4th of July (Also known as Independence Day) is one of my favorite holidays of the year. Fireworks, yummy food, hanging out with family and friends, it’s just so much fun. Typically board games aren’t played on this day, usually because we are just busy swimming, playing outdoor games, or shooting off fireworks. In recent years, however, we’ve actually played a few board games while hanging outside! Here are some thematic favorites to play.
This goes without saying, but Hanabi is a perfect 4th of July game! We’ve played this for the past few years while waiting for it to get dark enough to shoot off fireworks. It’s also great for newer gamers because it’s cooperative. We usually grab a couple people and play a quick game.
Timeline: Americana or American History
I love the Timeline games, and the Americana/American History versions are awesome for the 4th. It’s also a shorter game, and can be easily played on a small table outside. Timeline is easy to teach, and almost anyone can play.
Rolling America is a more recent acquisition and it’s a great puzzle dice game. You can even play this one solo, so if no one can play, you can get a quick game in. Rolling America is easy to learn, but hard to master. I love the custom star dice!
There are many games you could play on the 4th of July, these are just a few that I have that will work with the theme. I’ll hopefully get one or two of these in on the 4th!
World’s Fair 1893 is a area control, set collection board game, designed by J. Alex Kevern and published by Renegade Game Studios and Foxtrot Games. In World’s Fair 1893, players act as organizers of the fair, who are trying to gain favor with influential figures by sending out their supporters to find the best exhibits to put on display at the World’s Fair. World’s Fair 1893 supports 2-4 players and takes about 40 minutes to play.
The gameplay of World’s Fair is quite simple. On your turn, you place a supporter on one of the five game areas. If you have any influential figures from your previous turn, play those cards now. Then, you take all the cards that were in the area where you placed your supporter. The areas can hold either 3-4 maximum cards. There are three different types of cards: Influential figures, Midway Tickets, and Main Exhibit cards. Influential figures allow you to add or move supporters to different areas, which can help gain dominance in one area. Midway Tickets are one point each at a scoring round, and move along the round track. Main exhibit cards are how you obtain exhibit approval tokens, which will be points at the end of the game.
World’s Fair has both area control and set collection mechanics within the game. During one of three scoring rounds in the game, players will look at the game areas and find out which player has the most supporters in that area. That player then gets points for being 1st as well as the ability to turn in up to three exhibit cards of that area color for tokens. These tokens are then counted as points at the end of the game. If a player is 2nd in an area, they can turn in one exhibit card and may get points, depending on the player count.
World’s Fair is very interesting because you must consider the cards you collect with also being 1st or 2nd in an area. You may have several exhibit cards, but if you don’t have any way to turn them in, they are useless at the end of the game. Gaining dominance in areas in very important, especially because you need to collect unique sets of tokens. There are other ways to gain points, such as having the most midway tickets during a scoring round.
I love how easy it is to learn World’s Fair, with also having very interesting choices each turn. Do you try and get dominance in an area, or focus on getting the cards you need to make a unique set? These decisions are not often AP inducing, and the turn go fairly quick. The art and components of World’s Fair are very high quality. I love the detail in history on each card. It was very enjoyable learning so much about the World’s Fair while I played.
World’s Fair 1893 is a great gateway game to set collection and area control. It does not feel too cutthroat, and has a very good game pace. I would recommend it to any gamer who likes these mechanics and appreciate the art and history of this beautiful game.
2P Experience: 70
Shorter gameplay, less rounds.
Easier to predict who will be in 1st for each area
More cutthroat as any positive decision is mostly negative for the opponent
Still fun to play, but more predictable
4P Experience: 80
Longer gameplay, more interactive
Harder to predict who will be in 1st/2nd during scoring round
Very fun, like it most at 4 player because of the interaction and excitement.
Eminent Domain Exotica is an expansion to Eminent Domain, designed by Seth Jaffee and published by Tasty Minstrel. The Exotica expansion can be played with or without the Escalation expansion. The rulebook suggests to play Exotica with just the base game for several games to get used to the new technology cards, planets, and the mining mechanic.
