Multipurpose games

Winter is having its way with the midwest again, and for many families that means indoor activities such as board and card games. But as we all know, with board games comes clutter.

We’ve written before about ways to store board games. You can get rid of the packaging, or even use the board game as artwork.

Another possibility is to buy games that serve multiple purposes.

A simple deck of cards is the most versatile piece of gaming equipment ever. There are hundreds of card games that you can play with a standard deck of 52 cards. Avoid specialty cards by playing Crazy Eights with your kids instead of Uno, then remove the queen of clubs to play a game of Old Maid.

You can also expand your indoor activity alternatives with a multipurpose game board that utilizes the same board and pieces for many different games. This certainly won’t replace classic favorites like Monopoly, but it’s a good way to supplement without buying dozens of board games that you’ll play once. A high quality board can even serve as decor.

22 Comments for “Multipurpose games”

  1. posted by mike on

    Boardgames are one are of my life that I will not downsize/multitask on. My wife and I play a lot of euro style boardgames like Settlers of Catan, Power Grid, Puerto Rico, Ticket to Ride etc…. This is one of our favorite forms of family entertainment. These arent the type of games that you can buy at walmart, they require a bit more strategy and thought.

    However, there are those games that I just don’t enjoy as much as others. has some pretty fantastic resources for trading/selling games to other game enthusiasts. Great place to unclutter my gameshelf of less desirable games.

  2. posted by momofthree on

    We use the bottom storage part of our hutch for storing our board games. There are several “collector” type boxes for some of the games. We are on our third Monopoly set, since we wore the others out (or the kids spilled on it so badly and ruined #2).
    I wish the manufactures had invested a bit more money in the boxes of many of my longer in possession of kids games. The boxes literally fell apart after minimum use.
    We had a collection of games boards, and a vast collection of containers to hold playing pieces on their bedroom shelves.

    As we do each summer with “stuff” we have saved in the garage, we also sort thru our bookcases and game cabinet to purge and donate no longer wanted items.

  3. posted by Another Deb on

    As a scrapbooker, I see the huge number of product choices for storage. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone had designed a storage device for board games? Bins for pieces, rack for boards, binder system for paperwork…And it all slides under the bed as easily as your unused exercise equipment.

  4. posted by toddgrotenhuis on

    Icehouse/Treehouse pieces are small, portable, and are the basis for hundreds of games:

    I store mine–along with a chessboard bandana, deck of cards, and a few dice–in a shoebox. This let’s me play a variety of styles and types of games with my friends.

  5. posted by zchristy on

    We store our games/puzzles in a leather-covered chest in our living room that doubles as an ottoman. The down side is, its like a giant puzzle and you need a map to get to fit exactly! But the upside is it keeps a finite amount of games. A new one comes in and we have to thrift store one. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. posted by infmom on

    Oh gosh, we had one of those Carrom boards when we were kids. My brothers and I played with it for years. I don’t know what eventually happened to it.

    We never had special cards for games. We and our friends used a regular deck to play Hearts, Spades, Crazy Eights, Old Maid, Go Fish, Concentration, and a bunch of others I can’t think of at the moment. We didn’t play cards at our house, though, because my parents’ two decks (stored in a leather box) were strictly for them and their friends to play bridge with and woe to the kid who dared approach them with some other game in mind. (I now own that leather box but the cards are long gone.) Our friends’ parents weren’t so picky.

    When my daughter worked at Starbucks, her store remodeled and she was allowed to take home one of the round tables with the checkerboard on top. I found a nice looking chess set at the library sale for $1, already stored in a very interesting old cigar box. I am probably the world’s worst chess player (I taught my son the rules when he was 9, and our first game he beat me and I did not let him win) but my nieces have gotten a lot of mileage out of that table. One of these days I suppose I should buy some checkers. ๐Ÿ™‚

    We don’t have a lot of board games–just keep a few on hand for when my nieces visit–and they’re easily stored in the bottom of a vintage nightstand that’s in the same room as the checker/chess table. The top of the nightstand holds a phone, so we’re multitasking.

    I have two different versions of Monopoly (German and British) but those are packed away somewhere, as is our Scrabble game, from which I know we’ve lost a bunch of tiles over the years.

