We are a gaming family. We love ’em, all four of us. Card, board, RPG, you name it, we have at least one example of the type; we’ve even played most of them at least once. Our six year old is patient enough for Doctor Who Risk, Gloom, and the Imperial Assault training missions (we haven’t tried the longer missions yet). Even our rightfully shorter-in-the-attention-span three year old will play Trouble, Surprise Slides, and King of Tokyo.
Finding time to game as a family can be challenging, however, with my weird and irregular nurse schedule, which includes a fair number of weekends and evenings, and the boy being in school full-time plus attending Hebrew School on Sunday mornings. In an effort to increase playing opportunity, nights we’re all here, we’ve been trying to take the half hour between dinner and bedtime once devoted to the day’s non-educational television (except on Dinner and Rebels night; nothing shall replace Dinner and Rebels night so long as there are episodes of Rebels to watch) to play a family game. Not that there’s anything wrong with TV. There isn’t. I love the stuff, probably too much, but it’s more fun for the four of us to spend that half-hour engaged with one another when we can, especially since we don’t have that time as regularly as many families.
First, here are a few games that only require paper and pencil:
Celebrity: I played this with a group one New Year’s Eve a decade ago and some of us who were there still refer to it as one of our favorite parties. Hand out small strips to paper and a pencil. Everyone writes the name of one celebrity on each strip (alive, dead, real, fictional…) Depending on how many celebrities each person writes, the game can be long or short (4 – 10). Here is the complete gameplay. Be sure to do the Alternative Version which has three rounds.
Drawing Telephone: One of our favorite party games because the less-skilled you are in the art department, the better! Everyone gets a piece of paper and pencil. Each person writes a random phrase on the top of their paper and passes it to the person on their right. That person illustrates the phrase. Then everyone folds back the phrase so only the drawing is showing, and passes their paper to the right. Now the next person only sees the illustration and writes a phrase they think matches it. And so on. Here is a more detailed description of the game. We have some games taped up permanently in our house because they were so hilarious.
Round Singing: You all know Row, Row, Row Your Boat. And Are You Sleeping? Get everyone to try a round. No one needs to sound like a pop star, it’s just for fun. Here is a nice resource. Don’t be shy. If everyone is singing, who cares what individual voices sound like? (By the way, making live music together lights up more of your brain than any other activity, so this is good for you!)
And here is a list of great games to buy for lots-o-people to play!
Mad Libs You’ve got one around the house somewhere, right? If not, get one! Every theme imaginable is available.
Tsuro: The Game of the Path Explanation takes less than five minutes so perfect for non-gamers at the party. Also, it’s a really perty board.
7 Wonders Explanation takes awhile, but once the first round is played, people get it. New Year’s Eve is a perfect time to introduce a new game!
The next three games are ‘apples to apples’ types that can have multiple people, and end whenever you feel like it:
Snake Oil Card Game My son received this as a gift last year and it has become our go-to when we visit other people to have fun. I guarantee this game will make you laugh.
Mad Scientist University This game takes creativity and the ability to just go with it. How can you write your name on the moon with only rubber bands? With science!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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:
“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 Tribes, a 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…
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!
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 CathedralChess, Tangoes, Mancala, 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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
“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.
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!
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.
“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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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!
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…
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!
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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!
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.
The brand new Pokémon Black & White Plasma Storm cards don’t hit store shelves until February, but you can get your first look at three of the new cards right now! In keeping with the Plasma Storm theme, all cards have blue borders, blue tints and the Team Plasma shield. There is something for everyone in this 130 card expansion.
In addition to the new Team Plasma cards, you’ll get 14 new Trainer cards including three new ACE SPEC cards that are so powerful that players can only bring one into battle at a time. There are eight new Pokémon-EX like Victini-EX, Cobalion-EX, and Lugia-EX and four full-art Pokémon-EX rare Ultra cards.
Every theme deck and booster pack also includes a code card that unlocks virtual cards from the expansion that can by used in the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online. It’s only a few months until the release on February 6th, but with all these great new cards, it’s going to feel like a lot longer.
One of the cons I look forward to most is PAX East because it focuses on all kinds of games. It doesn’t matter if you favor PC, Xbox, or Wii, or board games, RPGs, and card games. If you’re a gamer, then this is your con. In its third year it was even better than ever, despite being held on Easter weekend. Yeah, that was a bummer. It meant packing three days of gaming into two for many of us, but we managed. Who cares if the Easter ham was nearly burned or you completely forgot to put rolls on the table for lack of sleep. We came, we saw, we played all the games!
I got some hands-on time with a few titles that haven’t yet seen the light of day but have me incredibly excited. Rock Band Blitz, due out this summer, was an absolute riot. If you love Rock Band but lack the coordination to play the drums or guitar without embarrassing yourself, then you need to give this one a try. You hold a regular controller and just need to press two keys. That’s it. I didn’t want to hand over the controller to the next guy in line, but he had a wicked looking cosplay sword so I decided to let it go.
