Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Calliope Games

Calliope Games is all about fun and they have generously donated some of the best family games on the market to Serious Fun 2011!  Calliope Games is a family run company that was founded in September of 2009 by Jordan and Dawne Weisman, and Ray Wehrs. Collectively, they have been engaged in the gaming industry for over 70 years!

Calliope’s main focus is the “Family” and it shows in the games they create and publish.  Calliope is focused on pulling families and friends back to the recreation room table in this digital age.
Not only that, but Calliope is aware of the burdens created by today’s economy and has priced their games at or under $30!  Check out Calliope and all their family friendly, affordable games by clicking on their logo found under our sponsor links on the right side of this page.

Calliope Games Review

In 2006, John and I moved to Greenville, SC – 8 hours from our hometown in Ohio. The year we were there, we made some excellent friends, but for the most part, we were homebodies. About a month after moving there, we discovered an amazing little store in the local mall. The store was full of games for all ages. I’m not talking Monopoly or Clue either, although there were specialty versions of these too. There were thousands of games that we had never heard of. We tried about a dozen new games that year and a love of unique and different games was born.


We moved back to Ohio in 2007 and there just isn’t a store around here like that favorite game spot in Greenville. We both were excited at the chance to try a game from Calliope Games. Calliope makes several games for adults and families. Their goal is to create games that bring you, your friends and family together. The games help encourage socialization and connection in a world full of technology and stress.
We had the opportunity to try out Tsuro: The Game of the Path. The game is intended for ages 8 and up and for anywhere from 2 to 8 players. The artwork on the box and board are beautiful. We are both huge fans of Oriental-inspired artwork. The little game tokens you use to follow your own individual path also have little dragons etched into them. You utilize individual path cards to create different twists and turns on the game board. The goal is to force the other player off the board.


Set up takes less than a minute as you layout the board, each player chooses a colored dragon token and places it on one of the notches on the edge of the board. In turn, players play a path card in front of their token. To finish the turn the player follows the path on the new card. Learning the games takes little effort and play is quick and easy. Each game was less than 15 minutes. However, the strategy and forethought involved kept us from becoming bored with the game. Every game is completely different because of the endless number of paths you can create.


I highly recommend this game for adults and children who can follow the path concept. It was a lot of fun and I’m proud to add it to my collection of different and unique games. You can visit Calliope’s website to purchase Tsuro (as well as many other great games) for $30.00 plus shipping or locate a store near you where you can buy any of Calliope’s games. Or, follow Calliope on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Calliope Games - Tsuro Review & Giveaway! Share

At Calliope we develop and publish tabletop games for the “Family”. Calliope is focused on pulling families and friends back to the recreation room table in an era where occupations and digital mediums are constantly soaking up each minute of one's day. It is our intent to facilitate communication of families and their relationships through analog tabletop gaming experiences.

There is something special about being able to sit with your family and play a board game on the weekends, a time set aside where there is no more T.V., cellphones, or computers... just the family at the table enjoying their own laughter, creativeness and bonding. Calliope Games has a sincere belief in this ideology, to have families spend more time together through tabletop games designed for great fun and/or thoughtfulness. With games like "Got 'Em!" where you must outsmart your opponents through savvy card playing, Double Double Dominos where you must match up like dominoes on a game board without awarding your opponents bonus points, UGH! where you encounter the Stone Age life by pushing your luck against the deck and then there is Tsuro which is all about creating a journey and is the game my family and I had chosen to review.
Create your own journey with Tsuro…the Game of the Path. Place a tile and slide your stone along the path created, but take care! Other players’ paths can lead you in the wrong direction—or off the board entirely! Find your way wisely to succeed. The rules are simple: you place a tile to build the next step for your stone to follow. Paths will cross and connect, and the choices you make affect all the journey across the board. Stay the path—your journey begins here

What is so interesting about Tsuro is that it is about creating a path. You begin with your colored stone on a small dot on the game board and each card has different paths that you can take. The goal is to try to keep on your path for as long as you can because if your path hits the side of the gaming board then it is over. In a way it almost represented life, by the choices you make on your journey it leads you to another place with other choices. You chose wisely your footsteps for as long as you can, but you never know where you might slip up and take the wrong path.

