One game that was brought out quite frequently over the summer was Quoridor. A large part of this is that, with nice solidly wooden pieces on a nice solid wooden board, there is no risk of anything blowing away while we wait for the barbecue. But the game itself is also very playable indeed.
The rules are simple. The game is played on an 9×9 grid and the object is to get your pawn from one side of the board to the other. On each turn you can either move your pawn or place a wall to hinder your opponent, but not completely block access to the opposite side. And that’s it.
As with the best of abstract games, a very simple set of rules allows for a great deal of depth in the actual play. In the case of Quoridor, the trick is to place walls to ensure that your opponent has to follow the longest path possible while also preventing them from lengthening your path too much (that rule about not completely blocking access to the other side — it can lead to all sorts of mazes).
It’s a quick game to play as well, with each game taking no more than 20 minutes to play. Given that the boys are 7 and 10, this shortness ensures that neither boredom nor frustration have any time to set in. On the downside, it means that we haven’t (yet) needed to explore the four-player version.
But we will.