Thursday, December 24, 2015

Being this cool isn't always easy

In case you missed part 1 of this story, here's the link:

Forced family fun pretty much makes me the coolest parent on the planet. Except that for almost 2 weeks I made them open the wrapped games and then not play them. We had some school goals to get done, some bad behavior to deal with and some days where I was lazy/tired. You know how it is. By the time our semester ended on December 11th this whole board game advent calendar idea was beginning to feel like another failure of an idea.

I persevered,  more for you, my fans, than anything, but still, I persevered. So, over the course of weekends or whenever we had some free time, we caught up on the advent gaming to do list. We're still not caught up completely but tomorrow's schedule is wide open so there's hope that we'll finish.

These reviews are too late to do you any good for Christmas, but let's face it, you should be playing more games always, so pick up whichever sounds the most interesting/least awful and open it up on the next rainy day. You'll thank me.

Dec. 7th - these dates are not real and just serve to make sure I don't forget any of the games
This see through card game, Swish, is a new one for us. It was quick to figure out and has infinite playability as a one person challenge or with a lot of people. There were a few tricks to figuring it out but we got good as we went. Game play was fast, about 30 minutes. It's a puzzle game where you have to match cards in a sort of pattern. The trick is that you do it in your head and call "swish" when you're sure you can do it. You can only touch the cards to rotate, flip etc... at this time. I loved it.

Dec 8th 


Concept, another new game for us that I now LOVE! This game is pictionary with a twist. You have a board full of images and you have to get everyone else to guess a word or phrase simply by marking the images. Everyone who guesses gets points for helping and the person who guesses correct gets double points. It's quick, funny and sneakily taught my kids that images have more than one meaning. That's an important concept in our emoji filled world. Game play 30 minutes.

Dec 9th

Loot is a cooperative card game where you loot pirate ships. You can choose to work together or against each other. I've only played it once and it wasn't my favorite. When my kids unwrapped it, I let them play without me. I will say, they all really enjoy it. If your kid is into pirates, ships or card games at all, this is probably a winner. Appropriate for ages 5 and up I think. Game play approx. 30 minutes

Dec 10th

I can't say enough good things about the card game Fluxx! I was desperate for the holiday version, I love the idea of a game that comes out with the decorations each year and goes away with them too :)

Disclaimer: we've introduced Fluxx to 2 other families, they did not share our love for the game. I don't know why. It's sad.

Fluxx, in any of its versions, is a game where the rules are in the cards and change as people play new rules to replace old rules. The cards are witty and I like the way they're written. This is a game that my husband and I will sometimes play on our own after kids are in bed, we think it's that good! All the kids love it and none of us can ever turn someone down when they ask us to play.  Game play lasts 10 minutes to 60 minutes, it's all about the cards you draw.

Have I mentioned we love this game? It's genius.

Dec 11th

Aaaaaahhhhh, Monopoly Deal, the only other game my husband and I play, even if it's just us and uses our precious free time. We love, love, love it! Game play really is 15 minutes, but you'll want to do it over and over so we usually play for about an hour. The concept is similar to Monopoly, you need to collect 3 property sets to win the game, there are cards that bring you windfalls and setbacks. You can steal and block opponents moves, which is a fun twist. The only thing I still haven't gotten used to is that there is no change. If you owe $1K in rent and you only have a $10k note, you have to pay the whole 10k. No money? You pay in properties. Buy this game! Well, I mean, if you're cool and if you like monopoly,  buy this game.

Dec 12th

Scattegories is kind of a classic game. It's got a timer and stresses my kids out and hasn't been a success at my house but I love it. Scattegories the card game has been the answer to prayers we didn't know we had. We bought it a year or two ago during our card game craze and it has had serious staying power. It's a game we can play in the car, at dinner, with friends or wherever and however we want. It always leads to laughs and sometimes identifies bad spellers in our midst. Basically it's a win - win :)

Dec. 13th

I'm not totally sure what to say about this game. Civilization is based on a computer game. You develop an ancient civilization and win by being be the best at conquering, or technology or the arts. The youngest son loves history and was desperate to own this game. I managed to play it without crying. There are so many pieces that it took us almost 2 hours to setup. Game play was interesting and the first time my son attacked my village I declared him supreme ruler and quit. I have hopes for this game, it gets rave reviews and now we have it organized so it should be quicker setup in the future. But, I won't be trying it for quite awhile, it emotionally and mentally exhausted me.

Dec 14th

Wizard! This is my favorite card game and I almost always have a game going with at least one of my kids. It does take about 2 hours to play but it's easy to stop at any time and pick up where you left off later. It's a game of trumps. Each round you get an increasing number of cards and the trump suit changes. There are wizards and jesters that have their own special rules. It's easy to figure out and never stops being fun. You need strategy so it's a great learning tool to help the kiddos hone those skills.

 Dec. 14th

I'm so excited to tell you about this new to us game, Tokaido. You go on vacation in Japan, travelling the ancient road from Edo to Kyoto. Along the way you stop at inns, souvenir shops, excursions and scenic overlooks. You collect postcards, souvenirs and yummy food as you go. This game is all about the journey. It was super fast to setup and learn and we are all begging to play it again asap. The directions has some great info on Japan and it's customs, so you may spark some interest. I love it!

