Seems like it's the right time of year to put up a games post, and with Beau's recent inquiry into Dungeons & Dragons, this seemed especially ripe for a full post.
And if you have game recommendations (of any type - video, table top, role playing, card), please drop 'em below.
Dungeons & Dragons
So Beau asked about D&D, and where a person might get started. First, the preliminaries: A middle-school aged youth can probably handle D&D on their own, so long as they are simplifiying things. Anyone younger likely needs an adult to guide them through a game. Additionally, D&D is best with an appropriately-sized group. Ideally 3 - 5 players and a DM (dungeon master) running the game. It can be done one-on-one, but the best challenges are group-oriented. That all said, just inventing characters and campaigns is a lot of fun.
The most essential tools for getting started with D&D are a full set of dice (D4 - D20), and the Player's Handbook. That's how a player is going to create their character and advance through the various levels as they go. After you have your character, you need a campaign - the scenarios and conflicts that make up the story where you character actually gets to do something. This is where all of the other books come in, as they provide tons and tons of ways to run a campaign, pre-made events, extra foes, fully drawn out worlds, etc. The most important book for running a campaign as a DM is, in my mind, the Monster Manual. The Dungeon Master's Guide is a pretty key book too, if you've never played, but if you have some experience I think you can get along without it.
Part of the fun, in my opinion, is making whatever adjustments you need. Don't want to wait to level up a character? Just jump them a couple levels so you can have that next adventure that you want to get to. Don't have enough people? Play multiple characters who have a reason to be together. Don't want to worry about alignments and dieties and stuff? Just don't. Can that monster attack 3 times on a turn? Sure, but that'll kill your player. So make the monster weaker. Especially for beginners, these kinds of adjustments can really improve the game experience.
So, all that said, if you're looking to run a campaign for your kids, you could probably get by with dice, and 2 books (Player's Handbook, Monster Manual).
I recently (finally) got Wingspan. Which is beautiful and brilliant and despite seeming overwhelming, is pretty easy to learn. In fact, they usesd this brilliant idea where they literally walk you through the first 4 turns of the game your first time (or more than first, if you want the guide), and that really helps you learn it. Highly recommend for people who like strategy games.
Parks - Not Trekking the National Parks, which is different. Anyway, I got this one for Christmas last year, and it is another incredibly pretty game, with a lot of fun pieces. Right in the same vein as Wingspan, but maybe a little quicker to pick up.
Sushi Go and Love Letters. These quick card games have been getting a ton of play at our house lately. Sushi Go can be played by our 2nd grader without any trouble, so it's good because she can be included. She's not quite there on Love Letters yet, but the 4th grader and up all play that one. Again, super highly recommend these games for families. They're quick, easy, and a fun to replay.
Alpha - A decent strategy game that's way more casual than most strategy games. You control a wolf pack and get to hunt various wildlife (or livestock!). Random luck makes up a big part of the game, so results don't always reflect strategy, but that's fine because it's casual. This was an easy one to get a lot of people playing at Thanksgiving.
Doomlings - A silly card game that feels different every time you play it. Always reasonably paced and quick, with lots of fun cards and random effects. The randomness might drive some people crazy, but I enjoy it.