Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Junior Gamers Club (Trailblazers Day 2)

What is Junior Gamers Club?

I had no reservations for the Trailblazers (ages 10-14) like I had for the Explorers (ages 5-9). These kids are dedicated and, to be fair, four of them are my students or graduated students. I know they've got the love for the game.

I still lamented today the lack of publication our summer activity got. It is a free event in the community. Just because it is held at a local game store, we aren't allowed promotion from any of these community sites or through the school district, etc. I have a whole diatribe, but I'll leave that for another entry. Hopefully as the summer continues on more kids will start to stop in and see what we have to offer. I continue to promote the events on Facebook, through the store's page via photos of the games, etc.

Today was a whole lot of gaming excitement for our 5 brave souls:

Artifacts, Inc. (2014)

My husband as this adorable addiction to archaeological games. I mean, he has Indiana Jones running through his veins. He was super excited to be able to bring in this game. Since the boys had already started Dragon Slayer, he played this with the two girls who arrived after them.

Dragon Slayer (2014)

Oh goodness... here's another plug! See previous entries! Today it was used as a warm-up game for the heavier things to come.

Race for the Galaxy (2007)

A game requested by our hardcore Euro kid and his passion for all things Sci-Fi! Then again... maybe Euro is how we're perceiving him, but maybe he's super into 4X. I'll have to research this further. Anyways.... so of course my husband has zero reason to not bring this game in and he coached the kids through playing. I loved that they got the game out, read through how to set it up, familiarized themselves with the directions while waiting for my husband to assist them. A bit busy for them, but they seemed to enjoy it. I feel like we need to ask the kids to give us some indication of their liking of a game so that we can better plan. Just add it to the list!

Magic Maze (2017)

Magic Maze is a game on display at the shop. I'd been glancing over at it, but hadn't really taken a look. The two girls who attend wandered over and one of our shop ladies (the daughter of one our teachers at my school) taught the girls how to play. Essentially you have to play the game without talking and you can only communicate using the red pawn and the blue cards. You have to get the little colored pawns to their matching weapons and then out of the maze. Certain things happen and there are timers. I think at the flip of the timer they have a chance to talk before touching a pawn that round. Either way, it looked really cool and later in the session one of the girls taught it to my husband. Now THAT made my heart flutter with pride.

The other thing I liked about this was that it demonstrated how the wealth of knowledge the people at the shop have can really help others learn, too. I mean, I knew nothing about this game and they never would have been exposed to such interesting game mechanics if we hadn't been at the shop. The kids get to see what others are playing and even come up with ideas for what they think they want to play next time. Just because it's a store, doesn't mean there's pressure to buy. I mean, heck, you could say our binder full of games that the kids can request to play is selling games, when you think about it. A digression, I know, but still just another great point for why hosting it at the local game shop was better than hosting it at a school.

Cartagena (2000)

Set collecting, escaping pirates, and secret passages.... what could be better? I thought for sure my daughter would get a kick out of this, but like last week... something came over her and she all weird about playing a game. We're starting to think it's playing in public or the "fear" or losing around people. She wasn't even losing, actually. I don't really understand, but I thought for sure she'd enjoy playing this with me. The mechanics are simple and she's good at planning ahead.... ah well... for another day and another crowd. I love it, though.

Red7 (2014)

Another one that was played the previous week, but one of the girls hadn't played it yet. I think it's one that'll make it out of the vault more now.

Dead Man's Draw (2015)

The kids played this last week, but my husband played it with one of the girls who, I guess, hadn't played it. Another game that I think will make it out of the vault more now that some of the new kids understand it and haven't been brainwashed into playing the same old games.

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! (2013)

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule is a game that I bought way back in the day. I remember sharing it with my students when we did our first Tabletop Game Unit for Literacy. The girls who used it made a similar game dealing with dress code (they had to do a "human rights" issue). ANYWAYS! It's out of print now, which breaks my heart, but it's such a fun little game. I saw online you can get a print-and-play, but it's just not the same. I shared this with the two girls who come in. In short order, they defeated the game and then the other girl had to leave. It's a simple game, but I really wish I could buy new copies without paying an arm and a leg.

Maximum Throwdown: Overload (2014)

This game came in our AEG Black Box (2014). Maximum Throwdown: Overload  is a standalone expnasion for Maximum Throwdown (2013). You have to toss cards, so the dexterity part is pretty neat. We hadn't really played it with many people, but the kids really liked it and playing it with a larger group is so much more intense! I personally think getting he original would be pretty awesome, too, but we're happy with this little bundle at the moment.

Castles of Burgundy (2011)

For those of you who might have contributed to our GoFundMe, this copy was bought for our graduating 8th grader and we broke it out to play today. What a great way to end our second day with the Trailblazers!


