PopeBrain's Game Diary 2014 (with the kids too!)
Brian Schlichting
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In 2014, I decided to make a specific effort to play more games with my kids, set aside nerdy ME time, and talk Sarah into spending more time with me and my cardboard.

This list is at times touching moments with my kids, at times frustration, at times a brag book, at times a confession of just how nerdy and obsessed I am with this hobby. But it's somewhere between the interaction with family and friends, and the tactile process of playing games that I really enjoy the most. Of course, I have CRITERIA. No surprise. This list will have any board game or video game that I play with someone face to face - kids, family, friends, colleagues, and occasionally random strangers. Online games don't count unless one of my opponents is in the same room with me. No solo games - not that I am likely to do much of that this year anyway.

I want to push around that cardboard, calculate my odds, roll those dice, push my luck, outsmart my friends, and use my imagination. I want to teach my kids lessons, watch them get excited, and feel impressed and proud when they do something like... roll the die, call it a "die" (not a dice) and recognize that they just rolled a 4! "Yeah buddy, that's a 4 alright."

This year my son Henry is 3, and will turn 4 in the fall. My daughter Katie is 1 and will turn 2 in the summer. My nephew Ethan is 10, and turns 11 this month. Most of the rest of us are on the wrong side of 40.

This is the year. Game hobby reboot!
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1. Board Game: Forbidden Island [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:584]
Brian Schlichting
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Elk River
Minnesota
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January 1, 2014

We had finished dinner with Andrea and Greg, but they had to take Andy to the hospital. Bad night for their 285th trip to the hospital at -17F! It turned out Andy was OK, but it was a scary affair all around!

After they left, we decided to relax and ring in the new year to some games. We played Lost Cities and Triumvirate, and just before New Years, started a game of Matt Leacock's Forbidden Island.



It's a cooperative game, so Sarah and I managed to collect all 4 treasures from the island and escape together on the helicopter victorious!
 
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2. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2733]
Brian Schlichting
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Minnesota
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January 1, 2014

When the kids were up in the morning, we had the entire day to enjoy!

We played Go Away Monster! just before lunch.



To my absolute DELIGHT it was my 18 month old daughter that (repeatedly) asked for the game. "goway monthter, goway monthter, goway monthter, goway monthter...." How could I say no to THAT!

In this game, each player has a cardboard drawing of a bedroom. There is a blank spot for four pieces to decorate the room - a bed, a lamp, a picture, and a teddy bear.

In the cloth bag, there are matching cardboard cutouts of beds, lamps, pictures, and teddy bears for everyone. There are also a number of monsters in the bag that have shapes very similar to (but just different from) the other objects.

Each turn, you pick out one piece. If it is a bed, lamp, picture, or teddy, you can decorate your room with it (if you don't have one) or share it with someone who doesn't have one. If it is a monster, you say "Go Away Monster!" and throw it in the box. The game ends when all the pieces have been drawn from the bag, so everyone's room is decorated and the monsters have all been given the boot!
 
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3. Board Game: Don't Break the Ice [Average Rating:4.71 Overall Rank:15284]
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January 1, 2014

This is my 3 year old son Henry's current favorite, and he asks to play a game or two most nights.

I never let him win outright, and today he kicked my butt with 3 wins in a row. He's getting good at this!

For the first time, he exhibited some finesse when knocking out some blocks. Also, near the end of the games, he was choosing one of the very few blocks left that would not cause catastrophe - maybe even on purpose! Maybe.
 
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4. Board Game: Boom Boom Balloon [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:6329]
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January 2, 2014

Jay came over for my first big geeky game day of 2013. I couldn't very well have a game day and leave Henry completely out of it!



Me, Jay, and Henry played this one before Henry's bedtime. I think it was really big for him to be part of daddy's game night, and totally worth starting early and including him!
 
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5. Board Game: Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:239]
Brian Schlichting
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January 2, 2014

Jay brought me a Christmas gift! I played A LOT of Blood Bowl (first edition) in the 80's, then on DOS PC in the 90's, and then on Windows XP with the Legendary Edition. When the computer is handling all of the little nitpicky rules, I really like the game! And I am a total sucker for the theme/teams. I miss my Elfheim Eagles already, but they brought in some great teams for this edition.

And I REALLY like it! It's a TAKE THAT card game with all of my old Dwarf and Goblin buddies. It was good to see Griff Oberwald on the pitch again. The legendary plays are there, the dirty plays are there, the humor is there. The endless nitpicky rules are not there.



I think I will play this one many times!
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6. Board Game: King of Tokyo [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:227]
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January 2, 2014

We ended the evening with my first few plays of King of Tokyo, jumping right into the POWER UP! expansion with the evolution cards.

We immediately included the optional rule of starting with one evolution card.



Of course, this game really doesn't shine as a two player game - so this was really more familiarizing me with the game. But I did see great possibilities, especially if I can get 5 or 6 players on this one.

I think this one will make it to an ICS game night one day! I also think my family will could enjoy this one, especially Ethan. It's basically Yahtzee meets Godzilla meets King Kong.
 