Exotica adds two new types of planets, exotic and asteroid. The exotic planet gives points as well as the ability to produce a new resource: crystal. Also, the exotic planet can have a translator effect on it, which turns the new exotic symbols into usable symbols such as research, colonize, etc. These exotic symbols are on the new technology cards.
The asteroid planets are easy to settle and attack but they don’t give any points. However, new technology cards allow the player to do special effects if they have asteroids in their empire. Also, the new mining action allows players to mine an asteroid immediately by discarding their hand, instead of settling or attacking.
Eminent Domain Exotica differs from the Escalation expansion in a variety of ways. For one, Exotica does not have much player interaction, other than following or dissenting during another player’s turn. In Escalation, there were some cutthroat technology cards, as well as stronger ships which encourage players to either do warfare or get the peace treaty card. For players who want a less intense expansion, Exotica is the way to go. I found it more straight forward than Escalation in terms in strategy, and learning the new technology cards was easier.
The only caveat I have with Exotica is reading the red halo around the exotic symbols was very difficult. I have 20/20 vision, and even under bright LED lights, I could barely see the red halo. This is important for some scoring at the end, and it was not thick enough, and thus I short changed myself some points at the end, until I realized there was a red halo on the exotic planet card. For players who are colorblind, the red halo is impossible to see. You may have to memorize or mark the cards that have red halos around the symbols in order to score the game correctly.
I highly recommend the Exotica expansion for anyone that enjoys the base game: Eminent Domain. The exotic and asteroid planets add some variety to the game, and I really enjoy the new technology cards! It definitely helps the replay value of Eminent Domain, and adds a less complex and cutthroat expansion to the EmDo series.
When you get into the hobby of gaming, it becomes clear that careful budgeting is very important when buying new games. Some games cost 10 bucks, while others cost 100+ bucks. Cheap games don’t mean cheap quality and I have some favorites that won’t break the budget, all these listed can be found for under $15.
No Thanks is a quick, press your luck card game for 3-7 players. Each turn, you can either choose to grab the face up card or say “No thanks” and put a token on it. Any points on the card will penalize you at the end of the game, unless you have at least a 2 card run, in which only the lowest card in the run counts against you. Also, if you run out of tokens, you must take the face up card! It’s a great little card game, and kids enjoy it as well as adults.
No Thanks! can be found for about 10-12 dollars.
Tides of Time
Tides of Time is drafting card game for 2 players. Players draft cards each round in order to build up their kingdom and earn victory points. There are 5 different suits and each card has its own scoring objective, so some card combos will be much better than others. The art is beautiful and the cards are high quality.
Tides of Time can be found for about 10-12 dollars.
Bang! The Dice game
Bang! The Dice Game is a secret role, semi-cooperative dice game for 3-7 players. It’s based on the Bang! card game, but plays much faster. Each game takes about 15 minutes. A player is either a Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw, or Renegade, but their role card remains hidden. Players try and figure out who is on their team while rolling dice and taking out other players or healing hit points. You may unwittingly kill a team member, but thankfully the game is quick so you can play another if your side doesn’t do well!
Bang! The Dice Game can be found for about 12-14 dollars.
Oh my Goods!
Oh my Goods! is an resource management card game for 2-4 players and has multi-use cards. Players build up their engine of cards in attempt to gain more resources so they can buy more cards and earn more points. It has similarities to San Juan and Isle of Trains. It’s very thinky for such a small card game, which gives it lots of replay value.
Oh my Goods! can be found for about 13-15 bucks.
Timeline is a logic card game for 2-8 players and has many different sets such as Historical Events, Inventions, and Americana. Players try to fit their card in the correct timeline, if they are wrong, they draw a new card, if they are correct, they have one less card to solve. Timeline is great for classrooms or with anyone that enjoys history. With all the different sets, it’s easy to find one that your group will enjoy.
Timeline sets can be found for about 10-12 bucks each.
I got into an interesting discussion on Twitter today about reviews and gaming. The conversation got into talking about if you don’t like a game, there’s no reason to try it again, especially as a reviewer. We also talked about if a game needs to get better over time to be considered a great game. I have some reasons why you might not like a game on first play or why a game may fall flat on one play and astound you on another.
