Category Archives: Games and Family

100 Game Challenge – Update and Advice

My family has been on Spring Break this week. When mom and dad both teach, and the kids are all in school, it is a family break. We have played lots of games this week and have progressed our “100 Games Challenge.” To that end, I have some notes and advice.

First, it has been great to play some of the same games over and over. We have lots of games. We don’t play half of them as often as I’d like. This challenge helped us to pick some old ones and new ones, and play them an equal amount. A game like Terra Mystica deserves successive plays to capture its value. Others on the list are similar. While King of Tokyo and Pups are games that we can play lots of times in short order.

One thing I would do differently is to include fewer “heavy” games. We tend to play heavier games as a family, and I forget that isn’t the case for many groups. I would have thrown in a few shorter play time games. Not only could we play more, but it would also give the appearance of traction in our challenge. We are currently still all on board, but if it every gets tedious, the fun is gone. Shorter games might help to keep that feeling away.

Also, I’d suggest tracking your plays someplace. has a great way to track plays of any game you own. There are also apps gamers have developed for that task. Tracking your plays would help you to understand your families highs and lows in gaming. It might even help with future purchases.

Again, all in all, we’re enjoying the Challenge and will continue it until it is complete. I’ve already got my mind on the games I would play next.

Heartland – April Update

I made two major decisions about Heartland this week. First, I decided to step away from it until school is over in mid-May. Next, I decided that I am not going to self-publish. I am happy with both decisions, and both have given me rest.

The decision to step away from the game wasn’t hard. I’m piled with work from school. Sunday’s also continue to come around as do the sermons I preach on them. I was finding my desire for game creation was very low and I found myself getting discouraged. I knew then it was time for a break. I took the question to a group of designers – about whether I should step away – and they agreed. Their general consensus was that most games take lots of time to come about. There are no quick successes with game design. It is the slow-but-sure-slog that gets it done every time. I’m going to take a break from the slog to get my real work done and remain excited.

The decision to step away from self-publishing was hard. For some reason, Kickstarter had become the pinnacle I wanted to achieve. I watched other creators do very well and run great campaigns, and it became the dream. A common thread emerged from that group of creators – time, time, and time. This is something I’m not as blessed with, or I’m unwilling to give up. I could work more, but I’d have to sacrifice things I currently do that are not work. I’m not willing to do that. My family, my personal fitness, and my sanity are more important. I’m glad those guys can pull it off and I’m happy for them, but I can’t do it. It would drag me down with it. I’ve decided to talk to publishers that I align with on production level and audience.

I recently sent my game for a company to review. It was a giant step for me, but and exciting one. Even if they tell me my game needs lots of work, the process will be well worth it. I’m learning more and more in life that the process is better for me than the product.


“Gametes” Needs Your Help!

In an earlier post, I wrote about the board gaming club at the high school where I teach. My students started the club after I told them countless stories of great board games.
Now that we have our club, we need games. We have been using my personal collection, but we need our own games to increase interest. It will also provide the students with some ownership and pride.
To get funds, we have started a GoFundMe project. Please consider giving by clicking here. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section, or my finding me on Facebook.

Nerdstravaganza – A Gaming Event – Part 2

The Nerdstravaganza weekend has come and gone. It was a blast as usual, and this time we had over 20 students join us for the festivities. All in all, it was a successful mashup of old gamers and new. I had several major takeaways from the weekend.

Games are Exhausting

My gaming began when my friend showed up Thursday evening at my house. He joins us for every event and stays with my family. We played several games that night. Friday started early and ended close to midnight. After two games of Feast for Odin on Saturday, the games completed their conquest of my brain. This is a good thing. The alternative is to do nothing with my brain on my days off. I’ve written before about the benefits of gaming for your brain. My hope is to stave off mental decay as long as possible. I think brain workouts like this weekend are essential in that task.

New Gamers are Exhilarating

I love gaming with my friends. We’ve been gaming together on many platforms for many years. I prefer playing games with them because they are a known variable – they love games and love playing them. What place do new gamers have in my life? Being able to teach new games to eager and excited students was a great joy that I haven’t often experienced. When I teach games, it is either to my family or my friend group. I enjoy teaching them, but there was something different about teaching the students. My favorite moment is when they would choose to play a game that I had taught them. As they left, they were talking about their favorite games of the weekend. To me, that is a solid victory for my soul, and for board gaming in general.

