All posts by Raelle Richard

"You are the best at blog. And dogs" - Gary Blebbins AKA Evan Ashby

Upcoming Games We’re Excited About

There are a lot of great games coming out in the next few months, but here are some of the games we are most excited for!

Clank! In! Space!

Here at The Game Table Café, we love Clank! so it only stands to reason that we’ll love Clank! In! Space! as well. We’ve only had Clank! in our library for a few months, but it’s already seen so much play that the board is falling apart. Clank! In! Space! takes the action of Clank! and moves it from a dungeon guarded by an angry dragon to the depths of space. You’ll be playing as thieves stealing treasure from the ship of the evil Lord Eradikus. Every treasure you take makes Lord Eradikus angrier and every careless noise you make paints a bigger target on your back so grab your treasure and race to the escape pods to make it out alive.

Disney Codenames

Disney has produced some of the most beloved characters of all time (and a lot of my favorites) and Codenames won the Spiel des Jahres award in 2016 and is considered one of the best party games of all time. Of course, I’m excited for this mash-up of two great things Disney Codenames. I’m slightly peeved that this is being considered the “family edition” and therefore seems to be “easier” with a 4×4 grid and no assassin. However, I’m sure with a bit of experimentation, you could adapt the 5×5 grid cards from the original game to the Disney version, which is definitely something I plan to try.

Sheriff of Nottingham: Merry Men

Merry Men is the first expansion for Sheriff of Nottingham, a game of bluffing and smuggling. In addition to the possibility of playing with a sixth player, Merry Men also will add five new modules to the base game. To me the most interesting of these is the option to play with two deputies instead of one sheriff. Instead of smuggling your goods past one person, you have to convince two people that you’re goods are legal. The other modules include laws that remain in play for the round and new ways to earn bonuses. I’m excited to try this out with my family who all had fun with the base game the last time we played it.

Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate

Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate is a game that a few of our gurus are excited for and, while I personally may not be all that interested in Dungeons and Dragons, I am interested in more content from Avalon Hill, the makers of one of my all-time favorite board games, Betrayal at House on the Hill. Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate takes all of the fun of Betrayal at House on the Hill, but moves the action from a mysterious haunted house to the city of Baldur’s Gate. You’ll play as a party of adventurers exploring the city until one of you turns traitor and unleashes a horrible evil upon the rest of the party.

Legend of the Five Rings

The Legend of the Five Rings is a game based on the original collectible card game, but re-imagined as a living card game with new mechanics and stories. The Legend of the Five Rings is set in the world of Rokugan. There are seven clans in the land of Rokugan that serve the emperor; however, these clans do not live in harmony and are in constant conflict with each other. Players take on the role of the leader of one of these clans and build their decks around that clan to then fight against another player controlling another clan. The base set will come with everything you need to get started and, like other LCG’s, later expansions will help you supplement your deck with new cards.

Cities of Splendor

Another expansion, this time for Splendor! And better yet, Cities of Splendor is actually four different expansions in one box, however it seems that each expansion is meant to be played separately. The four expansions are Cities, Tradings Posts, Orient, and Strongholds. Each of these adds something new and different to the game and expands the replayability of the base game.

A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch

Catan set in the world of Game of Thrones sounds great and I for one am very interested in this game! The premise this version of Catan is that the Night’s Watch is looking for a new leader and players are competing for that role. You are tasked with improving the infrastructure of the Gift and defending the Wall from Wildlings trying to fight their way into Westeros (so is this before Jon Snow befriends them?). The player that does all of this best will become the new Lord Commander.

Dark Souls: The Card Game

This one isn’t going to be out until next year, but one of our past gurus mentioned it when I asked so it’s on here as an honorary mention. Based on the video game, Dark Souls: The Card Game is a cooperative game in which players must adapt their decks to better fight enemies and gain treasure.

Great Dungeon-Themed Games for Adventurers

When we think of dungeon delving games, I’m sure that the first thing that would come to the minds of most people, even non-gamers, is Dungeons and Dragons. Designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974, Dungeons and Dragons is the father of all tabletop role-playing games. D&D was the first role-playing game and it is still considered to be one of the most popular. It gave rise to a variety of other role-playing games, but it also popularized the dungeon delving theme. There is a vast number of great games where you play as adventurers exploring a dungeon in hunt of treasure and other riches and I’m going to talk about some of the games we have available in the café! In addition, most of these games will be featured at our Dungeon Delving Event on Saturday, September 30.

Dungeon!

Created in 1975 by Gary Gygax and some others, Dungeon! is a game directly inspired by Dungeons and Dragons as the idea was essentially to take D&D and translate it to a board game format. The board is a dungeon consisting of hallways and rooms. Players choose a character class with different abilities then move through the dungeon, fighting monsters and collecting treasure. Instead of working together like in D&D, players are competing to be the first to emerge from the dungeon with their treasure.

Boss Monster

Boss Monster is a game reminiscent of classic side-scrolling video games. The box is even designed to look like the art on old NES cartridges and the art on each card is pixelated, just as these old games were. You play as the monster at the end of the dungeon, AKA the “boss” that adventurers need to fight in order to escape with their treasure. You then build rooms in your dungeon designed to attract different types of adventurers and wear down their health.  Each adventurer that perishes in your dungeon gives you more points towards winning. If they make it through to the boss, they count against you as a wound. The strategy of the game comes in when trying to balance luring adventurers quickly, but also making sure your dungeon is strong enough to defeat them.

