Christmas Gift Shopping Tips

holidays

Hey everyone, happy holidays! I hope your days are filled with Holiday cheer, laughter, fun with family, and all around merriment. That being said, I’m sure there is also plenty of stress planning for relatives, figuring out vacation plans, and of course the worst thing of all: gift shopping. I’m obviously not saying that giving gifts is a bad thing, but if you’re like me then you definitely have had plenty of years when everything was done last minute.

live-dangerously

Last year I wrote an article about ten great board games to buy as last minute Christmas Gifts. This year I wanted to throw out a couple ideas for good ways to get quality gifts for your friends and family with time to spare. Hopefully you’re all finished with your shopping this year, but if not I hope these tips will help you look in the right place this week. So without further ado, here is Christmas Shopping Tips Round 2, Electric Boogaloo!

Amazon Prime is your Friend

I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single gift I bought for Christmas this year was off of Amazon. It’s mind boggling to me how they are able to provide so many products atamazon a competitive price, and guarantee that almost all of them can get to you within two days. Am I fishing for a sponsorship right now? Perhaps. But I’m also serious when I say that Amazon can be a lifesaver for busy people who can’t find time to go out to a store and need gifts delivered in a hurry. In addition, if you have an Amazon Prime subscription you can get a number of games (and anything else you can think of buying) with two days free shipping! Just for reference, I did a search for board games on Amazon and was able to find the following games right away:

Check Websites for Holiday Sales

It’s hard to deny that board games can get expensive, especially newer ones. Luckily enough, around the holidays most businesses take advantage of the holiday rush and provide big sales to incentivize people to buy their products. You see this as early as Black Friday, but a lot of deals stay valid until all the way through to Christmas Day. If you want to see what type of discounts are available before going shopping, most stores now have an online catalog on their website with information about the sales that are going on. This is more common with large stores rather than small businesses, but it still is helpful to know how much you’ll spend before you walk into the store. I recommend checking out Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us to see what sales they offer.

Local Stores have a Larger Stock

If you’re lucky enough to have a local game store near you, I highly recommend going to see their selection if you get a chance. They might not have exactly what you’re looking for when you first walk in, but they probably have a lot of good alternatives and their game selection will be much larger than any other chain store in the area. On top of that, supporting small businesses is always a worthwhile venture, so if you have the opportunity don’t skip out on checking them out!

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Board Game of the Week- Bards Dispense Profanity

Before I get into the game review portion of this post, I wanted to share some good news with everybody. A month ago, I had one of the best moments of my life when I asked my Girlfriend to marry me- for some crazy reason she said yes, so I am officially engaged! It is definitely a moment I will cherish forever, and not just because I asked her in the middle of a Laser Tag session (yes, we are nerds) but also because of the pure joy we both had in the idea that we will get to spend the rest of our lives together. OK, now back to what you’re all here for, reading reviews about new games that you can judge vicariously through me!

bards-game

I got Bards Dispense Profanity as a gift for my fiancée- she is an English major and I had read good things about it, so I figured it was worth a try. We tried it out with my roommates a few nights ago, and it didn’t disappoint. As you probably guessed, this game is a parody of Cards Against Humanity, the popular card game where you play inappropriate cards to try and get hilarious reactions out of the group. The game mechanics are exactly the same as CAH- you take turns playing as judge, the judge picks out a “prompt card” and the other players play a card to fill in the blank of the prompt card. The judge then reviews the cards and chooses the one he/she thinks is best, whether that is funniest, most accurate, or basically whatever they feel like choosing. The way that Bards Dispense Profanity varies is that the game’s play cards are all direct quotes from Shakespeare plays. For those of you who don’t know much about Shakespeare’s writing style, it may look fancy but in reality it is quite dirty. This can lead to some very entertaining answers, especially to people well versed in the Hamlets and Much Ado about Nothings of the world.

bards-cards

The best part of the game that I found was that it is a fresh take on a game I already know and understand. I didn’t have to learn how to play the game, I simply opened up the box and dealt out the cards, and we were off to the races. It’s nice playing a game bards-rulesor the first time and feeling like everybody knows what to do, and even better it doesn’t feel like the same game you’ve always played because of the new cards and style. I also appreciate that the game is a bit more highbrow in its profanity- in no way does the game avoid dirty jokes, but it does find a way to make them more intellectual. Finally, the game is a great for social events and can be played with any number of players.

