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The best 5 games to play with your family when stuck inside

Clue is considered the classic mystery game. Players maneuver the Mr. Boddy's mansion, attempting to solve the who, how
Clue is considered the classic mystery game. Players maneuver the Mr. Boddy’s mansion, attempting to solve the who, how and where of his death. (K.J. Pilcher/The Gazette)

Games are a great way to spend time with family.

They test your wits and hone a competitive edge. They can be fun and frustrating all in one. Games are a great way to bond with one another, especially during time of quarantine when activities are limited.

Here are our top-five games in alphabetical order:


(Hasbro/Parker Brothers, 3 to 6 players, Ages 8 and older)

Background: CLUE is billed as the “Classic Mystery Game” that has been around for more than 70 years. The board game has a strong enough cult following that it even spawned its own movie, released in 1985.

Even though it received a makeover a little more than a decade ago, we still own and play the traditional game that attempts to find the murderer of Mr. Boddy at the Boddy Mansion. The object is to identify his killer, weapon used and the room it happened.

How to play: Our edition has six suspects, which consist of Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, the maid Mrs. White and Professor Plum. Weapons are a candlestick, knife, lead pipe, revolver, rope and wrench. The board contains nine rooms, ranking from the kitchen and dining room to billiard room and conservatory.

Cards with the suspects, weapons and rooms are distributed among the players with one of each set aside as the culprit, weapon and location of the crime. Players take turns maneuvering from room to room, rolling dice to move spaces or taking one of two secret passages.

Players gather information from clues in their hands and based on other players’ actions. They give suggestions as to who, what and where each turn they enter a room. If an opposing player has one of the cards guessed, starting with the player to the left, they can “prove them wrong” and show them one of the incorrect items.


Winning the game: If no one can prove them wrong, they have a chance to make an official accusation to win the game. For example, “Mrs. White with the candlestick in the Dining Room” or “Professor Plum in the library with the revolver” could be triumphant accusations.

Why we play: Who doesn’t like playing detective? There is a small sense of fantasy and role play, solving a “whodunit” as one of the characters. We love the suspense and strategy involved, trying to narrow down the possibilities and deceiving other players. It really tests you deductive reasoning.

Disney Pictopia

(Wonder Forge, Ages 7 and older)

Background: Pictopia’s tagline is “The ultimate picture-trivia family game” and we couldn’t agree more. This game revolves around scenes, characters and sites of Disney.

How to play: The board contains a winding path, beginning with a Mickey Mouse head to Cinderella’s Castle.

Players use a Mickey Mouse head game piece, five numbered discs and an answer dial. Players alternate turns, serving as “host.” The host rolls the die, moves the number of spaces and asks the group a question that corresponds to square the player reaches.

Cards consists of four Disney-related pictures. The questions are separated into group answers (Pick 1, Pick 2 and Pick 3) and individual answers (Solo Pick 1 and Spotlight) and based on the photos marked A, B, C and D. Players work together for group answers, while the answer dial is used for individual responses.

Things get tricky because players (host excluded) make secret wagers for each question, using one of the discs numbered one through five. If an answer is correct, players move that many spaces. After a player has used all the discs, they are returned to continue wagering.

The goal is to race down the path and reach the castle first.

Winning the game: The winner is the first to reach Cinderella’s Castle and answer one specific final question. Interestingly, if multiple players reach the end on the same turn and answer the same question correctly, co-winners are declared. Players with an incorrect answer returns to a designated spot on the path and the game resumes.


Why we play: We are Disney fanatics. We are suckers for anything with mouse ears stamped on it. We enjoy trivia questions that tests our knowledge and invoke some of our favorite Disney memories. Even though you are competing against one another, there is also an element of working together.


(Hasbro/Parker Brothers, 2 to 8 players, Ages 8 and older)

Background: Monopoly was marketed by Parker Brothers in 1935. Its roots stem back to 1904 and Lizzie Magie’s The Landlord’s Game, which was meant to show how landlords exploited tenants. The streets of a current Monopoly board are based on Atlantic City, N.J.

How to play: Players begin with $1,500 on the well-known GO space and make their way around the 40-square board that is primarily consists of properties for them to own. The goal is to snatch up as much property and wealth as possible, while bankrupting everyone else.

The spaces represent streets, railroads and utilities for purchase that get progressively higher as players advance around the board. If properties are not owned, they can buy them. Once they have claimed the deed, rent can be collected if others land on it. If someone lands on an unowned property and doesn’t want to pay for it, other players can acquire it from an auction.

