Monthly Archives: November 2013

My Family’s 2013 Top Suggested Family Boardgame List, Part 2

If you haven’t read My Family’s 2013 Top Suggested Family Boardgame List, Part 1, please feel free to stop by there first.

Here’s the second half of what my family currently feels are the best all-around family boardgames.

King of Tokyo
(Joe, Kai, and Misa. Minimal reading. 30 minutes to an hour.)

This is a dice rolling game. You’re playing monsters, aliens, and robots – and you’re trying to destroy Tokyo. And each other. Lots of dice rolling. Lots of fun.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
(Joe, Misa. Lots of reading. Hour-ish.)

Kai didn’t put this on his list, but he loves it, too. It’s a deck-building game where you collect superheroes for your deck and have them fight against the supervillains. The theme also appeals to a lot of people – Marvel is very big right now. The mechanics feel very nice.

The Magic Labyrinth
(Misa. No reading. 15 Minutes.)

We got this when Kai was three and don’t play it as often anymore, but it’s still quite enjoyable whenever we pull it out. For a kids’ game, it’s REALLY good. You move your character across the board, but there’s a labyrinth below that you can’t see. You can change up where the walls are every time you play. And it uses the power of magnets. Pretty cool stuff.

Want some kind of convoluted directions? Kai, who was a little less than a month from turning 4 when the following video was taken, tried to tell my sister how to play. It’s pretty accurate, actually.

Magician’s Kitchen
(Kai. No reading. 20 minutes.)

Made by the same people who made Magic Labyrinth, in this game, each player must deliver all of their ingredients (marbles) to the central pot and light it with a fireball (also a marble). Uses magnets, too.

(Kai, Joe, and Misa. No reading. 30 minutes-ish… see below.)

In this game, you flick little disks with car stickers on them around a customizable track. The game is LOTS of fun, but it does have a fair amount of setup time. I usually won’t pull it out for less than half an hour of game time. It’s great for parties and holidays – a lot of people can play at once. Sometimes, we only race one round around the track, other times, we do more. It’s up to you.

(Joe, Misa. Moderate amount of reading. 45 minutes.)

Quarriors is like a deck-building game, but with dice. Each die corresponds to a card on the table. It’s lots of fun and is often easier for kids than a deck-building game.

Ticket to Ride
(Joe, Misa, Kai. Moderate amount of reading. 45 minutes to an hour.)

Players use cards they collect to place routes across the board. There are several expansions and stand-alone versions. Kai likes this game, but occasionally gets mad that all the train cars on the cards look like boxcars.

(Joe, Misa. Minimal reading. One hour.)

In Tobago, you’re adventurers, trying to find treasure. Joe often refers to this as a “multiplayer minesweeper”. I tell people it’s a lot like a logic puzzle. More and more information about where pieces are located is revealed, using things like “Not next to the ocean.” (But in pictogram form.) This game is stellar. The pieces are pretty incredible (except for the jeeps – but the statues and other pieces more than make up for it). The play is great. It’s a LOT of fun.

(Joe, Misa. No reading. 15 minutes.)

Tsuro is a tile placement game where you’re trying to extend your path and stay on the board as long as possible while simultaneously trying to send others off of the board. This is a fun, lighthearted game that plays out in 15 minutes or less and can support up to 8 players. This is often used, at my house, as an “in between” game – while we’re waiting for something or inbetween bigger games. Also, the game pieces are great to hold and to look at. All the pieces here will hook up to all the other pieces, so it’s great for kids… though sometimes, it sends them places they don’t want to go! They learn to pay attention to where everything is going, though. This is my “go-to short game”.

That’s everything on our list. If there are any games I mentioned that you’d like to hear more about, please mention it in the comments and I’ll make a future post about it.


My Family’s 2013 Top Suggested Family Boardgame List, Part 1

Recently, I’ve had several people ask me to make a list of my favorite boardgames (please note: I say “boardgames”, but that includes card games and games that have parts and no specific board). Most of these people are homeschoolers and unschoolers, so I’ve written this list with that in mind. My husband, Joe, gave me a list of what he’d recommend as “family games” – that is, games that will appeal to a wide age range, including the parents and said to just list them in alphabetical order. He picked a wide range of types of games. We’ve got several overlaps so I’m just combining them. While we each tried to stick to ten, we both found that we really had a couple we were torn between, so they’re all being included. Kai added a few as well.