The downsides to the game parallel the issues with CAH- the gameplay can get stale on multiple play-throughs and there is no defined stopping point for the game. Also, even though I appreciate the fact that the game mechanics were identical to CAH, I do wish that they had added another component somehow. Similar game styles can feel like rip-offs very easily, and while the different cards are fun new content I feel like that’s the only draw of the game. Finding a different style or some new element would make the game more interesting. The closest they got is that some of the prompt cards direct you to judge based on other player’s preferences, which was a cool idea, but was not used enough to be a big part of the game.

bards-why-not

If you’re looking for some adult but classy fun, I think Bards Dispense Profanity is a pretty good choice. While it mirrors other games already in existence, it does bring its own flair and can be a great time for people who are fans of literature. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find the nearest performance of Macbeth…

Jack’s Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Codenames

codenames-all-cards

  • Game Title: Codenames
  • Release Date: 2015
  • Number of Players: 2-8
  • Average Game Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Czech Games Edition
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/178900/codenames
  • Game Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
  • Expansions/Alternates: No
  • Available in Stores: Yes

 

I have seen plenty of reviews of the game Codenames online, and it looked like everybody enjoyed the game as a whole. I put the game on my list to try a long time ago and never got a chance until this past weekend, when I went to a Birthday party with a group of board game enthusiasts. We divided up into two teams and ended up playing two rounds before moving on to other activities, and I thoroughly enjoyed both rounds and the game strategy as a whole. At first I thought that you needed an even number of people to play, but after playing I do believe you could have an odd number of players if you really wanted to.

codenames-agent-cards

Codenames is a two-team competitive card based game focused on one team member providing clues to the other team members that relate to specific code names. The game is set up by placing 25 “agent” cards down in a 5×5 row- these cards have a word on them, which is the code name of the agent. Then the team members chosen as Spymasters choose a Map card that shows which agent is on which team. Only the spymasters are allowed to see the map card. The map is set up to show which of the cards on the 5×5 grid are red agents, blue agents, civilians and the assassin. The object of the game is for the spymaster to provide a one-word clue to their team that relates to as many of the codenames as possible that are assigned to their team color. The other team members then guess which code name (or code names) the spymaster is trying to get you to choose. If the team is able to find all of their teams’ agents, they win. However, if they choose the opposing team’s agent, that agent is revealed and the other team has one less word to guess correctly. Guessing a civilian doesn’t hurt, but it does end your turn and leaves you unable to guess again if you wanted to. Guessing the assassin means that your team automatically loses, so the assassin should be avoided at all costs.

The biggest part about this game is the strategy of choosing words both as the spymaster and a team member. For the spymaster, the goal is to choose a word clue that can be linked to multiple agents on your team without misleading your team and causing them to choose the other team’s card or the assassin. There is also strategy in choosing a word that only could apply to one card, making sure that there isn’t any misunderstanding and effectively “playing it safe”. On the other side, the team members choosing the agents must strategically choose how many cards, and which cards, they want to choose. They can choose one card they are sure of, or they can choose multiple cards and take more of a risk. This is usually dependent on which team is winning and how confident you are that your spymaster is indicating a certain card.

codenames-cards-close-up

The most impressive thing about this game is the sheer number of variations: the game consists of numerous code name cards and map cards, so the possibilities of the cards on the grid and the options for agent card layouts are effectively limitless. The game encourages teamwork and strategy and is great for groups of close friends and strangers alike. Finally, the game is easy to set up and quick to play, so it is a perfect party game. The one downside I could think of with the game is the fact that while you can play with an odd number of players, ultimately it is easier/better to play with an even number so that no team gets an advantage. There are also a number of “player’s choice” rules revolving the hints that can be made, such as using Pronouns, that need to be addressed before the game starts. If your group forgets to go over these rules, it can cause confusion.