I didn’t like the game, should I try it again?
There are many factors to consider if you didn’t like a game. Here are some of those factors and whether or not you should try a game again.
Consider any outside circumstances
Were you or anyone in your group stressed/rude/mad or had any other negative emotion? Was the location not ideal, such as low light or too loud? Did people feel rushed because they wanted to play another game, or just in a weird mood? I think these outside circumstances can have a huge factor into playing a new game. Gamers are people, and as much as we try not to, we bring our emotions, stresses, thoughts to the table. I’ve played many games where I was stressed or hungry and I didn’t enjoy the gameplay. This doesn’t mean I should give up on a game, especially if I feel like these outside circumstances were a factor.
Consider your group’s tastes
Not only can the groups emotions play into whether or not you enjoy a game, but simply the overall game tastes of the group can factor in. We’ve tried to play games like Camel Up at our normal game group and they didn’t enjoy it as much. It was a bit too random for their tastes. If that was my first experience playing Camel Up, I may not have enjoyed it as much as I did. My first plays of it was with family who likes lighter games, and because of that, everyone had an awesome time. If others aren’t having fun, that can affect your experience as well. The game may be a good game, but with that particular group with those tastes, it may just not be fun!
It wasn’t what you expected
Sometimes reviews or recommendations can give you a wrong perspective on a game. This happened with us on Last Will. My husband had thought it was a light card game based on a review he listened to. As we started playing, we realized it’s a heavier euro game. We didn’t expect that going in and it made us not enjoy our first gameplay as much. We’ll try it again, because now we know what to expect.
You lost the game and got frustrated
Yup, this happens to me! I’m a hothead. It’s something I’ve been working on for years. There are times where I get so frustrated in a game because I lost, that I say “I hate this!” I said this about Star Realms because I didn’t expect how fast the pace was, and after losing because someone did 50 points of damage in one turn, I got very frustrated. However, I decided to keep trying the game, but on iOS against the AI. Once I realized how the game worked and the strategy, I fell in love with the game. It’s in my top 5 of games of all time! If I had just given up because “if a game is good you must like every single play of it” then I wouldn’t play a lot of my current favorite games.
Because of these factors, I believe once you consider these, then decide whether to try the game again. Maybe with a different group, or at a different location, or after you watched a gameplay video to get a better feel of the game.
Reasons for not playing a game after a first play.
One reason may be you feel like the rulebook is only half complete. One game I reviewed, it was riddled with so many grammatical errors and spelling errors I could barely read it, let alone understand the game. Another reason may be that it is a prototype game, and the rules keep changing before you can even write a review. I’ve had this happen with several Kickstarter games I’ve previewed, and it can be frustrating as a reviewer to keep playing a game with new rules everyday. Finally, if a game’s theme offends you, or the art, or any reason you feel uncomfortable playing the game, then it definitely makes sense to steer away from it.
If after a few plays of a game, with different groups and different settings, and you still don’t like it, then I think it’s safe to give up on it, or as a reviewer, give it a negative review.
Does a game need to get better with each game session for it to be a “great” game?
Considering all I’ve mentioned above, a game won’t necessarily have that “wow” factor every single game play. There is the outside circumstances we mentioned, plus who and where you play a game with. Also, some games have variable set up like Dominion and one set of 10 kingdom cards may be much different or better than another. Also, player count is a huge factor in many games. You may love a game at 2 player, but dislike it at 4 player. I think it’s pretty unrealistic to love every single game session of any game you play. I’ve played tons of 7 Wonders and Carcassonne games and while these are two of my favorite games, not every single session was awesome. Does that mean these games aren’t great? By no means! It just means that just like in life, not every day is going to be awesome. Not every Stumptown coffee is going to knock your socks off. There will be off days in game sessions, just like there is in every single part of life!
