Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Family Games Review - Part 1

Prior to our family's Thanksgiving gathering in our mountain top lodge, I had purchased several games, knowing that our family traditionally enjoys playing all sorts of games when we get together over holidays.

With Christmas coming, and perhaps a few of my readers needing some gift ideas, I thought I'd make a couple of posts about these games we purchased and played.

The first game we bought is an old classic, Mancala.  This game apparently is ancient - its beginnings trace back to Africa, where children played a simple version of Mancala using pebbles.  With a stick the players would draw spaces in the dirt to separate the stones into compartments.

This is an additive game of strategy and cunning.  Two players take turns moving their stones around the playing board, trying to "capture" their opponent's stones.  As you can see, this game comes with a quality hinged playing board and pretty gem-like stones.

The hubby and I are both very competitive people, and once we deciphered a bit of the strategy, we played several more games of Mancala, and consumed a fair amount of coffee while doing so.  This game is recommended for players aged 6 and older.  There can be as much or as little strategy used, therefore the game is playable by young and old.

Next we played a new-to-us game, Blokus.  Blokus is a colorful strategy game containing 84 plastic pieces that players carefully place onto the board.

This game can be played by 2 to 4 players, and is recommended for ages 7 and older.  Other websites claim this game is easy enough for 5-year-olds.   That is probably because there is only one simple rule to playing this game: lay each piece so that its corner touches another corner of one of your colored pieces.  Each player gets 21 pieces of various shape configurations, all in one color, and places them on the board in a manner that ultimately limits or blocks the other players from adding any more pieces, at some point in the game.

Here is a Blokus game underway:

The playing pieces actually fit down into the squares of the board, so squirmy children playing this game and bumping the table will not destroy the game with their little "earthquakes."  A player is eliminated when no more of his pieces can be placed onto the board.  Here is a Blokus game at the end:

The third game we purchased is Quirkle.  I had seen it advertised on Amazon.com as an award-winning game, and so I looked into it further.  I figured if it won several awards, then it was probably a better investment than plenty of the other junky toys out there in the toy stores.

I would describe this game as a combination of three other very familiar games - Scrabble, Rummy, and Crazy 8's.  Two to four players, aged 6 and up, select 6 wooden tiles from a drawstring bag and make arrangements on the table using those tiles.  One person is designated as the official scorekeeper, and points are scored by creating rows of either the same color or the same shape.  

A row of 6 tiles is a Quirkle and is valued with the highest amount of points.  If you look closely, there are several Quirkles in the game above.  The game ends when all tiles are used up.  The winner is the player who has scored the most points.  

The last game of this post is an old one that I excavated from the depths of our family game closet.  It is so old that I don't even know where it could be bought, nor where we did actually purchase it probably about 25 to 30 years ago.  It seems to me that this type of game would be sold in a place like an old hardware store, or perhaps the Vermont Country Store or a place like it.

Mountain Climb is a game with a simple premise - get all five of your "climbers" out of base camp, up the first ascent, up the second ascent, and finally onto the summit of the mountain - before your opponent.  Along the way, some climbers fall and must return to base camp.  Here is the "mountain" with several "climbers" en route.

Can you tell who was the winner?  I'm not sure if he was happier to beat me or just to have the game FINALLY be over.  It's one of those games that fools you - you think you are just about at the end, and suddenly all your "climbers" have fallen and are back to base camp.

My eight-year-old grandtwins particularly enjoyed Mountain Climb and Quirkle.

My mother and Tori
I'm sure that any of these four games would be a welcome surprise under the family Christmas tree.

I'd rather spend my money on quality games and items that will challenge the brain a bit, and last down through the years, wouldn't you?


  1. I used to play Mancala and enjoyed it.

  2. What a great description of the various games. We also had a 'games cupboard' when the kids were growing up. I remember many funny times & many fighting times. Then it was pack it up time LOL - Trick was to set the rules in cement before commencement. Enjoying your blog very much......lesalp.blogspot.com.au