Five Fabulous Family Games you can play in Fifteen Minutes.

We own this. But it is not what we play with the kids. Yet.
We own this. But it is not what we play with the kids. Yet.

Every Wednesday we sit down for family game night. If you are like me the very phrase causes you to break out in a cold sweat. It will start out all fun and, well, games. It will inevitable evolve into catatonic boredom or shrieking accusations of cheating. If we are lucky it can be both of the above. Happily we are finally past the life stage where we play the game of Life, that endless game with no strategy.

We are not yet ready for full on gambling although we have begun the process of teaching the boys Texas Hold ’em. It’s math people. It’s good for them.

We have hit on a winning formula for game night. The games we play are short (ish), include some strategy but enough luck so winners and losers get spread out, and often make us laugh until we pee. Or I pee. Instead of slogging though Monopoly (just buy everything you land on) why don’t you benefit from our research and play one of this games that can be finished in fifteen minutes or less.

  1. Apples to Apples Juniorscreen-shot-2016-09-26-at-9-49-19-am

Apples to Apples Junior – The Game of Crazy Combinations
This is the PG version of Cards Against Humanity. (A must have super adult party game). A green descriptive card FLOPPY is the prompt to select a red topic card. The literal amongst us might choose “bunny, or hat.” Someone else might choose “cheerleaders.” Yet another one will choose “your balls.” The judge gets to decide the winner. Guess what wins in our house? The box tells us it is a thirty minute play time, but you can easily make it faster (or slower but who would do that) by decreasing (or increasing) the number of green cards that it takes to win. As a bonus you can use the green cards as a fun description of the player. Oliver might be “floppy, cheap, kind, and smart.” And apples to apples would be right. Again. PS. The “your balls” card isn’t stocked in the apples to apples junior box. We use sharpies to add custom cards at the beginning of each game. Teacher’s names and private body parts seem to make things more fun. As long as they aren’t combined.

2. Exploding Kittens. screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-10-00-28-amFirst off this game taught us that tacocat spelled backwards is tacocat. That should be enough of a recommendation right there. (Says Anna who loves a palindrome.) Imagine a game of uno where you can laugh at, well, exploding kittens. And target your brother for a virtual blow up. And possibly miscount the cards and blow yourself up. How funny would that be? At least to your brother… We play this half of the time. One round takes five minutes. So we play three or four times and pretty much everyone gets to win. (Hint…hold all of your special cards to the end for one very satisfying mega play.)

3. Golf, a game with regular cards.

this is NOT posed. I was so excited to get four sixes that Leo documented the day.
this is NOT posed.

Another regular game for Wednesday nights is golf. It’s a simple card game where you try to get the lowest score. In fact it is so simple that we added a twist. Sort of like shooting the moon in hearts (you all know hearts obviously) we offer ourselves -20 points for collecting 4 of a kind. It’s a risk really, and we want to encourage risk taking. If you want to play it safe you can always go for low cards like Aces and twos…but I don’t really do that. In the photo you can see the thrill I felt at getting 4 sixes. The best part was how much my boys were rooting for me. Waiting with baited breathe at each draw and discard. Hoping they could help make it happen. When I got the fourth six they erupted in cheers. It was our own private superbowl…and I expect they are working on my ring right now.


4. Masterpiece.screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-10-16-10-am This one is a little less cost effective. I found mine for $5 at a yard sale. Actually a friend found it and I helped her out by taking it away and buying it herself. Amazon sells it for $70 freaking dollars. Click if you dare. I know they pop up on eBay now and then. Maybe set a search? In any case this is the game of my childhood where high quality (for 1980) images from the Chicago Art Museum (which makes Ferris Beuller even more fun to watch with your kids once they feel like art experts) are included in post card form. Each player pairs a painting with a price (1,000,000 to forgery- they haven’t been watching Sotheby’s results lately) and auctions them off. If you are playing with someone like Leo you may or may not have to collect the art pieces from around the house where he displays them like a curator of his own gallery. It’s not as funny as blowing up kittens but there is a combo of culture and vulture that is unmatched. Plus you can quit whenever you want and the game is magically finished. (Just stop bidding at 350k and math is with you.)

5. Risk. screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-10-34-10-amThis one is a bit of a fudge because never in the history of the globe has Risk been finished in 15 minutes. But there are times when I miss game night and the family patience factor is increaser by, well, a factor. So world domination is the name of the game. As a bonus the boys have learned a bit of Geography. And the little risk pieces can always march in miniature armies around the house, colonizing Asian art as well as Asia.


So there they are. The games that have taken game night from barely tolerable to totally terrific. I hope you enjoy them.

Do you have any to add to the list?