#TableTopTuesday – Gaming With Your Family Over the Holiday

thanksgivingwhquestionChris: Hello, and welcome to another edition of Tabletop Tuesday! We took last week off because we are all insane and have lives to live. Luckily, here we are again, just in time to chase wild turkey through the woods for dinner this weekend.
Vince, I heard that your family butchers a live turkey out of tradition. Is this true? (Source: Derek)
Vince: Well, you should definitely check your sources. We haven’t done that for a couple of years.
Derek: I also really did hear on the radio about a family who plays ping pong with pots and pans every Thanksgiving. Also, our church plays football with an uncooked (but still wrapped) turkey. My family just pigs out and argues, like you’re supposed to.

What We’ve Been Playing

15056551_1804210133178638_7918029530256637952_nChris: I was in Dallas for work two weeks ago, so I got really behind on gaming. I did, however, get to see Magnolia Farms. It’s that store run by Chip and Joanna Gaines, from the Fixer Upper. If you are married, your wives probably only watch this show.
Anyway, while on the trip, I learned and played a couple tiny dice games, namely: Roll for It, and Rolling America. Hint: Only one of these is worth your time and it’s not Roll for It.
As soon as I got back from Texas, I spent the weekend at our local gaming convention in Fort Wayne: Pentacon. To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed, but my views are tainted because I’ve been spoiled with Origins and GenCon, so you can’t really compare them. I’m very interested in teaching and running games next year instead of going as an attendee. Mostly because I think it’s neat we have a local con, and I think the local gaming community should support and build it up.
At Pentacon, I did find an $8 copy of Modern Art, from Reiner Knizia. Similar to Master’s Gallery, actually.
Derek: Holy crap, another game about art. Why is this a thing for us in 2016?
Chris: No one knows. I’m just glad I found a ridiculously cheap copy of an out of print game from Knizia.
pic632435_mdI also got to play At the Gates of Loyang, which is a great game. 
The Gates of Loyang puts players in control of vegetable farmers, responsible for providing fresh produce at the gates of the mighty, ancient Chinese city, Loyang. It has tons of lovely wooden veggie components, fine card art, and a unique player tableau. Essentially, you need to spend all of your money to make more money, and you need to do this in order to move up a “track of prosperity.” Whoever gets furthest by the end of nine rounds wins.
You are doing a lot of growing (a la Agricola) of vegetables in your own personal fields, and you must be smart with how you allocate veggies. You will get consistent customers, and one-time shoppers, both of which require specific vegetables to pay you. In addition, there are also one-time use special workers that can steal veggies from other players, or reap fields early, etc. Tons of cool things going on, and lucky for you, we are getting a reprint soon, so if you love vegetables and hugging gates, this is the game for you.
Oh, I didn’t say this, but I really liked this game. Tons of fun, interesting decisions to make, Uwe Rosenburg, etc.
Derek: Okay, but is it as good as Bohnanza? And also as someone from Indiana, I still can’t get behind wanting to play games about farming. We already do that in real life.
Chris: Ah, Bohnanza. The only thing Loyang is missing is stink beans. Also, my parents would take offense to that. They also fish.
pic1429167_mdDerek: I’m going to talk about teaching a game but not playing it. Every fall, I teach Discrete Math for Computer Science. A huge part of that class is on logic, truth tables, valid arguments, and so on. Each year I have taken a class day to teach the students The Resistance. We just played again yesterday, and it’s been a hit all three years. Fortunately, most are gamers and many have played it before.
Although good play involves a fair amount of lying, that’s somewhat the point. I illustrate the concepts from the game through a homework set of puzzles, which you can find in this teaching article I did on the activity. The main point of making them play it is to show how convincing someone can be when they make valid arguments (the conclusion follows from the premises) that aren’t valid (the argument is based on a lie). Of course, just change over to your Facebook tab and you can see what I meme mean.
Chris: The Resistance is probably my least favorite game ever, but I’m very glad you’ve found a good use for it in the classroom. I love seeing games make themselves useful educationally. Vince, what games have you been playing?
Vince: I’ve actually spent a lot of time playing games in the past two weeks. I learned how to play Shadows Over Camelot, which is a game about King Arthur and his knights of the round table in a struggle against the forces of evil.
Chris: Oh my. I love this game. I’ve played it dozens of times. Extremely fun.
socVince: Players can go on quests to obtain the Holy Grail, the famed sword Excalibur, or to defeat the Black Knight among others. Good wins by completing quests and as a result, placing white swords on the round table, evil prevails when quests are failed or abandoned. As a result, black swords get placed on the round table. If seven black swords are placed, evil wins. There’s also siege engines to worry about. If twelve of these are placed on the board, the game is automatically over and evil wins.
Chris: My initial love for this game stems from the suspense of whether or not a player at the table is evil and trying to thwart the game. I’ve since played plenty of traitor-based games, but Shadows over Camelot holds a special place in my heart.
Derek: This game is pretty solid and was my first traitor game, but has been supplanted by The Resistance, proving yet again that Chris is wrong about everything ever.
Chris: We are currently pursuing recommendations for Derek psychologists to help Derek get off the crazy pills he’s been taking. Let us know in the comments section if you have any thoughts.
pic3029488_mdVince: I also learned Imhotep; you’ll see a review from me soon. The setting is ancient Egypt. The game is played over six rounds where players take one of four actions on their turn: procure more stones from the quarry, place a stone on a ship, sail ships to a build site, or play an action card. Once the four ships have each been sailed to a build site, the round ends and a new round begins. Once the sixth round is finished, the points are tallied, and the player with the most points wins the game. Imhotep requires players to think ahead and strategically plan out their moves before they make them. I’ve played it several times and I’m really looking forward to reviewing it.
Derek: I also played Imhotep several times recently. An important thing to note is that players share ships, and you can even send ships off that do not contain any of your stones. There is a high level of screwage in this game, but it’s “giving you things you didn’t want” rather than ruining you with attacks or negative points. It’s an incredible game for how quick and streamlined it is. This year’s picks for Spiel des Jahres—Codenames, Karuba, Imhotep—are the best trio they’ve ever picked, in my opinion.

