Games I Have Inflicted on My Family
Mark Watson
United Kingdom
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OK, I have a wife and two daughters, and over the years I've experimented on them, shamelessly, by begging, cajoling, and occasionally just plain telling them to play games with me. I'm going to try and list here what has worked and what hasn't. The daughters are now aged 14 and 16 respectively. My preference is for highly themed games. Theirs is for games that are over as quickly as possible so they can get back to whatever they were doing beforehand.

Here follow the results of those experiments, so far, at least.
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1. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:237] [Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
Mark Watson
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Seriously unpopular. Actually, co-operative gaming (the odd semi-successful game of Descent apart) is unpopular; the family view is that proper games require conflict and a clear winner. This game is really too long (like Descent, Runebound and several other highly themed FFG games) for casual family play.
 
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2. Board Game: BattleLore [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:253]
Mark Watson
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OK, I love this game. The kids will play it, and the elder daughter can beat me at it, but dislikes it (and actually prefers CCA). To a certain extent I think they feel it's a bit too much like Warhammer (and to play it would therefore be embarrassing). The game can also feel unbalanced in some of the scenarios, and my elder daughter still can't get the hang of the lore rules. And she prefers to play the English (being English), but when the dwarves/goblins are introduced the goblins, on the English side, are more difficult to play). My wife has promised to learn it, to avoid having to listen to me wheedling to get an opponent.
 
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3. Board Game: Big Manitou [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:8331]
Mark Watson
United Kingdom
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A dead loss. Recommended in our local games shop, the (normally excellent) Esdevium Games in Aldershot. We set it out, started to play, lost interest within about 5 minutes, gave up.
 
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4. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Mark Watson
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A success. Not sure why we don't play it any more, but it went through a fair amount of play back in the day. Haven't really got into the ensuing expansions.
 
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5. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
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A big success. I've also lent the game to friends and they loved it. Not as popular/in demand as O Zoo le Mio, but probably next on the list. The various expansions haven't proven so popular, but the demand for Settlers games is still high.
 
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6. Board Game: Catan Card Game [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:740]
Mark Watson
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Reasonably popular, along with its expansions. Tends not to get fished out as "the two player game" mainly because I'd prefer Battlelore/CCA, elder daughter would prefer Magic and wife would prefer Lost Cities. Younger daughter would prefer to be playing a multi-player game. Probably a B-.
 
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7. Board Game: Chaos in the Old World [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:95]
Mark Watson
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You know, this game, warhammer themed, played between evil gods on a board designed to look like it is made from flayed skin, might seem somewhat un-promising in a household made up almost entirely of young females. And yet, it did OK. Everyone got into it, and, promising sign, I was beaten into third place. I don't expect them to go out and recommend it to their friends, unless the game is fortuitously and improbably rethemed around the plot of "Little Women" - but it held its own.
 
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8. Board Game: Citadels [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:316]
Mark Watson
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Very popular with the kids, who actually ask for this one. To my knowledge, my wife hasn't played a game since we bought it, which is probably back when the game was published. The kids don't like having the characters with the more cut-throat characteristics, and for that matter don't tend to use them properly when they're in play (we randomly select from each pair so that the game changes around). As a result I don't get so much from it, and am less keen on it.
 
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9. Board Game: Clue [Average Rating:5.65 Overall Rank:7641]
Mark Watson
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Or Cluedo. On the one hand, when things go well everyone loves it. On the other ... what could not go well? OK, here's something that occurs in about one game in two:

Person A: "I suspect Professor Plum, in the Library, with the Candlestick"
(silence)
Person A thinks "Aha!"

...

Person A: "I accuse Professor Plum, in the Library, with the Candlestick"
Person A rummages through envelope, finds Professor Plum, Library, Revolver
Person A: "Uh?"
Person B: "I have the Candlestick"
Person A: "But I said, back there ..."
Person B: "You know that thing you told us never ever ever to do again ...?"

Person B has at some time been every member of my family.
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10. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:752]
Mark Watson
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Reasonably popular, generally seen in our house as a "poor man's Citadels" - i.e. the kids like it but would prefer Citadels if they are going to play something like that, thanks.
 
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11. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:98]
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My elder daughter prefers this game to Battlelore. Again she can win at it (having the chance of winning games is important in all of this). Partly, she prefers the blocks to the figures. Partly, she thinks lore ruins the Battlelore game. Also, she does learn some history (and she is taking latin and history at school).
 
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12. Board Game: Descent: Journeys in the Dark [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:267]
Mark Watson
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Went down surprisingly well with all members of the family, although we only have managed to play part-levels before timing out. Interesting comparison with Runebound, in that the increased level of theme/atmosphere provided enough "hook" for interaction around the game. Main complaint from my wife is around how much space the thing takes up. Haven't got to the expansions yet.
 
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13. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
Mark Watson
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And I quote "that was an hour we just wasted. And then we wasted it again". Sigh.
 
