Category Archives: Family

100 Games Challenge

In recent perusing of Facebook, I’ve come upon the same picture over and over. It is a picture of a plaque that has 110 empty spaces for meeples. To their left, there are whiteboard spaces for names of games. The idea: play 10 games 10 times each. Some have called it the 100-Game Challenge. I called it an immediate buy. (click picture for your own)

The title “In This Home We Game” of course caught my eye because of my love of gaming with my family. We bought it and decided that each of us would choose 2 games. We wrote them all down and proceeding to plan our strategy to make it through the challenge.

We chose the following games:

  1. Terra Mystica
  2. Castles of Burgundy
  3. Carcassonne
  4. Feast for Odin
  5. Scythe
  6. King of Tokyo
  7. Small World
  8. Quadropolis
  9. Zooloretto
  10. Pups

There is a mix of heavy and light, leaning toward the heavy side. My family tends to play heavy games though that doesn’t mean we don’t like light ones.

I plan to update the status of the challenge as we go through it. Which games would your family play in a similar challenge?

Game Design with Family

I have not tried to design a game with my family. That isn’t to say I’m opposed to it. In fact, it is something that I plan to work on as a begin my new project, Lawn Mowers.

In an ideal world, designing a game with the family is a perfect storm. My family is my primary gaming group. They also know me more than anyone alive. It makes sense that they, the people closest to me, would make the best design team. We all have strengths that accent the strength of others. We help remove the influence of each other’s weaknesses as well. Again, in Eutopia, Chipman Family Design is a great thing.

We don’t live in Eutopia. What we might experience instead would be different than the ideal. There might be a clashing of personalities. Some of us are more interested in design than others. I might be the least motivated family member with the most passion for the subject. At the helm, I would make a bad captain. Anywhere else, I’d whine. Maybe Chipman Family Design Minus Dad would be a good thing? Though it’s something I’d like to do, I can see the possible pitfalls.

Geoff Engelstein has designed several successful games with his family. I decided to probe his brain on his success and what advice he might have for a family design team. Next week, I’ll feature my questions and his answers, along with my own commentary.

What questions would you like to ask a successful family design team?

Gaming with Your Spouse

I have been very fortunate the last 15 years to have a wife who likes to play games. In our pre-children years, we would take turns playing Neverwinter Nights. Later, when we had smaller children running around the house, we started board gaming. Though we have different tastes in games, we have found a common ground. We enjoy many different games together. She is more into the art and design than I am. She scores high in games when she can use her spatial and visual skills. I always appreciate her perspective when it comes to playing and now designing games.

Do you play games with your spouse? Would you like to? I’ve come up with a few helpful tips to help you make the transition from non-gaming spouse to fun game nights.

Pick Light Games

First, pick games that the gaming community considers “light.”  These games have interesting decisions, but those decisions may not be very deep. Find games that have shorter play times and fewer rules. This doesn’t mean you have to get worse games. There are many games that fall into this category. They are some the best ever made. Games like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne are great games and are easy to learn and play. Start small. It will pay dividends later.

Pick Co-op Games

Games that allow the two of you to be on the same team are also attractive. Some do not like competition, especially when it is direct. Co-op games take this aspect away without taking anything away. The first two that come to mind are Pandemic and Forbidden Island. Both are great places to start and have interesting themes. There are many choices in this category. They range from zombie-survival games like Dead of Winter to a classic tower-defense game in Castle Panic.

Pick Games that She Would Pick

What do I mean by this? Well, my wife would pick games with great art and mechanics. These appeal to her outstanding spatial intelligence. She likes tile-laying games, so we recently picked up Feast for Odin. Even though that is a heavy game, she likes it because of the mechanics. I don’t know what this will be for your spouse. There are more than a few different mechanics to suit your needs.

If you’d like suggestions, drop me a comment or email.


How to Lose Well to Your Children

A few days ago, I had the chance to play A Feast for Odin twice. I played once with my friend, and another time with him and my wife. After a full day of gaming, my daughter came to me with Quadropolis, wanting to play it again. My friend and my oldest daughter joined us as well. Much to our surprise, my middle daughter won. She is 9. Quadropolis has easy-entry rules, but a deeper strategy than you might think. She played a great game. She strategized well and even marked her board to show her future moves. It excited me to see it.

How do you lose to your children? I’ve learned a few things as my winning percentage is shrinking.

Lose with Grace

Even against children, the most competitive among us will still find difficulty losing. It may be frustrating. We might want to take it out on them. We may even become a rules general, trying to find loopholes. However it plays out, parents have to be careful here. Losing with grace to your children will teach them more than when you win.

Highlight Their Great Play

I let her know throughout the game of her good choices. I praised her (as did my friend) for planning her strategy on her player board. She made efficient use of her resources. She played a good game. I hope that by strengthening her good decision making, it will help her beyond the gaming table. One day I won’t be there to pat her back or coach her. This is a great way to build her confidence.

Ask Them What You Did Wrong

Something funny here – she didn’t wait for my prompting! She immediately told me what I might have done to score more. It wasn’t in a bragging way, but in an instructive way, like she’s heard me do with her. Her instruction encouraged me because it was correct and helpful. I lose a lot, so I don’t think I need a pick-me-up, but one day, someone will. I hope she’ll be there to listen, and if appropriate, offer her help.

My children beat me more and more at games. As my loss column grows, I hope their ability to lose well grows as well.

“Should I Let Them Win?”

My wife took the above picture of me and my oldest daughter. It was 2005 – which seems like yesterday and forever at the same time. I worked as a youth pastor in Mississippi at the time, and much of the world I know now was a distant truth. I knew it existed, but didn’t want to accept it. My child, who I could then completely wrap up, would eventually grow up. She is now 11. It isn’t like she’s getting ready to leave the house tomorrow, but tomorrow will soon become 10 years. There are many things outside the safety of our home and family that I wish she didn’t have to come against. However, she will eventually see those things. One of them, and chiefest of calamities, is failure.

How can we get them ready for this? Many of the games outside the home (school, summer sports, etc.) have eliminated losing and reward participation rather than victory. While I don’t think it’s inherently wrong to reward participation, it might be wrong to eliminate losing. Losing is a part of failure – and failure is a part of life. What we do with failure and how we react to it defines who we are. If we quit all the things we fail, we’ll be lonely and broke. Who wants that?

To that end, I’ve created a short list to help us work through the question, “Should I let them win?”

Beat them…gracefully.

In a word, “No. We should not let them win.” Again, winning is secondary to the game itself. The process of learning the rules, playing well, and being a good sport are much more important than the outcome of the game. There are few better ways to learn all those things than to lose. However, when you beat them, guide them along.

Teach them.

As you work through the game, make sure they see their missed steps, and even guide them to the proper way to make decisions while playing the game. I do this by asking questions. I’ll say, “So, what do you think will happen if you take that action?” or “How do you think I’m going to respond to you doing that?” It helps them to see the results of their actions, which is something often difficult for younger folks (and older ones).

Show them how to win.

When you win, show them that winning is just as much a part of the game as losing. Win well by thanking them for playing, complimenting their play, and offering to play again (if it makes sense).  Show them the normal behaviors of a winner include making the loser feel like they did their best.

Cradle them when they lose.

Lastly, account for their hurt feelings. It’s okay for them to mourn. Losing sucks. Don’t let them wallow in their loss – there is no need to make this their last game. Give them encouraging words and give them to opportunity to try again when they are ready.

Eventually, when they do win, the win will be that much sweeter.