Properties are split into color-coded groupings. If a player owns each property of a specific grouping, they can purchase houses and hotels, which drives up the cost of rent.

In addition to GO, the most notable spaces are the corners — Jail, Free Parking and Go to Jail. The jail-related spaces are self-explanatory, while Free Parking is nothing but decoration.

The board contains other pitfalls and positives. Chance and Community Chest spaces force players to draw cards from the respective piles. They contain possible charges, monetary rewards or actions.

Players also try to avoid spaces for income tax and luxury tax penalties.

The game also allows players to use a mortgage option, property trades and other deals to gain wealth or offset debt.


There is an ebb and flow to it as money seems to constantly change hands. Sometimes it can be hard to get an edge, if property is divided up evenly. It usually takes risk to make or break someone and create an advantage. The game can seem endless, but time limits can be used.

The neat thing about Monopoly is the way it has been adapted. Alternative versions of the game are common. We have “Stranger Things” and Disney World fans in our home and have Monopoly games adapted to both of those, changing streets to sites in the TV show or attractions at the theme park. There also is a Cedar Rapids version available.

Winning the game: It is the quintessential “Winner Take All” game. The game is won when one player is left with assets, property and cash. In the case of time limit, the player with the most wealth when time expires is the winner.

Why we play: This really fuels competitiveness, trying to build a financial empire, while squelching your opponents until they’re bankrupt. It can easily be adapted into different versions related to other interests. The rules can also be adjusted to play a shorter version.

Watch Ya’ Mouth

(Buffalo Games & Puzzles, 3 to 10 players, Ages 8 and older)

Background: This is a relatively new game on the market. Allison and Peter Dinbigh, of Virginia, are credited for creating it a few years ago.

How to play: Players are divided into two teams. The reader picks a card from the deck, which contains a certain phrase. A plastic cheek and lip retractor mouthpiece is placed in the reader’s mouth to hinder speaking properly.

Teammates have 30 seconds to try and repeat the phrase conveyed by the reader. Teams receive a point for each correct answer.

Cards consist of categories of pop culture, rhyme time, ultimate words and head-to-head. For the head-to-head, the reader chooses a reader from the opposite team. They both try and get their team to guess the right word without a time limit. First team to guess correctly wins the point.


Winning the game: The game itself calls for an end after each player has a turn as the reader. With only four of us, that goes too quickly. We fudge the rules here and the winning team is the first to 10 points.

Why we play: This game is just a blast. Laughs are generated by the silliness of incoherent words that don’t even resemble language of any kind. It’s fun and challenging, trying to convey words to a partner. Plus, there is a disgust factor with seeing people’s wide open, teeth and gums exposed, sometimes slobbery, mouths.


(Hasbro/Milton Bradley, Unlimited, Ages 8 and older)

Background: Yahtzee emerged in the 1940s with similarities to various dice games found in numerous countries across the world. It was originally distributed in its current form by the E.S. Lowe Company in 1956 before Milton Bradley (now owned by Hasbro) assumed the rights in 1973.

How to play: Five dice, a cup, score sheet and a flat surface are all that’s needed for this game. Players alternate turns rolling dice from the cup, trying to assemble various combinations for the highest score. The ultimate score in the game is a Yahtzee, which is 5 of a kind and usually met with some dopey cheer.

A turn consists of three rolls. All five are rolled the first time. Players can choose to roll any or all of them again a second time. This is repeated a third time. Players can select dice to keep, while rolling the others for a desired outcome. They do not have to take all three rolls, if they have a result to record.

Play continues for 13 rounds until each category is crossed off or filled. The score sheet is split into two sections. The upper section contains numerical categories for each side of the die. If those total up to 63 or higher, they receive a 35-point bonus.

The lower section includes specific combinations — 3 of a kind, 4 of a kind, full house, small straight (four in sequence), large straight (five in sequence), Yahtzee and chance, which is a miscellaneous roll that may not fit any other row.

The upper and lower sections are added together for a total score to compare to opponents.

Winning the game: After players have completed their turns, the player with the highest total score wins.


Why we play: There is no limit for the number of players. The game is simple and can be played quickly enough, allowing for multiple contests in an evening. Also, the game was good for helping young ones with math skills, adding the dice for their scores.

Other games we play

Each board game possesses a different brand of fun or challenge. Here are more we recommend (DVD games not included):

* — Apples to Apples

* — Beat The Parents

* — Pop the Pig

* — Scattergories

* — Scrabble

* — Sequence

* — The Smurfs

* — Trouble

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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