  7. posted by Shani on

    I am thoroughly proud that in our house, board games are part of our remarkable life. I’m planning on building window seats with storage all around our sun porch this year (4 season, climate controlled) for storage, so we can just keep buying the new ones we like every year. We have people over frequently and set up tables to play whereever there is the space to do it.
    Conversely, there’s no TV in our living room. It’s a trade I would make again.

  8. posted by Delores on

    Ditto to Shani. When our first child became a teenager, our supply of board games increased dramatically and we learned about Game Night. A closet shelf or two or a trunk or bin filled with old and new board games promotes a house filled with safe and happy teenagers, eating, interacting and playing board games. Giving up that amount of space in the house unclutters the life worries of what the kids are up to, where they are, and gives their friends a place to come to as well. Space well traded for an uncluttered life.

  9. posted by Lim on

    @infmom – My Mom’s family had a Carrom board when she was young (don’t know what happened to it) and when she found one for our family she was SO happy. We ended up putting more miles on that thing. My index fingernail still twings (in a good way) whenever I see one.

    And we played rummy tonight. Standard decks for the win!

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  11. posted by Kristine on

    Pricey, but cheaper than replacing the games every other year!

  12. posted by Jennifer on

    Another way to downsize the clutter is to look into electronic versions of games. My fiancee is a video game player, since we already have the system, its so easy to find board game converts to video games. Some games obviously that require secrecy dont convert well, but many many others do. There is no additional clutter because it is all contained in the system.

  13. posted by Marsanne on

    We keep all of our games in one of those plastic bins with the lid. If it gets full, we have to get rid of a game. Also, we buy games (usually from walmart or the dollar store) that have 12 games in one – one game board and a ton of pieces. To keep the pieces from getting mixed up, we put them in zip loc bags and label them. Works out pretty good ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. posted by HomeschoolMom on

    Well, my bank account will sure be less cluttered after spending $300 on a custom game board.

  15. posted by Richard | on

    Wow that game at the top lookg amazing. I’d love to play it.

  16. posted by Niels on

    I like browsing wikipedia for games that you can change yourself:

  17. posted by Suzyn on

    Check out for all sorts of fantabulous games – particularly card games, that don’t take up a lot of room, and icehouse/treehouse games, that use the same playing pieces for dozens of games.

  18. posted by Leah on

    I can’t seem to find it, but there used to be a resource for games that could be played using pieces from other games. I thought it was called cheapskate games, but googling didn’t turn up anything.

    I’m not a huge fan of many of the multipurpose games (though I did play lots of carom as a kid). To reign in my board game clutter, I try to keep just the ones I truly love on hand. I won’t buy a game unless I’ve played it first and know that I will like it.

  19. posted by Mark A on

    We love games, and I really like the versatility of a multi-purpose board (as shown) and a ‘kit’ of common parts (cheap electronic timer, several die, cards, assorted markers, scorepads and pencils, etc.) We have also used the ‘repackaging into plastic bags’ idea for years- since our boxes tended to disintegrate too quickly.

    I’ve downloaded a lot of rules of games you can play with common supplies and we often have fun trying out vintage games. Cool article!

  20. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    Like mike, we have a lot of the games produced by European publishers including 3+ versions (America, Europe, Switzerland + variations) of Ticket to Ride (a.k.a. TTR). The boards for TTR are a standard size and the Switzerland version requires you to use the train cards and train pieces from one of the other sets.

    One of our game-a-holic friends sells these sorts of games. If you haven’t seen them before you can get an idea of some of them here:

    We used to regularly play board and card games on Friday nights. Another game-a-holic would bring his games for the rest of us to play/try in a wheeled suitcase.

    Our friend stored the game boxes for later but largely kept the boards and pieces in the suitcase with pieces in hobby boxes to keep them organised. He would label the boxes to make it easier to match boards with pieces. That way he was able to bring many more games for our enjoyment than he could have by carting individual boxes.

    I like Another Debs idea of using scrapbooking storage items for storage of games. If you use your games regularly (DH and I play over dinner) boards could be stored in a file rack ( with pieces in a set of drawers (

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