The years between 9 and 14 are prime time for the imagination. The world is a place of promise, before unfaithful boyfriends and jobs in fast food have hardened souls and shown the true meanness of the world. Tabletop games can tap into that current of wonder and can make a lifelong gamer out of any tween. Games have rules to be mastered, but also promise an experience beyond the everyday. And, for an adult, tabletop games offer a social interaction with tweens that goes beyond asking how their day at school was.
Whether you’re playing with your nieces and nephews during the holidays or with your own brood on game night, these games offer gaming opportunity aplenty.
7. Dungeons & Dragons
As World of Warcraft‘s eccentric but genius great-grandfather, Dungeons & Dragons allows players to strap on a long sword or shoot fireballs out of the body part of their choice on a quest for gold and good (heavier emphasis on the gold though…) in a world of fantasy thrills.
Dungeons & Dragons is more immersive than the deep end of the swimming pool. The game is never-ending, and players can follow their characters from their first dungeon crawl to their gruesome death at the claws of a dragon, or more optimistically, until they are justly ruling their own kingdom. Dungeons & Dragons is so addictive that mothers in the 1970s thought it was a seduction of the devil!
6. Tsuro of the Seas
You’ve been tasked by the Emperor with navigating the Mystic Seas. Unfortunately, he’s also given said task to other captains who will get in your way, and enough kaiju to reduce Tokyo to atoms. Like Game of Thrones, simple survival wins this game.
Tsuro is a tile-laying game where you must navigate your ship safely around the monsters. But by total random happenstance, you can also lay your tiles in such a way that you can doom other players, sending them careening down the gullets of kaiju like so many computer-generated extras. The tile-laying mechanic makes for quick and fun visual strategy, while the “I killed my dad,” aspect will keep the kids coming back for more.
Pentago is tic-tac-toe as reimagined by quantum physicists. Instead of one three by three grid, Pentago gives players four three by three grids! And then, just to make it more mind-bending, instead of claiming a square on their turn, players can instead twist one of the three by three grids 90 degrees, forcing players to consider how the board may appear in after a twist by their opponents before every move.
Everyone knows how to play tic-tac-toe, and everyone knows the only people who enjoy it are 3 years-olds or prisoners in solitary. But Pentago turns all that on its head, taking the world’s simplest game and making it maddeningly difficult. And that simplicity masking difficulty, like the chocolate ice cream in a twist cone, will keep tweens playing.
4. Magic: The Gathering
The deck building game that created the genre is still growing strong decades after it first made geeks everywhere ponder the collective power of plague rats. In Magic, players take on the role of magic users in a duel channeling the power of the very land to fuel their magics.
Magic is a game of strategy, combinations, and infuriating luck on occasion, but collecting enough cards to wallpaper your house wouldn’t hurt either. The collectible aspect makes the game deeply addictive, but tactics and planning still make the game fun. One 8th grader described it as chess, but with cards.
3. The Resistance
In a world where the powerful act like gods and the masses live lives of grinding misery, a Resistance arises, but this is not Russia in 1917, this is a dystopian future which you can dismantle. Just like every revolution, players must root out the government spies in their midst to achieve victory.
The core of the game revolves around sending players on missions, the problem being that some players are in fact dirty, dirty traitors working for the government. Send a traitor on a mission, and it will likely fail. The players must determine who is a traitor through deduction and socialization or the Resistance will be doomed! In other words, to win the game as a spy, traitors need to lie through their teeth. For the Resistance to win, they’ll have to sniff out those same lies. In many ways, it’s “Who ate the last jelly donut?!” but with rules.
Diplomacy is a game of conquest, rivalry, and betrayal set at the turn of the 20th century. Players must write orders to their armies, and work with other players to conquer Europe. But today’s ally may become tomorrow’s enemy. This game’s rules are so easy they could be explained in two minutes, yet they offer so much depth that it was a favorite game of John F. Kennedy and Henry Kissinger.
The rules are so simple that they present no barrier to entry for even young tweens, but presenting enough strategic depth to make every ten year old into a Von Clausewitz. Countless Saturday afternoons will be spent figuring out who to screw your brother out of Poland.
Set in the same world as The Resistance, but this time players are the bad guys. Players control the vain dukes, vile ambassadors, and dastardly assassins that make the dystopia run for the 1%. Players must eliminate their opponents by removing their influence, represented on the table by two face-down cards. Each card represents a different position in the government, and allows the player to take different, family friendly actions on their turn, such as stealing money from opposing players or assassinating their cards. Trick is, you can say you have any card in the game. Bluff well enough to fool your opponents, and you’ll be ruling the future in no time.
The manufacturer demurely describes this as a game of bluffing, but that it putting it mildly. Dirty, filthy, and constant lying is the core feature of this game, lies that would shudder the angels and make your nose grow long enough to smell the weather in the next county. The excuse to indulge in lying makes the game phenomenally popular with the under 15 set. A popular tactic? Not looking at the cards at all, and lying from the get-go.
What game do you play with the tweens in your life? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast, Calliope Games, Mindtwister, Wizards of the Coast, Indie Boards & Cards, Wizards of the Coast, Indie Boards & Cards