Category Archives: Games

A Cousin, Once Removed

We spent the Memorial Day holiday with my nephew and his bride, and their new baby, my Grand Nephew. We ate delicious burgers, played games, went for a walk, scrounged a casual dinner and watched the beginning of the third Hobbit movie.

A 'quick' game of Robo Rally with my niece and nephew.

A ‘quick’ game of Robo Rally with my niece and nephew.

It was a delightful day, much enjoyed. I managed to win all three of the games, although not without a certain amount of mercy when I forgot to take my entire turn (or took an obviously-foolish action). We played Robo Rally, Star Realms and the DC Comics Deck Building game — an excellent way to spend a day off.

John spent some quality time with Rachel, who sprained her ankle yesterday.

John spent some quality time with Rachel, who sprained her ankle yesterday.

I needed to talk a walk before supper to earn some extra calories (and to make sure I don’t have to pay Daniel a forfeit for missing out on our exercise challenge). We did two laps around a nearby lake, and managed to put John to sleep (in spite of my wild driving). It has been a long time since I drove one of those stroller things.

A mostly-staged photo for the blog.

A mostly-staged photo for the blog.

During the walk, there was much discussion about whether little John Mark was a second cousin or a cousin once-removed to my children. Fortunately, the interweb helped us understand that my kids (Joshua, for example) are cousins once-removed from Little John (as Joshua calls him). I removed Joshua into the underbrush to underscore the point.

We are so thankful to have Tim and Sunny and little John with us here in Washington!

Project 365, Day 145

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Gaming Out the Old Year

Now that our cumulative 14″ of snow has completely melted, and the presents are (mostly) opened, we have a moment of respite from our hectic Christmas schedule. We drove out to the Duckabush to spend Christmas evening with my folks, and stayed for a couple of days. It is never long enough, when we go out, and we slighted a few friends, for which I am sorry. :(

Sledding at the Duckabush
Happily, since the time of this photo, Daniel has acquired manly black snow pants.

The snow was still heavy on the ground, and had begun to melt by the time we were ready to leave. There was about 6″ of slush on the road, and I was very much afraid we would get stuck or slide off the road as we left the valley. I worked myself up into a fearful tizzy, and was quite short-tempered with Kathy — I just wanted to get the van down the two hills and get it over with, so I wouldn’t be afraid anymore.

I don’t think I’ve been that scared, since my Army days as a paratrooper. Funny how the mind can play tricks — we drove down both hills safely, and made it home with no trouble.

As soon as there was some quiet, Kathy rushed to fill the void: “How ’bout we have a New Years’ Eve party?”

I reluctantly agreed. As an introvert and a parent of five children, I treasure my hard-won peace and tranquility. “Couldn’t we just have a quiet evening at home?” I begged, querulously.

Kathy was relentless. “Let’s see, I’ll make Mesa Manna rolls, and Spiced Cider Tea … we’ll invite some of our friends, and it will be great!” One of the things I love best about my Kathy is her enthusiasm for life.

Killer Bunny Girls
Rachel’s good friends, Sarah and Jenny, came over before the party

We decided to host a game party, and phoned ’round to gather some friends. As is often the case, we forgot a few people (for which we apologize) but we still ended up with a houseful — 13 adults and 24 kids. We permitted guests to stand around and talk a little, but pretty soon we got the game tables going. We played many games:

King Don presides
A friendly game of Scum

The party divided into various groups: people who wanted to run around wildly, a few who wanted to hide from the wild people, social folk who wanted to play loud party games, and the intelligentsia, who wanted to do some serious bean growing.

A quiet book nook
There’s one in every party — a person who just wants to curl up with a good book.

“Stop running around wildly,” Kathy scolded me. So I spent the evening growing beans with a few like-minded deep-thinkers.

I’m sure they had fun at the “loud party game” table, but I lost interest in that table when I was relegated to Scum (the lowest-ranked player). Nobody says I have to be a graceful loser. :)

Bean Farming Bohnanza is a fun and addictive game in which you try to plant various bean crops, and are compensated according to the number and rarity of your beans. Some players tried to build bean empires on the rarest of beans, cashing in on Cocoa, Garden and Red Beans. I developed an occasionally-winning strategy with the mid-class beans, including Soy, Green and Chili Beans (although I dabbled in Garden Beans when the opportunity presented itself).

Bean Farmer's Anonymous
The Bean Futures Exchange

Our friend Steve lost a couple of rounds, so he decided to invest in the cheapest and most common beans, including Coffee, Wax and Blue Beans. Building an empire on bean donations, he managed to eke out a victory a little after midnight, much to the relief of his family. “We’re not leaving until I win,” he growled after the third round.

An assortment of cookies
Showing heroic diligence, I was careful to sample each of the cookie varieties.