Dec. 15th
Now we've reached my favorite board game, Settlers of Catan. It has a lot of expansions and versions but the original has stolen my heart. The board is different everytime but the goal is the same, to settle Catan. You build villages, cities and roads and buy development cards. It takes about 2 hours to play.  Come over, I'll play it with you any time!


Apples to Apples anyone? The more people you have the longer it takes, but the more fun you'll have. Everyone has red apples (nouns)that they need to match to green apples (adjectives) and the judge votes on the best match. The more you know the players the better you'll be at this game but it's fun with anyone. A great party game.

Dec. 17th

Smallworld. The youngest boy got this for his birthday a year ago, it was a spontaneous purchase that revived my faith in the boardgame industry. It's a small world on the board that needs to be conquered by the many different races using their many different skills. All of its expansions are amazing must haves that add to the game without changing or adding rules. When pixies, amazons and orcs have a chance to battle you know the game is a winner. Game play takes 1-2 hours. It's available as an app too, and plays great in that mode. The app is probably the best way to learn the rules and hone your skills so you're ready for battle when the time comes to play the game with us :)

We have 7 games left to play, so look forward to another post soon. We clearly favor strategy games :) we've also managed to play quite a few board games that weren't in our advent calendar in the last week such as Blokus, Catan Jr, Quirkle, Pictopia, Balderdash and the 2 year old favorite,  Go Fish. Feel free to ask me about any of these if you've been considering a major board game purchase or check out reviews at

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Forced Family Fun

I'd feel remiss if I didn't note that it's been many months since my last post. I have a lot of excuses. I have time. I should write. I love to write. I need to write. I'm thankful for my friend who gets me to write at least one blog a year, her and my dad are my number one blog fans so talking with either of them gets me back in writing mode everytime. Guess I should be talking to them more often, or getting more fans :)

Now, with that out of the way, how about I tell you about December. I decided, based on my sisters brilliant suggestion, to do a board game advent calendar this year. I wrapped up 25 games, some new, most old, and attempted to pile them up in the shape of a Christmas tree. It came out a little more crumbling pyramid than tree but it's all about the effort right? I had plans to number the packages so we didn't accidentally play Risk on a weeknight and to avoid other time related disasters. But... the kids begged to choose, and I was flustered because I started late, and it was already feeling like a half assed plan, so I gave in.

I still maintain that the idea is a good one, but 6 days in I've learned a lot of what not to do :) This advent calendar essentially forces us to sit down, interact and have fun, or fake it so as not to be the Debby Downer in the group. This has proven to be a Herculean task for my children.

Let me preface by saying that my kids love games!! They have patience, follow rules and a few can even develop strategies.  But, they are very used to choosing the game. They  now have a nightly struggle of possibly miss out on fun or play the game I think I don't like. It doesn't help that the kid who loves the chosen game rubs it in everyone's faces that they finally get to play and no one can veto. We may need to work on sportsmanship. Hence the phrase, forced family fun. Try it, you'll like it, and most kids won't cry!

At least one kid has cried every single night that we've played. We've had to switch games twice because of timing issues and we've had to delay bedtime twice in order to finish a game. Oops!
Bad pa renting examples displayed daily at our house.

I'll keep you posted on  how it goes the rest of the month,  and I'll share with you what we played and suggestions on games to try from our board game loving family to yours. Merry Christmas!
The 2 yr old taking uno seriously.
Indestructible waterproof uno cards. 

Settlers of America. Needs space, has lots of small pieces.

The advent calendar. Don't count closely, some were in the mail or at a friends house so they weren't wrapped yet.

The cards have to pictures to choose from, you only need to match one.

The mess of choosing which games to wrap. I used up 3 rolls of wrapping paper!

Games played so far:

December 1st - Loonacy Card Game
A fast paced card game similar to Spot It. Match pictures and be the first to get rid of your hand. Game play lasts under 30 minutes and is always entertaining.

December 2nd - Settlers of America
A great version of Settlers of Catan! Bonus that your kids learn the states as they play. Double bonus that they all sing "Jackson, Mississippi" like Bruno Mars whenever they're near that area. The goal of the game is to travel from east to west by train or covered wagon. You need to build settlements and deliver goods to other settlements to win the game. Game play lasts about 2 hours.

December 3rd - Uno H2O
It's Uno but with waterproof cards. If you've ever tried waterproof cards than you know just how amazing they are! Practically indestructible means even the 2 year old can play. She doesn't have strategy but can easily match colors and numbers.  All my kids started out with uno as a first game and all still enjoy it. Game play is usually under an hour.

December 4th - Phase 10 masters
Phase 10 is a favorite in my husband's family and they take it seriously. Phase 10 masters tweaks a few of the rules (in ways that I love!) and is a faster paced more strategic version. I had a moment of weakness and felt bad that I was beating my children so soundly. I eased up for a round or two and ended up losing terribly. I generally think a game should be fun whether you win or lose and usually stand strong against whiners but I had a moment of weakness. Never again. Game play was about 2 hours.

December 5th - Dominion
This card game is fairly new to our family but we are obsessed! It's a card game with different variants so the strategies change based on which setup you choose. Your goal is to build a deck of properties using money and action cards so that you have the most victory points (properties) in the end. Game play is 45 minutes.