AT THE ROCKYMOUNTAINNAVY HOUSE WE USUALLY PLAY GAMES AT THE HOUSE. However, two weeks ago we tried something a little different. It was a Friday night and Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and RockyMountain Jr. were tutoring a student. The young lady is an only child and both her parents work hard and get little couple time to themselves. Seeing that this particular Friday was Valentines Day, Mrs. RMN suggested we take Ms. C to dinner with us after tutoring so her parents could have a date. We are strong proponents of ‘couple time’ and are fortunate that the RMN Boys are older so they can take care of themselves giving us a chance for our ‘couple time.’ We recognize that not all families are as lucky.
That night we ended up at a local bar-restaurant, Ono Brewing Company (@OnoBrewCo). This is a self-serve brew pub that has a food truck-like small restaurant, Odd BBQ (oddbbq.com) inside. Having been here before, we saw a shelf with boardgames on it. We even saw other patrons bring their own games to set up and play, so we knew the place is both family and boardgame friendly.
Ms. C expresses great interest in boardgames. She even lamented to me once that, “I like to play games, but my parents don’t.” So we always try to leave a little bit of time at the end of her tutoring to play a boardgame. Two week before, the moms and kids had gotten together (I was at a Bachelor Party) and the RMN Boys taught Ms. C Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004). The Boys told me she really liked the game, but this night I knew the table was going to be smaller and time shorter. So we took along Ticket to Ride: New York (Days of Wonder, 2018).
It was perfect.
The smaller footprint meant the game easily fit on our table. We had eaten at a casual pace so we only had about 20 minutes to kill before we had to leave to get Ms. C back to her parents. Most importantly, Ms. C totally enjoyed the game. I mean she was really into it! As she played, she had that Michael Jordan-tongue thing going as she looked at her cards and the board and considered her options. The RMN Boys were playing very casual but Ms. C was super serious! In the end she came in second of three players but you could tell that she really enjoyed the game.
This very casual boardgame play was satisfying on several levels. First, it was the right game for the space and time available. Secondly, but more importantly, it was the perfect game for Ms. C and the RMN Boys to enjoy. Given the great level of enjoyment we all had, I have the feeling this game, and maybe the newer version, Ticket to Ride: London (Days of Wonder, 2020) will land on tables outside the RMN home more often.
IN A HOUSE FULL OF BOYS, IT IS A BIT AMAZING THAT ONE of the more popular filler games on our shelf is all about romance.
Love Letter (AEG, 2012) is thematically about delivering letters to a princess and wooing her; the reality is this game makes Game of Thrones look like a children’s nursery. Back-stabbing and double-crossing others is the norm. The game is not about love, it’s about using your power nakedly to eliminate opponents and win the prize.
The simple 16-card game of Love Letter won the 2013 Golden Geek Award for Best Family Game / Best Party Game / Best Card Game/ Most Innovative Game. I certainly agree with the last two categories. Love Letter was the first 16-card game we played and the innovative nature astounded us. I will agree that it is a good party game…with adults. I am not so sure about the family game aspects because it is very easy for the game to devolve into a bloody power contest. Some younger players may not fully understand what is happening and get hurt.
I also appreciate that Love Letter has been rethemed. RockyMountainNavy Jr. always takesLetters to Santato school during the holidays for a quick play around the lunch table; it’s so much fun even high schoolers can get into the game. Indeed, for my challenge I actually played a game of Love Letter: Batmanwith Middle RMN Boy. It’s the same mechanics of Love Letter, except with villains.
These days Forbidden Island sits on our shelf of shame, unplayed and surpassed another cooperative game title, Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008). In some ways that is very sad as both games are by Matt Leacock, the godfather of cooperative games, and both are good at what they do. Interestingly, I see that Pandemic is rated for ages 8+, yet I don’t think anybody calls Pandemic a children’s game. So why does Forbidden Island not get more love at our gaming table?
Forbidden Island was the first cooperative game that reached the RockyMountainNavy house. It is not a bad game, but in this house a cooperative game needs to build a strong narrative for it to reach our gaming table more often. Alas, this is a weakness of Forbidden Island. Of the several cooperative games in the RMN collection, Pandemic and Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (Fantasy Flight Games, 2008) are well regarded, and played more often, because of the highly dramatic story that plays out in the game. Other cooperative games, like Forbidden Island or Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game (Mattel, 2016) are more like puzzles with a thin story behind the game mechanics. They aren’t bad games, just not dramatic enough. For us, it is the thought (expectation?) of a great narrative that brings certain cooperative games to the table.
