GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #3: Tabletop Games

Many geeks sure love their tabletop games. From family game night to weekend-long game fests to gaming conventions, tabletop games play a pretty big role in our lives. We’ve come a long way since the days of Monopoly and Sorry (though those games still have their uses). What are GeekMom’s favorite games this year? Check them out!

Continue reading GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #3: Tabletop Games

Beware the Horsemen! Mark Lawrence Brings on the Apocalypse With New Game

When I found out that Mark Lawrence, a popular grimdark/dark fantasy author (The Broken Empire series, The Red Queen’s War series) was designing a new game, I had to check it out. It looks like irreverent dark comedy gold, to be honest. Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a card-based game where players try to evade the horsemen as long as possible by throwing others under their hooves. The cards themselves have color art on them by Cathy Wilkins (Numera, No Thank You Evil!), and stretch goals include contributions to cards from additional authors like Brent Weeks, Robin Hobb, Peter V. Brett, Anthony Ryan, Michael J. Sullivan, James Lovegrove, Myke Cole, and more.

I asked Mark why he decided to create a game. He was kind enough to tell me all about it. Please welcome him to GeekMom!

Image: Ragnarok Publications
Image: Ragnarok Publications

Hi, I’m Mark Lawrence, a late-starting novelist, long time research scientist, and father of four. My main occupation is actually looking after my youngest child who is 11. She’s very severely disabled and takes an enormous amount of looking after. My first book was Prince of Thorns, published in 2011.

I came up with the idea for the Horsemen of the Apocalypse card game the same way I come up with ideas for my books. I just sit and get on with stuff that needs doing, and while I do it ideas bubble up. I have a restless imagination—it’s always throwing ideas at me, occasionally some of them stick. Continue reading Beware the Horsemen! Mark Lawrence Brings on the Apocalypse With New Game

Fun & Spooky Games Whatever Your Halloween Plans

Whether you’re throwing a big neighborhood party, or staying home with the drapes closed this Halloween, chances are there’s a game to suit both your tastes and this spookiest of seasons. To help you celebrate Halloween I’ve picked out six games in six different styles including board games, video games, and games to play with kids.

Continue reading Fun & Spooky Games Whatever Your Halloween Plans

Games! ‘Paperback’ and ‘Five Tribes’

Image By Rebecca Angel

One of my favorite things to do at a con is try new games. At ConnectiCon this year, my son and I played many and two stood out as the best: Paperback and Five Tribes.


My friend Tim brought Paperback with him to play with our group. He said, “It’s a deck-building game…” and my shoulder’s slumped since I rarely like those kind of games,  “…with letters to make words.” And I brightened since I love word games!

First off, the design and artwork is retro-mid-20th-century-pulp-fiction cool. Players buy letters to build a deck to make words. Letters have special abilities, and your goal for length or type of word varies on those abilities to help you win. Making words grew more challenging as the game progressed and fewer cards were in play, but the strategy to actual win is based on points and gaining paperback cards, and watching how everyone else is doing. It moved along well, and kept everyone’s interest. I lost because I wasn’t paying attention to the other players, too focused on making interesting words. Highly recommend for ages 12 and up.

You can watch a video of game play:

Five Tribes

“Crossing into the Land of 1001 Nights, your caravan arrives at the fabled Sultanate of Naqala. The old sultan just died and control of Naqala is up for grabs! The oracles foretold of strangers who would maneuver the Five Tribes to gain influence over the legendary city-state. Will you fulfill the prophecy?  Invoke the old Djinns, move the Tribes into position at the right time and the Sultanate may become yours!”

I like that fantasy description introducing Five Tribesa board game with mancala-based movement. My son and I play-tested this with a big fan of the game, who had his pre-teen daughter with him. Although it took some explaining, once we got going, everyone had a good time.

The game is brightly colored with fantastic artwork and tactile-satisfying pieces. Each round, turn order is determined by bidding. Then each player moves meeples around the board to land on a space they can gain influence. Like many modern games, there are many strategies to win. My son focused on gaining most of the land and specific color meeples, the gamer’s daughter collected resources and slaves, and I took as many djinn cards as I could. My son won.

We played it again the next day with our regular group of Con attendees and it was more fun now that I knew what I was doing. (Still didn’t win…)

And here’s a video of game play:

My son and I know what we want for Christmas this year…

Math: All You Need Is Games

Image By Rebecca Angel

I was the kid that had to stay in at recess in second grade. Was I bad? No, I needed extra help in subtraction. Sister Brendan, a very nice old lady (who gave me snacks too) sat patiently with me each day to get my wee brain to learn the tools of taking away in an equation. I was a smart kid, and I could memorize how to do it, but I didn’t understand why and that made me second guess myself and screw up on tests. Eventually I got the concept, but I also learned another lesson: Math isn’t fun.

