A couple weeks ago, I was watching a PBS special on people’s memories of Chicago and one sweet-looking old lady recalled how you used to be able to walk into a store, grab some sheet music, hand it to the piano player and he’d play it from sight so you would know that it was the song you wanted and that you liked the arrangement. Essentially you could try it before buying it and you don’t see that often anymore. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll have a neighborhood game store that demos one or two games a time, but wouldn’t be great to try a whole bunch at once?
We all know that learning a game from someone else is so much easier than mucking through the directions (even if the writers did follow the tips I laid out in a previous article, Poorly Written Rules = Everybody Loses). It’s why they have people demoing the games to buyers at Toy Fair – otherwise they’d just hand out printed directions. (Just imagine how painful that would be.) But when someone shows you how to play, you can often learn and play at the same time!
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many opportunities for the general public to try out games before they buy them. This past weekend you could have gone to your local library for National Gaming Day, a local game store for Neighborhood Toy Store Day, or insisted a friend with a huge game collection host a game night, but if you missed those opportunities, THIS weekend you could head to the midwest for the Chicago Toy and Game Fair (ChiTag). It’s one of the largest, open to the public, game fairs in the United States and what makes ChiTag different from some of the others, like Origins or Gen Con, is that it has mass games, specialty games and what I call specialty mass-appeal games. These are games that could easily fit in the game aisle at your local Target or Toys ‘R Us if there was more aisle real estate because they’re casual-gamer friendly (not the ones you have to read a bible-sized direction book and set aside 40% of your weekend to play). And while game fairs aren’t ingrained into our culture like they are in some other countries (Germany for example), they’re definitely growing. This is ChiTag’s eighth year and it has over a hundred exhibitors all teaching consumers how to play their hot new games just like they teach buyers at Toy Fair! (click image at right for full sized $2 off admission coupon!)
So here’s a little preview to entice you to head to Navy Pier on Nov. 20th & 21st:
The NOT-EASILY-FOUND Games from Small Companies
Square Shooters, Heartland Games
This is a fun dice game that is actually multiple games in one all using a set of nine “square shooters” dice that were developed by Carmelyn Calvert. She figured out that on nine dice you can have an entire deck of 52 cards plus 2 jokers AND make every 4 of a kind and straight flush, therefore lending square shooters to multiple poker and rummy themed games. The main game called Square Shooters is about trying to match the hand (or roll) found on a deck of cards. You have to match the card in three rolls or less and you collect the full number of points if you match it exactly, but you only collect half the points match the KIND of hand. So lets say the card shows a four of a kind with kings. If you get all four kings, you get 4 chips but if you don’t think you can roll four kings but you can roll four jacks, you can do that and collect 2 chips. There are some other cards like “Showdowns” and “DoubleDowns” that brings player interaction to the game. It’s a lot of fun (although the directions are a bit wordy).
Triplica, Fun Q Games
If you don’t lives near Smithfield, Rhode Island than you probably didn’t spend your day at Sparks Toy & Hobby Shop for Neighborhood Toy Store day and you didn’t get to see the demos of Triplica by the Fun Q Game folks. Well, lucky us they’ll be at ChiTag too! Triplica which is a fun, easy, family card game in which you are attempting reach your secret goal of getting three of one of the symbols (x, square, circle, etc.) in a row. There are typically 5 cards (depending on number of players) with three symbols on each in the center of the table. On their turn, players place another card with three symbols on it from their hand on top of one of the cards already in play. If you get three in a row, you call it out, earn one point and select another secret goal. First player to 5 points wins. There are also two other games that can be played with the Triplica cards one of which is a solitaire version.
$13 at ChiTag, Amazon, some game retailers
1- 6 Players
Ages 7 and Up
KingsCourt Game, Winsor Entertainment
KingsCourt is by FAR a more expensive game than I would ever review on this site, BUT I feel that I have to mention it for two big reasons. First, it was invented by Reyn Guyer — the inventor of Twister! Second, it’s been shown at ChiTag before and every year the booth is PACKED with people playing it! (And third, because it’s FUN!)
The game is a fun mix of chess and croquet; each team has a mallet and the goal is to knock over their opponent’s “KingPin.” The game consists of 3 balls, 2 “Soldier Pins” and a KingPin for each team. Using the mallets, teams hit their own ball and try to knock down their opponent’s Soldier Pin or hit their opponent’s balls. If they are successful with either one, the object (ball or Soldier Pin) is removed from the game. Knocking over your own guard, also eliminates it from the game so you have to use a little skill. To win you want to knock over the other team’s Soldier Pins and then their KingPin, OR you could eliminate all of their balls.
$200 at ChiTag, KingsCourtGame.com
2 Players (or Two Teams)
Time varies based on skill
Ages 6 and Up
Newer Games from Medium Sized Companies
From USAopoly, Telestrations drawing meets telephone. The first player gets a word, they draw that word, the next player guesses the word, the next player draws that guessed word and the method continues. And because you don’t want to end up with the same word you started with (or the game would be dull), not being able to draw like a master artist is a HUGE plus. Great game for a group laugh this holiday season.
$25 at ChiTag, Amazon and many other retailers
Ages 13 and Up
5 Second Rule, Patch Products
5 Second Rule is very similar to “Name 5” from Endless games, (see HERE) because the goal of both games is to give a certain number of answers before the timer runs out. In Name 5 it’s 5 answers in 30 seconds and in 5 Second Rule it’s 3 answers in 5 seconds. While Name 5 was sometimes too easy, 5 Second Rule is sometimes very hard, but in 5 Second Rule after the first player fails, the other players have a chance to steal but they can’t use words that have already been mentioned. It’s beyond easy to learn and the timer is SUPER COOL, and since Endless isn’t going to be at ChiTag I have to recommend this one out of the two. (Otherwise it might be a close call – I think it would depend on who you’re playing with and what kind of games YOU like.)
5 Second Rule Stats:
~$13 at ChiTag, Amazon, game retailers
3 or More Players
5+ minutes – you set the number of rounds!
Ages 10 and Up
Classic Games You’ve Never Tried
You’ve seen it in stores, but you’ve never bought it. I know, I was there once. But it’s really an easy-to-learn five-in-a-row game that’s been around since 1982. Each team or player is dealt five cards and on your turn you discard one of your cards and put a chip on one of the two spaces on the board that matches that card. The goal is to get five-in-a-row first and your opponent can play cards to block or use a jack to either remove a chip of yours or play a chip of theirs anywhere. It’s simple, easy, fun.
$15 at ChiTag, Amazon, and many more
2-12 Players (personally I think it maxes out at 6 players)
Ages 7 and Up
And some other games that will be there that I’ve already reviewed:
- Wits & Wagers, Wits & Wagers Family by North Star Games
- Last Word, Truth Be Told by Buffalo Games
- Stix & Stones, Blurt by Educational Insights/Learning Resources
- Word on the Street, Backseat Drawing, 10 Days in the Americas by Out of the Box Games
- Triviathon by Jeezle Pete
- The Game of Chips by Jax
- Ratuki by USAopoly
And lots of others I’m sure I forgot. Bonus too, lots of companies have “show specials” which means games at LOWER PRICES! Perfect for either adding to your collection or buying holiday gifts.
Hope to see you all there!!