Friday, June 19, 2020

Father's Day Gift Ideas

by Hannah

Father's Day is just around the corner and we have a great selection of potential gifts for the various dads in everyone's lives. While it's always best to go with the most personalized option, we have put together a list of potential ideas that hopefully will provide everyone with a good jumping off point. For me personally, I know my father is really into video games, X-files, Star Trek, and all the spooky but cheesy stuff, so that's generally where my ideas are coming from, though I have adjusted  my thoughts to be applied more generally.


MTG Boosters & Accessories 


While it may seem simple, I think buying someone who loves Magic the Gathering some boosters or a booster box along with a few accessories to go with that can be a very lovely gift. In particular, for a dad who loves Magic, if you want to buy them a booster box so that they can play a draft (a game in which players build a deck on the spot using sealed packs to build their pool of cards) with either the family or close friends, that might be paired well with a set of card sleeves or a card binder to slot all the rares and mythic rares into a safe spot. As someone who knows the joy of collecting, which I often watched my father do with his coins, stamps, and baseball cards growing up, I think that this is a great choice for anyone whose dad loves collecting and playing Magic. 


King of Tokyo: Dark Edition


For those not familiar with the modern hit, King of Tokyo, it is a beautiful combination of Godzilla-like monsters and similar mechanics to Yahtzee. Some of you may remember me mentioning this one in a post earlier this week, as In this newest version of the game, all of the artwork and look of the game has gone to the dark side. Along with completely revamped artwork, this version comes with amazing new components. The new dice are gorgeous and frosted design and the components are twice as sturdy. Funnily enough both King of Tokyo and Magic were in part created by the same designer, Richard Garfield, who is well-known for making beloved titles that become instant classics.


Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective


This series of mysteries is a fantastic choice for Father's Day for anyone whose dad enjoys a good brainteaser with narrative elements that can be worked on with friends and family. Each mystery is a one-off, but there are ten mysteries in each different iteration of the series. Each box comes with a set of interactive materials like maps, newspapers, a clue book, and a directory that all simulate the feeling of actually being an investigator on the case, as you play one of Sherlock Holmes' apprentices and try to solve the case in as few steps as possible. Each person in your group will take a turn deciding which lead to pursue and you'll talk among each other about what the clue you've gathered mean and where you ought to search next. It weaves a very special, collaborative and imaginative atmosphere and brings everyone together, which seems like a great way to spend Father's Day. It is also fairly easy to play over Zoom for us who can't go see our dads in person right now.


Scythe


Scythe is a great game of resource management, engine building, and alternate history Post-WWI Diesel Punk coolness. The game, actually inspired by the artwork rather than vice versa, makes for a great gift for any dads who enjoy an in-depth engine-builder that still manages to be fairly accessible, despite its intimidating exterior. The game comes with gorgeous miniatures and is a monster in terms of size and content, so much so that you'll be playing it for a while to come. It's one of my favorite games of all time, and is one that I know my dad will love once I get the chance to sit down with him for a game.


Some Smaller Options


Some smaller suggestions that I might recommend are Abandon All Artichokes, Skull, Gloom, and Monikers. All of these game are fantastic in their own ways--from bluffing to party games to macabre story-telling card games to deck management.


I hope these suggestions have been helpful, and be sure to get your orders in tonight and tomorrow, so you can pick them up in time for Sunday!









Saturday, June 13, 2020

Games that Reinforce Empathy and Socialization Skills For Kids

by Hannah

We know that kids are dealing with a lot of unprecedented stress and change, so we thought it might be helpful to talk about games that help kids from younger to older to practice empathy and socializing in positive ways. I personally believe that using games as a supplement to discussing complicated feelings and social interactions can be really helpful, so long as they are in conjunction with that sort of conversation. The three games I have compiled here today range from being for much younger kids to being for kids entering preteens, so that hopefully there is a good range in here for parents. I will arrange the games in order from youngest to oldest.



Friends & Neighbors


The concept of Friends & Neighbors is pretty straightforward, as it is a matching game for kids ages 3+ ; however, the difference comes in how matches are made in the game. During the game parents and young kids are given a board, and they pull items out of the Helping Bag. They have to look at the different pictures on their board and figure out which person would be helped by the item based on the emotions and problems each person in each pictures is dealing with. Parents can then read the different descriptions of the emotions and help their kids begin recognizing how to identify expressions and how to identify what might alleviate the problems the different people experience. The game does a lot of work helping kids learn how to practice observation, care, and empathy in a productive way and how to express empathy and emotion in a positive way.



Sunny and Stormy Day!

This game approaches the topic of feelings from a slightly different angle than Friends & Neighbors. In Sunny and Stormy Day!, parents follow through Max the hedgehog's day with their kids ages 3+ in a picture book, and then use memory to find all the happy or sadder moments (i.e., sunny or stormy) throughout the story. Then kids get the chance to use these things called sharing tiles with sun, rainbow, and cloud icons to share about the different parts of their day with everyone in the family. In this way kids start to learn how to express their own feelings, as well as identify which things make them happy or not. This allows them to start seeing the complicated connections between feelings and experiences.



Dungeons & Dragons: Labyrinth's Guild of Heroes Program

For older kids there are other games that can help reinforce empathy and socialization. The Dungeons & Dragons games we run for kids within our Guild of Heroes program are a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn all about being heroic, the satisfaction that can be found in helping others, and how to act cooperatively with party members. The ages of kids who play in our games range anywhere from 7-16 years old, though, of course, we try to keep kids of the same age group together. We do our best to create separate events for kids who are significantly younger, as well as for kids who are on the significantly older end of that age range. The DMs guide the kids through various adventures and ask them to think about what their own definition of heroism is, while asking questions that require kids to consider what the most heroic act might be in any given situation. We do our best to empower the kids to think about these things on their own.




