Posted in gaming, Librarianing, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

Tabletop Tuesdays with Nightmarium

I’ve been behind on… well, everything, but especially on my gaming posts. Our gaming club is coming along nicely, and since I’ve sent Carcassone out to the next library on the rotation, the kids are back to playing the games we’ve got in house and the goodies I bring from my home stash. The last couple of weeks, Nightmarium has been all the rage here – and why not? It’s creating monsters that turn on one another with glee! I backed Nightmarium as a Kickstarter a few years ago, and it has been a mainstay of gaming in my own home. You don’t need to read to play, the monsters are hilariously weird, and game play moves along at a good pace. Let’s dig in.

Nightmarium: A Game About Conquering Nightmares, Ares, Igrology, et al (2014)
Ages The box says 10+; I’ve actively played this with my then 5-year-old, and easily explained to 7-10 year-olds here at the library. I’d go 7+
Play time: 20-30 minutes, depending on number of players
Number of players: 2-5

Find Nightmarium on Board Game Geek

The monsters featured in this game are a group of Night Terrors ready to haunt your dreams. The backstory is fun, organizing the monsters, by color, into four Legions of Horror. The backstory isn’t necessary for game play, but it adds to the fun. Each legion has its own color: blue stands for Necromunculi, brown for Constricti, green for Chimeridae, and red for Mansters.

Cards come in three types: feet/legs, trunks/bodies, and heads. Some cards can serve multiple functions, like this striking fella, who can be either a head or a body:

 

Players get two actions per turn. You can:

  • draw a card from the top of the deck
  • play a card from your hand
  • discard cards and redraw: one card for every two you discard

If you draw a card and play a card, that’s two actions. If you draw two cards, that’s two actions. If you draw two cards and you want to play the second card, you have to wait until it’s your turn again; playing that card would be a third action. You can discard two cards, draw one card to replace them, AND play or draw another card. That counts as two actions.

You have to assemble your monsters from the bottom up. Feet first; if you have a handful of really great heads, that’s awesome, but you have to start from the feet. There’s no hand minimum or maximum; if you don’t want to get rid of any of your cool head cards, keep them, and keep drawing until you get feet you want to play to start things off.

When you complete a monster, congrats! See those See those pictures in the upper right hand corner of most cards (not all have them)? Those are different abilities that activate once you complete a monster.

Watch out for that Devourer – you have to cut one of YOUR Creatures’ heads off, not your opponents! This can actually be a good thing, because you can add another head and reactivate powers, if you have good ones. It’s a good secret weapon to have. Creature powers are only active when the Creature is completed – not every turn, and not while under construction.

Okay, let’s talk about Legions. I don’t tend to play Legions at the library, because I modify to make things as simple and fun as possible for my younger gaming kids. Legions, like I said before, are organized by color. You don’t HAVE to create Creatures with all parts from the same Legion, though – you’ll still get your abilities when you complete one. Look:

       

Here’s a creature composed of parts from all different Legions (Notice the bottom in #2 can also function as the middle in #3). In #1, the Creature has only one power to activate: the Scavenger, where the player can discard any incomplete creature belonging to another player. If I’m playing against this player, and I have a 2- or 1-card Creature under construction, that player can say goodbye to it, and I have to put it in the Discard pile.

The #2 Creature has Scavenger and the Herald, which lets that player reveal two cards from the deck, face up, so all other players can see it, and play them if they can. If the player gets a pair of feet, awesome; they can play it. If the player draws a body and a head, they can only play them if they have under construction Creatures that can use those cards. Anything that the player can’t use right then and there goes in the Discard pile.

Other powers include the Weeper, which lets the player draw two cards from the deck. They don’t have to play them, they just add them, regardless of what they are.

The Mocker lets you play one card from your hand.

The Executioner lets you take another player’s top card – heads, but also anything that’s on top – if you have a monster under construction and the top card you have is a body, your opponent can take that with Executioner. Cards claimed when someone plays Executioner goes into the player’s hand, not the Discard pile.

