February 25, 2008

Game On!

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Find more about boredom busters, inspired ideas

"Mommy, are you trying to lose?" Julia, 9, accuses. It's now the dead of winter in the Northeast and, forced inside, we play a lot of card and board games. Julia and I are facing each other over a rhyming board game and, although we've outgrown the let-them-win phase, I don't have to try too hard to beat her at this one.

"I want to play games that are as hard for you as they are for me," Julia says. Unlike her brother Henry, 7, who sometimes needs to be coaxed to the game table, Julia is our most enthusiastic player. Put to the challenge by my competitive daughter, I do a little digging with some other families and our local independent game store, Eureka, (www.eurekapuzzles.com) and get some superb recommendations that challenge us all.

The first new game we try is a deceptively simple card game called SET where you find and match patterns using, according to the game's makers, "spatial" and "intuitive" thinking. I must have a wire loose somewhere because after playing this game for a few rounds, it becomes quite clear I am terrible at it as I lose again and again. The nice -- and unusual -- feature of this game is that as few as two players can play.

We also found Blokus, a highly-recommended board game that tests spatial ability but also requires a bit of strategy in blocking your opponents. It's quite competitive for four players and we all become addicted. Julia is currently our reigning champ.

We're also enjoying the recently-released themed Monopoly games, like the Dog Lover's Edition and space-themed Night Sky Monopoly. Henry loves Red Sox Monopoly -- as trading his favorite baseball players is much more enticing than Boardwalk or Park Place ever were. These new versions also feature a 60-minute speed-play option for shorter games, making the three-day-long Monopoly game a thing of the past.

Also catching our fancy is Ringzz, a game that definitely becomes more interesting the more you play it, and Guesstures, a charades-based game which often sends us all into fits of laughter.

Earlier this week when Julia and I faced off during a particularly heated, and close, game of SET, she smiled at my loud groan over losing to her -- again -- saying, "Mommy! It's only a game!"

Which board games do you and your kids enjoy the most? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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