Also try our Boss Monster cookie!
Clank!

Clank! is a game that has been extremely popular recently. I finally got a chance to play it after hearing about all of the hype and I loved it! It definitely lives up to its glowing reputation. For those who don’t know, Clank! is a deck-building game with the unique added board mechanic. If you haven’t played any games of the deck-building variety, you ought to check one out. Every deck-builder starts with the same basic mechanics. Each player is given the same starting cards which becomes the base of their deck. These cards help you buy more cards from an open display that you can add to your deck. Each card that you purchase should make your deck stronger and help you get closer to winning. Typically, winning means having a certain number of victory points.

What makes Clank! unique is that, in addition to buying cards to build up your deck, there is an adventure theme built into the game that you don’t see in other deck-builders. A big part of Clank! is the board depicting a dragon’s hideout beneath a castle. Players journey through the castle to collect treasure, trying to make it out alive. Each treasure that you take makes the dragon angrier and every careless noise you make turns you into a bigger target for the dragon’s rage. Use the cards that you have added to your deck to help you move through the dungeon and fight monsters. The player who makes it out alive with the most treasure is the winner!

Munchkin

Munchkin is meant to be a satirical take on traditional role-playing games. Steve Jackson Games basically took the usual tropes of these types of games and turned them on their heads. This makes for a ridiculous, but really fun gaming experience. In Munchkin, players all start at level 1 and are competing to be the first to level 10. You can customize your character by playing race and class cards, then equipping your character with weapons. One of the mechanics that make the game so silly is that your character is subject to change at any time, which can be frustrating if you have cards that only one type of race or class can use.

On your turn, you “kick down” a dungeon door and deal with whatever is behind it. Typically, that thing is a monster that you have to fight. If you successfully defeat it, you can gain treasure. Sometimes it will happen that you are not strong enough to defeat the monster. This is where one of the really fun mechanics of the game comes in where you can negotiate with your opponents to get them to help you out. Of course, you will probably end up later stabbing them in the back. All in all, Munchkin is meant to be a fun game in which you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously.

Welcome to the Dungeon

The next game is one in our breadstick section. Welcome to the Dungeon is a press your luck type of game in which players bid to be the one to enter the dungeon and fight the monsters. The problem is, you don’t know what monsters are waiting for you and it’s possible that you will lose precious equipment before entering. During the first phase of each round players bid by drawing cards, then choosing to either add it to the dungeon pile, or discarding it along with a piece of equipment so that the hero can’t use it when entering the dungeon. Instead of bidding, you can choose to pass and will not be able to enter the dungeon. The last player left in this round moves on to phase two where they have to battle each monster that was placed in the dungeon pile.

The fun of Welcome to the Dungeon lies in the bidding phase where you have to decide if you want to take on the dungeon or not. If you don’t, it then becomes a matter of trying to sabotage whatever player ends up entering. If you do want to take on the dungeon, you have to hope that your opponents don’t sabotage you too badly. The first player to successfully make it through the dungeon twice is the winner, or you can be eliminated by dying in the dungeon twice.

The Red Dragon Inn

The final game is rather different from the others because instead of taking place during the dungeon adventure, The Red Dragon Inn takes place after. You and your companions have made it out of the dungeon with your loot and are looking to relax and have some fun at a local tavern. Of course, I’m sure you can imagine that a celebration of a group of adventurers coming back from a successful journey can get a little rowdy. At its heart, The Red Dragon Inn is a drinking game, except players aren’t drinking, their characters are. Over the course of the game you will be drinking your own drinks, buying drinks for your friends, and maybe even starting a round of gambling. If you run out of gold or pass out drunk, you lose. The last player left who is still sober enough to be conscious is the winner.

If you want to check out any of these games or one of our other Dungeon games, we’ll have most of them available at our Dungeon Delve Day, which you can read more about on Facebook. We also recently added a new game, Delve, to our library that will be featured at this event!

 

Can You Get Through This Post Without Craving a Sandwich?

If you’ve been paying attention thus far, you’ll know that board game cafes boast having something for everyone. And it’s true! We pride ourselves on being able to find a game that everyone in your group can understand and enjoy, even those most adamantly opposed to learning something new. And the same is true about our sandwiches. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “But, Rae, isn’t that true about almost every café out there?” And to that I say yes, you are absolutely correct. But can you go to any of those other cafés and play the board game your sandwich was named after while eating said sandwich? No, you can’t. And that is where we have those cafés beat.

Fresco

Essentially an Italian sub, the Fresco is made with ham, pepperoni, and salami layered between provolone cheese. This is topped with lettuce and roasted tomatoes, which are way better than regular tomatoes. The tomatoes sit in an oil that we drizzle on top.

Catan

The perfect sandwich for all of you bacon lovers is the Catan. In addition to bacon, the Catan has turkey, Russian dressing (which I’ve heard is like thousand-island dressing), and Swiss cheese. We toast it so that the cheese bubbles up and melts down the sides.

Munchkin

The Munchkin is a roast beef sandwich with lettuce, red onions and those delicious roasted tomatoes. It is completed with a horseradish sauce that we so lovingly refer to as “horsey” sauce.

Dominion

The Dominion is a meatball sub made with stroganoff sauce and provolone cheese. We toast it in the oven so the cheese melts over the top of the meatballs. What is stroganoff sauce? Honestly, I have no idea. All I know is that it is brown and has mushrooms in it.