Overall I recommend Codenames as a great party game with a lot of fun strategy in a simple package. While the game says up to 8 players, you could certainly find a way to include more people if you choose, making it ideal for larger groups. In addition, the game can be played in small groups with the same effect, so don’t skip on it with 3-4 players either.

codenames-box

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Zombicide

zombicide-cover

  • Game Title: Zombicide
  • Release Date: 2012
  • Number of Players: 1-6
  • Average Game Time: 45-180 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Guillotine Games
  • Website: https://zombicide.com/en
  • Game Designer: Raphael Guiton
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Online

I got my copy of Zombicide way back in February, but didn’t get a chance to play the game because it looked so complicated and I wanted to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to learning the rules. The game sat on my shelf and was passed over for games like Hanabi, Exploding Kittens, and Ticket to Ride all spring and summer. Finally I was able to try it out last weekend with my roommates and my girlfriend. Not long after opening the box, I realized that I had truly missed out on playing an amazing gem of a game before that night.

zombicide-pieces

Zombicide is an in-depth, interactive cooperative game based on surviving the zombie apocalypse and achieving specific mission objectives. The game has ten missions, each of which has a different board layout and strategy, so it is a completely different experience every time you play. The game is very intense; the rulebook is about 30 pages long and it took us at least half an hour to get everything set up and ready to play. Still, once we learned the game mechanics it was the best game I have played in a long time. It plays very similarly to Dungeons and Dragons (yes, I play D&D, are you surprised?) You roll to attack, you gain experience and level up to get more experience zombicide-amypoints, you equip weapons that you find by searching a room/area, and you have the option of trying to be sneaky or barging in guns blazing. The underlying premise is to move from different “zones” on the map and either defeat zombies, find items, or reach objective points depending on the situation at the time. All while this is happening, more zombies are arriving and looking for a way to get to you and eat your brains. There are rules for combat, item usage, and taking damage, and after each turn new challenges form that you have to overcome. Because the game is cooperative, if a character dies your team can still win; it is possible to sacrifice yourself to keep your teammates alive as they reach their mission objective.

Zombicide is a great way to spend an evening for a number of reasons. It is extremely engaging and is set up to add difficulty as the game progresses, creating a fun gaming experience all the way through the mission. Because the game is cooperative, there is a lot of discussion around player actions and what moves everyone should make, which encourages communication and combined strategy. The game is truly immersive, making it easy to get engrossed in a mission and suddenly look at the clock and see it’s 1 AM. And yes, I am speaking from experience… Finally, the artwork and models used for the game are great because they have a fun and unique style. With 4 different types of zombies, 6 player options, and a number of different maps, you see the designer’s talent all over the board with Zombicide.

zombicide-maps

I think the game’s biggest issue would have to be its length. Of the ten missions that are available, only one of them is under an hour (not including the tutorial), and there is one that is listed as being around 3 hours long. The game is set up to be very lengthy and evolving, and while that is a lot of fun it is also difficult to dedicate that much time to a game. It’s definitely more tailored towards hardcore gamers, but it is also a lot of fun for casual players if they are willing to dedicate the time to playing. In addition, the game takes up a lot of space, so it doesn’t work well as a travel game.

Overall, if you’re looking for an intense gaming experience with a high level of difficulty and a great game mechanic, this is the game for you. While not applicable to all situations, I guarantee that if you take the time to learn the game you will have a great time and will want to play it again.

zombicide-logo

Jack’s Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Board Games on a Budget

There have been a lot of positive changes in the board game industry over the past few years. Unfortunately, one of the negative side effects of games becoming more intricate and advanced has been a higher price tag for a number of games. Game pieces have become more intricate, artwork more painstaking, and boards more elaborate as a whole, causing the cost of making the games to rise and consequently the price for the consumer to rise as well. A number of the games that I have mentioned on this blog are sold in the $50+ range, and while I enjoy investing my money in good games I also realize that people on a budget are looking for better options. In response to this, I have put together a list of my favorite games that you can buy for less!

