Length of Program

60-90 minutes

Program Description

In this program, teens play all kinds of games: board games, card games, novelty games, strategy games, and more. The program begins with short icebreakers to help the teens get to know each other. After the icebreakers, the teens play a group game such as Scattergories, Outbursts, Trivial Pursuit, or have a scavenger hunt. When the teens are comfortable with each other, they can begin free play or a tournament. A wide variety of games that teens enjoy are suggested in this program.

Game-ology can be very fun and easy to host as either a free-play event or a tournament. In a tournament, winners of each round play each other in finals until an ultimate winner is determined. Tournaments can be lots of fun but may require more planning, preparation, and staff or volunteers. For a free-play program, just set up tables with games and let teens pair off or form groups to play the board games or card games of their choice. Your teens may enjoy weekly free-play board game programs throughout the summer.

Developmental Needs and Assets

The Game-ology program addresses the developmental needs of teens by encouraging positive social interactions, creating interesting ways of learning, and generating opportunities for growth through creative activities. Additional developmental assets supported by this program include constructive use of time, commitment to learning, and social competencies. Librarians can help teens strengthen assets by building relationships with teens and creating supportive environments.


Ask teens to suggest games they would like to play, and how they would like the program to be organized. Once the structure of the program is decided, organizing the rest will be fairly easy. Purchase the games if funds permit, ask local businesses to donate them, and ask coworkers, the Teen Advisory Board or volunteers, or staff members to bring games if more are needed.

Make numerous copies of game rules for teens who are unfamiliar with the games, or if there is more than one way to play a game. Provide copies of the rules for each player and keep a few extras on hand.


Create a colorful, engaging flyer advertising the Game-ology program. Include a catchy title or slogan, such as “Never Be Bored with Boards”, “Game Crazy”, “Get Your Game On!” or “Game On @ the Library.” Ask local Parks and Recreation centers to advertise the Game-ology program at any of their centers or in game sessions they may offer. If any of your local schools have after-school clubs, ask to host a games program for the teens attending late in the school year. Bring a collection of board games and let the teens enjoy open play. Mingle with the teens while they play, asking them which games they like the most and which ones are boring. This is a great way to get feedback on which games will work best at your program, get the teens excited about playing board games, and get a flyer into the hands of those already eager to come to the program!

Books to Display

  • Games by Carol Gorman
  • Games: Learn to Play, Play to Win by Daniel King.
  • The Games We Played: The Golden Age of Board and Table Games by Margaret Hofer.
  • Hoyle's Rules of Games: Descriptions of Indoor Games of Skill and Chance by Albert H. Morehead and Philip D. Morehead.
  • The Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Geniuses Who Make Up America's Top High School Chess Team by Michael Weinreb.
  • Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players by Stefan Fatsis.

Books to Booktalk

  • The Game Makers: The Story of Parker Brothers from Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit by Philip E. Orbanes.
  • The Game of Sunken Places by M.T. Anderson.
  • Interstellar Pig by William Sleator.
  • The Kings Are Already Here by Garret Freymann-Weyr.
  • Parasite Pig by William Sleator.
  • Your Move, J. P. Lois Lowry.

Bulletin Board

Decorate your bulletin board with playing cards or game boards from the games teens will play at the program. For example, make a Monopoly game board bulletin board by covering the board in white craft paper and placing squares (size depends on the size of your board) in a rectangle that represent the squares of a typical Monopoly game board. To make a dynamic 3D bulletin board, add small toys that represent the game pieces and small boxes covered in red craft paper for houses.

Another option is to make a large 5 x 5 Boggle grid by displaying twenty-five pieces of square white paper with a letter of the alphabet written on each. Place the title, “Boggle Your Mind” above the grid. Attach a large piece of white craft paper to the side or underneath the bulletin board, and hang a marker tied to a string. Let the teens try to find words in the Boggle grid by connecting adjacent letters and write them on the craft paper. This can be a contest if teens fill out a simple form listing the words they find and a small prize is awarded for the most words. Education World has an example of a Boggle bulletin board at

An additional option is to make a word search or crossword bulletin board.