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14. Board Game: Fury of Dracula (second edition) [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:398]
Mark Watson
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I loved the game when it first came out, but I disposed of my original copy. So I bought the new edition. Family didn't like it much - too difficult to track what was going on. It's a relatively difficult game to get the hang of, for a family game. It's not the "cooperate against one player" thing - see Descent - it's more the complexity and that they don't "get" the theme and how it works in the game. I've held off introducing them to Arkham Horror as a result.
 
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15. Board Game: HeroClix [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1765] [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Mark Watson
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Bought enough models on eBay to mount a game. The kids like it (they like comic books), I'm less keen - I'm enough of a nerd that inappropriately combined super-teams doing nothing but fight doesn't "feel" right. Where's the character progression?
 
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16. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:294]
Mark Watson
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The great "couple" game - if there's a two player game with my wife, this is her preference. For me, it's a very abstract game so I can only take so much of it, but it's a good game to play while you're drinking a glass of wine and talking about something else.
 
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17. Board Game: Mage Knight [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:3702]
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I have less issue with this than Heroclix. You can buy *tons* of these on eBay for about a dollar. A very large battle will then take about a day, and you'll hate yourself for wasting a day of your life, but a cavalry charge spreads out very satisfyingly. Not a good substitute though for "proper" skirmish wargaming, and you can now also buy a ton from me for a dollar.

Kids OK with this but prefer heroclix.
 
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18. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:156] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
Mark Watson
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I introduced my elder daughter to this when she was around 8, and she still loves it. We don't do deck design, we don't collect, we just buy the occasional set of pre-constructed decks and play with those. There's enough luck that she can win, and enough strategy that she gets considerable satisfaction from it. The younger daughter is willing to play, but not so proficient as to provide a good game. My wife is astonished that anyone can understand it, and regards it as beyond her (rather than beneath her, so that's a start).
 
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19. Board Game: Manhattan [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:991]
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We don't play this so much now, but it was a success in its day. The vital flaw in the game is that turn order over-effects the result. But it is an exciting game and easy to learn, and dominated a few Xmases a few years back.
 
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20. Board Game: O Zoo le Mio [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1393]
Mark Watson
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Big big success. Almost always requested by my wife when it comes round to family games. We always play the same zoos - wife is villa gorilla, younger daughter is aqua shark, elder daughter croco dome, and naturally I play porky park. There's enough theme in the game to constantly rib the losing (or winning - notably when my wife referred with disgust to "that vulgar expanse at porky park") party, but enough game in the theme that nobody gets dragged down by it. And it's over relatively quickly.
 
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21. Board Game: Quirks [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:5278]
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The kids loved this one, which we tried relatively early, and has gradually converged with the actual rules for the published game, through a number of house rules whereby the distributed components were used to build completely different games. I'm not entirely sure why this can't be in print any more, maybe from Fantasy Flight with plastic components to replace the creature cards ...

This leaves with me with some promising experiments to come, if they can get past the crappy artwork on the Mayfair edition of Cosmic Encounter. And then there's Dune, just sitting there on the shelf .... Hmm ...
 
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22. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
Mark Watson
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Actually this one did broadly OK. There's not as much theme/escapism to this game as the game thinks there is - the various home planets, and cards, have next to no character (ok, there's more character to it than Dominion has, for all the cool mechanisms in that game) and the first expansion feels like a serious rip-off, but it's a diverting game. Ultimately, though, a card game which doesn't quite manage to achieve its theme is, for me, Uno with fancy graphics.
 
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23. Board Game: River Dragons [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1551]
Mark Watson
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Was well received on its first outing, apart from by our younger daughter, who announced that it gave her a headache. We really ought to drag this one out again and re-test the medical effects. I recommended this to a friend at the time, and in fact he converted his family into Eurogaming through it, and then had some of HIS friends convert their own families, so in terms of viral impact this one has probably been our most successful. Just not in our own house.
 
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24. Board Game: Runebound (Second Edition) [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:693]
Mark Watson
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The kids think it's OK but overlong. My wife hates it because it's tedious, however long it is. I'm in between those positions. The race mechanisms (it's basically a race game), and the various options for extension, are ingenious. However to work this game has to be both rich in its theme and also true to it. The game world and the basic adventure are slapdash grade Z fantasy with next to no characterisation or sense of place. The movement dice don't add as much theme or variation as they detract from gameplay. Most of the characters don't really differentiate from one another in terms which are pertinent to the game. I hate the cardboard blood/stamina counters, though by and large the production values are good. In particular, given that the game is basically a series of encounters made up of combat rounds, the combat mechanism is far too abstract and devoid of atmosphere. I haven't given up on it completely because I think there's a great game in there waiting to get out, or a great half-a-game trapped by its evil other half.
 
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25. Board Game: Space Hulk [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:430]
Mark Watson
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Another game that I love, but which is roundly hated in the family. The problem is that the kids will insist on playing the marines (as the "goodies"), but as we all know the marines are going to get slaughtered 9 times out of 10. Comes back to kids being unforgiving of games they don't have a good chance of winning.
 
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