Tag Archives: board games

5 Ways to increase Happiness and Play More

Today is the International day of Happiness!  What better way to celebrate than to play a game with others!

The benefits of play for anyone, especially playing with other people are numerous and well documented.  A quick internet search brings up many articles, such as this and this for example, and there are many more.

I have covered some unplugged games and console games that can be played together in previous blog posts, but how do you actually get time to play all of these games?  If you are anything like me, you already have a fairly busy lifestyle and maybe even though you really want to you don’t think you’ll ever have time for playing, not least finding other people to play with.

In this case, below is a list of things that I have tried and you can try too, to increase your play time and improve your life!  The list is not exhaustive, so any ideas you have are very welcome, just leave a comment 🙂

1. Play Time starts at home

If you live with others, try to start a regular game night every week (or more than one if you’re keen, I play almost every day!).  Setting a regular night will help encourage people to play more.  Take turns in deciding what to play, to ensure everyone is more engaged in the activity.  As well as increasing the level of fun in the household, playing with the people you live with also helps you bond and can improve everything about your day-to-day home life.

2. Replace wasteful habits with playful ones

A lot of people spend a lot of time on wasteful habits these days, such as binge-watching TV series and spending too long checking social media, etc on mobile phones.  While these things in moderation are fine and provide people a way to disconnect, it is very easy to spend too much time and end up regretting the time wasted.  Instead of crashing on the sofa with your other half and watching another 10 episodes of the Walking Dead, why not start your evening relaxation with a game or two?  Or try turning off your phone for half an hour for a game of snakes and ladders with the kids! After the gaming session you can still see an episode or two, or check Facebook again, but you will feel that you have used your relaxation time overall in a more fulfilling way.

3. Tell people about it

This one may seem obvious, but if you want to increase the amount of play in your life, tell other people that you like playing games!  I tried using this tactic more from the start of this year (partly by starting the blog you are reading now!) and just because more people know I’m into games, I find myself playing more, either by others inviting me to play games or as an icebreaker to lead to an invite for them to play one of my games.

This is possibly one of the most important things you can do as a gamer, as there are more other people out there who like games than you think , but just don’t like to talk about it, as it may not be cool, or may be considered childish.  I disagree of course, gaming is for everyone!

4. Gaming in the workplace? Surely not!

A couple of weeks ago I set myself a challenge – try to play games in my office.  It took quite a lot of time for me to build up the courage, but I did it!  The most difficult part of this is making that initial suggestion.  I sent an email around my department, suggesting we play a game on a Friday lunchtime.  I was hopeful, but realistically thought that no-one would be interested.  In the end the response was overwhelming, with more than half of the people in the department being up for it!  This goes along with my point 3 above, if you don’t tell anybody you want to play, you won’t play!

So far we have had one lunchtime gaming session, we played Jungle Speed, which is a great short game for a lunch break.  My longer term goals are to try and get a more regular fortnightly gaming session, or possibly open up the invitation to the whole building!  That may take a while, need to build up more confidence..

5. Find other gamers

So, you realise you are into games, and want to find others as into it as you?  Well, surprise surprise, there are hundreds like you!  The best way to find others with similar interests to you these days is through the internet, of course.  When searching, make sure you try to find people that live near you, so you can meet and game in person, and for safety try to find gaming groups rather than individuals.  There are gaming groups all over the place, who are all generally friendly and welcoming to newbies and probably have regular meet-ups where you can join in.  My home city even has a board gaming café pop-up that runs once a month and is open to everyone, and an annual board gaming festival, which I went to last year with my family and was great!  In fact, a lot of the games I featured in this post were first played there.

Tabletop Games – Think you’ve seen them all?

The games Sushi Go!, Latice and Ghost Blitz
A few recently released tabletop games

Before starting my foray into non-computer gaming, I have to admit that I thought the same as most may about board/card games (collectively known as tabletop games); that they are out dated, a dying pastime and any recently made games are either cheap rubbish or overly complicated affairs, only played by super nerds*. (*I have to point out here that I consider myself a super nerd too, just with video games, so in no way I intend this term to be insulting)  Sure, I had fun with them when I was younger, but all of the good games have already been made, there can’t be any original ideas left.

