Board Games for Newbs and Kids!


Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

Felicia Day recently released a video, called Newbie Board Games!, in which she shows off some board games that are perfect for beginners. These games are great for those who are inexperienced gamers because the instructions are not complicated, and you can sit down and start to play pretty much right away.

My family loves playing board games, so I thought I would share some of our favorites to play when we are playing with new people or even when we are tired or have limited time. These games are simple but very fun.


Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

1. King of Tokyo: Hands down, this game is the best to gift to new board gamers. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone personally say that they did not have a great time with this, kids and adults alike.


Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

2. Dino Hunt Dice: This is a very simple game that even young kids can play. I reviewed it a couple months ago on my personal blog. It’s great to take with you if you are waiting at the airport or at a restaurant. And, you know, dinosaurs!

Zombie Dice

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

3. Zombie Dice: This is Dino Hunt Dice‘s big brother, with very similar rules. Braiiinnnnnssss….. You roll dice and collect brains. But don’t get shot! Again, it’s simple, but involves a little strategy. There are also a couple expansion packs available to add even more fun to the mix.


Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

4. Shinobi Wat-AAH!: Practice your ninja skills! Again, simple rules, and there are two levels of play–one with just cards, where you build clans, and another with a board that is slightly more complicated but still is a lot of fun. I love the art work in this game.


Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

5. Castellan: A game of competitive engineering. You draw cards that tell you which pieces you can use, and build pieces onto a castle. When You enclose an area, it’s yours! At the end, you count up how many towers are in your enclosures. Whoever has the most, wins!


There is something for everyone here. Happy gaming!

GeekDad Speaks Out About Gamergate


We can’t stay silent any longer. We know what’s happened to people who have spoken up before, and we are well aware that people are going to leave comments on this post that would make a Klingon blush. Staying silent would be the easy thing to do. But we don’t consider staying silent an option for us any more.

Gamergate began as revenge-motivated backlash against an indie game developer named Zoe Quinn, sparked by her ex-boyfriend. Fueled by criticism of the video game industry for treating both female characters in games and female developers of games as less useful and interesting than their male counterparts, the flames from a depressingly large number of men on Twitter and other social media grew higher and higher. It got to the point where media critic Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a speaking appearance because of threats of violence. From there it got to the point where any woman who dared speak up about the subject found her personal information immediately revealed online for anyone to find (doxxing), and herself threatened by complete strangers with sexual assault and violent death. And it’s kept going, under the guise of being a discussion about journalistic ethics (because the original, false, allegations against Quinn were that she had traded sexual favors for positive reviews of her games).

It’s very clear that the atmosphere has been corrupted. We’re guys who are gamers, and we don’t want awesome people like Felicia Day to think we might be misogynist jerks. We have mothers and sisters and, more importantly, daughters, and we want them to be able to wear their geeky gaming shirts proudly, to go to conventions and enjoy the camaraderie, to enjoy the basic human right not to live in fear.

The internet is the greatest vehicle for free expression that has ever existed. Websites gave birth to blogs, which gave birth to social media. Social media, combined with the smartphones in everyone’s pockets, is a wonderful and terrible thing. Gamergate has brought this into stark relief, and on some level we suppose we should be grateful for that. This is a problem that’s been there for too long, like a nagging pain that only sends you to the doctor when it turns agonizing.

Free expression is one of the most misunderstood concepts this side of special relativity. Too many people seem not to realize that their right to express themselves stops where other people’s rights begin — in particular, in this case, other people’s right not to be threatened with injury or death. The fact that this isn’t obvious to some people is depressing, perhaps mostly because we aren’t as surprised as we’d like to be that it isn’t.

We geeks like to think of geekdom as accepting. We like to think of ourselves as a group that will let anyone in who wants to join, because we were once the outcasts. We were the ones who were bullied in school, who were looked on with derision by so many adults, who, yes, often had trouble dealing with members of our preferred sex. We made our own manhood rituals fighting trolls and owlbears. We got our triumphs figuring out how to get the Babel Fish in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Infocom game, or how to use the Warp Zone in Super Mario Bros.

There were plenty of girls who played games in the ’80s, too, of course. But if we knew any of them then, we KNEW them; they were our friends. We played with them, so they didn’t intimidate us. We didn’t have a World Wide Web to constantly encounter perfect strangers with similar interests. Perhaps the problem is that lots of guy geeks have become hardwired to see other guy geeks, and particularly gamers, as “normal,” so they accept them pretty quickly. But women? Women that they DON’T KNOW? Hell, no. They’ve got to protect their territory from those GIRLS! And after that, with fear as a motivator, things can get ugly.

Whatever the case, we know there isn’t anything we can say that’s going to change the behavior of anyone who’d sink to the level of making personal threats against strangers. Heck, the likelihood of any of those people reading this article is minimal at best. If you’ve read this far, you probably feel the same way we do, and if so, we’d like you to join us in a pledge:

Read the pledge at GeekDad.

