Grandpa Beck's card games have a homely family feel to them from the text, to the illustrations to the games themselves. They have a statement on their instructions which resonates loudly with me:
'Your stories about enjoying time together as a family while playing our games motivate us to continue to produce fun & exciting products that will bring you and those you love, together.'
This encapsulates what makes Cards or Die tick. I know I keep banging on about it, but games are not just for children; children do not have a monopoly on fun. Sometimes as adults we get caught up in the daily grind of life, forgetting that we are allowed to play, to escape, to immerse ourselves in silliness or fantasy. Family for me is a wide circle comprising actual birthright family, Morris family, board gaming family and various others who I've adopted or who've adopted me along the way. Play is such a valuable way of connecting with people of all ages and all your families - however wide you draw your circle; escaping the drudge and pressures of adult life. Whether you haven't played games for years or you play all the time, these three family classics are an excellent starting place.
After all this fluffy, hippy niceness it bears mentioning that all three of these games have a strong 'be a dick to others' element. Which just goes to show you should never, no matter what they say or do, turn your back on your family. They will take you down. Remorselessly.
The Bears and The Bees.
When you get three new games it can be hard to choose which one to open first but as I had a Winnie The Pooh themed event that week it was an easy decision: The Bears and The Bees of course. The photos below are from the first week - we played it at home, we played it in the pub, we played it in the theatre, we played it in a cafe... we do so like Bears and Bees.
It's beautiful and stylish with pretty colours and flowers, a cute looking bear cub and buzzy bees. But don't be fooled - those bears have teeth and the bees will sting you.
All you have to do is get rid of all your cards by matching colours on the hexes. Match more sides to win bonus plays which help you get rid of all your cards. Play flowers and bees to make other people pick cards up.
We played it at our board games and dinner event at Mrs Smith's Cafe, Harrogate. It started off gently enough as the family took turns encircling the Queen Bee with honey and bright hues. Then the siblings started attacking each other with bees, forcing each other to pick up more and more cards. Meanwhile, Mum made the most of this - dividing and conquering, almost securing victory. But at the last moment sibling loyalty won out, destroying Mum in a concerted effort.
There's a lesson somewhere in here but as I look at my adoring and adorable offspring, I decide that the lesson is - aren't siblings lovely. Yeah. Let's go with that.
Cover Your A$$ets.
Cover Your A$$ets is a fast paced is a fast paced, card collecting, card stealing game. There are no alliances to be forged here - each player is trying to collect and hang on to the most rich stuff. I like games like this - unpredictable and different every time. Sometimes you might win by playing a strategic wild card (worth $25 or $50 thousand) plus a load of low value cards. Other times you need to burn that stamp collection and save the jewels.
You can only ever steal the top set of someone's cards by playing a copy of the card you want to steal. They can block your steal by playing a further copy of that card. All of these are then added to the stack increasing its value. So even failed steals increase the value of your assets. You watch the pile of loot grow, clutching your matching card only to watch the stash covered before it gets to your turn. Do you trash that card and go for something else? Or, do you hope that someone else steals the top treasure letting you have another go?
It's dynamic, fast paced and ever changing with lots of capacity to be a complete dick to various members of your family.
King of the cut throats however, is Skull King...
A little more complex to master than the other two, it is a game of trick taking and betting. The game lasts 10 rounds gradually building in difficulty which is a neat feature making it very accessible. You look at your cards and then bet on how many tricks you believe you can take. You win tricks by playing a higher value card of the same suit on top of the previous players' card. There are also cards which act as trumps, overpowering other suits as well as Escape Cards which allow you to deliberately lose the trick. Remember you are balancing winning tricks with making accurate predictions so this card can be very valuable.
It comes with a score sheet which is set out in a really helpful way allowing you to easily keep track of bids and scoring. This also helps you to learn the game.
As the rounds progress, you get a bigger and bigger hand making accurate prediction increasingly difficult. It also comes with an expansion pack. We're still getting to grips with the base game but it's great to know that once we're used to the cards we can throw in some mermaids and a Kraken. The loot cards in particular add an interesting extra layer as they allow for alliances.
It is a fun game with two but it's even more fun with six. Literally the more, the funner. It's definitely more of a thinky game than Cover Your A$$ets but faster play than The Bears and The Bees.
My advice? Play all three, then you've covered everything!
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Find out more about Grandpa Beck's games here.