7 Wonders

Our caprese sandwich is the 7 Wonders, made with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and pesto that is toasted on the panini press until the cheese is perfectly melted. Again, these are our delicious roasted tomatoes and it is the tomatoes that really make this sandwich. With no meat, this sandwich is also vegetarian-friendly!

Tsuro

The Tsuro is a buffalo chicken wrap made with chicken tenders, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and a buffalo sauce that makes it a bit spicy. We grill it on the press until the outsides are golden and toasty.

Scoville

Perhaps the only sandwich whose name makes sense is the Scoville. Scoville is a game about planting peppers and our sandwich is a grilled cheese with a kick. In addition to Colby jack cheese, we add blue corn chips and a jalapeno cream cheese spread. This is our other vegetarian-friendly sandwich!

Ticket to Ride

Another sandwich made with turkey is the Ticket to Ride. The Ticket to Ride has turkey and provolone with a layer of lettuce on top. Instead of plain, boring mayonnaise, we’ve put a twist on our turkey sandwich using a cranberry mayonnaise and a small amount of craisins to give it a bit of sweetness.

A Non-Coffee Drinker’s Guide to Coffee

I don’t drink coffee. I know, right? You’re thinking, “How can you work at a café and not drink coffee? How do you go through every day without caffeine pumping through your system? Something must be wrong with you.” I assure you, dear reader, I survive just fine without my daily dose of coffee. And I’ve learned quite a bit about coffee now that I make it on a regular basis and I want to share my plethora of knowledge for our customers who, like me, aren’t big on coffee and may feel a bit lost trying to order something new. Sure we don’t have nearly as many options as Starbucks, but it can still be a little intimidating if you don’t know what you want. Fear not, for I am here to help you navigate all of these strange, Italian words.

Espresso

Let’s get one thing straight: there is no “x” in the word “espresso.” Now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s talk about what espresso is. A common misconception is that espresso is a dark or bitter roast, but the truth is that espresso is referring to the method in which the coffee is prepared. “Espresso” comes from the Italian for “pressed out.” To make espresso, finely ground coffee is tightly packed into a portafilter, then hot water is forced through the grounds. The result is an intense, concentrated amount of coffee. Basically, espresso is the “hard liquor” of coffee. It is called a “shot,” after all.

Latte

Remember that espresso shot we just talked about? Now we’re going to add a few ounces of steamed milk to it to make a latte! The word “latte” is the shortened form of the Italian “caffé latté” meaning “milk coffee.” If you want espresso, but need something to help minimize the bitterness of it, a latte is the way to go. If your barista is creative and willing to go the extra mile, you may even see some nice latte art.

Cappuccino

Cappuccinos find their origins in a Viennese drink from the 1700s known as a Kapuziner (the name comes from the color of the robes of Capuchin monks). While the name comes from Vienna, it was the Italians who invented cappuccino around the time espresso machines became popular in the early 1900s. Traditionally, cappuccinos were basically tiny lattes, only about five ounces. It wasn’t until after WWII that the modern cappuccino arrived. If you walk into a café today and order a cappuccino, what you will receive is a drink that is one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third milk foam.  I think a lot of people don’t realize that’s what they’re ordering when they ask for a cappuccino; I know my own family didn’t until I explained it to them!

Macchiato

A lot of people are sometimes surprised to find out that a macchiato is served in a small espresso shot cup. This is probably because Starbucks has implanted a different idea of what a macchiato is in people’s minds that is completely different than what a macchiato actually is. The word “macchiato” is Italian for marked. An Italian macchiato is a shot (or two) of espresso with the slightest bit of steamed milk that “marks” the top.

Americano

Americano comes from the Italian “caffé Americano” meaning American coffee. The term is said to have originated during WWII when the American G.I.s stationed in Italy tried Italian espresso. Saying that it was too strong, they asked for the espresso to be diluted with hot water, making it more similar to what they were used to. Thus the Americano was born. Order an Americano today and you’ll receive a shot or two of espresso filled the rest of the way with hot water.

Mocha

While mocha can refer to a type of bean from Mocha, Yemen, we’re going to talk about the chocolate-flavored espresso drink. In this case, mocha is not synonymous with chocolate, but rather, mocha refers to the mixture of chocolate and coffee flavors. A mocha is essentially a latte with some form of chocolate flavoring added, usually either cocoa powder or a syrup. You can also think of a mocha as a hot chocolate with espresso added if you want to. Depending on where you order, they may serve your mocha with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

And now you are armed with the knowledge to go to your favorite coffee shop (definitely us, right?) and confidently approach the register and order with pride.

 

 

A Tour of Japan Through Board Games

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately. My Timehop keeps reminding me of all of the fun I was having exploring Japan last summer and I miss it. Japan is a fascinating and colorful country with a unique and multifaceted culture. It is a place where the traditions started thousands of years ago meet and intertwine with modern-day innovation. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Japan and long to return someday. Instead, I will revisit Japan through board games. With so much to draw inspiration from in this beautiful country, it’s no surprise that there are so many games that either take place in Japan or have a Japan-inspired theme.

Tokaido

The first game I want to talk about, Tokaido, takes a look at Japan from the same perspective that I saw Japan: as a tourist. In Tokaido, players take on the role of travelers in the days of old trying to make the most of their journey along the real-life “East Sea Road.” Known as Tokaido, this road was one of the most important as it connected two of Japan’s largest cities, Kyoto and Edo (a city you probably know as Tokyo). The goal of the game is simply to be the “best” traveler, which means that you need to see the sites, eat good food, and collect souvenirs.

