Happy end of the heat wave folks. We are back from our trip to the south, still sticky, but glad to be back in such a great town. While we were away, we had the chance to play quite a few games with family, including 9 and 11 year old nieces. Rummikub was the big hit, despite one game where I collected tiles for every single turn except the last, so many tiles that my rack overflowdeth.
Also popular were Rage and Phase 10. I whined a lot during Rage, since it is a trick-taking game in the style of Spades or Pinochle, and my brain just does not process that style of game very well. I definitely did not earn any points with the family when I won the game after all the whining, dumb luck I guess. Thankfully, my subsequent Phase 10 victory was executed with much more grace. Both of these card games make for great family tabletop time. Phase 10 can go a little long, but the ease of play allows everyone to gab and goof-off.
Our gaming fun came to a bit of a halt though after an insanely long round of Settlers of Catan. I was pretty excited to show my family perhaps the biggest phenomenon in the tabletop world since Dungeons & Dragons or Magic the Gathering. We’re talking about the game that woke up my slumbering video-game-numbed brain. When I first played this game I remember feeling saved, a long-closed door in my noggin creaked open. by the time Catan came stateside, millions of minds, including my own, were deeply atrophied from playing first-person shooters and farming Warcraft loot. The good old days of getting together with buddies and powering through an epic Avalon Hill game, or a round of Risk, had been replaced with twitchy digital repetition and online bad behavior.
Then here comes Settlers of Catan, a strategy game for the adult world, a world where binging on Game of Thrones episodes is preferable to a 6 hour game of Axis & Allies or Risk. But Catan only takes you away from the digital world for an episode and a half, or at least it is supposed to. Our visit to Catan took over three episodes, and ended with one player being completely unable to do anything for the last few rounds. Needless to say, my family did not have the same nirvanic experience I had upon first playing Catan. Fortunately, during the plane ride back, we received a text photo of our two nieces enjoying another round of the game, so the kids were hooked!
Upon returning to our wonderful city, I was itching for some gaming, so I rounded up the regular crew and brought some good ones to the table. First was Fresco, one we have not played in some time for no good reason. Fresco is a smooth and very competitive game with a pleasant look and feel, typical of games by the publisher, Queen. The game has some classic euro-style elements: choosing when to wake your workers up to get a leg up at the market and painting the Fresco, but at the expense of higher prices and unhappy workers; choosing paint resources in one turn in order to mix them for a future turn, and of course managing your finances.
Following Fresco we played a round of Splendor, a surprise loser of the coveted Game of the Year award in Germany. Splendor is a delightful game that let’s you think just the right amount and can be played by anyone. It is high on the shop’s recommended list for serious and casual gamers alike. Finally, we got in a round of the new Game of Thrones card game. with insanely simple rules and fast play, this $10 game is a perfect filler with more thinking than you expect up front.
There you have it folks, lots of lighter games have hit my table during the heat wave here and on the other side of the continent. Beyond the games though, just playing with family and friends is a blast, it sure beats plugging in. Cheers everyone,