Can't wait for next week! Things are heating up! So much so that I've already been thinking about how to up the badges, since one of my members already has her D12 badge!

This is what I'm thinking:

Bronze Level Gamer = 30 games
Silver Level Gamer = 40 games
Gold Level Gamer = 50 games

After that, well... you're just a really hardcore gamer. I was also thinking of adding a special Explorers or Trailblazers badge... like a completion badge of honor or something. A work in progress I suppose.

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #19

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Daddy-Daughter Tuesdays (Dragonwood)

Shhhh.... don't tell anyone, but this was a Mommy-Daughter game. THEN a Daddy-Daughter game. Teehee.



Dragonwood is fundamentally a very simple game. What makes it stand out a bit from other dice games that utilize the press-your-luck mechanic is an element of player agency many of them do not offer. The player decides when they have enough cards in their set (matching color, number, or a straight run of cards) to make an attempt at capturing a beast and how many dice they will get to use for that attempt. Additionally, the special power cards offer a mild element of engine building, but as they do not provide any end game points, there is a definite weighing of risk vs. reward in going after them. As for the game itself in a family/child context, it seems like a solid addition to a collection catering to those targets. It's not revolutionary, but its easy to grasp, pretty fun, and of very nice production value typical of games published by Gamewright. 


What did you like about the game?
I liked that there were animals and I caught a jaguar, jaguar, and fire ants. I almost caught the water dragon (the blue one). I like that you can scream to catch something. Like, how do you scream and catch something? That just doesn't make sense to me.

I like rolling dice, but it was hard to get six dice to get the dragons.

Is it hard or easy to play?
 It was hard to choose the cards for the actions. But it was easy to play.

Do you need help from daddy to play the game?

Daddy (Mommy) had to teach me. Then I only needed a little help. It was easy.

Is there anything about the game that you don't like?

There were just too many cards in my hands and I kept forgetting about the 9 cards only. I wanted to have the most cards so I could get the animals I wanted. I didn't know what to do with all the cards. I wanted cards but my hands are small. I had to make piles and I felt I always had to scream and could never stomp. (Don't know how we missed it, but we forgot about the 9 card max hand, but we know now!)

Do you think other kids would like the game? Why?

Yes, because I would tell them that there are cards and animals on them and they're cute and you get to roll dice and there's even two dragons! The cards have numbers and the colored pictures are cool (green and blue were the best). 

If someone asked you if they should buy this game what would you say? Why?

You should buy this game, because it is a nice family game. 

Will you play it again?

Yes, because I get to play it with my family and it's a fun game.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Junior Gamers Club (Explorers Day 2)

What is Junior Gamers Club?

So we went into Day 2 of the ages 5-9 group with high hopes. I get that it's alot to ask an adult to accompany children, but I honestly don't want to babysit the kids. In my mind, though, I think "have one adult bring a few kids" instead of just one adult per kid. Does that make sense? And the being able to attend as an open gaming event I thought would also be helpful, but after last week, I can honestly say we were hesitant for what would happen today.

Our hesitation was well-founded. We spent about the first hour with just our daughter. Our daughter was absolutely devastated, because she was so excited to play games with other kids.

At 12:10, though, kids started arriving, but my daughter needed to leave for her other class. Again, heartbreak. But by the end of the day we had 4 kids who had come in to play and join the club for the badges. Our club currently has 3 girls and 2 boys and, at the risk of sounding judgmental or bias, the girls have been some of the most wonderful kids to play with. It does my heart proud to see these young girls embracing this hobby and feeling empowered by their gaming skills.

Day 2 started out rough, but picked up as the day went on. Here is what the kids played.

Tales & Games: The Pied Piper (2016)

We played this with my daughter while waiting for other kids to arrive.

Dragon Slayer (2014)

I honestly believe I should start being paid for how much I mention this game and promote it. No, seriously.... does an entry even go by without me raving about how much my students, daughter, con-gamers, and I love this game? Woowee... Played this with my daughter while we waited. Plus... um... there had dinosaur/dragon clothes at Target that we freaked out over and bought and my daughter wanted to play the dragon game while dressed as a dragon. A girl after my own geeky-themed heart.

Jenga (1983)

One of our club members arrived and they played Jenga, because my daughter was in the middle of Dragon Slayer and also had to leave for her acting right after.


Another game that, if you search my blog, you'd probably find is mentioned a million times. Love breaking this game out for club, my game unit, and introducing kids to, what I consider, a variation of chess strategy - having to think, sometimes, three steps ahead. Our new member, an adorable little girl who is the daughter of my in-coming student teacher, knew the game and wanted to teach it. So she lead the charge and all the kids and my husband played.

