Category Archives: Blog

Blog posts about various topics of board gaming.

Game Night With Your Kids

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.

You'd be surprised at what kids can play as preschoolers.
You’d be surprised at what kids can play as preschoolers.

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.

Partner up!

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.

Having your kid partner with you can be a great way to get fun game nights in.
Having your kid partner with you can be a great way to get fun game nights in.

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.

My kid loves counting so Tem Purr A was a fun choice. We modified some rules to make it simpler/faster.
My kid loves counting so Tem Purr A was a fun choice. We modified some rules to make it simpler/faster.

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.

I have a feeling we'll be playing this Sun Swamp math game for many more times to come.
I have a feeling we’ll be playing this Sun Swamp math game for many more times to come.

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.


Upgrading Your Games

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.

Card Sleeves

Sleeving Star Realms is definitely a must.
Sleeving Star Realms is definitely a must.

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

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!


This metal coin set is just one of three that we own.
This metal coin set is just one of three that we own.

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.



Favorite Family Games

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?


Such a fun and quick dice game! Loved by my whole family!
Such a fun and quick dice game! Loved by my whole family!

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.


Definitely my favorite party game of the year. Best part is the looks of confusion when someone does a weird clue.
Definitely my favorite party game of the year. Best part is the looks of confusion when someone does a weird clue.

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.


Carcassonne is my favorite strategy game to play with my parents.  They've gotten quite good at it.
Carcassonne is my favorite strategy game to play with my parents. They’ve gotten quite good at it.

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.

Duel List

Best part of Duel List is trying to determine a valid word! Much laughter has ensued with this game.
Best part of Duel List is trying to determine a valid word! Much laughter has ensued with this game.

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.

Rolling America

Rolling America is such a great puzzle game. Simple but so hard to do well.
Rolling America is such a great puzzle game. Simple but so hard to do well.

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!


Pack O Games Set 2 Review

Pack O Games Set 2 is a set of four microgames with all different themes and mechanics on Kickstarter now all designed by Chris Handy.  Each game is on the intermediate or challenging scale of Pack O Games.  These games: GYM, SOW, ORC, and RUM all come in a gum sized game box. Perfect for gaming on the go or if you have a small table space.

Let’s start off looking at my personal favorite of the set: SOW

Here is the initial set up for SOW
Here is the initial set up for SOW

SOW is a set collecting card game for 2-4 players in which players try to make a bouquet of flowers in their favorite color to maximize points. SOW uses the Mancala mechanic of picking up a row of flowers and dropping them one by one around the garden. When you land a seed card as your last card, all seeds of that color in the row flip to the flower side. When you land a flower card as your last card, then you pick one of the two colors shown on the flower and all flowers with that color get added to your bouquet (if it was placed in your wheelbarrow). Players continue placing cards on their turn until each row has only 0 or 1 cards in it. Then players add up their points. If the center color has their favorite color, they get 3 points, if it’s on the outer, 2 points, and 1 point for every flower that does not have their favorite color. Whoever has the most points, wins the game.

SOW is definitely my favorite of the new Pack O Games set. I love how much planning and thinking goes into each turn, and trying to maximize future turns by using the Mancala style card placing. I also like the pace of the game, it never feels slow as the game space changes every turn. I enjoy the whimsical art of SOW. Our only issue is the red color is basically impossible to see for some colorblind players since brown and red look the same to those who have red-green colorblindness. Other than that, the game is very fun, and the most thinky of all the Pack O Games of Set 2.

Next up in the list is GYM: 

GYM in the play phase
GYM in the play phase

GYM is a drafting and area control card game for 2, 4 or 6 players where gamers try to pick the best students for the sporting events chosen. There are two phases to GYM: pick phase and play phase.  The pick phase is drafting one student at a time into your hand for the play phase.  If you choose a bully, you can influence which sporting events will get chosen for the play phase. Use the bullies to your advantage to pick which sporting events that you have the most skills in. Each student has two skills which varying levels. These levels will give points towards the area control (play phase) part the game. The play phase is where players choose one student to play at an event, then do an event action.  These actions can cause two students to swap places or even to steal a kid from your opponent.  Play continues until a player has played their last card, then add up points.  If you win an event, you gain points by the difference of your opponent at that event.  Whoever has the most points wins the game.