All of these games are great options for helping kids to practice socializing, empathy, and understanding, and we at Labyrinth are all about fostering those sorts of skills. They provide a great foundation for thoughtfully approaching how we engage with other people in our communities and in our lives, and, equally importantly, how we relate to and empathize with ourselves in a healthy manner. They also foster creative thinking and problem-solving, which are always great bonuses.


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Fun Kids Games that Don't Require Much or Any Reading But Are Still Fun for Adults

by Hannah

There have been a few requests for an article on some games that require little reading, but are still fun for adults to play as well. It's always hard to find that balance, especially since parents and relatives want to find games through which they can begin forming a common ground of interest with their kids, nieces, nephews, and so on. Today, I want to talk about a few specific games as well as game companies that do tremendous work to bridge that gap. The games I want to point out are Concept Kids: Animals, Tell Tale, Spot It! Jr. Animals, Rhino Hero, and Gobblet Gobblers. All of these games are not reading-heavy and are still really fun for adults, who might be struggling to remain interested in the games their 4 to 6-year-olds enjoy.



Tell Tale

Tell Tale is an extremely flexible card game from Blue Orange Games for ages 6+ that provides instructions for 4 different ways to play, though you can always make up your own version of play, as I have done in the past. The small tin comes with 60 double-sided cards, each with two separate illustrations, and you use these cards to tell stories, come up with debate points, make up get-to-know-you questions, and more, depending on which version of the game you're playing. None of the cards have instructions or extraneous text, and the game allows for a range of 3-8 players, so that it is perfect for families with younger kids or get-togethers where younger kids want to participate in something with older siblings or parents. It does require some speech skills, but nothing too technical. I've even played versions of it as simple as each player drawing a card and starting or continuing a story until we've run through the deck, which I still found really enjoyable even as a grown up.  



Spot It! Jr. Animals

Spot It! Jr. Animals is another great game from Blue Orange Games that is fairly simple but still enjoyable for grown-ups. It is a game about visual recognition of matching things and can be played by ages 4+, as I thought that there may be those with even younger kids looking to share the fun of gaming. The main gist is that you flip over one card, look at it, then flip over a second and try to find the matching animal between two cards as quickly as possible. There are again several ways to play this game, and instructions for these different rules set-ups come with the game. Visual perception games are always a good intersection between younger and older demographics, as they require a skill that is altered dramatically once people become adults, so the challenge balances a little more. Kids find clever ways to compensate for the difference in skill level of visual perception and games like these help their brains to do that.  



Concept Kids: Animals

Concept Kids: Animals is a fun, cooperative game from Repos Production that both kids ages 4+ and adults can enjoy and appreciate. The game revolves around 2-12 players working together to help the adult in their game or whomever is the designated guesser to figure out what animal each player is trying to indicate with their clue. The designated guesser will draw one card and show it to the rest of the players without looking at it, and then each other player takes a turn on the clue board, using orange plastic squares to mark different clues, such as color, behavior, characteristics, diet, and etc. It is a great game for helping kids learn animals and how to describe things in a fun, creative way. I love this game and think it's a super fun way to entertain both adults and kids alike.   



Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero is a game by Haba, a company internationally famous for its kids' games and for its family games. In the game, which plays from ages 5+, players are building a card tower using the well-made, thick cards that come in the box; some of these cards are wall tiles and some are ceiling tiles. At the beginning each player draws 5 ceiling tiles and on their turn they play wall-tiles in the configuration of whichever ceiling tile is on top before playing a ceiling tile from their hand. In this way a tower starts to form, as players attempt to get rid of all their ceiling tiles first in order to win; however, different ceiling tiles may have special actions indicated by a symbol on the card, which can be used to force the next player to draw an extra card or move Rhino Hero to the top ceiling with the risk of knocking the tower over. It's simple to learn but is such a visual and tactile experience that both kids and adults can enjoy it together without worrying about a reading comprehension barrier. 



Gobblet Gobblers

Gobblet Gobblers is another great game from Blue Orange Games that doesn't require a specific level of reading comprehension and is also a great first abstract strategy game for kids. It is the only 2-player-only game on this list and is meant for ages 5+, so it is great for a parent and their child or for siblings. The game itself plays like tic-tac-toe, where you're trying to get three of your Gobblers in a row, but there's a twist. There are several different sizes of Gobblers and larger Gobblers can be placed to eat smaller Gobblers! It's a great twist on the classic game and the pieces are large and wooden, making them easy to handle and attention-grabbing.



These games are all great additions to any kids games collection or family games collection. If you would like to look at even more options, however, I recommend looking into our selection of Blue Orange and Haba games on our e-shop. Both of these companies make really solid kid and family friendly games that often require little, if any, reading comprehension (with exceptions, of course), and can be a great source for reaching gamers both young and grown.

https://store.labyrinthgameshop.com/

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Racing Games for Kids and Families You Might Not Already Know About

by Rich

Racing is a compelling game concept and has long been the subject of popular board games from Candyland to Parcheesi.

(https://store.labyrinthgameshop.com/candyland-classic.html)
(https://store.labyrinthgameshop.com/parcheesi-royal.html)

The competition to be the first to get there is instantly accessible. But there are a whole lot of games that use racing as their foundation for adults and kids alike. Today I want to mention 3 games that you might not already know about that are favorites for the younger crowd here at Labyrinth Games & Puzzles:



Snail's Pace Race 
(https://store.labyrinthgameshop.com/snails-pace-race.html)


Snail's Pace Race is a beautiful introduction game. It gets young children comfortable with using dice, the six colorful wooden snails are lined up to win the race, but which snails will move each turn is determined by the two dice we take turns casting. Roll pink and orange? The pink and orange snail both scoot ahead one spot. Roll yellow twice? The yellow snail moves twice! It's as simple as that, but the components are fun and tactile and there is a genuine thrill to be had by young ones: playing to find out what happens next!

