Cubes with letters on them

Games for International Cafés

Small board and card games are great for a café setting. Recently many new games have been published which are quick to learn and play with simple rules. You can invite someone to plan with you and even if they are not fluent in English they can quickly get to grips and have fun. Likewise, many games teach basic language skills and provide a framework for learning basic phrases and language forms. Here are some examples of small, relatively inexpensive games which would be suitable for an international café.

Boggle

The game in general

The object of Boggle is, within a time limit, to list as many words of three or more letters as you can find from adjoining letters in the Boggle dice tray. Letters can flow in any direction. The letters are shaken up within the tray and as soon as they settle the time begins. Players can only score points for words that no one else has found. There is a fairly complicated scoring system depending on the length of the word.

In an international café setting

This works well as a game for English learners with a few adaptions. I have used it at iCaf as a team game using two sets, one for each team. As with the original rules, players need to find as many words as they can using adjoining letters in the tray, but working as a team rather than individually. Any English word counts, regardless of its length or whether the other team has also found it. One point is given for each valid word instead of using a complicated scoring system. The game could also be adapted by having different words per round e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives. Have fun!

Submitted by Frances Forshaw

Yes No Game

YES! NO!

The game in general

This is a fun question game in which you cannot say ‘yes’ or ‘no’! It’s great for practising questions, and also for challenging internationals to think of alternative ways of answering them.

 

In the game, player 1 takes a card and reads it to their opponent (player 2). The card contains a question, and must not be answered with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If player 2 uses either of these responses, player 1 must ring the bell and keep the card. If the player 2 gets to the end of the questions without saying yes or no, they keep the card.  The player with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner.

In an international café setting

When I did this at iCaf I found you needed to be selective with the questions. Some were not suitable for our guests. I also  discovered that the keen ones will monopolize the questions so others do not get a turn.

A further idea

Once, when I was organising a children’s party, I used the yes/no game as a starter. We did not have cards and the children made up their own questions! If you have more advanced speakers, they may be able to do this! They need to think of easy questions that demand a yes/no answer. For example rather than ask ‘what is your name?’ ask  ‘is your name Sophie?’ Other examples could be: ‘Do you come from Spain?’ ‘Do you live in Reading?’ ‘Do you have a pet?’ ‘Do you speak French?’ We gave each person 5 ‘tokens’  (we used bean seeds but you could use counters, buttons, milk tops). The aim is to get rid of your tokens. Every time someone answered with a yes or no the questioner gave a token to the responder! The winner is the person who is the first to get rid of his/her tokens. This is a good starter game to play while everyone arrives.
Submitted by Hazel Andrews

Dont Scramble The Egg game

Don’t Scramble the Egg

The game in general

Don’t Scramble the Egg is an egg-tossing card game created by Paul Lamond. The theme is from the movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid and you must take better care of the egg than Rowley did in Health Class!

The game consists of an electronic egg that requires 2 x AA batteries and a set of category cards. Rowley’s egg is tossed from player to player as items are called out that fit the category on a card, e.g. places to hide, things that are chewy, things that are free, outdoor sports etc. Randomly, the egg c-r- a-c- k-s OR s-p- l-a- t-s! The person holding it at the time this happens keeps the category card. If you collect 3 cards you are out of the game and the last player standing wins! No repeat words allowed either. The faster the pace the better and the electronic timer certainly adds tension. The egg must keep moving! It sounds easy….but the pressure is on when the category is ‘types of facial hair’ or ‘superheroes’! In a relaxed English café-type set-up this can be hilarious.

In an international café setting

The game is suitable for ages 8 to adult; those with English as their mother tongue and learners of English alike. We have used it at iCaf with all ages and levels and it has worked a treat. We help each other along and explain words when necessary. The leader can choose which cards are appropriate (leave difficult ones out) and can even adapt and create other categories according to the level and knowledge of the students who are playing. It’s a creative way to practice and learn vocabulary in any setting. It’s available on Amazon and eBay for around £11.00.

Submitted by Marina Swainston-Harrison

Dobble

The game in general

Dobble is a fun and fast card game which uses pictures and symbols, making it very fun and easy for individuals who have limited English. There are 5 different ways by which to play, each variation slightly different but based on the same principle of matching a common identical symbol between 2 cards. In each of the 5 mini games, all the players play at the same time. The game is for 2 to 8 players, aged 6 and above.

In an international café setting

The game requires some explaining in terms of rules, but the concepts are fairly simple to grasp. It’s a case of matching pictures so as long as people know those words (there are about 15 pictures),  then they should be able to play the game.

Submitted by Hannah Gervais