, for knowing the interests of your friends, and for making smart bets. Winner of 20+ awards, including Mensa Select and Party Game of the Year winner.
• Say Anything
In this lighthearted, conversation-starting game, players write down answers to questions like “If I could have a BIG anything it would be…” Then everyone shares their answers (i.e., diamond ring, bank account, circle of friends, army of monkeys) and you vote on your favorite. Other players try to guess which one you picked. Answers tend to get sillier (and the laughs louder) the longer you play.
• Apples to Apples
A great conversation starter. Players make comparisons between different things. Select the card from your hand that you think is best described by a card played by the judge. (If the judge plays “awkward,” you might play “high school reunion.”) If the judge picks your card as the best match, you win that round. Everyone gets a chance to be the judge.
• Word on the Street
On each turn, one team flips over a category card. Team members frantically brainstorm words that fit the category (like “a brand of clothing” or “a type of insect”) in under 30 seconds. They must choose one final answer; the more letters the better. The goal is to then move letter tiles from that word to your side of the “street” so you can claim them away from the other team. 2010 Mensa Select award winner.
• Dizios
A domino game with a Scrabble-like twist. Players take turns placing tiles with matching edges; points are earned according to the pieces on the board your tile touches. 2010 Mensa Select award winner.


Looking for other great ideas for game night? For a list of informative Web sites featuring board game reviews, game descriptions, lists of award-winning games, and more, go to board games.


Congratulations to the following readers who entered our contest. They won board games from North Star Games, makers of Wits & Wagers, Say Anything, and other games.

First Place: Dee Dee Ford-Keene, Bardstown, Salt River Electric member, receives Wits & Wagers, Wits & Wagers Family, and Say Anything.

Second Place: Keisha Gibson, Leitchfield, receives Wits & Wagers and Say Anything.

Third Place: Betty Inabitt, Eubank, South Kentucky RECC member, receives Wits & Wagers.

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