This is a great game for the 3-5 years old range, especially if you're looking for a low-key game that they can handle without needing too much oversight. Just pick a snail to root for and roll those dice! (Full disclosure, this game has been around in different editions since the 80's; I played it with my grandmother when the flowers in our garden were still at nose height. Racing these wooden snails made a great break from searching for real ones outside, so I am unapologetically sentimental about this game!)

If Snail's Pace Race just isn't your speed, maybe you'd get more mileage out of Monza!



Monza 
(https://store.labyrinthgameshop.com/monza.html)


Monza is a longtime favorite of Labyrinth's Game Club with the early childhood groups. Monza features little wooden race cars instead of snails. It's a trickier game than the easy-going Snail's Pace Race, Monza has way more dice to roll and many more choices to make. Once you've cast all your dice it's time to pay careful attention to where your car is on the board and what colors you are touching. You can only move your car if one of your dice matches the color of a space that is next to your piece on the board, and once you spend that die to move, you don't get to use it again until your next turn. You want to be sure to spend your dice in the right order so that your car goes as far as possible. It's much more competitive than Snail Pace Race, with room for strategy and planning. If we're feeling ready for an older challenge maybe Monza (Ages 5+, 2-6 Players) will get our engines going!

Looking for a racing game that's a little older still (6-7+)? And maybe without dice? Maybe something a little more high energy? (Something that might also be a fun challenge for the grownups at the table?)

Please have a look at Ice Cool!

Ice Cool
(https://store.labyrinthgameshop.com/ice-cool.html)

I was initially skeptical when we first got it in stock, but I now find it very hard to play Ice Cool without grinning. It takes a moment to set up, as the box comes apart to form a penguin high school (yes, this game is about penguin high school..ice..cool...), and it covers a fair amount of table space, but don't be intimidated! Assembly is very straight forward and cleanly laid out in the instruction book. When you're done playing, everything fits neatly back into the box it came in. And it's a flicking game! We're bouncing our penguins down the halls, flicking through doorways and hopping over walls to collect the most tasty fish before our opponents. One of us, however, is the hall monitor, and they are chasing the other players around with every flick, trying to crash into them and snag their hall pass. This is not a game easily played sitting down, so you'll want to circle around the board like a billiards table to line up that perfect flick, and while you can play with just two players, it's really much better at 3-4 players.

We hope this list offers you some fresh options for games to keep the family occupied. We really miss seeing our friends in the shop and hope everyone is staying safe and finding time for fun!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

A Brief Review of the 2020 Challenger Decks

by Hannah




Cavalcade Charge

This is to me the most straightforward of the new challenger decks, as it operates on the principle of hit hard, fast, and/or a lot. It comes with several creatures and enchantments that assist in dealing as much damage as possible. The whole deck revolves around both Cavalcade of Calamity, running several small 1/1 creatures, as well as Embercleave to surprise your opponents with a powerful hit. This is probably the most ready-to-play out of the box of the new challenger decks, and the Embercleave alone is a huge incentive to get it. If you're interested in participating in a Friday Night game when things open back up and don't have a standard deck ready, then this is a great choice, as it is pretty competitive on its own. Ultimately, Cavalcade Charge asks the important question: can you count to twenty?



Allied Fires

This deck by far requires the most work to make it competitive, as it does have a little trouble out of the box; however, it comes with a fantastic toolkit for building a really fun archetype that allows you to have blowout turns. It comes with Kenrith, the Returned King, who can just devastate any aggro player's dreams when used correctly, as well as it comes with a full play set of Fires of Invention and several staples. It also comes with a full playset of Fae of Wishes, which you can use to get your color-specific hate-spells out of your sideboard. With the release of Ikoria, this deck has several possible additions that could make it competitive. If you're willing to go up to an 80-card deck, then consider adding Yorion, Sky Nomad as your companion along with Agent of Treachery and Lukka Coppercoat Outcast.



Final Adventure

The most readily apparent thing about this deck is its brutal efficiency and the sheer value it seeks to get out of all of its creatures. There are synergies for sacrifice outlets, adventure triggers, and card draw (among other things) that all just amount to value. It also comes with a Fabled Passage (a big staple) and a Vraska, Golgari Queen (a brutal mythic planeswalker). If you like feeling as though every single creature gives back no matter whether it is attacking, dying, or just entering the battlefield, then this deck is a great choice. It is personally my favorite choice so far, if for no other reason than it has a full play set of my favorite guy, Midnight Reaper.



Flash of Ferocity

Do you wish that all of your creature cards were instants? That's essentially what you get in Flash of Ferocity. The deck revolves around several good flash creatures, including a valuable Brazen Borrower, as well as counter spells. If you enjoy countering all of your opponent's attempts to play, while also putting down creatures that can start swinging, then this is probably the deck for you. It also contains a Fabled Passage, which is a staple to have in your collection. The deck also comes with a partial play set of Thassa's Intervention, which is just a great fixer for either your hand or stopping your opponent's plans.



Check out the Challenger Decks on our Webstore...

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Brief Review of the New Ikoria Commander Decks

by Hannah

There are five amazing new Commander decks, including Symbiotic Swarm, Enhanced Evolution, Arcane Maelstrom, Ruthless Regiment, and Timeless Wisdom. Each of these unique decks comes ready-to-play out of the box and each contains several commander options.


Symbiotic Swarm



This deck's main commander is Kathril, Aspect Warper, who makes certain that the dead may never die with her ability to add myriad types of counters from creatures in your graveyard to creatures you currently have on the battlefield. The majority of creatures here have some sort of synergy with the graveyard, whether it is gaining more counters based on what's in the graveyard or, in the case of Nyx Weaver, putting (hopefully) creature cards direct from your library into the graveyard (a pretty powerful ability in this deck). The base deck also comes with several rare and uncommon lands that have sacrifice outlets or the ability to stack more counters. A few cards you may consider adding to the deck are Fiend Artisan, Nethroi, Apex of Death, and The Ozolith. They all have synergies with Symbiotic Swarm's overall goals. For anyone looking to continually beef up creatures using their dead brethren as fodder, and potentially getting to swing with your flying commander with menace or double strike for either a ton of potential commander damage or to thin your opponent's board state, then this is a good deck for you.



Enhanced Evolution
  
Otrimi, the Ever-Playful is all about mutations, mutations, mutations! In my first game with the new commander decks, I lost within the first few turns of the game to a massively mutated Otrimi who dealt exactly enough commander damage to me to finish my Symbiotic Swarm off perfectly. There are several creatures along with Otrimi that can mutate and even more creatures for those mutants to mutate onto, so that suddenly Otrimi has hexproof or lifelink as well as being a natural trampler. The deck also comes with a balance of removal with which to potentially protect your huge mutations from opponents. Some suggestions for card additions to this deck include: Brokkos, Apex of Forever, Sea-Dasher Octopus, and Vivien, Monster's Advocate. The concentration of creature power is narrow but overwhelming. If you are interested in playing around with the newest mechanic, while also returning your beautiful monsters from the grave, then this might be your deck.



Timeless Wisdom

Timeless Wisdom is a super interesting cycling-based deck that revolves around Gavi, Nest Warden (aka Mother of Cat Dinosaurs), who allows you to cycle your first cycle card each turn for free when she is on the battlefield, creating tokens for whenever you draw a second card for turn. Whoa! I get so excited thinking about all of those cool little cat dinosaurs. They are adorably ferocious. A few cards you may consider adding to this deck are Shark Typhoon, Unpredictable Cyclone, and Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast. If you want an experience where you get to cycle into your perfect hand while creating a cat dinosaur army buffed by some really tangentially powerful creatures like Ethereal Forager, then this deck may well be for you.



Ruthless Regiment

Jirina Kudro is an aggressive and human tribal commander, whose ability rewards you casting her from the command zone. The whole deck is human tribal and is built around buffing and creating humans that aggressively dive into the fray. The deck reminds me of my Mardu vampires deck in a lot of ways, and it definitely has an aristocrats sub-theme to it as well, especially through the optional partner commanders. Some cards you may consider adding to this deck include Judith, the Scourge Diva, General Kudro of Drannith, and Winota, Joiner of Forces. If you're into trying to beat out opponents as quickly and aggressively as possible, while building a board state to last you the late game, then this is a good choice.



Arcane Maelstrom

Arcane Maelstrom has a heavy focus on assisting players in getting to the spells they need and letting them copy those spells for really powerful turns of removal, damage, or token creation. Also, every time you get to copy an instant, Kalamax gets bigger, and a base 4/4 is nothing to sneeze at as it is. All the creatures in this deck are tuned to helping you get your most powerful instants copied or retrieved. So whether you're forcing multiple opponents to destroy their board states or burning an opponent for 8 damage instantly, this deck has a lot of really powerful potential. A couple cards you might add are Chandra's Regulator and Chandra, the Firebrand. If you love playing spell heavy strategies that all lead to one giant creature finishing opponents off, then this deck is probably for you.


All the decks discussed here can be bought at this address: https://store.labyrinthgameshop.com/mtg-c20-commander-decks.html .


Check out all the new Ikoria goodies at our Webstore...


Friday, May 15, 2020

Should My Kid Become a DM?


by Hannah

There’s something to be said for the innate nature of roleplaying, as a thing that comes naturally to people. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to roleplay as different characters and use those characters to tell stories. Humans enjoy narrative engagement. Perhaps not to equal degrees always, but it is common enough that we have accepted specific forms of narrative as true or universal somehow, though that creates its own host of problems. What I am specifically speaking of here is the drive to tell stories, even at a young age. For some it is a hobby-level engagement, for some a passing interest, and for others it becomes a lifelong pursuit. For me it was the last of those three, though I chose to pursue being the writer or, in roleplaying terms, being the Dungeon Master/Game Master rather than the actor or player character. I do enjoy being a player character, and I also love theater and acting, but writing always attracted me more. I think of it as simply a different part of the creative process in which to specialize.

We have such a great Dungeons and Dragons 5E community here at Labyrinth with both kids and adults alike. I always love seeing parents supporting their kids’ love of D&D too because it was something I wished I’d known about at that age. Growing up in an extremely rural county, there were no board game shops, no D&D groups (or, if there were, they were really quiet about it), and there was definitely nothing like what is offered to kids at Labyrinth. It is without a doubt the coolest experience ever getting to work there and help DM for this amazing community, especially as I come into my own as a DM. 

As a DM, much like as a writer of other fiction, I have the ability to help players see a world wholly different from their own through the power of words and occasionally maps and other such visual representations. It’s not entirely unlike the hero movies I used to make with my action men and, once, a set of toothpicks, since my action men were elsewhere. You get to lay out the entire setting, characters, quests, but, unlike in my movies, you get the joy of seeing the unique way players interact with the material.



