When I was growing up, I recall many nights where we sat around the kitchen table as a family. Family time is quality time and game time was the best.

I don’t know if my brothers enjoyed it as much as I did, but I always looked forward to those sessions. We played all kinds of board games like Life, Sorry, Yahtzee, Parcheesi, Monopoly, Easy Money and Pay Day. Sometimes it was even something silly like Spoons. As we got older, we learned more sophisticated games like Backgammon, Risk, Euchre, Hearts and even Pinochle. No matter what we were playing at what age, it was a time for bonding.

Now I’m a parent and I have the same opportunity to play games with my kids. Many games have changed and evolved but others are still the same.

While we often play games together as a family, it isn’t a regular scheduled thing. However, we did take part in Hasbro Family Game Night last night. I had met with Hasbro representatives at a Mom Central cocktail hour during the BlogHer conference. I was extremely surprised and excited to receive a package last week that included Bop It, Pictureka!, Connect 4×4 and Monopoly City. On a prior occasion, through a different PR contact, I was fortunate enough to receive and review Family Game Night for the Wii. I want to make it clear that while the Wii Family Game Night is a blast, this event focused on the fundamental board games that paved the way for it’s Wii offspring.

Whenever I get something to review, I make sure to keep it out of the kids’ hands until I’m ready to open it, explain it and photograph it.  Despite Bop It being in the package, they managed to play with it.  I would explain “No, I need to read the directions then you can play with it.”  Have you ever seen Bop It?  Well, it doesn’t really need directions.  It’s like Simon Says… it says “Bop It” and you push the button.  When it says “Twist it” you twist the yellow knob.  When it says “Pull it, you pull the blue knob.  But akin to pat your head while rubbing your stomach, it’s not as easy as it sounds.  Theory… easy.  In practice… brain stumper.

There are three options – Solo, Pass it and Party. We enjoyed Pass it the most because you listen to the various cues then pass it along to the next player when it yells “Pass it”. It’s like a game of hot potato where you need to turn your brain on as soon as it lands in your hands.

It’s one of those games that tests your reflexes while also testing your ability to focus. When you’re playing the solo mode, you can kind of do it without thinking. On my way up to the bus stop the other day, I decided to tinker with it.  It may be a kids’ game, but I found some simple satisfaction in working on my response time. When the girls and I started playing it together, we would all giggle whenever we make a mistake.  My girls both really enjoy the challenge and even played with it while stuck in the car. It has a few volume settings and the lowest did not seem overly cumbersome.   We brought it to soccer practice after opening it and Miss M played it with the older siblings while all the younger siblings on Miss K’s team were practicing. When practice was over, they wanted to stick around and play Bop It some more!The game says that it’s for ages 8 and up, but even Miss K at 5 was able to play it – just not as successfully as her older sister. Totally worth the price since it has multiple uses for multiple people.  It’s small and portable and not nearly as expensive as the DS that they’ve been begging to take when we’re on-the-go.

We played Bop It in the afternoon then in the evening we opened both Connect 4×4 and Pictureka! In true Family Game Night fashion, all four of us sat around the table focusing on the Connect 4×4 game. Unlike regular Connect 4, this one is open to four players. To make it more interesting, there are two slices to each row so two opponents can actually strategically be utilizing the same space. It isn’t just a matter of watching vertical, horizontal and diagonal but you need to look at both sides of it. A player can win by having four of their chips in a row and that means some could be in the front and some in the back. When you go to make a move, you need to think offensively but also defensively with respect to the other three players.

On several turns, I caught myself getting ready to drop my piece into a position that would have set up more opportunities for my opponents. I honestly thought that Miss K wasn’t going to be able to grasp the depth of the game but was surprised by her well-though moves. In the end, I was so focused on blocking DH from a win that I helped create a win for Miss M. She won fair and square and was a gracious winner, as you can see from the photograph. It was a great time and I was glad to see that both the girls understood the concept and the strategy behind the game.  This is a fun game and I would recommend it over the traditional Connect 4 any day.  As a bonus, all the pieces store easily within the grid and the base folds up.  No box and loose pieces for this game.

After the Connect 4×4 battle, DH retreated to his computer and the girls and I wrapped up Family Game Night with a quick game of Pictureka! The basic premise of the game is that you need to find various objects, pictures or themes within the multitude of goofy pictures on the board. You can’t just memorize where things are either because there are cards that initiate the moving, flipping and turning of the tiles that create the board. The goal of the game is to be the first to attain 6 cards. There are three different card types and each has a different objective. The stack that you draw from is determined when you roll the color die at the beginning of your turn. One stack of cards is for you to attempt on your own. One stack allows the highest bidder to make an attempt at earning the card. The third stack is a free-for-all with the first one finding the object in the picture getting to take the card. The only thing that I didn’t like is the free-for-all card (the blue stack) was not a plentiful item. It was a very specific picture (as you can see from the photograph) and there was often only one on the board. In one situation, it just so happened that we were not able to find a single one and finally gave up and moved to the next person. I think once we gain some familiarity with the cards, the pictures and the board, we’ll have a little less frustration. Overall, however, I felt that Pictureka! was a fun game, diverse enough to entertain a variety of ages and random enough to not feel like you’re always playing the same thing every time you unbox it.

When the night was over, we had played each of the games that had been sent to us, with the exception of Monopoly City. For now, DH and I are getting our Monopoly City fill by playing the online Monopoly City Streets game that Hasbro is running in conjunction with Google Streets.  When we do get around to the actual board game, I’ll be sure to post a review!

I want to thank Hunter Public Relations and Hasbro for providing the games for our Family Game Night. Quality time like this helps make some lasting memories… I hope when my daughters get older that they look back and cherish these moments just like I do of my childhood.

Sound like fun? (It is!)  Want more information about Hasbro and Family Game Night?  Follow them on Twitter, check out the Family Game Night website or Hasbro’s website!

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