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Get rid of Monopoly, Life, Cluedo, Candyland… Recommended Fun Board Games for Family nights

Get rid of Monopoly, Life, Cluedo, Candyland…  Recommended Fun Board Games for Family nights

Some friends have asked me to recommend games for family nights. I thought that I’d put up a post of games with family appeal and I welcome you to add your own recommendations to perhaps create a definitive list.

Its well past the time to get beyond the likes of Monopoly, The Game of Life, Cluedo, Candyland, etc. which are the same poor dross which are churned out regularly by companies like Hasbro and Mattel. The marketing budgets of these companies foist this stuff on the ill-informed masses because they can and they know people will buy them because they are unaware of other choices. The shame of it is that they are poor games which aren’t much fun as attested to by the stacks of them collecting dust in charity shops.

End of mini- rant.

Here are some great games in no particular order which should be currently available through online board game retailers and friendly neighbourhood game shops. Some of these are starting to appear on Amazon and in larger chains such as Waterstones in the UK and Barnes and Noble in the US as well. Trust me, once you play these games, you will want to ditch your copies of Monopoly, etc.


The Settlers of Catan (3-4 players ages 8+, playing time 90 minutes)


In The Settlers of Catan, players try to be the dominant force on the island of Catan by building settlements, cities, and roads. On each turn dice are rolled to determine what resources the island produces. Players collect these resources (cards) – wood, grain, brick, sheep, or stone – to build up their civilizations to get to 10 victory points and win the game. 

This game has won a lot of awards and sold loads of copies worldwide and you may possibly have heard of it. Its not an introductory game but doesn’t take to long to learn and is challenging and fun.


Ticket to Ride – (2-5 players ages 8+, playing time 45 minutes)

With elegantly simple gameplay, Ticket to Ride can be learned in under 15 minutes, while providing players with intense strategic and tactical decisions every turn. Players collect cards of various types of train cars they then use to claim railway routes in North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who fulfil Destination Tickets – goal cards that connect distant cities; and to the player who builds the longest continuous route.

This is one of my favourite games and is a great game to introduce to those with little experience playing games.


Forbidden Island (2-5 players ages 8+, playing time 30 minutes)

Forbidden Island is a visually stunning ‘cooperative’ board game. Instead of winning by competing with other players like most games, everyone must work together to win the game. Players take turns moving their pawns around the ‘island’, which is built by arranging the many beautifully screen-printed tiles before play begins. As the game progresses, more and more island tiles sink, becoming unavailable, and the pace increases. Players use strategies to keep the island from sinking, while trying to collect treasures and items. As the water level rises, it gets more difficult- sacrifices must be made.

I have never introduced this game to anyone who hasn’t said, “can we play again!”


Escape The Curse of the Temple (1-5 players ages 8+, playing time 10 minutes)

Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a cooperative game in which players must escape (yes…) from a temple (yes…) which is cursed (yes…) before the temple collapses and kills one or more explorers, thereby causing everyone to lose.

This game is quite frankly, stressful (in a good way), loud and crazy fun. My current favourite.


Carcassonne (2-5 players ages 8+, playing time 45 minutes)

Carcassonne is a tile-placement game in which the players draw and place a tile with a piece of southern French landscape on it. The tile might feature a city, a road, a cloister, grassland or some combination thereof, and it must be placed adjacent to tiles that have already been played, in such a way that cities are connected to cities, roads to roads, etcetera. Having placed a tile, the player can then decide to place one of his meeples on one of the areas on it: on the city as a knight, on the road as a robber, on a cloister as a monk, or on the grass as a farmer. When that area is complete, that meeple scores points for its owner.

I love this game. Its easy to learn, interesting, challenging and always different each time you play.


Love Letter (2-4 players ages 8+, playing time 20 minutes)

All of the eligible young men (and many of the not-so-young) seek to woo the princess of Tempest. Unfortunately, she has locked herself in the palace, and you must rely on others to take your romantic letters to her. Will yours reach her first?

Love Letter is a game of risk, deduction, and luck for 2–4 players. Your goal is to get your love letter into Princess Annette’s hands while deflecting the letters from competing suitors.

This is a fast playing, elegant card game which is loads of fun.


Qwirkle (2-4 players ages 6+, playing time 45 minutes)

This abstract game consists of 108 wooden blocks with six different shapes in six different colors. There is no board, players simply use an available flat surface.

