Board Games: A Good Reason to Gather

Are board games the cure for what ails ya?

According to Quartz writer Annaliese Griffin, they just might be.

She suggests that board games provide a “temporary respite from the problems of 21st-century life.”

By bringing people together — something often lacking from today’s increasingly isolated lifestyles where people interact more through social media than face-to-face engagement — board games become a community builder, a catalyst for socialization.

From the article:

A good board game builds in enough chance so that any reasonably skilled player can win. Even in chess, famously associated with warfare and military strategy, the emphasis is not on who ultimately wins, but on the ingenuity that players display in the process.

In all of these ways, board games release players — however temporarily — from the maxim that life is divided into clear, consistent categories of winners and losers, and that there is a moral logic as to who falls into which category. As film and media studies professor Mary Flanagan tells The Atlantic, board games prompt us to reflect on “turn-taking and rules and fairness.”

[Image courtesy of Catan Shop.]

What’s interesting to me about the article is that she mentions Euro-style games like Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne — which are two of the industry leaders, no doubt — but still games that pit players against each other.

What’s interesting to me about an article that’s meant to be about how board games can make you “a nicer person with better relationships” is that the author focuses exclusively on competitive games. I am a huge fan of a smaller subsection of board games — cooperative games — which invite the players to team up against the game itself. You collaborate, strategize, and work together to overcome challenges, succeeding or failing as a group.

In cooperative games, the glow of your successes are heightened because you get to share them with your teammates. And the failures don’t sting as much for the same reason.

[Image courtesy of Analog Games.]

Co-op games like SpaceTeam, Castle Panic!, Forbidden Island, The Oregon Trail card game, and Pandemic — not to mention many roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons — reinforce the positive, social qualities of all board games. I highly recommend checking them out.

And with the rise of board game cafes like The Uncommons in New York and Snakes and Lattes in Toronto, plus play areas at conventions like Gen Con and events at your Friendly Local Game Shop, there are more opportunities than ever to engage in some dice rolling camaraderie.

You can even make it a regular thing. Every Wednesday, we play a game at lunch time, and it quickly became one of the highlights of the week. (This week, we celebrated winning Forbidden Desert on our Instagram account! I always intend to post something every Game Wednesday, but I often forget because I’m so focused on playing the game.)

Take the time out to enjoy puzzles and games. You won’t regret it.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Hall of Fame edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of Dungeons & Dragons!

I’ve written about Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games in the past, because I think they are a wonderful, underappreciated part of the world of puzzles and games. Some of the best and most satisfying riddles and puzzles I’ve ever solved were an integral part of a game of D&D.

So I’m excited to announce that Dungeons & Dragons has been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame!

Housed at The Strong National Museum of Play, the National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes those products and improvised toys that have played a crucial role in the development of children and teens.

Whether they assist in hand-eye coordination, storytelling, deduction, athletics, or creativity, they are all classic examples of toys tied to fond memories of childhood. Previous inductees include the Rubik’s Cube (2014), Hot Wheels (2011), the Radio Flyer Wagon (1999), Jacks (2000), and Play-Doh (1998).

And I for one think Dungeons & Dragons is a very worthy addition to this club.

From the induction notice:

Dungeons & Dragons and its imitators actually changed the nature of play.

In Dungeons & Dragons players assume the roles of characters who inhabit a world moderated and narrated by a Dungeon Master, a player who explains the action to others and solicits their reactions to the unfolding story. The Dungeon Master’s storytelling skills and the players’ abilities to imagine add enjoyment to the game. Some aspects of the play are familiar, such as dice. But the special dice for Dungeons & Dragons hold up to 20 sides. Rolling them determines each character’s individual strengths, plots their complex interactions, and decides the outcome of their encounters.

More than any other game, Dungeons & Dragons paved the way for older children and adults to experience imaginative play. It was groundbreaking. And it opened the door for other kinds of table games that borrow many of its unique mechanics.

For over forty years, Dungeons & Dragons has been synonymous with roleplaying, collaborative storytelling, and good old-fashioned sword-swinging derring-do. And I think it’s fantastic that it’s getting some long-overdue recognition for the positive role it has played in so many people’s lives.

Congratulations to you, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax. Thank you for hours and hours of brilliant, engaging fun.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: TableTop Day edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of puzzly holidays!

Saturday, April 11 is the third annual International TableTop Day, a day that has been set aside for family and friends to get together and play games. Board games, card games, role-playing games, puzzles… anything that involves gathering in person and having fun around a table fits the bill!

Although the actual holiday is tomorrow, we’re celebrating early around here! The PuzzleNation Crew is getting together with our friends from Penny/Dell Puzzles for a few hours of TableTop Day fun this afternoon!

[A few of the games we’ll be partaking in today.]

I’ll be posting pics on social media throughout the day, and there will be a full recap in Tuesday’s blog post!

