Category Archives: Games

Top 10 Family Board Games (List Three of Three: Misa’s List)

Last week, I posted both Kai’s suggestions and Joe’s suggestions for board games the whole family can play. Today, I’m posting my top 10 family board games.

For my list, I decided to list games that I think would be good for mixed ages and that would give a good variety of games to start from. The thing is, every family and every person is different. But I think these games would help a family figure out what kind of games they enjoy.

Carcassonne or Alhambra. These are both tile placement games.

In Carcassonne, you’re trying to build a countryside, with roads, cities, grassland, etc. Each feature scores differently and, at the end of the game, the player with the most points wins. Typically, this game is my number one suggestion for a “gateway game,” which means it’s the first one I recommend to people wanting to get into games. No reading required.

In Alhambra, you’re trying to build a palace (an Alhambra). There are four different currencies that you can collect to use to build your structures with. Tiles each require a specific type of currency, depending on how they’re pulled from the bag. Players earn points for the type of buildings they build and also for the longest wall they have. Minimal reading required.

Carcassonne is more all-ages but I really love Alhambra. Kai has played it before and enjoyed it, so some younger kids can definitely play. If you’re just looking for an intro game or if your family is primarily younger, I’d go with Carcassonne. If you’re looking for something more complex, I’d suggest trying Alhambra.

King of Tokyo and King of New York together (since they’re kind of like the same game, with King of New York being more advanced) are one of two items to make all three lists.

King of Tokyo is a game where you’re playing as monsters, trying to destroy each other. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of people enjoy the theme. It’s mainly about rolling the dice and attacking or healing. There are cards, too, to allow for some variety. This game requires some reading but since cards are out in the open.

King of New York is a lot like King of Tokyo but a bit advanced (and, obviously, you’re in New York). You’re monsters, attacking the city. This one also adds in military units that can cause you, the monsters, problems. This also requires a small amount of reading.

We’ve never played these with anyone and had them be disappointed by play.

The Duke is the other item to make all three lists. It is a two player game that’s vaguely like chess, but with more options. (And I think all of us like it better than chess.) The pieces in this game are square tiles that you flip when you move. Each side shows how the piece can move while that side is showing. Minimal reading required.

Castle Panic 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.

Tsuro is one of the games that our family has played the most and I was honestly really surprised that it was not on anyone else’s list. We have jokingly called it “The Spaghetti Noodle” board game. You’re building paths for your player marker to move along with tiles that have all sorts of lines on them (that’s the spaghetti noodle part). Basically, you’re trying to be the last person to leave the board. Sometimes you can send your opponent off the board. Sometimes, you have no choice but to send yourself off the board. It’s a very quick and light game. No reading required.

Ticket to Ride is one of the more popular “designer” board games. Players collect cards that they use to place trains on railway routes. Each player is also working towards specific goal cards (different goals for different players). Some reading required.

Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game with Dungeons & Dragons style “flavor”. Complete quests and build buildings to gain points. The gameplay is really simple and it’s a lot of fun. I also like how “scalable” this game is – it plays well with two people or with several people. Reading required.

Dominion is a deckbuilding game. You use buy various cards that are available (this changes each game) and whoever has the most victory points at the end wins. This game has a ton of expansions and is a great starter game.

I do have to insert a disclaimer here: We hardly ever play this game anymore. A couple of years back, Joe and I played through every single card in the game (at the time). This was after having played it a lot already. We ended up finding, after a ton of plays (a LOT of plays), that we both defaulted to one strategy and we kind of burnt out on it. HOWEVER, I still think this is the best deckbuilder to start with. If you enjoy it, there are others that I think are better overall, but this is definitely the one I recommend to people who’ve never done deckbuilders before. It is one of the simpler deckbuilder games, which makes it good for family play. And, if you’re not doing tons of plays, that quickest-path-to-victory isn’t always quite as obvious. And it is fun. Lots of reading required. We managed deckbuilders with Kai before he could read, but it was very tedious. I don’t really recommend it.

Tobago is kind of like a reverse logic puzzle, but put as a game. Joe has referred to it as “multiplayer minesweeper”. In this game, you’re trying to collect treasure. You do this by adding more “clues” about the treasure – things like “NOT next to the ocean” or “Next to the ocean.” The clues are given in pictograms form on cards. 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. Little to no reading required.