Playing abilities does NOT count toward your actions! If the first move you make during your turn is to complete a monster, you play the abilities, and THEN play your second action. It’s pretty awesome.

Okay, so let’s talk about Legions. Like I said, I tend not to play Legions because it’s easier for younger kids to just get used to playing cards, but playing Legions can mix things up for extra fun. Match the colors of your creatures to trip up your opponents: when you finish a monster with cards from the same Legion, everyone else has to discard a card of that Legion OR discard any two cards. Look:

Here’s we’ve got a Manster and a Constricti. If you were to complete these guys on your turn, everyone else would have to discard either one red card and one brown card. If your opponents don’t have those colors? Get rid of any TWO cards per color. Have a red, but no brown? Discard a red and two other cards. Have only blue and green in your hand? Discard four.

You don’t have to complete two at a time; I just took a picture of these two together. But you catch my drift.

Okay, if you are playing Legions, you also have to be careful when you’re putting down cards. If you play a card belonging to a certain Legion, your second action cannot be to play a card from another Legion. If you put down a red pair of legs, you can’t play a blue pair of legs or put a brown body down next. (This is why I don’t play Legion with my library kids yet.)

That’s about it! First player to complete five Creatures wins the game! I play this game pretty regularly at home with my own family; it’s one of my 10-year-old’s favorite games. The library kids ask for this every Monday and Tuesday (our gaming days), too; it’s fun, you can be as silly as you want, and the opportunity for good-natured smack talk is mighty. While Board Game Geek lists it as only available via eBay, I’ve seen it available in several places online, including GameNerdz, Boarding School Games, and Target. Average price is about $20, and it’s well worth the cost. This one will become a foundation game for a lot of collections.

If you feel like testing before you buy, head over to Tabletopia and play online for free!

Happy Gaming!

Posted in gaming, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

Tabletop Tuesdays with Carcassone

Next up, we have Carcassone. My library system’s gaming committee sent our first bin of games over, so I have 10 copies each of Carcassone and 10 of 7 Wonders. I’m still trying to work out 7 Wonders, so we played Carcassone.

I initially brought the game home to playtest with my kids, so I’d be able to figure out modifications, if necessary, for my younger kids, but this was pretty straightforward out of the box, so let’s go.

Carcassone, Z-Man Games (2000)
Ages 7+ (the box says 7+; for my library kids, I’d go 8-10+)
Play time: 45-60 minutes
Number of players: 2-5

Carcassone has been around for over 20 years; it’s won awards; it’s been translated into 22 languages; it’s got expansions. It’s considered, according to Wil Wheaton, to be “one of the four pillars of classic European-style board gaming”; Settlers of Catan, Alhambra, and Ticket to Ride forming the other 3 pillars. It’s a tile-laying game that’s surprisingly straightforward to play and teach.

The Plot: You and your fellow players are creating the French medieval city of Carcassone. To do this, you’ll turn over tiles to reveal different parts of the landscape, and you must create and claim your lands.

Medieval gerrymandering? No, it’s Carcassone! (my photo)

There are rules all players must adhere to: roads (those squiggly beige lines) must connect to other roads. Cities (the walled brown areas) must connect to other parts of the cities. Meeples (the cute little blue guys you see in the above photo) claim different areas as you build them. There are five groups of Meeples: green, red, blue, black, and yellow. Choose your color, and start building. As you play each tile, use your Meeples to claim area. Meeples placed on roads are highwaymen, for those folx who love a bad guy; claim the cities and be a knight; lay your Meeple down on the green areas to be a farmer; claim a monastery (the pointy buildings in the center of the photo) and be a monk. Each of these areas get scored differently:

