Play Games Today with Things You Already Have
At home and looking for ideas for games to play with the family? We've put together a list of ways to reuse and recycle components to play some favorite games, or try a new one.
Ohio is a card game by Reiner Knizia that can be played with a standard deck of playing cards (up to 4 players with one deck, or with a 5th player if you have a second deck).
Setup: Each player needs 1-10 plus an "Ohio card" (you can substitute a face card).
How to Play: One player leads, and then each player in turn must play a lower card or pass. The Ohio card is just a little below the last card played, but the next number card in sequence would still be lower, even if several Ohio cards are played.
Example: Sara plays a 5, Max plays an Ohio card, and George plays a 4.
If everyone passes, the last person to have played a card takes the cards in the center of the table, and then starts a new round.
When someone plays their last card, the round is completed and then scores are tallied. Cards you've taken score their face value, cards in your hand score negative face value, and Ohio cards are always negative 10. Highest score wins.
Maybe you found a board in the back of the closet, but some pieces are missing. Check your change bowl for some coins (face side up = King), or perhaps you have two colors of screw caps from drink bottles.
If you don't have a board, grab a square of cardboard and make an 8 x 8 grid. Color in every other square. If you have kids and some poster paint or crayons, they can help with this step. Interesting color choices are fine!
Bonus: You can also play Tic Tac Toe with a 3 x 3 section of the board.
If you're looking for a Checkers set, you can compare prices here.
Now that you've found or made an 8 x 8 board, you can also use it for Chess. Plastic screw caps and a permanent marker can give you durable Chess pieces that are easy to pick up.
If you've rekindled an interest in Chess (or a desire to learn), many different sets are available.
While you were checking the game closet for a Chess board, did you happen to run across a copy of Skip-Bo? You can play a clever card game for two players known as Elements, originally published as Khmer. Take out 2x ones, 2x twos, 2x threes, 2x fours, 2x fives, and 6 sixes.
Setup: Shuffle the cards and deal six to each player. The remaining four cards are put off to the side. They will not be used this time.
How to Play: On your turn, you can do one of these actions:
- Play a card to the table and announce the sum of the cards on the table.
- Take the most recently played card from the center and place it in front of you. It counts as in your hand, but you can not play it or discard it.
- Discard a 6 from your hand, out of play for the rest of the round.
- If the sum of the cards in your hand is less than or equal to the cards in the center, you may knock. Whoever has the highest total, without going over the total of the cards in the center, wins 2 points. If there is a tie, the player who knocked loses.
- If you fold, you concede the round and your opponent wins one point.
Bring back all of the cards out of play, shuffle, and re-deal. First player to six points wins.
Looking for a copy? Check availability here.
Schotten Totten is a two-player card game by Reiner Knizia. It needs cards 1-9 in six colors. This is most easily done if you have a Rage deck, but if you have two standard playing card decks, you could color two suits from the second deck to make the cards you need. You will also need 9 coins, stones, glass stones, bottle caps, Monopoly houses, or similar objects. They do not have to match.
Setup: Place the 9 stones in a long row between the players. Shuffle the cards and deal 6 cards to each player. The rest of the cards form a face down draw pile.
How to Play: On their turn, each player will play one card on their side of one of the stones, starting a column. Each stone can have up to 3 cards on each side. Then they replenish their hand from the draw pile.
When it is your turn, if there are three cards on both sides of a stone, you may claim a stone before you play your card for that turn. If there are not three cards on your opponent's side, you can claim the stone if you can prove that they cannot beat your combination. You can use information from face up cards on the table, but not cards in your hand.
The possible combinations are (best to worst):
Straight flush: all cards the same color, with sequential values (1-2-3)
Three of a kind: all cards the same value (3-3-3)
Flush: all cards the same color
Straight: all cards with sequential values (1-2-3)
Any other set of three cards
If both players have the same type of combination, the higher 3-card total wins. If still a tie, the player to complete the combination first wins.
When you win a stone, move it towards you, to the near end of the column of cards. No more cards can be played in this column (even if the other player had not played their full 3 cards).
The game ends as soon as one player has won three adjacent stones, or five stones total.
If you would like to purchase a copy of this game, you can compare prices here.
