All posts by Raelle Richard

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

10 Health Benefits of Playing Board Games

In recent years, the popularity of board games has skyrocketed. Of course games like Monopoly and Life have been around for a while (and I’m sure they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon), but within the last five years or so, board games have had new life breathed into them with an influx of Euro Style games like Settlers of Catan. Why have board games become so popular? There is a growing desire to interact and socialize with family and friends without screens getting in the way. Board games are the perfect way to do that because you have to be present if you don’t want to lose. Also, board games are just plain fun! Board games are a great form of entertainment and just like there is a TV show for everyone, there is a board game for everyone.

So why am I telling you all of this? Basically, if you haven’t already hopped on the board game bandwagon, you really ought to. Did you know that there are actually quite a few health benefits associated with playing board games? Yes, that’s right! Playing board games is not only fun, but healthy!

1. Strengthen Relationships

This may seem counter-intuitive if you’re playing with a bunch of really competitive people, but it’s true. One of the best ways to develop trust and intimacy with another human being is to share laughter and fun. Having a regular game night with your loved ones can be a great way to strengthen your bond with them. I try to get my family together semi-regularly for a board game night and while arguments do break out sometimes, we’re all usually ready for the next game night shortly after. In addition to strengthening your existing relationships, board games can help create new friendships. We’ve seen plenty of complete strangers become good friends with a little help from gaming.

2. Improve Social Skills

Remember what I said about no screens getting in the way? Exactly! I’m sure we’ve all heard those accusations that young people don’t know how to socialize because of modern technology. Play more board games with them! Additionally, not all board games are competitive. There are plenty of cooperative board games like Pandemic or Castle Panic that can be great for team-building and teaching cooperation. Playing board games can also help ease social anxiety. We’ve had a lot of regular customers tell us that they’ve been able to overcome crippling social anxiety when they’re playing board games with others.

3. Laughter is Good for Us

They say that laughter is the best medicine, so it logically follows that playing board games may be the best medicine too, right? Maybe that’s leaping to conclusions, but science does show that laughter is good for us. Laughter releases endorphins, the “feel-good” chemical in our brains. These are the same chemicals that are released after physical activity like exercise or a physical contact with another person. These “feel-good” chemicals not only make us happier, they also make us more tolerant of pain. To induce laughter why not start a game of Coup or Cash ‘n Guns?

4. Reduce Stress

All of this quality time with the people you love most and the release of all of those endorphins will hopefully lead to reduced stress. In fact, according to a study from RealNetworks Inc., 64 percent of those surveyed said they played games to relax while 53 percent said they played games for stress relief. If you’ve had a hard day at work, perhaps a quick game might be the perfect way to de-stress.

5. Lower Blood Pressure

In addition to reducing stress, endorphins can be helpful in lowering blood pressure. It is believed that endorphins help to relax the muscles, thus allowing blood to flow easier, which is likely to lower blood pressure. This, of course, will help lower the risks of problems associated with high blood pressure like heart disease.

6. Can be Therapeutic

With all of the above benefits, it naturally follows that board games could be used as a type of therapy. Board games can help increase motor skills and basic functioning for those who are mentally or physically disabled. Just check out what The Bodhana Group does using tabletop gaming to help kids!

7. Teaches Goal-Setting and Patience

If you want to win, you’ll need to set goals and then be patient as you work to achieve them. Most modern games require a lot of strategy. Almost every turn you need to reassess the situation and maybe even adapt your goals and ultimately your strategies depending on what other players have done since your last turn. This can especially be a great benefit for children (of course you may want to use Catan Junior instead of regular Catan in this case), but I’m sure we all know adults who could use a lesson in patience as well.

8. Stimulates Creativity

There are a lot of board games that require you to build or create something (like Junk Art or Kingdomino) and even board games that require you to use your imagination (like Once Upon a Time or Mysterium). Even putting together a deck for Magic: the Gathering requires a bit of creativity. If you’re into role-playing games, Dungeons and Dragons can be one of the most creative games in which players need to put themselves into the shoes of their characters as they play through the game. Getting in touch with your creative side can help bolster your sense of individuality which in turn can boost your self-esteem.

