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Fun and Games on Pesach: Building Precious Family Memories

Ahuva Greenberg playing Perfect Matches with Zack.

Although some folks may be disappointed when they realize that there is only one full day of Chol Hamoed this Pesach, there is still an opportunity to make the most of the holiday by taking advantage of the extra time over chag and Shabbat Chol Hamoed to have fun with friends and family in a more intimate setting. This year, since the Sedarim fall out on Monday and Tuesday evenings, Chol Hamoed takes place from Wednesday through Sunday evenings, leaving Thursday as the only convenient time for an all-day outing. Although Friday and Sunday offer partial days to go on excursions, much of that time will be spent preparing for Shabbat and the second days.

So when it comes to chag and Shabbat Chol Hamoed, although napping and reading may be tempting due to exhaustion from all of the cooking and cleaning preparations, doing so means you will be losing out on precious bonding time with those around you. Therefore, be sure to reserve time over chag and Shabbat Chol Hamoed to play some of my favorite games suggested below with your loved ones so that you will not regret missing out on quality time with them this Pesach.

Ahuva Greenberg playing War with her friend, Shoshana Baida.

Jewish-Themed Games

Apples to Apples, Jewish Edition: With red cards such as “Jewish Mothers” and “Bris,” this classic game can easily bring out hysterical laughter in four-10 social gamers for 20-30 minutes.

Quick Shtick: As a child, I loved playing this fast-paced, competitive game with my siblings. It allows two or more cultural players to put their knowledge of Jewish trivia to the test in topics that include characters from Tanach, Jewish authors, etc.

Taboo, Jewish Edition: Before time runs out, try to get your teammate to say as many of the Jewish phrases as possible from your pile of cards. But be careful not to say any of the taboo words listed or you will lose that card. This exhilarating game can entertain four-10 creative players (must be an even amount) for 20 minutes.

Bananagrams-Hebrew Edition: If you think the regular version is challenging, just wait until you play it in Hebrew. Two-eight daring players can join in on this competitive game, and it is also easy to pack up if you are going away or take on the go to bring to a friend’s house while offering players the chance to refine their Ivrit skills.

Let My People Go: Appropriate for Pesach, this holiday-themed spin-off of Trouble suits two-four players for around 30 minutes. Although the game can seem dragging for adults, I would recommend playing it with young children, as my 5-year-old nephew loves it and is always looking for someone to play it with him.

Monopoly Jerusalem: My mom saw this being sold and could not resist buying it when she read the title. Monopoly comes in many forms including Triopoly, Monopoly National Parks, Disney Monopoly, Monopoly Junior and even Teaneckopoly, but there is nothing like connecting to your Jewish heritage in this edition.

Ahuva Greenberg playing Monopoly Deal with Zack.

Relationship Games

If you have alone time with your partner this Chag, Perfect Matches or The NCSY Box will help facilitate deep conversations and enable you to get to know each other in a way that you haven’t before. You can also play these with a friend.

 

Brain Stimulating Games

Code Names: Not only does this game require creativity, but it also requires concentration. While the original game is fun, it also comes in Disney, Marvel, Harry Potter versions and more, so that you can tailor the game to your passions. It requires at least four players and must be an even amount.

Set: Think fast! Because if you don’t you will probably end up losing. Use your eyes to differentiate between shapes, colors, patterns and numbers so you can grab sets before everyone else. You can play with as little as two or up to six perceptive people.

Mastermind: Attempting to crack the other player’s code before you run out of space on the board can be puzzling. After 10-30 minutes of deductive thought, success has never felt so good!

Rummikub: While this game can be about luck of the draw, there is also a lot of strategy involved. If you dare to mix up all the tiles that are out, you must try to remember how to put them back, just in case. This family game lasts 30-60 minutes and two-four players can participate.

Scrabble: Although in Bananagrams I hate picking Qs and Zs, when playing Scrabble I feel the opposite. Set one on a triple word score and you will be ahead of the others in no time. This 40-60 minute game brings out the skills of two-four analytical thinkers.

 

Fast-Paced Games

Anomia: Even though this game is played in turns, it is definitely not slow and certainly not quiet. This speedy game will involve three-six players flipping their cards and shouting at each other excitedly as they go through the deck in about 20-30 minutes and face off against each other in common knowledge questions when two players reveal matching symbols.

Spot It: For about 15 minutes, two-eight players will see who has the sharpest eyes and notice the common illustration between cards the fastest.

Perpetual Commotion: A high school favorite of mine, two-six players (the more players, the bigger the commotion) compete in using up their cards to get the most points. As the name indicates, a perpetual commotion occurs as each player tries to put their cards out first.

Ahuva Greenberg playing Settlers of Catan with Zack and her mother.

Strategy Games

Ticket to Ride: Although this low-key game is technically a competition between two-five players to see who can score the highest, I love it because it also is a challenge of self-improvement to try and score higher than you did the last time you played. Coming up with strategies and switching them up depending on what cards you pick is key in this 30-60 minute intense railroad journey.

Settlers: While the original version accommodates three-four players for one-two hours, the Expansion allows for five to six players. Personally, I prefer the expansion and having the option to build between each turn.

Other popular options include Life, Blokus and Risk. Additionally, although the following is not a game per se, completing puzzles (around 1,000 pieces or so) offers great bonding time and a sense of accomplishment.

 

Card Games

There is so much you can do with just a deck of cards and it is very portable (just make sure it is a full deck if you are digging it up from your basement) My favorite two-player games include War, Spit, Yaniv and James Bond, and popular multiplayer games include Liar, President and Kent. Additional card games that I would recommend, but not the traditional kind, include Flux and Monopoly Deal. (Note that these require special decks of cards).

 

Child-Friendly Games

As a child, my favorites were Guess Who and Guess Where, and as an adult, I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy Uno even more now than I did when I was a kid. If you do play Uno, make sure it is the prolonged version because otherwise the game ends too quickly. Other games that amused me as a kid are charades, Don’t Break the Ice, Jenga, Headbands, Connect Four, Stratego, Othello and Battleship. Checkers and chess can be taught to little ones but are also fitting for older ages. My husband is passionate about chess; he captained the club at TABC and his team tied for first place in the Yeshiva League championships.

By partaking in any of these games, you will surely take advantage of the time you have over chag and Shabbat Chol Hamoed. So make sure to stock up before it is too late. Or maybe this list sparked a reminder for you of an old game that you have already stashed away in the garage and want to retrieve. Either way, before you know it you will be saying Havdalah and wishing that you could turn the clock around to keep on gaming!



Ahuva Greenberg grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland and lives in Teaneck with her husband Zack. Professionally, she is a benefits specialist at IPG Mediabrands. On the side, Ahuva and Zack specialize in fun activities around the tri-state area, and Ahuva runs an Instagram page where she posts about her and Zack’s fun adventures, so make sure you are following @funzacktivities.

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