family fun games for children and adults

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Whatever the game, we have to keep it (or change it) so that it is fun, because only as long as it's fun for everyone can the game be a healing, joyful experience.

Bernie DeKoven (aka Major Fun) has chosen the following Family fun games for children and adults.

Snorta is even simpler than the rules make it out to be. And more fun. There's a deck of 100 animal cards. The deck is divided equally between 4-8 players. Players take turns exposing the top card in their pile. When cards match, the first player to make the sound of the other player's animal wins.

Other player's animal? Well, see, there's a bag full of plastic animals. Really nicely sculpted and painted cartoonishly funny-looking animals that live in a cloth drawstring bag.

Each player picks, and that becomes the player's animal. And that animal gets hidden in a similarly nicely sculpted barn-like, doghouse-looking thing. So you have to remember everybody's animal. Which isn't so easy - especially when you're looking at cards with other animals printed on them. If you lose, you have to pick up all the cards that the other player has already turned over.

Depending on how long it's been since a match has been drawn, that pile can get punishingly large. So the tension builds. And the excitement mounts. And the laughter frequently turns into something approximating hysteria. And then there's these occasional "swap" cards hidden in the animal card deck, which let you draw a different animal from the animal sack. Just in case people actually get too good at remembering the animal you used to be.

The mechanics of Snorta are subtle enough to make you want to play again and again. Even though a match can only involve two players at a time, all players are engaged. If you're not one of the players involved in a match, your pile just grows one card larger - making the possibility of success next round even that much more enticing. If you have a match fight with someone with a large pile, and you lose, it makes the loss that much more punishing.

Combine the visual and memory challenge with the sheer silliness of people making animal noises at each other, and you get Snorta - a Major FUN Award-winning party game that's competitive enough to take seriously, and silly enough not to care. Snorta is an ideal family game - one that adults can enjoy (our Tasting group ranged in age from 7-63, including a couple of advanced teens) as much as their kids.

Easy Come, Easy Go Game is a dice game that starts out as fun, and keeps on being fun until the very end. It's easy to understand, easy to play, and takes maybe an easy 5-10 minutes for a round. And it's easily one of the best dice games on the market. It'll remind you of Yahtzee, but you'll be wrong.

There are 4 dice, and yes, you try to roll them so that they get to a certain total or so they're two of a kind or all of a kind, in a most Yahtzee-like manner. Except that there are only 4 dice. And the dice are numbered from 0 to 5 instead of 1-6. And once you choose not to re-roll a die, you can't roll it again on the next turn.

But that's not really what makes this little dice game so much fun. It's the "prizes" (9 of them, printed on thick card stock). Each prize describes a different dice combination (like "" exactly" or "3 of a kind, all dice odd".) Your goal is to get three of those prizes, and keep them until it is your turn again. Of course, all prizes remain in play, even though you've staked your claim to one or several.

And therein lies the Easy Go, and the deliciously painful fun of watching someone else take one of your cards. So you really never know who wins until the very last moment. And because it's so easy to understand, it's Major FUN, especially for families. Nice dice cup, too.

Bright Idea Games are designed for kids and maybe not complex enough for us grownups, but if the kids are having fun, well, then, they're fun enough. Way more interesting than Chutes and Ladders, let me tell you. Maya (age 1) and I (age 63) have played two of these games - Gopher It! and Catch the Match - enough times for them to become a cherished part of our personal play stash.

Both games are made of cards that are thick enough to withstand bouts of childlike glee. Both are different enough to be suitable for different moods. Gopher It! is a game of luck and risk. Catch the Match a game of visual perception.

Of these two, the technology of Catch the Match is maybe the more impressive. There are 15 large, thick cards. On each card, there are 15 images. Given any pair of cards, there are exactly two images that match. Neat, huh. Exactly two. The idea of the game, be the first to spot the match. Easy to understand. Simple enough for a 7-year-old. And me, too. Maya and I have tied twice. What else can I say?

Gopher It reminded me a little of Sid Sackson's Can't Stop!. You mish up all the satisfyingly thick cards, face down. There are three suits: carrots, nuts and apples. You can pick up to three cards, but if you pick two of the same kind of card in a row, you lose your turn. So you can't be too greedy. But you can't be too conservative either. As a result, there's just enough tension to keep everyone in play, without taking winning too seriously.

The preceding article is courtesy of Bernie DeKoven. - Copyright 2002 Major Fun

Bernie DeKoven is the author of The Well-Played Game: A Playful Path to Wholeness. and Junkyard Sports. Games should be a way for bringing more fun to your life. The Well-Played Game is a guide for making games into experiences that bring joy and health to you and everyone you play with.

Bernie DeKoven has developed and implemented collaborative events involving the cooperation of groups of all ages and sizes, from couples and families to schools and communities. Bernie worked with Mattel Media as "Dr. Fun / Staff Designer."

He helped create the team and the products that led Mattel to $200 million earnings in the first year. He originated new game concepts, facilitated creative brainstorming meetings, and worked with the entire staff to bring more fun to work.

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