Each game title will have beneath it whose list it was on, how much reading it requires (Note: somebody needs to be able to read in almost all of these games, at least the first time, to read the instructions – so if it says “no reading”, it means “No reading besides the instructions.”), the length of play (approximate – this can really vary), as well as a link to the game on Amazon. Full disclosure: I’m using Amazon Affilate links here, because they’re easy and, hey, if you buy something, I might make a bit of money to help support this blog. There’s also a nice little picture with each, so you know what they look like. Also, it means I don’t have to have to pick a boardgame retailer to suggest. However, I encourage you to buy from your local game store, if at all possible.

I’m also doing links to a site called BoardGameGeek, which can be incredibly helpful for finding out details about the game and forums to ask questions on. If your family likes boardgames, this is a really good resource. However, please don’t give the ratings TOO much credit – most of these are adults who will rank “family games” or “kids games” poorly. I’d pay attention to high ratings, though, as a “good sign”.

One last thing: game boxes are really weird in how they decide ages and length of game. Don’t trust ’em. They’re almost always wrong. Especially if you’re playing with kids, you’ll need more time. A lot of kids can play games at a younger age than the box says, but some can’t until after the box says.

You know your kids best. If at all possible, go to your local game store and see if they have copies of a game to try out. That’s the best way to know if it’s good for your family.  But these are what we enjoy – and what I think won’t make you want to claw your eyes out with boredom

10 Days in the USA
(Misa. Moderate reading. 30 minutes.)

Geography game. You’re basically planning a trip (that last ten days) and there’s a few rules you have to follow. There’s a whole series of these. We just got our copy of 10 Days in the USA, but I wanted to put it here because it seems like it will be good for geography and it’s a fairly easy/short game – half an hourish.  Best for

The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus
(Joe, Misa. Minimal reading. 90 minutes playing time.)

This game has a lot of little pieces, lots of set up. But really really fun. Kai LOVES it. The premise of the game is that you’re adventurers going into a pyramid that is falling apart, trying to loot it for treasure, and get out before it falls in on you.

A la Carte
(Joe, Kai, and Misa. Minimal reading. Half an hour to an hour.)

You’re making dishes (weird ones, like Chocolate Mouse, not mousse).  There are little stoves, pans, etc. Very adorable. Adults sometimes hesitate to play it and then go, “That was actually pretty fun.”

Carcassonne and Kids of Carcassonne
(Carcassonne: Joe, Kai, and Misa. Minimal reading. 45 minutes to an hour.)
(Kids of Carcassonne: Kai. No reading. Ten to fifteen minutes.)

Carcassonne is a tile placement game. You’re trying to build a countryside, with roads, cities, grassland, etc.

Kids of Carcassonne was put on here by Kai. It’s basically a road connecting game – everything connects. But, for Kai, this meant he thought about it less so didn’t do as well as on the regular game. This is a good intro for really little kids, but will be somewhat boring for the older crowd, though not awful.

Castle Panic
(Kai, Misa. Minimal reading – as long as one person can read, you’re okay, since this is cooperative. An hour to an hour and a half.)

This is basically a tower defense game made into a board game. You’re trying to defend the castle in the middle from everything that’s attacking it. And it’s cooperative – you either all win or you all lose, making it excellent for those kids who have a hard time not being the winner when someone else is. Also, because you can all see each other’s cards, only one person has to be able to read.

Catan Junior
(Misa. No reading. 30 to 60 minutes.)

This is (sort of) an intro to Catan. It’s all pictograms. It’s a resource management game. You’re on Spooky Island, trying to gather resources. There’s a ghost pirate that can cause you problems. It’s lots of fun and a good intro for kids to the ideas behind Catan (though somewhat different from it). DO NOT GET KIDS OF CATAN. That is not this game but, instead, a very horrible game that I like to pretend never existed. (Likewise, Die Siedler van Catan: Junior is a different game.)

(Misa. Lots of reading. 30 to 60 minutes.)

Joe didn’t include this on his list because he was trying to diversify and because he likes Legendary better. Personally, I think this game is a good intro to deckbuilding games – I think we were able to play other deckbuilders easier because we played so much of this – and might appeal to those a wider audience.  It is, however, text intense. Basically, you start with an identical, small set of cards and each player is building their own decks by buying other cards with in-game currency. The person with the most victory points (these are also cards you can buy) wins.

Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Island
(Joe, Misa. Minimal reading. 30 minutes to an hour –  Forbidden Desert is the longer game)

Forbidden Island came first. In Forbidden Island, you’re trying to collect treasures on an island that is sinking (you lay tiles out to make the island). You need to collect them all and get out before the island goes under. In Forbidden Desert, you’re in a desert and you’re trying to recover parts to a flying machine so you get get out of there before you die from dehydration. But it isn’t just a re-skin of the game. There are more elements at work in Forbidden Desert and it is harder – but better, in my opinion. Kai loves these games – he really likes the little pieces you collect. These games are both cooperative. I highly recommend them both – and I think Forbidden Island makes it so that understanding how to play another game I love (Pandemic) much easier.

Formula D
(Joe, Kai. Minimal reading. 30 minutes to… who knows?)

This game gets played a LOT in our house. And every time we get someone to play who hasn’t before, who balks because it’s a car game, they end up saying, “That was actually really fun.” But! It isn’t for small kids who fumble with things a lot or put things in their mouth. It has small cars. No, really. See?

Itty bitty cars in Formula D.

It’s basically a follow-the-path game, but with special requirements and different dice depending what gear you’re in.

Get Bit!
(Kai. No reading. 15 minutes)

In Get Bit!, you’re trying to be the last “robot” to be eaten by a shark. They have removable limbs, which are fun to take apart. Place in front of the shark is determined by what cards you play. Fun, fast game.

So that’s the first part of our list. The rest of this list will be in the next blog post. If you have any questions, please let me know. If there are any games you’d like to know about more in-depth, please comment with which ones and I’ll try to make posts about those games, specifically (I’m not committing to a time-frame, though!).

Why you should watch my favorite childhood Christmas movie, even though it is epically horrible, yet fabulous

Depending on whether you believe the box or the title screen, my favorite Christmas movie from my childhood is called “I Believe in Santa Claus” or “Here Comes Santa Claus”. I’m sure that’s part of why it took me so long to find it when I went searching as an adult.

Yes, that’s an affiliate link. Do I even have to say that? Anyway, it took me YEARS to find this movie as an adult, so I’m linking right to it on Amazon, which is where I got it.

First, let me start off by saying that if you want a high-quality fantastic movie that makes sense, this movie is not for you! I used to watch this as a kid in the 1980s on our video player and, let me tell you, this sure brings back that experience. I imagine the DVD was created from a tape sitting in somebody’s basement because the quality is just dreadful. This movie was made in 1984 and was a low budget French film called “J’ai Recontre Le Pere Noel” that has been dubbed into English. Badly. But I love it. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. I think even today’s kids would love it.

My husband sat on the couch and kept going, “What? This makes no sense!” I asked him to describe it, “It’s like a play put on by a community center with a $5000 budget. I don’t know. It’s not bad. But it’s different. Very different. The only other thing I could say about that movie is that it is very European.”

This movie follows the story of Simon, whose parents are being held as political prisoners in Africa. Because it was the 80s, I assume. They never tell us why. As a child, I didn’t question it. Your kids probably won’t either. Just remember it was the 80s and go, “Okay. I accept it.” I’m not sure that Simon knows exactly where his parents are. That part is very fuzzy, but the important part is that all Simon wants for Christmas is for his parents to come home.

Simon’s school class goes on a field trip to the airport (yes, you heard that right) and Simon and one of his friends, Elodie, end up on a plane bound for Rovaniemi to see Santa Claus. (This made no sense to me – everyone knows Santa lives at the north pole! Not so in some places, I guess. That’s right, Santa lives in the Laplands in Finland.)

And it’s at this point that I must backtrack. There’s a mean janitor at Simon’s school (stay with me, this is relevant) who, at one point, locks Simon in the cupboard and says he’s going to eat him for Christmas dinner. But Simon’s teacher is nice. Very nice.

Okay, back to the Laplands. In the Laplands, the kids encounter an Ogre, played by the same actor as the guy who plays the Ogre. Is it meant to be Ogre? I’m still not sure. Likewise, there’s a good fairy. Played by the very nice teacher. Or maybe just the actress?

Also: there are songs! At weird and almost inappropriate times. And children being kidnapped. And Santa. And weirdness. Did I mention this film is weird? This film is weird.

I highly suspect this movie was MEANT to be a comedy in some ways. But I think it’s funny in ways it didn’t mean. It’s magically dreadfully funny, but still absolutely amazing. And you should watch it.

I leave you with two scenes from the movie:

The teacher sings on the bus:

The teacher as fairy or little red riding hood or whatever she’s supposed to be. Stay through it to the end, because you’ll see some “high-quality acting”: