Great Games for Stocking Stuffers

Stocking stuffer gamesWith only a few days left before Christmas, you may be in a frantic rush to finish your shopping for gifts for friends and family.

Hopefully you’ve already selected some meaningful gifts to give. And now you’re just looking for a few little things that you can add to Christmas Stockings for your kids.

Here are a few games that make great Christmas Stocking Stuffers.

Most are light and simple card games that are small enough to fit in a Christmas stocking. And most are under $15.
Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion card game

Good luck with your last few days before Christmas!

 
 
 

Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game – an immersive cooperative game

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

An immersive cooperative board game with traitors.

It’s not often that a board game made from a movie or TV show turns out great. There have been many attempts, but nothing comes close to what Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game delivers.

It’s easy to slip a well-known pop-culture brand on a popular board game. There are plenty of Monopoly, Clue, and Risk board game variations available that tout titles such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter to name a few. But they simply slap on some familiar names and photos and call it a game. Same game, just different images.

Branching out into new board game territory with a popular media brand is a trickier proposition.

I’m happy to report that Fantasy Flight Games knows how to to it right.

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

You’ll definitely want to play on a bigger table.

Battlestar Galactica delivers a complete new game experience that wonderfully matches the character and feeling of the TV series. It’s a semi-cooperative game where we all work together to achieve victory…except for the traitors. And there will be traitors. Hidden traitors.

Some that may not even know they’re traitors until midway through the game. It’s awesome.

There are many reasons why we love playing Battlestar Galactica, but one of the great things about it is that players don’t even need to know the TV series to really enjoy it.

Just ask our boys. Of all the people I’ve played the game with (my boys, their friends, and their cousins), I’m the only one who has seen the TV series. But it hasn’t hindered them one bit from loving playing the game as well.

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

Defend the fleet from Cylon raiders.

We’ve all thoroughly enjoyed the game every time we play.

I’ve been waiting a long time to post a board game review of Battlestar Galactica, so today’s a happy day.

This is the longest video review we’ve done. And it’s not just because I’m long winded. Since there’s a lot going on in the game, we actually approached our review differently.

In the first 6 minutes of the video review, I cover an overview of the game, our impressions, and share my rating. After that, I dive into the details of how to play the game. We really wanted to share that level of detail because that’s where the depth of the game shines. But we’ll totally understand if you just want to get a taste by only watching the first portion.

What is Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game all about?

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

Players choose from an array of characters with unique abilities.

Battlestar Galactica is such an immersive cooperative board game, that it’s well worth the couple hours it takes to play. That’s right, it takes 2 to 3 hours to play a game. But you won’t even realize that much time has passed.

In Battlestar Galactica players take on the roles of characters aboard Galactica who are searching for a new planet for humans to call home.

Why?

Because the Cylons (machines first created by humans) have destroyed their home planet. The humans aboard this fledgling fleet of spaceships (military & civilian) are all that’s left. Except that not everyone aboard is human…

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

Who will the Cylons be?

Some are actually Cylons in disguise. Because Cylons have learned how to appear human.

So while everyone works together to save the human race, there will be some hidden Cylons among them – who won’t want to cooperate so much.

If the humans can get to their destination, they win. But if any of the resources (food, fuel, morale, population) are depleted, Galactica is damaged too much, or the Cylon boarding party of Centurion guards get too far aboard, then the humans will lose.

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

Move to different locations to activate different actions.

So not only do the players need to battle Cylon ships and avert crises to survive, but while doing all that they also have to detect the hidden Cylons and lock them up to reduce the harm they can do.

It’s a tense journey the whole time.

And we love it!

Hidden traitors who don’t even know themselves

One of the absolute best parts of Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game is the 2nd loyalty phase. There are other cooperative board games with a traitor in the midst – Shadows Over Camelot for instance. However, in all those games, the traitor knows who he/she is from the beginning.

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

Players will face many crises along the way.

But in Battlestar Galactica, that may not be the case. You may be fighting FOR the humans during the first half of the game and AGAINST them in the second half. And it’s that possibility that adds another layer of intrigue throughout the game.

At the start of the game, every player gets handed a secret loyalty card that indicates whether they’re a human or a Cylon. But once the fleet gets halfway to its destination, an additional amount of loyalty cards are handed out. Once again players will see if they are human or Cylon. If either of the two cards (some characters may actually have 3) says you’re a Cylon, then you are indeed a Cylon and you want the humans to fail.