Decorations will depend largely on the type of games to be played. They may range from elaborate decorations designating countries or eras to very simple and minimalist decorations, depending on the availability of time and funds.

Name Tags

Nametags are always valuable when new teens attend a library program, especially when teens will join different groups at game tables. Use playing cards for nametags, or find pictures of playing cards and format and print them on mailing labels. Examples of playing card nametags are included in this program


Serve pizza, candy, finger snack foods, or prepare a sheet cake decorated like a playing card. Host an icebreaker or short group game while teens are eating. Allow snacks during games if you don’t mind food smudges on the cards and/or game pieces.


For free-play programs, a prize as simple as candy for the winners will be ample. For competitions, provide small trophies, computer generated certificates, or personalized ribbons. The Oriental Trading Company has great small prizes at reasonable prices, such as Magnetic Card Games Assortment. Visit the Oriental Trading Company’s web site at for this and other great prizes.

Games and Activities

Name That Tune Ice Breaker

Begin your program with short icebreakers to help the teens get to know each other. For example, as teens enter the room, divide them into two teams and have a Name That Tune contest. To play Name That Tune, play snippets of songs and the first team to correctly guess the song or artist wins a point. You can include tunes from specific categories, such as sports themed songs, TV commercial or jingles songs, TV series theme songs, 80s songs, beach songs, etc.

Trivia Contest Ice Breaker

Another icebreaker that is fun is a trivia contest. Many web sites provide trivia on a variety of subjects such as American Idol, state slogans, famous first lines of movies or lyrics, books, movie blunders, fast food, or product slogans. A good site is Find at

More Ideas for Ice Breaker Activities and Party Games

You’ll find additional ideas for teen party games on the Party Games Central web site

Board Games, Card Games, and More

Here are suggestions for games for your Game-ology program. Some are games that require skill and knowledge. Others are fun games that both younger children and teens will enjoy. Try setting up a table with cards, dominos, and quick games such as Hungry Hungry Hippos and Connect Four for teens who aren’t interested in playing a game or who are waiting to begin a game. They’ll enjoy playing the novelty games, building a house of cards, or lining up dominoes and watching them fall.