There were also a few early release things you could go home with, like the Munchkin The Guild! booster. Yes, I bought one. No, you can’t have it. It’s got 15 cards with all your favorite characters and artwork by Len Peralta, the guy behind the Geek A Week trading cards. They say this won’t be out until May so you just have a bit longer to wait before you can use your +1 Sexterity.
And although I never cosplay, I love seeing costumes that look like they’ve walked right out of a book or screen shots from my favorite games. There was an R2 unit rolling around with two little kids dressed like Leia and Obi Wan that were the cutest cosplayers ever. But some of the most impressive efforts this year were straight out of Mass Effect which makes me wonder, who’s fighting the Reapers if these guys were all hanging out at PAX East?
My favorite part of the con? The people. Striking up random conversations while waiting in lines, jumping in to demos with strangers, talking about how much we can’t wait for this or that to be released and which vendor has the best deal on the game we’re about to purchase. The people are what make it all fun. More than any other convention, this one makes me sad when I leave. It’ll be a whole year before I get to hang out with people, who, just for a weekend, are like long lost friends. I’ll be there next year. What about you?
Check out all my PAX East pictures including the complete Munchkin The Guild card set.
GeekMoms Corrina Lawson and Cathe Post join Nicole Wakelin to talk about how to catch ’em all with your kids. It’s more than just a collectible card game that sucks the cash out of your wallet. Kids learn everything from sportsmanship to genetics. No really, give it a listen and you’ll see just how much your kids can learn from this popular game.
Head over to Pokemon.com and click on Trading Card Game for information on leagues and events in your area!
What do you do on your anniversary when you suddenly find yourself with a babysitter on a week night, a few extra hours and cash in hand? Why you sit in Starbucks, drink cider and check out two new games from Looney Labs, that’s what!
My love of the card game Fluxx is certainly no secret, having played it for years and reviewed Pirate Fluxx already for GeekMom. I consider myself fairly well versed in its intricacies regardless of the edition at hand. Star Fluxx, released on September 30, however, is a whole new ball game. Well, actually it’s the same ball game but with a superior field, superior equipment and an extra dose of humor. You can view the rules on the Looney Labs website but the premise of the game remains unchanged from its original incarnation. Basic rules are that you start with a hand of three cards, then you draw a card and play a card until someone changes the rules. I love that every time you play this game something new comes into the experience.
Star Fluxx has now done the impossible and surpassed Monty Python as our favorite version. Getting past the aesthetic joy in the old style Trek font of the card titles, it’s the cheek of the game that gets me. In fact, I’m not quite sure how this manages to remain immune to copyright, so blatant are the references. For example, one of the Goal cards is “42” in which you win by having the Intergalactic Travel Guide and the Computer Keepers. The screen of the Intergalactic Travel Guide reads “Remain Calm.” For those of you with no working knowledge of Douglas Adams, perhaps the Expendable Crewman card (pictured to the right) or the Unseen Force will tickle your funny bone. Of the new action cards, my personal favorite would have to be the Sonic Sledgehammer. Where some of the cards in Pirate Fluxx left us wanting more, Star Fluxx only left us wanting to play more.
I hate to start talking Christmas this early (who am I kidding I’ve been listening to Christmas music for two weeks now) but when playing Ice Dice, also released on September 30, my first thought was – stocking stuffer. It may be that after two hours of chess this was the perfect fast-paced antidote, but this game was thoroughly enjoyable and drew many questions from those gathered at our local Starbucks for that night’s poetry reading. You start with two sets of Looney Pyramids, described by Looney Labs as “not so much a game, as a game system – like a deck of playing cards, a set of components that can be used to play all sorts of different games.” With Ice Dice, you receive the basic rules as well as the rules for Launchpad 23. While we preferred the basic rules to the alternative, we were very excited to find out that you can obtain many different sets of rules from Looney Labs. As a game designer wannabe, my husband was intrigued to learn that he could take the pieces, make his own game, and submit it to Looney Labs. I predict many more evenings in Starbucks.
With Ice Dice the aim of the game is to get three Trios, that is to say, three pyramids comprised of three sizes of each of three of the five colors. You do this by rolling the dice and putting pieces on deck before you roll the same color again and bust. If you bust, all pieces earned on that roll get sent back, if you choose to stop rolling they go into your vault. Thanks to The Weakest Link I couldn’t stop saying “Bank” though I’m sure there’s a more Looney term for the action.
It’s a mindless diversion and yet, at the same time, not mindless at all. Though the game is rated for 14 and up it seems like an exceptionally good way to introduce younger children to gaming strategy. Something that might preface the introductory course to Risk or Stratego. With so many variations of the game it’s a great “deck” to have on hand.
I received copies of both games for review purposes.