A la Carte is a game where the players are chefs trying to prepare various different dishes (that are usually puns or something “silly/gross” based on a real dish). You have little stoves and “spices” that you shake out of plastic containers. It’s fun and is one of those games where kids really have as good of a chance at winning as adults do. Requires some reading, but since nothing is hidden, it’s easy to get help from the adults. Not for very little kids who still mouth things, as there’s a choking hazard.

There are affiliate links in this post for ease of locating the games. I also recommend supporting your local gaming stores.

Top 10 Family Board Games (List Two of Three: Joe’s List)

My last post was Kai’s Top Ten Family Board Games list.

Today is my husband, Joe’s list. His list has a few similarities to Kai’s list, while it has several different ones that Kai has, as well.

Machi Koro is a game that’s fairly new to us, but it’s . Basically, you’re wanting to develop a city. To do this, you buy cards that give you benefits (money) if the number on the dice rolled matches the number on your developments – sometimes it is activated on other players’ turns, sometimes only on your own. To win, you have to build all of your required landmarks. Some reading required.

Formula D is a racing game. The cars in it are itty bitty (see picture for scale – that’s Joe’s finger). We’ve often tried to introduce it to people who scoff at the idea of a racing board game, but I’ve yet to hear a person say, “That was as bad as I thought.” Most people end up enjoying it. But if you have a kid who still “mouths” things, you want to keep it away from them. Also, some younger kids have a tendency to want to play with the cars. Requires number identification but no reading.

Carcassonne is a tile placement game. You’re trying to build a countryside, with roads, cities, grassland, etc. Each feature scores differently and, at the end of the game, the player with the most points wins. Typically, this game is my number one suggestion for a “gateway game,” which means it’s the first one I recommend to people wanting to get into games. No reading required.

The Duke is a two player game that’s vaguely like chess, but with more options. (And I think all of us like it better than chess.) The pieces in this game are square tiles that you flip when you move. Each side shows how the piece can move while that side is showing. Minimal reading required.

Castle Panic 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.

Eldritch Horror is a cooperative game where you’re play as investigators traveling around the world, trying in order to gather clues to prevent an elder being from destroying the world. This game is based on the HP Lovecraft “universe”.

Small World is a game where you play as fantasy races, trying to conquer as much of the board as possible before your race goes into decline. When it is time for your race to decline, you pick another race and play as that one. It’s lots of fun. I will say, however, that it is one of the more complex games on this list. There’s a lot of interesting mechanics and a lot to keep track of. However, it’s also fairly easy to help your kids with it if they have a harder time grasping the game. Kai plays it and loves it, but if you’ve got kids mainly under eight, this game will be harder for them. The more other games the play, the easier this will be for them. Minimal reading required.

Pandemic: Contagion

In this game, you’re playing as a disease trying to infect the world. Unlike the original Pandemic, this game is NOT cooperative. The game uses cards to represent various cities. Each turn, players may choose to draw cards, spread disease, or advance “mutations”.

Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game with Dungeons & Dragons style “flavor”. Complete quests and build buildings to gain points. The gameplay is really simple and it’s a lot of fun. I also like how “scalable” this game is – it plays well with two people or with several people.

King of New York is a lot like King of Tokyo but a bit advanced (and, obviously, you’re in New York). You’re monsters, attacking the city. This one also adds in military units that can cause you, the monsters, problems.

This post contains affiliate links.

Top 10 Family Board Games (List One of Three)

Today, we sat down as a family and each came up with a list of “family board games”. The idea behind these lists was, “If a family (of mixed ages) asked us for suggestions for ten games to start their board game collection, what would we recommend?”

This is Kai’s list. Kai is currently six, almost seven. In some ways, his list may tell you the most about games your kids will like. In other ways, his is a bit more based on games we’ve just recently played. However, after looking over his list, a good number of these are ones he always loves. (Also, he couldn’t stick to ten and I’m fine with that.)