If you have a kid, who like me, tries to tell stories every chance they can get, and can sometimes be a little unyielding in terms of the “creative direction” of a story, then I wholly recommend teaching them about DM’ing for games like Dungeons and Dragons 5E. If you’re not familiar yourself, then no problem. Labyrinth has a bunch of DMs who all have their own unique approaches and who are great teachers, so be sure to ask us for advice. DM’ing can be a great outlet for that narrative drive, as well as a great place to learn about allowing actors or players to interact with the story in organic and unpredictable ways. I first learned how to handle constructive criticism for my stories from my workshops in graduate school, but being a DM has taught me how to handle the ways in which those who are coming to your story from the outside, as readers, will interpret its signs differently and in ways you might not have imagined. 

It’s an extremely educational game, as it teaches the DM creative problem solving, storytelling, and social skills, and it teaches players how to cooperate as a group, social skills, and multi-tasking as well. So to answer the original question posed by the title of this article, I think becoming a DM is a great opportunity for any young storyteller, and will likely change how they see storytelling for the better. The simple answer is"Yes!" If they enjoy roleplaying but also want to control the general direction of stories, then being a DM is a no-brainer.  

Monday, May 11, 2020

Teaching & Playing Tussie Mussie over Zoom For Mother's Day

by Hannah


I'd been thinking of what to get my mom for Mother's Day all week, and with everything that is going on I realized the best thing is for us to spend time together, which we hadn't been able to do for a little bit. Yesterday I had a Zoom call with my mom, and we spent a couple hours catching up, learning some new things about Zoom’s various features, and, of course, teaching/learning how to play Tussie Mussie before playing a full game. It was a perfect way to spend time with my mom on Mother’s Day, and we had a blast playing together. Initially we were wracking our brains for a way to play without both of us having access to copies of the game, but I remembered that you can log into a Zoom meeting from your phone as well and use it as a second camera, which opens up a lot of possibilities for playing games—even if it still can’t completely beat playing together in person. We also learned that you can annotate images and such that you share to the Zoom via the share screen options.



We first went through the small instruction booklet together. My mom shared images of the different parts of the rules, so I could help suss out what was being referred to, especially regarding some of the cards with weird scoring rules. We then shuffled up and got ready to play. In the game you draw two cards, looking at both and then deciding which of them to offer your opponent face up and which to offer facedown. Your opponent then chooses which card to add to their Tussie Mussie. Cards that are face up are considered part of the bouquet, while cards that are face down are considered part of the keepsakes (this mainly matters for scoring purposes). Players cannot look at the face down card before taking it, so there is an element of bluffing in the game as well. At first my mom and I (for learning purposes) were just showing both cards to each other face up to figure out what combinations we might be able to make to score points. We then kind of finagled a way for us to be able to look at our cards without the other person seeing, which really probably works best at 2 players, but was still super fun.

We then played out a full game, learning about which cards were better bets, and which were worth taking if we felt like changing our game plan last minute. Each round lasts four turns and there are generally three rounds in a game. At the end of each round, you score your Tussie Mussie, which should consist of four flower cards. If you have cards with a “Before scoring” ability or condition, then be sure to resolve those first before tallying things up. We had so much fun learning this game together, and really got a chance to connect even at a distance. It was definitely the best way to spend Mother’s Day for us, and we plan on playing more cards games over Zoom this coming week. I certainly can’t wait. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

A Cooperative Storytelling Experiment (Tell Us What You Think!)

by Hannah

*Mild spookiness warnings (think like an episode of the X-Files kind of deal)

We have all been looking for ways to keep active, and, in particular, I have been searching for ways to keep my writing skills sharp. Some coworkers were tossing ideas around, and I decided to experiment a little to see whether or not this is something you all would be interested in seeing more of in the future. Below I have written the beginning to a cooperative narrative that I would like you all to participate in creating with me. The idea is that at the end of each prompt, you will be given a choice, and then you can vote on which choice to take in the comments section. If this is something people are responsive to, then we can certainly do more things like this in the future. If not, don't worry, I can always use what I’ve written here to write a really cool Parsely adventure that I’d love to run for people. So let us know what you think or vote for in the comments.





"The wellspring of what’s best in the human condition inverted is a font of fear and anxiety. It is so often the case that we find ourselves falling into the mirror world where this inversion occurs, but we never tarry there for it is too wholly abhorrent to our senses. The letter you received inviting you to visit Dewerstone Manor was written in cursive with a fountain pen—that much you could tell—but what you couldn’t say is why you were immediately compelled to shred it to pieces after finding it hidden among your regular post. Furthermore, you couldn’t say when that day had happened. The linear chain of your memories has been disrupted.


You’re standing in front of Dewerstone Manor. It is a strange, imposing thing cut in the shape of pre-WWII English gentry manors. Unbelievably tall and stoic stone walls rise before you, the front door dwarfed by their enormity. It is dusk and a chill wind stirs dead leaves at your feet, as their moldering husks scrape over the tops of your shoes. A dense forest surrounds the house, except for where pathways cut through on the left and right—and perhaps around back as well—leading to different areas around the grounds. You were invited here, but you’re having difficulties remembering by whom and to what end…


The sound of shifting locks comes from the front door as it swings inward. No one is waiting on the other side, but the gaslamps down the hall are on and you hear the faint sound of music playing somewhere within the house. A sudden noise somewhere to the left of the house down the forested pathway startles you. Someone just shrieked with laughter somewhere in that direction. 

Do you follow the music or the laughter?"


Remember to leave a note in the comments with your thoughts and/or votes! Would you want to see something like this with a particular theme or game in mind?