GYM reminds me very much of a faster, simpler Smash Up, which for me is a positive thing.  Where Smash Up drags on, GYM’s pace keeps the randomness of the game fun and light. There is also strategy in the drafting of your students and using the bullies to your advantage. The art of GYM is very fun, and shows a great diversity of kids. My only complaint is that soccer was not one of the possible sporting events! But that’s just personal opinion. Overall, GYM is an enjoyable area control game that can be a good intro to games like Smash Up or drafting games.

Third in the set is ORC:

ORC mid-game
ORC mid-game

ORC is a 2 player only area control card game in which players use clans of orcs to take over territories and earn points.  Players use careful planning and hand management in order to gain dominance in territories.  ORC is a quick game involving 6 rounds of battles.  A battle happens when a stockpile next to the territory is emptied.  Players then tally up their orcs at the battle, whoever has the most wins that battle.  After 6 battles, the game is over, and players count up their conquered territories. Players earn extra points in the orcs kept in their hand match the color of your conquered territories. Whoever has the most points wins.

When I played ORC, I immediately thought of Battleline or other such head to head area control games. You want to win territories but with using less cards than your opponent for maximum efficiently.  You also want to keep note of the cards left in your hand at the end of the game, since you’ll get extra points if the colors of the territories you conquered are in your hand.  The gameplay is very quick and players can get a couple of games in before dinner or waiting for the train.  The art of ORC isn’t quite as bright as I would like, but that’s personal preference.  The cards are a little busy looking.  I think if the cards had orc clan symbols instead of the orcs themselves it would be easier to see across the table.  Other than that, ORC is quick and fun card game.

Lastly, we have RUM:

RUM in action
RUM in action

RUM is a rummy style card game with a hilarious pirate theme for 2-4 players.  Players collect rum they find from a shipwreck and play them as sets in order to gain a majority in a color. The parrot can show up at any time and ruin your plans.  You will be cursing at the end of the game. Play continues until a specific number of points is reached (dependent on number of players), or the castaway clock is at 7 when the parrot is revealed.  Players add up their points and whoever has the most wins.

In RUM you take turns collecting different colored rum bottles in order to make sets and gain majority of a color.  You can steal majority of a color by playing higher sets. However, the parrot prevents players from hoarding cards like in many other rummy games. While I highly enjoy the art and theme of RUM, I didn’t enjoy the randomness of the parrot.  While it should only come up every so turns, it can come up more often and prevent you from fully enjoying the game.  I suggest playing a couple of games of RUM to account for the randomness of the parrot. RUM would be a good game to introduce players who like rummy style games.



Flip City Reuse Expansion Review

In order to play the Flip City Reuse Expansion, you need the base copy of Flip City.

We review Flip City here.

The Reuse expansion of Flip City adds four different abilities to the game. The Plumber Shop forces every opponent  to discard their top card or the bottom card of their deck.  On the flip side of Plumber Shop is the Renewal Agency.  Renewal Agency gives 3 cash to the player can be used to spend only on Flip/Develop costs. The Flea Market can be optionally kept in the discard pile when reshuffling.  It also has the recycle symbol on the beginning side, so that it can be recycled right away. On the flip side of the Flea Market is the Recycling Bin.  The Recycling Bin has zero effect when played, but when it is flipped (at a cost of 1), you can flip an additional card.

Flip City adds 4 different abilities, which are represented on two cards, double sided.
Flip City adds 4 different abilities, which are represented on two cards, double sided.

The Reuse expansion adds some more interaction between players as well as giving more opportunities to flip and recycle cards.  Each player starts with one Plumber shop and one Flea market in their deck. The rest of those cards can then be purchased from the general supply later.  I like that the Reuse expansion makes flipping cheaper and easier to do because of the Flea Market and Recycling Bin.  Since Flip City is all about maximizing your deck, it is very cool that there are more ways to do so.