RockyMountainNavy Jr. recently expressed an interest in Forbidden Sky (Gamewright, 2018). The game is the third in the Forbidden Island/Desert/Sky trilogy and claims to carry the narrative of the first two games forward. Not owning or playing Forbidden DesertI cannot comment on the carried-narrative portion. Maybe, just maybe, there is something to this. The question will be is the lure of carried-narrative enought to get a new game, much less two older ones, to the gaming table?
In high school I was lucky enough to be a projectionist in a movie theater. One of the blockbuster movies of 1984 was Ghostbusters which I watched again and again not just because it was my job, but it is a good movie! Year later, I sat down with my kids and watched the movie together. We were not diassapointed.
Now, my boys should be too old to play “children’s games” but the reviews on BGG mentioned advanced rules. Advanced rules that make it tough to beat. Tough to beat even for adults. So I picked up Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier and am going to give it a try. On the advanced level. Will let you all know how it turns out!
Earlier this year I picked up Patchwork from Mayfair Games. I think this was after I listened to the Heavy Cardboard podcast As I write this post, the game is the #1 Abstract, the #2 Family Game, and the #44 overall on BoardGameGeek. For a game that is so popular, I am a bit late to the party. However, I have joined the party and the family is glad I have.
At first glance, Patchwork does not look like a game this old grognard or a house full of boys would like. I mean, it’s quilting for gosh sakes! Ah, hidden under that theme is a Tetris-like puzzler with resource management ( time and money) that makes for a quick and interesting game.
The RockyMountainNavy Boys and I played the game several times over the Memorial Day weekend. The youngest RMN Boy even went so far as to declare Patchwork his newest “most favorite” boardgame. Even Mrs. RMN was surprised by how much the boys took to the game. Not that I should be surprised; the RMN Boys have demonstrated an ability to look past theme and enjoy good gameplay like they have for Love Letter. [As as aside, the boys pulled out Love Letter at a multi-family dinner over the weekend. Fun was had by all.]
Patchwork has rightly earned itself a prominent spot on our family gaming shelf. The game demonstrates that if one is willing to look past theme there is often a good game to be played – and enjoyed – by many.
No, this is not an iOS or Android version. Qwirkle is now available in a small travel version. I like the same black tiles but when I opened my set more than a few tiles stuck together and had to be pried apart. This resulted in chips and blemishes on the tiles. Not enough to make any single tile recognizable from the back but enough to be unsettling.
The smaller tiles have an advantage in that the area needed for play is also smaller. I also like the travel bag that maintains its shape vice the bag of the full set that never finds a good place to lay on the shelf between games.
First, I’d like to start with a note of thanks to Wil Wheaton and his web series Tabletop over at Geek & Sundry. I appreciate how he shows the games through play. One game that caught my attention was Castle Panic.
This game has been around for a few years (since 2009) and I am sad I missed it before. The game uses a cooperative, collapsing fortress mechanic where the players must work together to defeat the evil hordes before all the walls of the castle and keep are destroyed. Mrs. RMN has stated that she really like cooperative games, so introducing this one into the house already had her stamp of approval. The real test was to see if Little RMN would enjoy it.
First game (Little RMN, T and myself) saw us barely defeat the hordes. Victory came through teamwork; Little RMN weakened the last monster then used his Tar to hold it in place so T could finish it off. I could not have asked for a better first game; Little RMN and T working together to defeat the enemy.
The second game (Little RMN, T and G) resulted in defeat. Undaunted, they all were anxious to try again.
The next game was at the RMN grandparent’s house. Grandpa played with Little RMN and T while I assisted Grandpa and Little RMN in learning and following the mechanics of the game. In a truly dramatic ending, the last monster was inside the castle walls and one move away from destroying the last wall. T had no cards to help, and Little RMN had used the Tar to avoid defeat last turn. The only way to win was to use a Keep card but nobody had one in their hands. Having nothing useful in his hand, Grandpa discared one of his cards hoping for something better. He got a “draw two additional cards.” First card was useless, but he second was the Barbarian! With whoops and hollars all three celebrated their victory, with the most touching part coming where Little RMN hugged Grandpa and from his heart thanked him for defeating the last monster. You would of thought Grandpa had just saved the entire world.
No question about it; this game is a real family winner!