Youth Board Game Night

By Sam Firestone

Let me ask you a few questions. (1) Do you own a copy of Monopoly? (Yes, any variations, including Simpsons, Star Wars, and Dogs count.) (2) When was the last time you played it? (3) Did you enjoy yourself? I’m willing to bet that for most of you the answers were: (1) Yes, (2) It’s been a while, and (3) Nope. If your youth group is anything like mine, they love to play games, and during the winter break you may even have a game night. I’m here to stop you from making the mistake of bringing games such as Sorry, Life, and Monotony…oops, I mean Monopoly to your game nights. There are hundreds of great, replayable, interesting, and fun games out there—you just don’t know about them.

My story begins in Germany, where, instead of sitting around and watching TV, many families sit around and play games together. This has resulted in thousands of games being designed and played over the years. Eventually, some of these games were translated into English and brought over to the States. In the past few years more and more of them have made their way over the pond, where they’ve got a loyal, if small, following.

In order to show you why these games are better than the stuff you’ll find on Target’s shelves, let’s look at the mechanics of Monopoly. You roll dice, and whatever random number comes up, you move that many spaces. Then when you land on a space, you have two choices: If someone else owns the space, you pay them money, and if it’s not owned and you have enough money, you buy it. Lather; rinse; repeat. Is it any wonder this is rarely pulled off the shelf? Is it any wonder video games are so popular? It is a wonder why people continue to buy this year after year. Most of the “Euro games” don’t even have dice, and they leave the choices up to you. And if more than one person wants to do the same thing, you may have to bid for the privilege.

Don Perini, a professor of youth ministry at Cornerstone University and designer of the game Lynch Mob, says “These games are a mix of strategy and social interaction, and they’re an excellent tool to get your students to interact—especially if they have problems in that area.” Lynch Mob, available at, is a great game to play with a large group of kids. The group is trying to figure out who among you are criminals, and each person has a role to play. Lots of interaction and bluffing with this one.

I’m a big proponent of game nights. They provide social interaction, bonding, an opportunity to use your creativity and imagination, and laughter. Let’s just make sure we’re playing games that are actually…good. Here are some ideas.

Ticket to Ride—If you only pick up one game on the list, make it this one. A colorful board and easy-to-learn rules make this one deserving of the Game of the Year award it won in Germany. If I don’t bring this to every family function, my sister has threatened to disown me.

Shadows Over Camelot—This one is interesting in that you’re cooperating as King Arthur’s knights to accomplish various quests before Camelot is overrun by evil…but one of the knights may be a traitor. If you can’t work that into a biblical discussion starter, you’re just not trying.

The Ark of the Covenant—This is a biblical version of another popular game (Carcassonne), that’s actually better than the original.

Pirate’s Cove—Okay, the girls in your group may not care about pirates unless one of them is Johnny Depp, but the guys in your group will love this one. You spend your time bluffing about which island to travel to and plunder. If two or more players pick the same island…a battle on the high seas!

Manila—Essentially a game of wagers, where you’re shipping goods, pirating ships, repairing ships, and outflanking your opponents.

All of these games can be purchased from, a Denver-based online company run by a really nice Christian couple. Dave will even recommend games for you based on your likes and dislikes.

If you’re a closet gamer, or you’re thinking about taking a dip in the pool of geekiness, email me at I’d love to compare favorite games and give you other recommendations.