Battle of the Sexes
This trivia game pits a male team against a female team and asks gender-based questions to test each team’s knowledge of the opposite sex. Each correct answer moves the team along a game board. This game is for 2 to 8 players. For more information, see Board at
This classic game started off as a pen and paper game played on a grid with four squares. Today the game has been updated into an electronic board game, but the object is still the same. Each player secretly sets up their waterways with their ships. Then players take turns calling out grid locations in an attempt to sink their opponent’s battleships. This game is for 2 players. For more information, see at
Black Jack, or 21
The goal of this card game is to beat the dealer’s hand by having a hand of cards that are closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand, but without exceeding 21. This game is for two or more players. For more information, see Wikipedia at
This game is played on a board consisting of 64 alternating red and black squares. Players choose either red or black game pieces and try to capture their opponent’s game pieces before all of theirs are captured. The first player to capture all of the opponent’s game pieces wins. When a player jumps over the other player’s game piece, then that piece is “captured” and removed from the game board. This game is for 2 players. For more information, see Board at
One of the world's most popular games, Chess is played on a checkered board with 16 black and 16 white game pieces. Each piece moves in specific ways, and the goal is to capture the opponent’s pieces. A player wins by checkmating the opponent’s king. This game is for 2 players. For more information, see Wikipedia at
Chinese Checkers
Each player begins with 10 marbles of a single color grouped together in a tip of a game board shaped like a six-pointed star. To win, a player must move all of his or her game pieces to the corner opposite of the starting corner. This game is for 2 to 6 players. For more information, see Board at
This classic detective board game requires players to use clues to solve a murder mystery as they move from room to room through a mansion. Players use clues to discover �who done it’, with what, and where. This game is for 3-6 players. For more information, see Board Games Geek at
Connect Four
Each player receives 21 small discs or checkers, either red or black. Players take turns dropping the discs into a grid, and the first to get four discs in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line wins. This game is for 2 players. For more information, see Hasbro Toy at
Teams advance through the game board by doing the activities listed on the Cranium cards. Activities include artistic skills, trivia, language skills, and performance skills. A team wins by reaching Cranium Central and successfully completing an activity from each of the four card decks. This game is for 4 or more players. For more information, see at
Crazy 8s
In this classic card game, players place as many cards as possible on the discard pile that match the number or the suit of the previous card. An eight is wild and may be played on any card. The player of the eight must designate the next suit to be played. The first player to place all of their cards in the discard pile is the winner. A small group can play with one deck of cards, and a larger group can use two. This game is for 2 or more players. For more information, see Poker at
Dominos are a set of tiles with dots on each end representing numbers, and many games with varying rules and degrees of difficulty may be played with them. In general, the object of the game is to match a domino with another domino that has an equal number of dots. This game is for two or more players. For more information, see Domino at
Game of Life
In this classic board game, players spin a wheel, follow the directions on the spaces that they land on, and move through the phases of life. Real-life events such as births, deaths, job promotions, disasters, retirement, etc., are represented on the squares of the game board. This game is for 2 to 6 players. For more information, see Board Game Geek at
Go Fish
This card game may be played with specialty cards or with regular playing cards. Each player receives seven cards to begin the game. The object is to get as many “books” of four matching cards as possible. One player asks the other players for cards that match cards in his or her hand. If the player does not have the requested card, the first player draws from the deck. This game is for 2 to 6 players. For more information, see House of
Hungry Hungry Hippos
In this board game, four hungry hippos try to eat the most marbles as the marbles roll around the playing field. The players control the hippos’ necks, making them extend out in order to reach the marbles better. This game is for 2 to 4 players. For more information, see Hasbro at or Wikipedia at
Players begin this game of skill with a tower of stacked wooden blocks. The object of the game is to slide out one of the wooden blocks without making the tower topple over. The last player to pull out a block without making the tower collapse wins. This game is for 1 or more players. For more information, see Board at
The object of this classic board game is for players to try to acquire wealth through buying, renting, selling, and trading property with play money.  This game is for 2-8 players. For more information, see Wikipedia at
This game with sound effects includes a game board that resembles a man on an operating table. Players draw cards with instructions to perform various types of “surgery” with tweezers. The game tests players’ eye-hand coordination as they try to successfully perform the “surgery” without touching the edge of the cavity and setting off the buzzer. Players earn money for each successful surgery, and the player with the most money after all the pieces have been removed wins. This game is for 1 or more players. For more information, see Hasbro at
