Ah, my first post of 2013, so may I wish you a very happy new year.
So, we were away from home for the Xmas period, so put together a new Compact Travelling Games Cupboard (of Doom), this time optimising to allow for luggage restrictions on air travel. Here is the run-down of what we took:
- Sleeping Queens. One of Miss B’s favourites which we didn’t end up playing this time, but is always worth having in hand.
- Coloretto. One of my favourite lightweight games, again not played on this trip.
- Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck. Remained unplayed, but it’s a good little dice game that generally goes down well with most folk.
- Eight-Minute Empire (print & play). Largely included in order to have a “proper” boardgame in the selection. We didn’t play it, but I think it’s definitely a goody.
- Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule (print & play). While we wait for the real version to arrive, the print & play set gets fairly regular use both with Miss B and as an adult filler.
- Pass the Pigs. This was a Xmas present from Miss B, and we played this a few times. She loves the novelty of using pigs instead of dice. I’ll be writing up this game pretty soon.
- The Resistance: Avalon. I wasn’t really expecting to play this (and we didn’t!), but it’s a good option to have if we find ourselves with a largish group of adults.
- Apples to Apples. I had bagged up a selection of cards from the party box for us to take and this proved to be a good choice for Xmas day, after lunch.
- 7th Sea CCG. We took a couple of unopened starter packs that S had recently acquired and had an OK game with them. Some customisation is definitely required.
- Mythos CCG. We had three decks with us, including two that we usually use and an unmodified starter pack, which proved to be a complete dog in play.
Not everything got played, but we used a good few, and it’s nice to have some choices available. S and I are periodically playing assorted collectible card games that we have acquired over the years and finding that they can be quite a lot of fun when we are mostly trying to balance the decks to provide fun play together.
One other game I was seriously considering was Hey, That’s My Fish! as it is fun and, when removed from its far-too-big box, doesn’t take much space. I decided against this in the end as I have this game as an app on my phone — and jolly good it is too.
Yesterday Miss B had a play date, bringing one of her friends from school, Miss A, home for a couple of hours. This sort of thing usually involves a lot of running around the house and shouting, but we know Miss A has Loot and Sleeping Queens at home, so Miss B wanted to try a board game with her. The one we chose was Catan Junior.
We took a few minutes explaining the main rules (with Miss B very keen to help) and then got started. To be honest, I don’t know Miss A very well so wasn’t sure quite how much was sinking in. Such is the way with six-year-olds. I shouldn’t have worried as after two or three turns, Miss A was clearly getting the hang of things and working out what trades she needed to make to complete her next build. She took an early lead and, despite Miss B and I rallying to catch up, our guest managed to hold on to the win.
I was really impressed at how well this game worked out for playing with a young visitor and held her attention. Catan Junior is not a deep game and probably would probably bore most adult gamers after not too many plays, but it is proving to have been an excellent purchase for us. And I’m more than happy to play it any time it is requested.
A couple of months or so back, a conversation with Miss B resulted in her deciding that she wanted to make her own pirate game. We brainstormed a bit and came up with some ideas. There was going to be a board for moving ships around on and finding gold, and you would play cards to make things happen. So we set to making some cards by writing on and illustrating some blank cards.
That was about as far as we got for some time, though Miss B occasionally made a few more cards to add to the set until we had a couple of dozen cards including loads of “sailing” cards for moving your ship, as well as cards for battles, repairs, exploration and going on treasure hunts.
This weekend, however, we finally got a bit further. We drew a load of circles onto a large sheet of paper, with the circles connected with arrows to indicate the prevailing winds. Miss B then illustrated the board by drawing the pirate islands and adding decorative fish and a socktopus (if you need to ask…). We got out some counters, a die and a pile of plastic gold coins, discussed the rules that we would use and gave it a go.
The aim of the game was to collect a certain amount of gold and part way through the game it became apparent that the flow of gold onto the board was way too slow, so we had a bit of a discussion, knocked up a couple of extra cards to improve this, shuffled them into the deck and resumed. A few minutes later Miss B won with me having been unable to collect any gold myself, thus highlighting the dearth of cards allowing you to collect gold. We made another small change to a few cards for use next time, hopefully remedying this.
So far this has been a very positive experience and Miss B is even more enthusiastic about the project than before. At her insistence we spent a little time together afterwards formalising and writing up the rules we had used, which will form a basis for future plays. I think we’ll be making a few more cards and playing a good few more times in the near future.
So today we had the latest in our series of occasional house gaming afternoons, inviting friends around with the intention of getting through a good selection of board games and making it much more of a social experience than we usually manage. This time we got up to eight of us: five adults and three children, which made things rather different to previous times when Miss B had been the only junior gamer there.