Monday, May 4, 2020

Board Games as Travel

by Hannah

We are all feeling inert at the moment, so why not use board games as a method to travel from the comfort of your home? We all wish there was a way we could get out and about, and there are several games that I think can be great at simulating that experience. The games I would like to include in this article are Terraforming Mars, Tokaido, Brass Birmingham, and Fog of Love. These seemingly disparate titles are great games for transporting yourself to a different time and place and have brought me great comfort during these times. They are also great potential gifts for anyone in your life who is struggling right now.

Tokaido


Tokaido is literally a game in which players take on the role of travelers attempting to out-vacation all the other travelers. Sounds like paradise right? As someone who hasn’t been on a true vacation in roughly two years, this game is a great hold-over until I can get the real thing. The mechanics are simple—your traveler selects a space to move to and resolves whatever action is shown on that space. You will collect souvenirs, view beautiful panoramas, visit and pay tribute to the temple, work for more money on the farm, and rest at the inns along the way, as you attempt to score more victory points than anyone else. The game pieces and the imagery are lovely and perfect for transporting you to another place and time.



Fog of Love
    
Fog of Love is a great game for simulating date night, as it comes chock full of options for scenarios to help you and your partner feel like you’re leaving the house without actually doing so. The beautiful game components and the roleplaying aspects of the game allow you room to simulate delightful or disastrous dinner dates or coffee dates, as well as to bond over reliving those meet cutes or awkward first encounters. The game actually manages to explore the development of a relationship in a real and interesting way, especially as you both try to achieve the same end result by reading each other’s characters and motivations. It does also work to restore a sense of normalcy that may be suspended at the moment for people in a romantic relationship. My partner and I love it!



Terraforming Mars



Terraforming Mars is a crunchy, engine-building game in which you play a corporation attempting to terraform Mars. I know this seems a bit strange as a choice, but honestly the game is very cathartic for travelling from home. The game board is an image of the surface of Mars, and each card that you can add to your corporation’s operations has an image of a different Mars-related thing, whether that is a greenhouse on the surface of Mars or an ocean. While it is not in my favorite art style, the game does work visually somehow, and in playing it you do feel very far away from all of the craziness going on right now, especially as you work to make a whole new planet habitable.



Brass Birmingham

Brass Birmingham will take you to a different place and time in which the opportunity for riches abound for those with an aptitude for business and the guts to take risks. You will take on the role of a famous businessperson from the era of Birmingham’s Industrial Revolution, and you will attempt to build your empire by creating trade routes, producing goods, selling goods, and ultimately earning victory points. The game board has a night and day side that are identical that act as an extra layer of flavor. The game’s color palette mixed with its artwork really make you feel like you are in the Industrial Revolution as it’s happening. The historical background provided for each character you can play as also just adds to the feeling of being transported. This game is also really crunchy, so I’d recommend giving yourself a minute to learn it, though once you do it feels very intuitive.



Other Recommendations:

Century Spice Road, Century Eastern Wonders, Century A New World, Metro X, Miyabi, and any of the Ticket to Ride iterations. To find these games go to our website store.labyrinthgameshop.com . If you're curious to see one of these games reviewed for game of the day, then please let us know in the comments section and we will do our utmost to write up a brief review in the game's description on our online store, if we have not already done so.  

Friday, May 1, 2020

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

by Hannah

When I was a kid, my mom and I were always two peas in a pod, and we very much still are. When I think about how I can't go see her right now, it's pretty gutting, especially since both Mother's day and my graduation are coming up, but I remember that we can Zoom and play games and celebrate these great occasions together even apart. The following article is a list of games--each with a personal resonance for me and my mom--that I think are perfect for Mother's Day.



Game of Life

(https://store.labyrinthgameshop.com/life.html)

When I was a kid, my mom and I got roped into doing some sort of mommy-daughter retreat for our church where we would learn about an important cause that I was honestly too young to even remember. All I know is that it involved my mom and I being surrounded by a bunch of strangers and staying in beds that made my basement dorm from undergraduate look downright cheerful. Both were things my mom and I did not particularly enjoy. Before we'd left for the retreat we'd fortunately stopped by the church auction and found an old, beaten-up copy of the Game of Life. At night in order to calm us down enough to go to bed, my mom and I would play Life and see if we could land our dream jobs and make it big. It was a great bonding experience and really allowed us to open up conversations about different goals and how to reach those goals, and it helped us get through what was really an otherwise boring trip.



Sushi Go Party!
Sushi Go Party! was one of the first games I got for my board game collection, and I've played it so many times since then that I can't even keep count anymore. However, the most memorable times I have played have definitely been when I am visiting my mom and during Thanksgiving and Christmas when we all are gathered at my mom's. Even though Sushi Go Party! can be played with up to 8 people, I have mostly played it with two--just me and my mom. We also are huge Marrying Mr. Darcy fans. Playing these games with my mom allows us some time to engage in a different way than going on walks and watching whatever BBC show we are both binging, and it's one of my favorite ways to spend time together.



Marrying Mr. Darcy

My mom and I are best friends, and I love our time together. One of our favorite pastimes is watching Jane Austen television and movie adaptations. So when I found out that there was a card game all about Pride & Prejudice, where you got to play as any of the female characters, I was psyched to pick it up and even more psyched to play it with my mom. We have had a blast every time, and it's been  a big success with family and friends alike.  



Tussie Mussie

(Where to find: https://store.labyrinthgameshop.com/tussie-mussie.html)

Tussie Mussie is a game where your opponent picks two cards from their hand and places one face up and one face down before you for you to draft from. The game is by Elizabeth Hargrave, and it is pretty and fun, and the perfect gift for any mom on Mother's Day. I bought a copy for my mom last year for her birthday in December, though I haven't gotten to sit down and play with her yet, since all of my travel plans got cancelled like everyone else's. While she and I both have been super busy and are having trouble finding the time to play games together right now, we are having a Zoom meeting this Sunday and will finally get break out Tussie Mussie and build the perfect bouquet. 