Tsuro has been awarded the 2011 Game of the Year Award by Creative Child Magazine, The Major Fun Award and the 2009 Preferred Choice Award with Creative Child Magazine. It is a story and a journey and by far one of my favorite Family Games. It has an adult touch to it to keep it enjoyable for us "big kids" and yet is challenging and fun for younger children. I really think this would make a fantastic Holiday Gift for a family who loves to spend time together.


You can connect with Calliope Games on their Facebook Page and/or @CalliopeTweets on Twitter.


You can purchase Tsuro for $30.00 in Calliope's Store!

The Giveaway!

How would you like to win a Tsuro board game? Just fill out the Rafflecopter Form below!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ugh! Is a Fun and Fast Family-Friendly Card Game

Overview: Ugh! is not a game about fuzzy slippers from Australia or helicopters flown by cavemen. It’s an invigorating card game from Calliope Games that involves matching and multiplication with press-your-luck mechanics and a little light strategy.
Players: 2-6 players.
Ages: 8 and up (though scoring can be a challenge for younger kids).
Playing Time: 15 minutes.
Retail: $10 and available later this month (Edit: See shipment update at bottom of post).
Rating: Fun and fast.
Who Will Like It? Because Ugh! is so simple to pick up & play, it has appeal for non-gamers and, with a little strategy, will also appeal to serious board gamers looking for a little palate cleanser between longer games or while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.
Components: In the pack, you’ll find 110 brightly colored cards of standard weight and a set of rules. The artwork is by GeekDad favorite John Kovalic and, as can be expected from Kovalic, is brilliantly funny.
Gameplay: You can find a pdf of the instructions on the game’s website, but here’s a quick overview of gameplay.
Each player wants to accumulate the most points by locking in sets of cards that represent one card from each of three color groups: purple, green, and orange. Play begins by a player drawing from the draw pile. Each player can draw up to four cards, discarding the first three cards face-up into one of three safety piles. Players have some choice in strategy, but want to find a card with a high number associated with it. If a player has opted to discard the first three draws into the safety pile, the player is forced to take the fourth card and put it in their pool. After drawing a card, players can then lock in a set of green, purple, and range cards, which are then protected from loss against steals or forced discards (more on those in a moment). Rather than draw from the draw pile, a player may also draw from one of the safety piles.
If a player draws an Ugh! card, designated by a negative number or set of instructions, that player’s turn is immediately over and that player may be forced to discard a number of cards equal to the negative number or the instructions. In the deck, there are also a number of Wild Cards, which allow a player to steal a card of corresponding color from another player.
Strategy will change from game to game, but it’s a good idea to lock up sets as soon as you can, especially when your hand has some high numbered cards. When the cards are gone from the draw pile, the game is over and the scoring begins. Players multiply the numbers in their sets and then add them up (4 x 3 x 5 = 60, 2 x 1 x 4 = 8 for a total score of 68).
Conclusion: Not only is Ugh! a of of fun, it’s pretty affordable. (When was the last time you saw a game for $10?) Because the artwork is funny, bright, and cheery and the gameplay moves quickly, Ugh! has become a staple during our game nights. The one difficulty is that for kids and some adults, keeping track of scoring can be a bit of a challenge. At our house, we welcome the challenge as a way for our fourth graders to practice their math – a little pencil and paper goes a long way.
Update: I’ve just heard from Calliope Games and, unfortunately, the shipment containing Ugh! has been delayed and Ugh! will likely arrive just after Christmas. Bad timing, but it was out of Calliope’s control.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.

Dave Banks is employed by Cyberdyne Systems and is building a global digital defense network. When not on the job, he enjoys playing games and watching cars go really, really fast.
Follow @davebanks and @wiredgeekdad on Twitter.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why I Love...: Got 'Em!

Sometimes, love is unconditional. It's blind to faults, oblivious to issues, and would have us walk through the fire, unquestioning. In 'Why I Love...' we invite writers to share, without shame and without even the merest hint of balance, what it is about a particular game that turns them into a pile of gamer goo, desperate for just one more game.


