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Playing Games

One year when I was a teacher, our Christmas gift from the PTA was a big wad of cash.  I know — right?  Sort of strange.  I mean, I get the idea of a Christmas bonus from a company, where they’re sharing the excess in profits with the staff who made it happen, but it was a little bizarre to get this envelope of money handed to me.  It sort of made me feel like a whore.

I didn’t really know what to do with it, so I threw it in a drawer years ago.  I always knew it was there, and Josh and I referred to it as the zombie money; the cash we’d use to get away when the zombie invasion starts and we can’t get to a bank because they’ve been taken over by the brain-eating undead.

I dipped into the zombie money this week, hoping beyond hope that I’ll have enough time to replenish the fund before the undead rise, rancid and mottling, from their graves.

I bought myself a bunch of games.  Like board games.  Like board games I can play by myself and pretend they’re for the kids.  But they’re really for me.

The game fixation started months ago when we got Solitaire Chess.  I was using it to teach the Wolvog how the pieces move in chess, but after he’d go to bed, I’d play it while I waited for websites to load.

( Sidenote: My computer is old and creaky and runs on Windows, which means that it often takes between three and five minutes for all of the error messages to clear so I can see that the website I just clicked on doesn’t have the information I need and the joyful surf across the Internet begins anew.  I like to think of my slowed down ability to Web surf as my version of the Endless Summer — less enjoyable, with fewer waves, but the wait times are often endless since my computer crashes at least once or twice a day.

So you see, I have a lot of spare minutes to fill.)

And I filled them playing Solitaire Chess.  I finished all the levels.  I felt pretty damn proud of myself, and I made the kids and Josh tell me over and over again how smart I was.

I had been eyeing the game Chocolate Fix (another logic puzzle), though I couldn’t quite figure out how to play until the rules clicked with me this week while I was standing in the store.  I tried to convince the twins that we needed it, but I was out-voted (damn you, family democracy!) and we went home with Tilt instead.

Tilt was fun, and I was quickly addicted, but this indignation also took root overnight.  I was an adult, damn it.  If I wanted Chocolate Fix, we were going to get Chocolate Fix.  And if I had to dip into the zombie fund to do it, so be it.

I went online to see what other logic puzzles ThinkFun (the company that makes all these games) made, and found out that they had two iPad apps and more on the way.  So first and foremost, I downloaded Solitaire Chess and Rush Hour onto the iPad.

My thoughts: I like having Solitaire Chess on the iPad because it makes it even more portable (though it was already pretty damn portable), though I like playing it more with the plastic pieces.  On the other hand, I enjoy Rush Hour a lot more on the iPad vs. the plastic pieces.

Then I played their online version of What’s Gnu, which teaches reading/spelling skills and added that to the shopping list.  We don’t play it right now as they list in the rules.  Here’s how we use it:

  • Find the 14 word-ending cards.  If you’ve ever taught phonics, these are the word family cards (ig, an, at, ow, etc).
  • Sit across from one another and spread out your 7 cards in front of you.
  • Click the machine to spit out two letters.  The one closest to you is “your” letter.
  • Use it to form a word… if you can.  For the first round or two, you can usually use any letter.  But it gets harder once you have fewer cards.  For instance, let’s say that you’re down to “an” and “at” and the letter you get is “J” — that can’t be used to form a common word.  So you lose that turn.
  • Whoever fills all 7 cards first wins.
  • I have lost consistently every single time we’ve played.
  • The ChickieNob has no clue that she is practicing reading/spelling skills.

In the future, we’ll play the right way (and it has multiple levels).  It’s sort of like Zingo… with forming words instead of recognizing pictures. (By the way, ThinkFun also makes Zingo, if you’re familiar with that game.)

So armed with the zombie fund money, I went to the store and blew it on Chocolate Fix (which is exactly as good as I thought it would be.  I’m up to level 19.  Nothing will prepare you more for the GRE than playing Chocolate Fix), What’s Gnu, and another game called “Spot It” which I liked because it can be kept in my purse (it’s the only one not made by ThinkFun).