This card game, subtitled “A Verbal Explosion,” is played with two teams. One team member is given a category card listing of ten items in the specified category. Team members have 60 seconds to call out items in the category.  The team receives points for items they name that are on the card. The first team to win 60 points wins. This game is for 2 or more players. For more information, see Board Games Geek at
Each team begins with a playing piece on the start square on the game board with 56 squares. Each square is marked with categories, including objects, persons, places, or animals; events or actions; difficult or challenging words; and, a wild card category that can be anything. A member of a team draws a card and their teammates try guessing what is on the card. The first team to get to the last square on the board and correctly guess the word their teammate draws wins. This game is for 3-16 players, played in 2 to 4 teams. For more information, see Bricker & Brett at
The object of this strategic board game is for players to attempt to conquer the world. The game board is a map with six continents divided into 42 territories. Players must attack to gain territories and must defend their territories from their opponents. The winner will control all the territories and eliminate all other players. This game is for 2 to 6 players. For more information, see Board Games Central at
Players list words in various categories that start with the same letter and receive points for unique words that are not on their opponents’ lists. This game is for 3-5 players. For more information, see Board Game at
One of the most popular word games, Scrabble requires players to spell words on a game board in crossword fashion. Each player begins with seven letters on wooden tiles, and each letter has a point value. The player with the highest number of points wins the game. This game is for 2-4 players. For more information, see Board Game Geek at
A strategy board and card game in which the object of the game is for a player to get a sequence or a row of five poker-like chips on the game board. This game is for 2 to 12 players. For more information, see The House of Cards at
A card game consisting of four build piles on which players place cards in numerical order from one to twelve, a stock pile of cards that can only be moved when they can be played on a build pile, a draw pile, and discard piles. The object of the game is for the players to use their draw cards and the cards in their stockpiles to play on the build piles. The first player to get through all of his or her stockpile, which is usually 30 cards, wins. This game is for 2 or more players. For more information, see The House of Cards at
Each player in this board game follows the directions on their drawn cards to move their four game pieces from the start square to their home square. The first player to move all of their game pieces to their home square wins. This game is for 2 to 4 players. For more information, see Board Game Central at
This card game is played with two standard 52-card decks. Each player’s goal is to be the first to have four of a kind and grab a spoon. When someone grabs a spoon, the other players all grab one too. If you are last to grab a spoon, then you’re out of the game.  This game is for 3-8 players. For more information, see Family at
This is a classic board game of battlefield strategy. The game board represents each side of a battlefield. Players secretly place their units on the board at the start of the game. As the conflict begins, players use their strategy skills, memorization, and unit management to conquer the enemy. This game is for 2 players.  For more information, see Board Game Central at
The object of Taboo is for a player to get his or her partner to guess the word on a game card without saying the actual word or five other words listed on the card. This game is for 4 or more players. For more information, see Are You at
In this pen and paper game, players take turns placing an “X” or an “O” into a square of a 3 x 3 grid. The first player to get three across, down, or diagonally in a row wins. This game is for 2 players. For more information, see Wikipedia at
Trivial Pursuit
A classic trivia game that tests players knowledge of people and places, arts and entertainment, history, science and nature, sports and leisure, and more. This game is for 2 or more players. For more information, see Trivial at
This game has a pop-o-matic dice in the center of the game board. Players press it, and the dice �pop’ up to indicate how the game pieces will be moved. The first person to get all of their game pieces all the way around the board and back to their home base wins. This game is for 2-4 players. For more information, see Board Game Central at
Players spin a wheel until an arrow lands on a colored circle, then place a hand or foot on a correspondingly colored circle of a floor mat. They fall over as their bodies become twisted into positions in which it is impossible to maintain balance. The object of the game is to be the last player standing. This game is for 2-4 players. For more information, see Hasbro at
This game, which is similar to Crazy 8’s, is played with a deck of cards of four colors or suits: red, green, blue, and yellow. Each suit has three "honor" cards labeled "skip", "draw two", and "reverse". When a player has only one card, that player is required to say "Uno”. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins. This game is for 2 or more players. For more information, see Wikipedia at
This is one of the world’s most famous dice games. The game players roll five dice to make the combinations included on the scorecard, such as 3-of-a-kind, full house, straight, etc. This game is for 2 to 10 players.  For more information, see Board Game Geek at