Battle Sheep is a game that’s new to us – Kai got it as a birthday present to me this year. However, it plays a lot like another game we have (Hey, That’s My Fish!). Don’t let the cute sheep fool you (though they are SUPER cute): this game requires some thinking. In this game, you split your herds of sheep to block off your opponents while trying to get as many sheep on the board as possible. It requires thinking, but not a lot of time. No reading required.

Castle Keep is a game that Kai loves and asks for regularly. I believe this was one we thrifted and it hadn’t come across my radar before that, but it’s a Gamewright game and, overall, Gamewright games make pretty good family games. In this game, you’re attempting to build castles by matching colors and shapes of castle wall pieces. In the advanced version, you can attack opponents’ castles. No reading required.

Small World is a game where you play as fantasy races, trying to conquer as much of the board as possible before your race goes into decline. When it is time for your race to decline, you pick another race and play as that one. It’s lots of fun. I will say, however, that it is one of the more complex games on this list. There’s a lot of interesting mechanics and a lot to keep track of. However, it’s also fairly easy to help your kids with it if they have a harder time grasping the game. Kai plays it and loves it, but if you’ve got kids mainly under eight, this game will be harder for them. The more other games the play, the easier this will be for them. Minimal reading required.

The Duke is a two player game that’s vaguely like chess, but with more options. (And I think all of us like it better than chess.) The pieces in this game are square tiles that you flip when you move. Each side shows how the piece can move while that side is showing. Minimal reading required.

Hive is a two player game that requires a lot of thinking and planning, but plays fairly quickly. The point of the game is to surround your opponents’ Queen Bee while making sure your own Queen Bee does not get surrounded. Each piece moves uniquely. We have the “Carbon” version, which has a couple of extra pieces and is black and white. Some reading required – once you have memorized how each piece moves, no reading is required.

Mancala is a two player traditional game. In truth, Mancala is actually a family of games from Africa/Asia. But here in the United States, the game we call Mancala is one particular form. I have heard that what we think of as Mancala was invented here in the US, but I am not completely sure about that. The board has six pits on each side with one big pit at each end. Each of the smaller pits starts with four stones in it and you have to move them around the board, trying to get the most stones in your own big pit. You can even make your own version of this game with seeds and an egg carton or pebbles and circles in the dirt. There are free versions of the game online, as well. We own a copy of the game that looks much like the one I’m linking to. Kai wins this a lot. No reading required.

Formula D

Itty bitty cars in Formula D.

Formula D is a racing game. The cars in it are itty bitty (see picture for scale – that’s Joe’s finger). We’ve often tried to introduce it to people who scoff at the idea of a racing board game, but I’ve yet to hear a person say, “That was as bad as I thought.” Most people end up enjoying it. But if you have a kid who still “mouths” things, you want to keep it away from them. Also, some younger kids have a tendency to want to play with the cars. Requires number identification but no reading.

King of Tokyo is a game where you’re playing as monsters, trying to destroy each other. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of people enjoy the theme. It’s mainly about rolling the dice and attacking or healing. There are cards, too, to allow for some variety. Pretty much everyone who has played this game with us has ended up enjoying it, even the “non-gamers”. This game requires some reading but since cards are out in the open.

Note: IELLO, the publisher of King of Tokyo, has also released a game called King of New York. That game is slightly more complex and there’s more “bits” to keep track of. I’d say that King of Tokyo is a better intro game and better for kids under eight or (because of the complexity differences) but still enjoyable for the whole family. That’s why King of Tokyo is on this list instead of King of New York. If your kids are older or used to complex games, you might consider King of New York.

Trains is a deck-building game that also has a board that functions as a map. You start with a small set of cards and purchase more throughout the game to help you place stations and lay rails on the map. This game does require a fair amount of reading, as do all most deck-building games. I think most kids would probably start “getting” this around ages eight to ten, but Kai’s been playing it for about a year now, so that obviously varies.

A la Carte is a game where the players are chefs trying to prepare various different dishes (that are usually puns or something “silly/gross” based on a real dish). You have little stoves and “spices” that you shake out of plastic containers. It’s fun and is one of those games where kids really have as good of a chance at winning as adults do. Requires some reading, but since nothing is hidden, it’s easy to get help from the adults. Not for very little kids who still mouth things, as there’s a choking hazard.

