A different look at family time.

July has come and gone, and it’s now August. How do you spend your free time? Some of us will be at the lake, or otherwise away from home. Others for whatever reason will be at home, hopefully spending time with their families, which brings me to the subject at hand.

How do you spend your family time? Of course, “family time” means different things to different people. Some of us have children, though statistically more of us don’t than do. Some of us have significant others, and some of us don’t. I would like to think however, that we all have someone we can call “family” whether blood related or not.
So today I want to discuss board games, not just one , as I will likely be doing in the future on this blog, but 3 separate games I think are good choices for family time. Whether that’s just 2 of you, a larger family unit with various ages, or just a group of friends.
I recognize that my love of board games isn’t necessarily shared amongst everyone, but at the very least, if you’ve gotten this far, you must have at least some interest in what I have to say, which I appreciate. So I’d like to take the time to talk about each of these games individually, and discuss both pros and cons of each. I would like to point out before I begin that I am not sponsored, and my opinions on these games are strictly how I feel about each, without any outside influence.

The first game I want to talk about is “Catan”.

Catan, formally known as “Settlers of Catan” is a board game that came out as long ago as 1995. Which is already 22 years ago. The game has had new editions, and expansions released for it as recently as this year, so there should be no difficulty in finding yourself a copy. I won’t be discussing the individual expansions here, only the base game, which would be more than enough for players just starting out. (and likely players more experienced in the hobby).
First a few stats:
• Settlers of Catan is recommended for ages 10+.
• A game takes approximately 60-90 Minutes.
• The base game is for 3-4 players, which expansions allowing up to 6. (You can play with 2 players, but 3+ is recommended)
• The game can be played many times, no additional purchases required after buying the initial game.
• The approximate cost for the game is $50-$60 Canadian for a new copy.
The way a game plays is important for it’s audience, and when I look at a new game, I always consider how much skill and experience plays into the game, and how much luck is a factor. There are games that exist that are almost entirely luck (think of games like Monopoly, or snakes and ladders.). There are also games that are much more skill based, where a beginner player has almost no chance of beating someone more experienced. (Games like Gin, or perhaps Cribbage). Everyone has their own preferences in this regard, but if you plan to play a game with your family, a good balance of luck and skill is important. After all whether you are both beginners, or a mixture of new players and experienced players, or even children learning their first game, you want everyone to have a good time.
Catan is a game, that both rewards skill, and has enough luck and chance based elements, I feel everyone at the table can enjoy themselves.
The game itself is competitive, rather than cooperative, which means your ultimate goal is to win as an individual. The game offers opportunities to work together to trade resources for mutual benefit, but you need to be careful not to trade away what you need, or things that give someone else too large of an advantage.
Catan involved building settlements on an island known as “Catan”, an area full of resources. You collect commodities, such as wood, sheep, brick, ore, and wheat from the island, depending on where your settlement is built. Resources you’re not built on you may need to trade other players for. The goal of the game is to expand enough to collect 10 “Victory points” and claim victory. Points are collected by various means such as longest road, largest army, and simply by owning settlements and cities. There are more nuances to the game I haven’t discussed, but all in all a well-rounded game for families of all sizes.

Forbidden Desert/Forbidden Island

Maybe I’m deciding to cheat on my first blog by squeezing two games into one, but I’m going to do it anyway. These two games are very similar, made by the same company, use many of the same rules, and provide a very close experience to one another, so I feel it’s justified to combine them.

Did you know I love statistics? Here they are for the Forbidden Games.

• Forbidden Island can be played with 1-4 players, Forbidden Desert with 1-5.
• Gameplay is about 30 minutes for Forbidden Island and 45 minutes for Forbidden Desert.
• Both games are recommended for ages 10+.
• Like most games you will see me advocating, the game can be played many times over.
• The cost for both games is in the range of $25-$35. With Forbidden Island trending towards the lower end of that spectrum, and Forbidden Desert towards the higher end.
The two Forbidden games, are cooperative rather than competitive, meaning that the players involved are working as a team in order to complete a common objective. In both instances, the players need to collect several relics in an environment that is disappearing. (sinking or becoming buried in sand, depending on the game). Once the players have done that, they need to escape. Each player get’s a role to play, which grants them certain abilities the other players don’t have. (such as carrying more water in the desert, or being able to travel through flooded areas on the island.) You need to work as a team to use each team members strengths to get the treasure, and get out.

It’s hard for me to judge difficulty of this game personally, I’ve been quite successful when I’ve played the game, both with experienced players and new players. All the games were close, and exciting though. From what I hear from other players is the game tends to end in a loss for the players, which in my mind is a good thing. The game encourages learning, and becoming better at the game, understanding the mechanics, and thinking critically, as well as adapting to new challenges. That may sound like a speech about a summer camp, but I promise you, it applies here. I mentioned previously a scale of luck versus skill, and this game is also interesting in that regard. Being skillful at the game is important, and can help you win games you wouldn’t otherwise, but luck does play a large part in the game, so sometimes it just isn’t in the cards for you to win a game. Occasionally due to bad luck you can lose a game almost immediately, while that sucks, reset time is extremely fast, and you simply start a new game.

I would say both of these games are solid choices to pickup to start the board gaming hobby off, they are quick to learn, but take a long time to master, and provide good, challenging fun for families, couples, and even a single. (If you play multiple roles).

Exploding Kittens

As the name implies, exploding kittens involves kittens, that explode. While I’m sure that sounds quite grim and unappealing to some of you, I promise you it’s in good fun, and no kittens were harmed in the making of the game.
• Exploding Kittens is for 2-5 players, though I would recommend 3+.
• The game is rather quick and can be completed in 15 minutes.
• The game is for ages 7+, though there is a “NSFW” edition in a black box for adults only.
• This game, at least for me personally got old a little quickly, and I wouldn’t get a lot of replay value out of it, but the game is designed in a way where you should be able to keep playing.
• The game is in the range of $18-$25, though I have found retailers selling it for over $50, you have been warned.
The game turn involves playing a card if you wish, and ending your turn by drawing a card from the central deck. If you draw an exploding kitten you explode, and are out of the game, unless you have a defuse card. If you defuse a kitten, you get rid of your defuse card, and shuffle the exploding kitten back into the deck. The rest of the cards either skip turns, reverse turn order, force people from drawing cards, or manipulating the deck. The goal of the game of course being to be the last person standing, you know, and not exploded.

Overall the game is nice and quick, cheap to pick up and easy to find. It’s simple for children to enjoy, has an adult version for those inclined to some rather interesting jokes and puns, as well as taking up very little space both in the box and during gameplay, perfect to play while travelling.

Hopefully you’ve learned something today, maybe decided to get a game or two, and can spend some quality time with your family, trading resources, stealing hidden treasure, or exploding kittens. Either way, I hope you have a good rest of your day, and I will talk to you soon!

Jesse Gilbert


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