Why does this matter?

Because Cylons can remain hidden and thwart progress.

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

Knowing who collects which types of Skills cards can help detect the Cylons in the group.

Many of the crises in the game require a Skills Check to pass. All player may contribute cards into every Skills Check. These are done secretly. So when Skills Checks fail (and bad things happen) there will be plenty of finger pointing as to who the traitors/Cylons are.

If players suspect a Cylon, they can vote to throw them in the Brig – where their ability to contribute to Skills Checks will be diminished.

Having a 2nd loyalty check means that as the game gets closer to the end, the tension and suspicion will ramp up as well – building to a great crescendo.

Throwing players in the Brig while Cylons ships are surrounding Galactica destroying civilian ships is a hairy situation. And a lot of fun.

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

Revealed Cylons can work to deplete the resources even faster.

Of course, Cylon players can also Reveal themselves any time they’d like (on their turn). Once they feel like they can wreck more havoc as a revealed Cylon, they’ll take that chance. Because revealed Cylons then get new locations they can visit to cause other actions to occur – none of which will be good for the remaining humans.

And all of this is so well developed in the game that the players get totally immersed and time flies by.

Can the whole family enjoy Battlestar Galactica?

Not everyone in the family will enjoy Battlestar Galactica. In our family, it’s just the boys.

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

The President gets additional, special cards and the Admiral gets nukes.

But that doesn’t mean that only boys and men will enjoy the game. There are plenty of girls and ladies that enjoy the game as well.

It’s also a game better suited for kids over 10. The recommended age is 10+ so this game of intrigue isn’t targeted toward youngsters. But Caleb has joined in our endeavors since he was 8 and he loves it as well. I’ll also be the first to admit that I’ve been fooled by his ability to play it straight.

Getting familiar with the rules

Battlestar Galactica is a game where we always have the rules handy. It’s not just because there’s a lot going on in the game. But rather because we don’t play as often as we’d like and we want to make sure we’re not missing anything.

Battlestar Galactica: the board game

Can the humans make it all the way to Kobol?

The good news is that there are some summary sheet player aids online that really help. Sometimes a simple reference sheet is all that’s needed to stay on track with what we need to know for the different elements of the game – such as the order of succession of the President and Admiral, steps players take when they reveal themselves as Cylons, or the die result during combat.

The rules summary sheets we use come from The Esoteric Order of Gamers. We’ve downloaded their rules summary sheets for a number of games because they’re so easy to follow. Likewise, their summary sheets for Battlestar Galactica are terrific.

And then there were expansions…

Like so many other great board games, Battlestar Galactica has also spawned game expansions. It’s really not a surprise since the modern Battlestar Galactica TV series (beginning in 2003) ran for 4 seasons and introduce new characters and twists along the way.

Battlestar Galactica board game

Bring on the expansions!

The original board game was released in 2008 and those that followed are:

While we haven’t played any of the expansions yet, they’re definitely on my radar.

How does Battlestar Galactica score on the “Let’s Play Again” game meter?

Battlestar Galactica scores high on our “let’s play again” meter, but not like other games.

As we just mentioned, we don’t play the game very often. However, every time we play, we very much look forward to the next time we’ll play and talk about who else we want to introduce it to.

Battlestar Galactica: the board gameBecause the game lasts a couple hours and is always more fun when playing with 5 or 6 players, we’ve just found it hard to get those things to align. Sure it would be great if we could talk mom and Brooke into playing so we could have 6. But they’re not interested. So instead, we look for long weekends where we can set aside the time and invite some friends to join us in the fun.

For the last 3 years, we’ve become regular at playing Battlestar Galactica over the Thanksgiving weekend. It’s an event we excitedly look forward to.

Speaking of which, when are we going to play again? I hope soon…

The Board Game Family Game Ratings
Caleb: 5 Meeples Caleb
  Has not played Brooke
Jaden: 4.5 Meeples Jaden
Trevor: 4.5 Meeples Trevor
  Has not played Mom
Dad: 4.5 Meeples Dad
Average: 4.5 Meeples Average
Pick up a copy!

Buy Battlestar Galactica from Amazon

> Receive New Board Game Reviews and Articles in your Email

 
 
 

50% off Board Games Today Only!

