Geeky Games For The Holidays

Welcome to Smugglivus 2017! Throughout this month, we will have guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2017, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2018, and more.

Our next Smugglivus guest is our very own Tansy Rayner Roberts, whose novella Girl Reporter just came out!

Please give it up for Tansy!


Our family and extended friendship group are into board games in a big way. Now that my youngest is old enough to play a game for more than 30 minutes without going into a strop and storming off (apart from that one time she beat us all at Dalek Risk when she was 4), it’s a great way to spend time with people you don’t hate.

I grew up an only child raised by a mother who hated board games (the tragedy!) but I spent my weekends with my Dad, who loved them. He taught me to play chess, card games and all kinds of traditional board games, and went on to do the same with both of my daughters.

But there are a lot of fun games you can’t really play with just two people, and while I never especially saw the point of siblings growing up (I read a lot of books) it is awfully convenient to be part of a 4 person household, and thanks to one of my best friends having kids at the same time I did, having 3 borrowed siblings for my 2 kids to play games with when I can’t be bothered.

So here are some games that my geeky gang of family and friends have got particular enjoyment out of this year — some are recentish releases, others a bit older.

Dracula’s Feast.

A new addition to our household! This gorgeous Gothic take on on a classic ‘murder in the dark’ style guessing game features adorable artwork by my friend & fellow Tasmanian Tania Walker. I pre-ordered this one through Kickstarter and within a day of it arriving, it was co-opted by my gang of 5 kids (ranging in ages between 8 and 14) who taught themselves to play it through the simple version all the way up to the advanced “wild cards in play” version. They were screaming with delight for hours.

Fun to play, even more fun to listen to other people play. And oh, so pretty.

Exploding Kittens

It’s no wonder this one made a mint on Kickstarter, as it’s both brilliant and gross. Play the game. The artwork is super disturbing. The explosion of the kittens is inevitable.

As with most games, we played it wrong a bunch of times before we checked the rules and started playing it right, but this one is definitely playable with kids (we don’t have the NSFW version) including kids heartlessly abandoned by adults to play on their own.

Sushi! Go

It’s adorable. My eldest is super into cute pictures of food and my youngest loves sushi, so this is a great game for them both. I enjoy playing it with them too! Suitable for 2-4 but perfect with 3, this is a simple strategy game based on picking the best things off a sushi conveyor belt, one of the greatest food delivery systems ever designed.

Easy but entertaining, as long as you don’t have a pudding hoarder (not looking at anyone in particular, Jemima) in the family. It will make you hungry.

The Witches

My constant lament is that there aren’t any Discworld computer games anymore — the worldbuilding of that universe makes it a perfect setting for quest games and the good old Discworld, Missing Presumed Death & Discworld Noir games for Playstation were fantastic.

Weirdly there are now a lot more board games based on Pratchett’s worldbuilding than there are computer games, but most of them are super great, so there’s that.

By far our favourite is The Witches, a complex board game based on Granny Weatherwax, Tiffany Aching and their peers. You play an apprentice witch and roam around the Ramtops with your peers, solving problems (anything from pregnancy and sick sheep to death) and battling invaders such as elves, Shakespearian aristocrats and things that go bump in the night.

The best part is that it balances competitiveness (be the best witch!) with collaborative play — if you get too competitive, or too many elves land on the board at once, everyone loses.

It takes a while to get the hang of the complex system (we lost the Ramtops several times over before we re-read the rules and realised that, crucially, every witch performs 2 actions per turn, not 1), but it’s so worth the effort to get to know the game and play it regularly. If you’re a fan of Pratchett’s witch books, and hoping to lure others into loving the Discworld as much as you do, a great deal of the joy is in the perfect detail and gorgeous artwork of the characters that appear on the cards in the game.

And for people who like snarky practical fantasy fiction but haven’t read the Discworld books, this is a game with suspiciously great worldbuilding and that’s all you need to know.

Doctor Who board games.

We’re a Doctor Who household and we have ended up with a LOT of Doctor Who games, mostly themed variations on classic games. Many times they are disappointments. Both the versions of Doctor Who Monopoly we own, for example, feel like the people who designed them either didn’t understand Doctor Who, or didn’t understand Monopoly.

(Where’s my The Sunmakers version of Monopoly where we get to overthrow the capitalist society and literally throw the Tax Collector off a roof?)

So far the best Doctor Who variants of games are:

1) Risk, the one with the Daleks, it’s great because YOU GET SO MANY MINIATURE DALEKS of various designs. Even the bodgy orange ones. So great.

2) Yahtzee, the one with Doctor Who monsters on the dice, only if you use the actual TARDIS to roll the dice, you will destroy everyone’s eardrums, so better just use that as a tea caddy and roll your dice in a plastic cup, sorry but it’s true

DC Superhero Girls Top Trumps

I’ve bought my kids several versions of Top Trumps over the years and you know what? They’re NOT all compatible, and most of them are terrible.

Having said that, the DC Superhero Girls set is super great. It will ruin you for other versions of this simple ‘who would beat who in a fight’ card game which is ideal for the sugary exhaustion haze of Christmas morning.

The characters are given hit points for traits like Fun, Courage, Kindness, Friendship and Clumsiness, and the art is cute. Some of the cards get the characters badly wrong (their interpretation of Hal Jordan, the worst superhero of all time, is laughably optimistic, fight me) but it’s hard to argue with a game that knows Lois Lane is better than anyone else.


Tansy Rayner Roberts lives in Tasmania, Australia with her partner and two daughters. She has written and edited various science fiction and fantasy books including the Mocklore Chronicles, the Creature Court trilogy, Musketeer Space and Cranky Ladies of History. She is a host on three podcasts: Galactic Suburbia, Verity! and Sheep Might Fly, and has won two Hugo Awards, for Best Fan Writer and Best Fancast. You can find Tansy on Twitter (@tansyrr) and at her blog which features fiction, feminist essays, comics reviews and pop culture criticism.


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    December 27, 2017 at 10:56 am

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  • Katy K.
    December 27, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Sushi Go and Exploding Kittens are both hits at my house… I also really enjoy the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle cooperative game. What – the Witches as a board game?? I had to run and put that on my wishlist right away!

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