board games

The other week was R.’s birthday. As always, I had a bit of difficulty getting that “something small” that was required… until I passed the wargames shop in the BNZ Centre.

“Uh-oh”, I hear you say.

OK, hear me out. I’m not about to turn into one of those bearded blokes that spend weekends playing Warhammer or re-enacting the Battle of Waterloo in miniature. (I don’t think it’s possible for me to even grow a beard.)

Over last Queen’s Birthday weekend we went to Napier. While staying at R.’s Aunt and Uncle’s house they got us started on some interesting board games. They had an amazing kids game called Der schwarze Pirat1; a travel board game called 10 days in Asia; and another board game called Lost Cities.

We all had a lot of fun with these, and so I reckoned that the right game, one that we could play as a family, might be a Good (and “something small”) Thing. The wargames shop had a one called Fast Flowing Forest Fellers, which looked pretty interesting. A racing game (tick! simple objectives for the kids); 8 and above (tick! kind of2); plays up to six (tick!); and 30-60 minute play time (tick! for people with attention deficit - i.e., the kids and me). Just the thing! (Pity about the name though.)

Superficially the game looks simple - your lumberjacks race to the end of the board. But there’s a selection of printed boards enabling different “rivers” to be set up. There’s obstacles in the form of cunningly shaped watersources, floating logs, and of course other players. And there’s various backflows and currents that other, less charitable players will shove you into3, carrying you back towards the start.

Fast Flowing Forest Fellers

R. was well pleased with it (phewf). And since then, we’ve played it a lot, all four of us. We’ve all won at least once, showing that you can play with or without strategy and still win. If you want a fun family game for adults and kids-under-ten, this one will do the job nicely. And R. and I sometimes play a game after the kids have gone to bed; although it has to be said that a crowded board is better, and it’s actually better fun with more players. We may have to modify the two-person rules a little.

Then, on the way to Masterton on Friday, we stopped at All Aboard, the board games shop in Featherston. There’s a huge, and fantastic, range of stuff there, and we were lucky to escape with only one major purchase: a game for slightly younger kids called Gulo Gulo.

Gulo Gulo

In this game you are a sneaky wolverine trying to steal eggs from a nest. However, the nest is rigged with an alarm: as you can see above, if you disturb the eggs too much the weighted stick falls to the ground and you’ve triggered the “Egg Alarm” (and at this point the kids usually squeal with glee); and your poor little wolverine has to retreat back along the path.

This game is a pleasing mix of luck and skill, with only a small tactical component. And again, this one is a hit with the kids - their little fingers give them enough of an edge that there’s an even chance of them winning.

One of the interesting things about both of these games (and many of the others mentioned) is that they are from Germany. Wikipedia has an entry for these German Style Board Games, and there seems to be enough of a buzz about it for Wired to cover it recently. I’m sensing a deep and fertile ground for future obsessional behaviour on my part.

Meanwhile, we’ve gained a nice little bit of family social time - and a way more interactive time than any of the Wii games we’ve played except maybe for Wii Sports. R₂ is enthusiastic enough to get the games out and set them up, ready to dragoon us into playing with her. (She’s hard to turn down.)

It’s lucky that we don’t go past that shop in Featherston very often.

  1. In which you have to use a little bellows to puff your pirate ship about the board collecting treasure. Lots of fun. Watch out for that Pirate though - players each take a turn being the pirate on the roll of a die. ↩︎

  2. In store they said that the ages on games are relevant for unsupervised use. And it turns out that R₂, though six, is fine with this game. ↩︎

  3. Once R. and I start on tit for tat shoving into the current, one of the kids will often win. I usually start it, I have to admit. ↩︎

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