Are you tired of buying family games to play with your kids and your non-gaming friends, and then having to buy even more games to play with your hard-core strategic gaming buddies?
Well, Calliope Games has the perfect game for you. Got ’Em is a fun family game that kids of any age can play AND uses the exact same mechanics to provide a awesome, repeatable strategy game that will quickly become a must-play for every gamer.
The best part of both versions of the game is their straight-up simplicity. Got ’Em is played on a grid-based board with slots along each side of the squares. In these slots you place walls. The goal of the game is to trap your opponent so they can no longer move—of course, at this point you yell “GOT ’EM.” The winner is the last piece standing (or, in this case, moving). That’s the game—simple and easy to learn even for the youngest players.
The family game, using the Bright Got ’Em rules, is played on the side of the board with all the squares colored in a mosaic of red, green, yellow and blue. Each player is dealt 3 cards and places their game piece on the board in the indicated spot. Each turn the player takes a card from their hand and plays it face up. The cards have simple instructions; for example, a typical cards reads: place a wall on red square [and] may move 2 squares. The easy-to-understand directions let anyone see the exact action the player takes, and in what order. Following those instructions, the player places a wall on any side of any red square on the board. They can choose to build on an existing wall played by another player, try to force another player into a dead end, or play in a more mysterious style and try to create a labyrinth that will slowly trap all the other players!
After placing the wall, the player can move his or her piece a number of squares less than or equal to the instruction on the card. In the example, the player can move her piece 0, 1 or 2 squares. There are cards that put a twist into things by allowing players to remove a wall or place one on any color square or, for the ultimate escape, move through a wall! At the end of their turn, the player draws a new card.
With 3 cards in their hand, the players always have a choice and can put the pressure on each other. The game plays extremely fast, less than 30 minutes for an average game. Before you know it, even grandma will have 3 or 4 games under her belt (I was schooled by my 7-year-old!). The card randomization and the creative layout of the board means no two games are alike, with some games feeling like the ultimate chase and others more like a boxing match. With 4 players, the options are endless!


But here’s where Calliope Games has really created a must-have game—the Brainy Got ’Em rules. In this version of the game, you use the flip side of the board. There are no colored squares here and you don’t use the cards. In this highly strategic version, it’s your wits and puzzle acumen that will win the day, not the random draw of the cards. You place your game piece on the board in the space indicated, and each player does 2 things on their turn: place a wall and move. Simple, right? HA! You have no constraints in placing the wall. Want to create a maze? Go for it! Want to cut the board in half? Play away! When you move your piece, you move 1 space, and then 1 extra space for every wall on the square your piece is on. That’s right; you can place a wall on your own square and get an instant +1 speed boost to get you out of trouble! But take care if you stop near a square with more than one wall already placed: your piece may be trapped before your turn comes around again!
The exciting and strategic combination of placing walls, moving to escape trouble and setting up your piece in a safe area for your next turn makes this game simple to learn—and very hard to master. You will want to play again just to explore the many options and choices that you didn’t get to make. The Brainy version of the game still plays in less than 30 minutes and has the intensity of speed chess!
Got ’Em is a must for any gamer’s shelf—a game that appeals to everyone and will immediately become part of your game rotation!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Evading pays off in Got ‘Em

Got 'Em
Colorful trapping fun.

How does your family do in games where you directly go after each other?
Do they find it fun to attack and evade? Or do the games end with hurt feelings around the table?
Or does it completely depend on the situation?
We’ve found that a lot depends on the situation. Sometimes, the kids just aren’t in the mood for games that are all about knocking your opponents out. In those times, they might feel like the world is picking on them.
The good news is that as the kids get older, and as they’ve experienced more games, those times dwindle. So pulling out the new board game from Calliope Games, Got ‘Em!, can be a lot of fun. Just like it says on their website, “Got ‘Em! is a delightful way to corner your friends.”

Can the whole family enjoy Got ‘Em!?

