• Hearts works particularly well for mixed age groups -- simple enough for kids, but nonetheless challenging for adults.  The rules below are for a four-player game -- alternatives for more or fewer hands are offered afterwards. * 13 cards are dealt to each player * Each player chooses three cards, and passes them to another player. * The first round of play is led by the player to the left of the dealer. Each other player, in clockwise order, then plays a card from their hand. Players must "follow suit"; that is, play a...

  •  Old timers may recall the popular show, Name That Tune from the  1950's (and then again in the 1970's and 1980's), in which competitors attempted to identify a melody based on a clue and just a few notes from the song. MP3 players and playlists make it easy to play a simple, fun version of this game, which has been the highlight of many a Christmas Game. First, decide what songs your family members all might be somewhat familiar with with, but won't necessarily be able to have right at the...

  • Change Seats is a simple, indoor-but-slightly-physically-active game especially appealing to elementary-age children, but which can be modified to broaden its appeal somewhat. Change Seats works best with larger groups. To play, designate a number of chairs that is one less than the number of players, and arrange the chairs in something like a circle. The person without a chair calls out a category, directing all participants to find a new seat IF they fit into the category. For example, the caller might say, "Change seats if you are... ...Left handed...

  • Proverbs is an easy game to play, and a wonderful 19th century treasure worth rescuing. When you play Proverbs, you not only get the fun and challenge of the game, but it comes with all kinds of time-tested useful wisdom built right in! The concept is very simple. One proverb is selected from a list, and the players must guess the proverb based on clues. The winner is the first to guess correctly. Clues might be the first word, or the first-and-last-words. Or the game might be played Taboo-style, where one...

  • Farkle is an easy-to-play dice game requiring six standard (six-sided) dice, and a pencil and paper for scoring. It is simple enough for kids to play, and random enough for kids to win, but still presents strategic opportunities for adults to assess. The first player to accumulate 10,000 points wins. A player begins her turn by rolling all six dice.  Scores are available for 1s, 5s, and 3-of-a-kind, 4-of-a-kind-, 5-of-a-kind, and 6-of-a-kind. Scoring dice are set aside, and the player may elect to either bank her score and end her...

  • It can be challenging to find activities that simultaneously appeal to both younger and older players. Adult bridge fanatics may find that their beloved game is perplexing to younger kids; meanwhile,  younger kids may be disappointed when adults resist one more round of Hi Ho Cherry-O. Crazy Eights bridges the gap nicely - simple enough for kids, but still engaging for adults. The Rules: Eight cards are dealt to each player. The remaining cards are placed face down at the center of the table. The top card is then turned...

  • Fictionary, sometimes known as "The Dictionary Game," is a fun word game in which players attempt to guess the definitions of obscure words. Have your biggest dictionary on hand. One player leads by announcing a challenging word drawn from the dictionary and writing the definition on a slip of paper. All other players have one minute to fabricate and write down a false definition on their slips of paper. All definitions are handed to the leader. The leader then reads aloud in random order each of the proposed definitions, including...

  • The Tray Game is a particularly good card to play if there are younger players in your game, but it remains challenging even for adults. The rules are very simple. The game leader places about 15-25 objects on a tray.  The objects should be small items found around the house, such as a paper clip, a salt shaker, a pen, a nickel, a piece of yarn, a small toy, sunglasses, a cracker, a marble, etc. The leader then covers the tray with a cloth to conceal the objects. The players should...

  • Elephant's Foot Umbrella Stand cleverly combines a memory game and a logic puzzle. The game leader starts off by saying, "I went to the store and I bought," and then the leader names an object. The leader has secretly determined a rule that governs whether an object is permitted.  A relatively easy-to-detect rule would be that the first object purchased must begin with an "A," the second with a "B," the third with a "C," and so forth. Players take turns guessing what objects may be purchased, and adding them...

  • Make Me Laugh is easily among the most popular cards in The Christmas Game. It's fast, simple, and hilarious. Some players laugh so easily that just trying not to laugh makes them laugh. Others may sustain a stone-face until the family discovers a natural comedian in their midst. There are only a few rules. First, the person who is trying not to laugh must remain still, and cannot close their eyes or ears. The comedian may use any props they like, but may not touch the person trying not to...

  • Guggenheim is a simple but confounding game. A commercial version is sold under the name "Scattergories." Some families might wish to simply play Scattergories when Card 114 is drawn. But for those who would make their own game using a pen, paper, and timer, read on. The object of the game is to think of things that begin with a particular letter and fall into a particular category -- for example, an animal that begins with G might be a giraffe; a sport that begins with G might be golf;...

  • Dao is perhaps the best game that most people don't already know about, and learning about Dao will greatly enhance your Christmas Game. Dao is an abstract strategy game that is as simple as tic-tac-toe, yet as intricate as chess. Dao has everything we look for in a game: there are just a few rules, it's easy to learn, it can be played with simple materials, it's engaging for both younger and older players, and you can play it over and over without getting bored. The game board is a...