Tag Archives: family

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.

New Zelda Excitement!

Just thought I’d write a quick post about one of my favourite game series, which seems to be lesser known by non-gamers – The Legend of Zelda!

There is a new Zelda game coming out tomorrow, for the new Nintendo Switch console (also out tomorrow), but the game is also out for the Wii U.  More on those consoles here!  it is called Breath of the Wild, and reviews so far are already calling it probably the best game ever made.  This is not a light statement to make, especially for gamers, who prize their own personal top ten games over anyone else’s, but among gamers the Zelda series is one which is much more than others on or near the top of most of their best games ever lists.

breath-of-the-wild

The Zelda games are kind of their own genre.  They are mostly role playing, more or less open world, action adventure games, starring the hero Link (Zelda is the princess that Link has to rescue).  They have been around for as long as Nintendo have been making consoles, with the first one being released on the NES.  Although they are not quite as well known as Mario, they are one of Nintendo’s biggest game series, with at least one Zelda game released on each hand-held or home console (more or less..).

links-awakening
Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy

 

The first Zelda game I played was Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy.  Even with its basic black and green graphics, the game still had the ability to immerse me in the fantasy world that it created and got me hooked for the series.  Since then I have played several other Zelda games and loved each and every one of them.

As for playing together, even though the games are single player, in the same way as watching a movie together, the Zelda games can absolutely be enjoyed with others.  I have played through at least half of the games with my wife, and that has only increased my enjoyment and given us an amazing shared experience.  With this new game I am extremely tempted to coordinate time off work with her so that we can spend a whole day immersed in the land of Hyrule together with no other distractions.

zelda-ocarina-of-time
Zelda: Ocarina of Time

 

Now I have kids, I have, of course introduced them to the series.  We are currently playing through the widely regarded best of all, the Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. We are currently on the water temple, and fans of the game will know that we may be there some time..  it is great to see them as excited as I was for this game when playing it for the first time.  Just about as excited as I am for this new game – The Breath of the Wild!

So here is a picture of my boy as excited as me!:

zelda-im-ready-2

Nintendo: The Masters of Playing Games Together (part 2)

nintendo-console-games-collage
Just a few amazing multiplayer games from the Wii U. CW from top left: Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon and Rayman Legends

So, I wrote about the early days of Nintendo consoles in a previous blog post (check it out if you haven’t already), and here is the second part, looking at the most recent consoles and their very newest one, soon to be released – the Nintendo Switch.

Wii

wii-console

Nintendo is really the best console maker if you are looking for something to be able to play with others in the same living room. One console that absolutely mastered that aspect, so much that it ended up in almost every living room in the late noughties, was the Wii.

When this console released back in 2006, it caused a bit of a gaming revolution (coincidentally, this was the console’s codename before release..).  It wasn’t the most powerful console graphics-wise, but it had a  completely new way of playing: motion controls.  Rather than trying to compete with the other main consoles of the time, PS3 and Xbox 360, Nintendo deliberately tried to market the game to absolutely everyone, in an attempt to increase the number of people playing games in the world rather than pleasing existing gamers – kind of what I’m trying to do with this blog!  This approach, coupled with the super casual-friendly game Wii Sports coming free with the console was extremely successful, and the console has sold over 100 million in its lifetime.

For me, the Wii was the first console I owned as a married man (so, co-owned with the wife..).  It was great to play with friends and portable enough to bring to family gatherings for Christmas Wii bowling tournaments. It continued the multiplayer racing excellence with the best Mario Kart ever (at the time), and it did have several other excellent games.

One of the best games on the console, and my personal favourite game of all time, was Mario Galaxy, and its sequel. This used the Wii remote controllers in an ingenious way and introduced asynchronous co-op multiplayer, definitely a mouthful, but a great way to play together! In this case one player controlled Mario, while the other used the Wii remote pointer to help by collecting power-ups, stopping baddies, etc. This was a great way to play for my wife and I, she was generally the helper as she wasn’t so good at the platforming, while I would never have 100% completed the games without playing together with her. I would say that this kind of gaming style is ideal for the type of couples I see where one is really into gaming and the other not (this does not apply to my wife, she loves games too!).

Wii U

wii-u-console

Then we come to Nintendo’s current console, well, for the next week anyway, the Wii U. Unfortunately, due to poor marketing (and naming) from Nintendo, people still believe that this is just a Wii with a new controller. It isn’t! It’s a new generation, the first HD console from Ninty. It came out in 2012 and unfortunately due to the above poor marketing it did not sell nearly as well as its predecessor. It is a really good console though, almost on par with the Wii, and now would be a great time to buy it, since it will probably be going cheap when the next generation comes out, and there is a good selection of games (also cheap now).

The games in the main image are some of the best the Wii U has to offer, and they are all up to Nintendo’s usual very high multiplayer standard. Again, Mario Kart 8 is the best Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D World, while not quite up to Mario Galaxy’s standard, is probably the best multiplayer Mario game. Splatoon is Nintendo’s take on an online shooter, and is fantastic paint splatting fun, and finally in that picture there is Rayman, not made by Nintendo but a superbly designed same-room multiplayer platform game nonetheless.

For me, this console generation followed the creation of my own generation, and was the first console we got after having kids. This is a great console to play with kids, as its any Nintendo console. We have had a lot of fun with our children playing Mario, Pikmin, Toad, Donkey Kong, Rayman etc. together, and I can see us still using this console all through this year.