Got 'Em
It all starts out innocently enough.

We think Got ‘Em! is a board game that the whole family can enjoy. Even younger kids can understand how to play the game. As you can see in the video review by Brook and Caleb, it’s pretty simple as you place a wall and move your piece. But we think you’ll find that the younger kids won’t enjoy it as much because they don’t like others trapping their pieces.The suggested age for the game is 8+ and we think that’s an accurate assessment. It’s around that age that kids start planning ahead and thinking strategically to survive in a game about trapping and being trapped.

Got 'Em
Time to watch out for traps.

Got 'Em!Like Brooke and Caleb said, the colorful side is very enjoyable. But there’s also a side without colors that’s completely a strategic game – which may appeal more to the older kids in your family. So depending on who you’re playing with, there’s a game style for you.
How much luck is involved in Got ‘Em!?
While there is some luck in Got ‘Em!, most of the game is about strategic maneuvering. The luck comes from the cards you draw into your hand. So in that case you’ll be limited to where you may be able to place a wall. But you’ll also always have a few cards in your hand to choose from. So you’ll still have the chance to make strategic decisions.
And if you flip the game board over, you won’t be playing with the cards at all. So that element of luck will be completely eliminated and you’ll be left to your own mental devices.
How does Got ‘Em! score on the “Let’s Play Again” meter?
Got ‘Em! scores high on our “Let’s Play Again” game meter. It really is a fun game of trapping and trying not to get trapped yourself. And because it’s so easy to set up for a new game, we find that most games end with calls for a rematch.

Thanks Calliope Games for a great family board game!
The Board Game Family Game Ratings
Caleb: 3.5 Meeples Caleb
Brooke: 4.0 Meeples Brooke
Jaden: 3.5 Meeples Jaden
Trevor: 3.5 Meeples Trevor
Mom: 3.5 Meeples Mom
Dad: 4.0 Meeples Dad
AVerage: 3.7 Meeples Average
Pick up a copy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Major Fun Got'Em Review

Major Fun
Filed Under (Family Games, Thinking Games) by Major Fun on Oct 26, 2011 

As I’ve written before, the best strategy games (in terms of fun) arise from simple, elegant rules and game mechanics. Games of this sort provide an accessible portal into a contest that requires the players to make short term and long term plans based on…
Sorry about that. Got some verbosity lodged in my keyboard. Major Fun games like Got ‘Em! are easy to learn and you wanna play ‘em again and again and again.
This one is even reversible!! (I’ll come back to this in a second)
The basic premise is simple. Each player has a pawn on a seven by seven grid. On a turn, each player moves his or her pawn and places a plastic section of wall. Walls prevent movement in that direction. A player is eliminated if his or her pawn is ever surrounded by walls.
I mentioned the game is reversible, right? I meant reversible in the sense that some jackets are reversible. The board has two sides and each side has a distinct flavor of play and slight variations on the basic rules. One side is for the Bright Rules and the other side is for the Brainy Rules.
Bright Rules involves some random elements and utilizes a deck of 55 cards. The grid of squares on the game board is divided into four colors: red, green, yellow, and blue. Opponents still move their pieces and place walls, but their movement and wall-placement are dictated by the cards. Each player is dealt three cards. Each card has instructions for how to move your pawn and how to place a wall. For example: “move up to 2 spaces and place a wall on any GREEN square.” Not only must players work to avoid being boxed in, but they must also decide what cards will be most useful in later stages of the game.
Brainy Rules does away with the cards and the colorful grid. Players move their pieces and then may place one piece of wall anywhere on the board. Movement is based on the number of walls that currently enfold a player. Each pawn can move one space, but if your pawn is on a square that has a wall touching it, you can move your piece an extra space for each piece of wall. In some cases it is to your advantage to place a wall next to your own square. Doing so gives you one extra space of movement. That can mean the difference between scurrying frantically at the whim of your opponents and breaking into a clear space so that you can take the time to push your opponents around.
It is amazing how quickly the board fills with walls. What seems like a wide-open field of play turns into a series of dead-ends and shrinking courtyards. Especially with 4 players. Who knew that claustrophobia could be Major Fun?
Calliope has done a wonderful job of packaging the game, designing the pieces, and conveying both sets of rules. I appreciated the way each set of rules (complete with illustrations and hints) had its own tab on an ingeniously folded sheet of instructions.
Not since enacting Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” in middle school have I had this much fun walling someone in. Well, there was also “The Black Cat.” And “The Fall of the House of Usher.” And “Buried Alive.”  Come to think of it, I remember having more students in that class at the beginning of the unit on Poe…