Ultimately, games are about having fun. However, as a reviewer, I have to sometimes take a step back and say “wait, I may have not enjoyed this particular game session, but I may need to try this game again, under different circumstances.” Only then can a reviewer give a better opinion about a game. If I had reviewed Star Realms after my first 3 plays, I would have given it a very negative review. I disliked it because of my own personality flaw, not because it was a bad game. I’m so glad I gave Star Realms and many other games another chance, because I understand that not every game play session is going to be perfect, even with great games on hand.
The weather is getting nicer, and I am reminded that my board gaming tends to drop quite a bit in the summer. There’s a few reasons for this. I live where it rains 8-9 months out of the year. When it’s warm and sunny out, people here want to get outside. They want to go on walks, to the farmer’s market, have a BBQ or pool party. While this isn’t a bad thing, it can mean that instead of gaming on pizza nights or family events, we are instead swimming or playing outdoor games. So as gamers, how do we adjust toward warmer weather? Is there some games we can play outside, or maybe shorter games to get in while still enjoying the weather? I also realize that for some, summer means lots more time to play games, especially if you have kids in school. Instead of spending the evenings on homework, you’ll play board games. Since my kid isn’t in school yet, summer doesn’t change our schedule much, other then having a lot more outside time.
Things to consider when planning games outside:
1. Is it windy?
In the summer, it gets quite windy in the evenings where I live. This can greatly effect what type of games you can play outside. Basically any card game is out if it’s windy. Some dexterity games, like Bandu, could be effected by the wind. Always plan a backup game if you start playing a card game and it ends up being too windy. Games with heavier pieces or dice won’t be effected by the wind.
2. Do you have a table or at least a stable surface?
Most games do require a table, but there are some games that can be played with players holding all their cards or game pieces. Many party games don’t require a table, which can be great for outside play. Some card games, like oddball Aeronauts, don’t require a table at all, and can be played just about anywhere. Some games may not need a table, but require at least a stable surface like a dice tray or concrete ground. Many dice games you can just carry a dice tray with you so that you can play it wherever you go. Portable stable surface!
3. Is it wet or sandy where you are playing?
When playing outside, there is a much greater risk for your game to get ruined. Consider this before bringing your game outside. Card sleeves can help this, as well as games with plastic cards or pieces. Spot it Splash, for example, has plastic cards so the risk of the game getting damaged is very small.
In reality, just about every game can be played outside, but some work far better than others. Smaller games will be easier, especially since most people do not have access to large tables outside. Games with plastic pieces or cards can prevent them getting wet or messy. What’s great about board games is that they can be enjoyed outside or inside! So play board games this summer at the beach, on your back porch, or even in the pool!
Game suggestions for outside gaming:
Small card games:
Star Realms, Timeline, Sushi Go, Red7, Hanabi
Dungeon Roll, Martian Dice, Dragon Slayer, Skyline, and Roll for It
Time’s Up, 5 Second Rule, Say Anything, Telestrations, Spyfall
Bandu, Sorry Sliders, Animal Upon Animal, Chopstick Dexterity Challenge
Scoville is a resource management pepper farming board game for 2-6 players, designed by Ed Marriott and published by Tasty Minstrel Games. In Scoville, players take the role of pepper farmers, who try to crossbreed peppers to make the hottest ones in order to make the best chili, sell goods at the farmer’s market, and win auctions to gain more peppers. By planting, harvesting, and crossbreeding peppers of various kinds, players can earn points in a variety of ways. Whoever has the most points at the end, wins!
Scoville is a very interesting resource management game. Players start out with some base peppers (red, yellow, blue), and must plant peppers and harvest to gain hotter peppers. Since players are competing for space on the pepper farm, you can effectively block opponents from harvesting certain peppers and beat them out to recipes and the farmer’s market points. Players also auction for turn order at the beginning of each round, which keeps players on their toes. Since harvesting (where you pick up crossbred peppers) is done in reverse turn order, sometimes, a player may want to get last in the round to beat out other players to a good crossbreed.
I was very impressed by the theme of Scoville, and I loved the board and artwork. It’s a very light and fun theme, although it can get a little cutthroat in the planting and harvesting phases! The game isn’t quite colorblind friendly, however. They did make an effort to make similar colored peppers different heights, such as the red and brown, but the cards are not as bright as the pepper pieces, which caused issues for our colorblind players. Also the green and orange peppers are the same height, and looked like the same color on the cards for colorblind players. The game is still fun, even with these issues, but just note that a colorblind player may need some extra help with the cards.