Video Board Games

Scene It! DVD/Board Game
Platform: PC
The world’s first DVD board game, Scene It! includes song, movie, and picture clips to test your knowledge of movies, TV, famous people, and more. Players answer questions and move their game piece around the board to win. This game is for 2 or more players. For more information, see Board Game Central at

Alternate Activities

Select a theme for your games program, such as games from around the world. Board Games Around the World by Spencer Johnson is a good resource for this program. Add pizzazz by decorating with symbols or flags of the countries from which the games originate.

Play classic games from a specific decade, such as the 1950s. Explore the Wikipedia article on board games at for a detailed timeline on the history of board games.

Let the teens make game boards. Give them cardboard and duct tape and let them form a chess or checkerboard on one side and backgammon on the other. Instructions are on the Instructibles: Step-by-Step Instructions web page at

If computers are available at your program, invite teens to play them and compare formats to see which method of play is more fun. Below you’ll find some web sites for versions of traditional board games that are available on the Internet.

Web-Based Games

Play traditional board games on the Internet and let the teens compare the two formats and see which method of play is more fun. Also introduce new games that aren’t available in card or board game format.

This site features many free online games, including arcade, action, sports, puzzles, and flash games.
This site consists of free online games including arcade, board, word, card, casino, and retro games. Also included are community gaming forums. Some games allow free online play. Others are only available by downloading the free trial game.
Pogo Games
Pogo offers free online games including puzzle, word, card, board, casino, and arcade and sports games. Pogo does require players to create a free account. After joining, teens can play single player games or chat and play with over 15 million members on the multi-player games.
This site includes free access to web games or free trial downloads of games that are mostly developed internally within the PopCap Company. PopCap’s mission is to create fun games that everyone can enjoy.
The online games section offers a wide variety of games, including online versions of traditional card and board games and many unfamiliar but still enjoyable games. Games may be played online against other teens.
Yahoo! Games
Yahoo! Games includes free online games and free trial downloads. This site includes arcade, board, card, word, puzzle, video, and multi-player games. Teens can participate in a tournament and play against others from all over the world.

Professional Resources


101+ Teen Programs that Work by RoseMary Honnold.
This book features affordable, successful programs that can jumpstart a library’s YA services. The chapter on Independent Programs and Contests includes information on matching games, trivia games, guessing games, book-related games, and word games, while the chapter on Game Programs features a section on board games.
Connecting Boys with Books: What Libraries Can Do by Michael Sullivan.
Sullivan’s book examines the reasons that pre-adolescent boys do not read and attend library programs and suggests titles and programs that libraries may use to engage boys. Chapter five discusses using chess and other games to challenge boys of this age.
Summer Reading Program Fun: 10 Thrilling, Inspiring, Wacky Board Games for Kids by Wayne L. Johnson and Yvette C. Johnson.
This book includes ten games that can easily be incorporated in a library program. It includes background on running game programs and provides games with clear instructions and ready-to-use graphics.


Gaming and Libraries: Intersection of Services by Jenny Levine.
The 5th issue in volume 42 of Library Technology Report, Gaming and Libraries includes detailed examples of how libraries are already incorporating games into their programs. It also gives librarians guidance on how to connect educational value to games, show the social value of gaming, and make game programs a success.

Web Sites

Board Game Central
This site contains resources on board games, including rules, software, and links. The focus is heavily on traditional family games, although some unfamiliar games are included.
BoardGameGeek is an online board gaming resource and community. Each game featured on this site includes reviews, articles, ratings, play-aids, translations, live discussion forums, and sources to purchase the game. BoardGameGeek’s site covers not only board games but also dice games, card games, tile-laying games, and games of dexterity. Most of the games included on this site are less well-known, more unusual games.
Board Games with Scott
Board Games with Scott is a web log (blog) published by Scott Nicholson that features videos that explain and review board games.
Education World
Education World is a site for teachers to gather and share information. It includes a search engine for education sites, original content, daily columns, site reviews, teacher and principle profiles, conversations with education professionals, and employment listings.
Library Success Wiki: Best Practices: Gaming
A Wikipedia article created by librarians or library professionals that gives information about upcoming library game events, past library game events, success stories, resources, libraries hosting gaming programs, and libraries circulating games.
On Board Games: A Board Game Netcast
A web log (blog) that contains podcast reviews of board games. Scott Nicholson, Donald Dennis, and Erik Dewey are the contributing presenters.
National Games Week
National Games Week is a celebration of non-electronic games and includes a lot of information for educators or librarians hosting game days. The site even offers a free Host Kit for participants hosting game days during National Game Week.
Party Game Central
This site includes an extensive list of teen party games. Games reviewed here include group games, action or movement games, board games, icebreakers, and much more.

Craft Materials

Playing Card Name Tags

Blank playing cards to use as name tags

Page last modified: August 12, 2011