  1. Putting your meeple on a road claims that road, but you do not score points until the road is complete. It has to lead from somewhere to somewhere. Each tile your road touches is worth one point; my road above leads from one monastery to another, and touches 5 tiles, so that’s 5 points.
  2. Putting your meeple on a city means you’re a knight protecting that city. You do not score points until the city has been completed. See my Meeple above, next to the monastery? That city touches 3 tiles; those tiles are worth 2 points each, so my Knight has 6 points. See that larger city toward the left hand side of the picture? That is a much bigger city, AND has several shields. Those shields are worth an additional 2 points per shield, so that city, which was still under construction when I took this picture, is worth 22 points: 16 points because it spreads across 8 tiles, plus 6 points for the 3 shields within.
  3. Monasteries get 1 point for every tile enclosing them in the area – basically, monasteries get 9 points; they’re surrounded by 8 tiles, and the monastery makes 9.\
  4. Farms are big points, because farmers are scored by the number of completed cities that touch their fields. Start Your Meeples has an excellent way to describe scoring farm points, and I highly recommend this article. Farmers get 3 points for each city.

As you complete your areas, you take your Meeples back, ready to guard (and rob) the next area of the burgeoning city. Use the scoreboard to keep track of your scores.

Okay, a couple of observations during gameplay. You will inadvertently help your opponents sometimes, depending on the tile you draw. My son and I, on our first couple of plays, initially thought we could undercut one another by placing tiles that didn’t connect to anything, to block progress. Don’t do that! After reading more blogs and watching several gameplay videos, we figured out that Carcassone is kind of cooperative, kind of not in that way. Think of it like you’re building a map. It needs to make sense at the end of the day.

Play the short game and the long game for best use of your Meeples! Can you build a 2-tile city? YES. Don’t get hung up on only building gigantic cities, because I promise you, it will bite you on the backside. Ditto for starting roads that have no end. If, toward the end of the game, you have no Meeples to place, you get no points for tiles laid! Make that 3-tile road; build that 2-tile city; get your Meeples and keep going.

Wil Wheaton calls the River Expansion a great way to get beginners used to the process of laying tiles, and he’s right. There are 12 river tiles that must be played first, and you can’t put Meeples on the river, so it’s just a nice, easy way to start the game; scoring goes as usual, and we got into the swing of things without stressing where to place Meeples by doing this. I didn’t play the Abbots part of the expansion yet, though, so if you have played it and want to share your thoughts, PLEASE do.

After a few plays at home, my son and I got into a good rhythm of gameplay, and I was easily able to show our library’s after-school coordinator and one of our children’s librarians how to play. I’m looking forward to reporting back on how the kids took to it this coming Tuesday!

All in All: A fun, creative game that guarantees you’ll never play the same game twice. Easy to explain to younger kids; I think our middle graders and middle schoolers are going to be a strong group for this game, and I feel like the few teens I get (hopefully more, by this summer!) will be into this. As popular as Carcassone is, I’ve yet to meet more than a handful of folx who’ve actually played it (kind of like me, with Settlers of Catan).

If you’d like to watch gameplay videos, I highly recommend Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop episode and Watch It Played’s Carcassone episode, both of which I’m embedding here. Both YouTube accounts are great for learning gameplay for a wealth of different games and are worth subscribing to the feeds.

Posted in gaming, Intermediate, Middle Grade, programs

Tabletop Tuesdays with Tem-Purr-A

I started up my Tabletop Tuesdays a couple of weeks ago for the first time since the Before Times, and I was so happy with the response, I thought I’d start writing about our gaming group.

I have mostly younger kids in my library community – we don’t have a zoned high school near us, and we’re not open for Saturday or Sunday service, so my high school kids are likely hanging out in neighborhoods where their schools are. This informs my gaming choices, to be sure; the lion’s share of my kids are 0-12, with the 5-8 year-old range being the biggest attendees for our programs. So in addition to the usual suspects: Uno, Monopoly and Monopoly Jr., Candyland, and Connect 4, I introduced Tem-Purr-A, a card game that’s similar to Uno, but with more indigestion.