9. Increases Memory and Cognitive Functioning

I’m sure we all know the stereotype that people who play Chess are smart and nerdy, right? Well, there might be a little truth to this stereotype because playing Chess has been proven to improve test scores of middle-schoolers with learning disabilities. Of course different games will involve different skills depending on what the ultimate goal is, but for the most part, board games challenge your problem-solving and decision-making abilities. Each game you play will encourage you to strategize and make calculated decisions to get you closer to winning. Some studies have even shown that board games increase your focus and speed up your response time.

10. Decreases Risk of Mental Disease

Because of your increased brain function, you will be at lower risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s when you grow older. I’m sure you’ve heard of the studies that show that solving puzzles like crosswords or Sudoku help lower these risks as well, but have you seen this study from The New England Journal of Medicine on board games? In it, 469 people aged 75 and older were asked to list what activities they did in their free time. Ultimately, 124 of them developed dementia, but the study showed that those who listed gaming as one of their activities were less likely to develop dementia.

So there you have it! Just in case you needed any more excuses to make your way out to our cafe, here they are. In fact, maybe even take a lunch break and come grab a sandwich and play a quick game-it’s great for your health after all. In the words of Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, “we don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Love Catan? Here are Five Other Versions to Check Out!

Even if you aren’t a gamer, chances are you may have at least played Catan. It is simple to play with a decent amount of strategy, making it a game that can be enjoyed by anyone. It is the perfect game for players new to the hobby, casual gamers, and even a classic for more seasoned players to keep coming back to. Catan was first published in Germany in 1995 by Klaus Teuber. By 2015 nearly 20 million copies had been sold in 30 different languages. If you haven’t played the original Catan, I would definitely recommend pulling that off our shelf the next time you are in. On the other hand, if you’re a self-proclaimed Catan expert, perhaps it is time to graduate to one of the many other versions. Here are some of the Catans we have available right now.

Catan: Seafarers

Seafarers introduces sailing to the world of Catan. Now, settlers can travel across the sea to build new settlements on nearby islands. This expansion adds several variant setups that include a lot of water tiles in addition to the familiar resource tiles. Each setup includes some new rules and slight variations on game play. Seafarers also adds ships, which are a lot like roads, and a pirate, who acts like the robber. Otherwise, the mechanics are the same, but the win condition will vary for each setup. If you’re looking to add just a little bit to your regular game of Catan, check out this expansion!

Catan: Traders and Barbarians

Like Seafarers, Traders and Barbarians is an expansion that you can use with the base game, but it is slightly different in that it is a compilation of small expansions and variants in one box. It comes with several different scenarios that you can play including The Fishermen of Catan, The Rivers of Catan, The Great Caravan, Barbarian Invasion, and the titular Traders and Barbarians. In addition there are a few minor variants included as well.

Catan: Merchants of Europe

Merchants of Europe is part of the histories series of Catan. This version uses a real-world map of Europe for the board that has been divided into the familiar hexagons of Catan. Players are no longer settlers in a new land, but instead are merchants trying to establish trade routes and deliver their commodities across the continent. In order to do this, players will need to set up trading posts to gather more commodities to sell. There are no victory points in this version, either. Instead, you’ll want to be the first player to deliver all of your commodities. If you are looking for a Catan that is a little more strategy-intensive, definitely check this one out.

Catan: Baden-Wurttemburg

This version of Catan was made for the sixtieth anniversary of the merging of three German states into one. For the most part, it is a lot like other versions of Catan with a few differences. For one, the board set in stone so the set-up of the game is always going to be the same. Second, the robber is now an inventor. Why inventors are going around stealing resources from people, I’m not entirely sure, but the Inventor development cards are pretty cool in that each one depicts a different inventor and what their most famous invention is. Another new element is the landmarks. Instead of upgrading your settlements to cities, you can build landmarks. These are actual landmarks found in this region of Germany like Heidelberg Castle.