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game (2011)

This game was brought by one of the kids and was played by all the kids. 

Magic Labyrinth (2009)

This had the cutest exchange I had ever seen from a kid. The two girls played this with my husband while the boy played another game. Towards the end, one of the girls didn't want to win. She wanted the other little girl to win. There was a conversation about choices and how that might not be fair to the other girl who might want her win to be because they had a good game of strategy. They are so cute!

My Stone Age (2016)

One of this kids saw this played last week and played it with two other adults that were there. Proclaimed it was so easy, because he won so quickly and that the game said 15+ minutes, he played it in 10. Sadly a piece appears to be missing. I find this to be interesting because 1) my husband and I packed up the game last week and had all the pieces and 2) no one has opened the game since last week. We just bought this game a few months ago, so... a little frustrating.

Animal Upon Animal (2005)

I love introducing this game to kids, because it is always a hit. Once the one girl left, it only left two kids to play, so they broke out this game. I was in a meeting, so I didn't get to see how it played out, but I know the kids proclaimed it as amazing.

Carcassonne (w/ Expansion 3: The Princess and the Dragon)

One of the new kids arrived really late and kids were already invested in games, so him and his mother played Carcassonne with the Princess and Dragon expansion. They were having fun when we left.

The drawback to this week was one of the kids became obsessed with getting their game card stamped and wanted to speed play a bunch of "easy" and "fast" games so they could get more stamps and more pins. I was a little shocked by this. I mean, the point of the club was to be exposed to new games, teach each other, and play with other kids to build social skills. The cards were just an added fun activity. This, of course, made me think about what to do if a kid did fill up their card so early. Would they stop playing? I have some ideas, but still.... an ethical gaming dilemma.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Daddy-Daughter Tuesdays (La Isla)

This particular Daddy-Daughter Tuesday turned into a Daddy-Daughter Thursday due to things going on this week. Now that it's summer, we're starting to see a bit more game play from the whole family. We're getting going.

The game they played was La Isla and it's one my daughter really loves playing. Here's their take on it.

La Isla (2014)


Stefan Feld is known for his "point salad" euro games of medium to heavy complexity.  La Isla, however, is a perfect game for a mid-level child gamer.  They have fun collecting these cute animal tokens. The four phases of each turn are pretty easy to grasp and the method of claiming the tokens is fairly simple visually as well (you just have to surround a token with your people).  The only tough part for a kid Isabelle's age is the heavy iconography-- particularly for the "A Phase" special abilities, but even I need the reference card for those sometimes.  It's really a light, wonderful game that has a lot going on but doesn't overwhelm-- and the design is remarkably clever and interesting.  I honestly was surprised how quickly she took to the game-- to the point where she can teach it herself.  Last night's game was also the first time she ever beat me (by 2 points!) and, even though I still give her some strategic advice from time to time, she definitely is improving as she plays. 


What did you like about the game?
I like that is has cool different animals and you get to collect them. My favorite animal was the Fassa (the cat), because it's a kitty and I like kitties, but I also like the Dodo, because they're really silly in my Dinosaur Sim game and make (insert noises).

Is it hard or easy to play?
La Isla is hard (we used the term difficult when talking), because it's hard to know where to put all your people. The easy things are the animal collection.

Do you need help from daddy to play the game?
I think I could teach it, I just might need a little daddy help. I needed, kinda medium, help, kinda didn't when we first learned it. Daddy read the directions to me and I could do a couple things without help, like placing some people to catch animals.

Is there anything about the game that you don't like?
I don't like that I only have certain choices for animals to raise and blocks and powers and that daddy keeps stealing my spots and animals.

Do you think other kids would like the game? Why?
Yes, because I taught two other kids how to play it already. So maybe they would like it? I don't know, because they left to go play on the bouncy house. The animals are cute and the little people are neat, so I think kids would like them.

If someone asked you if they should buy this game what would you say? Why?
I'd say "yeah!" 'Cause (the adults) can put the board together, um, and the animals are cute (giggles).  

Will you play it again?
I will play it again, because I like animals. I've played this game, I think, like, 3 times, maybe 4.

(Sorry... husband forgot to take a picture with her. We're trying to correct this problem slowly but surely.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Junior Gamers Club (Trailblazers Day 1)

What is Junior Gamers Club?

The Junior Gamers Club Trailblazers are the older kids who come in to play. Unlike the younger kids who I consider exploring the hobby of tabletop gaming, whether they're avid players at home or not, I felt the older kids were really blazing the trail as gamers. That's why I chose this particular title, especially keeping with the Adventure theme that matches so well with the summer.