2-4 players. Ages 8+
Got ‘Em! by Zach Weisman. © 2011 Compound Fun, LLC. Produced and distributed by Calliope Games.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Giveaway – Calliope Games ~ Tsuro: The Game of the Path – Ends 11/1/11


October 21, 2011    |   more 

Tsuro: The Game of the Path

Description: Create your own journey with Tsuro, the Game of the Path. Place a tile and slide your stone along the path created, but take care! Other players’ paths can lead you in the wrong direction — or off the board entirely! Find your way wisely to succeed. Stay the path — your journey begins here.

Tsuro is an enjoyable game that uses a combination of chance and skill.

The game has a fun look that makes it feel as if you’re going on an adventure instead of just playing a game. It includes:

  • Gameboard (folds up inside a convenient to store square box)
  • 35 path tiles
  • 9 marker stones
  • 1 dragon tile
The instructions are very clear, so it’s easy to figure it out the first time. Once you know how to play, basic logic skills will help you figure out your strategy. Since there is some chance involved, you never know exactly what’s going to happen.

It’s recommended for ages 8 and above and can be played by 2-8 players. Some younger children may enjoy it, but 8 is a good guideline.

This is a fun game and I like the idea behind it. We never know exactly what life will bring us, but we can use our minds to help us stay on the path and enjoy the journey!

HOW TO CONNECT - You can like Calliope Games on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

PRIZE - Tsuro Game – ARV $30

Here’s what ya gotta do to enter to win ….

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Giveaway ends November 1, 2011 at 8pm Pacific Time. Giveaway is open for residents of the US and Canada only. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to notification with shipping info and claim prize – if no response, another winner will be chosen . Subject to the official rules. No purchase necessary – void where prohibited by law. Disclaimer/Disclosure: Review sample and prize provided by the giveaway sponsor.

Tags: calliope games, holiday gift guide, tsuro

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Come Play With Me!

When my daughter Nicki was born back on Dec 22, 1998 my wife and I put a lot of thought into the nursery. We wanted Nicki to be comfortable and entertained. We dismantled a Peter Rabbit alphabet book and mounted the pages as a border all around the room. We all loved the images and the story that went with them. We also set up a desk for Nicki to play at… on the top I wrote this poem:
Come Play with Me. The more I Play, the more I Learn. The more I Learn, the more I'll Earn. The more I Earn, the more I'll Play. Come Play with Me.

This year Nicki will turn 13… how time flies! I can’t tell you how proud I am of her. Being challenged most of her life with an autoimmune disease (ITP) she always wears a smile. She reads a novel a week and excels at the top of her class. She is my hero and why I always want to play. (OK, one of the many reasons I always want to play : )
Play Games, they’re a lot of Fun and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn. Calliope Games Supersized Family Fun!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Got’Em!: A meaty little filler game.   

Got’em is a game where you attempt to trap your opponents pawn using walls, while trying to keep your pawn alive.   The game has two styles of play, one of which is very strategic, and the other has a bit more luck.  I found the two different styles of play to be an interesting idea for appealing to two different demographics of players.  And how they accomplished this felt natural, rather then very “after the fact” and “forced” like in some games.