John and I picked this Catan up in a board game store in Germany. When we brought it up to the register the man gave us an odd look before saying, “this is Baden-Wurttemburg  Catan, yes?” Because why would two English-speaking Americans want a German Catan? But we knew what we were doing when we brought it up to the register; a German Catan is the perfect souvenir for two board game nerds.

Catan: Games of Thrones

This is a Catan that I am certainly looking forward to playing, but with the $80 price tag I know I probably won’t be buying it anytime soon. This Catan is set in the world of Game of Thrones at the wall that protects Westeros from the Wildlings of the north. The Brothers of the Night’s Watch are seeking a new leader and if you want to claim that position, you’ll need to use your resources to strengthen the infrastructure of the Gift, the underdeveloped area south of the Wall.

Incredible game of thrones catan

The general idea remains the same as other Catans. You will still be building roads and settlements to be the first to gain ten victory points to win, but this Catan adds an extra element of danger with occasional Wildling attacks. In addition to the roads and settlements, you’ll also need to post guards at the Wall to keep it safe from the attacks. Also, each player will control a member of the Night’s Watch. Each of these characters has a special ability that can be used twice during the game. If you can’t wait for the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones to premiere next year, definitely check this game out to get your Westeros fix!

 

Six Great Stocking Stuffer Games

Can you believe Thanksgiving is already two days away?  I know I can’t, but I’m ready to eat some turkey and mashed potatoes. And after Thanksgiving comes the biggest shopping weekend of the year. Sales are going on everywhere for looking to get their Christmas shopping done. We’ll even be hosting a sale of our own on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday (check out our Facebook page for more information on both of those!). As far as what games you should buy this weekend, I’ll be looking at the perfect stocking stuffers. These are games that are small enough to fit into stockings that are still tons of fun!

Timeline

Timeline is one of our most popular breadstick games. It’s an incredibly easy game to learn, but it can be a lot of fun. The way Timeline works is that each player has a hand of cards that they are trying to fit in a chronological timeline. For example, if you’re playing the American History version, each card will have an event on it that you must decide where to put on the timeline. Once you place your card, flip it over to reveal the date and see if you were right. The game gets harder as more and more cards are placed and you have more and more options to place cards.

Not a fan of history? Don’t worry! There are several different themes for Timeline. Maybe you would prefer Music and Cinema or Inventions? There is a Timeline for everyone. Timeline is especially great for people who love trivia or are good with dates. It can even be a useful tool to help children learn important dates. Timeline is a great option for anyone on your list.

Sushi Go!

Sushi Go! is a game I talked about before in my blog about Japanese-themed games, but it’s also the perfect, stocking-sized game to give to your family and friends. It is easy to learn and quick to play, making it a great game to play with your family on Christmas morning. Sushi Go! is a set collecting game in which you take a card from your hand to keep before passing your whole hand to the next player. This continues until all of the cards are gone. You get points depending on which types of sushi you’ve collected and how many of each type. After a few rounds, the player with the most points is the winner.Sushi Go game great with lunch

Ninja Camp

Ninja Camp is one of my favorite easy-to-learn and quick-to-play games. I love it because of the cute and playful premise, but it is also a fun game! The idea is that players are all different animals attending Ninja Camp. You will be learning new ninja moves and using them to compete for the favor of the Monkey Sensei. Each move gives you points and the player with the most points at the end of the game earns the privilege of becoming the apprentice to the Sensei.

Like I said, Ninja Camp is fun in part because of the cute theme. I’ve taught it to a lot of groups in the Café before and they’re usually sold when I tell them that they get to play as an animal at Ninja Camp. The set-up is always different due to the lack of an actual board. Instead, you lay out a grid of cards that then becomes your board. The board will constantly be changing as players pick up these cards and add them to their hands, creating holes in the board. With a variety of different moves you can collect and play, there are a lot of interesting choices you can make when moving around the “board,” giving this cute, simple game quite a bit of strategy.

