Classic Games Worth Another Look in 2017

January 17, 2017

New games with their shiny bits, expansions, hexagons, and everything else are awesome! But let’s not forget some of the time honored classics – there’s a reason they’ve been around so long. Here’s a run-down of a few short and easy to learn classics that you may or may not have heard of. Included in each description is the basic gameplay, but always consult the rules for specific situations, variations, and more details.

This is a traditional African game, making a resurgence in many elementary and middlClassicMancalae schools currently. It’s a perfect game for working on fine motor skills and basic logic/strategy without being frustrating to new players. Mancala is played with pebbles (usually glass) and a board with cups carved out of it. The object of the game is to have the most pebbles at the end, simple enough! Play is just as simple: Choose a cup on your side of the board, scoop out all of the pebbles, and drop them one by one clockwise around the board. Each end of the board has a larger cup carved out, which is where you claim – or “Store” – your pebbles. Strategy is key in this game, as you will inevitably drop pebbles into your opponent’s cups. Additional rules add to the strategy: dropping your last pebble into your Store allows you to take another turn immediately, and if the cup that you drop your last pebble in was empty – you get to claim all of your opponent’s pebbles from the cup next to it! The relatively calm play is enhanced by the soothing texture of the pebbles, and easy setup makes it a great game to bring out anytime.

Five dice and a scorecard are all you need for this classic, though a dice cup makes rolling easier. Roll your dice to see what you can get – you’re looking for straights or matching numbers. You can keep or reroll any of the dice up to two more times in order to score what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, if your result doesn’t score in any open slot, you have to take a zero somewhere on your scorecard. The signature (and highest scoring) result is to get the same number on all five dice – a Yahtzee! This game is a bit higher energy, and doesn’t take much space to play. Another bonus is that any number of people can play, either simultaneously if you have multiple dice sets or by taking turns.


(AKA: Perudo, Pirate’s Dice, Diception…)
5 dice and a cup are needed for each player in this classic gamClassicPerudoe. Each player rolls their dice and looks at their result, keeping it a secret from the other players. To start the round, a player bids a value and quantity that they think is shown among all of the dice. The turn then moves to each player, where they can raise or challenge. To raise the bid, the new player either names a higher quantity or a higher value. (Example: Paul starts bidding with “3 fives”. George raises with “7 fives”. Ringo raises with “4 sixes”. John Challenges.) When a challenge is called, everyone lifts their cups. If the dice show at least as many values as the current bid, the challenger loses a die. If not, the bidder loses a die. Everyone rolls again and play continues, starting from the person after the challenger. The winner is the player holding the last die. This game excels with 4-6 players, as too many will make for a very long game while too few will reduce much of the strategy to plain luck.

A classic pub game, shut the box uses two six-sided dice and a box. The ClassicShutBoxbox traditionally has tiles mounted on hinges that are numbered one through nine, although some variations use numbers up to 12. The player rolls the two dice and adds the values shown. They then choose any combination of tiles which add to the same value to “shut”. (Example: Celine rolls a 2 and 4. She can shut any set of {6}, {1, 5}, {2, 4}, or {1, 2, 3}.) Their turn ends when they roll a value that they cannot shut, and the open tiles are added together for their score. At the end of the game, the lowest score wins! Shut the Box is a simple game to explain and play, with variations to keep it fun for years. Some boards allow up to four people to play simultaneously, and a newer version has two rows of numbered tiles for players to shut. With each person playing alone, it allows for others to hold conversations while waiting their turn or for the end of the round. It’s great for those boastful players – “Hey Bono! Beat a 3!”

Dominoes is a game involving tiles with two numbers or sets of dots. Each domino is a uniqClassicDominoesue pair of numbers zero through the highest in the set. “Double-Six” Dominoes count zero through six, “Double-Nine” count zero through nine, etc. For a basic game of Dominoes, the game begins with drawing tiles from the “boneyard”. Play would begin with the highest “double” held by a player. Each player takes turns placing tiles so that the numbers or dots (“pips”) match one that is already in play. The rules can vary: “Blocking” games play until one player is out of tiles and the others add their remaining tiles. “Scoring” games count points as play happens, and can vary from scoring all points to just sums of the ends that are multiples of threes or fives. Other popular variations include Mexican Train (where each player is creating their own “train” of dominoes) and Chicken Foot (similar to the standard game, but any doubles must be played on before other ends are matched). Dominoes tends to be a calm game, with an emphasis on basic addition and pattern matching. The tiles provide a solid and smooth texture that adds a sense of concrete tactile engagement throughout. Plus, you can use them after the game by setting up patterns to knock over!

By far my favorite of this set of classics iClassicCribbages Cribbage and, while it’s more complicated than the other games here, it’s easy enough to learn after a few hands. It’s a true piece of American nostalgia, as almost everyone’s grandparents’ house has a board. I’ve got a travel board that usually finds a spot in my purse when going out and have been known to give a crooked grin while asking “You play Crib?”. It requires a deck of cards, and either some scratch paper or a cribbage board. Boards are usually made of a straight or paperclip style track with holes that players use to track points with pegs. Other boards use a “29” shape, highlighting the highest possible number of points in a single hand. Simple enough premise: Get to 121 points first! Players take turns having a “Crib” and “Pegging” for points. Six cards are dealt to each player, they choose two cards to give to the crib, and then a shared card is flipped over on the stack. Players lay one card at a time until all of their cards are shown, scoring points similarly to poker (Runs, Flushes, Pairs, etc). Players can also score by adding values to get 15 or 31, with each scoring two points. Each hand and the crib is then counted individually in the same way. If you want to sound like you know your stuff even when losing, call your unfortunate zero-point hand as “19” – it’s mathematically impossible to get that score.


Paige P

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