Games, Homelife, Things I Love

Favorite Family Card Games

Our family loves to play games. Card games. Board games. Video games. We are cool with all of it.

But times are a changin’ in this house and my teenagers have outgrown the entertaining games of the early years.  And I can’t say I miss most of them.

Yet, there is still a 7-year-old in the house and we don’t want to leave him out so we have to find games that work for everyone!

Card games for the family this Christmas.

Without further ado, here are our favorite family card games for elementary school through adulthood in no particular order.

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UPDATED (11/2016) with a new favorite:

One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

(3-10 players) Our family purchased this game this month and it is a HUGE hit. My 14-year-old’s friends have returned home from playing and BEGGED their parents for this game. It is a HUGE hit with everyone from the 7-year-old to me.

It is a short, role-playing game. Everyone closes their eyes, knowing who they are but not anyone else. One by one, players wake up to perform various actions in secret. Then everyone wakes up and the game begins. You have five minutes (or whatever time you declare) to determine who is a werewolf. Of course, if you are a werewolf, you have 5 minutes to convince them that someone else is.

There is a FREE app that will be the announcer for you. GET THE FREE APP! It makes it much easier and it plays some background music to hide the movement of the game. There is NO doubt in my mind that this will be a 2016 Christmas hit!
Sushi Go. This game is inexpensive, portable, and easy for the whole family. The basic idea is simple. After the first deal, everyone selects one card from their hand to keep for points, then you pass your hand to the left. After you reveal the card you kept, you now pick a new one to keep from the hand you received. The process repeats until everyone is handed one last card, which they keep.

This game is great because there is plenty of personal strategy involved without being too complicated for the young kids. Even though it suggests ages 8+, my 6 year old was able to hang in there with us once he understood how the cards worked. Of course, he doesn’t have as much strategy developed yet, but this game makes it so that everyone earns some sort of points each round.

It is also easy to say things out loud to help my kids with their strategic processes without revealing my own hand. “If you have a pudding card, then right now might be a good time to make sure you keep it” or “Remember that wasabi cards are important to grab early”. Of course, this is just a great strategy when helping younger kids with any game.

Pit. Loud. Fun. Loud. Silly. Loud. Fast. And yes, LOUD. The kids love this one because of its pace. No one has to wait for a turn because the play happens all at once until someone wins.

Everyone is attempting to be the first person to receive 9 matching cards by trading blindly with other players. The only difficulty for some kids is making sure that they remember how the Bear and Bull cards work. Also, 2 players will have a 10th card, which can work to your benefit IF you remember you have 10 and not 9. I try to make sure my younger kids aren’t stuck with the 10 cards because it is visually difficult to remember that all 10 don’t have to match, just 9.

My 6-year-old was able to hang with this game IF someone acted as his card holder. If your kids are young and their hands are small, holding 9-10 cards and keeping them organized will be the hardest part of the game for them. The speed can be frustrating to a younger child who can’t manage their cards. You can purchase a card holder for them, which helps, or a designated adult plays with them. Either option allows us to play as a family.

This game is NOT good for those sensitive to noise or speed. It is LOUD, so it works well for boisterous families, but might send quieter types over the edge. And definitely get the set with the bell. Something has to signal the end and be heard over the yelling.

Exploding Kittens.  This is a new one for us and my entire family loves this game.  LOVES.  The cards are funny and the images are colorful and silly, not gross despite the name of the game.  It is fairly easy to learn and the instructions are very clear in the guide, which I appreciate.

We all enjoy the intense feeling that builds up as the game moves along.  At some point, you know that there are only a few cards left and you know how many are the exploding kittens (which mean you are out if you can’t diffuse them).  The intensity and laughter increase when a player gets a chance to place an exploding kitten in the deck after diffusing one.  Kittens can be placed anywhere secretly, including the top of the deck, making it the NEXT card that will be drawn.

My youngest just turned 7 when we learned this game and he can play without any help.  His strategy isn’t always the best, but there is some luck involved so he can hang until the end at times even with poor moves.

*Note, it appears that there is an explicit version on Amazon.  I have no clue about it.  That is NOT the one we play.

The Great Dalmuti.  This is another one that brings our whole crew together around the table.  The rules are simple so that even my youngest child can follow. This game is very similar to the classic card game, “I doubt it” also known as “Bulls#@t”.