Coup

Big fun in a tiny package, Coup is the perfect party game for anyone looking for a great time of bluffing, deduction, and backstabbing your friends. In Coup, there are five different roles that players can possibly be and each role has an action that can be taken. Each player is given two roles that are to be kept secret. On your turn you can take any of the actions of any of the five roles (no matter which roles you have) or you can take one of three actions available to everyone (including paying enough coins to stage a coup against another player and take them out). You can tell the truth about what you have or you can lie. You have to be careful, however, because if someone correctly accuses you of lying, you lose an influence (one of your roles). If you lose both of your roles, you’re out of the game. The last player standing wins.

Spot It

Spot It is a great one for kids to help hone their matching skills. In Spot It, each card has eight pictures and any two cards will always have one matching picture. Players have a card in their hand and there is a deck of cards in the middle. You have to be the first one to find a match between the card in your hand and the top card of the deck, call out the picture, and take that card into your hand. The game is over when the deck runs out and the player who has collected the most cards is the winner. In order to succeed at Spot It, you need to have a quick eye and quick reflexes to grab cards before other players do. There are also several versions of Spot It so there is something for everyone.

Star Realms

If you’re looking for the perfect stocking stuffer for someone who would enjoy a more strategic game, look no further than Star Realms. Star Realms is a space-themed deck-building game for two people in which players are trying to get their opponent’s Authority (health) down to zero. Each player starts with the same deck of 10 cards, but will use those cards to purchase new cards to add to their decks. There are different types of cards belonging to four different factions. Players use these cards to make themselves stronger and to attack their opponent.

Star Realms is a great game for fans of deck-building games. It’s also an easy game to learn and quick to play. The base game only comes with cards enough for two players, but it is possible to buy multiple sets and combine then to allow more players to join in the fun. There is also an expansion that adds more cards and, if space isn’t your thing, the makers of Star Realms also created a game called Hero Realms. It’s also a deck-building game with some added elements. Either of these games would be perfect for the gamer on your list.

If you’re interested in checking out any of these games, they are all in our library and in our retail section. This weekend is also the perfect time to buy them with all of our sales going on!

Our Favorite Spooky Games for Halloween

There are less than two weeks until Halloween so that means we’re playing a lot of horror-themed games! There are a lot of scary board games out there, but these are some of our favorites that we have in our library. All of these games will be featured at our Halloween Party on Saturday, October 28th so come out to play some of them!

Betrayal at House on the Hill

If you’re looking for a game full of horror and frights, then enter the haunted house on the hill… if you dare. Players will venture into this chilling mansion to uncover what mysteries lie within. As you explore the house and discover new rooms, you will encounter a variety of strange things. The game starts out fully cooperative, but eventually, during your exploration, one of your companions (or maybe it will be you!) will turn traitor and unleash an unspeakable evil upon the house. The rest of the game becomes a fight for survival as you try to either destroy the evil force threatening the house or you are the evil force trying to kill the rest of your companions.

It’s rather fitting that one of my favorite games is perfect for one of my favorite times of the year. I talked about Betrayal at House on the Hill before in last year’s Halloween post. I love Betrayal because of the excellent replay value; with 52 different scenarios, chances are rare that you’ll play the same one twice. There is also an expansion with 52 additional scenarios that you can add to your game. Looking for more Betrayal? This year Avalon Hill teamed up with Wizards of the Coast to bring us Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, a game combining classic Betrayal with Dungeons and Dragons. As of writing this I haven’t played it, but I’m definitely looking forward to it!

Dead of Winter and Zombies!!!

If you like zombies, you’ll like the next two games, Dead of Winter and Zombies. In Dead of Winter, players are trying to survive the winter in a post-apocalyptic world full of zombies. Dead of Winter is cooperative so you will be working together to gather supplies, fight off zombies, and survive. There is also a story element that comes into play with certain cards. Each player also has a secret objective that they are trying to complete in addition to the main objective. This secret objective could cause you to make tough choices between what is best for the colony and what is best for yourself or it could even make you a traitor as you try to sabotage the rest of the colony! If you’re looking for a more in-depth zombie game, definitely check this one out.

