Games for a Horde of 8 Year Olds

Last week I was feeling the gaming urge rather strongly. Unfortunately all my regular gaming sessions had been cancelled, and even Mike turned my suggestions of an impromptu two-player game of something.

So in a fit of desperation shallowly disguised as parental involvement I asked my 8 year old son if he would like to invite some of his friends over for a games night.

I play a lot of board games with my children, particularly my son. However I’ve never really played with a larger group of kids before and so I was a little nervous about how well it would go down. A group of 8 year old boys aren’t the easiest of cats to herd, and my track record of tolerating other people’s children is patchy at best.

I needn’t have worried however as the night went very well indeed.

I think its success can be attributed to choosing a variety of short and engaging games. As much as we gamer types like to point to Mice and Mystics and Forbidden Island as being great kids games; the amount of concentration needed can sometimes be a little too much for the younger end of the age range; especially if they’re giddy about being with their friends.

All the games I brought to the table went down very well; but two in particular were standouts.

The first big hit was Rampage – a board game version of the classic arcade game from the 80s. In Rampage you are a monster who’s sole purpose in life is to smash things up, eat as much as you can, and try to knock your rivals on their arses. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much the life of an 8 year old boy too so its success with the lads shouldn’t have been a surprise.

(photo by Daniel Thurot)

(photo by Daniel Thurot)

However Rampage is an awful lot of fun, even for grown ups. It has a surprising amount of tactics to it considering it is a game where you are flicking wooden discs around and knocking over buildings by dropping model monsters on them.

There were very few tactics to be seen on this games night however, especially as I simplified the rules somewhat by taking the special powers cards out. The game quickly degenerated into a joyful free-for-all of wanton destruction with little to no regard for scoring points. Which to be fair is probably the way its best played.

The other big success of the night was Snake Oil, which is a party game I’ve reviewed here in the past. In Snake Oil one person takes the role of a customer, while the others try to sell them a fictional product made up from combining two words from cards in their hand.

Snake Oil Cards

Snake Oil Cards

Snake Oil is a firm favourite of both my son and my elder daughter, and so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how well it went down with the boys. At points they were literally crying with laughter at the products they were coming up with. And when one of them drew a card that said “Burp” I thought they were going to have an aneurysm.

Other games that we played were Tsuro, Dobble (or Spot It for the chronically non-British), and a nifty little German worm racing game called Da ist der Wurm drin. All of which were met with exuberance, enthusiasm and good sportsmanship.

There was no incidences of whining, and only one episode of crying (when I misjudged the mood and accused one of the boys of looking like a chimpanzee). When it was time to go home all three lads were disappointed it was over and all asked to do it again as soon as possible. Which is an idea that I’m pretty much in favour of myself.

What games would you play with a bunch of 8 year old boys?

Concept: Board Game Review

concept box

Opening the box for Concept feels much like unpacking a new iPad. There is same matt white plastic, the same clean and simple design philosophy, and the same tactile thrill as you pulled the components from the insert. In fact the only real difference in between opening a iPad and opening Concept is that you don’t have to re-mortgage your house in order to do it.

Its not just the packaging that shares the aesthetics of Apple products. The game board itself resembles some sort of giant iOS display. Dozens of square icons with rounded corners sitting in neat columns. The only thing missing is the angry birds app and a background hum of smug superiority.

Concept is a game for between two and twelve players aged around ten and up. In it the players attempt to communicate words and phrases to each other by putting counters down on relevant icons on the board. It’s a bit like charades, but instead of gestures you use a pre-set and finite set of pictures.

So in order to do the word “milk” you might put a counter on the icon for foodstuff, a counter on liquid, and a counter on white.

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Or if you wanted to do Van Gogh you would put your counters on the icons for male, art, ear and cut:

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Easy peasy lemon squeezy right?

Well yes, but not all the concepts are that easy. There is even a sliding scale of difficulty for you to chose from. The options range from “crocodile” and “brick” all the way to “get your sea legs” and “Statue of Christ the Redeemer”. There are also ways of you indicating “sub concepts” within the main concept using different coloured counters. Should you want to you can make the game very tricky indeed.

I really like Concept. In fact I really really like it. By placing severe limitations on your means of communication the game brings out the creativity and lateral thinking in its players. Much like the wonderful Dixit, Concept allows you to get a fascinating glimpse of how your friends and family’s brains really work. And sometimes that glimpse can be very funny indeed.

The rules of the game are short, but relatively vague. The designers of the game clearly consider this to be a game that is played for fun rather than competition, and points and scoring seem added almost as an afterthought.

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This casual approach to doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Concept is a warm game, best played to enjoy the company of the fellow players rather than coolly test your metal against them. It’s one of those games that you’ll probably end up playing until you feel ready to stop rather than to the rather flimsily set end objective.

However if grinding opponents into the dust is more your cup of tea then the game can be easily corrupted to accommodate that style of play. I can certainly envisage a team vs team variant which would be cut throat and intense enough to end the most solid of relationships.