Pitch Car is a game where you have a track set up and you’re flicking little disks around the track. It’s a lot of fun that the whole family can enjoy. There’s more skill to it than there looks. When Kai was younger, he didn’t flick so much as artfully shove the disks around (and I do that, too, sometimes). No reading required. 20130101 New Year's Day, Playing PitchCar (31)

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game is a tactical miniatures fighting game based on the Star Wars franchise. The miniatures are incredibly well-done. It also includes measuring devices to tell you how far to move your pieces. Now, I will say that this game would be tough for a lot of kids under eight and maybe as much as up to ten. However, Kai plays it and enjoys it. The starter set I’m linking to includes three ships. You will probably want to purchase a few others as just the three ships can be somewhat limiting. Reading required, but would probably be okay with help from Mom and Dad.

Wings of Glory (World War 2) is another miniature game that Kai’s a fan of. In this game, you’re playing out aerial combat during the World War 2 era, planning two moves in advance. In addition to the rules, you will need to purchase miniatures. Some reading required, but it is fairly minimal. Really young kids may have a problem with this game, but that’s more about handling the components and not using the minis as toys than it is difficulty of play. I actually think that both this and the Star Wars X-Wing game are great “starter” miniature games.

Please note: I have included affiliate links, but part of the reason for that is so that I can link to the exact thing I’m talking about and so that you have an easy place to purchase from. I also highly recommend supporting your local gaming stores.

5 Board Games for Kids Under 5

Right around this time of year, I tend to get a lot of questions about good games for kids, so I thought I’d make a few posts that mention games I’d recommend.

One of the hardest groups of people to suggest games for are kids who are ages two to right around five years old. Every child is different and develops along a different time frame, but nowhere is that more obvious than very young children.

The games that I’m going to suggest in those post are more about teaching kids how games work. Mainly, these games will:

  • Teach kids how to take turns.
  • Help develop gaming “skills” – using a spinner, rolling dice, moving the piece, etc.
  • May help develop motor skills, motor planning, and/or crossing the mid-line.
  • May include some other educational component: matching/identifying colors, counting, etc.

In general, for kids of this age, I recommend games that you can’t lose or co-operative games that require little to no reading. It’s much easier to lose when everyone does. At this age, you want to build a love of playing games and kids this age often have a really hard time losing.

5 games that I suggest for this age that follow those guidelines:

1. Feed the Woozle

Feed the Woozle is a cooperative game where the kids are trying to feed a “Woozle”. There are three different levels of play, but the basics are putting the snacks on the spoon, walking across the room, and feeding the Woozle. As the kids get older, it gets a bit more complicated.

This game is particularly fun for younger kids, particularly kids ages two to four. Most “early” five year olds will still find it enjoyable but it does start to eventually get too easy for them. Still, I highly suggest this one for this age range overall.

2. My First Orchard

Kai tried this game at GenCon this year. It was beneath his play level but I immediately thought of a few young kids that I knew would love it.   In this cooperative game, the players roll a die and try to collect all of the fruit before the raven gets to the orchard.

This game is geared especially towards the younger set, up through probably age four or so.

3. Hoot Owl Hoot

This game is the cooperative answer to Candyland, only better. (Candyland is one of my least favorite games ever, but kids love it and it’s good for learning colors.)

The goal of the game is to move the owls along the path to the nest and reach it before the sun rises.

The next two games do not fit the “cooperative” theme but I think they’re excellent starter games for younger kids. Only you know your child. If you don’t think they’re ready to face a loss, I’d stick with some of the others. These are really best for the upper 3/4/5 range.

4. Zingo

Zingo is very much like Bingo. There’s a machine that shows two tiles. Players match them to their card (for this game, it’s best if kids are on a fairly similar level). Over time, kids often pick up on the spelling of a word, but they don’t have to read – they can just match the pictures.

There are a few different versions of this game, including a math one.

5. Feed The Kitty

This remains a game that Kai still enjoys very much. I imagine that’s because he loves cats so much (even though, in the game, you don’t actually really deal with a cat!).

This comes with a bright green bowl, purple wooden mice, and two dice. Players roll to determine what they do – pass a mouse, put one in the bowl, take one out of the bowl, or do nothing.