The Game and the “Gamer” are Evolving

I’ve been playing board games for a long time, but only in the last 7 years have I considered it a hobby. In that time, designer games have evolved from basic euro games to the board game equivalent of a thrill ride. Games are more flashy and colorful – and more expensive. The new breed of gamer has taken up the mantle and is now demanding more flash, more color, and more cost. Gamers don’t mind paying over $100 if they can get a cool dragon miniature or some nice metal coins. Where does that leave a game like Castles of Burgundy, which is an incredible game with low production value? Sadly,it leaves it unplayed.

Some games are revamping. I read that Brass is getting a polished new look. Maybe other greats will as well. What do you think about the new turn in board gaming? Good or bad for the hobby and why?

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?

Interview with Geoff Engelstein – Part 2

This is part two of the interview I had with Geoff Engelstein. I encourage you to go back and read the first part. His insight into design and gaming with family was helpful and encouraging.

What gets a new game design started in your family?

Literally anything. There are like 8 different prototypes in different stages scattered around the house. And hardly any car ride goes by without someone throwing some type of idea out there.

What advice would you give a family that wants to start gaming together?

Play games that they want to play, at least at first. Don’t push them into games that are too complex for them. Also, don’t be afraid to change the rules if you need to for younger kids. We played Monopoly when the kids were very little with everything costing a dollar. Just play and have fun.

Having said that, my second piece of advice is, don’t let them win. They should earn it. You don’t need to crush them – by all means keep it close – but don’t deliberately throw games.

What advice would you give to budding game designers?

Just do it. I see a lot of people that have ideas, but aren’t always willing to put them out there and test, and tweak, and throw out the bad ideas. It’s a long road but can be very gratifying.

Also don’t expect to get rich. You’ll need to put out a lot of games each year to make a living at it, so do it, at least at first, because you love it.

The last bit of advice he gives about not making money was good for me. Several years ago, I considered getting into game design, but I was afraid I would be “unsuccessful.” We all understand the fear of failure. For some reason, I had linked making money with my desire to make games. I heard many designers share Geoff’s advice here.  After that, I became convinced that money and success in this craft aren’t tied together. Sure, there are the Alan Moons and Richard Garfields of the world, but most designers have day jobs. That was encouraging and empowering for me as a designer. My hobby didn’t need to make me money. I just needed to make me happy. And it has.




Interview with Geoff Engelstein – Part 1

Full disclosure: Rather than a traditional interview, I sent Geoff a list of questions. He answered them at his leisure. I also felt a bit starstruck by even contacting him. He was happy to answer my questions. Like me, he has a family that loves to play games together.

Geoff Engelstein is the designer of several published games, but my favorite of his is definitely Space Cadets. My friends and I have shared moments with that game that we still belly laugh about today. When I discovered that Geoff designed it with his family, I couldn’t wait to talk to him about designing with his family, and about design in general.

If you had to narrow it to 4 steps, describe your design process?

Wow – tough one. My process tends to wander around and loop back on itself over and over. But if I had to pin it down:

Inspiration – the core idea that you want to convey. For me it usually starts with an experience or emotion, and then I go from there. Sometimes I start with what I think is a neat mechanic, but not often.

Core mechanic – Identify the core mechanic to support the experience. Lots of rapid iteration to try (and usually discard) ideas.

Mechanic Explosion – Add lots of things to the core – effects, dice, cards, whatever. Use the ‘hooks’ that the core gives you to allow things to be changed. Then trim, trim, trim and get back to what really works.

Tuning – Final playtesting and tuning to tighten everything up, deal with balance, play time, etc.

How did your family become a part of the design process?

We always played together, whether it was board games, video games, or whatever. And we always talked about why we liked particular games, what worked, and what didn’t. So when I came up with the idea to take Starcraft (which we enjoyed) and turn it into a card game, it was natural that I would involve the kids in the process.

I also wanted to teach them that you could come up with an idea, and – with a lot of hard work – carry it through and actually see it on a store shelf. That creating things was not some mystical far off process that was out of their reach, that it was something that they could and should do.

What is an example of “kid advice” you’ve used in a game?

In “The Ares Project” we were challenged by Z-Man to come up with a fourth faction for the game. My son immediately wanted to do a giant robot. Because giant robots are cool. But we had absolutely no idea how that would fit into the framework. But we worked and worked and figured out how to do it, and it turned into one of my favorite things in the game.