Which board games should i add to our airbnb rental when we have no TV?
June 5, 2017 5:47 AM   Subscribe

Hi all, We rent our own apartment in Amsterdam on Airbnb while we are on vacation, a few weeks per year. We don't own a TV and are not interested in getting one or a substitute such as netflix or similar. Which popular, easily sourced and language-independent board games should i buy so our guests (usually between 2 and 4 persons, only adults) can entertain themselves during their stay?

I have a standard deck of cards, chess board and a homemade set of Cards Against Humanity available (although don't know if i would actively recommend that particular one to all guests without knowing them well). What else should i get?
We make the No-TV fact very clear in our listing, and yet have repeatedly received feedback along the lines of "place was great except there's no TV so we didn't what to do with ourselves in the evening". How that matters to travellers staying in a bustling city center is beyond me, but still, i thought stocking good board games might be a suggestion for those guests.
Obviously it's not an issue for us, so we don't really have substitutes in our apartment. We're not big board games players except for chess. I heard monopoly starts family wars, and games based on a particular language ( like cards against humanity) are not great as our guests come from all over the world.
What should i buy?
I've had my eyes on Uno and Rummikub based on the reviews of the toy shop, but i'm curious what the hive-mind recommends.
posted by PardonMyFrench to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (43 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Bananagrams is nice because it's easy to learn and would work in any language.
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:53 AM on June 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, Cards Against Humanity, being designed to be offensive, I guess, has a lotttt of stuff that'd be really hurtful to lots of different people, unless your homemade version has removed stuff like these.
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:55 AM on June 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Qwirkle is a good one and doesn't require language skills (beyond, well, reading the instructions).
posted by darksong at 6:01 AM on June 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

I would disrec Cards of Humanity for the simple reason that it's not as fun when the people you're playing with aren't willing to be assholes - I played with two different groups, and the second group, which had some of the sweetest people I know, was a terrible CaH group. I felt like I was kicking their kittens off a pier, and I'm not even that much of an asshole myself!

I really liked Settlers of Catan, it's 3-5 players and a ton of fun. Scrabble, Uno, and Pictionary were my go-tos as a kid, but Scrabble may not work for your guests because of the language requirement. What about classics like Snakes and Ladders or Ludo or Guess Who?

Whatever you do, make sure you have some kid-friendly board games as well; it's no fun being left out! Also a box with extra dice and tokens, some cheap pads of paper and pens, just in case they decide to make their own rules.
posted by Tamanna at 6:02 AM on June 5, 2017

Sushi Go is fun and pretty intuitive, even if you don't speak the language on the cards (I accidentally bought the Dutch version myself, but found the English instructions online). Love Letter and Citadels are both fairly easy to pick up, although in both cases, I'd recommend finding and printing out copies of the instructions in a couple of languages.
posted by neushoorn at 6:02 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you only have one deck of cards get more - some games require more than one deck. Monopoly may start family wars but is also universally known, understood and liked. Jenga does not require language.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:03 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rumikub and Uno are fantastic- you could even include some house rules.
Pictionary. (Pens and paper, could point to pictionary app)

Think about games that don't have too many little pieces to lose.

What about some picture books to flip through?
posted by freethefeet at 6:06 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

By picture book I mean like a gorgeous coffee table book
posted by freethefeet at 6:06 AM on June 5, 2017

Coming here to say Qwirkle and a similar simple classic card game, Set. I also really like Tsuro a pretty simple path board game and Dixit which is a neat "tell a story" game good for all ages but the cards themselves have (I believe) no words on them. Local trivia stuff can be neat also.
posted by jessamyn at 6:07 AM on June 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

Can't go wrong with Jenga. Get some checkers/draughts for the chess board. Reversi/Othello is another language-independent one.
posted by pipeski at 6:09 AM on June 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding rummikub and Scrabble, also came to suggest backgammon and mancala. The latter two can come in some pretty gorgeous setups (use of wood and stones, etc.), which are both entertaining and nice to look at.
posted by lesser weasel at 6:12 AM on June 5, 2017

Checkers and dominos might be nice to have around. Also, some people really dig jigsaw puzzles.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:12 AM on June 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

For a more family-friendly version of Cards against Humanity, you could include a set of Apples to Apples. While both are pretty language-heavy, they each appeal to a different audience.