 

Now, let me be frank with you: Two to five is a REALLY big age range. Or, rather, a really big ability range… right? So, here’s the deal. Your three year old may be ready for the last two games but your five year old might have trouble with them. Age range is only a suggestion.

You know your child best! Please keep their strengths and weaknesses in mind when choosing a game.

This post includes affiliate links to Amazon, primarily because I wanted to make sure the games were easy to find. I would never recommend a game that I think is not a good game. Whether I had the affiliate links or not, these are still games I would recommend.

The value of a three dollar toy.

The other day, Kai bought a little toy called, “Army Men vs Cave Men” from the “novelty toy” section. He paid three dollars from his allowance ($1.50, if you count the two for one coupon he used so he could get something else, too). There are fifteen of each.

I mentioned that I didn’t know that it was a good value but, that, of course, it was up to him. Kai bought them anyway.

After getting them home, one of Kai’s first observations was that they didn’t have hexagon-shaped bases and that he found that frustrating. Most of the miniature games he has seen or played have hexagon-shaped bases. Once he got past that, though, he found all sorts of ways to use them.

December 31, 2013

Every day, multiple times each day, he has staged mock battles.

Yesterday, he was pretending that the soldiers and cave men were Storm Troopers, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and the Rebels.

December 31, 2013

Today, there were the army men versus the cave men. He also used penguins to make “fighter penguins”. He said, “These are my fighter penguins. They’re bursting in. War has a lot of bursting in.” Indeed.

"These are my fighter penguins."

It’s funny, because I never would have thought these toys would have such long-lasting appeal. Certainly not something from the “novelty section” –  toys, I typically think of as “junk”. We work pretty hard to find “good toys” that he’ll enjoy. Sometimes, though, I think maybe we work too hard, try to find the “perfect thing”. I mean, we’re usually very successful but I can’t help thinking that part of why Kai has done so much with these is that his preconceived notions were blown to smithereens, that the imperfections freed him to do it “his way”.

Or maybe it’s just that he used his own money for these? I don’t know. But I’m enjoying watching the mock battles, enjoying hearing his thinking and line of reasoning on things. I’m enjoying this three dollar toy way more than I ever thought I could.

Turns out, the three dollar toy has a lot of value after all. It isn’t how much it costs, it’s what you do with it that creates real value.

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.

PitchCar
(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.

Quarriors
(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.

Tobago
(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.

Tsuro
(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.)

Dominion
(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!).

“Place Value Target” Game

I recently found a game to play with Kai that could help him with place value. This is a concept I remember being taught somewhat late-ish in school (not until 2nd or 3rd grade, I think) but it seems like (depending on the program), they teach it earlier these days. Good thing, too, as I think place value is EXTREMELY useful to kids. It teaches them how to read practically any number, just by looking at it. Rather than verbalizing 864 as “eight six four”, place value can teach you to say ” eight hundred sixty-four”. Very useful.

Place Value Target Game

At any rate, this game came from one of Peggy Kaye’s books (I’m fairly certain) and I THINK it was Games for Learning but it could have been another one of hers. We changed it up, every so slightly, because I couldn’t find our paperclips.

This game is fairly simple. You draw a target with three layers. The inside should say, “hundreds”, the middle should say, “tens”, and the outside should say, “ones”. Each person takes their turn tossing nine paperclips (we used stones/counters and I think they were far too heavy to work well) onto the target. Then, you count up how many you have in each circle and record it on your scoresheet. This helps you figure out things like, “Okay – the number one hundred twenty-three has one hundred, two tens, and three ones.” You’re tossing the same amount of items and they can divide the same way, but if they’re in different circles, you’ll get different results. We did several rounds. He won a few, I won a few. The stones weren’t a good choice for this and they caused problems at first (they’d fly too far or bounce). We had good fun, regardless.

Place Value Target Game

I let Kai do the counting and write the numbers. Each time, we just erased the numbers, leaving the place columns and names. Yay for wasting less paper.

We’ll probably do this again sometime, with paperclips!

On Being A Female Gamer

It always surprises me – and to this day, I have no clue why, as I have experienced this over and over and over – with the way a lot of male gamers treat female gamers.

