2016 Goal: Start a Family Game Night

Gaming Geek Culture Parenting Tabletop Games
Photo by Will James.

I try to stay away from New Year’s resolution-making, but I have set myself with four goals for 2016. In no particular order they are–start a monthly family hike, finish writing my book, finish my first big cosplay and participate in a competition at a convention (hopefully ECCC), and start a monthly family game night.

A monthly game night might not sound like a lot of gaming to you, and you would be absolutely right, but I wanted to start out with a target that I thought we could hit. If we want to play more than that we can, and we have played games more than once this year already, but I wanted one regularly scheduled event a month. And, since our son is only two years old, what I am calling a game night is actually a game morning.

Uptown Espresso Gameporium is our local game store/coffee shop combo location. Photo by Will James.

The plan was simple–we have a combo game store/coffee shop (this is Seattle after all) that lets you check out games to play while drinking your coffee. It’s nearby our house but far enough that we can make an event out of it.

With our plan in place, we packed up the family on Sunday morning and drove to Uptown Espresso. I got in line to buy our coffee drinks while my son and wife went to pick out some games. We started with Sleepy Princess and First Orchard.

The bigger fluffy squares are actually blankets. Photo by Will James.

Sleepy Princess is loosely based on The Princess and the Pea. There are both cooperative and competitive game modes, but we only tried the cooperative version for our first go. On each turn a player rolls the die, moves the princess around the game board that many spaces, and then either places a piece onto the bed–there are mattresses, pillows, and blankets–or takes one off to wash it. The goal is to get everything stacked on top of the pea without it falling over. We played one round and we got everything stacked without a spill.

Don’t you wear a Darth Vader robe to the coffee shop? Photo by Will James.

Sleepy Princess is great for little kids because it teaches all the basics of game playing that will last them throughout life–dice rolling, counting spaces, moving pieces on a board, taking turns, and some dexterity. Sleepy Princess was definitely our favorite game of the day.

Fruit picking at its finest. Photo by Will James.

Next we cracked open First Orchard, which we also really enjoyed. This is also a cooperative game. The goal is to get all of the fruit into the basket before the raven gets to the orchard and eats the fruit. There are four trees in the orchard, each with its own color-coded pieces of fruit, five path pieces, a die, and the raven itself. Each player rolls the die and gets either a color, the basket, or the raven. Rolling a color allows the player to pick a fruit of that color and place it into the basket, rolling the basket allows the player to pick any piece of fruit, and rolling the raven moves the raven one space down the path. If all the fruit gets picked, you win. If the raven makes it to the orchard first, you lose.

We couldn’t let the bird go hungry. Photo by Will James.

First Orchard was also great for younglings as it teaches turn taking, moving pieces, and color matching. It’s definitely the easiest game we played and is probably appropriate for even younger children. We easily won the first round, so we started moving the raven on to the next spot for the next round and won again. Easily my proudest moment of the day was when, after winning, my son took fruit out of the basket to give to the raven because he wanted to make sure the raven got something to eat!

We got our puzzle done first! Photo by Will James.

We then decided to try to upgrade to slightly more advanced games to get a good feel for what we could get away with. We decided to give Puzzle Battle: Jungle since our son loves puzzles. Puzzle Battle is essentially speed puzzling against your opponent. My son and I were a team against my wife. The trick is that each person or team has the same picture but flipped horizontally. All of the puzzle pieces go in a pile in the middle of the table and each player works frantically to build their puzzle. I was actually surprised at how well my son did even if he did keep helping the opposing team: “Here’s a piece for you, mommy.” The only downside to a game like this is that my son loves puzzles so much that he will do the same one over and over until its easy for him, so I can see long-term replayability going away fairly quickly for him.

Pengoloo was fun but too easy for the adults and too difficult for my son. Photo by Will James.

I upped the ante a bit more and broke out Pengoloo. In Pengoloo, 12 penguins are placed in the center of the table. Each penguin has a colored egg that it is sitting on. There are two dice with colored faces. Each player rolls the dice and then tries to find the penguins with that color egg. If a player guesses correctly, he gets the penguin. The first player to six (or the player with the most penguins in the event all penguins are taken) wins. Pengoloo is an advanced memory game as it combines both memorizing where the colors are along with dice rolling and turn taking. While my son loved rolling the dice and playing with the penguins that could cover their eggs, he wasn’t quite ready for this one yet. We’ll probably try it again next month, though.

Gobbling was all he wanted to do. Photo by Will James.

The last game we tried was Gobblet GobblersGobblet Gobblers is a unique, fun take on tic-tac-toe. The game is played very similarly in that your goal is to get three in a row of your color with the exception that a bigger gobbler can be placed on top of a smaller one of either player’s color. This adds a lot of complexity to game–unfortunately, too much complexity for our two-year-old. Although he didn’t understand the rules, he did have a blast making the gobblers eat each other.

Our family game night was a huge success. We all enjoyed almost all of the games we played, and now, almost a week later, not only does my son still talk about some of the games we played, but, every morning we drive by the store on the way to daycare, my son asks if we can go there again. It’s nice to set a goal and have it be successfully executed. Now I just need to make sure we stick to it for 11 more months.

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