Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Table Top Games Teens Will Love to Play


The Teen, The Bestie, their friends and I are going through a big table tops game playing stage. And because everything I do somehow becomes about work, every new game we play is reviewed to determine whether or not it would be a good game to play in the library with teens. In fact, at my new library, at least at my branch, the teen room is in fact a separate room where game playing is very accessible and they even keep games out for teens to come in and grab off the shelf and play. So here’s a look at some of the games we’ve been playing.

1. Exploding Kittens


Of all the games we’ve been playing, this is hands down one of our favorites. It’s a card game with an absurd premise, but there is also a lot of strategy involved. The goal is simple: get your opponents to draw an exploding kitten card so they are out and try to stay alive. You achieve this goal by taking their cards, shuffling the deck, and if all goes well – you get a coveted alter the future card so you can put the Exploding Kitten cards in strategic locations within the deck.

The cards themselves are absurd, which is part of the fun. They have asburd titles, fun illustrations and pretty weird directions. Be very careful, there is a Not Safe for Work (NSFW) pack that you do not want to put in the hands of teens. You will get fired!


Like I said, this is a strategy game and you have to pay attention. Each player starts out with 1 defuse card which allows you to draw an exploding kitten and survive. So you have to pay attention to who has a defuse card and who doesn’t. Many of the cards allow you to draw a card from another player’s hand and you want to try and get the other player’s defuse cards, it’s a coveted card worth more than gold in this game. Pay attention to has played a defuse card and don’t draw from them. At the same time, you want to try and protect your defuse card from being picked by another player. During one game I had 2 defuse cards and I made sure that my hand stayed full of cards because I didn’t want other players to be able to draw a card from my hand and take my precious defuse cards. At one point I kept passing my turn and not playing any cards and the reason was simple: strategy. The more cards I had in my hand, the less likely it was that someone would draw the defuse card from me.

During another game, The Mr. blitzed me with every card he had to make me empty my hand of cards, then he put an exploding kitten card right where I would draw it and have no defense. I went out of that game quickly and yes, I’m still bitter. He’s still sleeping on the couch.

If you’re going to play this game with a large group of teens, I recommend buying the party pack, which is $30.00. I also recommend buying the two expansion packs – Imploding Kittens and Streaking Kittens – which ups your price by another $17.00 but adds even more fun nonsense cards and allows for an additional two more players. Like many games, this investment isn’t cheap, but if you have the budget for it then I recommend adding it to your game collection.

2. Imagine


This game is a game of visual charades. You set up a circle of symbol cards provided and when it’s your turn, you can layer or use the cards in any way you like to try and get people to guess the word on your card. So it instead of acting out your clues as in charade or drawing your clues like in Pictionary, you can only use the images already provided. It’s challenging but fun.


Take a look at some of our examples and tell me, what do you think they might be?

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This game is not easy! But it is fun. It also takes the most amount of table space because you have to set up the large circle of cards for players to see what’s available to make their pictures from.

3. Smash the Avocado


This is a card game that combines the ideas behind War and Snap. All the cards are dealt and then one by one you go around the table and turn over your first card. Each player counts 1 through 15 as they turn over their card. So the first person would turn over their card and say, “1 avocado” and then the next player would do the same saying, “2 avocado”, etc. Whenever you turn over the same number as is being spoken aloud or whenever the same number is played twice in a row, you want to “smash” the avocado by putting your hand on top of the pile of cards. There are also cards that say “smash” and you once again smash the avocado when these cards come up as well. As in UNO, there are reverse cards that changes the direction of play AND you then have to start counting backwards from 15. The last person to put their hand in, the hand that is on top, has to take the pile of cards. In this case that’s bad, because the first person to go out of cards wins. This is a fast and fun game, but it’s loud because everyone is yelling smash and there is lots of laughing and yelling involved. However, this game is pretty inexpensive so that’s a plus. I highly recommend this game, but in more of a program setting in a remote meeting room space than in the general library space.

4. Skribble Head




Head Skribbles combines the games Hedbandz and Pictionary. The person who is “it” draws a card with a word on it and their goal is to get someone to guess what that word is by drawing a picture that represents the word. The twist is that you are drawing your clues on a white board that is attached to your head – so you can’t see what you’re drawing and no matter how well you think you are doing, you’re really not because drawing at that weird angle without seeing what you’re doing produces nothing but hilarious results. By the way, that’s obviously a snowman up above.

5. Charades App


Charades is an app that you can download onto a device, a smaller device like a phone works best, and basically play the game Hedbandz on. Once you start you hold the phone up to your head and the person you are playing with gives you clues to try and get you to guess the word on display. You are trying to guess as many words correctly as possible in the short amount of time to up your score. You can play in teams competing against one another or you can play with 2 people just for fun. I have busted out this quick game often when in a room with bored teens. It’s pretty fun to sit around playing and guessing without being competitive. And although this is a teen librarian blog, I feel the need to mention that this is a great way to distract kids in long car rides or waiting rooms as well. Really, it’s very multi-purpose. The best part is this app is FREE!!!

As I often do, I also think about inexpensive ways we can expand on the games we’re playing. For example, with the Imagine game you can make additional cards by using old overhead projector sheets cut to size and drawing additional cards to add to your ring of cards. You can use dry erase cards to make your own Exploding Kittens cards. For any of the games where you need to guess words it would be pretty easy to print, cut and add your own words to the deck. So in almost all of the games above, you can find ways to get teens adding and adapting the games to expand on the fun. You can find information about dry erase game cards and more in this post on DIY Games.

I highly recommend every one of these games. None of these games are quiet, so choose your play time and space accordingly. I have played them multiple times with teens and we’ve always had fun.