Gamers Defined: A Spectrum

I think as especially as board game media, it’s important to define some terms of types of gamers.  I think certain terms (like non-gamers) are used way too broadly, and don’t get the point across.  I’ve tried to create a spectrum of gamers, that better describe each phase of gaming.  And it’s not a scale of one is more epic than another, but just where people are at, gaming wise.

I'm definitely an experienced gamer, but a few years ago I was a regular gamer.
I’m definitely an experienced gamer, but a few years ago I was a regular gamer.

Note that this is a spectrum, you may be in between Regular Gamer and Experienced Gamer for example.  Not every person may find themselves completely described in these gamer definitions.

Non-Gamer: Someone who  is wary of gaming, dislikes gaming, or has never played a game in their adult life. I’m using the mathematical definition of non, which means not.  Basically a non-gamer is someone who doesn’t play games and isn’t interested in games.

Non-Modern Gamer: Someone who has played card games or monopoly in the past, but hasn’t played any modern games yet. They are content playing Hearts with family, and don’t have much interest in these new fangled games.

Novice Gamer: Someone who is new to modern games, and wants to try out new mechanics such as tile laying or card drafting.  They normally don’t want to try anything complex, but interested in games other than Monopoly or classic card games.

Casual Gamer: Someone who enjoys gaming if someone else initiates, but won’t buy games for themselves, or host game nights.  They may not feel confident about learning a game themselves, unless it’s a very easy to learn game.

Family Gamer: Someone who mostly plays games at family events, or who plays games as the request of their children.  They see the importance of playing with family, but don’t have much interest in playing games otherwise.

Regular Gamer: Someone who buys games, enjoys playing games, and initiates gaming if hanging out with friends and family.  They may go to an organized game night at a game store, but mostly sticks to gaming with people they know.

Experienced Gamer: Someone who is very involved in gaming, whether it be with their family, friends, or gaming community. They regularly play games with family or friends and host game nights when time allows.  They are well versed in many types of mechanics and themes of gaming.

Also note that someone may change from a non-gamer to a family gamer, or a regular gamer to an experienced gamer in their life.  These aren’t set in stone.  Alternatively, you may change from an experienced gamer to a regular gamer if you have a newborn or move to an area without a good gaming community.

I could’ve added even more but felt confident about these.  What type of gamer are you?


2015 Year in Review

Favorite Games we obtained in 2015

7 Wonders Duel, Codenames, Pandemic Legacy, La Granja, Steam Works, Small World Underground, Eminent Domain, Concordia.  We had so much goodness this year.  This may be our best year of gaming yet.  We’ve played so many good games that we don’t even get all of them in.  It’s definitely a good problem to have.

What we discovered about our gaming style in 2015

While I love heavy euro games, I do find that I quite enjoy lighter games like Carcassonne and Codenames.  I’ve become less about the game I play and more about who I play with.  This year at Thanksgiving taught me that since I played games with many younger kids.  It was more about the memories being formed than it was about any particular game we played.  I find that since I play with many different groups of people, I can get enough heavy gaming in through the week that I don’t mind (and usually enjoy) the lighter fare of games.

Our game groups in 2015

We have a weekly game group, a bimonthly D&D group, a monthly game group, and pizza night every Friday with my parents!  This means lots of groups and lots of gaming!  Our Monday night group focuses more on heavier games, but we do enjoy the occasional light game of Carcassonne or Dominion.  Our current favorites in that group are Pandemic Legacy, Steam Works, and La Granja.  In the monthly game group at my husband’s work, we found that playing lighter games work better, since we have often have larger numbers and not as much time to explain a complex game.  Games like Codenames, Spyfall, Bandu tend to work great well in the group.  On pizza night we play with my parents, who tend to like lighter games.  This year we got them hooked on Tichu, Carcassone, and Jaipur.  It’s been quite fun!

Favorite Kickstarters of 2015

There’s several games I didn’t back that were on KS this year that I have really enjoyed (got them retail), but out of the ones that I actually backed, I would say it’s a toss up between Lanterns and Mint Tin Apocalypse.  Both were delivered early and have been really fun to play with family.  The quality has been excellent on both.  For games that I backed but haven’t come out yet, I’m very excited for Valeria (which we got to play a prototype of) and Eminent Domain Battleships.  We should be getting those early next year.