But it can be! My teen son loves to play board and card games with his young cousin. They both homeschool, so I suggested he come up with a math curriculum for her that incorporated games we already owned to teach the concepts she was supposed to learn in second grade (according to Common Core for a reference). Her parents thought that was great, and when she took a simple test at the end of the year, she aced it. No boring textbooks and worksheets!

Unlike most math curricula that teach one concept at a time, games utilize several skills at once in a fun atmosphere that keeps the challenges from getting overwhelming. Basically, instead of learning to do math on its own, the student is using math to play the game.

Granny Apples is a good example of multiple math skills at once. It is a simple game of tossing wooden apples on the ground and counting the different types to find a total score. However, it involves fractions, addition, subtraction, sets, and is all mental math in a visual setting. There is no writing involved, which is perfect for learning concepts without tripping over the writing/reading challenges. It is a fast game with tactile satisfaction with smooth wooden objects.

Bakugan is perfect for those writing/reading challenges, and so fun that kids will not care. Each sphere is tossed into a ring and pops open to reveal a monster. Each monster has a number printed on it for its “battle score.” But these scores are up to triple digits. The student must keep track of all the digits, keep their columns neat, and continually add and subtract to figure out if they win the battles.

Polyhedron Origami is not a game, but the best way to teach geometry of three dimensional shapes—by building them with paper. It is not difficult, but requires attention to detail, with a satisfying ending of something beautiful with math. Using this method, even the youngest students can make truncated octohedrons, and know what that means!

Phase 10 Card Game is all about sets, patterns, and reasoning.

Could there be a more entertaining way to learn graphing skills than Battleship?

The top half of the Yahtzee sheet is a fun introduction to multiplication. Rolling dice, counting, and writing. Over time, students will count the dice faster and faster based on the visual sets of dots on each die. This is learning sets and geometric reasoning for multiplication skills. Sounds complicated, but in this game, it’s just fun.

Games like Cathedral Chess, TangoesMancala, and Connect 4 are ways to teach spatial reasoning, patterns, shapes, strategy, structure, reasoning, and mental acuity. They range in complexity, but are able to be played by children as young as five in simple formats.

Check out some other posts about math games here and here and here and here.

What games does your family play that teach math concepts?

Global Game Jam 2015

Image by Global Game Jam, Inc.

Innovation, experimentation, collaboration. That’s Global Game Jam. For 48 hours teams around the world will be given a theme to create video, board, and card games. For what? For fun!

It’s not a competition, and teams are formed by on-site participants (not beforehand). It’s a way to meet people who like to game, design, create, and enjoy using their imaginations. In 2014 there were 488 locations, and 72 countries that created over 4000 games! Many of these quick weekend game developments have continued to become fully realized versions afterwards.

Here are groups around the world saying hello:

Want to participate? Go here to find a location. Kids and adults are welcome to join in the fun, but you have to register; go for it!

Gamin’ Up New Year’s Eve

Image by Rebecca Angel.

Family game night is a nice thought, but usually in our house, we just don’t have time for more than a quick Fluxx after dinner. But New Year’s Eve? Oh, there is time! No matter the ages of your children, if you are home or at a party, New Year’s Eve is a great excuse to break out the looooong games as we wait for the ball to drop. Here is my list of games that you probably already have—and ones that you should pick up before the 31st:

Monopoly: I never liked this game growing up, but everyone seemed to have it in their house. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I ever finished a game (and won!). No matter where you are, this game is sitting in a closet somewhere. The fun is hearing the random “house rules” people have. Tip for Monopoly fun: no mercy. Be as bloodthirsty as possible. If everyone agrees to this, then it is ridiculous—and makes for a quicker game too.

War: Yup, the traditional card game. This can go on for hours, with lots of people, especially if you have multiple decks of cards combined. It’s easy enough for the youngest to play, and handing off your deck to someone else to continue in your place is simple.

Chess Tournament: Although one game of chess can certainly go on for awhile, a tournament stretches play time in an exciting way. Most people probably have at least one board in their house (often more). You could even find online versions to play each other, if no physical board is available. Most adults are familiar with the basics and New Year’s Eve is a perfect time to finally learn. If everyone tries to play the first round, they’ll all be invested in who wins overall.

Phase 10: This is a really easy game to learn based on pairs and sets. It also takes a long time to play to the end. It’s more luck than strategy, so it’s great for sitting around chatting or watching the entertainment on TV at the same time. I highly recommend this one for New Year’s Eve, especially if you have multi-generations in your house. Grandmas and grandpas will love it.

