The answer is of course subject to whim and fancy but amongst the plasters, knee supports, notebooks, tiger balm, tissues, pens, paracetamol and parts of games there always nestles a little game. For those moments when you fancy a quick game: the queues, the waits, the cuppa stops or, when you look at your family and think 'here are some people who need to interact with each other more'.
This is a game of speedy reactions - flip the card then either grab the object shown or if the object does not feature you must work out with lightning deduction which item and colour is not depicted. Grab the wrong object and your go is over and you've just helped your opponents along.
The first couple of rounds of this were painful for me. For your first game I would recommend that you play against your peers rather than your heartless offspring. But before I had time to abandon all hope (which can happen remarkably quickly) I grasped it!
And the more rounds you play, the faster you get. It's addictive, like a kind of hardcore spot the difference.
It quickly earned its place on permanent rotation with a few other games in my bag.
Don't be fooled by her cute ears- she's a stone cold victor!
Who Did It?
If you are tired of Poo! but have not grown out of finding faeces funny then this is a good, solid choice.
You need three players for this so although it regularly has a place in my bag it's better when there are more people (up to 5). Handily, I have created a 5 person family.
Each person gets a hand of animal cards; each card is the potential culprit who has defecated in the living room.
The first player places their card down with the words (for example) 'My cat didn't do it, someone's parrot did it.'
The first player to slap their parrot card on the cat has proved their innocence and declares 'My parrot didn't do it, someone's rabbit did it'.... and so on... until everyone but one player plays all their cards in which case the last remaining player holds the culprit OR, you accuse an animal that no one holds and then you lose the round.
This last condition is the real genius of the game and moves it beyond a game of snap where the fastest reaction wins every time. You must be the fastest and remember the cards which have been played: boss both of these to ensure you don't end up with the poo.
I know that I have mentioned this one many times but thanks to our added soundproofing (a layer of felt glued to the inside of the insanely noisy box) it's often rattles round quietly inside my bag. I love push your luck games and the element of probability alongside the tactile nature of the dice makes this game a firm favourite. I'm only disappointed that the markings on the dice aren't more engraved and distinct as it could be so perfect for players who are blind or visually impaired.
Red dice contain more gunshots; green, more delicious brains and amber, an even mix of fleeing victims, brains and gunshots. Each turn you draw up to three dice and roll to see if you will feast or fail. It's a low scoring game - once you get your head round that it is much easier to win. But win or lose the repetitive rolling of dice coupled with the thin veil of strategic thinking keeps me quiet for ages. And, as my family will tell you - that's not to be sniffed at.
Heartcatchers is a fabulous little two player game. And when I say 'little' I am not being pejorative - it really is tiny with only 20 cards in the slim box.
The aim of the game is predictably to catch the most hearts, gaining bonuses and avoiding penalty cards. The 'secrets' - bonuses and penalty cards are played face down while you capture your opponents card stacks brazenly using face up hearts.
This is a game of bluff, strategy and memory. Do you put a -3 card down under your own stack in the hope your opponent thinks it must be a +3 and captures it? Or do you put the +3 under your own and hope to hang on to it? How long do you risk waiting before you steal the stack you want?
The game is brutally fast. I've just about worked out which cards I want when it's all over. It's one of those beautiful games that you want to replay immediately using a different strategy. And you can play again and again testing out different strategies whilst trying to second guess your opponent's.
It's certainly captured my heart.*
*Look, I'm sorry. I genuinely held that in as long as I could. It had to come out. Is now a good time to point you back to the poo pun?
Solo Puzzle games
My most recent bag essential has been not one but three solo puzzle games. These are perfect for those moments when you look at your family and think 'here are some people who need to interact with each other a lot less. Before someone loses an eye'
Each of the games comes with a booklet of puzzles steadily increasing in difficulty, which you can work your way through. They are incredibly absorbing and actually it's hard to watch someone without joining in. Unless of course you have gone to sit in a different part of the pub while you enjoy the silence from a distance.
Seriously though, these are great for adults and children and although they are solo puzzles, when it comes to problem solving two heads are almost always better than one!
All of the games we review are available to try at Cards or Die events - join us or book us for your own event!
Other previously reviewed excellent games you might want to bag (click on the links to read more)
Love Letter - Cards or Die also have a braille version of this
Dobble and Poo