Under $10- Games in this price range are almost always compact and straightforward card games. Card games have a significantly lower production cost than board games, and the straightforward play style means less space needed for rules or additional pieces.

1) Set

  • Price on Amazon: $8.27
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Number of Players: 1-20

2) Hanabi

  • Price on Amazon: $9.77
  • Average Game Time: 25 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-5

3) Pit

  • Price on Amazon: $7.73
  • Average Game Time: 45 minutes
  • Number of Players: 3-8

4) Rook

  • Price on Amazon: $5.50
  • Average Game Time: 45 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-6

5) Loot

  • Price on Amazon: $8.75
  • Average Game Time: 20 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-8

Under $20- These games are slightly more complex than those in the $10 range, but still are primarily card-based and do not have a large amount of additional pieces. The artwork on these games is of good quality and the gameplay is in the easy to mid-range.

1) One Night Ultimate Werewolf

  • Price on Amazon: $17.99
  • Average Game Time: 10 minutes
  • Number of Players: 3-10

2) The Resistance

  • Price on Amazon: $13.00
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Number of Players: 5-10

3) Sushi Go! Board Game

  • Price on Amazon: $14.39
  • Average Game Time: 15 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-5 players

4) Munchkin

  • Price on Amazon: $18.89
  • Average Game Time: 60 minutes
  • Number of Players: 3-6

5) Codenames

  • Price on Amazon: $14.39
  • Average Game Time: 15 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-8

Under $30- If you’re willing to pay up to $30 on a game, you can really find some impressive gems. These games can be quite complex and have a number of different moving parts and pieces, but also keep the boards they use relatively compact in comparison to other games.

1) King of Tokyo

  • Price on Amazon: $28.81
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-6

2) Citadels

  • Price on Amazon: $24.95
  • Average Game Time: 40 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-8

3) Pandemic

  • Price on Amazon: $24.99
  • Average Game Time: 50 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-4

4) Qwirkle

  • Price on Amazon: $24.70
  • Average Game Time: 45 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-4

5) Carcassonne

  • Price on Amazon: $22.39
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2-5

Overall, while playing some of the best games on the market will cost you more, you can find some great value on the cheaper side of the gaming industry too. If you keep an eye out for good deals and understand the level of investment you want to make on board games, you will soon find yourself with an impressive collection without breaking the bank.

Fun Outdoor Board Games

I’ve been to a number of weddings over the past few months, and have realized that large outdoor games have become very popular for receptions and these types of outdoor events. With games like Corn Hole and Bocce Ball becoming commonplace in colleges and vacation spots as well, it got me thinking about the best games that can be played outdoors. There are large-scale versions of a number of board games, but there are also games that are created solely for outdoor play. Here is a list of my top 5 outdoor games from both of these categories:

Large-Size Games

  • Yahtzee- Everyone’s favorite dice rolling game, there are multiple versions of outdoor Yahtzee, or “Yardzee”. The rules of the game are pretty much the same as the original game, but can be played out in a large space.
  • Monopoly-Lifesize Monopoly where the players are the pieces is a pretty fun concept. This is less a game you can buy and bring to a party and more of something that can be found in certain parks and vacation spots.
  • Jenga- While not necessarily an “outdoor game” giant Jenga is available at a number of bars/breweries, parties, and receptions. It is a popular game because of its simplicity and excitement, especially when someone loses!
  • Chess/Checkers- Another popular vacation/park game, outdoor chess and/or checkers have become almost as popular as their regular-sized counterparts. With rules that everyone knows and heavy strategy, these outdoor games are perfect for all ages.
  • Connect 4- This is one game that surprised me during my search for life-sized games. Connect 4, the chip placing game is available for relatively cheap in a large-scale version. This can be used for any number of events.

