Friday, May 05, 2006

Family Games for Six or Seven Players

One key to happiness – GAMES

Our family gaming group consists of seven people, in three generations. Finding good quality, challenging, and fun games for this group is a challenge in itself.

Before we discovered the current crop of Euro-games, we played Hearts, Nertz, Oh Hell, Mexican Train Dominoes, Yahtzee, Five Thousand, Fill or Bust, Sequence, Inklings, Anybody’s Guess, and Scattergories. We had fun, but did not know what we were missing. Then, we found Trumpet and began a journey into the modern age of games.

I’ve listed in a previous blog entry our favorite family games as of last month. Quite a different list from the above paragraph, isn’t it? A good number of those favorites are designed for a maximum of 5 players. We have 5 adults in our group, so that has been one of my criteria for game purchases until now. Our grandchildren are now ages 8 (Joel) and 10 (Natalia). Natalia enjoys only a few of our “group favorites,” and she plays them very well. Joel wants to play virtually all the games the adults play, and he plays them very well. As of today, I will only purchase games that can be played by 6 or 7 people, or games designed for 5 that I might be able to modify for play by 6 or 7.

Number of players is probably the most important criterion I use when considering new game purchases, but it is certainly not the only important one. There are many other factors that enter into my considerations.

Game Types We Are Not Interested In Purchasing

• Wargames
• Abstract Strategy
• Action/Dexterity
• Primarily for Ages Under 10
• Collectible Components
• Miniatures
• Science Fiction, Horror, or Fantasy Themes
• Themes with Fighting or Other Violence
• Memory Games
• Party Games
• Music Games (although the entire family is musical)
• Trivia, General Knowledge, or Primarily Educational
• Sports Themes, Including Auto Race Games
• Religious Themes
• Modern Political Themes
• Word Games (although some of these are acceptable)
• Games That Eliminate Players Before the End of the Game

Game Mechanics We Are Not Interested In Playing

• Acting, Singing, Role-Playing, or Other Performances
• Cooperative Play (we enjoy competition)
• Partnerships (we prefer individual competition)
• Voting
• Roll-and-Move

Things We Enjoy About Games

• Game Length: 60 – 90 Minutes, Maximum
• Negotiation/Trading
• Some Randomness, But Not Too Much
• Territory Management
• Connection Mechanics
• Set Collection (But Not Simple Rummy-Type Play)
• Tile-Laying
• Race Games, IF They Include Options or Complications (not just roll-and-move)
• Bidding/Auction
• Equal Competition for Adults and Intelligent Children
• Trick-Taking Card Games

Although an enormous number of available commercial games are eliminated by the criteria we don’t want to see in a game, a significant number of excellent games exist that meet the factors we enjoy (see our list of favorite games, listed in the previously-mentioned blog entry).

5-Player Games That Work Fine for 6 or 7

Some games designed primarily for 5 or 6 players can be played successfully by more players. Here are some examples.
• Bohnanza is a great game for 6 or 7.
• Boomtown works fine for 6.
• Trumpet is just as good for 7 as for 6.
• Zirkus Flohcati works fine for 6 or 7.
• David & Goliath plays as well with 7 as with 6.

Bohnanza --- The rules published with Bohnanza (from Rio Grande Games) include three modifications for 6 or 7 players: (1) remove the Cocoa and Garden Beans; (2) deal different numbers of cards, originally, to different players, based on seating; and (3) draw a different number of cards at the end of a player’s turn. NO, NO, NO! Forget those modifications. Play with all the cards and use the same rules as for 4 or 5 players. The modifications are completely unnecessary, except - exhaust the draw deck only two times. This is a great game for 6-7 players and is currently our family favorite.

Other Game Modifications

• Borrow a set of gray meeples from Carcassonne to play Hunters and Gatherers with 6 players. Use the builder and pig meeples (from the Carcassonne Traders and Builders expansion), or other different markers, for the two river huts. It works great.
• We have not tried this, but believe it would work: Remove, randomly, 2 property cards and 2 check cards from For Sale (leaving 28 of each) for a 7-player game.
• I am seriously considering purchasing/making a sixth set of “train” pieces (in a different color), allowing us to play Ticket to Ride with 6 players. We might have to experiment with ending the game when a player is down to 5 or less trains, because the available track routes will fill up quicker. I think playing with 6 would also modify game strategy, making shorter routes more valuable.
Royal Turf could be easily expanded to 7 players, with the addition of a new color of four betting chits.
• I need to come up with a way to add 34 camels of a sixth color to Through the Desert! Probably will need to modify the game-end conditions, too, but, I’m working on it…
• I intend to print two additional “row cards” for Coloretto, so we can play with 6 or 7 players.
• I could print an additional player board for Princes of Florence, but I think it will take a lot of study and experimenting to learn whether the game is actually playable by 6 players. It may be too-tightly designed to allow modification for 6 players. Besides, I suspect it might make the game too long for us.
• I see no way to modify Hacienda, which is a shame, as I believe we would enjoy playing with 6 players.