If you’re in Japan and you travel between Tokyo and Kyoto (something I did twice), you’re probably traveling across the East Sea Road. My experience of modern-day Tokaido was probably quite different from that of the fictional travelers of the game as they’re traveling by foot over the course of several days and I traveled using the incredibly efficient train system that took less than four hours. However, the tradeoff is that they may be better tourists in this area than I was because, though you sometimes get some great views out of your window, it’s hard to fully experience the area from your train seat.

Sushi Go!

The next game centers on a staple of Japanese cuisine, sushi! Sushi Go is a game in our “breadstick” section, meaning that it is an easy game to learn and quick to play. The idea of the game is to continuously pass your hand of sushi cards around the table and collect the best combinations to gain the most points. The game is reminiscent of the infamous sushi conveyor belts where you pick up sushi as it passes by. I must admit that I did not make it into one of these restaurants as neither I nor my traveling companion are big into seafood, but it’s certainly something high on a lot of tourists’ lists of things to do.

Disclaimer: We do not serve sushi!
Hanabi

Japan is famous for their many festivals. I mean, if you’ve ever watched any sort of “slice of life” anime, there is always an episode where the main characters go to a festival. Ergo, checking out one of the many festivals should definitely be high on the priority list when visiting Japan. We were in Tokyo during the Adachi Fireworks festival, an hour-long display of over 12,000 fireworks. Thousands of people gathered along the banks of the Arakawa River, dressed in traditional yukata (a casual summer kimono), and lounging on picnic blankets. As far as I could see down the river, it was packed with people and food stands were set up throughout the area. My friend and I ended up pretty far away from where the action was taking place, but the fireworks were so big and magnificent that we could still see everything perfectly. We watched as thousands of fireworks lit up the night sky, listening to the sounds of hundreds of people around us “oohing” and “aahing” in unison. The commute back to our Airbnb was one of the most crowded subways I’ve been on (and I lived in NYC for four years), but it was well worth it.

Hanabi, the Japanese word for “fireworks,” is a game where players become firework manufacturers rushing at the last minute to make sure all of the fireworks are ready for an upcoming festival. Players work together to assemble fireworks in piles by color from number one to five. Each player has a hand of cards (each with a color and number) that you hold up with the back facing you, meaning that you don’t know what is in your hand, but other players do. You give each other clues to make sure that your teammates play the right card at the right time. If you make a mistake, the fireworks might explode on you!

Takenoko

I’m realizing now as I write this that we never saw any pandas in Japan. We saw monkeys and deer, but never made it to the Ueno Zoo to see a panda. Pandas are native to China, but China has been known to give pandas to other nations as diplomatic gifts. This practice is known as “Panda Diplomacy” and is a practice going back more than a thousand years. There are records from the Tang Dynasty that Empress Wu Zetian sent a pair of pandas to the Japanese emperor.

In Takenoko, the Chinese emperor has gifted the Japanese emperor with a panda as a symbol of peace and the players are now in charge of taking care of it by tending to the bamboo garden. With the help of the imperial gardener, players must plot the land, irrigate the soil, grow bamboo, and use it to feed the panda.  You get points based on how well you do all of those things and the player who manages the garden the best is the winner.

Machi Koro

Of course we can’t talk about Japan without talking about the bright lights of the big bustling cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Cities in Japan are unlike any cities I’ve visited before. They’re so fantastical and surreal. I remember being in Osaka and thinking that it seemed more like an amusement park than a city. Walking under the towering skyscrapers in Tokyo with their giant, brightly-lit signs and billboards surrounded by so many different people was reminiscent of Times Square, but instead of being just a few blocks in the most touristy part of the city, it was the whole city.

One game that captures that big city feel is Machi Koro, a city-building game based in the fictional city of “Dice Town.” Players become mayors of this up-and-coming city, tasked with the job of growing their cities as fast as they can to meet the demands of its citizens. There are six main landmarks that you must build in order to win, but throughout the game you will build a number of other establishments in order to generate income based on your dice rolls, so you can finish construction on your landmarks. The fast-paced growth of your city and the randomness of your rolls emulate the chaos of a real city. And you may wind up spending a lot of money eating out just like if you were living in a real city.

King of Tokyo

One of the most notable monsters in fictional history is Godzilla, a giant dinosaur-like creature that originated in Japan. Another monster, King Kong, has famously climbed the Tokyo Tower. Robots and robot suits are common themes in Japanese anime and manga. It only makes sense that Tokyo would be the perfect place for monsters to converge and battle it out to be the best of the best. The last game I want to talk about is King of Tokyo, a game where just that happens.

In King of Tokyo, players control a different monster trying to take over the city of Tokyo. Control of Tokyo will change throughout the game, as players fight each other, take damage, and gain victory points. Different things can happen to your monster to make you stronger and help you defeat your enemies and you may be able to heal your monster. Ultimately, you want to gather victory points as the first person to get to 20 victory points (or the last monster standing) is the one who destroys Tokyo and wins the game, becoming the King of Tokyo.

These and a few other Japan-inspired games can be found in our library. If you want a small taste of this incredible country come in and check one of them out!