For a while, I was, as far as I’m aware, the only organizer in the city of Seattle that had a regular sanctioned Friday Night Magic going at a gamestore. I also played, though eventually, I couldn’t play in my own tournaments due to rule changes. I also went to bigger events and would often hear the comment “Oh… I have to play against the GIRL.” I’ve had people go ask if they were paired down, I’ve had them complain, I’ve had them say “This will be an easy win” (hey, jerk, I’ve won just as many games as you to get here, so think again).

It’s been assumed that I don’t play. It’s been assumed that I was only there for my (now former) husband. It’s been assumed that I can’t figure out the rules. With Magic, it was often, “Oh. Your husband built you a nice deck.” (No, I built it and YOU got the build for yours off of the ‘net.)

Likewise, if I don’t “get” something, it’s because I have a vagina, not because, you know, that thing is hard for a lot of people to “get”.

Likewise, in RPGs, I’ve often found that I’m expected to (not that I DO, but it’s been expected that I would) sleep with somebody – either in game or out – to get what I want. It’s been assumed that it’s just better if someone else makes – and decides everything about – my character. My character is assumed lesser because she’s a girl.

In video games, if I pick a female character, she usually WILL be weaker.

If someone loses? “Oh, I didn’t get __ card that I needed” or “I wasn’t feeling well” or, even better, “You must have cheated.” The assumption being that “You’re a girl. You can’t be a good player. There’s no way you can be just as good or better than me.”

With that being said, if I’m playing with friends, I don’t usually experience this. I know a lot of gamers who are courteous to women. I had a particularly delightful experience at a big Magic tournament once when somebody told me, “I’m really glad I got to play against you. I wish more women played but, frankly, with the way most women get treated here, I’m not surprised they don’t. Thanks for sticking around and putting up with the crap. I wish you didn’t have to.” (He’d seen a previous match of mine where the guy complained the whole time about playing against the girl).

AND… there’s some pretty appalling behavior exhibited by male players towards female players, but there’s some pretty appalling behavior exhibited by male players towards male players, female players towards male players, and female players towards female players. I think that a lot of gamers are socially inept and try to cut them some slack because of it. (Not that all are. And when I play with friends, I find that to be less true, though maybe I just don’t notice it as much.)

With all of that said, I’d never stop playing just because I got the “female gamer” treatment. If I stopped doing things because of how I was treated for being a woman, there’s a lot of things I’d never do again.


This first appeared on a G+ post of mine. I wanted it here because I think it’s important for women to speak up about things like this. Please, women, don’t let people intimidate you into not playing, into not having fun.

You count.

You matter.

Yes, even if you’re a woman who is into gaming.

Review: Toy Time Race Game

Toy Time Race Game (also known in our house as “the play-doh game) is a fun game using play-doh. The concept behind the game is that you’re trying to get to the end of the factory line without getting squished. It’s a basic “spin to move down a path” game but it has a few neat components.

One of the things that makes this game fun is that you make your own “marker” or “character” using play-doh and molds. It comes with red, blue, yellow, and green. But you can use any play-doh you want.

It’s also got some neat moving “gears”. These can be moved to set pieces either forward or backwards.

But perhaps the favorite component in the game is the “squisher”. If you spin and land on the recycle symbol, you get to squish somebody else’s figures. There’s a thin cardboard recycle box that squished markers go into.

If you make it to the end of the factory line, you put your Play-Doh figure into the gift box. To win, you need to get two into the box.(Younger players only need to get one in. If you’re playing with a mixed age group, this can be an equalizer.)

You can make any number of figures – we usually do four or five each to start.

This is one of the games that Kai asks to play quite frequently. He gets a lot of joy out of squishing other peoples’ characters. Joe and I usually squish each other, though sometimes we do with Kai as well. We’ve been working on encouraging Kai to squish the person that is closest to winning. He tends to pick one person and squish them any time he can – so that’s definitely something to watch out for.

Overall, it’s a pretty fun little game. And the price isn’t bad, either. You can generally pick it for between fifteen and twenty dollars.

We got ours from Toys R Us, but it’s also available from Amazon.

Kai and I put together a video, talking a bit more about the game. It’s a bit about how to play the game and shows off some of the components.