Many moons ago, before the onslaught of home ownership and parenthood, when flexible income and free time were to be had in abundance, ah good times, I’m sorry where was I? Back in the day, my husband and I used to play a lot of games. My husband is a board game geek, and I tagged along for the ride. We would play games with each other, with friends, with family, with anyone who would agree to learn the rules of Risk or Ultimate Stratego. With one group of friends we focused on card games, they led to the fewest arguments amongst spouses. After exhausting Phase 10, Rook, Skip-Bo and the like, we happened upon a new game in our local everything store: Fluxx by Looney Labs. You may have heard of it, if you haven’t I suggest you educate yourself quickly. The game is remarkable, it can take a minute from start to finish, or it can take up to an hour. Both rules and the aim of the game can change with every card that gets played, so the game you start playing is not the game you eventually win or lose. There are cards you keep, cards you play, cards that change the rules, and cards that change the whole point of the game. It’s not for the feint of heart. For the really obsessive, you can even join the fan club now, I’d better not tell my husband!
When Looney Labs came out with a Monty Python edition we lapped it up, likewise when the Zombie version came out so did the bowl of brains and salsa. Then they sent me a copy of Pirate Fluxx, needless to say my timbers shivered with excitement! What better way to celebrate Talk Like A Pirate Day, than to get points for every “Pretty Polly” against your family and friends.
This version plays a lot more like the original game than the other variations we have played so far. Of the additions to the variations, Looney Labs have kept the creepers, cards that work against you but are required to be played, but don’t seem to have included as many pirate specific action cards. That’s okay, you get extra plays for talking like a pirate so I’m happy. The first game we played lasted close to 50 minutes, a long game by Fluxx standards, but then we were playing with newbies. It seemed to be much harder to win at Pirate Fluxx than in the other versions, or perhaps just harder to pay attention while people are Yo-Ho-Ho-ing around you. When that “Talk like a Pirate” card gets played it’s contagious, people will start in on the action before their next turn even starts. In our case, after the game has finished too. That aside, the goals did seem much more unattainable. Yet that is the beauty of the game, the next time we play will be a completely different experience.
My husband and I really enjoyed the addition of surprise cards, these can be played during your turn or at random during someone elses turn. You play them differently depending on whose turn it is. My dad did not enjoy the surprise cards, but mostly because he couldn’t figure out how to play them, bless! The plunder card was interesting in that it was completely separate from any other theft card normally found in Fluxx. A bit more plundering would have greatly added to the game we felt, though we never got to use the actual plunder card. It would have been nice had the plunder rules applied to cards such as “Steal a keeper.” The Captain keeper and shackles creeper were the most sought after/despised cards and added extra depth to the game which heightened the enjoyment.
I don’t think this will be our go-to Fluxx game in the future, as Monty Python is our family favorite. However this will be a good one to bring out for September 19th every year, and to celebrate Johnny Depp’s Oscar for Pirates of The Caribbean 57: Curse of the Retirement Home.
I spent last weekend tucked away in the New Hampshire White Mountains eating too many s’mores and sleeping in a tent with my family. We made plans for this trip back in April along with two other families and I had been looking forward to it all summer. As the weekend approached, however, the weather started to look less than stellar. My little iPhone ap started showing clouds, and then showers, and then the dreaded thunder and lightning icon. Short of a hurricane (bullet barely dodged) we still planned on going, but with plenty of backup in case we ended up trapped in tents and campers. That backup was enough boardgames to stock a small store.
You see, all three of these families are gamer families. The dads met playing games at our local store and the moms met because of the dads and the kids are friends because of the parents. It’s all about the games. If not for the games, we wouldn’t have had this camping trip at all and we wouldn’t have these wonderful people in our lives.
Our campsite was right along a shallow, slow-moving river and there was a big tree with a rope. The kids were in heaven. First thing every morning they were up and swinging into the river, leaving only when we called them for breakfast. But once breakfast was done, without fail, they asked us to break out the games. The six of them sat there in their soggy swimsuits assembling the pieces of Lego Heroica and dealing out the cards for Eleminis, which turned out to be the big hit of the weekend.
The kids ranged in age from five to nine so their reading, logic and math skills were completely different. At first glance, you’d think this would be a recipe for gaming disaster, but just the opposite happened. They wanted to play together, so rather than argue about who was playing right or wrong, they teamed up. And they did it in the fairest way possible.
They had an older kid and younger kid on each team so no one was outmatched. If someone got confused, then they explained the rules, or even made their own house rules for handling a situation so that everyone could understand. And it wasn’t just the big kids in charge. They played the game the way the younger kids wanted a few times, letting them decide the rules and just playing along.
That one little Eleminis game was played a hundred different ways last weekend and the kids were happy with every variation. It was the same with Lego Heroica, Mille Bornes, Magic and even Alhambra which they played with the adults. These kids became fast friends, learned how to work together and settled differences all because of the games they played.
We lucked out on the weather right up until the last night when the skies opened, the wind blew and it poured. We had two big canopies covering the picnic tables where we played and kept most of our camping supplies, but the rain blew in sideways and everything got drenched. Everything, except the two games we were playing when the rain began. We grabbed cards and dice and markers and ran full out for the camper where, for the next hour or so, twelve of us crammed in and finished our games. The rest of our gear, well, it’d survive, but the games had to be saved. Soggy plates and napkins are one thing, but soggy playing cards, never!
Since 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.