Family game nights will, for a number of us, be virtual for the foreseeable future.
Unless you and your relatives already gather online for “Fortnite” sessions, figuring out what to play over a distance can be a challenge. Yes, of course, “Words with Friends” or the recently launched “Scrabble Go” are good staples, but here are options for mixing it up and keeping it simple.
Free and available in your web browser, Skribbl.io will have you sketching like a maniac in no time. When you go to the site, choose to create a private room. After watching a short ad, you’ll be able to send a link to friends so they can join. You’ll each be assigned a silly character name, then Skribbl.io will give you prompts for various objects to draw. If you don’t want to take your chance with the game’s random word engine — which you may want to avoid if you’re playing with especially young children — you can input your own words and set it so the game will exclusively use those.
This one is bittersweet because “Carcassonne” will soon be removed from Apple’s App store at an as-yet-unspecified date. So it’d be wise to pick it up as soon as possible. You can play it once it’s removed from the online venue, but you won’t be able to play with strangers. No matter, it’s best enjoyed with friends and family, and the app version of the now-classic board game is terrific. Grab it and start fortifying a mini medieval kingdom; use tiles to connect roads, build cities and gain followers. The app has a chill, folksy vibe that’ll keep you playing in solitaire mode.
Even more elegant and perhaps more relaxing than “Carcassonne” is “Tsuro: The Game of the Path.” While the app version isn’t quite as pretty as the real-life game board, with its faux-wooden look and Asian motifs, the digital version re-creates the contemplative mood with Eastern instrumentation. Invitingly easy to learn, “Tsuro” will still get one’s mind working, as the goal is to keep a stone on the board as long as possible — or, if one is especially clever, strategically place tiles that send an opponents board over the edge.
“Avo” is interactive television, so you won’t be able to play it with friends and family if you’re in separate locales. But for families quarantined together “Avo” is adorable, lighthearted, humorous and could certainly spark conversation and fun social sharing opportunities. That is, if you’re down with a walking, pet-like avocado who can jump, shimmy and help solve mini-mysteries. Yes? Great. This overlooked narrative game has a slight science bent — think inventions gone awry, à la “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” — and is completed in short episodes in which players guide Avo around the world. There’s also an augmented realty component, allowing us to place Avo in our world. So get snapping and see what mischief you can get Avo into while holed up at home. Then share — and surprise — your family and friends.
Look, “Super Mega Mini Party” is kind of dumb. How dumb? I just spent 10 minutes playing a mini-game called “Penguin Plop,” in which an assortment of Arctic critters jump at a penguin to knock the little feller off a piece of ice. The goal is simply to jump. “Super Mega Mini Party” is full of ridiculous little games that are designed mostly to inspire laughs. We navigate a clunky little space pod around asteroids in one game, and we throw a stick of dynamite around a campfire and hope not to explode in another. The game is part of Apple’s $4.99 subscription service Apple Arcade, which does include dozens of more thoughtful and experimental works, but this one can be played with friends, and sometimes we just need to smile.