Here are a few games recommended by our new President for GameRT, George Bergstrom.
George Bergstrom is a regional coordinator of professional development for the Indiana State Library. He loves bringing people together around a table whether it is to play games or discuss using games in creative ways. He has spoken many times on the use of board games to engage players in soft skill development, and the benefits this can have on employability.
Votes for Women
• Designer: Tory Brown
• Publisher: Fort Circle Games
• 1-4 players
• 60 -75 minutes
• Age: 12+
Here I am teaching one of my favorite games of the past few years, Votes for Women, to two attendees at this year’s ALA Annual. For those of you who were lucky enough to attend last year the designer Tory and publisher Kevin joined us and it was a blast. In this card driven game that simulates the 70ish years of the suffragist movement in the United States players must think carefully to win the right to vote for women. Possibly more interesting from a librarian point of view are the reproductions of primary source material from the Library of Congress that come with the game. This is a fun and challenging game that feels bad to lose as a suffragist and good to lose as the opposition. Full of wonderful teachable moments, great decision making, and rich flavor text on each card that will hopefully inspire more reading and learning. The game can be played true solo, 1 v 1, 1 v 2, or 2 v 2.
• Designer: Ludovic Roudy & Bruno Sautter
• Publisher: Repos Productions
• 3-7 players
• 20-60 minutes
• Age: 8+
In this silly party game, the group is trying to help the active player guess a single word based on their clues. The only problem is they can only provide one-word clues, oh yeah and they select them in secret and before the active player gets to see them, they have to compare and erase any clues that were repeated. This creates, for me at least, a fun decision space where I am trying to come up with a single word that will help identify the word for the round but won’t be so obvious as to be repeated by the other players. You can play as fast or as slow as you want, and even though the game only comes with 7 dry-erase boards you could easily expand this with paper and pencils. This way a library could have an entire program with a single game that retails for around $20.
Poetry for Neanderthals
• Designer: Elan Lee
• Publisher: Exploding Kittens
• 2-12 players
• 15 minutes
• Age: 7+
Do you like word guessing games, but want some competition and whacking with an inflatable stick? Poetry for Neanderthals is the perfect game for you. The twist here is that I can give as many clues as I want to help my team guess the word or phrase and I can even speak in sentences, but I can only use one syllable words. This is more of a challenge than it first sounds, and if the other team catches me using multiple syllable words I get hit with the “NO” stick. This game is also great and can accommodate larger groups of players, so great for family game nights or library events/programs.
• Designer: Matt Leacock (and others, depending on the version)
• Publisher: Z-Man Games
• 2-4 players
• 45 minutes
• Age: 8+
If you all hadn’t figured it out by now, I love cooperative games, or games where groups get to work together. Probably one of my most played games (if you count all versions) is Pandemic. Players work together to prevent the spread of four diseases and try to discover cures for all of them before the game wins. I was blown away by the concept when I first experienced one, like a lot of board gamers, and still love them to this day. As many of you know they can lead to alpha players, so when using them in a library setting you may want to have strategies at hand to help facilitate smooth play among all the participants, but I still think the benefits out way the possible negatives. Your mileage my vary as they say. Since many (most?) of these games can result in the players loosing, I even developed a scoring rubric to use when I was using these games in college classroom settings, so that teams of students could compare their teamwork skills/abilities.
While my current TTRPG of choice is Pathfinder 2nd edition, I really want to highlight a tool for libraries to help learn about the abundance of systems and games out there for all different ages, play styles, and genres. They have recently (as of my writing) been nominated for an ENNIE in the Best Online Content category! Also, the round table is co-sponsoring a webinar hosted by the Indiana State Library on July 19th, 2023 with the creator of the site talking about using role-playing games to teach from pre-K to adult learning. If the webinar has already happened by the time you read this still check the calendar event for a link to the recording.
As for video games, I am always several generations behind, so currently I am still enjoying Animal Crossing and Breath of the Wild on our Switch, though with a teenage daughter I don’t get in as much time as I would like. I also waste far more time than I should with Forge of Empires on my iPad.
Think you might want to help us with a post or two? Drop us a line at GameRT@ala.org