Monday, November 24, 2014

Meet Me at the Table - Turkey Day Tabletop Games

Like your table isn't full enough with all that delicious food on it, am I right? But let's just say you've cleared the table and are looking for some fun with the family while those leftover turkey sandwiches are being made for a late dinner.

These are my recommendations for games to play with the family around Thanksgiving. Many of the games are personal favorites and others came from recommendations from gamer friends and past experiences with my family. Some are for your more adventurous and edgy families and others are for the whole family, regardless of age.  These are listed in alphabetical order.

Agricola (2007)

Agricola plays 1-5 players ages 12+ and runs for about 120 minutes. Agricola is almost like Sims in a tabletop game. You start out as a farmer and their spouse and you take one action each per turn trying to build your farm, get farm work down, and expanding your family. You'll run through 14 rounds that are 6 stages each. You have to run your farm efficiently. It felt like a great choice for Thanksgiving, thinking about how our local farms and agriculture run, as well as evoking the spirit of America's first settlements.

There are several expansions on this classic and popular game to help enhance your gameplay.

Alfredo's Food Fight (2005)

Alfredo's Food Fight plays 2-4 ages 5+ and runs about 20 minutes. I found this game when browsing holiday options for my daughter. With all the tension surrounding these types of holidays, I though, "What could be better during the holidays than a food fight?" Essentially you're flinging meatballs at Alfredo as he spins around. A fun dexterity game for all ages. It's sure to make you laugh without making a huge mess.

Amerigo (2013)

Amerigo plays 2-4 players of ages 10+ and runs about 90 minutes. Players help explorer Amerigo Vespucci as her explores new lands in South America and establishes trade and expands settlements. I enjoyed the theme of exploration in the Americas and expanding growth, once again drawing on the history of our own colony which started in America.

The game itself is played using actions to try to expand and establish these routes. The different color cubes determine what you can do and the types of actions you can take. Players sail their ships and try to explore new islands and collect resources. You'll have to purchase defense to help protect what you earn. A great game of strategy and learning about early settlements in the Americas. 

BANG! The Dice Game (2013)

BANG! The Dice Game plays 3-8 players ages 8+ and runs around 15 minutes. The more players the better. Players play either the Sheriff and deputies, outlaws, or renegades. The Sheriff and deputies need to take out all the outlaws and renegades. The outlaws need to take out the Sheriff and the renegades need to be the last ones standing. Rolling the dice determine the amount of damage that can be done to you or others, heal, or increase the range of your shot. Everyone but the Sheriff is anonymous and you need to figure out who is on your team by their actions. Test those relationships with this classic bluffing party game.

Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game (2011)

Blood Bowl: Team Manager plays 2-4 players ages 14+ and runs about 90 minutes. Selected for its loose connection to football and, as we know, football is a staple of American Thanksgiving. After the tryptophan sets in and you've cozied yourself into your recliner to watch the pigskin battle unfold, try another tradition with Blood Bowl: Team Manager. It has a surprising amount going on between deck-building, card-drafting game, bluffing, area control, and--of course-- cheating!. You run a team that competes against the other teams in the most brutal of sports. Draft, hire, upgrade, and cheat like crazy in order to get the most awesome highlight reels over several weeks until it comes time for the Blood Bowl itself. What wouldn't bring people closer together than some good ole' sports without you actually getting hurt.

Cards Against Humanity (2009)

Cards Against Humanity plays 4-30 players ages 17+ and lasts about 30 minutes. CAH is the game for the edgier family that can handle the inappropriate, lewd, and downright blasphemous. You have got to be comfortable using swear words, referencing sexual positions, and any other matter of obscenity in front of your family. If that works for you, CAH is keep you laughing all night long, so keep the Sparkling Grape Juice coming! Players are given a fill-in-the-blank answer by one player, then they have to come up with what they think that player with laugh the hardest at. Think Apples to Apples for adults. Points are collected based on who has the most fill-in-the-blank cards. There are countless expansions and promo packs to keep this game interesting and full of flavor, so if you only have to base set, think about expanding to even more disturbing visualizations.

Diamonds (2014)

Diamonds plays 2-6 players ages 8+ and lasts around 30 minutes. Diamonds is a brand new trick-taking game in the vein of Hearts or Spades from Stronghold Games and noted designer of Mystery Rummy games and the classic CCG Wyvern, Mike Fitzgerald. Diamonds shares the same foundation as its elder cousins where each round one player leads the trick and the rest of the table is supposed to follow suit. What makes Diamonds a stand out in its class are the little acrylic diamond tokens players collect as they play and the fact that any player that wins the trick or cannot follow suit gets to take a "suit action" with the card they played. These suit actions move diamonds on the table around, either stealing from opponents, taking from the central pool, or moving it from your "showroom" into your "vault' behind a little cardboard screen. Players are out to collect the most diamonds. If you love trick-taking games, this is a phenomenal reinventing of the wheel and the game is a perfect choice for the family table.

Dixit (2008)

Dixit plays 3-6 players ages 6+ and last about 30 minutes. Dixit is comprised of a deck of giant cards featuring absolutely gorgeous artwork. On their turn a player will give a clue to the other players about a card in their hand. Then the other players will have to pick one of their own cards that they think fits the clue the best. They hand the card they've chosen over to the player who gave the clue and that player lays out the cards. Then the players have to pick which cards was the original clue card. Points are awarded based on guesses. A great game for everyone, because it's visual with no reading required and the artwork leaves much to the imagination.

