When I say Boardgames to you, what do you think of?
Maybe your thoughts go straight to Cluedo, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Mousetrap or Game of life. Maybe you think of the dreaded post-Christmas, argument inducing, table flipping Monopoly, or Trivial Pursuit where the need for an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything is essential or there will be lots waiting for that one random question to come out so you can get another piece of the pie. Do these associations make you want to go invest in one of these games and bring them out to play with the children? I know when I think of them I think of far too many plastic pieces for so little fun that can only be had with lots of pretending when the children ask to play them. I know for me there is very little there I would want to endure with my child, unless they’ve been really naughty.
Did you know there’s actually are thousands upon thousands more games out there that are fun, short, engaging, inclusive and actually can be covertly educational, but only as a side effect and not because any designer has set out to make it that way. When I say short I’m thinking 30-40 minutes, so a game can be long enough to keep most children involved right until the end and will not be the abhorrent marathon of pain and tears that Monopoly can be.
There are games where you actually work together, as a team, and have to talk to each other to work out the best way to beat the board. There are games where you are encouraged to bluff and lie and think about the next moves as there may be a myriad of choices. There are games where you build trains across a sprawling map of Europe trying to connect cities before your opponent does, or even games where you use your imagination to make up wild and fantastical stories to win the game.
These games are amazing for bringing the family together, dragging them away from the computers and the TV’s and getting them to interact on a totally new level. These games will teach your children new ways of thinking, new ways of interacting whilst still having a lot of fun, and will not only be just as much fun for you to play with them or even with your own friends when the children are not around.
There is a resurgence going on with board games and though you may not know it, there’s an industry growing exponentially and as time goes on there are better and more interesting games coming out all the time, last year alone over one thousand new games were released.
There are cafes setting up around the world and now around the UK that not only provide a light snack and a drink but also provide a library of games to pull out, sit down with your friends or family and play whilst you relax. In these places, all of the staff are also trained to teach you these games if there is something you like the look of but haven’t played before.
There are groups of adults and children meeting up weekly just to gather to play games and interact with each other. Even the bigger retail book stores or stationary, toy shop chains are now starting to stock some of the easier to access games because they can see this is going to be big. I have even heard Waterstones have begun to have sections of the store where you can just turn up and play games from a library of what they sell.
I intend to pick one out each week and tell you exactly why you should go out and buy it now, I’ll tell you where to look and why it’ll be a purchase you won’t regret.
Seeing as this is my first post though I’ll be generous and give you four games and a short synopsis for each one
This type of game is becoming more popular simply because it breaks the mold of what traditional games are where everyone is working to complete the same objective and singularly be crowned the ultimate winner. In games like Forbidden Island you all work together to try to find artifacts hidden around the board.
Everyone has a skill that only you can do and this skill will help you be an important member of the team trying to get off the Island. Everyone is trying to get off the island together and if anyone doesn’t get off the Island, you don’t win the game. A lot of the time you won’t win the game, it isn’t designed to be easy, but that is what makes this game great, the fun is trying to win and everyone going through the same drama as flood waters rise whilst you frantically try to gather hidden treasure and return to the dock to escape.
This game is about talking to each other and working out what your best move is as the Island slowly sinks into the sea. As each turn goes forward the landscape, you are running around, changes and areas go underwater (there is a diver that can help with this) and your team choices have to change too. Everyone can feel they’ve played a part in the game as it can’t be won by one person alone. Everyone gets their say and this is what also makes the game so special.
This is an abstract game.
This means there’s no theme of ghosts and goblins or zombies or knights or cyberpunks. In Indigo, you are presented with a hexagonal board where you have to gather jewels by placing pieces of a path to lead them back to your home base. Or if you want you can try to steal the jewels that your opponents are guiding towards their home.
This a beautiful game with its ornate board and easy to follow rules that even my 5-year-old understands and can play a mean game.
Don’t be fooled though, there are enough tactics to make this interesting and strategic. Everybody’s won jewels are hidden behind a board so you are never sure of who has scored what, also if you have 3 or more players then you will find you share spots with other players so as you guide your points in you have to work out who you want to be giving the points to as you don’t want to put somebody so far ahead you can’t catch up.
Ultimately though, the game is different, fun and easy enough to have you wanting to bring it out over and over again. This game plays in 20 minutes and when you are done the board looks wonderful and different every time. Your children will love making the patterns, sliding the jewels and snatching them away from you before you get to bring them home yourself.
Don’t be mistaken by the childish exterior of this game, when played amongst us adults it can be a cut throat and strategic game. But that is its beauty and the reason why I believe this is a game you need to invest in, to play with your children. Not only can it be played with very little tactical skills and greater move planning, it also is very visual and textile game with lovely penguin shaped pieces to move around the board trying to end up the most fish and every time you and your child move you will get a physical piece to hold onto until the end of the hands where you can then count up the pieces to see who has won, so this is building on numeracy skills whilst they have fun.
In the gaming group I go to some of the hardened gamers will break this out as a ‘filler game’ (a little game to play in between the larger meatier ones) because they like how it scales well depending on the number of players and it’s a game they can play hard with each other or they can break it out with friends and relations children and know they will still have a great time playing it.
This is an amazing game once you get over the hurdle of making things up and using the imagination. This is an aspect some children may feel a little nervous about, making stories up and talking out loud, but that is why this game is great as it gets easier and easier to play the more it is taken out and then you can let your imagination run wild.
Storytime is exactly what it says on the box, it’s about telling stories and making fantastical adventures up with silly plot lines and ridiculous characters, the more extravagant the story, the more fun you will have. Be warned though, anything that is significant to the plot line has to be remembered as the story goes on, so if you name the main character Hurdle-burdle-bingbang-chafftank, then that is the name you need to use throughout. Equally though it’s the name your opponents have to use throughout too so it might be worth throwing a daft place or person name out as you go.
In this game, everyone is dealt a hand of cards they need to play throughout the story and a moral they need to wrap up the story with. If you can guide the story to your happy ending and play all of your cards before you get there, then you win the game. This is a lot harder than it sounds as your opponent may be taking the characters off to kill a dragon in some dangerous hills, yet you may need to save a true love from a well and when picking up the story from them as they head into the hills looking for a winged beast you will need to steer it back to your conclusion.
And that is the best bit. You are all telling the same story, you don’t have separate plots but the same one, so if your turn comes up you need to keep the same story going and you are only able to discard a card by playing it from your hand as a significant and integral plot point. Make a mistake or have the story taken off you (another player can play interrupt cards or if you mention something in the story that they have a card relating to they can discard that card and continue the story) and you have to pick another card up that you will need to weave into that story
I could be talking about taking my knight to a mountain retreat and I need to get him to a woodcutter’s house as that is one of the cards that I have. So I say that on his journey to the dragon’s lair he hears about an enchanted axe that can cut through trees with a single blow and the hero thinks this will aid his quest so he goes into the deep forest to retrieve it. As soon as I say Forest another player, if he has that card that says forest (like in the picture above), discards that card and takes over the story.
This game is silly, fun and is really a great game for getting the imagination of your children going. Playing this can work on all levels and is just as much fun if you have a few friends around having beers and kicking back together and you fancy being a bit silly.
Just watch this video of Wil Wheaton (he played the main character Gordie in Stand By Me back in the 80’s and Wesley Crusher off Star Trek: The Next Generation) playing it on his Tabletop web show on YouTube