Finally took a summer vacation and went and visited some family in BC. Got a little gaming done the first week, got a lot done the second. Here's what we played.
According to my records (I now use ScorePal on Android, which syncs with BoardGameGeek), we played 19 games 52 times, not counting just regular old card games. On my very last day, with my sister's kids, we actually got through 12 different games. And there were many favourites we just didn't have time to get to. So many games, so little time!!
I've said it before and I'll say it again—no home should be without a few decks of regular old playing cards. I never travel without them. The best place I've found to learn new card games is Pagat.com. This trip I played the following card games:
- 99: A trick-taking game for exactly three players. My parents were also visiting, and we played hours of this.
- Blackout: We played with a whopping nine people. Was fun, but a little much.
- Casino: A tremendous two-player fishing game I used to play nonstop with my grandfather.
- German Whist: A two-player whist game. There's a variant my stepmom taught me that I don't see on Pagat. I like them both.
- Hearts: Adele was able to join my parents and me for cards, and this is always an easy one to teach and bang out.
- Spades: It was great to play physical Spades again. I need to get into shape if I'm going to beat my brother and his wife! (Apparently Spades is the game among US Marines.)
First just a list and then the notes.
- Airlines Europe
- Ca$h 'n Guns
- Clank! In! Space!
- Cosmic Encounter
- Escape: The Curse of the Temple
- Incan Gold
- Mission: Red Planet
- Secret Hitler
- Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
- Sushi Go Party!
- Tiny Epic Galaxies
- Tiny Epic Mechs
- Werewords Deluxe Edition
Most of these games have also been discussed in previous posts, so some will not have as much detail. You can search the previous posts for more information on a particular game you're interested in.
A relatively simple family game of set collection. There's no direct confrontation beyond taking a card someone else might want. Players can expand any of the airlines in play, which increases its value. Players also play shares of the different airlines in their portfolios. At each scoring phase, players who have the most shares in each airline earn victory points. Whoever has the most at the end wins.
I'm not sure exactly why, but the kids love this one. One of the things they love to do is simply exchange their smaller victory point tokens for larger ones!
I've talked this game to death. Every family should own it. Kids love it, and they can even win it (10-year-old Emma routinely beats us all). If you don't already own this game, and you have kids that like to play games, then go buy it.
Ca$h 'n Guns
In this game players are fighting over loot gathered in a heist. Each player has a foam gun (which the kids absolutely love) and eight bullets: five blanks and three real ones. After secretly selecting a bullet, you simultaneously point guns and other players. After a courage round, bullets are turned up. If you chickened out or were shot, you don't get any loot. The remaining players do. Take three wounds and you're out of the game. Whoever is still alive after 8 rounds and has the most loot wins.
Obviously, if you have concerns with guns, this game isn't for you, but the kids really, really love this one. I'm always the first one to die.
Clank! In! Space!
This is a deck-building race game where a group of rebels invade the ship of a galactic overlord, hack their way to the command module, grab an artifact, and then make their way to the escape pod. As you make your way, you're going to make noise, represented by adding cubes of your colour to a bag. Whenever the big bad attacks, cubes are drawn from the bag, damaging the selected players.
The board is busy, and the card interplay is relatively complex, so it's not for younger kids. The game can also take up to two hours with new players. But the older kids seemed to really enjoy it. There's the immediate competition of the race and the tension of the blind bag draw. I certainly recommend it.
I've simply accepted that this game is not for kids. They don't grasp the possibilities of the various powers, and the negotiation aspect just doesn't pop. They tend to just make alliances early on and stick with it. The game just falls flat. It's still a great game that I think is great with the right group, but with kids, I've yet to have success.
This is a new game that I played for the first time on this trip. It's a deduction game, but the younger kids still did remarkably well. You're a team of cryptozoologists trying to find the habitat of a cryptid. You each have one clue. You take turns testing different spaces on the map to see if it could be the right place based on one player's clue. When you think you know where the habitat is, you do a search. If it matches everyone's clue, then you win!
This is a bit of a brain burner. It's not for everyone. But it's an excellent and straightforward deduction game. And don't forget about the app. It's not necessary, but it's less fiddly than the clue books.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple
Another favourite with the kids. This is a real-time cooperative game with some killer soundtracks. Each game is exactly 10 minutes long. You enter a temple and the door shuts behind you. You all chuck dice simultaneously to explore the temple looking for the exit and for the means to open it. It's loud, frantic, and a little stressful. It's OK if the kids don't always follow all of the rules. It's just good ol' fun. We played with the player powers expansion, but things were so frantic that they didn't get used much. I have all the expansions, but I've yet to break them out with kids. There's enough to manage in the base game. Though I do recommend the expansions with adults.