Favorite Board Game Shop we went to in 2015

James and I did a rock climbing/board gaming weekend up in Bellevue, WA to celebrate our 5th anniversary.  We got to visit Mox Boarding House for the first time and it was incredibly awesome.  Both days we spent at least 8 hours there, gaming with each other and new friends!  It was amazing and we already have plans to go back for our 6th anniversary.

Overall, 2015 has been an awesome year for board gaming!  We attended our first Board Game Convention (Gamestorm in Vancouver, WA), we designed and released Duel List to the public, and also have met quite a few awesome board gamers, designers, and publishers.  We are very excited for what is up ahead in 2016!


Thanksgiving Gaming- A Reflection

Another Thanksgiving week has come and gone, but the memories (and photos) will always stay!  This year, we traveled to California to visit family for the week and we got quite a bit of gaming in.  My nieces and nephew love to play board games, and when they weren’t swimming, they were asking to play games.  Because we had to pack light, we didn’t get to bring many games but we did manage to bring a few that were big hits among the kids (and even some adults too!).

Best Treehouse Ever

My niece explaining why her Treehouse is the most awesome
My niece explaining why her Treehouse is the most awesome

There were times during the week where all 16 of us weren’t together so we managed to get a few smaller games in.  One of my nieces’ favorites was Best Treehouse Ever.  They had played Sushi Go before, so they were no strangers to drafting games.  They particularly loved the art (it is quite amazing) and loved to create stories about each room of their treehouse.  While it’s not a game I could play over and over again, I’m glad my nieces got a huge kick out of it!

Monikers (with kid friendly cards)

One thing I love about Monikers is the fact they included 50 blank cards, so I made a bunch of cards that were kid friendly and would relate to our family.  We played this one with my adult cousin and my nieces.  I was amazed at how good my 8 year old niece was, especially during the “one word” phase.  And of course, hilarity ensues during the charades round.  Acting out “blue shell” and “meeple” is just hilarious.

5 Second Rule

We brought 5 Second Rule because we knew that there would be times where we may not be able to play at a table.  I was really surprised how much my 5 year old nephew and 3 year old niece liked this game.  We tailored it for them of course (we weren’t gonna make them say 3 NCAA Teams for example) and they did great.  We played it several times over the week.  I love how the timer makes noise!  Little kids especially liked taking turns flipping over the timer, that’s half the fun of 5 Second Rule.


Codenames was a big hit.  I love this game more and more.
Codenames was a big hit. I love this game more and more.

While my husband James and I did most of our gaming with kids, we did manage to round up a few more adults so we could play Codenames.  It was quite fun, and we even got my uncle to play!  Codenames continues to impress me and it fits quite well for our family.  The younger kids could be on a team, while the adults and my 12 year old niece took turns being spymasters.  One of my favorite clues I did was “continuum” for “space” and “time”.  My dad was on my team and I knew he would guess correctly!  One surprising thing about Codenames is that my 5 year old nephew kept asking to play it, he liked to be on the spymaster’s team and say the clue for the team.


Qwixx was awesome and I wish we had gotten to play it more.  But it was one of the last games of Thanksgiving night.
Qwixx was awesome and I wish we had gotten to play it more. But it was one of the last games of Thanksgiving night.

My aunt always buys a couple of the Mensa winners every year to play at Thanksgiving, and we managed a game on Qwixx on Thanksgiving night.  It was quite fun, more strategy than I originally thought.  The little kids were on the adults’ teams and had fun crossing out numbers.  I could see this game becoming a big hit with my family in the future, because it’s quick and has some strategy.  It would also be a great game for my homeschool classes.


Lanterns was amazing as usual.  My aunt won her first game!
Lanterns was amazing as usual. My aunt won her first game!

We managed one game of Lanterns on Thanksgiving night, once most of the kids were busy doing crafts (or sleeping like my son).  My aunt had bought the game and was really excited about it.  I told her how I got to review the game and how awesome it was.  She really enjoyed the game and loved the art.  I’m glad we got to do a strategy game during the week, since most of the games we played were party games.

