The BGW Blog

Tabletop gaming news and reviews

There have been times, I’m sad to say, when I’ve gazed upon my family all gathered together in the living room, only to realize that everyone is starting at their own screen. They’re listening to TV and interacting, what…psychically? That’s when I break out a board game. After only a few minutes, everyone is having a great time and — ready? — aware of each other’s existence. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”

Ellie Gibson of The Guardian has noticed something similar, as well as the general hustle and bustle of modern life:

“After a hectic day of work and childcare, I don’t have enough brainpower to come up with funny names for all 78 Playmobil pirates. I can barely muster the creative energy to construct a cheese sandwich, let alone a Lego dinosaur palace complete with conservatory and helipad…This is where board games can help.”

As a mom to a young child, Ellie appreciates that games provide a structure to play. When she’s exhausted at the end of the day, a board game provides a framework to her play sessions with her son. They spend quality time together, and she doesn’t have to invent elaborate back stories for those pirates.

Play because it’s fun, play because it gives you a break as a new parent, play because it pulls people out of the virtual world and into the real one. Just play.

NPR recently did a story on the apty-named Speilbound, an Omaha, Nebraska coffee house that has what it claims to be the largest collection of board games for its customers to enjoy. At 1,200 titles, I’m not sure that’s true, but I haven’t done the research so who am I to argue?

The story briefly profiles the Short family, who often leave their own library of 200 games to play at Speilbound. “It’s just fun to play as a family whenever we get down here,” said Isabelle, 14. I agree, Isabelle. At the time of the interview, the gang was playing a round of Takenoko, which is a game that I really love.

Spellbound’s owner, Kaleb Michaud, is optimistic about his store’s future, and with good reason. NPR reports that the board game industry has been growing by 15 to 20 percent a year for a while now, and that board games brought in $700 million last year; and that’s not counting “…the Monopolies and Scrabbles” of the world.

 

Imgur user Taylor Liss recently visited Boston’s Museum of Fine Art to see the exhibit, Playing With Paper: Japanese Toy Prints. It features “toy prints,” or wood cuts depicting board games, colorful puzzles and more that were enjoyed by children and adults. Taylor has shared some nice pictures of these amazing examples of very old board games. My favorite is entitled “Board Game of Famous Places on the Tokaido Road, Fifty-Three Stations in One View,” pictured above.

Hmm, that sounds familiar.

I’d love to get up to Boston to see this exhibit. If you manage to, let us know.

Do you know what’s not on this list? I’m The Boss. That game makes you friendless.

Writing for The Guardian, Will Freeman has compiled a list of 12 board games that can make you a better person, and I’ve got to say, his reasoning is solid. Specifically, he addresses for areas of personal development:

  1. Writing and creativity
  2. Teamwork
  3. Arithmetic
  4. History

To improve writing and story telling, Freeman suggests Once Upon A Time, which I absolutely love. It’s a card game that has players making up a story on the fly. Each player has cards that further the story, interrupt the story or eventually bring it to an end. But really, the whole fun is in stringing a story together with your friends. Freeman also recommends Dixit and good old Story Cubes.

As for teamwork, suggestions include the ever popular cooperative game Pandemic, as well as Space Cadets and one of my favorites, Forbidden Island (though I suggest Forbidden Dessert is the better game, which we discuss at length in episode 009 of the podcast).

I’ll let you read the whole article to see all of Freeman’s suggestions. I’ll add one of my own as well. To foster writing and creativity, try Fiasco from Billy Puplit Games.  It’s a GM-less RPG that’s all story-based, and literally improvised on the spot by the players. I’ve had a lot of fun playing Fiasco, and it absolutely fosters creativity.

Asmodee, which recently merged with Fantasy Flight, has teased content art, design and title treatments for Mysterium on Facebook. The game generated a lot of buzz at 2014 BoardGameGeek Con and continues to do so, despite uncertainty around US distribution.