This is a set-collection, area control game. There's a deck of six fantasy races (randomly selected from I think a dozen in the box) that players collect and play to place control tokens on various countries worth various numbers of victory points. At the end of each age, those points are divided among those who control each country. Whoever has the most points at the end of three ages wins.
This game isn't particularly exciting for kids, but they did ultimately enjoy it. I like to inject at least a few "vegetables" (drier, more serious games) into their gaming diet. I really like this game because turns are simple and the path to victory is clear. I like the replayability. I think this is an excellent family game that I'd much rather play over Splendor or Azul.
Another real-time, cooperative, dice-chucking game. You're a team of bomb defusers. Each turn a number of coloured six-sided dice are drawn from a bag and rolled. You have to divide those dice among the team to start to defuse bombs in front of you. Each bomb card is unique. Some might require three dice that total a certain amount, or require a number of dice of the same colour, or require you stack dice in a particular order. You have exactly ten minutes, and the timer app creates the necessary tension.
The kids liked it, but they didn't love it. I'm not sure exactly why. I need to play it a few more times and assess.
I have a homemade version of this game. You're a team of temple explorers. Each turn, a card is turned over. It's either a treasure card, an artifact, or a hazard card. If it's a treasure card, then it's divided evenly among the players, with any leftovers left on the card. If it's an artifact, it remains for now. If it's a hazard card, then tensions raise because if two of the same hazard card appear, then the temple collapses and everyone still in the temple loses what they earned this run.
Each round, the players have to decide to keep going or to run. If you run, you get to keep what you've earned so far. You can also split any of the leftover treasure among your fellow cowards. And if you're the only one to run, you also get to collect the valuable artifacts. After five rounds, whoever has the most treasure wins.
My sister's kids really enjoy this game. There's the stress of push your luck and also the backstabbing of an unexpected escape that earns many points.
Mission: Red Planet
I have the second edition of the game (the latest one). This is a fascinating game that I do really badly at. It combines role selection like Citadels with an area control game that is engaging and challenging.
Each player gets a supply of astronauts and nine character cards, each with its own unique power. All players have the exact same cards to choose from. They also each get a secret mission card that gets them points at the end of the game. There's also a row of space ships going to different areas of Mars, and then there's Mars itself, broken up into different regions and each with its own resource worth one, two, or three points. Over ten rounds, players simultaneously select one of their nine characters to get their astronauts on ships and influence astronauts on Mars. There are three scoring rounds where resources are allocated and collected by the players controlling each region. Whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.
I think younger kids struggle a little bit with the strategy (there's some remove between choosing a role card and the actual scoring result on the planet), but they still love playing the game, especially when they get to blow up their sibling's ship. I've also played this at work a number of times with great success. This is a great competitive game-night game.
My favourite secret role deduction game! It accommodates up to ten players. Most players are liberals, but there are also some fascists and one Hitler. Each round the new president nominates a chancellor and there's a vote. If successful, the president draws the top three policy tiles (consisting of 11 fascist policies and 6 liberal ones), discards one face down, and hands the other two to the chancellor. The chancellor then discards one face down and enacts the other one. The liberals win if they pass five liberal policies or assassinate Hitler. The fascists win if they pass six fascist policies or if Hitler is elected chancellor after the halfway mark.
This is a game of bald-face lying and betrayal. It is not for everyone, but I've yet to encounter a group that didn't like it. The kids particularly love it! We played it a whopping 12 times. I think they just like being allowed to lie once in a while :) They also love the comic nighttime phase delivered via the app by Wil Wheaton. We've had so many fun moments with this game. I've learned I absolutely suck at it. Twice, as a liberal president, I got Hitler elected! Doh!
While we do enjoy the standard speed version, I actually play the two-player variant "Get Set" the most when there's just some down time and one kid wants to play something simple (other variants are also available).
I think this is another no-brainer for every family game library. It's cheap, compact, and playable by all ages. It's also a great exercise in visual pattern recognition.
This is a relatively quiet set collection game that works great with families. There's minimal player interaction, but with experience you learn how to impede at least some of your opponents. You collect gems to buy cards that give you more gems to buy even more valuable cards until someone collects 15 points. After everybody has had an equal number of turns, whoever has the most points wins.
It's simple, quiet, and relatively quick. It might be a little boring for some, but it still deserves a place in many libraries.
Survive: Escape From Atlantis
This game has been around for over 30 years and is a staple of family game libraries. Kids love it!