Scoville had a really great pace, and on a couple games, it even felt a little too short. Our 3 player game took just an hour, which is perfect to fit in on just about any game night. There wasn’t too much downtime in between turns, even with planning ahead for the next round. Scoville is a great introduction to heavier euros, and has a fairly easy learning curve, especially as they provide a crossbreed cheat sheet to each player.
Overall, our group really enjoyed Scoville and I’m looking forward to more games of it. I liked that I could play it in about an hour, and that there was good player interaction without being overly cutthroat. The theme was fun, artwork was high quality, and it will definitely stay in our collection for a long time.
My son is turning 4 this summer and we’ve already had a couple of spontaneous family game nights with him. We’ve long awaited family game nights with our son ever since he was born. We’ve already learned what types of games he likes and it surprised us, as they weren’t the typical preschooler games. It’s been fun playing more games with him, and we plan to start taking him to our local game store as he matures and can sit for longer to play games. Here’s some advice I have in creating game night for your kids, no matter if they are 4 or 14.
Start them young!
You can start getting kids familiar with games at a very young age. A kid isn’t likely to play a game by the rules until they are 4 or 5, but they can still experience games. Let your toddler roll the dice, get them plastic cards to play with or one of Haba’s toddler games. You may not have a full on game night with your toddler, but you can at least get them used to simple ideas like game components and turns.
I know from experience that kids want to play the games their older siblings or parents are playing. Often, the game would be beyond their ability to play by themselves. Have your kid partner up with their siblings or with yourself. This way, they can experience the game but not have to fully understand the game. Make sure you give them some decisions they can make, such as what card to buy or who to attack. If they don’t feel included in the game as a partner, they’ll reject playing.
Don’t be strict on the rules
This is especially true with the younger ones. You may have to customize the rules based on the kids’ ability. For example, in Tem-Purr-A, we take out the action cards and start with all the indigestion cards in the deck for a short game. Our 3 year old can fully play the game then, with little help. As they get older and more used to game mechanics, you can start adding more and more rules back into the games. Many family games do have beginner and advanced rules, which can be very nice for playing with kids.
Find games that will interest your kids
Find themes and mechanics that your kid will like by playing lots of different games. You never know what your kids may end up liking. If your local game shop has game library, this may be a good way to find fun games for your kids without having to empty your wallet. Once you find a couple of games that your kids really enjoy, then buy those. I thought my son would love Animal Upon Animal, Lucky Pirate, and other games made for his age group. Instead, he likes 6 Nimmt, Tem-Purr-A, and City Square Off.
You will play the same games over and over again
Kids learn best by repetition, that is why they want to read the same book every night. Know that once kids find a game they love, they will play it, A LOT. You may be bored to tears playing Dixit for the 10th time that week, but if the kids are enjoying it, then sit back, relax, have fun. You can try and introduce new games here and there, but don’t be too worried if they get into one game for a long time. I mean, there’s a whole subset of gamers out there that just play Catan, so clearly it’s not just a kids thing.
Try to have regular family game nights
Consistency is key with kids. Make family game nights a weekly or bi monthly event. Make snacks, have them pick out a couple games to play. When they are younger, game night may last a total of 15 minutes. That’s okay! What matter is having fun with your kids experiencing games. Eventually, your kids will be able to play games for hours, and it will be you tiring out rather than your kids.
Game nights are a great way to bond with your kids, especially if they are at school and clubs all day. It can be one of the few times that the whole family is together face to face. These experiences will help your kids in more ways than just having fun. They’ll learn math, science, English, art, vital social skills, and more. Make game nights a priority and you’ll see your family reaping the rewards.
You know you’ve reached a new level of obsession in gaming when you start upgrading your games with custom components, dice, and meeples. Some of these upgrades can be necessary, while others can just add some extra fun to the table. Today I’ll share some of the game upgrades I’ve done and what I hope to do in the future.
