As the primary voice behind Little Big Thumbs, I initially put a bit of pressure on myself to pick three games that fit that focus - tabletop games that can be played with children, but also are appealing to bring to the table after the children are asleep in bed. I asked my girls what three games they might like me to choose, to which they started telling me stories about unicorns and flying donkeys!
So … I took that as permission to take off the crusader mask, and just write about the three games that are my absolute personal favourites. Thanks for taking a peek!
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue … for whatever reason, when I was invited to pick my top three games for Jim’s website, this old rhyme about bridal attire popped into my head. It’s been looping over and over, despite the fact that it includes FOUR items.
Since I can’t seem to shake the rhyme, we’re just going to have to roll with it.
Whenever I talk about my favourite board games, this one has been in the conversation for over a decade. Not only is The Queen’s Gambit amazing to look at and fun to experience, it is the brass ring that I cling to when justifying my love for the Star Wars Prequel films.
Yes, meesa even loves Jar Jar. Sorry not sorry.
Twenty years before the current trend of multi-tiered boards arrived, Queen’s Gambit was delivering this magical experience. The setting is the final act of Episode I, The Phantom Menace, with the central board being the palace where Queen Amidala and her Palace Guards are trying to fight past a droid army to reach the throne room. Meanwhile, Qui-Gon Jinn and his padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi are battling Darth Maul elsewhere in the palace. The kicker is that whichever side wins the lightsaber battle gets to enter the fight with the droids and palace guard, carving through their opposing minions like butter!
“Wipe them out. All of them.”
Two other mini games are taking place as well - a larger droid detachment is aiming to eliminate the Gungan army on a hex heavy battlefield, with combat feeling somewhat similar to Memoir ‘44. And we can’t forget about wee Anakin Skywalker, who has accidentally found himself in a position to destroy the droid control ship. If he succeeds, every single droid is removed from every board in the game!
It’s a card-driven, dice duelling masterpiece of ameritrash gaming, co-designed by Craig Van Ness and Rob Daviau. The game is near impossible to find now, but if you can track it down as well as a prequel apologist, you’ll be in for a most memorable gaming experience.
Something old - Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit!
Three years have passed since its initial release, but in the grand scheme of the tabletop gaming landscape, Root is plenty recent to count as my “something new” for this list.
Prior to this game, if someone had asked me to offer the best examples of asymmetry in board games, I might have referenced the player powers in Small World. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a system in which everyone was playing their own unique game, while still interacting with each other on a shared map.
Yet that is exactly what Root offers!
I’ll never forget where I was and who I was with for my first experience of Root. My heart was racing from start to finish, trying to predict what sneaky moves my opponents had up their sleeves, and how I was going to make use of my handful of cards to carve out my own path to victory. The tension bubbling through my body had me standing for much of the game, and I loved every minute of it!
Since that first memorable romp of a game, I’ve come back to Root over and over and over again. Wrestling with other critters for woodland domination has never been more satisfying, which is why it has hopped, slithered and soared over so many other games to cement itself as an all-time favourite of mine!
Something borrowed … well, that has to be WhatBoardGame.com! Thanks to Jim for letting me borrow a page to ramble about three games that I truly and deeply adore.
And finally, something blue ...
I’m a sucker for a cool gimmick in a game, and being able to change the literal faces on my dice is one of the most amazing I’ve ever encountered! Prying off a numbered side and replacing it with a funky action is a pure delight for me.
No, I’m not talking about Dice Forge. The lesser known game that came before it, back in 2014, is Rattlebones, and it is one of my absolute favourite games!
To be quite honest, Rattlebones is a rather pedestrian experience on the surface. Players are running laps around what almost looks like a Monopoly board, landing on various spaces which allow players to alter one of their three dice. Each new dice face will allow that player to carry out a special action when successfully rolled on future turns. The order and timing of dice upgrades can result in a very light engine building experience, which is delightful.
What placed it firmly as one of my all time favourites was actually acquiring a second copy of the game. For pre-pandemic special occasions, I have enjoyed bringing up to eight friends together for an eight player, two table RattleBowl Championship match! These mega games involve both tables starting their game at the same time. The ultimate winner is the player who wins quickest at their table, which adds a layer of panicked pressure to the game, and it winds up being one of the most delightfully stressful experiences I’ve ever had as a gamer!
Now you might be asking how this bright red game box fits as “something blue”. Excellent question! You see, Rattlebones is not an exceedingly popular game with my friends. And as such, when I ask them to help me scratch the Rattlebones itch, they get a little … blue in the face.
As the sad trombone sounds, and the audience prepares to pelt me with soft produce, I’ll take a quick bow and see myself out!