The island of Atlantis is sinking and you need to get your people to safety. Each player has a collection of pieces that they need to navigate from the island to the corners of the board. On your turn you move, then sink one of the island tiles (which usually introduces various creatures), and then you roll the dice to move the creatures around, usually to the dismay of your opponents. You have boats which help you move faster, whales that destroy boats, sharks that eat swimmers, and sea serpents that eat everything. And there are also expansions that introduce dolphins that protect you from sharks and serpents and giant squid that kill whales and can pluck people right off of dry land!
Each of your pieces has a number on the bottom of it, and technically the winner is the one who gets the most valuable pieces to safety, but when you're playing with kids the pieces get knocked over a lot, and the younger ones have a hard time with the memory, so we usually just play that the most pieces wins, with the numbers being a tie breaker.
Kids just love feeding each other to the sharks. They request this game all the time.
Sush Go Party!
This is a simple card-drafting game feature adorable art of sushi. The party version comes with a whole schwack of different cards, so every game can be very different.
You start by selecting your menu for the game, consisting of eight different types of cards. Each type has a completely unique way of earning points. You then deal the cards to the players. Each turn you select one card from your hand to play in front of you and then pass the rest of your hand to the next player. You then receive the hand from your other neighbour and select another card. So on until you've played all the cards in that hand. You then score what you have in front of you. Whoever has the most points after three hands wins the game.
The kids like the art and the fact that the rules are relatively simple. I like that it plays lots of players. I think this is a great light-weight family game and fast filler. The only drawback is separating all the cards back out at the end of the game.
Tiny Epic Galaxies
I have but don't love all the "Tiny Epic" games, but Galaxies is by far the best game. Each player has their own galaxy and a row of planets with different special powers available for colonization. In turn, players roll the action dice which determine what a player can do on their turn. They then vye for the available planets. The game continues until someone hits a certain victory point total, and when the round is over, the player with the most points wins.
I have the expansion but have yet to play with it. A good game for older kids. Relatively quick but with some interesting decisions.
Tiny Epic Mechs
Brand new Tiny Epic game that I hadn't even opened before the trip. The youngest kids (age 12) got very excited when they saw the robots. It only plays with four players, and it just worked out that I had some time with just the younger kids, so with some trepidation I opened it up.
The toy factor is through the roof. The "ITEMeeples" system (your basic plastic meeple with holes where you can attach cool-looking mini plastic weapons) worked great. And in this game, there are power suits in which you insert your meeple. And for ultimate awesomeness, there's a mega mech in the middle of the board players can go for. The kids were entranced.
The game itself is pretty straightforward. You have eight available actions per turn and you can only select four. The thing is you have to preprogram all four in advance, which means terrible things often happen as players start to run into each other. You run around the arena placing mines and turrets to control territory and destroy your opponents in combat. Combat earns you victory points, as do your mines and turrets during the three scoring rounds. Whoever earned the most points by the end of six rounds wins.
I'm not sure how I feel about the gameplay yet. It worked fine, but I'd like to break it out with some adults to explore it further. But the kids just couldn't get enough. We'll see what happens as they get older.
Werewords (Deluxe Edition)
After Secret Hitler, this game got the most play with ten sessions. Part of that is because each session is very short (about ten minutes from start to finish). The free digital app is required to play.
In the basic game (we had seven players) there are two werewolves and five villagers. One of those villagers is the seer (and there's an apprentice too, but I won't go into that here). And one of the players is randomly made mayor. Like with most of these games, there's a night phase where information is shared and then a daytime phase where the play happens.
At night, everyone closes their eyes. The mayor selects a magic word in the app. The seer also opens their eyes and views the magic word. Then the werewolves open their eyes and see each other and the magic word. Then the sun rises and a four-minute timer starts. Players begin asking the mayor questions to figure out the magic word. The mayor may not speak and can only answer with yes, no, and maybe tokens. The werewolves are trying to keep the villagers from guessing the magic word but not too obviously. The Seer is trying to help the villagers guess the word but again, subtly. Because even if the villagers guess the word, if the werewolves can identify the Seer, they still win. And if the villagers fail, but they can identify any one of the werewolves, the werewolves win.
This game offers some interesting scenarios. A werewolf mayor, for example, can really throw a wrench in things. The seer has to be very careful how they help the players. And I found it challenging as a werewolf to throw people off the scent. I personally paid closer attention to the questions in an attempt to sniff out the seer. I quite liked it.
The app is also very well designed with lots of options to make things easier to play with younger kids (eliminating proper nouns, more magic word choices, different word lists, etc.). The only thing we all hated was the voice acting. It was loud, brash, and annoying. It was a stark contrast from Wil Wheaton's delivery in the Secret Hitler app, which also introduced humour and variety. It's not a deal breaker, but it did grate after a few games.
I definitely recommend this to people who want a fast-playing social-deduction game with a different mechanism.