I think there's something special about getting your mom a game for Mother's Day and learning that game together. It really allows you to spend time together in a way that requires some thinking. Also, if you're mom is anything like my mom, it also gives your mom a chance to get out some of that very competitive energy. Watching her and my aunt go toe to toe over a board game is really entertaining and fun--the same goes for when she hate drafts away my shrimp tempura during our games. I hope that this Mother's Day Labyrinth can help you get the gift your mom will love. Thanks! 

As an Additional Note

If you are interested in finding a game for your mom that helps your mom to feel like they are getting out of the house even while we are all stuck inside, then be sure to check out Monday's article on games that let us travel from the comfort of our home.

Monday, April 27, 2020

What We Like About Horror and Sci-Fi Games and What Makes the Genres So Interesting

Nerding Out Over Horror and Science Fiction
by Hannah

Today's post is near to my heart, as a huge fan of horror and science fiction games, and for some of it I have actually decided to pull from a research project for a class I took last summer on New Media Studies. What is interesting to me is that even though the mediums that host these genres differ so widely from one another, they still manage to capture my imagination every time. In my opinion, some of the best horror and science fiction board games include Betrayal at House on the Hill, Nemesis, and The Others 7 Sins. However, don't forget the RPGs that also masterfully incorporate genre, such as Mothership, Dread, and Disciples of Bone and Shadow. Part of what I think fascinates and attracts us to these games is the air of mystery that permeates every layer of the experience of playing them, but what is so attractive about the mysterious insofar as it relates to horror and science fiction?



When we consider the way that media pervades our lives in varying forms, it becomes easier to understand our changing relationship to genre as well. "In its own way media has become the immanent—a physical manifestation of the divine. For instance, in Black Mirror’s “Nosedive,” the [cell] phone becomes a tool of moral judgement and maintaining socioeconomic status. Lacie, the protagonist, is constantly holding her phone, as are most other characters in the episode, and it becomes apparent that the phone app everyone uses has a higher authority than any individual and may mete out judgement for behavior that it does not deem acceptable. The phone app and, by extension, the phone has then become an ideological apparatus, maintaining the status quo at all costs. The significance of technology as extensions of man and as holy artifacts is important to keep in mind when discussing how these ideas relate to the genre of horror.             

The development of horror as a word also offers some interesting points of discussion in terms of how new media relates to the aesthetic of the horror genre in the modern era. When one considers how horror originates as a noun encompassing the action of hairs standing on end, it is interesting how the word has been displaced to describe that object which inspires the fear response in the first place. (“The Hirsute History of 'Horror'”)

If one were to take an imaginative leap, it might be plausible that the experience of the fear response is intense enough that it was necessary to give its cause (i.e. a potentially ineffable thing) a suitable name, but more likely this is simply the result of natural shifts in meaning and usage. Regardless, it is an interesting thread to follow. The etymological origin of horror branches off to form another word in abhor, the prefix of which, “ab,” means “away from”—to tremble or shudder away from something (Cresswell, 1). Ineffable and abhor are important words to keep in mind moving forward.

The next leap to be made then links ideas of horror through the ages and Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy. In his seminal work Otto introduces an important vocabulary for discussing ideas of the holy and immanence. In particular he is interested in divorcing what is at the core of the term Holy (i.e., its moral and philosophical implications) from the actual thing in and of itself. In reference to that unnamable something, Otto writes, 'There is no religion in which it does not live as the real inner most core, and without it no religion would be worthy of the name' (loc. 327).

There is significance in divorcing the ineffable something behind the Holy from the word holy itself, which has myriad ethical and moral implications, especially in regards to horror and science fiction. Horror and science fiction have progressively more and more crossover, so that in order to discuss science fiction one must usually discuss it as a subset of horror or vice versa. The most significant link between science fiction and horror as intertwined traditions is the experience of the sublime. ...[T]he Gothic novel [, the influence of which is felt to this day in both genres,] and the tropes it produced are linked with the aesthetic values of the Romantic movement in literature in a significant way. The experience of the sublime is significant to Otto’s work, which helps to illuminate a definitional understanding of the stages of the sublime experience.


In The Idea of the Holy Otto introduces terms central to discussing the significance of horror and science fiction in the collective intelligence of society. These terms include numinous, mysterium tremendum, and fascinans. Particularly the experience of the mysterium tremendum is important to the fascination society has with monsters and aliens—or with simultaneous fear and awe. Otto writes that the experience of the mysterium tremendum may be a '…sudden eruption up from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions, or [that it might] lead to the strangest excitements, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport, and to ecstasy. It has its wild and demonic forms and can sink to an almost grisly horror and shuddering'(loc. 434).

The experience of the sublime is a more artistic and philosophical form of the mysterium tremendum experience but shares many of the same principles. A perfect example in cinema of a film that captures the heart of the mysterium tremendum would be 2001: A Space Odyssey. The obelisk, around which all of the scientists and researchers gather, acts as a manifestation of the numinous (i.e., that great something that exists at the core of the Holy), and it acts simultaneously as a force of complete and total autoamputation in the Mcluhanian sense. It is without history or creed and yet humans are both drawn toward it and repulsed by it—exquisite disgust." (Hannah Trammell)

When we get a shudder down our spine as we flip over the next room tile in Betrayal or when the Jenga tower trembles just a little too much in Dread, we also must realize that that shudder is part of why we played these games in the first place. Fear or anxiety does not always have to be unpleasant--it can be exciting or it can bring us closer to the experience of something truly alien or unknowable. One of my favorite book-to-movie adaptations is Annhilation. While so much of the plot differs between the book and movie, the movie does maintain the philosophical impetus that drives the book forward. It is a meditation on human experience in the face of the utterly unknowable. In their small, sometimes less intense ways, board games make us feel this too and sometimes even more so because of their physicality. The construction of each of the aforementioned games is so wholly different that each experience is different. Perhaps, we love these games and these genres so much because they offer a safe entrance into an otherwise unapproachable experience.