The game starts out with four pawns on their predetermined spaces on the board, denoted with a white dot.  Each player has a hand of three cards, these cards say things like “place a wall on a red square, then you may move up to two squares”.   You pick one of these cards from your hand and play it into the discard pile, following what the card says.  Then you draw back up to a hand of three cards.  That’s it for the easy version of the game.  It’s very straight forward but can still have a fair amount of strategy, as you scamper around the board trying not to be trapped.
The harder version of the game is very similar, however, it requires you to flip the board over.  Instead of all the colored squares, this side is all white.  The cards can go back into the box, they are not needed for this style of play.  This time, you may play your wall on any square you like.  Movement however is slightly more complicated.  You may move your pawn a number of spaces equal to the number of walls that surround it at the beginning of your turn.  So if you have a wall to the left of your pawn, and a wall to the back of your pawn, your pawn may move two squares this turn.
I do have two major complaints about this game, one about the components and one about the multiplayer game play.
First, the components.  The walls in this game are a pain to make stay on the board.  Essentially the walls are nothing more then thin strips of white plastic that have been cut to the appropriate length.  As a player, you need only wedge this strip of plastic into it’s snug little groove on the board.  But have you ever experienced trying to “wedge” something into a small hole as being easy?  Of course not, and I haven’t either.  Trying to get the walls in the proper spot on the board, without accidentally taking out half the board was trying.  All of my players struggled with this, which takes some joy away from the game.
My second complaint is really a plea for mercy for whoever goes last.  It becomes extremely easy to gang up on the fourth player, and they have very little recourse.  My group of players can be pretty competitive and thus when they see a weak link in someones’ defenses, it’s like piranhas smelling blood in the water.  On average our fourth player only got two to three turns before they were toast.  This seems like a design flaw, but maybe this game just doesn’t play best with this many people.
Despite these two complaints, my players and I enjoyed this game.  It’s simple, but thought invoking, and is a short game, which makes it a nice little filler.  It’s hard to find filler games that have some meat to them, because meat usually takes time, but this game did a pretty good job of accomplishing this.

One Response to “Got’Em!: A meaty little filler game.”

The following is a message from the designer of Got’em. I thought that the information conveyed here would be of interest to our readers. Enjoy!
Thank you for doing the review! We are excited that you like the game : ) I would like to Address you concerns you do have… the first and foremost in my mind is the 4th player complaint. In reading your review, on the “Brainy Side of Got’Em!” the movement rule is not be relayed correctly and if you played the way you outlined the rule, the 4th player may be at a disadvantage.
In the review, the movement rule is explained as
“You may move your pawn a number of spaces equal to the number of walls that surround it at the beginning of your turn.”
The rule actually reads:
“A pawn my move 1 square plus a number of squares equal to the number of walls on the square it occupies.”
If the game was played as written in the review each player is playing at a disadvantage as the “Number of walls plus 1 rule” greatly helps in negating the piranha issue. Also, in the first round of gameplay, no pawn can end the round with more than a single wall on it. Between the 2 rules, the game plays very balanced for 2-4 players : )
On the “Bright side of Got’Em” the issue is addressed in the cards by allowing players to “Move through walls” or “Remove walls” from the board. It is true that this is a luck of the draw, but the odds are reasonable (1:8) w/o destroying the “skill factor” in the game.
Regardless of which game players choose, it’s very important that they understand the need to always occupy a space that has a number available slots equal to the number of players… and that’s the real challenge to Got’Em!
As far as the insertion of walls into the board, we tried extremely hard to get that right. We had versions that the walls were loser in the board… they fell out much more often and made the game almost unplayable. Providing a snug fit (assuming the wall is completely seated in the slot) prevents walls, for the most part, from being knocked down. I do agree though, if you have larger hands like I do, it can be challenging to get the wall to seat properly.
Thanks again : )
Ray Wehrs
Calliope Games
I hope this sheds some more light on the game for everyone!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kids Need Child-Driven Playtime by The Kid's Doctor Staff

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Remember playing outside with your friends after school and on the weekends?  These days you’re more likely to find a child in the house on the computer, or at a scheduled sports event. Research suggests that the lack of adult-free outdoor playtime may have serious consequences for a child’s development and mental health.

There was a time, not too long ago, that parents encouraged their kids to get out of the house and “go play.” Today, many parents are so involved in their children’s lives that kids are not being allowed the freedom to have unsupervised play.