If You Like Jenga Check Out These Games

If you have played Jenga, you have probably felt that tension as you very carefully pulled a block from a precariously balanced tower that’s ready to topple at any moment and you have probably felt that relief when it doesn’t fall after you place your block on the top of the tower and pass your turn. As the tower gets taller and taller you simultaneously want it to fall over and just get it over with, but also want to keep it growing ever taller to see how tall you can make it. And even though you know it’s coming, somehow it still shocks you when the tower finally topples and crashes to the floor. Today I want to talk about some games you might like if you enjoy Jenga.

Junk Art

The first game is Junk Art in which players take on the role of artists using obscure objects to create abstract sculptures. There are twelve different cities that you can exhibit in and each city is a different scenario to play through. Each scenario has a different win condition, but the gameplay is the same: you must use a variety of oddly-shaped pieces to build your art and try not to let it fall. There may even be a bonus for the tallest structure.

Junk Art requires a steady hand, balancing skills, and maybe even a little luck, just like Jenga.  The difference here is that you are building art. Junk Art requires a bit of creativity in addition to your ability to balance whereas Jenga is fairly straightforward in that you put the block you just pulled in the spot that will most evenly balance the tower. Also, in Junk Art, each player is creating his own tower, which makes it fun to compare your own art with your opponents’ art.

Lift It

Lift It is a similar concept to Junk Art in that you are building a structure with different shapes, but the catch here is that these structures must be built with a crane. Sometimes you will use your hand to maneuver the crane, but other times it might be attached to your head, making the game even more challenging.

In Lift It, everyone may be playing against everyone else, or you can form teams to challenge each other. When it is your turn to build, you choose a card that shows you what you are to build. You have a certain amount of time to build it and get a certain number of points based on how many pieces you placed correctly in the time limit. Lift It is a great game for larger groups of people and kids find it to be especially fun. I’ve tried to explain Lift It to groups of kids before and they really don’t even care how to play the game, they just want to try their hand (or head!) at building different structures with the crane. Lift It is a fun, silly, and surprisingly competitive game that everyone can enjoy.

Animal Upon Animal

The next game is more geared towards children, but still a fun game to test your balancing skills. In Animal Upon Animal players are trying to build a tower of animal figures. To start, each player takes a stock of animal pieces. On your turn, you roll a die and, depending on the result of the roll, you (or sometimes someone else) must stack a certain number of animals on top of the tower. The first player to get rid of their pieces wins, but you have to be careful because if the tower collapses, you may have to take some pieces back.

In my opinion, the best kids’ games are the ones that their parents can enjoy as well. Animal Upon Animal may technically be a children’s game, but the cute theme combined with the need for some balancing skills makes it a great game for everyone. I’ve even seen some of our “grown-up” patrons without children have a blast with it. This game is also probably the most like Jenga in that all players are building on the same tower, but unlike in Jenga, if the tower collapses on your turn, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose, giving players more chances to continue playing on an uneven tower.

Suspend

Suspend is the final game and perhaps the game that looks the most dissimilar from Jenga because of its use of rods instead of blocks. However, the balancing act required in the game is still the same. Starting with the base (a metal rod standing up, but slightly leaning), players take turns placing rods of differing lengths on the base. Each rod has notches in it that you use to place them and once a notch is used, it can’t be used again. The player who runs out of rods first wins.

Not gonna lie, but I think that Suspend may be the hardest of these games because the rods just don’t want to stay on very well sometimes. I remember playing this game with Tom’s daughter, but we kind of made up our own rules and played it cooperatively, trying to put all of the pieces on at the same time. We did it, but only because we didn’t know about the “each notch can only be used once” rule so we had multiple rods hanging from the same notch sometimes. I have yet to play it how it’s supposed to be played, but I’m sure that it’s difficult to find good places to hang certain rods—especially those pesky yellow ones!

If you think that you have the steady hands of a surgeon then try out one of these games the next time you’re in the café! And don’t forget that we also have a giant version of Jenga available if you want to play a new twist on the classic game. The store record is 34 and 1/3 levels high, held by the Keegans themselves—maybe you can beat it!

The tower collapsed just one block after this one

 

Six Adorable Games Starring Cats

Cats are pretty great right? I mean, who doesn’t love cats? The Internet certainly does. They’re basically adorable little balls of fluff (that are sometimes crazy and evil, but that’s just part of their charm!) so how can anyone resist? I certainly can’t. So for today’s post I thought I’d combine two of my favorite things, cats and nerd stuff, and talk about some of the great games we have in the café that are all about cats.

I mean just look at this precious creature!
Rat-a-Tat Cat

The first of our cat games is a fun, light game for families with younger kids or new gamers. The goal of Rat-a-Tat Cat is the end the game with the lowest score. In order to do that, you’ll need to collect cards to make sure that the value of your four cards are lower than the values of your opponents’ four cards. However, everyone must keep their cards face down so you won’t even know what all of your starting cards are, much less what other players have.

Part of the fun of Rat-a-Tat Cat is the cute theme. All of the lower cards in the deck (aka the ones you want) have cats on them, while the higher cards have rats. This makes the goal of the game to get rid of the rats and go for the cats. Kids especially will enjoy the theme and it’s a great game to help them learn memory and number skills.