We started out with 5 kids. Then dropped down to 4. 4 of the 5 were students of mine. There was only one kid I didn't know. So... I guess... 5 is a good start? We did think we were going to have some kids from the Boys & Girls Club come out, but we're not sure what happened there. But there's still 5 more sessions!

I felt bad that the number was so low, because the shop actually opened up an hour before it normally does just for us! Ah well.

Overall, though, the gaming went really well. Our shop gal was even surprised at how "quiet" the kids were, because the games they played were so "intense." Adorable.

All the kids signed up for the club part in order to get lanyards and earn achievement pins, so all that money went into my club jar. I told the couple parents I talked to about how it's just covering the cost of everything and any extra goes towards our game club.

Our first day was full of interesting games and, like you might expect, were a bit more intense. My daughter started out the day with us, because I take her to a summer activity in the middle of our club. I based the club times around this, because we don't live in the area and it gives us something great to do.

Here is our list of games for Day 1 of the Trailblazers:

Forbidden Desert

Forbidden Island is one of the favored games whenever I share it with young people, whether in my Literacy class or in our game club. Forbidden Desert is just as popular with those who have already played Forbidden Desert. Sadly, I don't think they made it. I'm super excited for Forbidden Sky, and, honestly, so are my club kids.


My daughter wanted to teach me this and while I went through the rules, I knew she was missing some information. Sadly, it didn't go well towards the end when she realized I had totally blocked her carnivores from attacking and they weren't going to make it. She was overly tired, which was sad, because I was really enjoying the game.

Once we were done, the older kids took a stab at it and seemed to enjoy it.

Incan Gold

Another favorite whenever we bring it to club or kid events. Our copy is looking pretty shabby though. We definitely need a new one.

HEXplore It

 I've written about this one before and is the new addiction of my older kids. Created by my co-workers husband, they donated a free copy to our club, which literally made me cry. The kids are loving it.

Red 7

A simple game that I'm hoping to see hit the table more in club.

Dead Man's Draw

I think this one is going to be a club favorite next year. None of them wanted to take it out of the vault to really learn it and appreciate it. Took us two seconds to get them excited about it and they played it, like, twice! A great way to end the day.

All the kids earned a four game achievement pin and are on their way to their sixth. I love their gaming enthusiasm and that's what makes this all really worth it.

Next week, some of the kids have requested the following games (we have a binder of games to help induce induce interest for the kids).

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #18

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: Junior Gamers Club (Explorers Day 1)

Today was the first day that we ran the summer club. Mondays are for the 5-9 age range. I always tell people, it's not like we're checking IDs or anything. So if you're 10 and you come to the 5-9, I don't care. Or if you're 4 and you sneak in, because you're parents feel you're gamer ready, I'm seriously not going to bat an eyelash. I just want to expose young people to the gaming habit.

I'll just save you the stress of wondering how it went and tell you only two kids showed up. I thought for sure there'd at least be 3 or 4. I also understand that some people might be busy this week or have things going on. I am reserving judgement until at least the end of June. Suffice to say, I was slightly disappointed, but it's my first time doing this. What in the world did I expect? For people to be banging down the door?

The two kids we had though seemed to have fun. My daughter had to leave at 12:15, though, to go to acting, so then the brother and sister were left to each other. When I arrived back, my husband was playing with the 5yo sister and the mom was playing chess with the 9yo brother.

The mom bought the punch card and achievement pin track, so that was really exciting! The daughter played 5 games! She earned her first achievement pin. Sadly, the brother was upset that he did not get to 4 games to earn his first pin, but that's alright. Sometimes it takes time to earn the achievement pins. And to be fair, he played chess. That takes a while.

Despite to disappointing turnout, we did get in some pretty neat games. Here is Day 1's roundup.


We weren't sure how to start things, so my daughter brought over a game she feels confident teaching and shared it with the kids.

Monopoly, Jr.

Brought by the brother and sister and they played this next.

Dragon Slayer

I recommended this while I was dropping off my daughter at acting. Who doesn't like rolling dice and it is a pretty simple game to understand. Much loved by many young people I share it with.

Farm Fun

I arrived back to see my husband playing this with the 5yo girl and she was having a ball.

Star Wars Chess

When I arrived back, I saw the mom playing with her 9yo son.

My First Stone Age

The 5yo girl REALLY wanted to play this and I was pretty familiar with it from my club and our time at Khaos Kon, so we broke it out. She played fine, but we could tell she was flagging.


I challenged my husband while we were waiting for the kids to finish. It was right up to the last tile and my husband won by one tile. Grrr.

Sidenote: I have my gamer rules set and I'll post them on Wednesday when I do my write-up. We already know that Wednesday is looking more promising, because the majority of the contact I've had with parents have been asking about the older kids game day. Excitement is on the horizon!