So what’s keeping kids indoors? Experts say many parents are afraid. They worry that their child might be abducted, hit by a car or bullied.  All this involvement is not easy on parents either. Many feel as if they are running on a treadmill trying to keep with all the activities that are scheduled. There is also a concern that their child may fall behind some arbitrary line that points toward success.  There is considerable pressure on families to participate in this hurried lifestyle. Free child-driven play known to benefit children is decreased, and the downtime that allows parents and children some of the most productive time for interaction is at a premium when schedules become highly packed with adult-supervised or adult-driven activities.

“Into the 1950s, children were free to play a good part of their childhood. If you stayed in your house around your mom, she’d say ‘go out and play.’ The natural place for a kid was outside,” said Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College.

“Today, it’s quite the opposite. Parents are not allowing kids the freedom to play. And even if they do, there are no other kids out there to play with, or the mother may have such restrictions on the child, such as ‘you can’t go out of the yard’ that the kids don’t want to stay out there,” added Gray.

The importance of play:

When children are allowed to play, several things start happening. They make-up games – using their creativity skills, negotiate rules – using their personal interaction skills, and solve problems on their own- using critical thinking skills.

Theses are all attributes that can serve them well as they grow older.

Through free play, “they are acquiring the basic competencies we ultimately need to become adults,” said Gray, author of two studies published recently in the American Journal of Play.

Research has also shown that today’s highly supervised children are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness and narcissism, all of which coincides with a decrease in play and more monitoring and managing of children’s activities by parents.

Peter LaFreniere, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Maine, writes in a separate article, that boys – in particular – need some rough and tumble play to help teach them how to control their emotions. Boys learn that if they want to keep their friend, they can’t let things go too far or truly hurt the other child — a skill that helps boys grow into men who keep aggression and anger in check, LaFreniere said.

“It’s better to make the mistakes when you’re 4,” he said. “Children learn there are consequences to their actions; they learn to regulate the aggression even in the heat of the moment.”

There are certain circumstances in which children should probably not play outside unsupervised. High crime areas are not safe for children to be in without the watchful eyes of a parent.

It would be wrong to assume that the current trends are a problem for all children; some excel with a highly driven schedule. Because we need skilled young people to be well prepared to be tomorrow’s leaders, we must recognize the advantages to the increased exposures and enriched academics some of our children are receiving. In fact, many of our children, particularly those in poverty, should receive more enrichment activities. But even children who are benefiting from this enrichment still need some free unscheduled time for creative growth, self-reflection, and decompression and would profit from the unique developmental benefits of child-driven play.

There has been a significant increase in studies; discussions and articles on the positive affects of child-driven playtime, but a decrease in the amount of time kids are actually playing.

One survey Gray cited asked a nationally representative sample of parents to keep track of their kids’ activities on a randomly selected day in 1981 and another in 1997. The researchers found that 6- to 8-year olds of 1997 played about 25 percent less than that age group in 1981.

Another study from about a decade ago asked 830 U.S. mothers to compare their children’s play with their own play when they were kids. While about 70 percent of the mothers reported playing outdoors daily as children, just 31 percent said their own kids did. Mothers also said when their kids played outside; they stayed outside for less time. If anything, that trend has accelerated in the ensuing decade, Gray said.

Hara Estroff Marano, author of “A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting.” offers a rather harsh assessment of today’s parents. “The home of the brave has given way to the home of the fearful, the entitled, the risk averse, and the narcissistic,” Marano said. “Today’s young, at least in the middle class and upper class, are psychologically fragile,” Marano said in an interview published in the journal.

