Saturday, December 28, 2019

Game time again

So it was another great year for the boardgamers in the home.  I've read that board games are all the rage again.  Of course we've been playing board games on a regular basis for years.  My wife and I spent our second date on New Year's Eve, 1991, playing Scrabble with her family.  Since then we've always had a soft spot for the quieter side of life even in our younger, crazier salad days of marriage.

We raised our boys in the same manner, and they're quite good at navigating board games every bit as much as video games.  In fact, two of them seem to prefer the non-digital approach to family entertainment.  But then, they also have their own peculiar interests, such as asking for a film version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and then schooling their youngest brother on the finer points of the play as they watch it together on Christmas Day.

Alas, the eldest boys are getting older and moving on.  With jobs and college and their own lives to lead, they're not around like they used to be.  They do try to set aside at least one day a week or so to hang out with the family, or do things like have their 'Bro Night' with their youngest brother to keep him in the loop.  But even he has said he prefers time with his own friends now, realizing that the time for his older brothers' inevitable step into the next stages of their lives is at hand.

Still, for those times when we are together, it's eating together and then enjoying movies, the big game, or a "quiet' board game or two during the down time that still marks the primary way in which we spend time together.  This Christmas saw quite an addition to our collection of games, and hopefully over the next couple weeks, when their schedules are loosened and they're not hanging with their own kind, we'll get to plow through a few of them.

Here are the ones we received this year.  We'll see how they are, though some are already known to us and I think they'll be just fine:

I have no clue on this one.  This was for me from the boys.  It certainly looks fun, and taps into my preference for history oriented games, especially in the Medieval realm.  If quality of product is any indicator, it should be fun. 

We have the game Mansions of Madness, which is quite fun, but time consuming, long to set up, and requires the better half of a ping pong table of area to play.  I heard this is similar, but more condensed.  My one son said it is well reviewed, if not a bit graphic for our youngest.  We'll see.  But the set up and play time seems more restrained than MoM, so it might be a good goto for those dark, scary nights when an appropriate themed game is in order.  

We had this game when my oldest boys were younger, and played it extensively.  I'm not sure how our marriage and family survived.  We lost a couple pieces from the one we had and hadn't played it in years, but I found a copy intact this year.  I would call this perhaps one of the most stressful and exasperating games I've ever played.  It's a race against the clock to find four keys, dodge guard dogs and guards and booby traps, and get the keys back to shut down the alarm before time runs out.  Especially at harder levels (those with less time allowed), not a beat can be missed or you'll likely loose.  It's a team effort.  My wife and I played the guard and guard dog respectfully, letting the boys team up - such as it is.  We played it once and that's all our nerves could handle.  But the fun factor means we'll likely play it again soon. 

My third son, our resident game connoisseur, found this. I don't know what it is.  It seems to be like a German game we found years ago called Labyrinth.  Basically you put tiles down that have all manner of labyrinthine paths.  The goal is not to collide with another player and not end up being sent off the side of the board.  It's a fast game, with the two we played lasting no more than about ten minutes.  With no time to set up, and fast play, this will be a nice goto when the boys are around for a quick evening and not much time. 

My best friend bought this in 1986 at the same time I purchased the company's other game, Axis and Allies.  Not interested in history or such, my friend - at the time all into the college ROTC program - jumped on this with its obvious military/Red Dawn vibes.  We played it once before he became enraged and threw the game - board, pieces and all - out the door.  I had told my boys about that for years and, along with the fabled Dark Tower board game, it loomed large in the myth of my youthful days.  My third son, again, warranted this one, and so far he seems quite pleased with it.  The theme is America fending off a joint attack during a fictional late Cold War meltdown (set in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries).  For me, it was interesting insofar as it assumed America as the good guys, and framed things against the USSR which was still the baddie.  
What a difference a couple decades make. 

Not sure about this one.  It seems an unpacked and expanded variation on Simon Says.  It seems to be a beat the clock game, everyone do what they are told to do in the order they're told to do it, and hit the button within an allotted amount of time.  

Got the game a few years ago, but the electronic component didn't work.  This was from my best friend again.  He had the game when we were kids, I didn't.  We played it quite a few times.  To be honest, by now it's younger than my boys, and even our ten year old is likely beyond it.  Still, they enjoy these games from back in the day and typically see them in the most positive sense, with admiration for the creativity, quality and imagination.  The gist of the game is pretty simple, the electronic part of the game gives clues as to the thief's whereabouts.  I bought a new electronic component that needed replaced, so we'll see. 

This was seen by my oldest and I when we were shopping for one of the brothers.  We have played the old game 221B Baker Street and, such as it is, it's always been a fun, atmospheric romp through the London of Holmes and Watson.  This seems to take it and, as my sons said, inject the concept with steroids.  I've seen good reviews of it, and we're looking forward to it, though it doesn't appear to be something you can polish off in an hour.  Which is fine.  It also seems to be something you can return to over a course of time. 

Honorable Mention:

We got this years ago per recommendation, but we couldn't figure it out.  More than once we sat down and attempted to work it through.  Perhaps it's because Asian history/culture, while mildly interesting to us, is not our main focus, but we couldn't get a handle on it.  Then this year it was the Big 10 Championship game.  Ohio State was losing badly to Wisconsin.  My wife and third son concluded the football game was too stressful, and decided to let the blood pressure go with me and the other boys.  To fill time, they pulled this off the shelf and decided to have another go.  And guess what?  They broke the code!  Turns out this is a fine game, quality product and a lot of fun.  Takes a bit of time and space to set up.  A bit like Mansions of Madness.  But the effort was worth it. So I add this to the list because 2019 will go down as the year we broke Yedo!


  1. Yay! I'm glad you finally mastered Yedo. I was beginning to feel guilty. So what was it that you finally grasped?

    Tsuro is another favorite. I like it as a warm up/cool down game. Plus you can invent your own variations of it! 2 more versions have released which add some more features to the game.

    On another note, remember that company I said was doing a new version of dark tower? Well they restored "stop thief" as well!

    You may want to look at more of their catalog. ;)

    Finally, I remember souring on Mansions of Madness back when we took a half hour to set it up and then I killed the party within 10 min.

    HOWEVER they have released a 2nd edition which I can highly recommend. In it, they have put much of the game on a companion app that you run alongside on a iPad or phone. Makes set up now 10 min instead of hours. I'd say if you have a friend that has the 2e of the game, borrow it and give it a try.

    1. My wife and third son just sat down and plowed through it. Somehow, for the longest time, it just seemed like we couldn't figure out where Go was when it came to getting started. I don't know how much of it was my wife and how much the two of them, and it took them quite a bit of time, but they finally got it.

      I will check out the catalog. I looked at the DT reboot, and it looks interesting, though will certainly lack the nostalgia factor as they've modified the look and design somewhat. I'm sure it's the nostalgia on my part, and for my boys the legend of it, but there was something about the particular design, the model for the ruin vs. the simplicity of the crypt, and the digital sounds (the bizarre ditty was famous) that will make a reboot IMHO miss something if it doesn't straight copy things.

      I don't know what edition of MoM we have. A couple times it was frustrating, but for us the biggest problem was space. You just have to have a massive table and area to play. We have a ping pong table, but that usually is for Flames of War (almost never for ping pong). We found out, however, that House on the Hill is not a quick hour game.


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