Meow

Another game that kids especially tend to enjoy is Meow, a light bluffing game that is very quick to play. In Meow, Not Meows have infiltrated the secret Meow meeting. You have to figure out who is a Meow and who isn’t. The deck is full of two different types of cards: Meows, (cats) and Not Meows (not cats). On your turn you draw a card and, no matter what is on the card, say “meow.” Other players then have the chance to accuse you of being a Not Meow. If you have any Not Meow cards in your hand, they win. If you don’t, they are eliminated. Other ways of winning include being the last player left after everyone else is eliminated or, if you have two Not Meow cards in your hand you automatically win.

There is no real strategy to Meow unless you’re really good at reading people (which is sometimes easier when you’re with friends), but it’s still a cute little game to pass the time. Kids definitely have fun trying to imitate cat noises to their best ability. Meow is also great if you want something super quick. I’ve seen a game of Meow end after only two turns. If you’re good at deciphering whether your friends are telling the truth when they meow then this is a game you’ll want to check out.

Cats

Cats is a programming game with a bit more strategy than the previous two games. In Cats each player gets a character (all cats of course!) and that character’s deck. Each deck is the same except each character has its own special ability. If you haven’t played programming games before, the way it works is that everyone secretly chooses what they’re going to do then everyone reveals their cards at the same time, meaning that you don’t get to see what other players are doing before you make your move. This, of course, is part of the strategy. You have to try to predict what your opponents will do so that you can make your move without worrying about any of them messing up your plans.

The goal of the game is to catch wild birds and eat them. Each deck comes with Action Cards and Targeting Cards. During the programming phase, players each chose an Action Card and a Targeting Card. Once everyone has chosen their cards, they are revealed and the cards take effect in a certain order. You can target wild birds (stalking or catching them) or you can target other players and steal their birds. Finally, you can target your own birds to play with them (which makes them worth more) or eat them. Each bird your cat manages to eat is worth a certain number of points. The player with the most points at the end wins.

Simon’s Cat

Simon’s Cat is a new game in our library. From Steve Jackson Games, Simon’s Cat is based on the popular Youtube series of the same name. In the game, you are a cat and you do cat things while trying to not get caught. If you get caught making messes by Simon you get closer and closer to losing.

Simon’s Cat is a fast-paced game similar to Uno in that players are trying to lay down cards that either match the color or number of the face-up card on the table. If you get stuck and can’t lay a card, you take all of the cards in the middle. This pile is a “mess” made by Simon. After all players have emptied their hands, the player who made the most “messes” gets caught by Simon and takes a Simon card. The first player to get three Simon cards loses. Everyone else wins! It’s simple and silly and great if you want a quick game to play with some friends.

Here Kitty, Kitty!

My personal favorite of the list, Here Kitty, Kitty is a kitty collecting game. I’m sure almost everyone remembers when Neko Atsume became a huge hit a few years ago (if you don’t check it out! It’s a phone app where different kitties will visit your yard and bring you presents!). Well, in my mind, Here Kitty, Kitty is what Neko Atsume would be like if you played with other people.

In Here Kitty, Kitty, there are a ton of stray kitties wandering around the neighborhood. You play as a person in the neighborhood trying to lure kitties from the neighborhood into your house. You can even try to steal cats from the houses of other players. At the end of the game you get points based on where the kitties are in your house and what color cats you have. The best part of this game is that it comes with mini cat figures. Unfortunately, while we do have this game available for sale, we do not currently carry it in the library for play. I can say that it’s a fun, light game that might be worth the $25 price tag. I even played it with my family (if you all remember from previous posts, they’re not at all gamers) and had no issues!

You Gotta Be Kitten Me!

The only game on this list that I have not played is You Gotta Be Kitten Me. The only reason for this is that the game is only in our retail section so I am unable to open it. However, I do know that the game is similar to Liar’s Dice (a game you may know from the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie). The cards consist of pictures of cute animals decked out in adorable accessories. On your turn you have to try to guess how many cards are in play of either a certain color or accessory. You can up the bid or challenge another player if you think their bid is too high. With each challenge someone will lose a card. The last person with cards is the winner. It seems to me that if you want a cute bluffing game, this could be a good option!

If you’re a fan of cats like me you’ll definitely want to check out these games the next time you’re in. The first four can be found in the Breadstick section and the last two can be found in the retail section. Now if only it weren’t a health code violation to bring real cats into the cafe….

Our Favorite Games: Party Games

Our Favorite Games: Party Games

Some great examples of party games that almost everyone knows are Jenga, Taboo, and Apples to Apples. These are games that are very simple to learn and play so a wide variety of gamer types can play them. They tend to work best with a larger amount of people (the more the merrier!) and they exist for the sole purpose of being loads of fun. These are the types of games that will have you smiling and laughing the whole time you’re playing them. Chances are you’ve played at least one of games I previously listed, but there are a lot more games that fall into the “party” category that you may want to check out the next time you need a game for a bigger group of people!

Codenames

Pick by Evan

Winner of 2016’s Spiel des Jahres, Codenames is a spy-themed word association game. Players split up into two teams and one member of each team becomes the Spymaster. The game consists of a 5×5 grid of words with each word corresponding to either the red team, blue team, brown civilians, or the black assassin. However, only the Spymasters know which words are what color. Their job is to get their teammates to guess their team’s words faster than the other team. The catch is that the Spymaster’s only clue is a single word and a number of how many cards that word applies to. If either team guesses the assassin, that team immediately loses.

