Not all 51 mini-games inside of Clubhouse Games, the latest first-party Nintendo game for Switch, are worth recommending. But if you like the idea of old, public-domain board and card games on Nintendo Switch in polished, easy-to-play format, a majority of them are.
The series, which last appeared on Nintendo DS in 2006, revolves around digital translations of timeless tabletop games. A list of the included games does a lot to narrow the usual “who is this for” conversation. I’ll start by listing everything in this package that I’d recommend as a good two- or four-player game for a diverse audience of ages and experience levels:
|Battle Tanks / Team Tanks||Bowling|
|Dominoes *||Hanafuda *|
|Nine Men’s Morris|
|Shogi / Mini Shogi||Six-Ball Puzzle|
|Slot Cars||Toy Boxing|
|Toy Curling||Toy Soccer|
The above list is specific to mini-games that impress as digital translations. There’s an additional selection of good-enough games that are, with some exceptions, ideal for children sharing a Nintendo Switch during a long trip:
|Checkers||Dots and Boxes|
Four-in-a-Row (Connect Four)
|Last Card (Uno) *||Matching|
|President *||Sevens *|
|Shooting Gallery||Sliding Puzzle|
|Solitaire (Mahjong, Klondike, Spider)|
In all, that’s 35 good-enough games (with some grouped together as similar variants) in a $40 package. The asterisks in those lists indicate which games require more than one Switch console to work in versus mode, but thanks to a clever “guest pass” system, they only require one paid copy of the game. (Solitaire isn’t marked because it’s inherently single-player.) Even with that issue, that’s 30 decent classics for a single Switch console, and they all benefit from repeat-play scrutiny, robust production values, and family-friendly explanations for kids and newcomers. (They also save you the trouble of packing cards, dice, and other easy-to-lose pieces.)
On the other hand, if you come to the game without people to play with, either in your home or on an online friends list, I’m hard-pressed to recommend this package in favor of better single-player timewasters or ancient, Web-matchmaking portals like Yahoo Games.
Backseat blossom viewing
Clubhouse Games includes two ways to pick through its content: a series of “travel guides,” who curate four to five games at a time with a connected theme, and a massive, all-games-unlocked dump from the jump. The former is a cute take on playlists to help overwhelmed players make up their minds on what to play, while the latter is a good reminder that Nintendo doesn’t make people unlock progress or achievements to jump straight to their preferred games—which is how we like things.
After a quick glance at the package, you might assume you’d only need playing cards, dice, and a few board game pieces to replicate the Clubhouse Games experience. For some games, you’d be correct, but those digital versions still benefit from the Nintendo touch. Cards are dealt, pieces are placed, and automatic “draw a new card when you’re out” scenarios play out briskly in every applicable game. Most games come with optional, automatic guides that tell players where they can and cannot place new pieces, particularly in rules-heavy games like chess, backgammon, and hanafuda.
Right, hanafuda: this is Nintendo’s second Western digital launch of this classic Japanese card game, also known as koi-koi. I’m a huge hanafuda fan, owing to the collectibility of its tiny, firm cards and its unique ruleset, which splits the difference between the stupidly simple Go Fish and the traditionally complex mahjong. Match various combinations of art-filled cards, which differ from a poker card deck by having more suits and fewer numbers, to score points and win. Hanafuda is a perfect match for a package like Clubhouse Games: it includes an easy-to-access guide for cards and scoring, along with automatic “you can only play here” guides for new players wondering what they can do. It also includes pleasant aesthetic touches, particularly a satisfying plastic-slap sound effect for whenever a card is played.
If you’re just coming to this game to get your kids a handy way to avoid dragging playing cards and dice for a trip, along with classics like checkers, Chinese checkers, chess, backgammon, and dominoes, then rest assured that this package is for you. Most of the classic games work with touch controls, so that two players can tap on the screen between them, and most of these work without needing a second Switch console. For the asterisked games on the above lists, if your household does have a second Switch, you simply have to go on the Nintendo eShop for that second console, search for Clubhouse Games, and download its free demo version. This will connect to retail copies in local-wireless mode and unlock every game for versus play. Be warned: two consoles will have to be quite close for this wireless mode to function. Sitting on the couch with one Switch, while the other is in a dock on the other side of the room, likely won’t work.