I love my family. I love my fiancée. I love tabletop games. Naturally, I’d love to play with them all together. We have a small problem however: they can’t talk to one another. I don’t mean that my family hates her or anything; on the contrary, they love each other despite not being able to speak the same language. My family only speaks Spanish, and my fiancée can understand only basic Spanish. As anyone who regularly plays board games, you normally need more than a basic understanding of the language to play.
This experience led me to think about how common this must be for some families. Surely there must be some games that can be played despite a language barrier. After some searching, I’ve found some games that allow people to play the game after explaining the rules in all the required languages and not compromise strategy, pace, or enjoyment.
Perhaps the most complex game on the list, but the basic mechanics of the game require virtually no communication. Everyone takes control of a race car zooming down the streets in the search of coming in first place. Each turn, a player decides whether to go up or down a gear. The player’s gear dictates which size dice they role and ultimately how many spaces they may move that turn.
This game is dictated by numbers and token placement. These sort of element is visually communicated, so it’s easy for everyone to understand what is going on. If I role a six, everyone around the table understands that’s how many spaces I will move. The game’s enjoyment comes from rolling bigger dice and taking chances on dicey turns, all of which adds to the excitement of the race. This game will entertain everyone at the table regardless of the language spoken.
This game is for the family that loves card games. Sushi Go is a card drafting game, which means everyone will start with a hand, everyone will choose one card from that hand and then pass it to the next player simultaneously. Players score points depending on the kind of card they draft, which are represented by adorable drawings of different kinds of Sushi.
Again, this game communicates everything the players need to know visually. The cards say how much each card is worth and are distinct enough from one another to not get confused with another type. The game does not require much communication to play and players can still enjoy coming up with strategies by just looking at the platter of food chosen by other players. It is a light game that lasts about 20 minutes so your table should be able to play a quick round and decide if it works for everyone.
An appealing game for those who like to take risks. Every player takes turns throwing three dice. Each dice has three different markings on it, brains, feet, or blast. The object of the game is to collect as many brains before being hit by three shotgun blasts, represented by the blast. If you roll feet, you roll that dice again and as many as you need to get back to three dice. Each dice has different amounts of brain markings, which you can tell at a glance by the dice’s color. The first player to successfully collect thirteen brains wins.
The mechanics are purely visual. Everyone understands getting more brains is a good thing and that a turn ends with three blasts. Of course, part of the charm is goading another player into pressing their luck and rolling the dice when they’ve already been hit by many shotgun blasts. However, you can still enjoy the game simply as a game of chance. It feels very similar to the rush of seeing people at a casino risking it all to win it big. And just like at a casino, you don’t always talk to people at the table, but understand on an emotional level what they’re feeling.