But I was wrong! Over the last year or so, I have discovered that there are still great new games being made that are original and really good fun to play. To illustrate, here are three examples of great new accessible games that I have tried and can be played and enjoyed by people of any age:

Ghost Blitz

Pieces of the Ghost Blitz game: a pack of special cards and five wooden objects
The answer on the left is the ghost, and on the right is the bottle..

Released in 2010, this is a deceptively simple card game needing quick brain power and quick reactions.  It really is for any age, my four year old often beats my mother at this one!

The game comes with five wooden objects: a white ghost, a red chair, a grey mouse, etc. and a pack of cards with pictures of these objects.  For each card, one of the objects is the answer, and the player to work out the answer and grab the correct object wins the card.  if the card has a picture of an object with the same colour as the real wooden version, then that object is the answer. The tricky part comes when the card does not have the correct colour for anything.  In this case, the answer is the object that is NOT on the card and does NOT have any colour of any object on the card.

It takes a short time of playing to get your brain used to the game, but when you do it is seriously addictive!  It can cause so many moments of unsure hesitation, followed by ‘Aha!’ and then a frantic grab for the correct item. Or, if you manage to guess the correct answer before others, you can start to doubt yourself as you casually pick up the object while everyone is still thinking, then get such a feeling of relief when everyone else agrees that you were right.

I’d recommend this to anyone as a simple but addictive quick-fire game that can engage a mixture of age groups. The compact size makes it good for playing on the go, or taking along to e.g. family gatherings.

Latice

The board game Latice being played

Yes, I did spell that right.  This game was funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, but it already feels like a classic.  The name was chosen to be spelt differently on purpose to try and make it sound unique (although it is actually the Italian spelling for lattice).

The game comes with a board with a grid marked on it, several tile cards with different tropical themed pictures in different colours, and counters (called ‘sun stones’).  The idea of this one is to get rid of all of your cards, by placing them next to a card on the board that has the same shape or colour.  So far, so dominoes.. With this one though, if you manage to match the colour or shape of two or more sides of the square, you can win an extra turn, which can be used straight away, or kept till later. There are also special wind cards that can be used to ‘blow’ a piece already on the board by one square in order for you to play a better move.

A game of Latice starts slowly, but after there are a few pieces on the board it gets more interesting, as there are more options available and you have to plan your moves.  The best part of the game is using the extra turns to string together a long chain of moves, finishing half of your remaining cards in one turn!  The colour/shape matching is easy enough for young kids to pick up quickly, but there is a lot more strategy needed if playing with only adults, either offensively to rack up chains of moves, or defensively to block other players.  an even higher level of strategy can be used by checking the tiles already played, and therefore working out what is left.

So, this is on the surface a simple game, but it has a lot of hidden depths if you want them!

Sushi Go!

The cute cards of Sushi Go (Spanish version)

 

Have you ever wanted to play a game that simulates a sushi restaurant? Even if not, this is a great fun card game, released in 2013.

The game consists of over 100 specially printed cards, each with super cute pictures of various types of sushi.  The pictures are really very nicely drawn, and the art style and quality of the actual cards is one of the main draws of this game for me. Cards are dealt out to the 2-5 players.  There are three rounds, and the idea of the game is to collect the best scoring meal of sushi in each round.  You do this by selecting one card from your hand to keep, then passing all the other cards round to the next player, as if they are on a Yo Sushi style conveyor belt. Play continues like this until all of the cards are finished and everyone has made their ‘meal’, then points are counted. The different cards score differently, for example, you only score points for sashimi if you have three of those cards, and for maki, only the people with the most and second most in their meal score points.  This brings an element of strategy to the game, as you need to be aware of what cards are available in the round as they pass by you and also keep an eye on which cards other players are keeping in their meals.

Although the game may sound slightly complicated, after one round it is easily picked up and each card is printed with reminders of the scoring.  This really is another fun game that is accessible for children, but also holds enough complexities to keep adults interested too.