Tempurra, IelloGames (2011)
Ages 8+ (6+ with modifications)
Play time: 15-20 minutes
Number of players: 3-10

The Plot: It’s an eating contest! All the players are cats, passing dishes back and forth among each other, but every card you pick brings you closer to indigestion. If you get three indigestion counters, it’s all over; go get some Alka-Seltzer and relax.

The art is adorable: various cats, brandishing gloriously overflowing dishes. Separate the Indigestion cards from the other cards, shuffle, deal 5 to each player. Put one of the Indigestion cards in the remaining pile.

Images courtesy of Iello Games

Gameplay happens over several rounds. The first player chooses a dish card from their hand and puts it face-up on the table. The next player can either:

  1. Serve a Dish: play a card with the same value (if a card has a value of 6, the player must play a card from their hand with a value of 6)
  2. Eat a Mouthful: Draw the same number of cards as the value of the played card (if you don’t have a 6 card, draw 6 cards). At this point, if you haven’t drawn an Indigestion card, discard the stack you’ve been playing on, and start a new stack by playing a card from your hand.
  3. If you DO draw an Indigestion card, the round is over: the person who got the Indigestion card gets an Indigestion counter; they add the cards they’ve drawn to their hand, and the deck is reshuffled, adding an additional Indigestion card to the mix. The stakes get higher with every Indigestion card revealed, because you’re adding MORE to the deck!
  4. Play an Action Card: Rather than Serve a Dish or Eat a Mouthful, players can play an action card if they have one in their hand. Action cards let you reverse the action, throwing the game back into the previous player’s lap; pass over yourself and have the next player take an action, OR add one dish to the total of dishes to be eaten. If you have a card with a value of 3 showing, and you play a +1 card, the next player must play a card with a face value of 3 OR draw four cards.
  5. Skip a Dish: If you don’t have a card with a face value of the card in play, but have multiple cards of another value, you can play those and Skip the Dish offered. If that 3-card is face up, and you don’t have a 3, but you have a pair of 6 cards, throw them down! Then, clear the stack and start a new pile with the second 6-card facing up, and the next player must either match with a 6-card of their own, draw 6 cards, play an action card, or skip.

Gameplay ends when someone draws their third Indigestion card.

The kids really enjoyed this game, with some modifications. I made it even simpler for my younger kids by keeping it closer to Uno rules: match the cats by number or play an action. If you can’t match, take the number of cards on the displayed card. If you play a +1, the same rules apply as the game rules. I keep the rounds short, and hope to introduce skipping dishes in the next week or two, once the kids are comfortable with game play and pace.

All in All: Super fun for kids 8+, modified for ages 7-8 made it fun for my library kids. This is one of our favorite games at home, and I have my library kids actively looking for this one on game days now.

Posted in gaming

Gaming in the Library

Hi all! I meant to have books ready to go today, but you know what it’s like the first day back after vacation…

 

 

So, bookish posts resume tomorrow, but in the interest of getting a post out today, I thought I’d talk about gaming in my library.

I love tabletop gaming. Board games, roleplaying games, card games, I love them all, and I love getting kids interested in games beyond the usual ones. In the beforetimes, I had a pretty successful weekly tabletop gaming program at my library; I used to joke that it looked like I was running an illegal gambling ring, with tables full of kids playing cards and rolling dice. Now that it looks like in-person programming is back for good, I am thrilled at the hopeful return of my gaming group.

I’ve been warming the kids up with a gradual return, putting out a handful of the usual suspects: puzzles and matching games; Candyland; Connect 4; Uno; Chess, and Checkers. Tomorrow, I’m bringing some of my own games in to jumpstart the gaming: Monsters in the Elevator, which I’ve blogged about before, was a big fave before and I’m hoping will be again. It’s cooperative, easy to learn, and has kids laughing and doing math all at once. I’m going to bring my copy of Takeout: The Card Game, because I think it’s easy enough to play and it’s fun: create a perfectly balanced takeout meal!