Where Dead of Winter is more about survival, Zombies!!! is mostly fighting zombies head on. In Zombies!!! players lay out tiles to create a town that you will be moving through. In the bottom half of the tile stack is a Helipad that you can use to escape town (after killing all of the zombies on the tile). If you do this, you win, or you can be the first to kill 25 zombies. Unlike Dead of Winter, the only two resources you need to worry about are your bullets and your health and, if you do happen to die, you “respawn” with only half of your previously collected zombies. This game is not designed to be cooperative (although you could theoretically play it that way), meaning that you have to use your cards and move zombies around strategically to try and hurt other players. But, of course, you also don’t want them to kill 25 zombies and win before you do. If you would prefer to just shoot a bunch of zombies instead of dealing with the intricacies of the rest of your colony, this may be the zombie game for you.

Fury of Dracula

Fury of Dracula is a one vs everyone else game where one person is playing Dracula while other players take on the roles of the characters (like Van Helsing and Mina Harker) trying to hunt him. Dracula moves around Europe in secret, creating other vampires and wreaking havoc in different cities across the continent. The hunters search for him as they travel across Europe, trying to follow his trail of devastation. If one or more hunters are in the same city as him, they fight. Dracula wins when he spreads enough of his influence across Europe and the hunters win when they cause 15 damage to Dracula, thus defeating him and ending his reign of terror.

I have only played this game once, and we were still trying to figure out how everything worked so I would definitely like to play it again. If you like the one vs many format in games like Betrayal or Letters from Whitechapel, this is another good one to try!

Mysterium

Mysterium is a game I only recently learned to play and I love it! Mysterium is a cooperative game in which one person plays as a ghost and the others play as psychics. The ghost is trying to communicate the circumstances of its violent murder to the psychics on Halloween night when the when the link between worlds is strongest. However, you only have seven hours to solve the murder and the ghost can only communicate in vague, abstract visions that the psychics need to correctly interpret. If the psychics can solve the murder, you all win! If you can’t solve the murder, the ghost will not be able to rest peacefully and you lose.

Mysterium is one of those games that you’ll want to play over and over again. I recently learned to play it with a few of my coworkers and we played it four times in a row to make sure everyone had the chance to be the ghost (and I’ve noticed our customers do this as well). It’s a great game for groups looking for something fun and cooperative.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

If you like party games like The Resistance or Mafia, then One Night Ultimate Werewolf is another game you should check out. Every player is given a secret role with anywhere from 0-2 players being werewolves. Each game takes place over one night. Every night, everyone goes to sleep and an announcer (or the free app!) calls each role to wake up and perform an action before going back to sleep. Once all roles have done their actions, everyone wakes up and you get only a few minutes to deliberate and decide who you think the werewolves are and choose someone to lynch. The catch is that your role may have gotten changed overnight so you may have started as a villager, but become a werewolf by the end of the game and you have no way of knowing that until each player discusses what cards they switched or peeked at over the course of the night. The villagers win if they kill at least one werewolf (or if there were no werewolves and no one is killed). The werewolves win if there is at least one werewolf and no werewolves were killed. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is fast, fun, and engaging, so you’ll want to keep playing again and again.

Story Line Scary Tales

This last game is probably geared more towards younger players, but adults can certainly have fun with it too. Scary Tales is a game that plays like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, but with a story developing over each turn. There are two stories containing fifteen cards that you can choose from. Each card has missing information (either character, place, feature, object, or action) on it that players are supposed to provide. At the beginning of each turn, the narrator draws one of the story cards. All other players have to choose one of their cards to turn in to the narrator who then chooses which card he likes best and the person who played that card gains a token. The narrator position then passes to the next player and the game continues until the story is complete. The player with the most points on their tokens is the winner. 

These are just a few games that are perfect for Halloween, but they’re some of our favorites. What are some of your favorite Halloween games?

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