Balderdash: This is a hilarious party game. It’s creative and silly and takes awhile to finish. Each round is based on a strange law, word definition, movie synopsis, or initial, with players trying to fake each other out to win points and move up on the board. For example, the Dasher would roll the dice, pick a card, and read out, “The initials are A.D.R.C.” Then, each player writes on a paper what they think it could be. I usually go for silly and may write, “Arsenic Diletantes of Rochester Corporation.” Everyone hands their paper secretly to the Dasher, who mixes them up and reads them out loud. Then the players choose which they think is the real one, and points are distributed. (The real one in this case was: American Dutch Rabbit Club.) Trust me, it’s a good game for non-gamers and gamers alike. Kids who aren’t deft at reading and writing can pair up with an adult.

The Settlers of Catan: As gamers, we know it and love it. You’ve told your friends and family about it, but it’s hard to get them to sit down and just play it. New Year’s Eve is the time! Warning: I know you’re excited, but don’t do the expansion sets. Just stick with the original to introduce it to others. Once they’re hooked, you can break everything out when they finally start coming to your gaming nights :)

StarCraft: The Board Game: Just kidding. But if you happen to have this in your house (sigh…we do) and your son has been begging you to play it more than just that couple of times he wrangled you over, and you never finished either time because setup alone took about 20 minutes, then you should probably be a good parent and finally play a full session of it on New Year’s Eve. Maybe.

MMOs: I mention this because my son had a great experience one year playing StarCraft on New Year’s. As he played with random people from all over the world, each hour someone would mention it was New Year’s for them. He thought it was very cool to realize how much of an international community he was part of.

So what other games do you already have or played once at a Con that would be perfect for New Year’s Eve?

Gaming This Christmas With Holiday Fluxx

Image: Sarah Pinault

No Christmas is complete without gathering the family round the table for a rousing game of (insert favorite game here). In our family, no Thursday is complete without it, but that’s just us. We’re a big fan of Looney Labs for a quick and fun card game, and this holiday season they have done it again with a seasonal twist on their most popular game: Holiday Fluxx.

Image: Looney Labs

The basic rules and tenets of the game remain the same. Each player starts with three cards, and the rules are draw a single card and play a single card, until a new rule card changes the rules. The goal is an ever changing object that you determine by playing certain cards. On your turn you can create a new goal, lay down a “Keeper,” or play an action card and do something immediately. It’s a game of both short- and long-range goals, all of which can be thrown out at a moment’s notice. All of the cards are rather more holly jolly than usual.

Unlike the most recent iterations of Fluxx, this version does not have any creepers, those dastardly little cards sent to thwart your victory. I am, however, tempted to make up a blank creeper card and create a few myself; Scrooge, the Grinch, and Bill Murray spring to mind. There was a special card issued in their holiday package this year: Mrs. Claus, a keeper that has the same properties as the Santa card. Also, this version includes a few ever popular surprise cards to throw an extra turkey bone in the works.

There are twenty-one new keepers, four surprise cards, thirty-two goals, and twenty-four new rules—a new rule for every day of Advent. The holiday game incorporates elements of Thanksgiving and Chanukah, though it is heavy on Christmas. Holiday-specific rules are the “Xmas Bonus” and “Regifting” cards. Some of the best themed cards come on the action cards however. In “gift Give-Away” every player must give away a keeper that they have before them. If you don’t have any, you are to be the first to receive a gift. In “Clear the Table” you must remove any keepers, held by any player, that are food related, such as Side Dishes or The Roast. In “Today’s Special” you get to draw three cards and play a different amount of them depending on what day it is. If it is your birthday you can play all three; if it is a holiday or a special day in your family, you can play two. For a normal day you can play one card.

Image: Looney Lab

The production value is of the high quality we have come to expect from Looney Labs, but it is the illustrations by Ali Douglass that absolutely steal the show. In an old time style, Douglass has created some wonderful images that add greatly to the enjoyment of game play. The old fashioned ornaments and twinkle lights are my favorite. Douglass’ Etsy store is on hiatus for the holidays but I thoroughly recommend checking it out in the new year. Her Sound of Music illustration is wonderful but the cityscapes are stunning: classic and eclectic in the best ways. It is rare that a game introduces me to a new artist, but this was a wonderful treat from Looney Labs.

All in all this game is a great stocking stuffer, great office gift, or just generally a great addition to both gaming closet and holiday repertoire.

GeekMom was provided with a copy of Holiday Fluxx for review purposes.