Photo: Big Boss Battle

 

Our library system’s Gaming Committee was the recipient of one of our system’s Innovation Grants, which they used to buy copies of different games that will circulate in bins between different branches. My branch received our first bin last week, while I was on vacation, so I’m getting a little bit of a late start. Our first bin has 10 copies each of 7 Wonders and Carcassone, both of which I’m trying to learn well enough to teach. News on that as it develops; I’m hoping my 18 year old Kiddo will be of some assistance on that front.

I’ve got more gaming to talk about – I want to start a Dungeons & Dragons campaign this summer, and have been reading one-page dungeon adventures while I try to get ready to do that – so I’ll be posting more about that in the future. In the meantime, if you have gaming experience, I want to hear about it! Please chime in, and thanks.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, gaming, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Tween Reads

Here it is… The First Holiday Gift Guide of the Season!

Finally, right? Here is my little contribution to the holiday season’s gift guides: a few of these over the next couple of weeks, as I try to match my Reader’s Advisory skills with my love of gifty books and book-adjacent goodies.

Build a Skyscraper, by Paul Farrell, (Sept. 2020, Pavilion Children’s Books), $19.69, ISBN: 978-1843654742

Ages 3-8

If you haven’t played with Paul Farrell’s Build a Castle, you have been missing out, but no worries: just in time for the holidays, he’s released Build a Skyscraper, the next in his series of graphic-designed cards that let you and your kiddos create the skyscraper of your dreams. The box contains 64 cards with slots cut to let you build and expand your building in any way you like. Add glass, decorative elements and flourishes, and build up or out. It’s all up to your little one! Perfect for stocking stuffers, this is great for hours of play and you can build a new skyscraper each time. An 8-page booklet contains some inspiration and descriptions of skyscraper elements. Get out the minifigs and let them move into a new neighborhood!

Elevator Up card game, (2020), $9.99

Ages 7+

Created by a 17-year-old, Elevator Up is – in the words of creator Harrison Brooks – “kid-created, kid-designed, kid-marketed, kid-shipped, and kid-loved card game”. It’s pretty easy to pick up, fast-paced, and way too much fun to play. The goal is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards as your elevator rides through a building. You can use cards to get your opponents stuck, sent back down to the lobby, or have the doors closed on them. There are a lot of laughs to be had – my Kiddo loves closing the door on his older brothers – and the chance for friendly trash talk is high. Support indie game makers and kid creators, give this one a look. For more information, check out the game website at PlayElevatorUp.com.

 

Lost in the Imagination: A Journey Through Nine Worlds in Nine Nights, by Hiawyn Oram/Illustrated by David Wyatt, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536210736

Ages 8-12

This book is just amazing, perfect for the reader always looking for new worlds and new adventures. Taken from the “found” journals of the late theoretical physicist Dawn Gable, the book is an armchair adventure: writing, drawings, research, and keepsakes from Dr. Gable’s nightly journeys into fantastic worlds: Asgard, Camelot, The Lost City of Kôr, and a city of machines, Meganopolis, are only a handful of the worlds explored here. Fantasy artwork brings readers from the fantasy of Camelot, with knights and shields, to the steampunk mechanical world of Meganopolis; dragons fly around Wyvern Alley, with fantastic beasts sketched on journal pages to delight and entice, and the ancient ruins of Atlantis wait for readers in its underwater kingdom, with squid and nautiluses. Perfect for your fantasy fans and anyone who loves the “Ology” series by Dugald Steer. Books like this are a gateway to more reading, so have some Tales of Asgard and Thor on hand, Gulliver’s Travels, or Tales of King Arthur handy.

Keeping this short and sweet, but there is much more to come!
Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Teen, Tween Reads

The holidays are coming… What do I do with these kids?

Welcome to this year’s edition of “What the heck do I do with a house full of kids?” Thanksgiving is THIS WEEK, which means Hanukkah and Christmas are right around the corner. We’re going to have homes full of kids while you’re getting the house clean, cooking meals, wrapping gifts, decorating your home. Sure, you could turn on Klaus on Netflix, but why not have some fun things ready to keep the kids entertained while you and the grownups get some face time in? Here are a few fun books chock full of ideas.

