Our school year has officially begun, and soon, our board game club will be meeting again! I am not ashamed to say that the best part of my job is playing games with students. I am always trying to push the kiddos beyond much-beloved classics like Uno, Jenga, and Connect Four. Learning through play is real, and I want my students to push themselves both in class and during game time.
I've ordered some games for the new school year to try out with the kids, and I cannot wait for them to arrive in the mail:
1. Paperback (2–5 Players)
As both a word game and a deck-building game, Paperback is going to be board game crack for me. (That's right, students, this is how we teachers "turn up" on the weekends!) In Paperback, your goal is to write cheesy pulp novels, and you do so by using your hand to create words, purchase additional letters, and eventually acquire victory points/publish novels.
I love that the words you make in this game help you towards a larger goal and that new cards allow you to take interesting new actions on later turns. Scrabble is fun when you're in the mood to assemble words, but you can be stuck with the same crappy letters for a long time, and if you're only playing for a high score, the game can get discouraging. (Playing Scrabble with my mom can be exceptionally brutal.) Paperback eliminates a lot of these problems because in deckbuilders, you discard your whole hand at the end of a turn and start fresh. There is always something you can do to try to improve your situation. I think Paperback could help my students get in touch with their inner word nerds.
2. Spyfall (3–8 Players)
Teenagers tend to use words like cudgels rather than like rapiers. And while there is a place for bluntness in life, I want to make my students' brains melt as they seek out just the right words for any occasion. Spyfall will help them practice while also having a ridiculous amount of fun.
Spyfall is a social deduction game in which the players are working to detect a spy. At the beginning of the game, each player receives a card that is kept secret from the other players. Most of the players receive a card that reveals their location, for example, a casino, a pirate ship, or a movie studio. The spy, however, receives a spy card. Through a delicate process of asking and answering questions, the spy tries to work out her location, while the rest of the group tries to detect the spy. Answer a question too specifically, and the spy will easily guess where you are. But answer too vaguely, and everyone will think you're the spy! Players score points by successfully accusing and revealing a spy, while the spy scores points by revealing himself and correctly naming his location. I think the element of suspicion and the challenge of coming up with appropriately subtle questions and answers will be a lot of fun for the kids.
3. Cat Tower (3-6 Players)
Cat Tower is a dexterity game that offers a fresh take on towers for anyone who has gotten tired of Jenga. In Cat Tower, each player has a hand of seven cards with cats printed on them (you can bend them to create the "legs" and stack the cats). The goal is to get rid of all of your cards first, but beware—just stacking them won't be enough. Each player also has to roll a die which causes special game effects. You may have to add "fat cats" to the tower, put cats on upside-down, or place extra cats during your turn. If you mess up and knock over part of the tower, you have to take cat cards back into your hand.
Cat Tower is cute and has simple rules, but it can be challenging to stack the cats! It is also a more interesting game than Jenga, because it ends when a player runs out of cat cards—not when the tower falls. This gives everyone a chance to keep the fun going, and to get in enough practice to actually improve their gameplay. It's also great for players of all ages, because it's simple enough for kids to play but entertaining enough for a group of adults. I think it'll work well with teenagers who want something light.