Concept is a fantastic game, ideally suited to family game nights and grown up’s dinner parties alike. Its one of those precious games that both kids and adults can play together and enjoy equally.

It’s also an extremely accessible game. Anyone can pick this off the shelf and be up and running and able to teach others to play within five to ten minutes.

Concept is a game that deserves to be as mainstream as Pictonary or Cranium, and with a bit of luck combined with it’s recent nomination for the prestigious Speil des Jahres gaming award I’d not be surprised if it catches the cultural zeitgeist very soon.

Concept can be bought at a your favourite multinational faceless online megastore for about £25.

Monopoly: A Love-Hate Relationship

When you think of a classic board game, you probably think of Monopoly. Versions of the game have been played by friends and families for over 100 years. Based off the 1906 game The Landlord’s Game, the first version of Monopoly was created in 1933, which launched Parker Brothers distribution of a version in 1935. A few years later, Parker Brothers earned licensing rights to sell the game outside of the US. Today, it has been translated into 43 different languages, and is sold in over 111 different countries across the world.

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Every once in a while, it can be fun to break out the classic game. Its usually a guaranteed way to keep you busy for a few hours. If you follow the blog, you know I’ve acknowledged how Monopoly could be used as a way to teach your children how to be good losers, but also that there are more gentle ways of teaching the lesson with games that won’t result in tears.

Admittedly while this might be a slight exaggeration, the game has been the center of a long-running joke about feuds and hurt feelings between competitive players. The joke inspired the satirical Cracked article, If Monopoly Was Honest, as well as a slew of internet memes.

In 1973, San Francisco State University Professor Ralph Anspach took his hatred of the game to a new level. Anspach believed the game taught players that monopolies in business were a good thing, when they are actually harmful to the free-enterprise system. Frustrated, he created the Anti-Monopoly game. The strategy is to essentially work backwards from the end of Monopoly, taking the monopolized properties and returning the board to a free-market system.

Monopoly

Even though some might find the game infuriating, others can’t seem to get enough. For those that really have the urge to play, there are a couple of easy ways you can get your Monopoly fix. When you can’t find a willing challenger, you can turn your Monopoly dollars into cold hard cash with the Monopoly Pass GO game on Betfair’s Arcade site. At the very least when you’re playing online, you’ll be able to avoid fights with you’re loved ones. Also, again, there’s actual money to be made instead of just shouting matches about how someone collected too much money for rent.

If you’re really crazy for the game, you might even find yourself participating in McDonald’s yearly Monopoly sales promotion. It first ran in 1987 and is still one of McDonald’s most successful campaigns. Last year’s promotion was credited for raising profits 5% throughout its duration. Players can collect game pieces off of food and drink wrappers and packaging to win prizes, although you might find your clothes are a bit tighter and your wallet more empty once the promotion wraps.

Love it or hate it, the game has been around for over a century, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon. Incorporating new themed boards and special editions keep the game relevant to new players constantly. If you decide to partake in a round, remember the unwritten Monopoly rules:

- Flipping the board off the table will not be tolerated.

- Even if you did land on her hotel, on Boardwalk, cursing at your Grandmother is not okay.

- You will probably have to see the people you play with again, so avoid name-calling.

- Keep your hands to yourself. Biting, spitting, hitting, and other physical violence is prohibited.

- Just because you lose at Monopoly, doesn’t mean you lose at life. Lighten up, it’s just a game!

Five a day? Healthy party food – how hard can it be…..?!

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For many years we’ve been led to believe that 5 portions of fruit and veg a day will ensure a long and healthy life, so long as it’s not balanced out with copious quantities of stuff that’s bad for you – like butter, chocolate, crisps – stuff that tastes as good as it looks! Not, of course, that fruit and veg taste looks or tastes bad, but there’s something comforting about the bad stuff, isn’t there? Something tempting, something irresistible….

And then, just when we thought we’d got it cracked, ‘THEY’ tell us we aren’t eating enough. Well, we’re eating enough, far too much in fact, so much that over 60% of adults are overweight in the UK.

What we’re not eating enough of is the good stuff, the fruit and veg stuff. Now, we’re told we should be eating 7 portions of fruit and veg a day. And that five of the seven should be vegetables. In some countries the official advice is to eat 7 portions. In the UK, for now at least, the advice will stick to us eating at least 5 portions, because sometimes, even for adults, that seems tough enough to achieve.

Most parents battle with getting enough fruit and veg into their kids, and those that don’t, well I for one envy you! You start out when they’re tiny – or I did at least (and I don’t THINK I’m alone there) – reading all the baby food books, weaning them on homemade carefully prepared and quick frozen purees of carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, assuming that, as they grew older they would demand these things when you asked what they would like for their tea. You didn’t think that your beautifully brought up babies would turn into the kind of toddlers who would through cucumber onto the floor with disgust and demand a bowl of chocolate instead. For their dinner. You thought they would remain compliant and accepting of the healthy eating regime you so carefully planned for them. With your first child at least (you soon learn your lesson…) you hadn’t planned on them developing a mind of their own, of them rejecting your reasoning for healthy eating – a long life lived well. What does a toddler or young child understand about that? Their ‘live in the moment’ approach to life is, really, totally understandable.