We just saw that Amazon’s Deal of the Day today (Tuesday 12/16) is on Board Games!

That means for today only you can get select board games for 50% off!

DominionDon’t be skeptical of the word “select” because the list includes some fantastic games:

Those are some sweet deals!

(As of the time we’re posting this, there are only 18 hours left. You’ll want to act fast.)

 
 
 

1 Million YouTube Views!!

family board games

Celebrating 1 million video views!

Last month our board game videos reviews surpassed 1 Million total views!

We’re only getting around to writing about it now because of the other reviews and articles that we’ve been posting about the last few week.

But now it’s time to celebrate!

Hitting 1 million total video views is an amazing accomplishment that we’re super excited about. And of course it’s not stopping now. Since the day we hit the mark we’ve had another 30,000 views.

As of this writing, our total views are at 1,034,452!

While we’re excited to hit such a milestone, we’re more excited about what it means…that so many families all over the world are enjoying playing family board games and card games together!

family board games

If only we had $1 for every view…

And from the information we see, the last decade has delivered a huge resurgence of board games. We love it.

So what are our most popular board game video reviews?
The answers may surprise you.

Watching these is such a blast from the past for us. We get a kick out of hearing their younger voices.
These videos also date back to before we started using a consistent jingle for our intro and outro.

Enjoy.

#1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid Cheese Touch

(Reviewed by Brooke)
Over 100,000 views alone. Whoa!

#2. Carcassonne

(Reviewed by Trevor)
Not too surprising since it’s a stellar board game that introduces so many families to the wonderful world of modern board games. (Seeing this tile-laying game on that checkerboard tablecloth still makes me dizzy.)

#3. Sequence

(Reviewed by Dad & Caleb)
A terrific family game that has been around for decades.

#4. Dominion

(Reviewed by Jaden)
Dad’s most-played card game and one that’s taken the board game and card game industry by storm.

#5. Qwirkle

(Reviewed by Jaden)
A great, award-winning family board game of chunky blocks with colorful shapes.

Rounding out the top 10 are:
#6. Risk Star Wars: The Clone Wars
#7. Mastermind
#8. Ticket to Ride: Europe
#9. Blokus
#10. Ingenious

In addition to hitting the million mark for our video reviews, we’ve also recently passed the 5 year mark of our website. That’s a lot of time doing board game reviews.

But even though we sometimes wonder about it once in a while, we’re not ready to shelve the video camera yet. There are still so many fantastic family board games out there to review!
(Including the 30 or so currently waiting on our “to review” shelf…)

And we know there will be plenty more great games on their way in 2015!

> Receive New Board Game Reviews and Articles in your Email

 
 
 

Game Night Games Top 5 Board Game Recommendations

Top 5 Board Game recommendations

The Game Night Games 2014 Holiday Gift Guide mailer is here!

Last week we received the annual Holiday Gift Guide mailer from a great board game store in our area – Game Night Games.

I always love seeing what they include in their mailer and this year they included a number of Top 5 Games lists. So I thought it would be great to share their recommendations.

Why? Because this is their “day job”.

They’re dealing with customers every day, all day and they know what people are most interested in buying and playing. So it’s always a fun activity to see what they list.

Here are the Game Night Game Holiday Gift Guide Recommendations:

Top 5 Family Strategy Games

Settlers of Catan board game

You really can’t go wrong with anything on this list. The most surprising game on this list is actually Power Grid. Don’t get me wrong, because Power Grid is one of my favorite games. But I wouldn’t think it would go over well for most family game nights. It’s a longer game and there’s a lot going on. I love it because of the deeper level of strategy and things you have to keep in mind constantly. But my wife won’t come near it.

The other on the list are all sure-fire hits. Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Dominion are vying for the #1 spot of top board game sellers. And Kingdom Builder is also another on one of my favorite games. It’s the most recently published game on this list (2011) so it’s not breaking any sales records yet like the top 3 on this list. But it’s a fantastic family board game.

Hottest New Games in 2014

King of New York board game

The only game on this list that we’ve played is Steam Park. It’s also a game we included on our 2014 Board Game Gift Guide because it’s a fun family board game.

We also put King of New York on our recommendation list even though we haven’t played it yet. Mainly because we love King of Tokyo and the new game play elements in King of New York sound awesome. It isn’t an expansion, but rather a stand-alone game and we won’t mind having both. (And Splendor is on its way to our home, so we’ll find out soon enough how fun that game is.)

