"Take out his funny bone!" "You sank my destroyer." "King me!"
Choose your "catch phrase." But whatever your family shouts out during a board-game bout – like Operation, Battleship or classic checkers – go directly to your stash and dust-off those directions. We’ve stacked the cards in your favor with three "categories" of updated staples and under-the-radar favs, all sure to stoke up the friendly competition – and cerebellum!
Classics with a twist
When it comes to fun, Hasbro Games is pretty serious. In fact, it has an ongoing Family Game Night campaign, geared at getting families play together once a week. Here are a few of its souped-up spins on old-school games.
- Clue: Discover the Secrets. Barbells and spas have replaced revolvers and billiard rooms in the glitzy redo of the whodunit murder-mystery game. “Intrigue Cards" also beef the suspense. Parker Brothers/Hasbro. 3-6 players. Ages 9-plus. 60 minutes. $17.99.
- Sorry! Sliders. Raise the revenge factor with ball-bearing-embedded pawns that whiz up ramps to knock opponents around. By Parker Brothers/Hasbro. 1-4 players. Ages 6-plus. 30 minutes. $22.99.
- Cranium: Family Edition. This staple features 16 activities for cross-generational fun, from cubes and clay to Flipper Frogs and wacky stunts. 4-plus players. Ages 8-plus. 45 minutes. $19.99.
In the past 15 years, so-called "Eurogames" have taken hold, says Bob Fix of Metro Detroit Gamers. There’s greater focus on strategy, versus luck. They’re also more durable and aimed at more players – ideal for families. Try out his family of four’s top picks.
- Hey! That’s My Fish! You’re a hungry penguin gathering up grub. In this tile-game, you also chop off pieces of the hex-shaped "ice floe" you’re playing on to get more din-din. Mayfair Games. 2-4 players. Ages 8-plus. 20 minutes. $25.
- Ticket to Ride. Simple and strategic, this game plays off the U.S. railroad boom of the late 1800s, with players vying to build the longest route and stave off competitors. Versions vary. Days of Wonder. 2-5 players. Ages 8-plus. 45 minutes. $50.
- Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game. Can you survive? This mixed-media romp pairs "small-town heroes" with loads of brain-munching monsters. Includes a CD of horror-film-style tunes. Flying Frog Productions. 2-6 players. Ages 12-plus. 1 hour. $49.95.
Kick the grammar lessons to the curb. These wacky word games turn the English language on its head – with guffaws guaranteed to follow.
- Apples to Apples. Subjective and hysterical, this word-association card game is addictively simple: The judge sets out a word; you plunk down one from your hand. Judge likes; you get points. Out of the Box/Mattel. 4-10 players. Ages 12-plus (kid versions start at 7). $16.99-$24.99.
- Balderdash. Boost your family’s word power (and split a side) with the card bluffing game that challenges players to define obscure words – and make up their own definitions to throw others off. Mattel. 2-plus players. Ages 12-plus. $24.99.
- Catch Phrase. How fast can you describe and act out a word – without saying "rhymes with" or any part of the word itself? An electronic version of this favorite now has 10,000 terms for tons of fun. Parker Brothers/Hasbro. 4-plus players. Ages 12-plus ("Junior" is 8-plus). 15-30 minutes. $18.99-$26.99.