GeekMom TableTop Games Quiz

TableTop Games Quiz © Sophie Brown
TableTop Games Quiz © Sophie Brown

Christmas is rapidly approaching, and here at GeekMom we’re big fans of giving tabletop games as presents. There are tabletop games to suit everyone from preschoolers to grandma, and although many of them are expensive, there’s plenty available for under $20, too. To inspire you to think about giving games this holiday season, I’ve put together a quiz featuring some of the most popular games on the geek circuit. How many of them can you identify?

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Elevenses: Tea With Strategy

Photo on 11-26-14 at 7.56 PM #3
Image by Rebecca Angel.

“You are a respectable 1920’s socialite striving to serve the finest morning tea!”

Sounds like a light, silly card game, right? Nope. This is a diverting strategy game by David Harding that just happens to be clothed in pale pink, with sugar cubes as tokens. It is distributed by AdventureLand Games. I purchased Elevenses because I’m a wee bit obsessed with tea and gaming, and wondered if the twain could meet? Why, yes they can!

My son, my mom, and I played first. It was an easy setup with clear rules for a quick start. I enjoy games where I can learn as I go—no studying tombs of rule literature just to begin. My son found it annoying that all of the pronouns in the rules are feminine. Ha. Welcome to how I feel as a female gamer All. The. Time.

The rules state that the person who most recently sipped tea is first. With my mug still in my hand, I started us off. We each chose a colored deck of cards. The artwork by TJ Lubrano is stylin’ and elegant, depicting various essentials for an 11 o’clock spot of tea and snacks. Unfortunately, the back of these cards have eye-straining stripes with blunt colors that don’t match at all. What happened there?

After choosing our deck, we shuffled and placed our eight-card “spread” face down in front of us. The rest of the cards were held in our hands, called the “kitchen.” We then proceeded to play our kitchen cards, following directions right on the cards as our actions, or rearranging our cards for later actions. Some of the actions are being able to peek at your spread, exchange cards with other players, take extra rearranging chances, etc. Each card played has a point value (the number of tea spoons depicted on the cards). It’s a race to have the most points face up in your spread, then play the “elevenses” card to end the round, and gather up sugar cube points.

This isn’t easy. Our first round was slow as we began to understand the various strategies to stay ahead long enough to play the ending card. The second round was more conniving towards each other, and we finished the game by the third round with some clever moves. My son and I played a two-person game later and it was fine, but not as fun as with three. We hope to play with four people.

The game comes with a mini-expansion: Extra guests come to tea bringing extra points with them if you can match up your face-up spread to what they like most on the various cards.  We played with them, and it was more interesting to have that extra challenge.

The cards all have sayings on them to bring some proper fun, while trouncing your opponent. (“Setting the table correctly is of utmost importance!”) Sipping my tea while playing added to the experience, of course. It is recommended for ages 10 and up, though I think younger gamers could get a handle on it pretty quick. I recommend Elevenses for anyone who enjoys a fast-start strategy game where fancy hats are optional, but will make it so much more fun.

Unbored Games: Serious Fun for Everyone

Photo on 11-19-14 at 9.39 PM
Image By Rebecca Angel

My 8-year-old niece and I were sitting for a few minutes waiting for her sister to finish up. Before she could sigh in frustration, I handed her Unbored Games and told her to open it to a random page. Now this was taking a huge chance. The book is chock full of instructions, illustrations, and easy to follow guides to over 70 games, but they aren’t all indoors, under ten minutes, and for two people to play. Luckily, she opened up to a page detailing a few hand-clapping games. Perfect! We learned some silly rhymes, and tried to keep a rhythm together with snaps and claps. By the time her sister was ready, we were both laughing.

Unbored Games by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen begins with a rundown of why games are important. That’s right! Games aren’t just something to fill the time, or only do at parties. All their reasons are legit, but I like these three the best:

“Gaming encourages you to develop skills and expertise, by practicing something over and over. More importantly, gaming challenges you to teach yourself how to do something.”

“Gaming teaches you that your environment is modifiable. You realize that everyday life is a puzzle to be solved: the more difficult the obstacles, the more fun you’ll have figuring out how to beat them.”

“Jumping in and making mistakes is the fastest way to learn how to play a game. Not worrying about being perfect, and just trying your best, is known as ‘fun failure.'”

The book is divided into four chapters:

PWNAGE: This is what most people think of as games, like board games, back-of-the-classroom fun, and dice and card rules. But there are also “secret rules” games, app recommendations, and more.

HOMEGAMES: Whether for a simple family night or a big party, there is entertainment in these pages. There are even games for the car. I especially enjoyed the section on croquet. My family plays croquet often (really!), and the variations mentioned look intriguing.