Pack O Games

GEM is one of my favorite Pack O Games
GEM is one of my favorite Pack O Games

We managed a few games of HUE, GEM, SHH, and FLY during the week.  People are always amazed at the size of Pack O Games, which is part of why I bring it everywhere.  My 5 year old nephew really enjoyed FLY, and my nieces really enjoyed SHH.  Pack O Games were perfect to play while we were waiting for lunch or Thanksgiving dessert.

Thanksgiving week was definitely more chaotic than I expected but I was super pleased with all the gaming that happened.  I love how much my family loves to play games and with Christmas just over 3 weeks away, we’ll be getting even more gaming in during Christmas break when all my family is here.

How was your Thanksgiving break?  Did you play many games?  What were some hits?  You can reply in the comments or on Twitter.  Happy gaming!




Themed and Holiday Gaming Tips and Tricks

With Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas around the corner, many of us gamers will be hosting gaming parties and get togethers.  These could range from anything to your normal game group to playing with your casual gaming cousins.  What are some of the best ways to make holiday gaming fun?  What are some good ideas for themed game nights?  Here are some tips and tricks from gaming over the years with a variety of groups and over the holidays.

Decorations, costumes, and food can add to a themed game night.
Decorations, costumes, and food can add to a themed game night.

Themed Gaming Tips and Tricks

Picking Games for a Themed Game Night

Choosing your games on a thematic night highly depends on your own group. Some groups like to go quite literal and if it’s a pirate night, it must be a pirate themed game, such as Libertalia.  Others are more relaxed, content if there is some semblance of piracy in the game, i.e. Firefly or Smash Up.  On Halloween night, the theme is more broad and you can do anything from Abyss to Cthulhu Realms.  Figure out what your group likes, then go from there.  And be okay with changing the game queue up if extra people show up or others aren’t into a certain game.

Ways to Make the Themed Night Immersive

Music, ambient lighting and themed food/drink can be some great ways to make the night immersive and fun.  Tabletop Audio has wonderful background/ambient music for almost every kind of gaming.  We use them on D&D night often.  If going for a Halloween theme, you could play the games by candlelight or flashlight for extra ambience.  Of course, any game night is not complete without food and drink.  Find out what your friends like, then go on Pinterest or similar to find ideas.  If you aren’t all that creative, even just buying Halloween cookies and pumpkin ale would do the job.

Custom Game Accessories can add to Themed Game Nights

Custom meeples, dice, and game mats can add great immersion to a themed game night.  Meeple Source is my go-to for custom meeples, and they have anything from sci-fi to fantasy and even Totoro meeples.  Custom dice is another way to add to a game night, instead of rolling boring D6s, you might have a fireball dice or dragon dice.  Game mats can also add to the theme and fun, especially if the game mats are specific to the game.

Themed game nights can be quite fun, especially if the group likes immersion and appreciate themed food and drink.  With so many games, accessories, and game music out there, it’ll take just a little planning to make an epic themed game night.

Playing games with family over hot chocolate is a great way to spend New Year's Eve.
Playing games with family over hot chocolate is a great way to spend New Year’s Eve.

Holiday Gaming Tips and Tricks

Gathering the Group

It’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years and you’re at a big family event.  Everyone is scattered around, eating food, chatting, or chasing after the littles ones.  How do you gather anybody to play a game?  The best way, is to go around the house, announce you’re playing a game, then start setting the game up.  You might have to remind some a few times to finish up their pie and head over to the table.  Sometimes, it may take a half hour or even more to gather people, if only a few come, start playing a short game with that group.  Once more show up, then you can start a big party game or whatever type of game you wanted to play.

Pick the Right Games

During the holidays, I’m mostly playing games with kids and casual gamers.  I’m not going to whip out Terra Mystica on Christmas Eve.  I may take out Rhino Hero or Wits and Wagers.  However, you may be spending Thanksgiving with a small group of euro gamers, so it may make sense to whip out La Granja after eating turkey.  You have to know the group you’re playing with and what they are willing to play.