 

Original Outdoor Games

  • Cornhole- By far the most popular of the outdoor gaming genre, cornhole can be found pretty much anywhere you go outdoors. The object of the game is to throw bean bags onto a slanted cornhole boards; throw them into the small hole in the board and you get extra points.
  • Bocce Ball- Bocce ball has always been fairly popular in Europe, but it feels like it has only picked up in America recently. A game based on strategically throwing heavy balls towards a smaller ball (the “jack”) and the player with the bowls closest to the jack receives points
  • Ladder Toss- In ladder toss, you throw two balls connected to a string (formerly called “bolas”) onto a ladder. You get points for which rung of the ladder you catch your bola on.
  • Quoits (ring toss)- Ring toss is a well-known game in amusement parks, but quoits takes the same concept and makes it more portable for smaller gatherings. The board is set up specially to provide a greater score to certain rings, adding to the difficulty.
  • Croquet- While it tends to take up more space than the other games on this list, Croquet is a very popular outdoor game based on smacking croquet balls through rings in a particular order. You also have the ability to knock other player’s balls out of the way as you move towards the finish.

All of these games, and more, are great additions to a party, wedding, or any other outdoor social event. While some of them will be more expensive and more popular than others, they are all fun games that deserve consideration for your next big even

Different Ways to Buy Board Games

I’ve written about the evolution of board games numerous times on this blog, but I can’t stress enough how different things are than a while ago, especially when it comes to board game purchasing. Local game stores were the main place to buy board games when I was younger, and while they aren’t as common as in the past, you can still find local shops selling board games in most places across the country. Chain stores and Supermarkets also have taken on a wide range of different games and have begun to stock their shelves with newer and more popular games. The biggest change has probably been the Internet, which has taken over a lot of the board game space in the last few years, providing easy access to a large collection of games. So of these three major options for board game purchasing, what are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Each one has its own benefits and drawbacks, so knowing which one makes the most sense for you helps with the game purchasing experience. Here is a list of some of the pros and cons of each way to buy board games:

 

Local Stores:board game shop

Pros

  • Supporting Small Business
  • Greater Knowledge and Expertise of games
  • Meeting other gaming enthusiasts

Cons

  • More expensive than chains and online sales
  • Less accessible, fewer store locations
  • Limited store space and product availability

There isn’t anything like the feeling of walking into a board game shop and browsing through their wares. Local stores can have a great vibe and give the option of learning and playing with other like-minded gamers. Unfortunately because of the local flavor and inability to get products in bulk, prices are usually higher and there are times when the product you are looking for isn’t available. It’s best to use local stores when you are looking for help finding the perfect game, and also want to be sociable and learn about the game industry.

Chain Stores:target board game aisle

Pros

  • Cheaper Prices than local stores
  • More Accessible store locations
  • Can buy other items while buying games (convenience)

Cons

  • Less variety of products offered
  • Limited expertise in games
  • Slow to expand to new game options

Stores like Walmart and Target have been very good at stocking popular board games recently, so being able to buy products in these locations is very convenient. You can buy games along with groceries or household wares, and usually prices are fairly cheap because the stores get good deals on rates. However, supermarkets don’t have the same expertise available and it takes a while for the game options to change, so the variety isn’t really there compared to the other options.

Internet:best sellers page

Pros

  • Largest pool of games available
  • Cheap prices and potential for additional discounts/sales
  • Easiest way to access games

Cons

  • Longer wait for delivery
  • Potential shipping costs
  • No human interaction or assistance with purchase

Ah, the Internet- finding ways to deliver things right to your door so you never have to leave the house. The Internet is the ultimate source for finding that obscure board game not available on the shelves of local stores, and it certainly allows for cheap prices and easy access. There is a longer waiting period once the game is bought though, and ultimately the lack of assistance in buying could cause trouble for newer gamers where they accidentally buy the wrong game for them.

 

It’s important to know the strengths and weaknesses for the different board game buying options. Being able to decide on the best option for you to buy is a great way of ensuring that you get the games you want when you want them and have the best possible experience. Hopefully these different buying methods continue to grow and help expand the board game footprint nationwide.