 

One of my favorite parts of this game is playing as the Spymaster. I find it really enjoyable to try to come up with good clues for my teammates. Of course, it also helps to know your teammates. For example, I was once playing Codenames with a group of my college friends and I was trying to get them to guess the words “tower” and “hotel.” I couldn’t simply give the clue “building, 2” as there was another building in the grid that belonged to the opposing team so I had to come up with something more clever. Instead, I gave the clue “terror, 2” knowing that one of my teammates, a huge Disney-lover, would make the connection between my clue and the words I wanted her to guess because they all apply to the “Tower of Terror” Disney park ride.

Codenames has been called the greatest party game of all time—and with good reason! Even if you think you aren’t very good with words, I promise it’s tons of fun. There have been many times that we’ve taught Codenames to a group only to find them still playing it hours later. It’s great for any type of group as well whether it’s a group of adults, teenagers, or even a family. As the back of the box says, “win or lose, it’s fun to figure out the clues” which really is what Codenames is all about.

Cash ‘n Guns

Pick by Raelle

When suggesting Cash ‘n Guns to people, the first thing I tell them is that they get to shoot at their friends with foam guns; needless to say, people are instantly interested. After completing the “robbery of the century,” the gangsters of Cash ‘n Guns now have to share the loot. Each player takes on the role of one of these gangsters and, after eight rounds, the gangster with the most loot wins.

The first thing players do each round is choose whether or not they are going to be using a real bullet or a blank; however, each player only has three bullets to last them the whole game. After choosing a blank or a bullet, players simultaneously choose another player to point their guns at. At this point, you may or may not have a gun pointed at you and you have to decide if you want to stay in the round and risk getting shot or duck out of the round and forfeit any loot. If you choose to stay in the round and get shot, you take a wound (three wounds and you’re out of the game!) and are unable to take loot. Players still in the round after everyone reveals their bullets or blanks are then allowed to take from the pile of loot.

When it boils down to it, Cash ‘n Guns is a bluffing game. Just because one of your opponents is pointing a gun at you doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get shot and that’s what you have to figure out. The reason I like Cash ‘n Guns so much is that it’s very easy to play (and easy to teach!) and everyone I’ve recommended it to ends up having a great time. You can always hear a lot of laughter coming from a table where Cash ‘n Guns is being played.

Flick ’em Up

Pick by John

Flick ’em Up is a game set in the old west and, just as the name implies, the main mechanic of the game is using your finger to flick small discs across the table. Players split into two teams-either the outlaws or the cowboys-and play out one of ten scenarios (or you can make up your own!). The game comes with cardboard stand-ups of different buildings to populate your western town as well as small cowboy figures.

Each scenario is different. In one you may be tasked with killing a certain number of the opposing team while in another you may be trying to collect a certain amount of gold. No matter the scenario, the flicking mechanic remains the same. Players will use a brown disc to move their characters in order to pick up items. Some of these items will be guns which you can then use to “shoot” (flick another disc) at your opponents.

Flick ’em Up can be a lot of fun for bigger groups of people. We tend to set the game up on one of our larger tables so players have plenty of space to move around and flick their discs. Everyone who has played it seems to have a lot of fun with it. If you’re interested in playing this fun game, join us on April 1st for our Anniversary Party where we’ll be hosting an Epic version of Flick ’em Up with more space, more terrain, and more fun!

The Best Games to Introduce Non-Gamers to Board Games

My mom really likes playing board games with the family, but, of course, the games she wants to play are the same old games that we’ve been playing forever. Slowly, but surely, I’ve been trying to introduce them to more and more games. Let’s face it: playing board games with non-gamers can be… well, frustrating. They’re used to games like Life, Monopoly, or Sorry where the rules of the game are basically “Roll, move, complete anything that must be done on the space you have landed on.” Anything more complicated than that can be confusing for them if you try to introduce it too quickly. But there are a lot of games that make for great introduction games for people who never have ventured beyond Clue and Scrabble territory. Here are some of my favorite games to play with my own family of non-gamers.

Settlers of Catan

Somewhere down the line, gamers pretty much unanimously decided that Catan is the game to play when introducing non-gamers to the world of board gaming. The reason for this is that it is incredibly simple to understand, but also surprisingly very strategic, making it fun for both newbies and more experienced gamers. Over the course of the past two decades, Catan has sold nearly 25 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular games since Risk or Monopoly.

Catan Map Board changes every time you play it.

In Catan, each player controls a group of setters trying to develop their settlements on the island of Catan. Players gather resources then use those resources to build their settlements and cities. The first person to gain ten victory points wins. Simple, right? I promise it is! I have even played Catan with my family before and I think it was one of the quickest games that they managed to pick up. There aren’t very many rules or actions that you need to complete on your turn, which makes it perfect for people like my family.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne was my introduction to gaming and I didn’t even know it at the time. One of my good friends in high school owned it so we would play it frequently when we hung out. I certainly wouldn’t call most of my high school friends “gamers” so Carcassonne was perfect for our group. The idea behind Carcassonne is that players are taking on the role of the founders of the historic city, Carcassonne. Players use tiles depicting parts of cities, roads, fields, and monasteries to build the city. They place their “followers” (aka meeples) on the tiles to help with development.