Works Cited


Cresswell, Julia. Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins. Oxford University Press, 2010.


“The Hirsute History of 'Horror'.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/the-hirsute-history-of-horror.


 Otto, Rudolf. The idea of the holy : an inquiry into the non-rational factor in the idea of the divine and its relation to the rational . London : H. Milford, Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.             

Trammell, Hannah. "New Media and the Genres of Science Fiction and Horror in Film and Television." Unpublished.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Board Games as Homeschooling Tools (Elementary)

Board Games as Homeschooling Tools (Elementary School Edition)

by Melissa

Greetings once again, fellow parents! You may have read my previous blog post for Labyrinth highlighting great homeschooling games for preschoolers and thought, “but what about my big kids?” Fear not! I also have game suggestions for sneaking in some extra education for your elementary school children.

Planet


This game is not only fun, but it is a good way to get your kids thinking about habitats and biomes. In Planet, each player is trying to create their own perfect world using a (VERY COOL) 12-sided, 3-dimensional, magnetic planet. Players add tiles consisting of different biomes in order to attract different animals to their planet. As a follow on activity you could even have your kids create their own animal cards.

Century Spice Road


This game is a favorite in my game group, but is also easy to learn an offers great educational opportunities. In Century Spice Road, you trade spices in order to complete orders and earn the most victory points. This game provides a unique opportunity to talk about the history and importance of spices and trade along the Silk Road. Not only could you learn about the different countries along the Silk Road, but why not try cooking or baking a dish using some of the spices featured in this clever game?

Unlock! 



Unlock! Is a card-based escape room adventure played over the course of one hour. Players work together to solve puzzles and escape! While younger children could help solve puzzles involving searching the cards for numbers, this game is best for older elementary school children (10+). While not aligned with any one subject the Unlock! series of games provides lots of opportunities for critical thinking, problem solving and cooperation.

RPGs
Dungeons & Dragons books can be bought here: https://store.labyrinthgameshop.com/search/dungeons+%26+dragons/


Now is a great time to get your kids creative juices flowing and dive into the wonderful world of Role Playing Games! RPGs are wonderful ways for kids to express themselves – they can write their own adventures, act out their character or even sketch epic monsters. Dungeons and Dragons is a classic and good way to introduce your kids to D&D. As an added bonus Labyrinth also offers Virtual Kids’ D&D sessions which are beginner friendly and loads of fun. Most recently our young heroes have helped out a trio of bumbling mages, adopted baby mimic monsters and rescued a port town from disaster.

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Importance of Board Games While Working From Home

Board Games Reifying Social Connection
by Hannah

Hello, dear readers, I am writing to you today to discuss the significant quality of life impact that playing board games during these times can have. With so many people being forced to reconfigure their work-life balance and set-up, it can be difficult to find the time for enjoyable activities that still manage to stimulate our brains in a collective manner. What I mean to say is that it is difficult to set out time to play games with other people that require us to really talk with each other, especially with how tiring this overhaul of our lives has necessarily been. This is true for those of us with spouses, partners, roommates, and children to consider or for those of us living by ourselves. This is also very true for those of us struggling with exacerbated or awakened mental health issues. There is no doubt that we all need some form of relief.


These past few weeks have been a surreal bad dream, but I have found solace in pulling myself away from my computer, my Nintendo Switch, or the television, whichever I was using to deaden my brain for a brief time (an important part of protecting our health too), and then breaking out a board game to play with my partner or with our friends over Zoom. Honestly the need for an activity that didn't require any screens (or no more than one Zoom screen for seeing our friends' faces) and allowed us to engage in a very immediate way was the original impetus that drove me and my partner, Josh, to start collecting board games in the first place. As much as we love video games, we needed some form of present and immediate interaction that I think the simulated worlds of video games are often unable to provide by the very nature of their medium. They are always immediately removed by several layers from our experience--they are always immediately mediated. They are a wonderful escape in their way and often a medium rife with amazing storytelling and world-building, but they also helps us to negate the outside world and our immediate social connections to an extent in a way that can be alienating in high doses, depending on a wide variety of factors, which I can't entirely cover here. 


The physicality of board games is certainly more immediate in a very literal way, but the actual rules and systems involved in a board game require our brains to process and function. In a sense we become the processor for the programs and systems of the game. In this way, board games seem to engage us in a special way that is differentiated from video games by this sense of presentness. When we play board games with other people, we engage in these meaning-making and system running functions with another person. Regardless of a game's competitive or cooperative nature, players still work together to enforce rules and engage in a game's specific systems, giving them weight and doing some world-making for the game.



Sitting across from my partner and actually looking at him, whether that is to consider if he is going to ruin my plans to sell my goods by selling his first or if he is going to deep strike a Terminator behind my Sybarite, it is still looking at him with a specific attentiveness that is often missed in the chaos of the day. We actually take time to be together in an intelligent but still playful way when we break out a board game. These times remind us how it feels to really connect socially and intellectually.


It is this presentness that has made playing board games so important to me and Josh right now, as so much of daily routine has imploded in on itself. We find each other again when we play games like Brass Birmingham or Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, and we find a way to experience closeness with our friends even over the computer through these games. They pull back the layers of numbness created by binging video games and television in the evenings and allow some real shared joy and playfulness to be reintroduced to our lives.