Board Games and Pencil & Paper Games

#1 job for parents: establish a culture of board gaming in the home

Board games are a celebration of problem solving and problem solving is at the core of a quality mathematics education. Unfortunately, most board games are not a good fit for the classroom. They take too long, cost too much, or critical pieces are too easily lost.

That’s why it is the #1 job of the parent – not to help their child with math worksheets, but to establish a culture of board gaming in the home.


Game of the Year
2-5 players
25 minutes
ages 8+


Game of the Year
5-10 players
20 minutes
ages 9+

Star Realms

Game of the Year
2 players
20 minutes
ages 8+


Game of the Year
2-8 players
20 minutes
ages 10+


Game of the Year
2-4 players
15 minutes
ages 6+

Not all board games are created equal. If the only board games in your home are risk and monopoly – that’s equivalent to your bookshelves holding only harlequin romances. You can do better than that.

You should also avoid “educational games.” Most of these are painful to play. Choose games that are fun to play. Remember – the academic objective is not math skills, but problem solving.

Visit for ratings of thousands of board games.

Santorini is as much a part of my legacy as MathPickle. It arrived in homes across the world in January 2017 and is currently ranked as the top family game and the top pure strategy game on board game geek. It fills me with joy that it is finally being published after over thirty years of trying. I was a game designer long before becoming a mathematician and these game design skills are most helpful in designing MathPickle puzzles. Long live board games 😉

Big thanks to Roxley Games for publishing Santorini!

The Sentry Box is the hub of board game design in Calgary and Calgary is the hub of board game design in Canada. Canada is not the hub of board game design in the world, but that’s okay – we have quality if not quantity 😉

Starting in January 2017, I’ll be the first contact of new game designers in Calgary with the Game Artisans of Canada. Creating a quality game from scratch is hard and should probably not be attempted in school. Much better is to get students to design cards for an existing quality game like Star Realms or Dominion.

Classroom Games

A small fraction of games work well in the classroom. They must be cheap or resilient. They must be easy to teach and quick to play and put away.

Home Games

All excellent games work well at home – that’s why parents must take the lead on establishing a culture of board gaming.

Non-Commercial Games

You do not need to spend money if you don’t care about aesthetics. Many great games can be printed off or put together from easy-to-find materials.

This is a starting point showing how memes in board game design replicated over time. I’d love to make this a giant map of games some time in the future when I have better graphing software. See a higher resolution pdf here.

Yet more opinions on Board Games for the home… This video is a bit out of date, but I still stand by the games I recommend in it. Adopt one 😉

Please use MathPickle in your classrooms. If you have improvements to make, please contact us. We'll give you credit 😉

Gordon Hamilton

(MMath, PhD)


Lora Saarnio