The first was Forbidden Island, a co-op game where a team of adventurers have to find 4 treasures on an island that is sinking/flooding under them.
It comes in a fairly small tin with nice artwork.
On the left is the flood water level marker; at the top the 4 treasures; in the middle are the cards that drive the game; bottom left the tiles that form the island and bottom right the pawns that represent the different adventurers.
This game is excellent with planty of nail biting finishes. You can set a range of difficulty levels, and use a variable number of adventurers, making it ideal for the kids and I or for my wife and I, or for all of us. It must have pretty universal appeal as it is one of the few games that my wife will usually go for!
Just after play has started - none of the tiles have totally submerged but several are already flooded (at the first level of flooding, you flip the tile to show a very bluey version)
Nearing the climax of the game and the adventurers have to use their special abilities to best effect to stay above water.
All adventurers have the ability to "shore up" areas of the island but each also has a unique special ability. There is a pilot who once per turn can fly anywhere on the island, an Engineer who can do extra shoring up, an Explorer who can move & shore up diagonally, a Diver who can cross submerged areas, a Navigator who can move another adventurer as well as himself and a Messenger who can exchange treasure cards from a distance (you have to accumulate 4 treasure cards of the same type and move to a specific area to claim the treasure so this last ability can be very handy).
Here we are having found the treasures and made it back to "Fool's Landing". We just need the helicopter to arrive (turn a helicopter lift card) and we have won!
Bingo! Helicopter arrives and my son and I have a victory with just 7 tiles left, 3 of them flooded. The game always seems to get frantic towards the end, with the flood waters rising faster and faster.
Tom and I played this game in approx 40 minutes and I promptly played it again in 30 minutes with my daughter when she arrived. The game has superb re-playability because you can vary the choice of adventurers, the layout of the island and the difficulty level/speed of waters rising. I love the co-op or solo aspect too.
Thoroughly recommended to all gamers but especially soloists and families.
The next game we played was Linwood - a somewhat similarly themed game in that you are searching for 4 element stones although here you lay tiles as you explore the forest rather than removing them as they flood! It's pretty good, and whilst the adventurers are all the same to start with, you get special powers when you find the different stones (eg Water element stone allows you to cross water).
It comes in a very small box!
Dice, pawns and element cards on the left, forest tiles on the right.
Here's the layout we ended up with, my wife depairing at her luck as she lay all those tiles between her arms without finding a single element stone while the kids and I found them all over the other side of the forest. This is always the trade off, if you choose to go it alone and find something you can make it awkward for the others but the risk is you don't find anything. Equally if you go off with other people you will end up tussling over the element stones - my son found one but then lost it to the "Joker in the pack" - the dreaded Forest Bandit who steals your stones and returns you to the start.
My daughter and I were more lucky and ended up racing back to the start tile with our stones, deperately trying to avoid the forest bandit ourselves but have him trap each other. In the end, my daughter snuck the win.
We have had a lot of fun with this game although this particular game went a bit flat for my wife and son when they were left with no chance and had to watch my daughter and I race for the finish. I wouldn't rate it quite as highly as Forbidden Island, Carcassonne or Hey, That's My Fish for family gaming but I am pleased that it is in our collection to play as a change.