Players begin the game with 6 blocks. The start player places blocks of a single matching attribute (color or shape but not both) on the table. Thereafter, a player adds blocks adjacent to at least one previously played block. The blocks must all be played in a line and match, without duplicates, either the color or shape of the previous block.

This is a brilliant, simple and elegant game for families.


Apples to Apples (4-10 players ages 10+, playing time 30 minutes)

The party game Apples to Apples consists of two decks of cards: Things and Descriptions. Each round, the active player draws a Description card (which features an adjective like “Hairy” or “Smarmy”) from the deck, then the other players each secretly choose the Thing card in hand that best matches that description and plays it face-down on the table. The active player then reveals these cards and chooses theThing card that, in his opinion, best matches the Description card, which he awards to whoever played that Thing card. This player becomes the new active player for the next round.

A fun, easy to play game. There is a “Kids” version for the younger ones.

2013 – What are you most looking forward to in gaming?

2013 – What are you most looking forward to in gaming?


A new year so I thought I’d ask my Twitter, Facebook and Google+ gaming friends what they were most looking forward to in gaming during 2013…

For me, I want to play more of the games I own more often and devote more time to my favourite genre, war gaming. Also, of course, becoming an officially published game designer with the publication of Ace of Spies and working on a couple of new games including Wrestling Dice and a game on the French Resistance during WW2.

From Twitter

– Not buying anymore games. No seriously, I can’t wait to properly play through my collection and play them in depth.

– Arrival of an exciting new game called Ace_of_Spies! (I admit I don’t game that much, but really looking forward to it.)

– Two new Feld games and hopefully a game I designed

– Ace of Spies coming out


From Facebook

The follow up to Forbidden Island and hopefully the continued growth of UK Games Expo
From Google+
– Curious to see what they have in plans for X-Wing minis, I don’t think there are a whole lot of ship designs from the original trilogy that are usable in the game. I mean, how the hell big would a star destroyer end up being?

– Honestly, for me, the same stuff as in 2012 — Saturdays around a table with my friends, and playing 2 player Fluxx with my mom.
– If Kickstarter (and its board gaming impact) will continue to grow this year… plateau…. or even drop off a bit

– Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifiacts
– Bowen Simmons’ Guns of Gettysburg
– Up Front!!!
– I made a BGG GeekList for this exact purpose:

– Manhattan Project: Second Stage.

–  I’m looking forward to organizing and hosting an even bigger and better Extra Life 24 hour board game marathon weekend to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

– We hosted a weekend of board gaming out of our church fellowship hall last October where we played a total of 24 hours across three days. It was our first time and we raised a total of $2142, which was well past our goal for our first year of $1000. We learned a lot and are looking forward to making this year’s weekend even more successful. We’re hoping to get more industry support, coordinate with other podcasts and blogs, and encourage gamers from out of town to come and game with us to help sick kids and their families (we can get a great deal on rates at a hotel not far from our trip).

Our two year old daughter had a life saving cranial facial surgery at Riley Children’s Hospital when she was just over a year old. We owe a strong debt of gratitude to Riley and are looking forward to continuing our support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals with more Extra Life board game charity fund raisers in the years to come.

– Star Wars X-Wing phase 3 and 4?
– Blood Bowl Team Manager expansion.

– I’m hoping to finally play Robo Rally with a group of 5+.

– PAX Prime. I really missed out last year because I had no knowledge of board games at that time. So I was really nervous to jump into anything. This year, on the other hand, I’ll be closing the place every night! Besides doing media coverage again.

– Mainly meeting more gamers. It is the year of getting more involved with the gaming community for me.

– Almost forgot – going to GenCon.

– Avoid playing any new games. Played hundreds of games once then forgotten.  Not very fulfilling. Would like to explore the nuances of the game before moving on to something else. Hard to do when everyone in the group wants a date with the “new girl”.

If I can add a second … attending Geekway to the West! Gen Con was cool. But it was more of a geek culture event of daunting size than a gaming convention. Geekway is a solid weekend of pure, unadulterated, back to back gaming.

– Gen Con – at the convention itself is certainly a large event of Geek Culture.  However there is plenty of gaming going on, you just have to know where to find it.  And we found that most of the real games running weren’t actually happening at the convention but at the hotels around it where people were staying.  The last time I went at the hotel we stayed at there were games running 24/7.  In rooms, lobbies, restaurants etc…
– I’ll be at Gen Con so look me up. Maybe we can get in a game.