Marano believes that parent’s dominated by fear, are raising children unable to cope with life’s ups and downs because they have no experience doing so.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also promotes the benefits of child-driven playtime. While academics and social–enrichment programs are important; play is a cherished part of childhood that offers not only fun and relaxation for children, but great developmental benefits as well.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tsuro: The Game of the Path Is the Game for You

Tsuro game contents
Overview: Tsuro is a game that’s been around for a while but I hadn’t gotten to actually play it until a couple weekends ago at PAX. Formerly published by WizKids, it’s now published by Calliope Games (founded by some of the original WizKids folks). It’s a simple, beautiful, elegant game about making paths and trying to stay on the board.
Tsuro box 
Players: 2 to 8 (yes, 8!)
Ages: 8 and up (though younger kids could certainly play)
Playing Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Retail: $29.99
Rating: Superb. Tsuro excels on several fronts: the pieces are gorgeous, the game is easy to learn but allows for deeper strategy, and is a great option for gamers and non-gamers alike.
Who Will Like It? Just about everyone. I don’t say this for most games, because there are a lot of games that some people love and others hate. While I’m sure there are some players who won’t like Tsuro, I can see that this one will have very broad appeal — it’s not the only game I’ll want to play, but it’s one that very few people will turn down.

Tsuro tiles
35 unique path tiles, and 1 Dragon tile.
Theme:The board has an Asian theme, with a phoenix on the board background and little dragons engraved on the pawns. There are Chinese characters throughout that say tong lu (roughly, “access” or “through road”) as well as a “East West South North” in one corner and “Wind Fire Water Earth” in another. All of this, combined with the simple rules and elegant gameplay, give the game a very peaceful zen-like feel, despite what can sometimes be very cutthroat play. There’s even a translucent piece of paper with a bamboo brush painting on it included in the box — entirely unnecessary to the game but adding to the flavor of the whole thing.
Tsuro pawns
Stone-like pawns.
The game includes the board, 8 plastic pawns, 35 path tiles, and 1 dragon tile. Everything is very nice quality: the tiles are sturdy cardboard with rounded corners, and the paths look a bit like rope laid on dirt or stone. The artwork and the stone-shaped pawns give the game an earthy feel even though it’s really just glossy cardboard and plastic. While the board is really just a simple 6 x 6 grid, it’s one of the most gorgeous boards you’ll have in your collection. Tsuro game in progress: Tan, Blue, and Yellow are on a collision course.
Tsuro game in progressGameplay:
The tiles are shuffled face down and each player takes three to form their hand. Each player in turn picks a starting spot along the edge of the board. (Each of the squares has two paths per edge.) Then, everyone takes turn playing tiles. The tile you place must extend your own path — you cannot place a tile somewhere else on the board — and then you move your pawn along the path until it ends. If you get routed back to the edge of the board, you are eliminated from the game.
After playing a tile, you draw a new tile. The dragon tile basically is a stand-in: if you need to draw but there are none left, you take the dragon tile. As players are eliminated and their tiles are put back in the draw pile, the player with the dragon tile draws first. It’s a simple solution but the rules for that particular item can be confusing.
When more than one player borders the same empty space, then whoever plays a tile there not only extends their own path but also changes the course of the other players as well. The goal is to be the last player still on the board.
Tsuro is a cinch to teach, but makes for fascinating play. Younger players will simply try to find a tile that doesn’t bump themselves off the board right away, but more experienced players can look for ways to plan ahead, finding routes that will give them access to more space on the board. Ray Wehrs of Calliope Games explained that it really works out to a territorial game — you need to have space to play tiles, or a way to get to more space.
It can be really interesting trying to stay right near other players, because then you can affect the direction they go … but then they can redirect you as well. I also love the fact that the game works from 2 to 8 players. The more players you have, the sooner everyone starts running into each other. You can be fiercely competitive or try to play nice, depending on the gaming group you’re with, but eventually people are going to get run off the board.
Tsuro has been a real crowd-pleaser. I took a pile of games to try out at a recent game night, and after introducing this one we ended up playing it three times. It’s great because it can accommodate a wide number of players and it’s a quick game that you can set up and teach in just a few minutes. It won’t satisfy players wanting a long, heavy-strategy game, but even in those cases it makes for a great appetizer.
Wired: Gorgeous components, elegant gameplay, goes up to 8 players.
Tired: Makes a great snack but not a full meal for hardcore gamers.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.

Jonathan Liu is a stay-at-home dad, Etch-a-Sketch artist, community agitator, board game geek, and a voracious reader.
Follow @jonathanhliu on Twitter.