Carcassone is also a good, non-language-based game that works pretty well for a wide age-range.

If you want to go in on children's games, Animals upon Animals and Super Tooth are both big in our household.

Some sort of Liar's Dice set (which you can make yourself) is also good - you could also make it into a game of Roll for It! by printing out a gameboard.

And add in some Poker Chips - it allows the deck of cards to be turned into betting games .
posted by TofuGolem at 6:12 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Any simple physical-pieces game would work: pick-up sticks, tiddlywinks, jacks?

Also seconding the recommendation for Dixit, which only has pictures on the cards.
posted by fifthpocket at 6:13 AM on June 5, 2017

Set is a good option!

I’m not sure if games would make up for the lack of TV though for the people who want TV though. I imagine they want it because they’ve been out all day and want to just mindlessly relax. Coffee table books, music, a laptop with some DVDs, or the address of the closest movie theater might help?
posted by metasarah at 6:13 AM on June 5, 2017 [10 favorites]

jessamyn's recommendation of Dixit is a fabulous one - she is correct that it has no words on the cards (they would still need to be able to understand the scoring, which is sometimes a little difficult for people to grok), and we have found it works well both with groups who know each other very well and with groups that do not, and with groups that include people from very different contexts. However, given your player numbers, it's worth mentioning that it requires a minimum of three players (max six).
posted by solotoro at 6:15 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Dixit and Carcassone are great and completely language independent except for the rules, and I believe the rules are multilingual. Settlers of Catan is less ideal because you need to read some of the cards even if you know the rules, so everyone either needs to be able to puzzle out the language the game is in or to have memorized all the cards so they can identify them by their picture.
posted by 256 at 6:15 AM on June 5, 2017

Scrabble is definitely a good one - maybe get a second set of letters, as different languages depend on letters differently. i.e. some languages use more q's than others.
posted by Toddles at 6:34 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I picked up a game called Go Cuckoo a few months ago which has turned in to a big hit for quick, casual play. It's a dexterity game where you build a nest out of thin sticks and attempt to place eggs in the nest without them falling out. Rules are very simple, and the rule book is in about 15 languages.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:37 AM on June 5, 2017

Nthing Dixit!

Tokaido is a great Japanese board game. I don't speak Japanese so I'm pretty sure you just need to be able to read the instructions (here in English -PDF) because the cards are all illustrated.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:38 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

What about some jigsaw puzzles? For me, learning a new board game would not scratch the same (mindless) itch as watching TV, but there's no learning curve with puzzles.
posted by mskyle at 6:39 AM on June 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

Connect Four is a good classic that hasn't been mentioned.

For some low-fi newcomers, Guillotine and Bohnanza are accessible and visually fun.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:49 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

There was an old game called "Memory," which was a game for matching pictures on cards. I can't find the exact thing, but this baby animal matching game looks similar.

Ticket to Ride is wonderful and is not language heavy.

I received the German version of this labyrinth game as a gift. The game itself doesn't involve language, but I had to find the instructions in English online because my German wasn't good enough to read them. So in addition to the games themselves, I'd suggest thinking about what languages the directions are in.
posted by FencingGal at 6:56 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I really like Logic puzzles like Rush Hour, Chocolate Fix, Gravity Maze and Quadrillion.

I think puzzles are a good suggestion, and I'd throw in some brain teasers like these or even a Perplexus ball -- One-person games may seem like less of a family activity, but they're more likely to be played with and passed around.
posted by Mchelly at 7:06 AM on June 5, 2017

Spot It is really fun and is entirely picture based.

I'm not the kind of person who prioritizes TV, but I'm not entirely sure that any game would change the review from the people who want a TV when traveling though.
posted by advicepig at 7:12 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tsuro is super fun, really nicely built and has almost no anguage whatsoever.
posted by General Malaise at 7:18 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Definitely Ticket To Ride. Get the European map version! (I like it better than the US map one anyway).
Carcassonne is a good one too.