I had a lot of fun, and there were many delicious things to eat. Julee brought a delicious Prime Rib soup and Cheesy Sausage dip, and cookies abounded. Don and Jennifer brought meatballs, and even set some aside that were ‘clean’ (no sugar added) for Kathy. There were brownies and Grape Fanta for the kids. Michelle brought some Chex mix and a white chocolate pretzel mix, and a chicken lasagna in a crock pot. There was a huge veggie tray and frosted pumpkin bars. Someone brought several bags of chips, and I broke out the last of my hoard of Banana Punch.

The next morning, we talked about the fun we had, and how many food items we forgot to offer to our guests. “We should have another party,” I enthused, momentarily abandoning my introverted ways. “Why don’t we do Game Night every Friday”? I asked, conveniently forgetting the all-day cleaning frenzy that had preceded this party.

Kathy smiled at me patiently.

“Or maybe we could just invite people for whom we don’t need to clean … ? ” I suggested tentatively.

Happy New Year!


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Every now and then I am a little embarrassed at how I spend my time.

I’m a busy guy, most days. When I’m not working for my employer, or parenting, or involved in things with church, I sometimes work on side projects, most of them on a volunteer basis. Every now and then I take on some extra work that brings in additional cash, but even then it is hard to find the time, and projects languish.

Yet somehow I always seem to find time to play computer games. Lately, I’ve been playing Bookworm, a Boggle-like computer game that I bought for Kathy more than two years ago. Kathy (or maybe one of the kids) recently re-discovered it, and we’ve all been playing (even David and Sarah offer helpful suggestions). It is a very fun, and addictive single-player game. Significantly, we’ve not been requiring Computer Game Chips for this particular game, since it is, er, ‘educational’ in nature.

Bookworm Game
It is a very affirming game, announcing ‘Excellent!’ or ‘Astonishing!’ when you find a high-scoring word.

When I say it is a “single-player” game, I’m not being entirely accurate — Kathy and I have become the tiniest bit competitive as we vie for the highest score or level, or the longest word. “Hey, look at this!” Kathy chortles. “I’ve got ‘BLUDGEON’ — what a great word!” Joshua and Rachel rush over and nod approvingly.

“Hmmph,” I snort, miffed that the kids cheer Kathy. “That’s really not much better than my ‘ABANDON’. What’s one little letter, between family members?” Daniel smirks at my pathetic attempt to upstage Kathy’s word. “Fantastic!” the game crows, as she completes the word.

Not one to tolerate a slight, I switch gears to the other new game I’ve been playing: Knighthood. An application that runs within Facebook, it is a somewhat silly game in which you begin life as a Squire and work your way up the feudal ladder by constructing fortifications, recruiting vassals, and attacking your neighbors. I’m still in the ‘building’ stage, fearing to make the transition to ‘War Mode’, but I’ve happily recruited nearly all my ‘friends’ from Facebook to play. (Yep, all three of them.)

Some of them sidle up to Kathy at church. “I got this weird message from Tim — apparently I’m some sort of a … vassal?”

Kathy rolls her eyes, martyr to geekdom that she is. “Yes, he’s all in a tizzy about it. His cousin Kevin introduced him to the game, and it’s been nothing but ‘Knighthood this’ and ‘Knighthood that’, ever since. Just humor him, add the application, and he’ll be happy. I’d draw the line if he starts calling you a ‘varlet’ or a ‘wench’, though.”

Knighthood Logo
The Knighthood Logo

If my unsuspecting recruits accept my invitation, and add the Knighthood application to their profile, they become Knights (or Ladies) and are worth twice as much to me as when they were lowly Squires (or Handmaidens). Otherwise, after 14 days of servitude, they leave my court, and I have to recruit ‘em all over again. Presumably, if I keep bombarding all my ‘friends’ with Knighthood invitations, they’ll either add it to their profile or put me on permanent ‘ignore’.

Baron Tim
Wouldn’t you want to be a vassal to this Baron?

I’m currently a Baron, and serve as liege to seven or eight Knights and Ladies and a whole passel of Squires and Handmaidens. I’ve got to stay ahead of ‘em in rank, or they can win their freedom (and I’ll have no one to work in my castle buildings). It is a strange game, entirely virtual, played against strangers, yet (at least in ‘Peace Mode’) rather passive.

Two potential vassals
There’s nothing passive about these two potential vassals.

Days can go by with nothing really happening in your kingdom, if you’re in the middle of a large building or upgrading project. And yet the game has a certain charm. Many of us, who grew up reading stories of the middle ages, yearn for a time of Chivalry, Honor and Glory. Here in the game of Knighthood, I can arm my vassals with pikes and axes and make sure they all pray in church (to maximize their zeal). Once ready, I can raid the virtual castle of some poor, unsuspecting guy in Bangladesh, winning fame, gold, glory and (if I’m lucky) taking some captives. (Hmmm. Maybe I need to revisit that whole ‘Chivalry’ thing.)

