Thursday, November 20, 2014

African Vacation

Thanks to my good friend Greg and my other good friend Jay, my kids and I were introduced to the fantastic family game called 10 Days in Africa. This game - and all of its other iterations, including 10 Days in Europe, 10 Days in Asia, 10 Days in the Americas, 10 Days in the USA - is a fantastic geography lesson on top of a strategy game deep enough for adults to enjoy but functionally simple enough for even my 6-year-olds to not only grasp, but beat me at!

Each player has 10 days in which to fulfill a trip across Africa by foot, by car, and by plane. Seems easy enough. But the complexity is this: you first fill each of your 10 slots with a random draw of countries and vehicles for travel. Then, in turns, you try to make sense of your jumble, organize the travel correctly, and draw new cards as-needed to make your trip work, all in-secret with your tiles facing away from your opponent. The first one to complete 10 days is the winner.

Players travel by foot to contiguous countries. A car tile allows the player to skip 1 country in between, and a plane tile allows a player to travel from one color of country to the same-colored country using that color of plane (a blue plane allows a player to travel from one blue country to another one anywhere on the continent, red for red, yellow for yellow). 

In Which Isaac and Dominic Conspire
The concept is so simple, but it really makes players think tactically, given your introductory jumble of tiles, about how to quickly put things in order. How does one know if one should start with one of or even any of the tiles they currently have, given what one could draw? 

Endlessly complex and engaging, this game also has given my kids a sense of geography. Each tile includes not only the name and shape (and color for game purposes) of each country in the massive continent, but population and capital as well! 

Tangentially: I tend to listen to NPR in the mornings as I prepare breakfast for the boys before school. With all of the news around ebola, we have played this game, and my kids were able to identify the countries threatened by the disease. They also got a sense of just how vast a continent Africa is, and just how far away other countries are from the threat. 

This is one of those games you can play as a family or even as a date-night couples game (2-4 players). 

One of these days, we'd love to get the other games and find a way to link each of them into one uber-game: 10 days around the world!

Monday, November 17, 2014

TableTop Season 3!

Many of the games I have purchased lately have come from one of my favorite YouTube shows, Wil Wheaton's TableTop (find information here and here). It is actually a ton of fun to watch Wheaton and his friends play board games, and it gives you a sense of what's fun and not, or your type of game or not.

Last Thursday marked the launch of TableTop Season 3! And the first game is one that intrigues me on a number of levels: Tokaido. The essence of this game is that you are all travelers on the famous East Sea Road leading from Kyoto to Edo (modern day Tokyo). The point of the game, however, is not simply to arrive at Edo first, like a race. Rather, the game is about which player has the most interesting journey along the way. From painting to shopping for valuables to swapping stories with samurai to praying at temples and on and on, players acquire points for doing interesting things and become a whole, balanced person. How Zen!

I'll get out of the way; do yourself a favor and watch the episode. I'm putting this on my Christmas list.

Also, do yourself another favor and tune-in every Thursday for a new episode of TableTop.