Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Secret Life of an American Geek Mom: Calliope Games: Not Your Average Game Company

Like my motto states, I'm a Mommy by Day...Gamer by Night! (Well, at least when my son goes to bed on time.  We have been struggling with bedtime lately, but that's a subject for another post.)

So, what does that mean for my game closet?  What it means is that I have a new view of the games we buy.  When I look over a new game, I am not only looking for a fun game that's innovative and elegant, but a game that is also easy to set up, quick to play (around 30 minutes), and plays well with 2 players.  As my son grows, I am also beginning to look for games that he can play along with us.

As all parents know, there is a precious amount of time for families to spend together and even less for mommy and daddy to be alone and relax.  Usually it is that tiny little window between the kids' bedtime and mom and dad collapsing on the couch.  I have found that this is anywhere between 2-3 hours, and it still includes tidying up after the kids are asleep.  That is not a very large window to pull out a game and play. But hope is not lost!

A new company has surfaced with parents and families in mind.  At Gen Con this year I had the opportunity to talk with Ray Wehrs, president of Calliope Games.  Their mission is to provide games that get kids and parents together for face-to-face entertainment.  To do this, their games play in under 60 minutes, support 2 or more players, are easy to learn, and work well with a wide range of ages.  And here's the best part.  They make games that are fun for both adults and kids to play together!  It's not a case of parents needing to dumb down the rules or for kids to feel frustrated that they can't play and win.  These games are designed for both kids and adult to feel challenged and motivated to improve their strategies.

A great example of this philosophy can be seen in their first game, Tsuro: The Game of the Path.  Some of you may be familiar with this fun tile laying game.  The rules are simple: Place a tile and follow the path.  The last person left on the board wins!  The challenge is to keep your stone away from danger and to send the other stones on a path to the edge.  It sounds easier than it is, and for those who like puzzles and mazes, this is a great game.

Ray showed me three other games that are hitting your local game store shelves with the same great mission: Fun for Everyone!

Double Double Dominoes is a new approach to traditional dominoes.  More like a combination of dominoes and scrabble.  Players score points by matching their dominoes to spaces on the board.  Probably the most challenging of Calliope's games, this is a great one for older kids and for mom and dad to play together over dessert.  A 5-6 player expansion is in the works as well and can be expected to hit stores in 2012. 

Got 'Em! turned out to be an addictively fun game for me.  Again the rules are simple.  You try to wall in your opponent while keeping your own pawn out of harms way.  There are two modes to the game offering slightly different levels of luck vs. strategy.

In Brainy Got 'Em, players are forced to use what? Their brains of course! And corner their opponents by outsmarting them.  On your turn you place a wall and move your pawn 1 plus the number of walls that surround you.  Simple, right!

Your other option is to play Bright Got 'Em.  In this version, cards are used to determine your movement and wall placement.  Each card tells you what color square you may place a wall on and the number of spaces you may move.  There are even some cards that allow you to remove walls and improve your escape.  This version is slightly more luck based since you will be relying on the cards to determine where you may place walls and move.  Both modes are great fun and don't be surprised if you get beat by your kids!

The final game that Ray showed me was the most animated of them all.  For those of you who love Munchkin and the art of John Kovalic, this game will make you giggle with delight.  Ugh! is a push your luck card game set in the Stone Age.  You each play as a cavemen collecting cards that represent your jobs, pets, and homes, but be careful for the dreaded Ugh! cards (which is exactly what you will say when you draw one!)  Everyone takes turns drawing up to 3 cards and scoring sets.  The player with the most points when the deck runs out wins!

To here our interview with Ray from Gen Con
Click Here!

So as you begin thinking about family gatherings this fall, consider picking up some o these great titles from Calliope Games at your Friendly Professional Games Store.  Give them a try!  You won't be disappointed.

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