GAME CHANGERS: These aren’t your typical ones. Online activities to fight climate change, “guerrilla kindness” in your neighborhood, and a list of cooperative board games to mention a few. I really liked the outdoor, big group game “Survive! Predator and Prey.”

ADVENTURE GAMES: The final section has plenty of ideas to create your own fun indoors or out. There are photographic instructions on how to build a rocket, for example. And a whole section on LARP (Live Action Role Playing).

Within each chapter of the book are short histories of gaming, and suggestions on how to modify, vary, or hack any and all the games presented. The illustrations are in a likable, quirky style, and all the instructions are clear.

Regardless of age, there are games in the book that will interest anyone. Whether you work with kids, have kids, or are a kid yourself, I recommend Unbored Games!

Geekmom received a copy for review purposes.

Ruckus: The Goblin Army Game

Image by GoblinArmyGames

I put a new game on our table along with all my other stuff from the day. My fifteen-year-old son was immediately drawn to the unwrapped box.

“What’s that?”
“A game I need to review.”
“Nice art. Can I open it?”
“Sure.” I smile. “You can figure out the rules for me…”

He happily spent some free time reading the rules and playing on his own before we found an evening where he, his dad, and I could sit down and play Ruckus: The Goblin Army Game. It was a successful Kickstarter project early this year by Matthew Papa.

(Full Disclaimer: GeekMom received a copy for review purposes AND Matt is someone I chat with at my local gaming store, plus, we went to college together waaaaay back when. He’s a great guy! Okay, back to the review.)

Ruckus has definite curb appeal with its adorable-looking creatures with amusing props and scenes on each card, plus silly names for all the goblins: Both “Jerry” and “Jerry’s Uncle Larry” can help you win. It’s strictly a fighting game, with the winner gaining the most victory points after multiple battles.

My son did my homework for me, and led our family in the first gameplay. There are three levels of play, and we did the first level. It was halting with rulebook checking, and I doubted the “eight years and up” on the box. But by the end of the game, we were getting it. My son and I played a few times on the second level, and game play was smooth and fun. He then taught my eight-year-old niece, who picked it up faster than I did, and quickly trounced me later that week. She loved the art.

So how does the game work? There are four Goblin Guilds: Fighters, Thieves, Clerics, and Necromancers. Each has their own deck with unique characters. The goblins in each army have an attack level, defense level, and special ability. Learning how to best use your army as a unit is your personal battle to win. The strategies vary depending on the guild and which cards you happen to draw each turn.

Image by Rebecca Angel

Everyone sets up their army cards behind a battle screen for two or three lines of attack. After removing the screens, different card abilities are played, the top fighting guilds are determined, and damage is distributed. Eventually only one player is left standing, and they collect a card from a specific deck that usually comes with a Victory Token. There are other rules and ways to get VP points, and another deck of randomness that keeps the game beyond just a power-card fight.

Overall it’s well-designed, though we did have some sticking points, the main one being a power unbalance. After half a dozen game plays, no one in my family could figure out how to win with the Thieves. It may be we are missing something, but that guild seems to be underpowered. My son also felt the rulebook could have been clearer. He also argued that there was a snowball effect with how the cards are dealt back into the individual decks each round, but I disagree on that one.

Image by Rebecca Angel and YES! I did get that token! Wooooot!

Ruckus is straight forward enough to keep play exciting for all, while the multiple strategies will make it interesting for many game nights to come. Check it out!

Ninja Dolls, Zombie Plants, and Gloom

ninja fam
Image By PegNation

Only just getting into the Halloween spirit now that October is here (not before October, dammit!), I was at a local festival and saw this ninja family. So cute! So deadly, I’m sure. Want a custom made peg doll? She’ll do whatever you like. I was thinking of a pirate-Christmas theme. (But not until December!) You can find PegNation on Etsy and Facebook.


zombie plant
Image By Ticklemeplant

How about a plant that dies and then rises from the dead? My son thought this one was really cool. It’s called a Zombie Plant. Perfect for your party, or just to freak out visitors.


Image By Atlas Games

I’ve mentioned this game before, but it’s absolutely perfect for the season: Gloom: Kill off your family to win!

Oh, there’s so much more to get into the creepy spirit. What’s on your radar this month?

How Ecological! A Review of EcoFluxx

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

Designed by Alison and Andrew Looney, EcoFluxx is one of the many games in Looney Labs’ line of Fluxx card games. Santa gave it to my son for Christmas, since he is such a huge fan of Cthulhu Fluxx and also because he’s a big lover of cute natural things.