If you have a Rage deck or two sets of playing cards, you can also play Parade by Naoki Homma. You will need 0-10 in six colors (you'll need to borrow a face card like a Jack to make the zeroes if you are using playing cards). Two to six may play.
Setup: Shuffle the cards and deal each player five cards face down. Place six cards face up in a row in the middle of the table, and place the rest of the cards as a draw pile at one end. This is the front of the line.
How to Play: On your turn, play one of the cards from your hand to the end of the line of cards.
If this triggers cards to be removed, take them and lay them in front of you.
- Removing cards: Starting with the card in front of the card you just played, count the number of cards in the row. If it is less than or equal to the value of the card you just played, no cards will be removed this turn.
- If there are more cards in the row, cards in positions farther away will be removed if they are the same color as the card just played, or have a value less than or equal to the card just played. Example: Playing a four card will protect the four cards next to it in line. If there are more than four cards, they will be removed if they meet the criteria, and placed in front of the player. If a 0 card is played, it protects 0 cards.
- If you take cards, lay them face up, sorted by color, so that all players can see their values. Then shift the cards in the center row to close any gaps.
Finally, draw a card to bring your hand back up to 5 cards.
If the draw pile runs out, or a player has collected all six colors, it triggers the final round. All players get one more turn, but no cards are drawn from the draw pile.
Each player discards two cards from their hand. The rest are kept to improve their scoring.
Colors are scored one at a time. The player(s) with the most cards in a color flip them over and score one point for each card, regardless of the card value. (In a two-player game, a player needs at least two more cards in a color to win the majority.) Then players total the printed values of all of their face up cards. The player with the lowest score wins.
Looking for a printed copy with its unique art? You can compare prices here.
Los Banditos is a two-player dice game by Reiner Knizia. You'll need 6 dice in 4 colors (total: 24 dice), 10 screw tops, plastic poker chips, or similar discs that you can write on, and a cloth bag or something to draw the dice from.
Setup: Write a "1" on 4 of the chips, a "2" on 3 of the chips, and a "3" on the final 3 chips. Place them face down and shuffle them. Put four chips in a row between the players and flip them over. The other chips stay face down in the supply until they are needed. All of the dice go into the bag.
How to Play: On the first turn of the game, the player takes one die from the bag. After that, players will draw two each turn. The player rolls the die (later, dice), and places it on their side of one of the chips, starting a column. Each chip can have three dice on each side.
Once there are three dice on each side of a chip, the player with the best combination of dice wins it. The possible combinations are (best to worst):
Three flush: all dice same color and same value
Straight flush: all dice same color, sequential values (like 1-2-3, they don't need to have been placed in order)
Three of a kind: color doesn't matter, only need three dice of the same value (5-5-5)
Straight: color doesn't matter, only need sequential values (like 1-2-3)
Pair flush: two dice same color and same value
Pair: color doesn't matter, two dice same value
Any other combination of dice
If players have the same combination, the higher one will win. Three fours are better than three twos (but three twos the same color is better than three fours not the same color).
On your turn, if you have three dice next to a chip and you can prove the other player cannot beat your combination no matter what they play, you may claim that chip. If you decide to, you can also concede a chip to the other player.
When a chip is won by any of these methods, the player takes the chip and places it on the table in front of themselves, and the empty space is restocked from the supply of face down chips. The dice go back in the bag. If the player has 10 or more points, they win.
Another game by Reiner Knizia, for 2-6 players. You'll need six shapes in six colors. A copy of Qwirkle works well if you have one (and it's a great game in its own right). I painted some wooden animal shapes, but you could use squares of construction paper and draw a circle, triangle, star, etc. Or trace cookie cutters to get interesting shapes. You'll also need 36 tokens (like pennies or plastic chips), and a pawn or mover of some kind.
Setup: Randomly place all of the pieces in a circle on the table. Place the tokens in the center of the circle, and the pawn on one of the shapes in the circle.
How to Play: On your turn, you can move the pawn 1, 2, or 3 spaces. Take the piece the pawn was standing on, and place it in front of you on the table. The pawn will be standing directly on the table.
If it is the last piece of that color, each player receives a token from the center of the table for each piece in that color that they have. If it is the last piece of that shape, same thing, but for shape. If it is the last of the color and last of the shape, score for the color and then the shape.
Once the supply is empty of tokens, the player with the most tokens wins.