Board Games for Bored Teens

Geek Culture

Photo: Jonathan LiuPhoto: Jonathan Liu

Photo: Jonathan Liu

Do you have teenagers? If so, you probably hear a lot of complaints about boredom (even in the middle of their over-scheduled weeks). One teenager I know basically posted “I’m so bored” as his Facebook status update nine times out of ten. So what do you do with bored teenagers?

My solution, of course, involves playing games.

Sure, they’ve all got their Xbox and PlayStation and Nintendo DS, and they’re constantly texting each other (even from the same room), but sometimes a little low-tech silliness can be just the right thing. While my regular gaming group can appreciate a long strategic game of Agricola, I’ve also found a few simpler games that have really become favorites at our game nights.

There's a Moose in the House. Photo: Jonathan LiuThere's a Moose in the House. Photo: Jonathan Liu

There's a Moose in the House. Photo: Jonathan Liu

There’s a Moose in the House is an extremely simple, very silly card game. You play empty rooms on the other players, and then fill them with the matching moose. There are closed door cards to play on your own rooms to keep the moose out (no opposable thumbs, you see), and there are even Moose Traps (baited with lettuce) to catch moose trying to get into the bathtub. The game lasts about ten minutes and can be taught in about two. It’s a game that I bought for my five-year-old, but the high schoolers can never resist getting it out between games. (GameWright also makes many other games for younger kids, which have turned out to be equally entertaining for the older kids.)

Gulo Gulo - a game where a two-year-old can beat the teens. Photo: Jonathan LiuGulo Gulo - a game where a two-year-old can beat the teens. Photo: Jonathan Liu

Gulo Gulo – a game where a two-year-old can beat the teens. Photo: Jonathan Liu

Gulo Gulo is a dexterity game with a weird premise. You play as gulos (wolverines) who love to eat swamp vulture eggs. Little Gulo Junior has been caught by the swamp vultures so you’re all out to rescue him; but you just can’t resist trying to steal eggs along the way. You flip over tiles on the path to the nest, and then pull out little wooden eggs from the bowl without knocking over the egg alarm. It was reviewed on GeekDad earlier this year, but I just wanted to add that, again, the high schoolers get a kick out of this one, too.

Spite & Malice. Image: BoardGameGeek.comSpite & Malice. Image:

Spite & Malice. Image:

Spite & Malice is basically the same game as Skip-bo, which I played as a kid. You have a stack of cards, and you’re trying to get rid of them by playing them in numerical order on “build piles” in the middle of the table. What Spite & Malice adds is, well, a little bit of spite and malice. There are Wild cards that can also be used to “spite” somebody: end a turn immediately, swap store piles, discard a build pile, and so forth. The 13, the last card in a build pile, is also a Malice card: you get to take a card and put it in somebody else’s stack. Oh, did I mention the cartoons of murderous cats on all the cards? This one isn’t quite as simple as Moose but is still pretty popular.

Mille Bornes. Image: BoardGameGeek.comMille Bornes. Image:

Mille Bornes. Image:

Mille Bornes is an old classic which has been around since the 1950s, but it’s still going strong (and it’s a lot faster than Monopoly). It’s a driving card game. Players team up to race to 1,000 miles first, but along the way you can stop the other teams with flat tires, accidents and running out of gas. My gaming group really gets into this, and it’s always a tough decision: do I move my own team forward, or slow down the others? Mille Bornes has the advantage that it’s old but still in print, so it should be easily available. (I prefer the graphics on some of the older sets to the newer ones, but the gameplay hasn’t changed.)

Snorta! Image: BoardGameGeek.comSnorta! Image:

Snorta! Image:

Snorta! is a newer game in my collection and hasn’t gotten quite as much play yet, but I think it probably will. Each person pulls a little animal figurine out of the sack and makes the animal’s sound. Then, the animals are hidden. Everyone has a stack of cards with various animals on them, and takes turns flipping them over in front of them. If your card matches somebody else’s, you have to be the first to make the sound of their animal, and then you get to pass them your stack of flipped-over cards. What makes it tricky (aside from trying to remember everyone’s animal) is that the tendency is to make the noise of the animal showing on the card. And it can get really crazy if people start flipping cards faster–it can really start sounding like a barnyard.

Now, I can’t guarantee that your teenagers will love all of these games. They are, after all, teenagers, and by law cannot show too much enthusiasm for anything you propose. However, so far the kids I have at my regular game nights have had fun with these, and I’ve found it’s usually a good idea to take a mental breather with a silly simple game in between the heavier stuff. Hopefully this short list will help you fight the boredom in your home, too.

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