Although the RockyMountainNavy home is usually a wargame house, we do occasionally play other hobby boardgames. This week a holiday favorite, Letters to Santa (Alderac Entertainment Group, 2014)** came back out and reminded us how family gaming can deliver the greatest pleasures.
As I’ve mentioned before, Mrs. RockyMountainNavy tutors children at our home. One of her newest students is a sixth-grade girl, Ms. A. Ms. A is artistically gifted (her drawings are incredible) but she lacks a strong desire to learn. She has an older sister (high school senior) who is drowning under a schedule with five AP classes. Consequently, the older sister is very mean and doesn’t encourage younger Ms. A. Indeed, her sister’s meanness actually discourages Ms. A from wanting to learn.
The first time Ms. A came over she was rightly skeptical. After all, she was being pushed by her Korean Tiger Mom! That day we finished up her lessons with a four-player game ofKingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). She caught onto the game immediately and quickly went on to win (I think all that spatial awareness she has in her art helps her immensely). She also genuinely enjoyed playing in the larger group. It is obvious she enjoys the social aspects of boardgaming. Mrs. RMN likes to use games to help teach kids as they learn so much more about working with others and discovering how games work. It’s all good for learning!
This week, in keeping with the holiday spirit, we pulled Letters to Santa out for the after-lesson game. She absolutely enjoyed the game, often going after RockyMountainNavy Jr. (whom she really likes in an older brother way). She caught onto the cards right away but was missing some of the strategy. That changed when RockyMountainNavy T played Gingerbread Man (Compare hands; lower hand is out) against me and lost with Mrs. Claus (7). Ms. A then had her chance and played Krampus (Guess a player’s hand) and correctly guessed that I had Santa Claus (8) in my hand thus giving her the win. The look of pure joy on her face as she put it all together and won was priceless.
May all your holidays be filled with that much joy. Merry Christmas!
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.
This is the time of the year that many in the boardgame community start their “challenges” for the coming year. The classic is the 10 x 10 – pick 10 different games and play each ten times during the year.
I am running this challenge in parallel to my 2019 CSR Awards Wargame Challenge. Between the 20 games there and the 15 here I should have a fun year. Not to mention all the new games I’m sure to get this year….
Although Saturday nights are usually the RockMountainNavy Game Night, this weekend I dialed it back a bit as I am starting an extended holiday vacation. In anticipation of getting gaming in with the RMN Boys over the next week, we decided to take it easy on the regular game night. Since the Boys wanted to watch a new series on Netflix, we went with a (very) short game.
Letters to Santais the holiday version of Love Letter. This is a simple 16-card micro game. Thematically, the players are trying to be the last player left and for winning they get to deliver their letter to Santa. The first player to deliver enough letters wins.
We decided the first player to four letters delivered would be the winner. I got trounced 4-2-1. I forgot that both Boys regularly play Love Letteragainst each other. I forgot that the Youngest RMN Boy likes taking this game to school during the holiday season to play at lunch with friends. I forgot to watch the board state (played cards) closer than I did.
Even after forgetting so much, I was reminded about what makes Letters to Santa a great game. As we played we were all smiles. As we played their was great friendly banter across the table. As we played we felt the holiday cheer.
Although it was a short game, Letters to Santa delivered one of the greatest presents a game brings – happy family time.
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.