– Looking forward to seeing all the Kickstarters that got funded in my hands this year. Relic Knights, Kingdom Death: Monster, Malifaux: Through the Breach RPG, and although its not a game itself, it’s gaming related: Reaper Bones Minis. And as always, Gencon. ^.^

So I asked my Twitter friends which game would they prefer to be stranded with on an island if they could only have one…

So I asked my Twitter friends which game would they prefer to be stranded with on an Island if they could only have one…

My choice would be Space Hulk as it scales from solo play, has variety and potential for loads of diverse scenarios

@Geekinsight said -I think I’d go with Sentinels of the Multiverse. Co-op and extremely replayable.

@benny275 said – Le Havre

@dicehateme said -Originally,@monkey238 and I came up with Stone Age for its versatility… talked up in this podcast:

@SirRocket said – Chess, because of it’s endless depth

@VanRyderGames said -gosh I think I would take Arkham Horror. This game isn’t fair though 🙂 I want MORE!

@slaqr said -I’d have to go with my nice Crokinole Board.

@MattWordenGames said –Tigris & Euphrates would go along to the island with me

@wartrader said – Settlers of Catan would be a good choice.

@liquidindian and  @ChrisChuaoo7  said – Cosmic Encounter, because of its variety.

So what would be your choice, hmmmm????

An Open Letter to Games Workshop…

An Open Letter to Games Workshop…

Please Note… I stopped buying Games Workshop products a long time ago as it was clearly becoming too expensive and I really took umbrage to their treatment of the GW gaming community on Boardgamegeek so I don’t really have anything good to say about them as a business other than I did enjoy playing their games back in the day. But I couldn’t in good conscience recommend them to anyone I know, particularly because their target market are young boys who will hound their foolish parents for a LOT of cash to feed their hobby and these kids will quickly drop away from gaming when their parents wake up and they have to fork out for themselves.

Here I have posted an open letter from a rather angry and frustrated friend, Chris O’Regan of the Super Happy Fun Time Show who has decided to throw down the gauntlet and start a campaign, not to put GW out of business but to save them from  themselves.

Please feel free to post your views here for Chris to respond to. All I ask is that you keep it clean guys, no matter how angry you are or I will have to delete the comment. I’m happy to let the discussion begin here…

Dear Sirs,
I recently purchased a copy of Dread Fleet, the limited edition stand alone board game you recently released from my local Games Workshop store. While there I began to browse the shelves for figures. I was doing so to see if I could use any of them for the Skaven Blood Bowl team I am currently building. As I did so I was dismayed at the price of the collections of plastic miniatures you had on sale. To say they were excessive is an understatement. I can see little justification to charge £25 for a collection of plastic models, especially when the same set would have cost a fraction of that a few years ago. I also noted the total lack of metal pewter figurines on display and the fact that only Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 and Lord of the Rings products were on sale.

I spoke to many of my table top gaming loving peers about my experience and observations at the store and they all said the same thing; ‘I stopped playing Warhammer because it’s far too expensive now’.

This led me to carry out some research on the history of your company and how you came to be in the state you’re in now. In the late 1970’s you were once a pioneering company that brought niche, hobbyist games into Europe, most notably Dungeons and Dragons. After getting the sole rights to European distribution of Dungeons and Dragons from TSR games did Games Workshop became a profit making business, all thanks to an act of altruism which was driven by a belief in a product that you did not make, but wanted to share with others.
From that single distribution deal with TSR Games, stores started to open up nationwide and sold a variety of games, none of which were available from other retailers. After this Games Workshop had cornered the market and ushered in a new era of tabletop gaming. You published celebrated RPGs such as Call of Cthulu, Traveller and Runequest. You even started to make your own games in the form of Warhammer, Talisman, Blood Bowl, Fury of Dracula, Warrior Knights to name but a few.

It was all going so great until one day a fateful decision was made following a management buyout that would seal the fate of Games Workshop. You dropped the board games and distribution rights to products made by others and poured all of your efforts into selling Citadel Miniatures for Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 tabletop fantasy and sci-fi war-games. You even went so far as to sell off your rights of board games you made previously to Fantasy Flight Games and then refuse to sell them in your own stores. From these actions you demonstrated that you stopped caring about games and focussed on profit, to the exclusion of everything else.
Over the years you have abandoned your roots as an innovator and instead became a pariah of the tabletop gaming world. You are now universally reviled throughout the tabletop gaming fraternity. I say this for I struggle to encounter much in the way of supportive words of Games Workshop’s recent actions from within those circles. Instead I hear tales of overpricing, exploitation and worse of all; bullying. For your actions against Board Game Geek tabletop gaming web forum in May 2009 by demanding they purge all game-play aids for games on their site that you no longer produce, was an abhorrent act that sends a single message to everyone; you care for naught except profit. The irony is that ultimately this will likely lead to your undoing.