But I wondered: Was it worth buying yet another Fluxx game? We already had three of them.

The blurb on the Looney Labs website is as follows:

In the wild, you must adapt to survive! Will you win by having your Bears Eat Fish? Or will someone change the Goal so that their Frogs and Insects can make Night Music? Play ecology themed Actions and Rules like Scavenger or Composting, but watch out for Creeper cards like Forest Fire, that can hurt everyone! Discover a little about how things go together, with EcoFluxx—the nature game of ever-changing rules!

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

The packaging of the game is kid-friendly and appealing, at least to my kid. The same goes for the artwork on the cards, done by Derek Ring. Even I enjoyed looking through the cards at the various critters. Shockingly enough, the game is educational. Throughout play, my son was asking questions. “What’s this?” He was reminded about photosynthesis, recycling, and how composting works. There are predators and decomposition. And of course, all the fun gameplay that always comes with Fluxx.

To get an idea of how to play the game, the Looney Labs website has a copy of the rules. Gameplay can last anywhere from 2 minutes (I’m not kidding) to an hour, averaging about 15 minutes or so.

We’ve played with two and three people, but you can play with up to six. It’s the perfect game to play after dinner for a nice family activity, or even to take on a trip to play in the hotel.

The rules are super easy to learn, and it’s not a complex game. There is strategy involved, though, so don’t let the simple concept of the game fool you. The instructions say ages 8+ will enjoy, but I think that with some reading help, most 6-year-olds could enjoy it.

I would note that this is a nice addition to any homeschooler’s game library. There are so many opportunities for discussion about how life and the environment work together. It makes teaching the subject almost effortless. There is even a learning guide online for those who are interested.

All in all, I have nothing negative to say. EcoFluxx is a fun game for the whole family!

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

Pirate Week: Gamin’ Like a Pirate

Image By Rebecca Angel

Avast! What will yer hearties be doin’ to pass the time on deck September 19th? Idle pirates are a dangerous lot, so here are some suggestions fer gamin’:

Loot be the best pirate-themed table-top game me crew has ever played. It says ages 10 and up, but younger have been able to join in. Always most fun while talkin’ in pirate-speak!

A close second is the pirate version of Fluxx!

Now if ye want to get fancy with some historical pirate games (or at least ones shown in a pirate movie), check out the rules for Liar Dice.

And if ya want to put some effort into a game fer yer mini-pirates, here are ideas for Pirate Scavenger Hunts.

Or if ye be a lazy pirate fer online fun:
Silly Pirate Personality Test
Pirate Name Generator
Plus a whole list of online pirate-theme games

Enjoy a gamin’ day at sea with yer hearties enjoying International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

8 Current Favorite Family Games

Making Gloomy families at ConnectiCon. Image by Zach Schuetz.

Everyone goes through phases. In our family, it’s about games. We tend to play the same ones over and over until we’re ready for something new. This year, we happened to buy and play lots of new games, and they are keeping our interest. Most of them have been around for a few years; we just didn’t know about them until now! My kids are teenagers, but almost all of them are suitable for the younger set. Here’s a round-up of my family’s tabletop fun:

Image by Gamewright.

Sushi Go! Yes! This game was introduced by a geekdad (Hi, Jamey!) at our homeschooling group and quickly became a favorite. Everyone selects sushi choices to add up points. The game play is passing card hands around each turn and selecting cards from your current hand. This means everyone is playing all the time. It is easy to learn, fast, and suitable for elementary ages and up. Plus, the pictures on the cards are adorable. Oh, the pudding…

Image by Gamewright.

Forbidden Desert was a birthday present from my husband. So far, I have died a dry, sandy death more than survived. But I always had fun. This is a cooperative game, which I love, and the tiles that make up the board move around, which I think is fantastic. It takes constant attention, communication, and of course, luck.

Image by Asmodee.

For a couple of years now, 7 Wonders has been one of our top choices. We’ve brought it to family game nights with friends and visiting grandparents. The first time through, we were ready to give up in 10 minutes because it seemed way too complicated. Then we actually played… and it’s not. And it only takes a half-hour. And there are multiple strategies. And we all enjoy it! The artwork is great and with cards being passed around, everyone is always playing. What I like best about this game is that you can play without having to pay attention to anyone else, or start looking around and use that to your advantage. This comes highly recommended!

Image by RandR Games.

UnNatural Selection was a random pick at ConnectiCon‘s gaming area this year by my son. When we needed something that a large group could play and that didn’t require much, well, thought (it was Sunday morning), this was perfect. It has Apples to Apples-style of play (someone is the judge and the “winner” of the round is whatever they want, ending is whenever you want). The group puts together strange combinations of animals, beings, and attributes that are then compared to who would win in a fight. All ages. Ridiculous fun.