Sleeving your cards in a game can actually be important, because I’ve had cards that have gotten marked from overuse or being bent by teenagers. While sleeving cards isn’t for everyone, it has kept a few of my games, like 7 Wonders, staying pristine after many, many games. My favorite game sleeves are the official Star Realms ones, because they kept the back Star Realms logo, and are thick but still easy to shuffle.
Deck Boxes can be a good way to store your card game collections especially when the original packaging isn’t up to snuff. It can also keep all of your card expansions together which is especially nice when traveling or going to a friend’s house to play. While I like to keep the original packaging of games when possible, I use deck boxes when I need to.
Using custom or colored dice can be a fun way to upgrade a game for cheap. I didn’t like some of the dice colors in Roll for It! so I decided to buy my own. It can add a personal touch to games! Also, metal dice are just straight up cool. Even if you don’t play RPGs (which has increased my love for dice even more), you can still display them or use them in board games that require normal dice.
Carcassonne has become a favorite in my household lately, so when Meeple Source was having a Character Meeple Kickstarter, I jumped for the chance to upgrade my Carcassonne game. I now have several of their custom meeples, including Totoro meeples and metal meeples! I’ve also used the meeples during D&D campaigns as NPCs!
Ever played a bidding game with flimsy cardboard coins? Not very satisfying. We’ve gotten several different sets of metal coins, and they make any game involving coin more fun. It feels more realistic with the clink of the coin especially when you must pay an opponent with the coin! While a more expensive way to upgrade your games, it can make a more immersive experience.
Bags and Travel Cases
If you are like me, you always like having games on hand for any occasion. I have a couple different bags I use for bringing games along with me, as well as some cases for my smaller games. I have a Dragonscale Bag of Holding and a Bag of Holding Con Edition from Thinkgeek. I use them both weekly, in order to have games with me at all times when going to family and friend’s houses. I also use small electronics cases to bring my Pack O Games and Mint Tin Games along with me places.
Upgrading your games can be a good way to preserve well used games, as well as bring new life to classics like Carcassonne. It can also make your gameplay more immersive and just more fun.
I’ve played games with loads of family in the past few months, and that usually means quick, easy to learn games that can play 5 or more players. With spring and summer break approaching, I know many people will have extra gaming time while on vacation! What are some of my favorite family games as of March 2016?
I played Qwixx back in Thanksgiving but didn’t buy myself a copy until after Christmas. I later learned that it’s also my in-laws current favorite game! I’ve taught this game to over 10 people, and all have loved it. It’s one of the best gateway games out there. Qwixx is a 2-5 player dice game by Gamewright and plays in about 10 minutes. Easy to learn, fun to play, even my strategy game group enjoyed it.
Codenames is my favorite party game for a variety of reasons. It uses logic and word association in a very fun way. I love that it’s a team game, so new players can jump in and not worry about doing everything right. I’ve introduced Codenames to about 20 people since Thanksgiving, and every single person has enjoyed it. Highly recommended! Codenames is a team word game for 2+ players, although I suggest playing it with 4 or more.
I found a love for Carcassonne about a year and a half ago. I had played the ipad version and my friend’s copy, but knew I needed to get my own. Now I have several expansions and standalone versions, and many custom meeples. I was so happy my parents enjoy Carcassonne, so we get to play it with them often. It’s 2-5 players and has easy gameplay. It’s a good gateway to heavier games, and tile laying has always been one of my favorite mechanics.
Now I may be biased about my own game, but it is one of my favorite family games. Duel List is a knowledge listing game for 2-8 players and is on sale on The Game Crafter. I’ve had so many laughs with this game and enjoy every play. I’m so proud that I’ve gotten to introduce this game to so many family members and even made a custom expansion for my nieces. My dad says it’s his favorite game other than Bridge and often wins at it.
I really enjoy Rolling America, and it was more strategic than I originally thought upon purchasing the game. Rolling America is a dice puzzle game where you try and get the least amount of X’s on your map. It’s all about mitigating the bad rolls. I like that Rolling America can be played with any amount of players since the play is simultaneous. It’s also great to play solo as well!