Traveling with Games

Many people travel by airplane for holidays, and deciding which games to bring can be tough, especially if you aren’t checking luggage.  If playing with more strategy gamers, find games that fulfill the strategy niche but have a small footprint.  Arboretum, Isle of Trains, Eminent Domain can fit this.  If playing with mostly casual gamers, there are plenty of small games that can fit in a small roll bag.  Another option is to combine several games into one box, taking out inserts and sharing game pieces for much needed space.  Of course, you can always try and meet up at a game shop with friends or family, and play games they have there.

What are some of your themed and holiday tips and tricks?  Any that I missed?  Add them to the comments section or comment on Twitter.



A List of Solo Playable Games

Top Left: Star Realms Top Right: Suburbia Bottom Left: Friday Bottom Right: Viva Java The Dice Game
From Top Left: Star Realms, Suburbia, Friday, Viva Java The Dice Game

We had an incredible discussion on Boardgamehour regarding solo games, and many people wanted suggestions on solo playable games.  Here’s a list I’ve compiled with the help Jacob Coon of games we both own that have solo play.

I have three categories: “Solo Only or Co-Op Games with Official Solo Options“, “Official Solo Variants of Competitive Games“, and “Games You Can Play Solo (Unofficial Variants)”.  The list is long, so keep that in mind as you scroll down. Feel free to add any solo games you own to the list via the comments!

Solo Only or Co-op games with Official Solo Options

My Games

  • Friday: A Solo Adventure – Shipwrecked! Friday must escape off the island by defeating the pirates.  Solo only deck builder where you must survive hazards and attacks from pirates to win.
  • Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp – Save humanity from a deadly virus in this solo only set collection game.  One must collect the right proteins in order to contain the virus in a lab setting.
  • Space Hulk: Death Angel – Set in the Space Marine Warhammer universe, players control heroes which must fight against aliens to survive.  Cooperative card game where the die rolls can be very unforgiving.
  • Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon – Cooperative Dungeon crawler set in the D&D universe.  Be a cleric, rogue, warrior, mage, or paladin that fight monsters and complete objectives with a modular board and miniatures.
  • Tiny Epic Defenders – Defend the Capital City from monsters and epic foes! Choose heroes and use their powers in order to move around the regions and defeat enemies before Capital City gets overrun.
  • Samurai Spirit – Take on the persona of the Seven Samurais and save the village!  Draw bandit cards and decide whether to fight, defend the village, or pass them on to another samurai.
  • Lord of the Ring LCG – Cooperative deck builder set in the Lord of the Rings universe.  Fight trolls, travel to locations, and complete scenarios in order to win the game!
  • Space Alert – Real time mission orientated science fiction game set in space.  Ten minute timer + soundtrack give a very tense game of launching missiles, fighting intruders, and coordinating turns that don’t conflict.
  • Onirim – Solo only or cooperative card game in which one must collect eight door cards before the deck runs out!  Beware of the nightmare cards, which have brutal effects!
  • Hostage Negotiator – Solo only dice game where you must press your luck in negotiating the release of hostages.  Too many bad rolls or card draws will cut your negotiations short!

Jacob Coon’s Games

  • Darkest Night – Control 4 characters in defense of their homeland against the evil forces of the Necromancer. Using the characters skills you select actions to gain relics that will help you defeat the Necromancer.
  • Airborne Commander – Set during D-day, you are in charge of an airborne unit that has been scattered throughout. Using troops that are available to you, you find more troops and fight against the enemy at the same time.
  • Legendary: Marvel Deck Building – Control Marvel superheroes in their fight against the evil mastermind. Each game you build a deck of cards from four different heroes while fighting against the mastermind and his henchman.
  • The Game – A Spiel des Jahres nominee, the Game forces you to play two cards every turn into one of four piles. Two piles are increasing and the other two are decreasing in numbers so playing as many cards as possible before you have no valid moves provides some tricky moments.

