Tuesday, January 3, 2012

There and Back Again: A Farmer's Tale

This is my first post in a while. Sorry about the silence from my end; I've been traveling all over creation to celebrate Christmas with family. And I've come back with a tale or two about what I played...

My bags were packed with fun gamesboth for under the tree and for general consumption. I brought some old favorites and some new, and here were the results.

Stone Age. The first game that got played over Christmas is Stone Age. I picked this up when it was on uber deal at Tanga and have been able to play it several times since then. I took it on our first Christmas adventure to my wife's family and played two three-player games with my wife and father-in-law. As has been my experience so far when teaching this game, it seems a lot more intimidating than it is. After the initial glazed eyes gave way to a confident shake of the dice cup, I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Still, the playing time was a barrier for this one, and after those two games, we didn't play it again.

7 Wonders. On Christmas day, when we were waiting for the rest of her family to arrive, my wife suggested that my father-in-law try 7 Wonders. This in itself is pretty remarkable, as I was fairly certain my wife didn't like this game (at least early on). My father-in-law caught on quickly and immediately suggested a rematch once the first game was over. I wasn't sure how much he enjoyed the game, but after most of the family left later on in the evening, he suggested that we play 7 Wonders again, and we played three more games. He and my wife dominated, one game being tied both in points and number of coins. This proved to be the hit with my wife's family.

Incan Gold. My wife and I introduced our niece and nephew to Incan Gold over Thanksgiving to rave reviews. As soon as they arrived on Christmas, they asked, "Did you bring Incan Gold?" We were quite happy to get a game of this going as playing with kids is where this game shines. My nephew and wife played on the cautious (read: scaredy cat) side, leaving my niece and I to fight for the spoils. In the end, courage won out.

Whoowasit? We bought Whoowasit? (an electronic talking board game by Reiner Knizia) for my niece and nephew for Christmas. After hours of them begging to play (hey, things move slowly on Christmas), we brought this game to the table. It was hard to play because the talking treasure chest isn't that loud and there were lots of people around talking. There were some near-meltdowns, but the kids really enjoyed themselves. The next day, the kids were begging to play this again.

Carnival. I kickstarted Carnival, the inaugural release from Dice Hate Me Games, and it must have arrived while we were at our first Christmas gathering. In any case, it was waiting for us when we got home, and we began playing it that evening. I kickstarted the game mostly to support a new company that I believed in; that Carnival is great fun to play is just icing on the cake. We ended up playing four games back to back and will likely play many more in the future.

Wits and Wagers/For Sale/Money. On the Thursday before New Year's Day, we traveled to Michigan to be with my family. Now, my family is a gaming family, if not a hobby gaming family. I was raised on a steady diet of Pinochle, Rook, and Dutch Blitz, among others. When the kids go down for nap- and bedtime, the family comes out for games. This Christmas was no exception. However, because we weren't certain how long the naps would last, we opted for some shorter games. We played two games of Wits and Wagers to get the crowd loosened up before launching into some other light games. One group played Money; my group played For Sale. For Sale is quickly becoming by go-to "filler" game. It's fast, simple, involves great interaction, and (perhaps most important) involves an auction. We played four games of this before switching to Money. Here's what I learned from playing Money: there is no way to beat my sister. I don't know how she does it, but she is a currency exchange whisperer. I thought I was doing pretty well each round, but somehow she always ended up several hundred points ahead. Money and For Sale were both almost constantly on the table as others were waiting for certain games to be finished up.

Dixit. I haven't had many opportunities to pull this one out since I got it in September, but our Christmas gathering was the ideal place. My mom didn't care for the whimsical (at times creepy) artwork, but the rest of the family was unfazed. After one game of fumbling through (during which I thought the other players weren't enjoying themselves), my aunts and sisters kept playing more and more games after dinner. I thought this game was poised to become the favorite of my family gathering, but there was another that stole the spotlight this year...

7 Wonders. I taught my family how to play 7 Wonders, and really, I thought they didn't like it. I always warn people that the first round is a little rough, though I also tell them that there's really no wrong way to play and pretty much everything scores points at the end of the game. This first game kept stalling, and I was fairly certain that 7 Wonders was going to join Ra as a one-and-done family game. (Yes, Ra fell flat with my family...a shame. @Futurewolfie must have poisoned them against it.) But for whatever reason, one of my sisters (the Money whisperer) wanted to play again, and from that time on, there was always someone playing 7 Wonders. Each year, there seems to be one game that my family can't get enough of (last year's was Bohnanza, in years past it has been Acquire or Canasta). 7 Wonders is by far my family's gaming obsession for 2011. I sat in on several sessions, still kind of explaining what certain icons did, but after I left the table to play my annual game of Power Grid, they didn't ask me any questions: they were in the zone. I now see why 7 Wonders has won so many awards. It is a game that appeals to a broad swath of people and is easy enough to teach new players (but not so easy as to fall within the SdJ parameters) yet deep enough to enjoy with gamers. It certainly won the game of the year award from both my and my wife's families.

I also got in plays of El Grande (a four-player game that was fantastic: we all finished within ten points of each other, and there were plenty of sneak attacks), Quiddler (if my sister is the currency whisperer, my mom is the word whisperer), and Jaipur and received Dominion: Hinterlands, Midgard, and Key Harvest as Christmas gifts. All in all, it was a very merry Christmas.


  1. Bummer about Ra. I taught my parents to play over Christmas and they loved it. We played maybe four or five times in as many days.

  2. I wish I could get my family to play as many games as you get in. I think you got more games with your family these two weekends than I've gotten the entire year of 2011.

    And my family hated Wits&Wagers. I dont know whats up with that.

  3. Sounds like a sweet time of fun gaming and bonding!

  4. Kevin: I'm glad one of our families enjoyed it! And actually, I probably wasn't fair in saying they hated it. My two brothers-in-law weren't fans, and no one else played it. So this one will probably just bide its time before it gets loved.

    Wolfie: Someday, young padawan. Once they learn how awesome they are. And really, my family has been playing games for years, so it's not a huge stretch for them to play hobby games. Your family hated Wits & Wagers? (My family wasn't crazy about it this trip. The younger members like it. The older ones...not so much.)

    Jason: Oh, it was. I also played some Battleship, Go Fish, and The Resistance, which for whatever reason didn't make the final post. All of which fostered bonding (even if in The Resistance it was bonding over finding the spy...who was me. All. Four. Games.)


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