Neither of these need any specific language for playing the actual game, although you'd need to read the rules. Generally, boardgame publishers will have PDFs of the rules in multiple languages on their websites, so you could print out the rules in a bunch of different languages.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:31 AM on June 5, 2017

Seconding jigsaw puzzles and coffee table books--with locally famous things, perhaps?

Also, what about big versions of games, like jumbo checkers and connect 4? Maybe also Twister (not jumbo sized, but an active but indoors appropriate game)

You probably won't be able to satisfy the i̶d̶i̶o̶t̶s̶ folks who don't read your description. People are so very, very good at not reading, then turning out to be absolutely surprised when, lo and behold, you have no TV! (Or, say, that Store is not open on Mondays, has never been open on Mondays, and no, did not swap the hours and signs on you to trick you.)
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:38 AM on June 5, 2017

Do they have internet access? I'm neither a games person nor a TV person, but I'd be happy with an internet connection to download more books. A travel guide with low key evening activities? A note in your listing to bring their own DVDs and player?
posted by instamatic at 8:19 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're open to adding a couple of cooperative games, Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are loads of fun, easy to learn, great for both older kids and adults, very reasonably priced and can be played solo if everyone else has gone to bed.
posted by vverse23 at 10:23 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cribbage board?
posted by Twicketface at 10:29 AM on June 5, 2017

It's dated and a bit silly, but Jenga is hard to beat among games that don't need specific language skills and appeal to even people like me who have no interest in board games.

(If I were your guest, I'd happily trade all the games for a speaker system with an audio input and a 1/8" headphone plug. But, I also can't imagine wanting to watch TV while staying in Amsterdam as a tourist, so I'm probably not representative of your angry guests.)
posted by eotvos at 10:40 AM on June 5, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your input!
We do have an awesome Sonos system, a good internet connection and huge library of books in many languages and coffee table books and magazines, and i now have plenty of great suggestions for adding nice board games to the offer :-)
posted by PardonMyFrench at 11:00 AM on June 5, 2017

Mastermind is language-free.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:37 AM on June 5, 2017

"place was great except there's no TV so we didn't what to do with ourselves in the evening"

In Amsterdam??? Jeez.

I was going to say Mastermind, too!

Battleship requires only familiarity with the Roman alphabet.

I wonder if you could stock adult coloring books, which are big in the U.S. right now for adults, but they're consumables, of course.
posted by praemunire at 11:56 AM on June 5, 2017

Cribbage board.
posted by neckro23 at 12:12 PM on June 5, 2017

Nthing cribbage, mastermind, backgammon & mancala.
posted by mont the drifter at 2:08 PM on June 5, 2017

Carcassonne is definitely a fantastic choice; not language-heavy, not hard to learn, and games usually last a decent amount of time without getting into "this is taking forever and now I'm bored and I hate it" territory.

Also nth-ing a cribbage board and Abalone. Maybe a couple of backup decks of cards too; nothing's worse than discovering you're missing getting into a game and realizing you're missing a card or two.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 3:02 PM on June 5, 2017

Seconding puzzles. I love a good puzzle, and you can pick them up for almost nothing at secondhand stores.

You're always going to have people complaining about the lack of TV though.
posted by kjs4 at 6:19 PM on June 5, 2017

The most popular board game right now is Settlers of Catan. And most people don't have TVs anymore -- as long as people have wifi, they can still watch Netflix and YouTube.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:19 PM on June 5, 2017

How about blokus? Quick to learn, non language dependent, and good for 2-4 players. And fun too.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 11:51 PM on June 5, 2017

Your place sounds awesome and I would love to stay there!

For me personally, coming home after a evening out in Amsterdam I would probably get a big kick out of Candy Land. Per Wikipedia: "The game requires no reading and minimal counting skills..."
posted by BibiRose at 8:04 AM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Came for the Settlers of Catan. Was not disappointed.
posted by Samizdata at 10:39 AM on June 6, 2017

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