This is another game where the youngest child might need a card holder or an assigned card holding buddy.  If we can’t locate our card holders, I will organize the cards for my youngest before the game starts so he has his hand in order.  Then, on his turn, he hands me the cards and I fan them out in my hand, but keep them facing him so he can decide what to do.  The initial organizing could give me an advantage, but I try to ignore the cards some as I organize, but if he has the Great Dalmuti card then I will know it.  What can you do?  We still have a blast!

Coup.  This one is a bit more complicated than the other games on the list, though my 8 year old can hang with it. My 6 year old needs to play with a partner, which is usually me. The rules aren’t quite as straight forward, but it isn’t too bad once you play a few rounds. The game comes with some cheat sheets to keep on the table so everyone can have a reminder about what each card is capable of doing.

You can order the Coup: Reformation cards, which serve as an expansion pack. They introduce one additional character and provide bonus cards so that you can play in larger groups. We use the Inquisitor from this pack to replace the Ambassador every time we play.

Hanabi. I have to be honest. This one is my least favorite on the list of favorites, but it is my 13 year old daughter’s absolute favorite, so it is here on my list. Because if my teenager likes to play it, then I like to play it with her!

This is a cooperative game, so there isn’t a winner or loser. No one is out until everyone is out. The techniques for cooperative games are a bit different and take practice. You may have to help your kids through the different types of strategy when it isn’t “every man for himself”. This was a great introduction to this genre of games for our family!

Splendor.  We have gotten so many families HOOKED on this game.  Hands down, this is my FAVORITE game.

It is pricey, but well worth it!  It is straight forward enough that my 6-year-old actually won the first time we played.  Sadly, now that the rest of us have worked out our strategies, he doesn’t often win anymore, but he can play with understanding and enjoy the game along with us.

The title calls it a board game, but there is no board. The cards make up a sort of board in the middle, but I consider it a card game.  The biggest limitation of this game is that only 2-4 people are supposed to play it, though we have done it with five. This is the type of game I break out in smaller family groups, such as when the boys go to bed or when someone is at an athletic practice and the rest of us are home.

Dutch Blitz. This one is geared more toward the older elementary (ages 8+) due to the speed of the game. My littlest guy would struggle to keep up. I recommend purchasing this one with the expansion pack if you are ever going to play with more than 4 players. It’s particularly handy when your kids have friends come over to hang out.

Finally, I’ll give a shout out to a few favorite classics that we enjoy.

UNO. Everyone knows about UNO. We have enjoyed this one for years because children as young as 4-5 years old were able to play it. We would lay portable desks or box lids on their sides so the youngest players could spread their cards on the floor and have them blocked from view. This gives them the ability to keep it all straight. UNO is a great family game when you have a range of ages in the house.

SKIP-BO. My childhood memories include playing this game with my mother at the kitchen table after we cleaned up dinner. It is still a favorite for me. I love to play with my daughters after dinner in the same manner.  It is suggested for children as young as 7, but I suspect with a little help that a 6-7 year old could play too.

Phase 10. This is another classic card game that the family can enjoy together. The difficulty with this game is the amount of time it takes to complete all 10 phases, so we typically don’t. We declare odd or even phases at the beginning and then we are only committed to five of them, but the difficulty increases all of the way.

A NOTE ABOUT CARD HOLDERS because it is important to include the WHOLE family in the fun:

I’ve suggested a card holder for many of the games on this list.  This sort of simple modification makes a big difference for little hands.  Sometimes, I even organize the cards for them at the start of the game and then they can take it from there.

We have the one by Gamewright due to price, but there are a lot of options available to help little hands. It is well worth the price to make family card games work for everyone! I have my eye on this curved wooden block one because I think my youngest two kids would like it.

So go forth.  Play games as a family.  Laugh.  Enjoy.  Make memories.  And let me know what games you would add to the list.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Susan Evans November 16, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Dutch Blitz is one of my favorite games of all time. I still enjoy playing it with my sisters when they visit.

  • Reply Katharine Wise July 5, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    My favorite is Five Crowns, a variation on Rummy which includes a double deck and a fifth suit, and where the number of cards in your hand and thus the number of sets you need to create increases with each round. You start with three in the first round and end with thirteen. And — each round the number or face card that corresponds with the number of cards in your hand becomes a wild card for that round!

    • Reply notbefore7@gmail.com July 6, 2017 at 8:38 pm

      I hear such good things about this game. I really need to add it to our collection!

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