But, if like me, you’re stubborn by nature, you keep trying, and you come up with what you think are inventive ways of introducing fruit and veg into their diets. You put veg in pasta sauce and you whizz it up until smooth – but I never underestimate a 6 year old’s ability to sniff out a dreaded courgette or carrot.

Nor would I now underestimate their dramatic abilities – the exaggerated look on their face, the clutching of the throat when they realise a carrot has made its way past their lips. Worthy of an Oscar, I’d say.

And when it comes to kid’s party food, well you almost feel like giving up, just for the day, not bothering to make a stand, don’t you? And then the stubborn gene kicks in (the same one you’ve passed onto your kid which makes them sit in front of roasted sweet potato with arms folded and a glower on their face) and you decide you will provide healthy stuff, maybe as well as crisps, and you will ensure it makes it to their plate, although you won’t be able to demand they eat it, not at a party! Maybe you make a yummy looking fruit salad. Or decide one of the party activities will be that they make their own fruit kebabs – some adult help may be required with the skewers – then the party goers can pick and choose their favourite fruit. Take round chopped up salad veg – carrots, cucumber, peppers – and include some more unexpected veg – lettuce, mushrooms – you never know. Provide dips – most of us like dips, don’t we? Low fat varieties are generally available – and lots of kids like hummus, sour cream dips, salsa (just pretend its ketchup….). Remembering it is, after all, a kid’s party, provide biscuits, little cakes, crisps too, but maybe serve the healthy stuff first, and enlist the help of any mums who stay to take platters round ‘encouraging’ each child to try bits.

And on http://www.partythings2go.co.uk/ we’ve got loads of colourful and themed plates, platters and other party stuff to help make the healthy stuff look, and taste, good too!

A Word to the Wise: Don’t Hide Assets Before Your Divorce

You have worked your whole life, got married, had children, and now you are contemplating divorce. You may think to yourself, “I worked so hard for all these years, why should my soon-to-be ex-spouse get a part of that?”  Good thing you handle all the finances, you can just withdraw your earnings and put them aside before the divorce is started, right? Wrong. Divorce lawyers frequently advise clients that assets hidden in contemplation of a divorce will not only be discovered and make you look dishonest, but can potentially result in criminal charges and/or other serious consequences.

Why would you want to hide assets anyway?

It’s simple:  you believe that you are entitled to more money than your spouse. While this may be true, that is not for you to decide.  Everyone knows that as part of any divorce, property will be divided between both spouses. However, to what degree? Who gets what? Is it a 50-50 split or can one spouse receive more? The qualified divorce lawyers commonly answer these questions and the answer depend on whether you live in a “community property” state or an “equitable distribution” state.

If living in a community property state, any “marital property” will be split 50-50 as part of the divorce, while equitable distribution states, such as Pennsylvania, divide “marital property” as fairly as possible based on a number of unique factors (standards of living, earning potential of each spouse, income, debts and liabilities, etc.). Marital property generally includes all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage or the increase in value of certain assets during the marriage. While there are certain exceptions to what is included in “marital property”, regardless of what state you live in, you may feel compelled to hide “your” assets so they aren’t even looked at as part of the divorce in order to give yourself more money at the end of the day.  This is not a smart idea.

What happens if you decide to hide assets?

It is not always the situation where you are physically taking money from a joint bank account and placing it into a “secret” account, but divorce lawyers see situations where you may claim that certain assets are worth less than they actually are, you lie about your monthly income, or you claim that you have a high amount of debt when you don’t.  All of these are examples of “hiding” assets during a divorce and can result in serious consequences.

Once a divorce has started, divorce lawyers representing your ex-spouse are entitled to review your financial information (statements, bank records, etc.).  Based on these documents, it is typically very easy to follow the trail of money and determine that something is off. If there is suspicion that assets are being hidden, oral or written depositions can be taken under oath and you will be asked questions regarding you and your spouse’s finances. If you lie, you may face criminal perjury charges, you may be ordered to pay fines/costs, or you may even have certain legal claims dismissed. Even if you somehow successfully hide assets and the divorce is finalized, if it is later discovered that you hid them, the Court may reconsider how the property was divided and award such hidden assets to your ex-spouse.  

About the author:

Jason B. Martin, Esquire is a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer and the founder of The Martin Law Firm, P.C., located in Blue Bell, PA. Jason is also a member of the American Health Lawyers Association and serves as outside General Counsel to the Pennsylvania Chiropractic Association. To read more of Jason’s work, visit www.jbmartinlaw.com/blogs/family-law.