Mysterium is a cooperative deduction game that has players trying to figure out what in the heck is going on. The company says we can expect a lot more at GenCon 2015.

Everyone’s favorite astronaut, Chris Hadfield, has described how he plays Scrabble in space.

Writing for The Guardian, Hadfield explains how games are an essential part of life on the International Space Station. “Our psychologist encourages lots of little habits to help keep us sane. One of these is Scrabble – they recognise that games are fundamental for peace of mind.” He goes on to note that he’s had “…a perpetual Scrabble competition” going on with his mom for 50 years. That’s cool (my mom always destroys me in Scrabble), but how does he play in space?

One word: Velcro.

“Our Scrabble board had Velcro on the back, as did each alphabet piece. Everything on the inside of a spaceship has Velcro on it. The Scrabble board was attached to the ceiling in the same place that we ate our meals. So once you’ve heated up your bag of mash and you’re squeezing it in to your mouth, you can be working on your next word.”

Occasionally a piece will get lost, despite the Velcro, but not for long. Hadfield notes that everything in the ISS is pulled towards the air filters, so eventually a stray piece will get caught. While Scrabble is fun, Hadfield says there isn’t a ton of time to play. “There is never a shortage of things to do [on the ISS]. It’s an over-saturated life, where you occasionally get the time to play Scrabble.”

It’s a good thing the Vulcans gave us Velcro.

For many, the battle to get people to put their phones away and concentrate on the game is a losing one. Or maybe you’re the person who “just has to check” real quick between turns. What if there was a game that required you to fiddle with your phone? There is, and it’s called Game of Phones.

In order to win Game of Phones, you must have a smart phone that’s jam-packed with music, photos, social media apps and more. It’s a scavenger hunt of sorts and everything that must be found lives on your phone. For instance, you may pull “Play the first song that comes up on shuffle” or “Go to photos, close your eyes, scroll and pick one at random” from the 100-card deck. The fun comes in the embarrassing revelations that happen when you pull up that photo or song.

Game of Phones is available from Photojojo for $20.

 

 

Last month, the folks behind Cards Against Humanity responded to the obscene, frenzied commercialism of Black Friday by selling a box of cow dung for $6. Literally a box of poo.

Eager for a good joke, I plunked down my six bucks and patiently waited. I wasn’t the only one it seems, as CBC News reports that 30,000 boxes of cow poop were sold.

Below is my unboxing video. If you’ve ever wanted to watch someone receive a cow pie in the mail, your dream as come true.

BullshitUnboxing from Board Games Weekly on Vimeo.

OK, this one’s kind of silly. I fully admit that. But still, a part of me wants this in my game room. I suspect there’s at least one of you who feels the same way. Come on, admit it. It’s OK.

The Critical Hit D20 Rug from Think Geek will be right at home in your game room. It’s washable and made of cut pile, with a nonskid backing. Roll for interior decorating. For being the geeky room addition we’d love to own, the D20 rug is our accessory of the week.

Clever Move has posted a list of six things that kids can learn from playing board games. It’s a great list and demonstrates why I’m always thrilled to play games with my kids and their friends. Here are a few examples of the benefits that Clever Move points out:

  • Math. As Aaron and I noted in a recent episode of the podcast, Magic: The Gathering is a very math-friendly game. My nine-year-old enjoys it quite a bit, and I like that it reinforces math facts like addition and subtraction.
  • Valuation. It’s important to know what a thing is worth, and games like Settlers of Catan drives that concept home.
  • Planning. Move past Chutes And Ladders and consider kids games that require them to think a move or two ahead. Labyrinth is a great example.

Clever Move offers three more benefits, and I’ll let you head over there to read them. In the meantime, I’ll add one of my own: how to be a gracious winner/loser. No one wants to play with an obnoxious winner or a sore loser, and kids figure that out fast. Plus, life offers plenty of opportunities to be on the losing end of things and board games provide a safe way to begin to prepare for those more serious days.