Not only that, but we’ve added two new collections to our library of puzzles for in-app purchase for the Penny Dell Crosswords App! The April 2015 Deluxe Set has 35 puzzles to challenge you, and Collection 5 has a whopping 150 puzzles to choose from! Just in time for TableTop Day!

 

Will you be participating in tomorrow’s festivities, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let me know! I’d love to hear about your plans!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

PuzzleNation App Review: Spy Mouse

Welcome to the fifth edition of PuzzleNation App Reviews! Today we continue our quest to explore the world of puzzly games and apps for your tablet or smartphone!

Our resident App player and puzzle fiend Sherri has another intriguing game for us today, so without further ado, let’s dive into her review of Spy Mouse for iPad, iPhone, and Android devices!


Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to assume the role of Agent Squeak and to gather as much cheese as you can, all the while evading stealthy cats…

Spy Mouse is an action-packed strategy game for iOS that is great for the logical mind.

This is a great game. I am a huge James Bond fan, so playing as a mouse spy was right up my ally. The game is divided into several worlds, and each world is divided into 12 levels, one of which is a secret level. In order to open up later worlds, you need to collect a certain number of blue ribbons.

Each level consists of a building in which you must gather all of the cheese while eluding cats that don’t want you to escape. To earn the three ribbons per level, you really need to think logically. You have to plot just the right path around the cats to get the cheese and attain those coveted ribbons. Luckily, you don’t have to earn all those ribbons in one shot, as earning some of those ribbons can be quite tricky! You need patience, and you need to think very strategically.

All of that cheese is gathered for a very good reason. You can buy power-ups with your earned cheese that will help you in your quest to earn those ribbons and get more cheese! You buy the power-ups from Digger the Dog, who is quite the salesdog.

This game also has one element that sets it apart from many other strategic level games. Each world ends with a boss battle! These boss battles touched the RPG bone in me, and I quite enjoyed playing them.

Spy Mouse has so much to offer to the puzzle game lover. You have hidden areas to explore in each level and dossiers to collect. If you connect to Facebook, you have a secret level to open in each world, too. There are many achievements to earn and just a lot of fun to be had, so go get your secret agent on and go be a spy!

Ratings for Spy Mouse:

  • Enjoyability: 4/5 — This is a very cute game. I enjoyed playing Agent Squeak and outsmarting the cats.
  • How well puzzles are incorporated: 4/5 — This game requires a lot of strategy. In order to earn all of the blue ribbons, you need to logically plot your route around the cats.
  • Graphics: 4/5 — The graphics are great. Agent Squeak is adorable, and the cats are suitably menacing, but still cute. The rooms are rendered beautifully, if a bit simply. This is not a flat game.
  • Gameplay: 4/5 — There are three different ribbons to earn for each level, and there are several worlds to play. This is a game that will keep you on your toes for quite a while.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

PuzzleNation App Reviews: Glyph Quest

Welcome to the latest edition of PuzzleNation Reviews! Today will be the first installment of a new review series: PuzzleNation App Reviews! That’s right, we’re delving into the world of games and apps for your tablet or smartphone!

Not only that, but we’re also introducing a new member of the PuzzleNation Crew. Please welcome our resident App player and puzzle fiend, Sherri!

Sherri will be giving you the lowdown on puzzle games and apps of all sorts, including both new and well-known games. So, without further ado, let’s explore Sherri’s first PuzzleNation App Review: Glyph Quest!


Glyph Quest is an iOS game app that combines elements of a fantasy role-playing game with a simple matching game.

I am a big RPG fan, so this game sounded right up my alley. I found it to be really very enjoyable, a terrific way to pass the time and much more than simply matching items. The simple 2D animation is cute and has a retro feel to it. You are able to choose your own character, a male or female spellcaster, and as that character, you go on quests to defeat monsters simply by matching 2 or more glyphs.

However, the game isn’t quite that easy. The glyphs represent six elements: earth, air, fire, water, dark, and light. There is some strategy involved. Making chains of matches, i.e. matching earth glyphs more than two times in a row, increases the power of the earth spell, but if you cast an air spell (its opposite) after an earth chain, that air spell is much more powerful! You also have to pay attention to the monsters you fight, as some are resistant to certain types of spells but weakened by others.

Beyond the matching element is the RPG element. Your character levels up as he or she defeats monsters and completes quests. You also have a health meter that you need to keep an eye on. Your spells get upgraded the more you use them, and you can use the money you earn from the quests to make upgrades to your knapsack, among other things. With the sack you have the ability to carry health potions and some offensive weapons.

This is a really cute and fun game. It is a great way to pass time when you want something that will engage your brain but won’t overtax it.

Ratings for Glyph Quest:

  • Enjoyability: 4/5
  • How well puzzles are incorporated: 4/5
  • Graphics: 2/5 (for the retro feel; the graphics aren’t great but fit the retro feel)
  • Gameplay: 3/5 (it can get a bit repetitive but there is enough variety with the monsters to keep it fresh)

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