Image by Atlas Games.

Gloom is disturbingly enjoyable. My friend Jenn introduced this one to us years ago, but we only recently started playing it ourselves. Everyone gets a family. Your goal is to kill them off, but only after they have become depressed (more depression is more points for you!). Attribute cards are both negative (for your family) and positive (for other people’s families). The best part of the game is making up storylines of why another player’s character Mr. Giggles was “delighted by ducklings” when he just was “diseased by dysentery.”

Image by Fireside Games.

Castle Panic is another cooperative game. Ogres and other nasties are attacking your castle, and it’s up to your group to defend it! Lots of communication and planning several moves ahead for your team to win the day. A good one for elementary age and up. At ConnectiCon, our group won!

Image by Rio Grande Games.

Race For The Galaxy is definitely for the older set of players. It’s kind of complicated, though to be fair my son and I were introduced to the game playing with the expansion set. Our friend Zach (again, at ConnectiCon) talked us through several rounds, and then we played a game. Each player is building civilizations in the galaxy. To win you must be capitalistically ruthless. There are multiple strategies, which is cool. My son really, really liked it. On the birthday list…

Image by AEG.

Love Letter: Legend of The Five Rings was a random choice for me at my local gaming store. It is probably one of the easiest games to play without knowing what in the world you are doing. I learn by playing so after a few rounds I got it. It’s a lot of luck, but there is bluffing and keeping track of cards. Basically, every player is trying to win the hand of the princess by sending her a letter, but in a court of intrigue, that is harder than it sounds. The mechanics are pick a card, play a card. There are several version of Love Letter, so choose your favorite artwork!

Giveaway: Pokémon TCG: XY-Flashfire Booster Box and Theme Decks!

Image: The Pokémon Company

We here at GeekMom have a great giveaway for the aspiring Pokémon trainer in your life featuring the Pokémon TCG: XY-Flashfire expansion pack. This expansion pack includes the Mega Charizard-EX and Mega Kangaskhan-EX cards, as well as the Brilliant Thunder theme deck and Mystic Typhoon theme deck. You know the Pokémon fan in your life would love to have these for their next game.

The giveaway includes (1) Booster Box and (2) Themed Decks for a total of three items. Entering is super easy through the Rafflecopter link below. You can even enter multiple times to increase your chances of winning.

The contest will run through midnight ET on Wednesday, April 13th, at which time a winner will be randomly selected. As soon as that winner is notified, their name will be posted right in the widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note this giveaway is open only to those with shipping addresses within the continental United States.

Good luck!

Southern Maine Family Game Festival

Image: Sarah Pinault

If you are in the Northeast next weekend and looking for some people to game with, look no further than the first annual Southern Maine Family Game Festival. The brainchild of PortCon, the people who brought big time conventions to Maine, the festival is a fundraiser for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. Want to play games all day and all night? As my husband keeps telling me, “It’s for the kids, honey.”

There are two events. The first, held during the day, is the Family Game Festival. This is a family friendly event open to all ages. It is geared towards spreading the love of board and video games. There will be gamers on hand to teach you new games or you can join in something you already know. The overnight event is the Extra Life Marathon. Extra Life is a national gaming event to benefit children’s hospitals.

Where?: The Double Tree Hilton, 363 Maine Mall Road, South Portland, ME 04106

When?: Saturday, November 2nd, 2013. The Family Game Festival starts at 9AM and runs until 4PM. The Extra Life Video Game Marathon starts at 6PM and runs until 6AM on Sunday. See our schedule for more details.

How Much?: The Family Game Festival is $5 per person, with children under the age of 6 free! All proceeds go towards the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital.

cropped-logo6The Extra Life Video Game Marathon is for adults age 18 and above. It requires either a sponsorship of $25 or more as an individual, sponsorship plus additional money to equal $25 at the door, or simply $25 at the door. Individuals may be part of a team, but each individual must raise $25 to attend the overnight event. If you are paying through sponsorship make sure to bring ID when you arrive.

Bracelets for entry to the day event will be available at the door. No tickets will be sold in advance. Simply come, donate your admission fee, and you’ll receive your entry bracelet! Your bracelet will be good for all day activities, the vendor area, all of the game demonstrations, as well as discounts at local stores. After the event visit any of these stores to receive a discount simply by showing your bracelet.