But then of course you have continued to commit even worse acts than what I have described above. For your school based events that you run to encourage new players to take up Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 is nothing short of exploitation. You catch young impressionable children and get them hooked onto your products and then have their parents pay out the extortionate prices you place upon them. As these children grow up they abandon the game thanks to fact they need to pay for the products themselves and can no longer afford to. To overcome this, you simply replace the last generation of children with another via these school based events, and so the cycle continues. If that isn’t a cynical and abhorrent act of profiteering via grooming, I don’t know what is.

The fact is that you are no longer the sole provider of fantasy based table top game warfare products. War Machine and Horde are both taking a significant amount of market share from you and also cost a great deal less. Then there is Infinity, a skirmish based combat game that requires less than 15 miniatures to play. This game also costs a tiny fraction of what you charge for the same number of models and is actually a better game than Warhammer, in many respects thanks to its innovative rule set.

So how do you turn things around? I suspect that you don’t believe you need to ‘turn things around’ at all. Indeed, in your arrogance you probably have long since ascertained that placing a ridiculous premium on your products while pursing the contents of the parents of young teenagers’ bank accounts is actually a sound business model and one that will stand the company in good stead for many years to come. You are very much mistaken. For becoming a publically owned company was terrible mistake you made, as you now have to answer to shareholders and thus profit has become your sole modus operandi. As a result, any acts by you that do not lead to an immediate increase in profit, no matter how small, are rejected.

In essence, you have lost the sense of altruism that gave birth to your company in the first place. Games Workshop came into being thanks to the desire to share a weird and wonderful game from North America with others. I challenge you that you would carry out such an act now. The mere suggestion that you would champion a game that is made by someone else and agree to distribute it would likely result in your entire directorship receiving a vote of no confidence by your shareholders.

So what’s the point of the above litany? Well I’m getting to that. You see after carrying out my research and seeing what has become of Games Workshop, I have decided to launch a campaign to bring you to your senses. Games Workshop has to be saved from itself if it is to survive, as I contest that your business model is both morally bankrupt and unsustainable. You continue to cater to an ever shrinking market that is being strangled by your insistence to place an obscenely high premium on your products. If ever there was a case for diminishing returns for the sake of an immediate yet moderate profit, then Games Workshop is a perfect case study. Nintendo found this out after the failure of the GameCube and broke free of this way of thinking by developing the Wii and broadening its audience many fold. Games Workshop could do the same, if it were to simply look to its past.

So how do I plan to do this? Well I will centre my campaign on a charter. This charter will be signed by game fans across the world and presented to you. The Table Top Gamers Charter, as it will be known, will be a list of demands made by the players of table top games to you. Akin to the Magna Carter of old, its aim is to make you see sense and embrace the hobby of table top games in all their forms as you once did and prevent your inevitable slide into oblivion. For as much as I despise your current business practices, I certainly don’t want you to cease to be.

The charter is attached to this letter and has been sent to you by way of a declaration that will be endorsed and presented with signatures at a later date. How you respond to this declaration will dictate my actions following it. Know that if the Charter is rejected wholesale by you, such a response will be regarded as evidence of your distain for your audience and the hobby you claim to support. It will also cast light onto your obsession with the pursuit of short term profit and you will be brought to account.

I certainly hope it does not come to that. For it is my belief that there are those amongst you that have a love for games and can see the benefit of thinking holistically about the hobby and not see it purely as a means to extract money from the parents of teenage boys.
I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Chris O’Regan Author, Founder and Caretaker of the Tabletop Gamers Charter

