Ten celebrity-endorsed games, for every age to play in person or remotely
by Carol White Llewellyn, in collaboration with Elaine Elich
Right now, after you’ve organized all your closets, cleaned out the basement, exhausted the supplies in the craft room, we bet you’re looking for something fun to do! So, we started putting together a list of games you can play in-person or remotely. I worked in collaboration with my friend Elaine, who’s a teacher as well as the Queen of Games. And lo and behold, we discovered that celebrities love board games too!
So here, we share games you can play in person, as well as at a distance using zoom or another video conferencing app. If a celebrity gives his or her seal of approval, we also share that!
All of these games are great for adults, and we also provide the age range for kids (often ignoring the range the review recommends, because many can be easily adapted to younger players), as well as the skillset kids are acquiring when you play the game with them. Yes, you have to innovate on a couple of them to play remotely, or without the game itself, but if the coronavirus has shown us nothing else, it’s that humans are good at being creative!
- Bananagrams (2 to 8 players, but best with 3 to 5 players; for ages 7 and up; usually takes about 20 to 45 minutes ) If you love word games, this will be a fave. Speed wins, not points. You race to build a cross-word grid of words using all of your tiles. In this fun, fast-paced game, when any player uses all of their letters, they shout 'peel!' and every player takes a new tile, which means everyone has to quickly rebuild their word grid! Normally, you grab letters from the same pile, but this can work on zoom, facetime or skype if both sets of players have a copy of the game. There are also international versions of this game for those who speak another language. (Skills: Spelling, word development, strategic thinking)
- Bananagrams is a favorite game of comedienne Ellen Degeneres, and with good reason! It’s a barrel of fun!
- Bingo – (2 to as many players as you can fit it the room; Ages 3 and up; takes around 10 minutes to play) Bingo is an incredibly flexible game because beyond the traditional game that has game boards with “BINGO” across the top and a variety of numbers in squares beneath the letters, you can also create game boards with pictures, foreign language, geography or any topic you’d like. A caller pulls the letter and number and the players use chits or markers to track which have been called. One way to make sure everyone feels like a winner at the end is to use M&Ms or Skittles as the markers! (Click here for printable game cards and a number generator, or click here for numerous Bingo Game options that include everything from geography and holidays to patriotic themes, some of which are free, and others available for purchase.)
- Bingo goes back more than 500 years, and it’s a royal game, if you look at the celebrities who enjoy playing it. Among its fans are Prince William and Queen Elizabeth, as well as Robbie Williams, Russel Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
- Catan (2 to 6 players, but best for 3 to 4; Junior version is for ages 6 and up, the traditional version is for ages 12 and up, usually takes 45 to 60 minutes to play) Catan is unusual in that it offers a base game, as well as expansion options for the die-hard Cataners, and even spin-offs with modified game rules. In this game you’re building roads, houses and settlements. If you’re playing with someone remotely, you can position the board so that person can see it, or they can make a paper copy of the board and color or sketch in their and their opponents’ moves as the game progresses. (Skills: Strategy and deductive thinking, problem solving and abstract reasoning). The photo above is of a friend playing the game remotely with his daughter.
- Did you know that Woody Harrelson who played Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games takes Settlers of Catan with him onsite to play between shot set ups? And apparently the game is so popular with Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard that they gave up the traditional Golden Globe afterparty and went home to create their own afterparty with Settlers of Catan.
- Chess (requires 2 players; ages 7 and up, usually takes 10 to 60 minutes to play, but can take longer) – Chess is a great game for taking your mind off what’s happening in the outside world, since you have to focus on your chess pieces, your strategy, and that of your opponent. Because you can verbally indicate which piece moves to what spot on the board (Bishop to G3), it works well in person, or at a distance if both people have a chess board set up in front of them, of if you can position the camera so the person at a distance can see the board. Although the instructions on this website were designed for kids, if you’re an adult beginner, you will find them incredibly useful as well! (Skills: problem solving, abstract reasoning, logic, organization skills, and strategic thinking)
- If you enjoy chess, or decide to take it up, you’re in good company! More than 50 celebrities have gone on record as documented competitive players, including everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Julia Roberts, and frrom Cher to Madonna!