On the arrival of our first group of guests, the two visiting children, T and R spotted Castle Panic in the games stack and wanted to play it as they had played it with someone else they know. Excellent choice. So we got through a five player game which started rather gently but then got into full panic mode once the youngest player managed to pull a chain of monster chits that provided about six or seven new foes for us to battle. We finally managed to survive with only one of our towers left standing. Now that is a great result for a cooperative game: a victory for the team, but only by the skin of the teeth. Lots of fun.
By this time we had a couple more arrivals, so we had a slight change of personnel at the table for a game of Giro Galoppo, which is one of the most chaotically pleasing race games I’ve come across. This was followed (with our final arrival) by one of my all-time personal favourites, Ave Caesar, just for a single race as to do the full four race series that the game suggests would be just too much for the kids. Both of the race games went down well and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Most people can get behind a race game as a concept, and both of these are beautifully executed examples and really show how much things have developed from the old “roll a die, move a dobber” mechanism. One of the guests, who hasn’t played these sort of games much, was somewhat surprised at the lack of randomness in Giro Galoppo (there isn’t actually any at all) but was very taken by the game once it had got going.
After losing the other family, we got out Forbidden Island, although once we had set up Miss B said that she wasn’t interested in it. The day was getting on a lot and she was getting tired, so she decided to sit on my lap while the rest of us played. Despite that, towards the end once it started seeming like we may possibly win (after it looking quite ropey for a while), Miss B started engaging with the game and helping out. Again a narrow victory for the team.
Finally Miss B got out Vanished!, which she was keen to show off to our guests. We set the game up with a couple of the cards removed in order to make things a little easier and quicker. Everyone started off at different rates but then got uniformly confused until somehow we managed to end up with a five-way draw, which seemed to me to be an excellent and appropriate way to finish off the afternoon.
So, thanks to all our lovely friends for taking the time to come and play with us. We had a lot of fun and hopefully will do this again some time down the line.
Castle Keep is another game from Gamewright, who make a pretty impressive range of games for kids/families which are often available in high street toy shops, which has to be a good thing. This one has been on my radar for a while, but we have only just got hold of a copy and played it.
So the game is about trying to lay tiles to complete construction of a castle in a 3-by-3 grid, with towers in the corners, walls connecting the towers, and a keep in the middle. The trick is that tiles come in three colours, and the walls and towers are each in one of three shapes, and you have to match adjacent colours and shapes to each other. You can also knock down sections of an opponent’s castle by playing a matching tile onto them.
Miss B is not generally a fan of direct conflict in games, so we played a game where we were just racing to build a castle. It took a couple of turns to fully get to grips with the shape matching (round towers match with wavy walls, diamond towers to zigzag walls, and square towers to straight walls) but then we were off in full flow with Miss B winning, before insisting that I took some extra turns to make sure I could finish my own castle.
We discussed introducing the attack rules for a second game and Miss B decided to keep them out. Then a few turns in, she spotted that she could knock half of my castle down in one go, developed a twinkle in her eye and announced that she had changed her mind and that it would be OK to do attacks.
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 6): “I won two games of Castle Keep. It was really fun and we took a few photos. In the first game we didn’t do attacking. In the second game we played a bit and then we decided that we’d do attacking. The best bet about the game was doing the attacking and building the walls. And I would really like to play it again.”
The game: Castle Keep (Gamewright), 2 to 4 players aged 8+.
We seem to have a lot of games that have been published under many different names. This one is, as far as I can make out, most recently published as Paternoster, while I was first introduced to it as Comings and Goings and the version we have is called Vanished!. In this case, the game is not even slightly rethemed: the games are just the same.
So, this is a memory game where you have various people moving round in a bizarre paternoster lift and you have to get rid of a hand of cards by matching them to the people in the lift compartments. This is very much easier said than done, and can make for quite a little challenge (particularly as a drinking game, but I’m not going there with Miss B). It is also possible to earn “tempo” counters which allow you to nudge things and have some control over which compartment comes up next, thus introducing a little more tactical play to the brain bending memory challenge. It’s quite fun, even with a lame memory like I seem to have. I figured Miss B would be in with a good chance on this one as her memory skills are becoming quite impressive.
As it turns out, the constant shuffling of people in the lift proved to be a significant challenge for Miss B and tracking who was where was even tougher for her than it was for me. Another additional bit of challenge comes from the fact that the cards in hand do not exactly match the figures in the lift compartments. This is intentional, but it took a little while for Miss B to get used to the pairings, leading to some frustration early on.
Still, we went on to play for a second time and Miss B has been talking about playing this with other folk too, so I figure it went pretty well.
The verdict from Miss B (aged nearly 6): “I did like the game but it was quite hard to win it. Daddy won both times we played it.”
The game: Vanished! (Gibsons Games), 2 to 6 players