Tabletop Gamers Charter:
1)    All retail prices of models sold within Games Workshop to be reduced by a third for large single models and half for the collection of smaller units and single special characters/units.
2)    Table top games in all their forms, be they board, card or miniature war-games by other publishers to be sold in Games Workshop Stores and via their online store.
3)    Pen and paper RPGs to be sold in Games Workshop stores and via their online store.
4)    Games Workshop is to work with other publishers to create miniatures designed for RPG and board games it does not publish itself.
5)    Games Workshop to hold gaming night events for local groups in their stores for games by other publishers as well as Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000.
6)    Both Space Hulk and Blood Bowl to be re-released and in the case of Blood Bowl have its current price dropped by a third. Blood Bowl team and star player miniatures to also be re-released with a similar price drop.
7)    Games Workshop to sponsor, support and attend consumer based gaming expos such as PAX (Penny Arcade Expo), UK Games Expo, Dragonmeet and Spiel AKA Essen.
8)    Historical fan made game-play aid bans for games no longer published by Games Workshop, to be rescinded along with a formal apology for the original banning.
9)    White Dwarf magazine is to abandon its current remit as a brochure for Citadel Miniatures and instead act as a table top gaming editorial that covers all fantasy/sci-fi war games, RPGs and board games from any publisher. It is also to include a letters page, features and a special section on game play aids and variants for table top games.
10) Games Workshop to cease its policy of running school based events.

Well, I broadly support Chris’ views, particularly because of the insidious way GW goes after young teens. And the schools are in on the act. PARENTS – Don’t let your little boy drag you into a Games Workshop store. Its an insidious trap! There are less expensive and excellent quality game systems with models that won’t cost you a fortune. 

For starters look at –

Dominion – What strategy do you like to use?

Dominion, by Rio Grand games is an excellent card game for 2-4 players. The Middle ages theme is pasted on and doesn’t really add to the atmosphere but the game is so good that it doesn’t matter. It’s all about hand management and coming up with an effective strategy.

In Dominion, you get a large number of card types to choose from to set up the core game. The rules provide you with a number of suggested starting set-ups, each requiring a different approach in order to collect enough victory points so I don’t see Dominion getting stale too quickly.

The game plays fast in the straight forward sets where you are focused on gaining enough riches to buy victory point cards but I found that in the set-ups which force players to “attack” each other, things take quite a bit longer. I love the mechanics and the fast flow of the turns and the minimum down time between turns.

When other players ask what strategy I use, I usually say “uh, I don’t know” as I tend to take what I pull into my hand and see how it goes. I am still trying to get my head around the strategy side of this game and I would be open to any suggestions from you gamers out there.

Post your thoughts and experiences here about Dominion strategy to help a fellow gamer get his head around the strategy element of this great game!

Battle Cry

I was in 2 minds about whether to purchase this game. As a long standing wargamer and Civil War buff, I was concerned about the lack of historical detail. Trouble is, the more historicity, the more complex and the more complex, the more downtime and longer it takes to actually achieve something. The trouble with complex military simulations is that although very interesting, you tend not to “play” and are more likely to “work” at the game system. I’ve reached the point now where my snobbery about historicity is giving way to the enjoyment that comes from playing simple games and Battle Cry is just such an example of this. IT IS FUN!

This game provides you with a modular system where you can create different forces and terrain settings to recreate a simple version of a number of Civil War Battles. The battles are managed through a card driven system which allows you choices as to how and where to make your movements and attacks. Yes there is a fair amount of luck but in war, luck has a fair amount to play anyway so I don’t have a problem with this. It also increases replay value.

The components are top notch including a mounted game board, and Union and Confederate soldiers, cavalry, artillery and generals which compares very favourably with the more recent evolutions of Richard Borg’s Command & Colours system which provides wooden blocks and stickers to put on them. Give me toy soldiers any day of the week!

All in all, this is an awesome game. Apparently there is a reprint in the works as for now ebay is the only way to find this one at a reasonable price.

Designed by Richard Borg,  published by Hasbro/Avalon Hill OUT OF PRINT

A Bridge Too Far: Operation Market Garden

Currently top of my favourites this is simply an awesome game. Of course I would say that as a life long wargamer but that’s tough!

Part of the Flames of War miniatures family, this is the answer to my dream of a simple aystem, great components and a real sense of the tension faced by both sides. The Allies need to capture the bridges and keep the supply flow along Hell’s Highway while the Germans need to try and cut the highway and slow down the Allied advance.  Lots of tension for both sides with nice mechanics although the rules could be a little clearer. Nice minis, map and overall presentation. You will love it if you are a fan of Axis and Allies which it surpasses. Time again to don the Red Beret of the British 1st Airborne or join the Band of Brothers of the 101st Screaming Eagles or All American 82nd airborne.

Now where is my dvd of A Bridge Too Far???

Designed by Ken Camel and Phil Yates, Published by Battlefront Miniatures