Playing with Collage, by Jeannie Baker, (Oct. 2019, Candlewick Studio), $16, ISBN: 9781536205398

Ages 8-12

Who doesn’t love making collages? It’s one of our favorite things to do at the library. Jeannie Baker is a picture book author-illustrator who created this master class on working with collage for kids and adults alike. She provides a look at the tools and textures she uses to create wonderful collage artwork, with plenty of examples. How do you prep leaves for pressing? Did I even know you prep leaves for pressing, rather than just gluing them to a page and calling it a day? How do you use corrugated cardboard and torn tissue paper to create a visually stunning scene that you can feel by just looking at it? Jeannie Baker is here for you with easy-to-read explanations and techniques. She’s got a whole section dedicated to kitchen materials, so keep things aside as you prep for holiday cooking – your kids will find ways to work with them. She even includes a fun guessing game at the end of the book, challenging readers to identify the materials in her final collage. Provide the materials, set aside a creative space (I usually designate my dining room table), and let them go to work with this book as a fun reference guide. There are suggestions for more advanced crafters in here – make sure any kinds of superglue or cutting materials are used with an adult’s guidance.

 

 

Yikes! Santa Claus is in His Underpants!, by Mister Ed,
(Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $6.99, ISBN: 9780764358296
Ages 3-8

How much fun is this? You get to dress up Santa! The inner flap of this softcover paper doll book is Santa, in all his underwear-rocking glory. The rest of the book includes pages of accessories and outfits to dress him in. All of his gear are removable stickers, so you can dress him up, mix and match, and do it all again. Dress him up in bunny pajamas, biker gear, a superhero set of tights, a sheriff, get him ready for his post-Christmas nap with a pair of fuzzy pajamas and reindeer slippers. Get creative, and have fun! At $6.99, you can definitely swing buying a couple of these for stocking stuffers or to let groups of kids have their own Dress Santa contests.

 

Make Your Own Beauty Masks: 38 Simple, All-Natural Recipes for Healthy Skin, Illustrated by Emma Trithart,
(Nov. 2019, Odd Dot), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250208125
Ages 10+

Come ON. This is just too much fun, especially if you have tween and teen girls in the home. Get in some pampering for the holidays with this adorable book from Odd Dot. Everything is natural; straight from your fridge or the produce section to your face. I bet you can find nearly everything in your home right now. The masks have the cutest names, and the book is beautifully illustrated. The contents tell you exactly what you need, and the step-by-step directions help you prep your face and your ingredients for absolute pampering and relaxation while you watch March of the Wooden Soldiers and wait for your turkey to cook. The book comes with ten sheet masks to get you started. Keep an eye out for any prep that requires cutting or blending; you may want to prep the ingredients with your spa participants the night before.

Don’t forget tabletop games – we’re still loving Monsters in the Elevator and Nightmarium, and are looking forward to introducing Throw Throw Burrito, which is, essentially, a combination of tabletop card game and dodgeball, with soft, adorable burritos. Dueling burritos, sneak attack burritos, team-up burrito warfare: it’s all here, and we have laughed ourselves into stomachaches playing it, so what better way to end a day of Thanksgiving eating? 

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate!

Posted in geek culture

Help! What do I do with these kids on Thanksgiving?

Are you facing down a day with restless kids? Dreading hearing the inevitable…

I hear you. That’s why I’m loading up on goodies to keep around the house when my 6-year-old starts up. (I can put the older two to work; they’re in high school and college.)

 

First off, Pinterest is a lifesaver. I’ve linked to a “Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids” search, so you can see a smidgen of the ideas waiting for you, most of which can be accomplished with stuff around the house. Toilet paper rolls? GODSEND. They can be turkey bodies; they can be Batman gauntlets or Wonder Woman bracelets; they can be snowmen, they can be anything! Stock up, have construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, and watercolor paints on hand (and newspaper to protect your table). The kids will love the chance to create.

