Monday, November 2, 2020

Cooperative games (and one impostor) for family quarantine

A friend recently asked me for cooperative board game advice, and since we've been very actively gaming through the last seven months of insanity, I thought I'd share some opinions

Codenames Duet
Classic word association game that you and a partner could play and the kids could 'assist' to whatever level they feel like. Best for proficient readers though. Big focus on Theory of Mind and knowing how someone else will interpret the verbal clues you give them. Infinite variety on replay.

My partner's latest obsession, only requires number and color recognition, great trick-taking cooperative mission based game that's fast to play but gets very challenging near the end of the campaign. Awesome for a mixed age or skill group, and replayable.

A favorite role-playing and story-telling game in our household, accessible to any and all. BFF is very open ended and amusing, with just enough structure to keep it moving but super easy to learn. Replayable and lets you record your adventures in a delightful logbook to reminisce. 

These 'escape room in a box' games have been fun for me and my partner, and the kids often get involved to help. Easier ones are good for middle-grades kids, harder ones are stumping the adults regularly. Takes about two hours, but can easily be broken up into multiple sittings. Good mind-bending coop puzzle solving, and easily enough clues included to get you unstuck without internet searches.

and one oddball...

Building and economy-making game, competitive but not aggressively at all. I add it because we played the core game it's based on a lot for early math skills, and other families I know have had success with it. A great foundational learning game to understand engine-building and cost/benefit trade-offs, but still approachable by a six-year-old.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Spot It

A small space to put a stack of cards, be it a table, floor, seatback tray or train seat.

Multiple quick visual matching games, emphasis on speedy image recognition.

Kids who like pictures. Adults who like visual stimulus. Adults and kids who like playing together, especially when the kids win!

Your friendly local game store, or Amazon for $12.

Young minds pick up the details of Spot It quickly, and will trounce you in minutes. It's a great game for groups, easy to learn and fun to watch. Grab it to throw in your bag for that extra-long wait in line or the delay at the airport. Toss it into your closet as a last-minute gift for the person who's tough to shop for.

Animal Upon Animal

The floor, or a very steady table, and a small child or three.

A cute, simple balance game, with small wooden animals stacked based on dice rolls. Think 'Toddler's first Jenga' with a little jolt of randomness.

Kids with enough fine motor control to stack small blocks or shapes on top of each other, and the adults who love them. Two to four players, or one curious kid with time on their hands.

Your friendly local game store, or Amazon ($22).

Simple rules that a three year old can handle. A first exposure to turn taking and dice-based action. Adorable, sturdy, satisfying wooden pieces. A game that both my kids requested playing again and again. This is easily my favorite gateway game for the three and four year old set, with no reading at all required.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What's a roleplaying game? What's a LARP?

Roleplaying games (RPGs) tend to
  • have two to seven people sitting around a table together 
    • or maybe on Hangouts or Skype
  • have one person acting as Game Master, coordinating the story
  • use paper, pencils and dice to play (including a character sheet)
  • use counters or chips to track resources
  • be more mechanically complex
  • involve you narrating what your character is doing and where they are going
  • have you talk as your character
  • usually expect no costuming

On the other hand, Live Action Roleplaying Games (LARPs) tend to
  • be played standing up, walking around, or moving within a space (a room, building, field)
  • have two to 100 people playing together
  • use very few tokens, dice or papers
  • frequently have a character sheet with some background and statistics
  • use physical props to represent important items in the story
  • invole you talking, moving, and expressing as your character
  • be more mechanically simple
  • sometimes costuming irrelevant, sometimes optional, sometimes strongly encouraged

I've played many RPGs and LARPs that I quite enjoy, and often they scratch similar itches. For me LARPs are usually less structured, more player driven and more immersive. And then there are many games that blur the line, or bring exceptions that prove the rule. 

Have you found any that are hard to categorize?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Games with colleagues?

What's your favorite game to play with a set of diverse, smart coworkers?

I have a team meetup coming next week, and looking for some fresh ideas. Mix of gamers and non-gamers in the audience, probably 5-8 people.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Apples to Apples

Cards, friends or family, and a table.

Free association, pop culture, creative persuasion and a lot of silliness make this card game a family friendly source of laughs.

Kids, adults, families; small or large groups. Just make sure you aren't in a quiet spot... it gets loud.

Your friendly local game store, or Amazon ($18).

It's so simple: pick an adjective, then others have to pick nouns that best fit. But the fun comes in unexpected juxtapositions, silly arguments for your own card, and knowing how to read the judge to predict what they will like best. Lots of fun, short gameplay, kid friendly.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Once Upon A Time

Cards, friends, minimal table or floor space.

Story telling collaboration with surprise theft of narrative control and awesome ending phrases that each is trying to work towards.

Children, adults, and anyone who likes taking random, disparate elements and weaving them into a fairy tale style story.

Your friendly local game store, or Amazon has it ($24).

This one crosses all age groups, getting to our storytelling instincts very effectively. I played a ton of it in high school, and just recently recommended it to some older friends to bring along for a visit to some family with children. Kids get this quickly, adults can jump in easily, since the rules are light and the replayability very high. Plus it's small and portable.