Weekly GeekMom Video Playlist

Video Playlist Logo

Do you play video games? Do you enjoy watching other people play video games? LP, or Let’s Play, videos on YouTube are very popular. They serve as commentary, review, and a source for comedic banter. This week’s playlist is all Let’s Play.

First this week, Hank and Katherine Green play Nintendo games together; the quips exchanged between the two remind my husband and I of playing video games together. Next, Spoiler Warning (which is one of my favorite Let’s Play shows on YouTube) gives an in-depth review of the game , offers social commentary, and comparisons to other games. We also have Scott Manley who is worth listening to just for his accent. He plays Kerbal Space Program, and occasionally his kids and spouse make cameo appearances. Finally, a Let’s Play list would not be complete without Felicia Day playing retro games with her brother. Warning about Felicia and Ryon: playing old games often causes vulgarity.

Enjoy the playlist for this week. You can find all of our Tea Party Hangout videos and weekly playlists on our YouTube page.

Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Hangout Tomorrow!

Felicia Day, Bonnie Burton, SF Romance

As someone who has been flogging the “romance is fun for geek girls” theme for some time now, I’ve been thrilled to watch the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club with Felicia Day, Veronica Belmont, Bonnie Burton and Kiala Kazebee take off.

This week’s selection, to be discussed on the Hangout tomorrow, April 30, at 8 P.M. PST is Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher. [Read more…]

Was International TableTop Day Really Worthwhile?

International TableTop Day © Geek & Sundry

International TableTop Day © Geek & Sundry

A week ago today was the first International Tabletop Day (ITTD), organised by Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton and the lovely folks over at the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel. Over 2,000 events were held across 50 countries and six continents making the day an incredible success for all involved. But was it really?

The slogan for ITTD was “play more games” and the organisers asked fans of TableTop – Wil Wheaton’s super successful gaming show to “go to their friendly local game store, community center, or host an event at home” and do just that. The aim of the day was rather vague but according to the event’s press release it hoped to “encourage people from around the globe to participate in the joys of board gaming” and the team behind it hoped “that the day will grow the gaming community by encouraging fans to come together and play more games.” This is where I see problems.

Firstly, ITTD in its 2013 form was always going to struggle to introduce many new fans to Tabletop gaming. The day was promoted mostly through Geek & Sundry itself and via Twitter. Now whilst Twitter has clearly moved into the realm of popular media and is accessed by millions, the users who were tweeting about ITTD leading up to the event are the sort of users followed mostly by the “hardcore” geek crowd. The same exact people who might already watch Tabletop and, even if they don’t, are almost certainly aware of the kinds of games the event was promoting - Dungeons and Dragons, Munchkin and Ticket to Ride are touchstones of geek culture these days. The organisers seemed to be preaching to the converted, and the number of events that ran is testament to this, and also leads in to the second major issue with ITTD.

Some of the Games at My House © Sophie Brown

Some of the Games in My Collection © Sophie Brown

I looked through the events taking place close to me and the majority were located at gaming and comic book stores or were regularly scheduled gaming events re-branded for the day. The chances of non-gaming members of the public happening upon one of these events were very slim. I went along to Shire Games in Stoke-on-Trent at the end of the day and asked how their ITTD had gone. It turned out that plenty of people had come along and played games, but, as the owner pointed out, that’s just a normal Saturday for them. Perhaps a few more of the regulars than usual had dropped by to see what was going on, but it was just that, the usual group of social game players coming along for a day of gaming that they might have been going along to anyway without the added branding.

If we want to bring new people into the tabletop gaming culture don’t we need to be going to them rather than waiting in our shops for them to walk through the door? Comic book and gaming stores can appear as highly intimidating places for people who have never been inside one, filled with small cliques of regulars who already know one another, as ludicrous as that might sound to us who frequent them. For ITTD to reach out to new gamers we needed to see ITTD events happening in libraries, youth clubs and mainstream stores that sell these games such as Target and Waterstones. Although the original press release called for events to happen in these public areas that turned out not to be the reality as much as we could have hoped, perhaps that’s something that should be looked at if the event is repeated next year.

As well as introducing new players to tabletop games, ITTD also wanted to grow the existing community “by encouraging fans to come together and play more games”. Thing is, existing fans who want to play games together are probably doing so already, that’s why so many gaming nights exist and why pretty much every university campus in the western world has a gaming group, even the tiny and recently established university in my home city has one.

Of course, not everyone who wants to go along and play games with a group has done so, we geeks are notoriously shy creatures after all, but will branding an event as an “International TableTop Day” event instead of a regular gaming meetup really change that and encourage those people to finally walk through the door? Maybe it did, you tell me, but social anxiety doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that can be swept away simply by stating that this isn’t any normal games session, it’s International TableTop Day! My fellow GeekMom Sarah wrote about her three year old son’s wonderful experience on ITTD and I don’t want to take anything away from his experience, but growing up the son of two regular game players I’d place a hefty wager that he would still have been gaming soon even without ITTD.