Print out a bunch of pictures for coloring, and leave ’em around with crayons and colored pencils. Crayola has a bunch of Thanksgiving pictures, Hanukkah pictures, and Kwanzaa pictures, plus printables that let kids cut out and create their own turkeys, and even Thanksgiving Bingo! for a family game. Sesame Street’s got fantastic printables, including activities and different holidays; so does Disney Family.

Of course I have books! This is a book blog!

Around the World in 80 Puzzles, by Aleksandra Artymowska, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536203080

Ages 7-10

Puzzles!!! Who doesn’t have love puzzles? These aren’t your regular old crossword, word search, or Hidden Picture puzzles, though. These are puzzles made into an art form. Inspired by Jules Verne’s classic, Around the World in 80 Days, these puzzles feature steam trains, sailboats, parachutes, gliders, zeppelins, and more to take readers around the world. Each puzzle takes up a two-page spread and offers visual challenges to readers: find the safe path through a canyon that will avoid scorpions; discover lizards hiding in breathtaking Islamic architecture, or wander through jungle vines, in search of snakes and parrots. All mazes are in full-color and star a young boy who starts readers off on the adventure as he sits, reading, in his treehouse and grabs onto a balloon; the adventure ends when the balloon returns him to his little hideaway. The answers are at the back of the book, but that’s no fun! Get family members working together to solve the mysteries.

Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets Christmas Coloring Book, created by Russell Ince, (2013), $11.00, ISBN: 089945589887

My friend picked this coloring book up at BookExpo this year, and I’m so glad she did. There are some beautiful Christmas pictures to color in this book; from Nutcrackers to Santa; holly mandalas and knotwork ornaments; Christmas stockings and presents. My little guy and I broke this out the other night and just went at it. There really is something soothing about coloring, and these meditative Christmas designs bring back memories of old-fashioned Christmases. If you can grab a copy for yourself, leave this one out and let the grownups and kids pair up together for some impressive artwork.

Games are great to get everyone going after the turkey coma threatens to kick in. We’re big on tabletop gaming in my family, so I’ve got a bunch handy, across age groups.

Machi Koro is a Pandasaurus/IDW Game that’s a big favorite with my older kids and me. (Me, primarily, because I love watching the two of them trash talk one another as they try to outdo one another). Think Monopoly, but faster-paced and with 100% more opportunity for smack talk. You’re the mayor of Machi Koro, an up-and-coming city, and you’ve got your work cut out for you: develop the city into the largest city in the region. It’s card and dice-based, for 2-4 players. We have the Harbor Expansion, which adds some more cards to the game and provides a few new building opportunities.

King of Tokyo is a board and dice-based game for 2-6 players. Because who doesn’t want to be a giant monster that destroys Tokyo? My littlest guy gets in there with the rest of us, no problem; one of us helps read the cards with him, but really, this game is about the dice and the hit points your monster can take. Actually getting hold of Tokyo is only part of the battle: fighting to keep it is quite another story!

Monsters in the Elevator is one of our favorites. It’s a cooperative game that brings math to the table. You’ve got a bunch of monsters, each with a different weight. You’ve got an elevator that goes up 20 floors. Monsters get on, monsters get off; monsters pass gas and clear out, monsters rush in to get to their destinations. You need to get that elevator up to the 20th floor, safely, so you need to keep your math skills sharp and maintain that weight! You can easily accommodate between 2 and 10 players, but I’d say anywhere between 3-6 is the best number. Younger kids can easily play this with help.

I couldn’t talk tabletop games without mentioning my first grader’s favorite game, Nightmarium. This one is fantastic for pre-readers all the way up to teens and adults. It’s a card-based game, and each monster comes in three parts: you have feet cards, body cards, and head cards. Monsters need to be built from the feet up, and you need to build five to win. Once you complete a monster, they have certain abilities that activate for that turn, depending on the cards making them up. We play this one a lot. It’s hilarious, and can be quite cutthroat. Enjoy.