Fluxx (1997)

Fluxx plays 2-6 players ages 8+ and last around 15 minutes. I've seen games go pretty long, though, depending on players and how often the games changes. Fluxx is just that, it is a card game where the rules are always fluctuating and changing. One minute you could be about to win the game, when someone changes the outcome rule and they take it for the win. A great family game with so many editions that no matter what your geek passion is, you are bound to find one that fits the tastes of your family. You can choose from the original or pirates, zombies, Cthulhu, Wizard of Oz, Monty Python, and the list goes on.

Gloom (2005)

Gloom plays 2-4 players ages 8+ and lasts about 60 minutes. You are one of four families that are set on being the most miserable families ever. Your goal is to play as many negative cards on your family members as possible before they are killed. Storytelling goes along with each event that unfolds and the events can be quite. . . unique. It's hard not to think of the eccentricities of the Addam's Family. Gloom has expansions and editions, including a Cthulhu edition. This game broke creation barriers with it's see-through cards that function as part of the gaming dynamic.

Hedbanz Act Up (2013)

Hedbanz Act Up plays 2-6 players ages 8+ and lasts around 30 minutes. Each player wears a headband that holds a card on it. Each player has to try to guess the card that is on their headband, but they can only guess based on clues the other players give them about their card. A classic game made modern and is fun for the whole family and all ages.

Keyflower (2012)

Keyflower plays 2-6 players ages 12+ and lasts around 90 minutes. A worker placement game at its very core, Keyflower is played over four rounds, which represent the four seasons. Just like the pilgrims in Plymouth, you have to create a productive settlement as more settlers come to try to make a new life for themselves. This plays similar to a blend between Carcassonne and the Settlers of Catan, through it's use of meeples and tiles. The setup is original and is sure to be fun for the family.

Last Will (2011)

Last Will plays 2-5 players ages 13+ and lasts about 60 minutes. What family gathering wouldn't be complete without a discussion or two about the future of the family heirlooms. A strategy card game, Last Will celebrates the enjoyment of money. Your rich uncle will leave his millions to the family member who can demonstrate how much they appreciate spending money the most. Each player will start with some spending money and after 7 rounds or the first player to go bankrupt, the game ends. Who will be the heir to millions? Spend an evening contemplating what your last will has in store for the ones you love.

Lewis & Clark (2013)

Lewis & Clark plays 1-5 players ages 12+ and lasts about 120 minutes. A card drafting boardgame based on the expeditions on the namesake, Lewis & Clark focuses on hand management as each player runs his own expedition across North America. The game is a bit more on the complex side for gamers and will take a little while to teach to new gamers, but is definitely enjoyable once things are under way. Recommended for those nights with the family during the holiday break.

New World (A Carcassonne Game) (2008)

New World plays 2-5 players ages 8+ and lasts about 45 minutes. Like the original Carcassonne game, you place tiles to expand your settlements. What makes this one special for Thanksgiving is that it is set in early America. While you play you are forced to explore westward in order to win. If you love Carcassonne, New World is the perfect way to add a new twist and theme it out with the holiday.

The Settlers of Catan  (1995)

The Settlers of Catan plays 3-4 (or 5-6 with the expansion) players ages 10+ and lasts around 90 minutes. Settlers is a classic tabletop game and boasts many variations and expansions to build on the enjoyment. Roll the dice to collect resources and manage your hand to expand and grow your settlements. Don't forget to trade wood for sheep. Another game that focuses on building settlements that, again, reflects on Thanksgiving a little bit.

Sheriff of Nottingham (2014)

Sheriff of Nottingham plays 3-5 players ages 13+ and lasts around 60 minutes. I think you can play with ages below 13, depending on how you feel the kids will do. Sheriff is a bluffing game and will definitely elicit laughs and silliness from the whole group. Each player is a merchant who wants to sell their goods inside the city. There are legal goods and contraband goods. You have to try to pass off your goods when you declare to the Sheriff. Each players takes turns playing the Sheriff. Try to get the most goods through the gates and benefit from the bonuses on your contraband, but just make sure the Sheriff doesn't catch you or you'll be paying out. Great fun for a family get-together.

Small World (2009)

Small World plays 2-5 players ages 8+ and lasts around 80 minutes. You start out as a race that wants to expand to collect victory points. As your races spread out, you might realize it's time for that race to decline and another to begin. How long and how many races can you use to colonize the board? A great way to learn about how expansive cultures of people are and how sometimes other groups need to take over already inhabited areas. Small World has several expansions and other variations of the game, so pick what you like the best. Hours of fun for the whole family.

Snake Oil (2010)

Snake Oil plays 3-10 players ages 13+ and lasts around 30 minutes. I actually think you could have kids who are younger play, just be aware of the cards you're using. Snake Oil is great for the whole family and will be the source of massive amounts of laughter. Each player is dealt some cards and has to come up with an item to sell to a randomly selected personality. For example, the person you have to sell to might be a gangster and you have to sell the best gangster item to them using two of the items from your hand. Lots of laughs to burn off all those turkey calories.

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