Question of the Week: How do you get your family to play games over the holidays?

Chris: When it comes to gaming, holidays can be one of two things to people: A great time to game, or something everyone dreads. Usually, if a family is full of gamers, they can’t wait to get around a table, or bring the newest “hotness” for the holidays. Personally, I burned my family by making them play the Seafarers expansions alongside a 4-player board for Catan (we played with six people). Oops.
14592045_1140858546000336_2919501274971897856_n1I also hit them with other games that maybe were not the best examples for light gamers like my parents are. My sisters are mostly uninterested in gaming, so I think I messed up. My family would dread the games I would bring home because of this. Later, I rectified this (albeit, with more experience) and brought SiXes and Codenames. They were smash hits. They couldn’t stop playing. In fact, my mom purchased her own copy of SiXes because of it. What about you guys? Have you had similar missteps at family gatherings?
Derek: Oh, when I got in the hobby, I shoved new games on everyone, all the time. Bad idea. Now most of them don’t want to play games with me. Also oops. Don’t be us.
It’s a better idea just to play games to their style or games they already enjoy, like for us, Euchre and Rummy. Now that I’ve got some party games each sides enjoys, I don’t intend on asking them to branch out much more. With my family, we play Wits & Wagers Family, and with my in-laws, we play Time’s Up! and Codenames. Time’s Up! is a hoot. Also, one time my dad made me look up a game-deciding answer in Wits & Wagers because he refused to believe the card…
Vince: My family, with the exception of my sister and her husband, are all extremely casual gamers. We don’t game often, but when we do, it’s either Monopoly or Shang Hai, which is extremely similar to Phase 10. I’ve tried to get them into some different games, but to no avail.
I agree that in order to get family to play, play games according to their style and likes—games they already know and enjoy. I’ve found that my family isn’t crazy about spending the limited time we have together learning a new game, but like I said earlier, they don’t exactly share my love of gaming.
This is going to sound terrible, but peer pressure is a good way (at least for my family) to get them to play games over the holidays. As I mentioned earlier, myself, my wife, my sister, and her husband are all pretty avid gamers; we play games pretty much anytime we get together. The four of us can pretty well convince other members of the family to play a game. On the flip side of this strategy, one of the things that keeps my family from playing is the question of whether or not we will have enough people to have an enjoyable game. Well, there’s four of us already, depending on the game, we can have a pretty good sized group sitting around the table to play something and ultimately make some pretty hilarious memories.
Chris: Vince, that note about making hilarious memories rings true with my family. Again, as I mentioned, not hugely into games, but I’ll never forget when we played The Game of Things one Thanksgiving. No time to recall the whole story here, but the point is that from my perspective, if the mood is right, games can make hysterical and great memories. Especially more so than gathering around the TV to watch college football. Here, we can interact (especially if you play interactive party games like Codenames, or Telestrations).
Derek: And that segues to my real advice: don’t make your family play complicated games. By that I mean Catan or above. Play party games. We have some hilarious memories with Time’s Up!, Dixit, Codenames, and the like. Even if my family was into more complicated games, you get to know them a bit better personally if you share witty jokes and laughter, and it brings you a little closer together than if you played something more competitive.
Vince: I absolutely agree, Derek. My final word of advice when attempting to get family to play games over the holidays is to remove any and all distractions. Put down the phones, turn off the TV, and get around a table and just have a good time with some party games like Derek mentioned. My family typically doesn’t play games because there’s something else they’d rather do, namely watching something on TV. It’s frustrating, and it’s no small feat, but if you can just get them to turn the TV off, convincing them to sit down and play a game should be a breeze.
What’s gaming over the holiday like with YOUR family? Sound off in the comments or on Facebook!
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Derek Thompson

I've been a board game reviewer since 2011. I love card-driven games and party games. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach the subject at Taylor University in Upland, IN. My wife and kids are my favorite gaming partners.

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