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4 Rules for Game Night in Our Home

Photo Credit - Creative Commons: Loric Wilson

My parents didn’t frequently play board games with us five kids growing up.

But when they did, it was awesome!

Our favorite board games were the classics – Clue, Monopoly, Life, Sorry, Careers, Pay Day and Stop Thief…to name a few.

Sometimes my parents would win, sometimes  one of us kids would win.

However, depending on the “family dynamic” of any given game night (e.g. which kid blamed who for breaking a living room lamp…etc.) an acute case of Sore Loseritis would most likely develop.

As everyone knows, Sore Loseritis  is Latin (perhaps that’s a lie) for the inflammation of the hubris or pride region of the heart and typically results in accusations of cheating, shouting, crying or game-board flipping in extreme instances (at least that’s how I remember it in our household).

To avoid the passage of this hereditary malady to our daughters, my wife and I have a few ground rules when we all play games together.

No Taunting

During game nights when I grew up, it was like a verbal Battle Royal with blistering zingers and verbal pokes to really drive home the fact that I owned two hotels on Park Avenue and that I would demand property in lieu of play money payment.

Aside from being a tyrannical property owner, I was certainly the worst offender in this taunting regard and would mercilessly provoke my siblings at times until tears. I’m not proud of that but it’s true. So there’s no taunting at the current Constantino game night table.

Play Your Best, but Play Fair

Nobody lets anybody win in our family; however, me make sure to play enough prep rounds (e.g. all cards up, one adult on each team, lengthy strategy discussions…etc.) so that everyone has an equal chance to win – not whine. We also tend to pick games that have a significant element of chance to ensure maximum fun – not frustration.

We’re huge fans of virtually every iteration of Cranium-type games including Scibblish, Feed the Kitty and Brain Breaks. These games are fun, fast-paced with little opportunity to game the game.

Focus on the Fun

We are always gracious in victory and defeat – we never rub in a win and we never pout if we lose. We really strive to model and encourage good sportsmanship to our girls because later in life there will be times when they will win and lose. We always make sure to congratulate the winner and everybody shakes hands regardless of the outcome. And we all have to say, “Good game everyone!”

But make no mistake – there is always a winner, because that’s a reality of life and we want them to be prepared for those times when they’re not first.

Everyone Helps Clean Up the Game

In my family growing up the “loser” always had to clean up and put everything away – in other words you were punished for losing, kind of like those crazy Spartans who send 10 year old boys naked out in the cold to survive for a week (ok, maybe not quite that bad).

Regardless, loser-game-cleanup-detail blew tuna chunks! So in our family, the “loser” never cleans up because we all do our equal share. We think that helps keep the games fun and not a punishment.

Question: How about you, what house game rules did you have? What was your favorite board game growing up?

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  1. I think one needs to adopt special rules, as well.
    When my children were very young, we adjusted the rules of GHOST (multiple players, each person employs a letter, the object being having NO three or four or more letter word ending with your turn- if so, you acquire a G, H, O, S, or T- and Ghosts give up the ghost) so that the object would be to complete the word on your turn (to learn to spell and an easier strategy for the younger set).
    We did the same with Casino, where the object was to obtain the most cards and spades via matching and addition. (As they got older, it was the strategy to get the fewest number of cards and spades- and matches HAD to be taken.)
    And, for scrabble, the parents lost if they did not treble or double the other scorers.

  2. We used different games to help with school skills. Scramble, Carmen Santiago, there was one for math, etc. We would play until there was a winner or a bad attitude. Later in their teen years we have a game called Apples to Apples that our very analytical child hates so they moved on to cards and love to play card games.

    • Great ideas Shawn – thanks for sharing them. I think we’ve got “Apples to Apples” but haven’t played it with the girls because they were both too young – might be a good time to revisit it!

  3. I always loved Monopoly, but only because I usually won. My wife has refused to play with me for years (as in, since we’ve been married).

  4. Good rules, Tor. Our family is made up of huge game players – a family gathering is not complete without Pinochle, Settlers of Catan, Mafia, Croquet or Pirate Dice. Now that we’re all adults it has a different dynamic, but the most important rule is to get my husband whenever possible as he always has an inordinate amount of wins. I think you just gave me an idea for a blog post. Thanks!

  5. Good rules. I especially love the “play your best” rule. That actually makes the game more fun.

    My wife doesn’t like to play games because her mom would always win when she was kid.

  6. Kim Constantino says:

    Hmmm, Husband, don’t you have to be willing to PLAY board games to write a post like this one?? LOL! ;)

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