Switch

Nintendo Switch Console
Another weird console from the big N

So, what about Nintendo’s future? Well, on the 3rd of March 2017 they’ll release their next console, the Switch. As you can see from the image, they still don’t care about looking like the others and have gone for another strange design. The main feature of this console is that it works on the TV and as a handheld. You can switch between the two modes as easily as removing the tablet-like console from the main unit (hence the name).

Ninty have again prioritised playing together with this offering, as the included ‘joy-con’ controllers (red and blue above) can be separated and used as two controllers out of the box. Also, if you are lucky enough to have 7 other friends who also have the console (unlikely..) they can be connected in a local network for up to 8 player multiplayer!

Nintendo Switch console in handheld mode
The console in handheld mode

Games-wise, this is looking good, but not from launch. I would recommend waiting until later in the year, maybe Christmas for this one, by which time there will be a very decent selection. At launch they will have the Wii sports equivalent minigame packed 1-2-Switch, the latest Just Dance and the amazing looking Zelda game, Breath of the Wild though, so it is quite tempting..

I can’t predict the future, but I really hope that this is a success for Nintendo. The reason I like them so much is that their attitude to gaming seems to be the same as mine – it’s better to play together – and I would live to see this kind of gameplay increasing in the world.

What Should I Bring to the Party? – The Werewolf Game!

Hi, it’s Tom, your friendly neighbourhood gamer here again.

So far in this blog I have mainly been talking about family friendly games that are suitable for adults to play too, but a lot may dismiss them as too childish. This is not true, but I understand what people may think.

So, you are in a situation like a party where maybe you want to play a game, but you don’t want to seem like a big kid? (like me!). Don’t worry! Plenty of games exist that are better played with adults, and even designed with adult players in mind.  To help you increase your game playing time, this is the subject of this week’s blog: Games for Grown up Parties!  Here are a couple of examples of this kind of game:

Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow

Cards from the game Werewolves of Miller's Hollow
A few cards from the Werewolves game

This is a great game for a party of at least 8-10 people, and will work best with between 10 and 18 people.  It is a social game that encourage interaction, so good as an ice breaker, but even better with people that know each other well.  There are a couple of variations of this game, such as Werewolf and Ultimate Werewolf, but the version I have tried is Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, so that is the one I am describing here.

The game works as kind of an advanced version of winking murder, where everyone is given a secret identity and has a different job to carry out without revealing who they really are.  The story goes that a small village has been ravaged by werewolves and the remaining villagers have gathered together to work out who the werewolves really are and lynch them before they kill everybody!  In each game, each player is given a card with a role that they should keep secret – there are 3-4 werewolves, some normal villagers, and a few special characters such as a witch with powers to kill or revive other players and a psychic that can see other player’s cards.  A separate person (ideally someone who has played before) is assigned to be the Narrator, who keeps the game going but is not assigned any role.

Each game runs in night/day cycles. Without explaining the special characters’ actions, the overall game flows like this: During the night, everyone closes their eyes (it works very much on trust that nobody is peeking), then the wolves wake up and decide between them one person to kill.  After this the whole village wakes up, discovers who has died that night, then they have to decide on someone to lynch who they suspect is a werewolf.  of course, the werewolves are also posing as villagers at this point, so they have to deflect attention away from themselves without revealing who they are!  The game continues like this for usually about 3-5 nights until either all of the werewolves are killed – in which case the villagers win – or there are more werewolves than villagers, so the werewolves win.  There are a number of special characters as I mentioned which all add a twist to the main game, so these add great replayability value as they can be slowly added in each round.

I personally love this game, even though I’ve only played a couple of times.  The first time I played was with family at Christmas, and I immediately went to buy it online, it was that good.  The game itself is very cheap and portable, being only a small box of a few cards. It’s quite rare to only play one game in a session as it is a different game each time you play due to the different characters, plus the discussion and accusations flying around as you play are just great fun!

If you are planning a gathering of friends or family and are unsure of what to do, this game is a must!

Jungle Speed

The game Jungle Speed, with cards and totem
Jungle speed game setup


Fast, frantic, fist-smashing fun for four players!
This is an ingenious twist on the classic card game snap. It can be played by 2 to 8 players, but the best number is 4 or 5.  It consists of a pack of cards with similar, but not the same, patterns coloured in 4 colours, and a ‘totem’ – a small wooden tower that goes in the middle of the table. All the cards are dealt out, and play goes round the table, each player turning a card over on their go. When two upturned cards have the same pattern, i.e. there is a snap, the players have to try and grab the totem as quick as possible. The loser has to take all of the upturned cards from the winner and themselves and add them to the bottom of the pack. There are also special cards that make everyone turn a card at once, or switch to colour matching rather than patterns.

Playing this game is a really good fun but tense experience, as players are constantly on edge in case their pattern comes up. It can get pretty competitive too when going for the totem, there has been more than one hand injury in the times I’ve played. We also strictly keep a ‘no drinks on the table’ rule, as things can get (and have got) messy! Ideal time to play for us is a smaller party, when we only have another couple of people round.

Others

I hope that’s given you some inspiration and made you decide to play a game at your next party or family gathering!

There are of course plenty other party games out there, like the ‘South American liar dice’ game Perudo, where you can use a mixture of probabilities and bluffing to win, or the highly offensive (and hilarious if in the right crowd) cards against humanity, where the idea is to make the funniest and ideally rudest phrases.

So there you have it! At any party there is no excuse for not Playing Games Together!

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!