Top 5 Cooperative Games

Forbidden Desert board game

Another great list! For families with young kids, we’d highly recommend starting your cooperative board game playing with Forbidden Desert. Then if you want some monster slaying and more tension mixed in, go with Castle Panic.

With teens and adults, Pandemic is the gold standard for cooperative board games. The only one I’ll disagree with on this list is Hanabi. We’ve played it a few times and don’t like it.

Top 5 Party Games

Telestrations party game

We’d actually put Telestrations at the top of any Party Game list! It’s a riot every time we play it. In fact we played it a couple times this past weekend when we had a group of 11 at the house (Trevor brining college friends home). Everyone had a blast! Dixit is also a great party game, but it’s not the laugh-out-loud type of party game that Telestrations is. We have the Dixit Odyssey version which can accommodate up to 12 players.

Coup is a fun bluffing game that plays quickly. The only downside with including it in the Party Games category is that it’s limited to up to 6 players.  We’ve heard Ca$h ‘n Guns is a lot of fun, but haven’t played it. And Concept looks like a good game for both parties and families that we’d love to try.

Top 5 Family Card Games

Gloom card game

I’m mixed on whether I’m surprised to see Munchkin on this list. On one hand it’s an extremely popular card game that people rave about. But on the other hand, I’ve heard that it’s suspect for family play because of the risqué content. The only other game on this list that we haven’t played is Love Letter. It was published in 2012 and has gained a lot of popularity because of the very simple game play.

If you like randomness in your card games, then you really need to play Fluxx. As the name implies, the game is constantly changing. Very random. Bohnanza is all about bean farming – which you wouldn’t think would be interesting at all. But the game play mechanics are very unique and fun. And Gloom has the coolest cards on this list – they’re transparent! Very cool!

Thanks again Game Night Games for your mailer with these great family board game and card game recommendations!

Merry Christmas!

> Receive New Board Game Reviews and Articles in your Email

 
 
 

Takenoko – Your bamboo garden awaits

Takenoko board game

It’s fun growing bamboo gardens in Takenoko.

Have you ever wanted to be a bamboo gardener?

If so, then we’ve got the perfect board game for you!

Ok – so we don’t think you’ve really ever thought of being a bamboo gardener. But we’ve still got a great family board game for you… Takenoko.

Takenoko is a fun family board game where players build a bamboo garden – with the most colorful bamboo you’ve seen.

Players will build the garden by laying out colored hex tiles, will irrigate the garden sections through canals, will move the gardener around to grow bamboo sections, and will move the panda bear around to eat the colorful bamboo sections. And they’ll be scoring points all along the way.

Brooke wanted to take the helm behind the camera again, so I’m back at the table doing the video review of Takenoko. I cover the basics of the game in the first few minutes and then cover a sample turn later in the game to give a more complete perspective on the things players will think about during the game.

Hopefully the video will give you a good feel if Takenoko is a game your family will enjoy playing together.

Can the whole family enjoy Takenoko?
Read more »

 
 
 

Build your own Zoo in Zooloretto

Zooloretto board game

Let’s get started building our zoos!

We haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t love going to the zoo. It’s fun seeing the wide variety of animals that you can see at a zoo.

So what could be better than a family board game where kids get to build and manage their own zoo!

In Zooloretto, players collect sets of animals and place them in their zoo to score points. The player who does the best job managing the animals in their zoo will be crowned the king of the zoos.

(Ok, so there really isn’t a “king of the zoos” designation for the winner – but it would be a pretty cool addition.)

See how to play and what Brooke thinks of the game in her video review of Zooloretto.

Can the whole family enjoy Zooloretto?
Read more »

 
 
 

Gravity Maze – Fun 3D Puzzle Game

Gravity Maze puzzle game

Gravity Maze is a fun puzzle game with marbles.

When I first heard about Gravity Maze earlier this year, I thought it would be a game that our youngest son, Caleb, would really enjoy.

He loves games that makes him think. He loves a challenge. He loves marble runs. And he also really loves doing some things on his own – like solving puzzles.

So I really shouldn’t be surprised that he gives Gravity Maze one of his highest ratings.

However, his first impressions were anything but positive…

Read more »