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because I wanted to counterbalance the words I said about Crayola’s coloured bubbles of evil (to be fair to Crayola, their Colour Wonder markers have been a lifesaver on long car trips.  We always get the twins a new one each trip).  Because I want to talk about how I spent the zombie fund.  And because I’m usually squeamish about purchasing toys from an unfamiliar company, and I wanted to spread word that we’ve had a good experience with every ThinkFun game — both the kids playing them and then the adults playing them after the twins have gone to sleep.  And we’ve really enjoyed both iPad/iPhone apps (and you can try them first for free).  So I’m using my words for good — to write a favourable review of all the games we currently have scattered across the living room floor in various stages of play.

Since, you know, we can never take out one game at a time and put it away.

To continue this love fest, please share your favourite game — either from your childhood or a current one that you like to play.


1 Magpie { 05.22.11 at 8:30 am }

Milles bornes. Which is apparently available for iPad etc. Oh no!

2 HereWeGoAJen { 05.22.11 at 8:49 am }

Mancala has always been one of my favorites. It is ridiculously simple but it is calming and satisfying to play. I bet the twins are old enough for it now. And I’ve seen it for $5 at Target, I think. (But look for one with colored marbles, much prettier.)

3 Meredith { 05.22.11 at 9:25 am }

Dream Phone and Mall Madness were sleepover favorites. =)

4 Michele Scott { 05.22.11 at 10:24 am }

I can’t wait to check out some of these games with our 6yo! Growing up I liked Bargain Hunter (with its pretend credit card machine) and Encore (a singing lyrics game.)

5 Meghan { 05.22.11 at 1:54 pm }

I love mancala too. I’ve heard it’s an old lady game but in college my roommates and I used to play all the time. I’m also a big fan of sorry.

6 JustHeather { 05.22.11 at 3:26 pm }

My all time favorite game that I learned as a very young girl is 10,000 (or recently I’ve heard it called Farkle). I also like What’s it to ya?, TransAmerica (great for US geography/cities), Flux and Gimme the Brain.

7 a { 05.22.11 at 4:14 pm }

My favorite was always Masterpiece. It involved buying and selling great works of art (and a few forgeries). Right now, we’re playing Candyland and trying to teach a certain little girl that it’s OK to lose.

However, given the number of times we’ve watched Leap Frog’s Letter Factory and Word Factory videos, What’s Gnu sounds intriguing…

8 Queenie { 05.22.11 at 5:36 pm }

Harry Potter Scene It. And Monopoly. And Clue. Do they have to be board games? We got totally addicted to this thing called Top Toss or Lawn Golf last summer.

9 Sushigirl { 05.22.11 at 5:52 pm }

I loved Connect 4. And also Screwball Scramble which a friend had and I didn’t; I still toy with the idea of buying it to pass the time during the 2ww.

10 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.22.11 at 6:48 pm }

Probe. I quit sucking my thumb for it. In 4th grade.


11 Kristin { 05.22.11 at 6:48 pm }

We love all the variations of Uno…especially Uno Attacks. We also love Bumparena by Cranium games.

12 TasIVFer { 05.22.11 at 8:34 pm }

Uno Spin! Every Friday at 4:30 my team at work goes into the conference room for our last ‘meeting’ of the day. I keep my popcorn popper permanently in the office (and have butter in the fridge with a sign that says ‘DO NOT USE; I SPIT IN THIS AND I HAVE A COLD’ so slackers don’t use it and leave crumbs in it). At lunch we also head to the bottle shop and the organic shop around the corner to get other supplies. The game’s fun, and it’s nice to so something social but brief with everyone. It’s nice to remember that sometimes we may not agree on things we’re all working on, however as people we all get on well.

13 rachel { 05.22.11 at 9:36 pm }

Girl Talk was a fave, and Monopoly. Hubby and I have been playing “Trivial Pursuit” before bed, as a way to have something to talk about before bed besides infertility. It is proving to make us closer and less stressed.

14 Calliope { 05.22.11 at 11:20 pm }

When I was younger I loved card games but could never (ever) remember how to play them. Every time I wanted to play gin or crazy 8’s I would have to be reminded of the rules. (um…still do)

When Millie was in the nursing home Mother and I played words with friends and scramble on our phones all day. It was such a saving grace to have something to focus on other than what was happening.

I am *this* close to introducing W to matching games because he seems to be ready.