My castle still needs some work, even if (in honor of Mr. Darcy) I named it “Pemberly”.

I’ll keep you posted if I ever go to war … I know several of you are on the edges of your seats. Drop me a line if you want to become my vassal. :)


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Game Review — Saga

Over the last several years, Kathy and I have made a concerted effort to find and buy a whole passel (maybe a passel and a half) of interesting board games for our family. At Christmas time, I research which games have won awards and (more importantly) are on sale, and then I buy a whole box-load from my favorite online retailer. This year they were all labeled, “To Rudolph”, since they are considered to be presents to the whole family. Joshua chortled whenever another “Rudolph” gift was discovered, as a pattern began to emerge.

Joshua looks smug
A rare moment when I seemed to be winning.

(I’ve written to my favorite game store, asking them to offer a discount for my readers; if they do, I’ll be sure to post the details of the discount and a link to games I recommend.)

The game of Saga
The knights and districts of Saga

Tonight I gathered my two oldest boys and we played a quick game of Saga, in which players compete to capture and retain six kingdom districts. There are only a few simple rules, and it is easy to pick up the basics of the game, but it has unexpected depth in playing strategy. Kingdom districts change hands as the players marshal increasingly large armies of knights, looking ahead three and even four turns to outwit opponents. The game ends when one player manages to get all his knights in play (either attacking or defending), leaving his opponents shaking their heads in consternation.

Knights attacking Castle-land
Several knights and the Castle province

I’ve played the game three times so far, and lost every time — but I really enjoy its deceptive simplicity. Tonight Joshua timed it beautifully, snatching the critical forest-land district from my control as he played his last knight, leaving me with my forces in disarray and an abysmal score. I haven’t been defeated that badly in a game in a long time … it was an exhilarating experience.

Time to Play
Where to Buy
2-4 players
ages 12 and up
40 minutes
Check back later!
Duckabush Summary
This is a fun, easy to play game recommended for players 12 and up (although younger players may enjoy it as well). Since there are several layers of strategy to the game, it is possible for one person to play the game at face value while another player expends great effort trying to predict and thwart enemy strategies. Early on, it may seem that the game will never end, since you take your knights back into your hand whenever one of your provinces is captured by an enemy. Don’t become complacent, though, because the end of the game can really sneak up on you suddenly — it really does only take about 40 minutes to play.

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WFMW – Educational Computer Games

WFMWIt’s been so long since I’ve blogged, I feel quite out of practice. Is there such a thing as Dead Air on a blog? We were traveling yesterday and completely missed posting our weekly Parenting Tip. Some people would have blogs in reserve and wouldn’t let something as trivial as flying across the country cause a slip in posting.

Those people don’t live in this house.

I’m also drawing a complete blank on today’s Works for Me Wednesday post.

Educational computer games.

With five children, a programmer husband, and several computers in the home, you can be sure we have invested money in educational computer games.

Some of Our Favorite Educational Computer Games

Crazy Machines – In this game you build imaginative machines, turn cranks, rotate gears, pull levers, create unique contraptions. You also experiment with gears, robots, explosives, and more in your own virtual lab. The early levels are fairly easy but the game gets progressively harder. All the children have taken a turn at the game, although Joshua is the one who truly enjoys it. He received Crazy Machines 1.5 for his birthday.

crazy machines crazy machines 1.5

Jumpstart Typing – We have gone through several different typing programs in an attempt to master those oh so important typing skills. Joshua and Rachel agreed that the Jumpstart version (although we have a much older one) is their favorite.


CluefindersThe Learning Company makes a 4th, 5th, and 6th grade level of the Cluefinder game as well as some other versions. The older children especially enjoyed Cluefinder 5th Grade. Amazon describes the game: The adventure begins with the ClueFinder kids shipwrecked on a mysterious island. Two of their teammates are trapped in an underground hideaway, and the ship’s captain and crew are missing as well. It’s up to the rest of the gang to find their friends and get off the island- all before a monstrous volcano blows its top. To solve the mystery and save the day, kids help the ClueFinders complete activities and collect the strange CrypTiles that will unlock the island’s secrets. The ten activities cover math, social studies, reading, critical thinking and science. Sounds like fun to me.

Reader Rabbit – there are probably dozens of Reader Rabbit games, and I think we’ve accumulated almost all of them over the years. We’ve played preschool, phonics, math, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, etc. As the computers advance (shifting from Windows 95 to 98, XP and beyond) we occasionally update our stock of Reader Rabbit games. Recently I had the older children go through our EXTENSIVE collection of computer games, weeding out the ones that don’t work on our current computer or are dull and rarely played. The Reader Rabbit cds remain consistent favorites.

Do you have an educational game your family enjoys? Leave a comment and share titles. After all, Christmas is right around the corner and I need all the help I can get. :)

For other great ideas, go to Rocks In My Dryer


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