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7. Board Game: Stronghold [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:551]
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January 3, 2014

We started the day with Stronghold. I was REALLY excited about trying this new game that I got in a trade. I got up early to read over the rules again, set up the game, and tried to play out a few scenarios to get the rules and possible hiccups anticipated. I spent 3 hours doing this in solitude. I thought that would be enough.



We played 2 games in succession, very slowly. The rules in some cases are pretty vague, and very hard to follow. We now think we played it fundamentally wrong both games, as I interpreted the rules to mean that I could only bring 5, 7, or 12 units "out of" camp per turn depending on your phase 6 action selections. Marksmen and cannons killed a lot of troops before they even got to the walls at that pace. Basically if you don't mount a pretty competent assault by turn 7 or 8, the invader loses for sure. I was not even close.

Even the BGG posts upon posts never really clarify the rule directly, other than a few users declaring what they believe is right, and the designer responding with a vague reply that may or may not confirm the poster's position. We decided the whole discussion "must" mean that you can bring 5,7,12 units FROM EACH rampart, then FROM EACH foreground, then TO EACH foreground (and/or Barbican).

Needless to say, I found the whole thing frustrating, as I spent most of the endgame trying to determine what I fundamentally missed in the basic play of the game to be so totally out of contention.

That said, I really think there is a good game in here once we iron everything out - so I'm not giving up on it yet. But this kind of thing traditionally kills games in my house. We will see if I can get it back on the table.
 
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8. Board Game: Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game – Sudden Death [Average Rating:7.81 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.81 Unranked]
Brian Schlichting
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January 4, 2014

After a long evening of Stronghold, we decided it was time to go back to Blood Bowl: Team Manager. Jay had included the Sudden Death expansion in my present, so we decided to go into that. It was great! We started with a game I was impressed with yesterday - and made it much better with this expansion. A new league with 3 new teams that were sorely missed. Check! New cards without too many new rules. Check.

ENCHANTED BALLS! Those two words are great on so many levels.

The balls with fan points are the best. I can hear goblins cheering in my head every time possession changes. Great stuff!

We hammered out 3 games before being too bleary eyed to continue at 4 AM.
 
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9. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2733]
Brian Schlichting
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January 5, 2014

"goway monthter, goway monthter, goway monthter" I hope I never forget that.

Sarah opened the living room cabinet door. Katie spotted Go Away Monster! Our fate was sealed.

We played as a family of 4 this time. When Katie plays the game, she sometimes takes her turn exactly right. Sometimes she will reach in the bag, and grab exactly one piece. Sometimes she will recognize it is a piece she needs, and put it in the right spot. If it is the lamp or teddy bear, she will even get the orientation right. Sometimes she will know it is one she had, and share it. Sometimes she will see a monster and throw it right in the box. She can do every part of this game... sometimes. Other times she grabs the bag from Henry, takes a handful of pieces out, or simply gets too distracted to play for awhile. "hat, hat, hat, hat, hat" --- OK Katie, you can go get your hat.....
 
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10. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2733]
Brian Schlichting
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January 6, 2014

Sarah had a night out with friends tonight, so I had the kids. After dinner, I "accidentally" let Katie see inside the cabinet... and so it begins. "goway monthter, goway monthter...."

This time, I pulled out the video camera and set it on the tripod to record the whole experience. For a dad that loves this stuff, I got a great video. But due to basic incompetence, our heads are cut off for the whole video - so you see the actual boardgame play for the whole game, and the kids heads bob down to play the game occasionally. But what is funny is we capture neck-down, the entire interaction between the 42 year old dad, 3 year old son, and 18 month old daughter playing a game of "Go Away Monster!" Complete with fights for the turns, hiding pieces, distractions, everything. It has a certain allure for dad.

I need to take another, better video.
 
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11. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2733]
Brian Schlichting
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January 7, 2014

I am detecting a pattern here.

I got home from work, and Sarah said Katie has been asking for "goway monthter" all evening, and she kept telling her that she had to wait until daddy came home.

Y'all know what I did when I got home from work.
 
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12. Board Game: Doom: The Boardgame [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:805]
Brian Schlichting
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January 8, 2014

We kicked off a monthly game night at work. I am director of a software engineering team - and half of us are already game nerds. The other half may come around.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/168099/ics-game-night-...
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13. Board Game: Spooky Stairs [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:2155]
 
Brian Schlichting
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January 9, 2014

Boo Who? arrived in the mail today, which I got for the kids. I wanted a memory game that is easier and more fun than the Master Thieves game that I finally decided to let go. This sounded like a good replacement, at least with the advanced rules.



Sarah and I played one two-player of the basic game, just to try it out, deciding whether it will be fun with the kids in a year or two.

It was really simple, and of course we were easily be able to keep track of our own ghosts - so not much of a game. However, it would be plenty of game with such young kids. I think there would be some really surprising moments for them - and US, once the kid-chaos is in the mix.

