Once we realized that we were going to be hosting family for Thanksgiving, Cute W and I swung into action.
I went out and bought a bunch of wine and two matching table cloths so that I could turn my two mismatched tables into a single banquet table.
Cute W ordered two new games.
Then the rest of the family sort of laughed at him. Because of course that’s what he did.
Poor Cute W is trapped in a family of people who like to play some games sometimes. He, on the other hand, would like to play almost any game almost any time. Ideally, he loves games that are all strategy instead of luck, involved enough that they could take hours to play a single game, and complicated enough that the games include cheat sheets to remind players of what to do in each turn. But, in his gaming-averse family, he’s more than willing to compromise.
He is always on the hunt for games that the whole family will embrace, and it’s a tall order. M will form a quick and strong opinion about certain games, and if you try to coax her into playing a game that’s not her favorite, she acts like you’re asking her to drive toothpicks under nails. J is enthusiastic about many different games in theory, but once she starts playing, she gets so discouraged if she’s not kicking everyone else’s butt that it’s no fun to be around her. I support the concept of family game-playing, but I am easily confused and will make ridiculous rookie mistakes like forgetting a key rule or taking a basic action that everyone else realizes will hand victory to someone, and then, when they all gasp, I look up and say, “What?” because I genuinely have no idea what I’ve just done.
So Cute W hunts for quick, luck-focused and/or cooperative, and uncomplicated games in a desperate attempt to suck the rest of the family into his gaming zeal, and along the way, if there’s a complicated, high-strategy game going for a super-awesome price, well, he finds those pretty tough to pass up, too. Thanksgiving presented an excellent opportunity for playing games, because some of our relatives share his game love. So while I was counting silverware, he was picking games, and both games were a hit.
Camel Up is a board game that’s pretty quick to play–about 40 or 45 minutes–and mixes a little bit of strategy with a bunch of luck. Several camels are racing, and players bet on which camel will win each leg of a race that’s complete when they make their way all around the game board. A lot depends on the roll of the dice using a cute little pyramid contraption, and the camels themselves can stack on top of each other, adding to the drama and confusion of exactly which camel is going to win. It took us just about one whole game to get the hang of it, but once we did, everyone liked it. Even better, when Cute W played with relatives at Thanksgiving, he was all set to quit and our guests wanted to play one more time. Other people urging Cute W to play more is pretty much unprecedented in our house. And yes, it totally looks like the game should be called Camel Cup based on how the box looks and the fact that they’re running in a race, but no, it’s Camel Up. The recommended age is 13-15 years, but 11-year-old J followed along just fine.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a cooperative game in which one person is sitting at a computer (potentially with people breathing over their shoulders) and one or more people in the room who are not allowed to look at the computer at all, but may read a special manual. On the computer, you see a bomb like this one:
There is spooky, you’re-probably-going-to-die-soon music and a countdown clock going, and the bomb contains puzzles that you can only solve with the help of the manual which you’re not allowed to see. Instead, you have to describe what you’re seeing to whoever’s got a manual, and then they try to talk you through what to do to defuse the bomb before the timer runs out. For example, Computer Person might say, “I’ve got some wires here. . . ” and then Manual Person will ask about how many wires there are and what color they are and what order the different colors are in, and based on that, they’ll say, “Okay, cut the third wire,” and if all went well, you’ve solved that part of the bomb, but if someone’s messed up, well, you might accidentally explode. Cute W had M and me try this game on our own first, and we thought it was really super fun. The first time you play, it’s completely disorienting, but you start out with very easy challenges and progress from there. I like that it’s a cooperative game and a bit of a brain teaser sometimes. But when we asked J to play later, she was overtired, and she was stressed out about the concept of exploding even though–just so we’re clear–the explosion part is imaginary, and she hasn’t tried it since.
Come to think of it, maybe I’ll try to get her to play with me this weekend while Cute W and M are at a soccer tournament. Honestly? The two of them can get a little. . . intense sometimes. But while J’s always worried about “failing” games, I’m the one who usually actually messes things up, maybe we’ll be a match. Anyway, I think this game’s great. In fact, I was just thinking that it would be a terrific travel game, because these days you tend to take your laptop with you wherever, but then I realized that maybe the folks at an airport would not love a pretend bomb game. Okay, never mind.
But it would be a great game for a party or a group. Oh my gosh, it would be a pretty good drinking game. But you would probably explode. Excellent for adults playing with the hard-to-please tweens and teens. As for youngsters, you need to be able to read, count, and follow directions. Oh, wow, it could be fun for teachers because it’s like, follow the directions or we all die. Except, again, people are not that into bombs in school these days. Jeez, another reason to be upset about terrorism.
Anyway, if you need gift ideas, these games are both great. If you’re looking for more gift ideas, here’s a list of favorite books and games.