Official Solo Variants of Multiplayer Competitive Games

My games

  • Harbour – Worker placement where players take turns placing their worker on buildings, gaining effects and resources. Solo play is against an AI that has predetermined choices depending on the building.
  • Star Realms (Need Gambit Set Expansion for solo play) – Sci-Fi deck builder where you try to take out the other opponent.  Solo play is against an AI that does tough damage or effects based on what goes out in trade row.
  • Flip City – Microdeckbuilder about building up a city and winning by playing enough points or cards in one turn.  Solo option is about getting to victory without running out of time (supply deck goes empty).
  • Dungeon Roll – Dungeon dice delve where players choose a hero to help them fight monsters and dragons.  Solo play is about getting points and beating your own score.
  • Suburbia – Tile placement game about building up a suburb and getting good reputation and income for population (points).  Solo play has two options: Lone Architect and Dale the Bot.
  • Imperial Settlers – Card game where players build up their empires and fight their neighbors.  Solo play is against a virtual player with ways to attack your empire.  Try to get the most points.
  • Lewis and Clark – Based on the Lewis and Clark expedition, players race to get to the Pacific by using cards and actions.  Solo play is against a virtual player who moves every turn without penalty.
  • Viva Java: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game – Dice game based on Viva Java: The Dice Game where players try to make the best coffee blends.  Solo play is against one of two AI players.
  • Caverna – Worker placement in which players are building up their caves, feeding their families, and farming crops.  Solo play is a variant in which the player tries to get the most points from previous games.

Jacob Coon’s Games

  • Legacy: The Testament of Duke DeCrecy – Instead of building a family tree as in the multi-player game, now you are trying to research your family tree to prove you are the heir to millions. Managing your limited actions your must make sure the right people are found in your family in order to gain the support and reputation that you need.
  • Nations: The Dice Game – Build a civilization in less than 30 minutes while rolling a bunch of custom dice. Each turn you select an action to bring more into your civilzation and make it prosper, but the AI ( a simple die roll), limits what is available, so choose wisely.
  • Neuroshima Hex 3.0 – Neuroshima Hex imitates a battle in a future dystopian setting. The game comes with 50 puzzles to help you learn the game, but also provides a nice solo option.
  • Träxx – Draw a card, connect your line to the matching colors (as many as you choose) and you have Träxx. While simple in execution this game really has you weighing your options as you can’t back track, but every empty space is negative points.
  • Snowdonia – If you are looking for a meatier game with a great solo option, than Snowdonia may be the game you are looking for. This worker placement game plays very similar in solo and multi-player games having the players build train tracks through the Snowdonia mountains and with plenty of expansions you have a lot of variability.
  • Skyline – Using a Yahtzee-type mechanism you roll dice to create buildings of three different sizes. You can play it to get the highest score or attempt to recreate different cities provided by the rules.
  • Card City – The first in a trilogy by Alban Viard, this small card game puts you in the role of city planner. Each turn is very simply executed, but the tough choices make this quick game a surprising favorite of mine.

Games You Can Play Solo (Unofficial Variants)

My Games

  • Sentinels of the Multiverse – Cooperative superhero themed card game in which players fight against villains and try to survive tough environments. Solo play can be done by controlling 3 or more heroes yourself.
  • Pandemic: The Cure – Cooperative dice game based on Pandemic where you are trying to fight a virus that’s spreading across the world.  Solo play can be done by controlling one character for a more challenging game or controlling 2 or more characters for easier play.
  • Pandemic – Cooperative card game in which you must save the world from a deadly virus.  For solo play, you can control one character for challenging play.
  • Forbidden Island – Cooperative tile grid game where players are trying to find the four sacred treasure before the island sinks.  Solo play can be done by simulating a 2 or more player game.
  • Forbidden Desert – Successor to Forbidden Island, Desert gives more challenging play by having shifting tiles.  Players must find the pieces of their airship before the desert gets buried in a sand storm.  Solo play can be done by simulating a 2 or more player game.
  • Timeline – Competitive card game in which players place events in a the correct Timeline (dates are on back of card, hidden until a player picks a spot and reveals it).  Solo play can be done by placing three cards face up to form a timeline, then getting 3 chances to get their card placements correct.  If make 3 mistakes, then you lose.

Jacob Coon’s Games

  • Flashpoint: Fire Rescue – Instead of fighting diseases around the world like in Pandemic, Flashpoint: Fire Rescue puts you in charge of a firehouse where you can play from 1-4 characters to help put out the fire and save victims. Flashpoint: Fire Rescue is very similar to Pandemic in many ways, but it’s theme ends up being a little more friendly to some.