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Let the winter games begin

(Photo illustration by Gary Meader / gmeader@duluthnews.com)

Board games aren't bored games, and card games aren't for clowns. That's what we keep telling ourselves, anyway.

With winter well underway it's time to be indoorsy, and what better way to do that than by getting overly competitive with loved ones? The self-described nerds of the newsroom have compiled their favorite ways to gather around a table with family and friends for hours of entertainment through the cold days and, why not, the warm ones when they return. Let the games begin.

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 Card games, cribbage and garbage

Of the three, cribbage takes the most time to learn, but if you can do simple addition to add up to 15 and 31, you can play cribbage. You'll need a cribbage board or a pencil and paper to keep track of scores. It's a two or three-player game that takes maybe 20 minutes to play, provided you have good hands.

Garbage or Trash is a simpler game — you only have to count to 10. At the start, 10 cards are dealt to each player. Every round you attempt to fill each blank side up card slot with a number between one and 10 by drawing and discarding cards. Face cards are useless, except the King which can be used as a wild card. If you fill your slots first, the other players get two turns to finish their slots. Every round you complete 1-10, you take away one card, until it's a face off for the final ace. There are a few more details, but essentially it's a fast-paced game of flipping cards and throwing away the garbage. This game was incredibly popular among my friends in college. To this day, I get together with a high school friend to play Garbage and catch up. The game doesn't take a lot of focus, so it's easy to play while sharing stories.

— Teri Cadeau

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Fill or bust

Kind of like Yahtzee or Farkle, but better. Grab a notepad and paper because you will be adding up your points to 10,000 all on your own. The game includes six dice and a stack of cards telling you what to do. Flip the card, roll the dice and try to "fill," use up all your dice in a scoring position. Ones and fives will get you there, but three of a kind will get there much faster. You can stop whenever you feel comfortable and take those points. Keep going and fail to "fill" results in a "bust" and you get nothing. If you "fill" then you get the bonus points indicated on the card you first flipped. Play with as many people as you want. There is no limit as far as I know.

Smart A&#$

Fairly easy trivia game with donkey tokens. Roll the color-coated die and move to the corresponding color square. Each color is a different topic. A very broad topic: What, Where, or Who. You get 10 clues to answer correctly. Each clue gets easier as you go along. Answer it correctly before anyone else and you get to advance on the board. Watch out for the "Hard A&#$" space though. Those questions are tough and there are no clues to help you out.

What do you meme?

Apples to Apples meets its photo counterpart. Everyone gets seven caption or meme cards and then one person flips over a photo card and that person has to pick which caption best describes the photo. In my experience you play to the person picking the meme. If that person has a disturbing sense of humor then you lay your most disturbing caption card. I guarantee your card will get picked over the others. Well that works most of the time anyway. Play until you get bored or hungry.

— Samantha Erkkila

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Settlers of Catan

It's like Risk and Monopoly combined, and it's way less complicated than it looks. Plus it makes for a great drinking game — that is, it's fun to drink while playing this game. Two to four players claim separate stakes on the board, where numbers are placed to correspond with dice rolls that allow players to collect resources indicated by their tiles. More resources means more roads, settlements, helpful cards and, ultimately, the 10 points needed to secure victory. Trading, secret alliances and backstabbing are encouraged.

Rummy

Here's an easy one that will test your patience and see how big of a risk-taker you and your friends/loved ones/sworn enemies are. Three-of-a-kind and runs from the same suit are the name of the game, and deciding whether or not to pick up 12 cards to get to the one you just need or waiting for a killer draw is where the blood pressure starts to rise.

Table cribbage

An obscure take on the classic, no board needed — though you will need plenty of table space. Two players are each dealt 12 playing cards face down, and the remainder of the deck is placed between players, the top card flipped face-up. Each player is trying to play five cribbage hands, one in horizontal rows and one in vertical columns, on a five-by-five grid that fills out as cards are played. The center column and row are reserved for the player playing in that direction. Players can't look at their cards, they're simply drawn from the dealt stacks one at a time each round and played as strategically as possible — looking for runs, 15s, pairs, etc. — while trying to keep your opponent from using the cards you lay for their own columns or rows. Score each round as in regular cribbage, adding totals of each row for one player and each column for the other, and play to whatever number you'd like.

— Brooks Johnson

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Catchphrase

 Teams try to beat the ticking timer in this guessing game that's a throwback to hot potato. You can purchase a Catchphrase device, or download a free, off-brand version on your smartphone. This is perfect for a full house and some over-the-top gestures. In my group of friends, it often turns competitive, but the laughter and ribbing always wins.

Uno

The aim in this super simple card game is matching colors or numbers and playing all your cards first. An added bonus is crushing your opponent with a "skip" "skip" "reverse" sequence. Nostalgia points here because I used to play it with my dad and brother. Good for ages 5 and older. UNO deck required.

Cards against humanity

Think of super offensive Mad Libs. I mean, really offensive. Players draw 10 white cards with different phrases on it, and the card czar draws one black card that has the start of a sentence. Your job: Complete phrases like "Instead of coal, Santa now gives the bad children ____" with answers like "Fiery poops," "Morgan Freeman's voice" or "Repression." (And those are tamer options.) Expect groans, awkward laughter or sad silence, and also expect a lively time.

— Melinda Lavine

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