 

So, there were just a few examples of great, new, easy to pick up and fun games that are out there now.  I really am only scratching the surface though, and there are countless games like these for all skill and age levels released every year.  Off the top of my head, aside from the above three, I can also strongly recommend checking out Dixit, Forbidden Island, Super Rhino or Spooky Stairs (more for a younger audience).  If your excuse for not playing tabletop games is that they are old and boring, get out there and try one of these new titles now, you won’t regret it!

UNO! – Let’s Start With a Classic

UNO cards set out as in a standard game
UNO – An all time classic card game

Who hasn’t played UNO at some point in their lives? The fast moving colour/number matching card game that is almost as widely known as regular playing cards. This has to be near the top of the list of great games to play together with other people!

According to Wikipedia, UNO was invented in 1971 in Ohio as a slight variation of a similar normal playing card game called Crazy Eights (or Switch, Black Jack, Mau Mau, or whatever you called it..).  What makes it so great and fun to play compared to those though is the brightly coloured deck with easily recognisable symbols and numbers.  It is very easy to learn and understand the rules, making it an ideal first ‘proper’ game to teach children.  By adding complexities such as scoring and rule variations, it has enough tactical depth to keep adults entertained too.

I have many fond memories of playing this with my siblings and friends when I was younger. I still remember that great feeling of excitement when I got dealt the prized black ‘pick up four’ card (let’s be honest, I still get that feeling). Even better to get a chain of pick up fours, so some poor soul would have to have so many cards he or she couldn’t hold them!

Variations

UNO Power cards and 'Totems'
UNO Power Grab – One of the better variations

Over the years, the makers of UNO have tried to sell more by releasing their own variations on the classic. A lot of them can be found on this site, including robot UNO, a version that involves a set of weighing scales, and even one that can be played underwater!  Most of these are fairly rubbish gimmicks though, involving annoying big plastic mechanisms that do not add anything of value to the core game.  In saying that, we did get one of them for Christmas: UNO Power Grab (or Totem Power! in the rest of Europe). This adds ‘power totems’ to the game, which if you hold make you immune to certain attacks such as +2, +4, etc. This is not too bad to play and does give an interesting little twist to the tactics, worth a try if you see a set around. It still doesn’t beat the original though, that has been going strong for over 40 years.

I have, of course, taught the original game to my own children, and it has come with us on almost every family holiday. It is a perfect game for holidays, compact enough to fit in any bag.  I have also seen the educational benefits, it helps the kids learn colours, numbers, taking turns, etc., and (more importantly to me) it is a fantastic ‘gateway’ game that opens the door to so many more games and so much gaming enjoyment in the future!  In fact, all this writing about it has put me in the mood for a game right now! How about you?

selection of games

Join me on my gaming journey!

Hello everyone! I’m Tom.

I love playing games.  As far back as I can remember I have always loved playing games.  If you asked me at any moment what I am thinking, there is a very strong chance that it is about the last game I played, or a game that I plan to play in the future.

Although I am up for playing any type of game, as wide as that definition could be, my main interest is in computer games.  I have spent countless hours on mainly single player adventure and platform games, and as many other genres that I have had time for.

I have mainly gravitated towards single player games due to my general shyness and low confidence in speaking to others, but as I have grown older and have started to overcome this I have come to realise that while these types of games are fun, true game playing joy can only be had when playing together with other humans.  I also have young children who are now reaching an age where they can join in, and watching them play, or indeed playing with them is like tapping in to a source of the pure beauty of human life for me.

Since this recent realisation, I have started a new gaming journey, discovering with my family and friends new games to play together and also rediscovering the fun that can still be had with older classics.  This has expanded my gaming horizons to a refreshed desire to play physical tabletop games along with my favourite console titles.

So, that long winded introduction finally brings me to the reason that I have started this blog!  I want to share my experiences along this gaming journey with the world, in the hope that it will inspire you to play more with your family and friends.  I strongly believe that there are great benefits for everyone around the world, no matter what age, in playing games with other people.

I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you to have more fun in your life!