The event seemed to simply serve as a catalyst for some people, a “let’s go to the games store today” excuse to stop them putting it off for another week. That in and of itself is a great thing but shouldn’t there be more to it?

Before I wrap this up, let’s get one thing absolutely straight, I love TableTop.

My husband and I watch the shows together and really enjoy them, and my Late to The Game series here on GeekMom is a direct response to the show as prior to its beginning the geekiest game I had ever played was my Haunted Mansion edition of the Game of Life. I’m now lucky enough to have a cupboard literally overflowing with brilliant games I might never have heard of otherwise; Catan, Small World, Ticket to Ride and Munchkin are all there, and we’ve had countless nights introducing friends and family to these new games as well.

In fact, my in-laws enjoyed Zombie Dice so much we bought my father-in-law his own copy for his birthday which they subsequently took on vacation, earning them many curious stares from other patrons in their Spanish hotel as they played by the pool. But all this happened organically over nights spent at each other’s homes, pulling out a game and saying “look what we’ve brought along!” We didn’t need a special event to make it happen and the countless stories I’ve read on the As Seen on TableTop Tumblr tell similar tales. It’s not TableTop itself I’m questioning, it’s whether we need an international event to tell us “today is the day to play games and bond”, shouldn’t we just be going out and doing that any day we choose?

Wondercon Highlights Part 1

With San Francisco’s Moscone Center under renovation, WonderCon moved to Anaheim this year—and seemed to bring a bit of the Bay Area’s rain and chill wind along with it. We shivered our way between hotel and convention center, dodging clusters of purple-eyeshadowed cheerleaders who were competing in a tournament in the next hall over.

Here are a few of the things that caught my attention this year:

Best panel I didn’t attend: Spotlight on Fiona Staples, moderated by the devastatingly handsome Scott Peterson. By all accounts, this was a fascinating discussion. Fiona (who recently granted an interview to GeekMom’s own Corrina Lawson) is one of the most talented artists working in comics today, and I’m bummed that I didn’t get to enjoy the peek at her process that I heard others raving about for the rest of the weekend. There was even a time-lapse video of the artist at work. If Fiona shares that on the web anywhere (hint, hint), I’ll let you know.

Best panel I did attend: The Geek & Sundry presentation with Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton, Veronica Belmont, Tom Merritt, and Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson. Funny story here. At least, it’s funny now. It was kind of mortifying at the time. There was a mix-up over reserved press seating—Felicia’s super-nice publicist thought there would be some, and sent out invitations accordingly, but the WonderCon folks seemed perplexed by the idea—and through a series of happenstances I found myself hanging out backstage with the Geek & Sundry panelists—an unintentional crasher of the entourage. I’d had the pleasure of meeting Felicia once before, at the GeekMom Google+ hangout, and she is absolutely one of the kindest people you will ever encounter. When an officious WonderCon staffer (eyeing me suspiciously, or that’s how it felt), asked Felicia if all the people in this backstage cluster definitely, actually belonged with her group, Felicia graciously said “Yes”—so suspicious WonderCon guy did not evict me. Whew.

If I were a real member of the press, as opposed to a novelist who gets press passes because she writes for a cool website on the side, I would have, I don’t know, asked questions or taken pictures or something. But I’m not, and I have a horror of appearing to be pushy, so I just stood quietly against a wall and enjoyed the banter of the ubersmart, creative Geek & Sundry crowd.

No, wait! I did take one picture. Also on the list of Things I’m Not: a photographer. With, like, focusing skills.

The Geek & Sundry panel was as entertaining and lively as the backstage repartee. (You can watch the whole thing yourself here and here.) The big news at this con was the announcement of the Geek and Sundry YouTube Channel, which promises to be tremendously fun. As Corrina mentioned the other day, the channel is launching a number of new shows in April:

The Flog, which highlights Felicia Day’s quirky real-life adventures;

Tabletop (this one makes my heart go pittypat), in which geek icons will join Wil Wheaton for boardgames like Settlers of Catan, Munchkin, and Dragon Age;

Sword & Laser, a new incarnation of the popular sci fi/fantasy book discussion podcast featuring Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt;

Written by a Kid (this one melted my heart), which features stories made up by kids and brought to life via digital storytelling;

• a Paul & Storm comedy musical show (coming this fall);

Dark Horse Motion Comics; and

The Guild, Season 5 (squee!)

The new shows will begin rolling out on April 2nd. Can’t wait. You can subscribe to the Geek and Sundry channel here, and here’s a trailer to whet your appetite:

In my next post, I’ll share my favorite finds from the exhibit hall. Sneak preview: I’m totally jealous of the shirt I bought for my 16-year-old daughter. Lucky for me we wear the same size…