January Games – The New Game on the Block

For the New Year, the Lists and Awards committee asked the question: “If you were starting your new collection of games, what games would you add to it and why?” The answers take into account the popularity of the game, a game’s cost, simplicity of its rules, and the durability of its packaging. What do you think of our choices?

Board Game: Ticket to Ride

• Designer: Alan R. Moon
• Publisher: Days of Wonder
• 2-5 players
• 30-60 min
• 8+

Ticket to Ride is a wonderful introduction to the world of European-style board games. The object of the game is to build train routes across The United States and Canada. Players take turns claiming train routes between different cities on the map, and each player has at least two secret routes that they hope to complete for extra points. The mechanics are very easy to learn, making this game perfect for younger audiences. The quick and easy rules also make this a great party game, and a great option for people who haven’t played euro-style games before. With several popular editions on the market, Ticket to Ride is a no-brainer.

Board game: Catan

• Designer: Klaus Teuber
• Publisher: Catan Studio
• 3-4 players
• 60-120 min
• 10+

Catan is a classic game of area control and resource management. Players are settlers vying for the largest and most productive territory. Rolling dice each turn earns resources for players based on where they’ve placed their settlements, so this game is well-suited to players who like strategy and planning. Players can earn points in several ways, though, like placing settlements and cities, having the longest road or largest army, or gaining points from development cards. With several available game expansions and styles of play supported, Catan is a perfect choice for a game collection.

Card game: Snake Oil

• Designer: Jeff Ochs
• Publisher: Out of the Box Publishing, Snake Oil LLC
• 3-10 players
• 20-30 min
• 10+

Snake Oil is a simple, delightful, and occasionally ridiculous game wherein players attempt to sell fake products to imaginary customers. This award winning game is easy to learn and fun for all ages. The base game comes with 60 unique customer cards, like zombie, prom queen, and pirate. Each round, one person plays the customer. Every other player must draw two word cards from their hand and combine them into a winning product. The snake oil salesman with the best pitch wins the round. A hilarious party game with three available expansions, Snake Oil is sure to please the crowd.

Card Game: Spot it! 

• Designer: Denis Blanchot, Jacques Cottereau, Guillaume Gille-Naves, Igor Polouchine
• Publisher: Blue Orange
• 2-8 players
• 15 min
• 4+

Spot it seems like a magical game. It is just a set of round cards with eight symbols on each one. And yet turn over any two cards at random and the two cards will have a  symbol in common. It never fails! Smithsonian Magazine did a paper on the mathematics of Spot it! It can be played with both adults and kids.  It was first recommended to me by a librarian in England as a very popular game he plays with his coworkers. For the little ones, the game can help with verbalization if you ask the kid to say the word for the symbol when they find it in order to claim the point. It is wonderful for circulation because it is a small game which comes in an almost indestructible round tin.

Card Game: Uno

• Designer: Merle Robbins
• Publisher: Mattel and others
• 2-10 players
• 30 min
• 6+

Uno is the game that is played the most often at my branch library. If I were starting a new collection, I would probably include a copy of Uno, at least to play within the branch. Everyone has their own local way to play Uno and their own house rules which can result in a form of barely contained chaos. The advantage is that a lot of people who would not play any other game would be willing to make an exception for Uno. The large player count is also a selling point, as Uno does not seem to have an upper limit on players. It is very cheap at around $5.00, and copies are available not only at large chain stores like Target and Walmart, but also often at small corner stores and drug-stores along with playing cards and dominoes. No one seems to mind if a bunch of the cards are missing from the deck, but because it is so cheap, copies can easily be replaced. 

Role Playing Game: World of Dungeons

• Designer: John Harper
• Publisher: One Seven Design
• 2-6 players
• 1-3 hrs
• 12+
• Available: https://johnharper.itch.io/world-of-dungeons

World of Dungeons is a free fantasy role-playing game, made as if there was an early 70’s version of the popular game, Dungeon World. Character creation would be fast and simple, the d6 needed to play can probably be found in old board games in the closet. It is only a few pages long but it was made by the designer of Blades in the Dark; there is depth to the game and room for long term campaign play. Grab a One Page Dungeon or one of Dyson Logos’ maps and drop the players into a fantastic world, asking them to solve problems with their wondrous imaginations.

If the program is popular, maybe your library invests in more tabletop role-playing games.

Video Game:  Stardew Valley

• Designer: Eric Barone
• Publisher: Concerned Ape
• 1-4 players, primarily single player
• 10+
• Available on  PC / Mac / LinuxXbox OnePlaystation 4,  Playstation VITA, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android!

Stardew Valley is a must-get for any collection – a true modern classic with endless replayability that is approachable for a wide audience of gamers.  Inspired by the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons series of quiet, relaxing farming games (which it went on to leave far behind in its wake), Stardew Valley tasks the player with developing their own farm, making relationships of both the friendly and romantic variety, mining, hunting monsters, fishing, and exploring a timeless world of wonderful pixel art.  This is a game that enables players to create and inhabit their own stories, and the breath of positivity it fosters has inspired many other game designers to create their own variants on the theme.

Do you think that you would like to write a review for us? Drop us a line at Gamert@ala.org

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