As the weather gets worse and the weekends get rainier, it’s good to have some games to fill our time. We managed three – really four – separate gaming sessions this weekend, which is a bit of a record. Especially as two featured children’s games.
Saturday morning, my brother brought my niece and nephew round for kidgameapalooza. Nephew is a bit young for games yet, but Niece is just getting interested. We lent them Picco Popolino (The animal bottom game) and The Kids of Catan (which Fraser picked up in his massive game buying spree last year and was still in shrink) a few weeks ago and they have really loved them. Auntie Lissa’s Game Library appears to be a bit of a drawcard at the moment.
We started with Nelly (by Andreas, Ueli and Lukas Frei). The hippopotamus dexterity game from Queen, that is. Players were me, Otto (9), Brother (with help from Nephew) and Niece (5). And it was delightful!
As with so many of our things, I have a special story about this game. In 2009, when we were at Essen, we saw the posters for this game and – for a special private reason that those of you who know us in person will recognise – desperately wanted one. As the fair was closing – technically, after it had closed on the last day – we were making our way to the doors and went past the Queen games stand. And there, supervising pack-up, was Rajive Gupta, the company’s CEO/President, who I had met very briefly earlier in the fair. I wandered over and asked whether it might be possible to get a poster for the game. And when I explained why, he reached over and took not the used poster I was asking for but a brand-new in-shrink copy of the game from the pile and presented it, with a flourish, to Otto. Not to be outdone, he took another new game and gave it to the Bigster.
We tell that story whenever we play the game. I should probably write it inside the box, which is gamer heresy but is also a thing we like to do. Because our games are not just an activity, they’re a whole lot of memories too.
And we all had a wonderful time. It’s a beautiful game which I’d not played because I (wrongly) thought it would be long & complex. Instead, it’s quick (under 15 minutes although the very first game has some setup overhead) and especially great for mixed-age groups. And there was cheering.
Next up was Dweebies (Tim Roedinger), a very quick card-game from Gamewright. This was probably a bit old for Niece, although she was excited and proud to score one long row. Nephew wanted to place cards too, so I found our copy of Koffer Packen and he played happily with those very sturdy tile-like cards.
Third and final game with this group of visitors was Beep! Beep! (Reinhard Staupe) – a Blink-style game from Valley Games in Canada. This game is still a favourite with the Bigster and her friends because of its speed and its adorable artwork (not to mention the squeezy car). Nephew particularly enjoyed the squeezy car. Niece was far too well-mannered to cope with a free-for-all speed-based game; she wanted to take turns.
The second session was on Sunday afternoon. A colleague had asked for kids’ game recommendations and had – at my suggestion – bought Make ‘n’ Break (Andrew & Jack Lawson) and Halli Galli (Haim Shafir). Now she was keen to try some more. She brought her daughters (who are 6 and 8, I think) over to see what we had. This session wasn’t so much about trying newer games as introducing some of the real classics (is it pretentious to call them “modern classics”?). I don’t think they will ever want to be a Gamer Family as such, but I could see them enjoying games like Carcassonne in the future, as well as party games like Time’s Up. And a wider range of kids’ games, of course.
Catch the Match (Reinhard Staupe) was a good choice to get them looking. One of the girls thought she had seen this at her primary school in prep. This is one of my favourite ‘small’ games for younger kids – not least because it is both a game and a solo activity. (As an aside: I was excited to read that Catch the Match Duo is coming out later this year).
Apples to Apples Kids (Matthew Kirby & Mark Alan Osterhaus) is another great game which they seemed to enjoy and then asked to borrow.
and … wow … I’m a bit stuck. All the games blur a bit. I know that I showed them Sherlock (Reinhard Staupe) and Viva Topo! (Manfred Ludwig) because they borrowed both. Sherlock is another of my go-to kids’ games (although I usually only lay out 6 cards instead of 8 when I am demoing it) and Viva Topo! won Best Children’s Game in the Boardgames Australia awards, and hits that “bit more complicated, lot more beautiful” spot.
They left with a bag of 5 loaner games and big smiles.
Otto was annoyed that we hadn’t got to Lego Harry Potter: Hogwarts (Cephas Howard & Henk van der Does) so she and I had a quick game of that. My sneaky Slytherins snuck in a glorious victory. This is a really excellent spatial game in the spirit of the classic Ravensburger aMAZEing Labyrinth games. But with LEGO, which makes everything more awesome.