Now, if I could just influence game designers and publishers to create more great family games for 6 and 7 players, that would be nice. At least, I wish they would include, or make available, expansions to their 4-player or 5-player games for 6 or 7 players (as they did for Settlers of Catan, with the 5-6 player expansion). In the case of Settlers, it required more tiles, more game pieces, and a modification of the rules, and it works beautifully.

So, I find myself reading about new games coming out, and the first thing I look for is the maximum number of players. If a game is designed for no more than 4 or 5 players, I’ll ignore it, at least until a 6- or 7-player expansion is issued, unless the game design appears to allow for house modification. I expect to miss out on a large number of excellent games because of this restriction, but we have too much fun playing games with the whole family to buy games we can’t all play together (designers and publishers, take note, please).

I am interested in any recommendations for games that meet our criteria and that we do not already own, as well as suggestions for modifying games to meet our needs.

--- Gerald … near Denver, Colorado
aka gamesgrandpa -- A grandpa who is a mile high on gaming


At May 06, 2006 2:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some games that come to mind that I've enjoyed (max # of players in parentheses):

Transamerica (6p)
6 nimmt! (10p)
Tanz der Hornochsen (8p)

These are all fairly light, but fun games.

Ave Caesar (6p) is a game of chariot racing that is scheduled for a reprint by end of the summer. Keep an eye out for that one.

Diamant (8p) is a push-your-luck game with nice bits.

Space Beans (6p) is set collection, but odd in that at the end of your turn you pass your hand to the right as the turn passes to the left. (Yes, it's sci-fi, but not seriously so.)

Scream Machine (6p) is a majorities game about building theme parks.

Just some things to research. :-)


At May 06, 2006 8:38 AM, Blogger Gerald McD said...

Dave -- Thanks for the great ideas. I already have Diamant on my purchase list; now, I'll research the others you listed. I appreciate all the information.

I'm also waiting for Um Krone und Kragen to come out in English, this summer, I hope.

At May 06, 2006 10:56 AM, Blogger sodaklady said...

I tried using the "advanced search" feature at the Geek which lets you input various options. I looked for games published from 2002-2005, for 6-7 players, rated 6 or above; took out the categories dealing with war, religion, party games and a few others and here are the results in order from highest rated. They're mostly light games.

Killer Bunnies
Citadels with the Dark City expansion
Pitchcar Mini
Fearsome Floors
Race Day (never heard of it)

Not a great list of choices but Citadels and Fearsome Floors might be good choices.

At May 09, 2006 12:01 PM, Anonymous SusanR said...

Hi Gerald,

Here are some older games that we pull out when we have six players.
Many of them are OOP, but I bet you could find them on BGG Marketplace.

Games I would NEVER part with. These are "classics" in our house:

Elfenland - wonderful route-planning game. Don't be put off by the fantasy theme; it could have easily had a different theme.

Acquire - sounds boring but is VERY good

Union Pacific - a bit like Acquire

Expedition - by Wolfgang Kramer. Wish I could find an English edition so I could read the text on the cards about the places I visit. (not necessary to play the game).

RoboRally - not everyone likes this, but we sure do

Here are a few "gamer's games." I'm not sure how well they would play with kids:

Power Grid - my 13 yr. old really liked it

Medieval Merchant

Pizarro & Co. - this has a few too many auctions for my tastes.

A few others that I like:

Hoity Toity - the Uberplay edition plays with 6. This is one of those simultaneous action selection games where you guessing what others will choose. Stay away if you don't like that sort of game

Gemblo - hard to find but we found it at Boards & Bits. Yes, an abstract but it doesn't require deep thinking. It and Blokus (very similar) have always gone over very well with non-gamers and gamers alike.

Atlantic Star - I like the theme of its predecessor, Showmanager much better but it is hard to find

Metro - tile-laying game that is a bit chaotic with 6. It does require some "mean" plays.

Dragon Delta - okay game that was popular with us for a while a long time ago.

That's Life - may be too simple for you guys.

Already mentioned that I'd recommend: TransAmerica, Diamant, 6 Nimmt!, Saboteur, Pickomino

I am also a huge fan of Bang! but that obviously fails in with the violence criteria.

Good luck!

At May 09, 2006 2:17 PM, Blogger Gerald McD said...

Thanks to all of you for the great suggestions. I definitely will follow up on them.


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