- Ticket to Ride (2 to 5 players; ages 8 and up; usually takes around 30 to 60 minutes) – This is a lovely game for multiple players who collect cards of various types of train cars, then use them to claim railway routes in North America. The longer the routes, the more points can be earned. Additional points come to those who fulfill the Destination Ticket. This game can be played at a distance by positioning the camera to see the board or if the remote person has a paper copy of board in front of them and colors in squares, and tally the cards selected, crossing each out as the cards are used (Skills: Geography, problem solving, strategic thinking).
- Ticket to Ride is a ticket for fun if you ask Wil Wheaton, Colin Ferguson, Anne Wheaton, and Amy Dallen, who made a video while playing it together. Wil, by the way, is an avid gamer, who hosted a multi-season gaming web series called TableTop.
- Scattergories (2 to 6 players; ages 8 and up; usually takes around 30 minutes) This is a game where coming up with unique answers counts! There are ten categories, and you role a dice to determine what letter everything in that category must start with. Then, as quickly as possible, you write down as many words starting with that letter as you can. For each word you list that no on else does, you get a point! At the end of three rounds, whoever has the most points wins. You can even play without the actual game, by creating 10 categories and opening a dictionary to a page and using that letter. All you’ll need is a timer! If you’re playing with kids, ask them to challenge themselves to pick the number they want to achieve rather than competing against each other. (Skills: vocabulary, association and classification categories)
- Mandy Moore has been quoted as saying she becomes really competitive when it comes to Scattergories.
- Outburst ( For 2 or more players, played with 2 teams; Ages 3 and up; usually takes around 30 minutes) This high-excitement game asks players to name as many items in a category as they can, and each team receives points for each answer that falls within the top 10 most popular answers. If you don’t have the actual game, you can find the categories and top 10 answers online and play without the game itself. There is also a bible version of this game. (Skills: Vocabulary)
- Sorry! Couldn't find any celebrities who've endorsed this particular game, but if you run upon one, let us know!
- Family Feud (2 teams with 2 to 4 or 5 players; ages 5 and up for junior version, ages10 and up for traditional version; takes around 30 minutes to play) This board game quizzes participants on their ability to give the most popular responses to a variety of questions such as "How much allowance should a 10-year-old get each week?" "Name a major league football or baseball team named after an animal." The game has four rounds, and the quickest team who has the best insights on popular opinions wins. Don’t have the game? No problem! Categories and answers can be found online for free, and it’s easy for teams to play remotely. All you’ll need is a timer, a list of questions for kids, or questions for adults, and pen and paper to keep score. (Skills: vocabulary, social awareness)
- There is no doubt that Steve Harvey’s a big proponent of this game, considering he’s hosted it since 2010!
- Yahtzee – (2 or more players; Ages 8 and up; Takes around 30 minutes to play) This game is played with 5 dice, and during the game, you score by rolling as many of a particular dice as you can (1s, 2s, 3s, etc.) or by rolling certain combinations. Find video directions here. Don’t have the game? All you need is 5 dice, and you can go online to find free printable scoring forms. If you’re playing with kids who don’t like to be competitive, they can try to beat their own score. As long as both players have 5 dice and the scoring sheet, this game is easy to play via video chat. (Skills: Strategy, Math skills, particularly multiplication, but if you’re playing with younger children, they can count the dots on the dice).
- Tom Cruise must find Yahtzee a Mission Possible, because it’s listed as one of his favorite games, along with Scrabble, Dominoes and other Board Games.
- Pictionary - (Teams: best for 4 to 6; ages 8 and up; Takes around 30 minutes) Cards are used in this fun game, to prompt you on what you must draw, and your team members try to guess the work or phrase you’re depicting. You don’t need to be an artist and, in some cases, the worse you draw, the funnier the game. Play the game in two locations by sharing the prompts and drawings via video. If you don’t have the game, all you need is a marker and a drawing surface. You can find the word prompts online. (Skills: Drawing, image recognition, wordplay, vocabulary)
- Pictionary is reported to be a favorite game of singer Ashley Judd, comedienne Ellen Degeneres, and actor Natalie Portman.
Carol White Llewellyn is Editor of Beyond the Nest, Producer and Host of Conversations with Creatives, and Co-Producer of Studio to Studio.