Carcassonne: build your kingdom, put your meeples to work

The concept of Carcassonne is even simpler than Catan. All you need to do is pick a tile at random, place it on the table to connect it with the rest of the board, then deploy one of your followers and score points. The player with the most points at the end wins. This is the only game on this list that I haven’t played with my family of non-gamers (aka, my very own guinea pigs for this post), but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we play it together.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is one of my favorite games. It is yet another simple concept with a lot of strategy involved. The board is set up like a map of the United States and your goal is to connect different cities through a train route using cards that you receive in the beginning of the game. On your turn you are doing one of three things: picking up cards, placing trains, or choosing a new route. You score points based on the length of your trains in addition to the point value of your routes. Any routes you do not finish at the end of the game is worth negative points. And if you ever get tired of using the United States map, Days of Wonder has created several other maps that each add something new to the game.

Ticket to Ride is a must for families.
Ticket to Ride is a must for families.

The first time my family came into the café I taught them Ticket to Ride. They liked it enough that we bought it and took it on our beach vacation last summer. My brother, Ridge, was acting very overconfident throughout the game, claiming that he had the greatest strategy. He even kept taking new route tickets.  We get to the end of the game and, as we’re going through his routes to double-check that he completed them, we realize that he didn’t finish a single of his routes. In each one, he forgot just a small section, but ultimately never finished any of them. We were all laughing as we subtracted his points and his response was “why are you all laughing?” He ended up with negative forty-one points.

Tsuro

Perhaps the simplest of all the games on this list is Tsuro. Tsuro is a game in which the last man standing wins. In it, players place tiles on the board and follow the path on it until they reach the end. If your path takes you off the edge of the board, you lose. If you run into another player, you both lose. The catch is, you may only place tiles in front of your piece. You must strategically place your tiles in a way that you can not only defensively play and avoid the other players, but also offensively play and try to connect your path with another player’s path in a way that forces them to run off the board.

Tsuro (pronounced Suro)a beautiful & simple game to play.

When I taught my mom and grandma Tsuro, the strategy part of it simply went over their heads, but it was still a simple enough concept that they didn’t ask very many questions while I was explaining it. I think one of them may have inadvertently run herself off the board due to a combination of bad tiles and not thinking ahead, but I think they still enjoyed it.

 

If you are new to gaming, but want to learn more, try one of these games! I can guarantee that everyone on staff knows how to play at least one of these and would be more than willing to teach you.

Our Favorite Games: Co-op Games

Our Favorite Games: Co-op Games

A large majority of board games are competitive; in most of these games, you and your opponents are generally in a race to gain the most victory points or make it to the end of a track. These types of games are great for competitive people, but sometimes players want something a little bit different. For any group looking to work on their team-building skills, trying out a cooperative game might be the way to go. Here are two of our favorites!

Marvel Legendary

Pick by Jarrett

I have talked about Marvel Legendary in a previous post, but it’s just that great that it deserves another shout-out here. Marvel Legendary is a cooperative deck-building game featuring all of your favorite Marvel characters. We love Legendary and not just because of the Marvel superhero theme (although it certainly is a plus!).

Legendary plays a lot like most deck-building games, but, although you are each building your own deck, you are working together to take down one central villain (the “Mastermind”) and his henchmen. Either everyone wins when you defeat the main villain, or everyone loses if the Mastermind completes his evil scheme before you can defeat him. You can also make the difficulty easier or harder depending on what Mastermind and scheme you choose. And, if your group wants to be competitive, each villain you defeat has a certain number of victory points that you can compare at the end in order to determine the “ultimate winner.”

The base game comes with a variety of characters to choose from so there are a lot of combinations you can make when setting up the game as you choose the heroes you want to add to your deck and the villains you want to fight. The game can be different every time you play, giving it great replay value. In addition, if you were to, for whatever reason, get bored with the options available in the base game, there are plenty of expansions to add even more variety to your game.

Legendary has many expansions available

The only downside to this game is the long set-up time, especially the first time you set it up, and the equally long clean-up time. Luckily, the more you play, the easier all of that will get. Otherwise, Marvel Legendary is a great game, no matter whether you like deck-building games, are a fan of the Marvel Universe, or are simply looking for a fun cooperative game.

Castle Panic

Pick by John

Anytime I teach Castle Panic in the café, I make sure to give players the following disclaimer: “Chances are very high that you will lose this game.” Most of the time, this turns out to be true, but there are those rare occasions where I return to a group when they’ve finished and they excitedly inform me that they won. Still, win or lose, Castle Panic is a great cooperative game that people tend to have a lot of fun with.   

In Castle Panic, players are working together to defend their castle from invading trolls, goblins, and orcs. The board is set up in a circle with your castle in the middle. The monsters start on the outer ring of the circle and slowly move closer to your castle until you either defeat it or it hits your castle. You win when you have defeated all of the monsters and you lose when the monsters have destroyed all of your castle pieces. Players use cards to attack the monsters depending on what sector of the board they are in and you must work together as a team to plan ahead based on what cards other players have.

It seems simple enough, right? Simple until you have trolls closing in on you, ready to take down your defenses, and suddenly a tile is drawn that causes you and your teammates to lose half of your cards and worse still, you draw a boss tile that heals up all of the monsters on the board. Sometimes even the best planning isn’t enough to win this game; having a lot of luck with your draws is definitely part of it.

Someone had better take out that troll!

Most of the time it seems like Castle Panic is not enough “castle” and too much “panic,” but it’s still a really fun game. In addition to the base game, there are also a few expansions that you can add to your game and even a few different versions like Star Trek Panic or Munchkin Panic, just in case you aren’t “panicked” enough. Even still, the base game is plenty to keep you coming back for more.

Be sure to check out one of these games the next time you stop in!