In this game, you start with a pawn for each player going up a staircase. It's a simple roll and move game, with no cards, no writing on the spaces, nothing. Except.... each pawn has a magnet in it's head - and there are these identical white ghosts that fit over the top of each pawn, and the pawn sticks inside the ghost for the rest of the game when you put it on.

As the game progresses, all the pawns slowly turn into ghosts - and eventually everyone is a white ghost, and you just have to remember who you are. And that is when the dice rolls really matter, because some rolls allow you to switch two player pawns! Better remember which one is yours!

And THEN considering the more advanced option, where you can switch colors in front of the players gave me more hope for some longevity. You would have to keep track of all 4 colors at all times in that case, as opposed to the base game, where you really only need to follow your own pawn.

I have high hopes for this one.
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14. Board Game: Boom Boom Balloon [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:6329]
Brian Schlichting
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January 10, 2014

Henry and I killed a balloon today.

He won ... again.
 
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15. Board Game: Boom Boom Balloon [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:6329]
Brian Schlichting
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January 11, 2014

We needed to get Henry into a game before game night with some friends started. This one often does the trick. Henry won again.
 
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16. Board Game: Canasta [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:2732]
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January 11, 2014

Game night with Bri, Lisa, Sarah & I often ends up being a card game when we have exactly 4. Lisa and Bri won in the fourth hand. We played a consolation hand, which Sarah & I won by a hair.

As rummy games go, this one has a lot of decisions available. We don't play it very often, so we don't have a lot of pre-conceived notions, which make the decisions that much more interesting.
 
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17. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2733]
Brian Schlichting
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January 12, 2014

We were in need of a bribe to let mommy get some sleep this morning. Go Away Monster! is an easy distraction for Katie. It was a pretty scattered game today, and Henry got bored waiting for Katie to do things. We ate up an hour making our way through the game, with lots of tickling and other distractions.
 
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18. Board Game: Boom Boom Balloon [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:6329]
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January 13, 2014

I talked Henry into a game of Boom Boom Balloon as opposed to another TV show before bed. That went over well.

I won the game this time! That doesn't happen much, and it was pretty funny seeing him get startled popping the balloon on the third click of a 3 roll!
 
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19. Board Game: Don't Break the Ice [Average Rating:4.71 Overall Rank:15284]
Brian Schlichting
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January 14, 2014

Henry wanted to play "The Hammer Game" today, so he and I played two games of this one. He again was able to play with some calm and finesse, so I really think he's got the motor skills down for this game. It won't be long before he finds what little strategy there is to find.

We each won a game.
 
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20. Board Game: Don't Break the Ice [Average Rating:4.71 Overall Rank:15284]
Brian Schlichting
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January 15, 2014

This time Henry really wanted to play with the green hammer. He said I could have the yellow hammer. We split two games.
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21. Board Game: Boom Boom Balloon [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:6329]
Brian Schlichting
United States
Elk River
Minnesota
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January 16, 2014

A one balloon limit, as usual. This time, I popped the balloon, but it didn't make much noise and deflated slowly. Henry was a little perplexed.
 
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22. Board Game: Don't Break the Ice [Average Rating:4.71 Overall Rank:15284]
Brian Schlichting
United States
Elk River
Minnesota
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January 17, 2014

It's almost bedtime... just... one... game...

Henry.... WINS!

Shake hands!
 
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23. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2733]
Brian Schlichting
United States
Elk River
Minnesota
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January 18, 2014

This afternoon we played another game of Go Away Monster with the whole family. This time, Katie did surprisingly well! She picked exactly one piece of cardboard out every time. She (mostly) waited her turn. She placed her pieces in the right place on her board, and took care to rotate and line them up in the outline. Mom and Dad were really impressed, and she had big smiles for us the whole time! Seriously, at 19 months, Mom and Dad are ready to declare our little one a genius! laugh
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24. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:313]
Brian Schlichting
United States
Elk River
Minnesota
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January 19, 2014

Last night I finished my home clone project of Mario PitchKart. I was just setting it up complete for the first time, and my son saw the tracks. Wide eyed, he REALLY wanted to play with those tracks - so I promised we would play with them tomorrow.


(not Henry, just a picture from the site)

So I helped him set up a simple track today. We didn't do any rails, just a small loop track and two car tokens. We flicked our way around the track. Henry caught on pretty well. There needed to be constant reminders of "you only flick once, then it's my turn" and "you have to flick the kart when we play the game, not move it around the track".

Henry won the first game, then wanted to dismantle the track and do a new one - so we did. I won the second race. Then he wanted to modify the track - so we did. Henry won the third race.

Overall, it felt like a good experience for him - and that's really all I am going for these days.

He wants to play again someday - and that's all I need to hear!
 
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25. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2733]
Brian Schlichting
United States
Elk River
Minnesota
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January 19, 2014

Katie demanded Go Away Monster! with that charm we just can't say no to. The whole family participated, and we played most of the game before the neighbor's snowblower threw everything off track. We finished the game 10 minutes later, when the "noise noise noise noise noise noise noise" was properly investigated.
 
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