15 Delenn { 05.23.11 at 9:24 am }

Oooh!! A favorite topic!! I love all sorts of board games–one you might want to get: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/23972/zombies-second-edition

(Love playing that with my son)

I loved Monopoly as a kid, not so much anymore. I loved and still love Scrabble.

Newer games that I like are Banana Grams; Acquire; train games–18XX…

Game I got this year from our gaming convention: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/40692/small-world

And the game we were playing last Friday night: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/24157/order-of-the-stick-adventure-game-the-dungeon-of-d

Also like Skip-Bo. 🙂

16 myinfertilitywoes { 05.23.11 at 9:44 am }

As a child: Hungry Hippos!

Now: Apples to Apples – looooove this game!

17 Battynurse { 05.23.11 at 10:45 am }

My favorite games are computer games. I love hidden object games and puzzle games. I get most of mine from big fish games and by far the best have been the Mystery Case files games. My favorite is Mystery Case Files Return to Ravenhurst. It took me 14 hours (of almost continuous play yes I’m a bit OCD) to get through it the first time and that was with hints etc to get through some of the puzzles. LOVE it.

18 loribeth { 05.23.11 at 1:03 pm }

We had a lot of the classics — Life, Monopoly, Scrabble, Parchesi, Yahtzee — and we have always played a lot of cards. We also played a lot of Trivial Pursuit when it first came out, & I own several different editions.

My favourite as a kid was Mystery Date. : ) I unearthed it in my Mom’s basement when we cleaned it out a few summers ago. It went to the garage sale. Another one was Twister, which was great at birthday parties. I brought it with me to university. It takes on a whole new meaning at a co-ed dorm party after a few drinks. ; )

We don’t play a lot of board games these days, mostly cards. And, lately, dominos. One game we do play is a sort of combination card & board game called Sequence. Very addictive!

19 Peg { 05.23.11 at 3:48 pm }

We started with Rush Hour Safari, moved on to Serpentines and now are happily playing Tilt thanks to the Easter Bunny. I actually had my hand on Solitaire Chess but went with Tilt instead since we play regular chess all the time. We love all the thinkfun games including for the toddler set….smatch, zingo, zingo 123…all huge hits in our house! We also just got the game Set…which is also a game for one or many.

20 Missy { 05.24.11 at 1:04 am }

Clue. And holy crap I have never heard of most of the ones you mention. I am way behind in the world of games.

21 magpie { 05.24.11 at 11:04 am }

Rush Hour is addicting. Oy.

22 Heather { 05.24.11 at 2:49 pm }

I’m in love with sudoku puzzles. But Clue was my favorite board game as a kid. That and Uno.

23 coffeegrl { 05.24.11 at 4:16 pm }

I love games. I love to play card games (Uno, euchre, rummy) and dominoes with my family. My friends and I used to play a lot of German style board games (my recent favorite was Thurn and Taxis) but they’re time intensive and I suspect it will be a few years before we get back to them. As a kid I loved Clue. Oh, and I have to say I’m with Heather. Totally addicted to sudoku and cryptograms (love codes!).

24 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 05.27.11 at 1:40 am }

But the GRE doesn’t have the logic section anymore! Luckily it still did when I took it, though, because I rocked it, and my years of logic puzzles actually amounted to something.

Really enjoyed Rummikub, and various card games. I loved board games but couldn’t play many since I was an only child and had no one to play with boo hoo.

For kids your twins’ age, Zoombinis is an amazing computer game — timeless, really (which is good since it comes on CD-ROM — it will fit right in with your computer).

25 Charlotte { 05.27.11 at 4:04 pm }

Love reading and remembering all these old favorites! Thanks so much for the reminder of how important games are for so many reasons – bringing families (and coworkers – love this UNO popcorn story!) together, providing brain-building challenges for mom and dad, and finding new ways to teach important skills through the fun of game play!

I love your modifications to What’s GNU, you preserve the fun while packing a session chock-full of rich learning, and your daughter thinks she’s “just playing” – love it!

26 Peg { 05.27.11 at 10:55 pm }

I went to my favorite local toy store on Wednesday and bought Chocolate Fix. We are all obsessed. I love it. Thanks for the suggestion!

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