Game plans: As cooler weather sets in, a family tradition livens up nights at home

Patrick Wroczynski, 11, takes a turn at Carcassonne with his mother, Caroline Wroczynski, right, grandmother Marian Wroczynski and grandfather Ron Wroczynski, not pictured. The family’s game night is a 20-year tradition.

Caroline Wroczynski loves her games so much, it hurts. And the pain is real — Wroczynski actually broke her hand playing a board game.

And before you ask, she was completely sober.

Lawrence brothers Jacob Paquette, front, and Josh Paquette peruse the selection of games Tuesday at Fun and Games, 830 Mass.

Ron Wroczynski puts down a tile during a game of Carcassonne. At right is his wife, Marian. Game night for the Wroczynskis is a multigenerational event.

Games to play

If you want to add to your game collection, but don’t know where to begin, we’ve got a little cheat sheet for you.

We asked Jennifer Ybarra of The Toy Store and Kyle Billings of Fun and Games to give us a run down of what classics and newbies are worth spending the time and money to play.


• Monopoly

• Yahtzee

• Sorry

• Chutes and Ladders

• Life

• Risk

Newer and worth a try:

• Settlers of Catan

• Carcassonne

• Apples to Apples

• Anomia

• Spot It

• Patchwork

• Cranium

• Set

• Quiddler

The game in question, Quelf, is one of her favorites, and sometimes involves “stunt cards” where a player can chose to do the activity on the card to gain an advantage. In the case of the broken hand, Wroczynski decided to attempt the splits for an opportunity to move her fellow players back a few spaces.

“Halfway down, I’m like, ‘What? What am I doing, this is insane! I (can’t) do the splits,'” she says, laughing at the memory. “And I went to get up, and that’s when my foot slipped and I just came straight down and I dislocated two of my fingers and broke the bone in the middle of my hand.”

And yes, during her family’s monthly game nights she still plays Quelf, though strangely, she’s never seen the splits card again.

“I don’t know if my family hid it so no one would ever do it again,” she says. “But it’s never come back up.”

And Wroczynski isn’t the only one so in love with games it hurts. Jennifer Ybarra, book department manager at The Toy Store, 936 Mass., says she just got back from an East Coast toy fair where games were all the rage. Ybarra says that while at the fair, she came home with orders for new games, and a major hunch that family game night is making a comeback.

“They sensed that family time together has become more and more important,” Ybarra says. “And they’ve developed games to suit that need … so that from the little kids to the oldest child can sit down and have family time together and play a fun game while doing it.”

Indeed, Wroczynski says that’s exactly why her family has kept up its game nights for decades, and why she’s introduced the concept to friends.

“I think it gives us something together to do, like instead of sitting there, watching a movie where we don’t interact with each other, you’re inevitably going to talk to each other about something than just the game,” says Wroczynski, whose game of choice with her family is pinochle. “It’s a little catch up, it doesn’t have to be in-depth because you’re still playing the game.”

And the trick to picking the right game to play is to know your audience says Kyle Billings, manager at Fun and Games, 830 Mass. The same game might not work for family, friends, co-workers or people of different generations and knowledge bases.

“If it’s going to be a large group, I try to steer people away from trivia-based (games),” he says. “Because sometimes if you’re in mixed company, you’ve got half of them that aren’t enjoying it.”

Billings adds that one of the hardest groups to rope into a game night — family or otherwise — are teens who’d rather be glued to a TV set. For that group, he says it’s wise to entice them with games of strategy.

“Basically, you have to force them (to play) before they realize how fun it is,” Billings says. “They enjoy strategy games … most of the video games are critical thinking, skill, trying to figure things out.”

So, what makes a game worth playing? Both Ybarra and Billings say the bottom line is that the game offers you something different each time while fostering togetherness and imagination.

“I think it has to appeal to a wide range of interests, I think it needs to have some challenge involved,” says Ybarra. “And I think having that family aspect of being able to share, with your grandma, your grandpa, I think that’s really important to people too.”