A Christmas Shopping Games Post

Seems like it's the right time of year to put up a games post, and with Beau's recent inquiry into Dungeons & Dragons, this seemed especially ripe for a full post.

And if you have game recommendations (of any type - video, table top, role playing, card), please drop 'em below.

Dungeons & Dragons
So Beau asked about D&D, and where a person might get started. First, the preliminaries: A middle-school aged youth can probably handle D&D on their own, so long as they are simplifiying things. Anyone younger likely needs an adult to guide them through a game. Additionally, D&D is best with an appropriately-sized group. Ideally 3 - 5 players and a DM (dungeon master) running the game. It can be done one-on-one, but the best challenges are group-oriented. That all said, just inventing characters and campaigns is a lot of fun.

The most essential tools for getting started with D&D are a full set of dice (D4 - D20), and the Player's Handbook. That's how a player is going to create their character and advance through the various levels as they go. After you have your character, you need a campaign - the scenarios and conflicts that make up the story where you character actually gets to do something. This is where all of the other books come in, as they provide tons and tons of ways to run a campaign, pre-made events, extra foes, fully drawn out worlds, etc. The most important book for running a campaign as a DM is, in my mind, the Monster Manual. The Dungeon Master's Guide is a pretty key book too, if you've never played, but if you have some experience I think you can get along without it.

Part of the fun, in my opinion, is making whatever adjustments you need. Don't want to wait to level up a character? Just jump them a couple levels so you can have that next adventure that you want to get to. Don't have enough people? Play multiple characters who have a reason to be together. Don't want to worry about alignments and dieties and stuff? Just don't. Can that monster attack 3 times on a turn? Sure, but that'll kill your player. So make the monster weaker. Especially for beginners, these kinds of adjustments can really improve the game experience.

So, all that said, if you're looking to run a campaign for your kids, you could probably get by with dice, and 2 books (Player's Handbook, Monster Manual).

Board Games

I recently (finally) got Wingspan. Which is beautiful and brilliant and despite seeming overwhelming, is pretty easy to learn. In fact, they usesd this brilliant idea where they literally walk you through the first 4 turns of the game your first time (or more than first, if you want the guide), and that really helps you learn it. Highly recommend for people who like strategy games.

Parks - Not Trekking the National Parks, which is different. Anyway, I got this one for Christmas last year, and it is another incredibly pretty game, with a lot of fun pieces. Right in the same vein as Wingspan, but maybe a little quicker to pick up.

Sushi Go and Love Letters. These quick card games have been getting a ton of play at our house lately. Sushi Go can be played by our 2nd grader without any trouble, so it's good because she can be included. She's not quite there on Love Letters yet, but the 4th grader and up all play that one. Again, super highly recommend these games for families. They're quick, easy, and a fun to replay.

Alpha - A decent strategy game that's way more casual than most strategy games. You control a wolf pack and get to hunt various wildlife (or livestock!). Random luck makes up a big part of the game, so results don't always reflect strategy, but that's fine because it's casual. This was an easy one to get a lot of people playing at Thanksgiving.

Doomlings - A silly card game that feels different every time you play it. Always reasonably paced and quick, with lots of fun cards and random effects. The randomness might drive some people crazy, but I enjoy it.

16 thoughts on “A Christmas Shopping Games Post”

  1. Sushi Go was a hit in our house. It's been a year since we last played so I'll have to dust it off now that everyone is a bit older.

    One that has gotten a surprising amount of play is First Orchard. It's a 2+ game, and I bought it around when the youngest was that age a couple years ago, but it is still pulled out. Quick to set up, simple to play, and the players usually win. And that's the biggest issue we have with playing board games: more than one game has resulted in tears by the oldest, a fifth-grader.

    1. YES!!!! So glad this one was mentioned. I've recently acquired it and playing it a ton on Board Game Arena. Tried it with the younger girls (7 & 9) and they didn't seem to connect with it, but I'm hopeful that my other gaming groups will like it.

    2. I think I've played that before.

      I invented the Ross Chastain at Martinsville years before he did it. I didn't GAF my speed around the corners at the end of the game, I was like "I got 20 HP, I'm gonna use 19 then"

  2. Oh boy! I love these posts.

    Heat: Pedal to the Metal - as mentioned above, I can't get enough of this game on Board Game Arena. Great racing game that reminds me a lot of Flamme Rouge (bike racing game). Hand management with a lot of options in the base game for enhancing the game, including new upgrade cards, weather modules, and a Championship mode.

    Expeditions - The sequel to Scythe, which is also a favorite among my groups. My older girls have loved playing this. I managed to pick up the Ironclad Edition at my local game store. No combat in this one, you're just exploring the countryside looking for meteorites to enhance your mech, going on quests, equipping items and fighting corruption across the land.

    Cat in the Box - a quantum trick taking game. You have cards with numbers on them, but they don't have a suit until you play them, then you get to pick which suit they are. However, if you're not careful you can cause a paradox which means negative points. I've really loved figuring this one out.

    Blank Slate - My oldest girl got to teach this at Gen Con this year, and it has been a big hit in our household and with the extended family over Thanksgiving. You're given a prompt (not unlike Match Game) with a word and a blank. You get to fill in the blank. If you match exactly one other person, you both get 3 points, if you match more that, everyone gets 1, so the goal is to match, but not everyone.

    Mille Fiore - another fast favorite for me and my older girls. Card drafting not unlike Sushi Go, but once you play your card, you place a player marker on a spot on the board that can provide points in a myriad of ways.

    1. Over Thanksgiving I played Herd Mentality which is a lot like Blank Slate, but you're trying to be in the biggest group. Same concept, probably a little quicker than, but not quite as fun as Blank Slate, but worth noting if you want a faster version.

      I also played Hues & Cues which was enjoyable. Not sure about the replay value on it, but it's a cheap enough game that it's worth it. Basically you just try to get people to guess your color swatch from a giantic board of every color gradient. A decent party game.

  3. Putting this out there... would there be any interest in a D&D campaign among the citizens?

    It occurs to me that we could just play a game (I have a mostly-written campaign ready to run for 3 - 4 players), either remotely or occassionally in person. But also that, if we wanted to be really fun about it, we could record it and include it with WGOM podcasts. There are a number of fairly entertaining D&D podcasts, and we wouldn't need to replicate any of them, it would just be for our more local audience...

    Just kind of thinking out loud here.

    1. I still picture my paladin Casey Dalrymple sitting by the night fire while his intelligent sword tries to explain to him ONCE MORE how to solve a Rubik's cube, right where I left them forty years ago.

      It might just be me, but I find watching / listening to a campaign about 5% as entertaining as participating in one. A summary of the box score by Jeff would be about right, though 😉

    2. that's technically an idea...

      i'm listening, i guess. haven't played since junior high. like i mentioned, it looks like those 2nd edition books i had back then are worth a good chunk more these days.

  4. Anyone else play Five Crowns? I'm amazed at how often Honest Abe beats me. He plays against much older cousins, yet he's so much flexible with his strategies each deal than they are.

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