To attend the Extra Life event individuals or teams can register online via the Extra Life site. Evening attendees will receive a separate custom silicone bracelet for attendance. As an evening attendee, please plan on bringing: your laptop computer and/or your gaming system (including a TV if needed), a power strip, video game, snacks, drinks, and any games you might be interested in playing with others. You are responsible for everything you bring during the evening. They will have tournaments running on supplied equipment during the event, but if you plan on marathoning on your own system throughout the evening you will need to supply all of your own equipment.

You can come in costume, and you can get your face painted. There will even be an artist available between 10 and 3 to draw family caricatures. This event is an all together fantastic way to spend a chilly November day in Maine.


The First Kaijudo Card Sliver, Revealed!

Kaijudo, Image: Wizards of the Coast

GeekMom is thrilled to reveal the very first card sliver in the new Kaijudo contest that has fans scouring the internet to piece together a series of all-new, super-rare cards.

Here’s the situation…

A Triple Strike is underway at the hands of The Choten and his evil Minions. They have captured Tatsurion, Squeaky and Gargle from the Creature Realm and it’s up to us to save them! We need to be very careful so that The Choten doesn’t know we’re on to him.

Starting today, new clues will be revealed online through the Kaijudo Community, their Facebook and at sites like GeekMom. Each of these clues is a sliver of card art from three exclusive creature cards.

There will be 21 separate clues in all that will give you a first look at these cards from the 40-card all foil Elite Series deck that doesn’t arrive in stores until July 12th. Armed with your sneak peek, you’ll be perfectly prepared to do battle with the new decks.

Good luck and happy gaming!

Congratulations to The Winners of Our Kaijudo: Clash of the Duel Masters Prize Packs!

Kaijudo: Clash of the Duel Masters
Kaijudo: Clash of the Duel Masters, Image: Wizards of the Coast

Congratulations to Matt K., Michael T., Megan P., Josh S., and Corey S. who each won one of our Kaijudo: Clash of the Duel Masters prize packs. If you didn’t win this time, don’t worry. We’ve always got great new giveaways in the pipeline here at GeekMom.

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest and happy gaming!

Enter to Win One of Five Kaijudo Clash of the Duel Masters Prize Packs!

Kaijudo: Clash of the Duel Masters
Kaijudo: Clash of the Duel Masters, Image: Wizards of the Coast

GeekMom is giving away five Kaijudo: Clash of the Duel Masters prize packs to our lucky readers!

This latest expansion in the popular card game was just released on May 24th and includes 120 new cards that span all five civilizations. The new booster packs each have nine cards and one code card. There will also be two special 40-card competitive decks with the Psychic Assault and Skycrusher’s Might decks.

Continue reading Enter to Win One of Five Kaijudo Clash of the Duel Masters Prize Packs!

Here There Be Dragons: Looney Labs’ Seven Dragons Game

SevenDragons_contentsSince rumors of the Pottermore website began, my husband has been daydreaming. An off hand comment by me that I might be interested in playing a Potter MMO, has him fantasizing about all night gaming sessions side by side. With that in mind we’re going old school and pulling out the card games to get back into the swing of things, luckily for us Looney Labs sent me an advance copy of their new game Seven Dragons. It debuts on June 24, and so we grabbed the Nilla wafers and coffee, and settled in for an evening of dragons.

After playing the game it seems that the dragons are fairly superfluous, it could just as easily be another animal, fictional or otherwise. However what makes the dragons stand out is the artwork of Larry Elmore. The depictions also give the game a darker undertone than other games from Looney Labs. While we both enjoyed this aspect we thought that perhaps the green elf was a tad  buxom for the age range given.

The game play is like dominoes in it’s nature, and like their other games can be over in a few minutes or in thirty. My husband felt cheated by the title as there were actually only five goal cards for each of five dragons, the other two dragons being special cards. But considering a “domino” can have up to four dragons, it seems that five is just enough to keep it interesting but not so many as to make it cumbersome. All five goals remain “in play” even when you are playing the two player version, which keeps it a lot more interesting when the “Rotate Goal” card comes into play. The rules are very clear, answering all the insane questions I could come up with, even when I asked if cards could be played upside down (they can). The game also has separate rules if you are going to play with pre-schoolers, so this will be perfect for those rainy summer days.

Like other games by Looney Labs, the starting player is determined by birth-date, since I turned 30 last week I am definitely the oldest in the house, an advantage I may grow to like.   One word of warning, be sure to clarify the use of the Rainbow and Silver Dragons before you begin, especially if, unlike some people I won’t mention here, you are prone to arguing over the rules.

Final verdict: It’s a lot of fun even though I don’t like games where I can’t cream my husband every time. This game evens the playing field, allowing for all levels of skill and interest to compete equally.