Something magical happens on our winter vacation. I don’t really remember when it started, but now it is just our thing. It’s hard to believe, but my teenaged boys actually turn off their video games, put away their iPods and iPads and they play games with us. These are typically “old fashioned” games but we all have a blast bonding together over the competition and team work. The boys look forward to the evening time and fight over which games we will play. Here are a few of our favorites – I hope you can enjoy them as much as we do.
- Uno: This card game may very well have been invented for the ski condo. This game says ages 7+ but there is no reading required so if you have an especially ambitious 4 -6 year old who wants to be “in the mix” this game is perfect. It seems easy enough to match the color or the numbered cards, but watch out for the specialty cards like draw 4 wild, draw 2, skip and reverse.
- Puzzles: Most condos or time shares have puzzles available to check out from an activity area or buy one as a souvenir. We usually keep a puzzle going on an accessory table (not the kitchen table) at all times. You can leave it for days and return to it when you want to work on it.
- Dominoes: With baggage fees these days, you would think that my family could leave behind our set of dominoes weighing in at 4 pounds 6 ounces. But for us, games in our ski condo wouldn’t be complete unless we play Mexican Train. To start, everyone pulls 15 dominoes for 4 or fewer players and 12 dominoes for 5-8 players. The person with the highest double domino starts by placing that domino in the center of the grid and they play another matching domino at an angle out from the center. Play rotates around the table with each player who can matching dominoes on their own “train.” If a player is unable to play on their train, they draw a domino, place the plastic train piece on their string of dominoes and now their train is “open” to other players who can now choose to match their dominoes on their own train or their opponents. A player can also start the “Mexican train” which is open to all players who have a matching domino. The first player to match all their dominoes wins.
- Standard card games: There are a lot of games that can be played with a standard deck of cards. No big surprise, we Texans love to play Texas Hold ‘em Poker. We also enjoy Black Jack (AKA 21), Spades, Hearts and even War if we get desperate. Another game that we play with a standard deck of cards is called “99.” This game is fun and fast and even sneaks in a little math in a stealth-like manner. Each player is dealt 3 cards and should keep 3 cards in their hand at all times by drawing from the pile after playing a card. Each player takes turns discarding cards into the pile with the object to add cards to achieve 99 on the discard pile without going over. As each card is played, the player calls out the current count. (Heckles and jeers are sure to start the longer it takes the player to do the math.) The special wild cards in this game are invaluable. They are: Ace=1; 3=99; 4=reverse (just like in Uno the playing rotation reverses); 9=zero; 10=minus 10; and Face cards=10. The first player to go over the count of 99 loses. We usually play with 3 quarters in front of each player and every time someone loses a round, they must put a quarter in the center. The winner is the last player with a quarter.
- Left-Center-Right: The game is very compact in a travel container and can be purchased at your favorite local “Stuff-mart” ie Target. This is a game that uses 3 specialty dice marked with “left”, “right”, 3 circles and a star. Each player starts with 3 quarters (the game provides chips as playing pieces, but we prefer the “high stakes” of quarters) and the roll of the dice tells the player which way to pass each quarter. The circle indicates to keep a quarter and the star indicates to pass a quarter to the center. For example if the 3 dice are rolled: left, right and circle, the player passes one quarter to the player on the left, one quarter to the player on the right and they keep one quarter. For a star, the quarter goes into the center. The player only rolls as many dice as they have quarters. Since quarters do not return from the center, eventually all the quarters will go into the “kitty” and the last player with a quarter wins "the kitty.”
In 10 years, my boys will be 25, 23, and 19 years old and I know by then our family vacations will at least be different if not completely over. I’d love to think that we will still all be together with girlfriends and <shutter> wives but if we are it will be a different dynamic for sure. Whatever happens, I know I will cherish these great memories of games in our condo on the ski trip.
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