Look in any toy shop, online or a bricks and mortar shop, and you will find a huge choice of games to play; board games, puzzles games, logic games, card games, tabletop games, escape room games, trivia/quiz games and more. There will be games for kids, teenagers, adults, families and parties. Games for solo party play or multi-players. The choice is staggering.
But sometimes you just want to go back to basics and play something simple and something that costs very little but has plenty of variety and playability. Do games like this actually exist? Yes, they do – in the form of a deck of standard playing cards and card games. A deck of cards has so many different card games that you can play. Here are some of my family-friendly card games that I have enjoyed playing (and I am not going to include the one that my mum caught us out with as kids – Pick Up 52! If you know what it is, leave a comment below).
Snap is a card game for 2-8 players that requires keen eyesight, quick reactions and paying attention. It is a game suitable for players age 5+ and has a playing time of 5-10 minutes. It requires a standard deck of 52 playing cards (although you can add in another deck if you have a larger group of players). You can also purchase Snap cards for kids with illustrations and photos on to make them brighter, more appealing and that bit more fun.
How to play: One person is chosen as the dealer. The dealer shuffles the cards and deals them all out amongst the players until there are no cards left. It doesn’t matter if some players have more cards than others. Players do not look at their cards but keep them face down in their individual stacks.
The player to the left of the dealer then turns over the top card from their stack and places it face up in the centre of the table. The next player does the same, laying their card on top of the previously played card. When a card is put down that matches the previous card, 2 Kings for example, the first player to shout out Snap! receives ALL the cards in the pile and adds them to their stack. The game then continues with the next playing turning over a new card and so forth.
Play continues until one player wins all the cards.
Go Fish is a simple card game for 2-6 players, aged 4 upwards. Players need to try and collect as many 4 of a kind as they can. It is played with a standard deck of playing cards or with a Go Fish deck. I used to love playing this when I was a lot younger.
How to play: Select a player to be the dealer. If you are playing with 2-3 players, each player is dealt 7 cards. If playing with more than 3 players, each player is dealt 5 cards. Any remaining cards are placed face down in a pile in the centre of the table. This pile is affectionately known as the “fish pond.”
Each player looks at their cards and sorts them into groups of the same number. Players must not let the other player see their cards. The player to the left of the dealer starts and requests a specific card from another player – for example, if the requester has 2 sevens in their hand, they will ask another player if they have any sevens. If the other player does indeed have sevens in their hand, they must hand them over. If cards are handed over, the requester can ask that player again for another card. This continues until that player has no cards the requester has asked for. When this happens, they tell the requester to “Go Fish”. The requester must then take one card from the “fish pond” and add it to their hand. The player who told him to “Go fish” becomes the new requester.
When players collect a set of 4 of the same cards, they put them face down in front of them.
The winner is the first person to have no cards left in their hand, and only complete sets on the table.
Old Maid is a simple card that goes by many names (you might know it by Scabby Queen). It is a game for 2-8 players, aged 5+. This is another game that is played with a standard deck of cards (with three Queens removed, the remaining Queen is the Old Maid) or an Old Maid deck. We play it with a Harry Potter themed deck called Avoid You Know Who.
How to play: Deal all the cards out among the players. Some players may have more cards than others, but this is fine. Each player sorts their cards into matching pairs, keeping them hidden from other players. They place the matching pairs face up on the table.
The dealer then starts by holding their cards out, face down, to the player on their left. That player must select any card they want from the hand. If the card selected makes a new pair in their hand they can put the pair down on the table. If not, they keep it and offer their cards to the player on their left.
Play continues until all the cards have been put down in pairs, leaving one player with the Old Maid card. The player left holding the last card is the Old Maid and unfortunately loses the game.
If you have ever played the classic board game Rummikub, Rummy is the original card game version. It is a card-shedding game for 2-6 players, aged 7+ where players must just rid of their cards by laying down cards in groups of melds and runs. It is played with a stand standard deck of 52 cards.
How to play: One player is the dealer. They shuffle the cards and deal each player 7 cards. The remaining cards are placed face down in the middle of the table and serve as the “stack”.
The top card from the stack is turned over and placed face up in a new “discard” pile next to the stack. Each player can sort the cards into their hands into more manageable groups of melds and runs. Do not show the other players.
The player to the left of the dealer plays first by taking the top card from either the stack or the discard pile. If the player has a meld, they lay it down on the table so all cards in the meld are visible. Then they then discard another card from their hand by placing it face up in the discard pile.
Players can also manipulate a meld or run already played by placing a card down on any existing meld if they have a card that works. For example, a player could lay a queen down onto an existing meld of three queens.
The game continues clockwise around the table with players drawing a card from the stack or discard pile, making melds and laying down a card in the discard pile. The first player to get rid of their cards wins the round.
The player that is first to win 5 rounds is the overall game winner.
Solitaire, or Patience as I knew it as a child, is a one player game. It is a game that does require patience to play and is played with a standard deck of 52 playing cards.
The idea of the game is to end up with four lines of the different suits in ascending order (beginning with Ace and ending with King).
How to play: Put down the first card face up and lay six cards face down in a line next to it. Then, put one card face up on top (but lowered slightly) of the first face down card, then put a face down card on top of the other five cards. Continue doing this, so that each pile has one face up card on top and so that the left pile has one card, the next has two, then three, four, five, six, and finally seven. Remaining cards go into a stock pile.
Move the cards around to build red/black sets (e,g. move a red 7 onto a black 8). Place any Aces at the top of the seven lines. Keep placing the cards on top of each other until you cannot move anymore. Each pile should be alternating in colour and move in descending order. When you move a card, turn over the face down card that is underneath it.
When you can turn over no more cards, turn over one from the stock pile and continue.
Place cards in order on top of the Aces in the same suit.
You win the game when you have moved all the cards onto the Aces, leaving you with a pile of 4 suits from Ace to King.
Concentration / Memory
A very simple to play memory card. It is a game that is played with a standard deck of 52 playing card or a specific memory deck. Suitable for 2 or more players, aged 3+.
How to play: Shuffle the cards and lay them all out of the table or floor between the players. The aim of the game is to find matching pairs. Players take turns turning over two cards at a time so that everybody can see them and trying to remember when cards are to make a matching pair.
When cards are turned over, if they are not a matching pair, the cards are turned back over. All players must try to concentrate and remember where cards are. The next player then turns over two cards and tries to make a match. If they are a matching pair, that player removes them and keeps them, and then has another turn.
When all cards have been removed, each player counts the number of cards they have collected. The player with the most cards wins.
Other family friendly card games are:
- Crazy Eights
- Happy Families
- Kings in the Corner
- Twenty-One (Blackjack)
These are just a small selection of the many card games that can be played with a standard deck of playing cards. If your favourite is not listed above, let us know what it is in the comments below.