May 19th, 2015

Why Board Games Are Back

board-game-529586_1280I’m not a long-time lover of the hobby but I fell hard and fast for it recently. By total luck, right now happens to the most exciting time to be a board gaming enthusiast. When most people think of “tabletop” games they think of either casino gambling, antiquated board games like Clue or Monopoly, or worst of all, the fantasy dice games from the 1980s, often stigmatized as being played by Middle Earth-loving, Dungeons & Dragons outcasts. Well, that’s changing. A lot of cross-pollination has been going on recently, putting us in a new golden age of social table games.

For me it started a little over a year ago. On a total whim, I was in Christiana Mall and picked up a strange and clever-looking game: Forbidden Island—a cooperative game where the players work together to collect treasures on a sinking island. I was summarily swallowed alive by this new world of what is now called “modern tabletop gaming.”

Wil Wheaton of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fame is exhibit A. He has over one million Youtube subscribers for his weekly internet show “TableTop” where he plays card, dice, and board games with B-list actors and internet celebrities. Exhibit B is the spike in sales. Since 2012, annual industry-wide sales have gone up 10-20% by major companies, and attendance at gaming conventions have increased by thousands. Some of the reason for their success is sheer business—brilliant designers making fresh games. These companies have a broad spectrum of games appealing to diehard-gamers and non-gamers alike. Some are inexpensive, easy-to-learn, 30-minute family games while some are hundred dollar behemoths taking hours to learn and hours to play.

But why is this blowing up now? Exhibit C: I think there is evidence accruing that people are tired of their technology. Friends who only see each other on Facebook and social media are beginning to quietly revolt. Humans are social animals, and rather than spending hours playing XBOX or texting each other, there is a movement gaining momentum for in-person gaming. Tabletop gaming scratches that itch for families and friends alike.

For proof, I urge you to go to Barnes and Noble or Target and just look at how retailers are responding to the evolution. Games that were never carried 5-7 years ago now pack the shelves. Instead of just Apples to Apples and Risk, retailers are now carrying elegant, creative games with quality components, knock-out artwork, and unique game mechanics. You’ll find games like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Zombicide, Sheriff of Nottingham, King of Tokyo, and Sushi Go!

If you’re a geeky adult, or have kids over eight, you should consider reaping the benefits of this new golden age. And if you want to try to win one of these games, attend the 4th Annual all-ages sci-fi and fantasy event “Magic, Space, & Swords!” this August for your chance to go home with one of these boxes of fun. Don’t forget to check out “The Dice Tower” on Youtube for weekly reviews, or boardgamegeek.com for industry news, trends, and ratings.

Lastly, Mr. Matt, that’s me, will be exhibiting family-friendly card games at the Library Con on Saturday June 6 from 10am-12pm at the Perryville Branch. Come play a sample game!


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December 15th, 2014

Holiday Hoopla! ‘Tis the Season For Free Music

Christmas party

Another Holiday? Already? Well, at least CCPL has your music covered thanks to our new digital service: HOOPLA.

Let’s say you’re decorating the house or baking some goodies. You need some tunes in the kitchen, right? Keep your phone, tablet, or laptop away from flour dust and eggs and play some American country, like “Toby Keith: A Classic Christmas” (2007), or “Best Of 20th Century – Country Christmas” (2003).

If you want dulcimers or bluegrass pickin’, try “Appalachian Christmas” (2014) or “A Skaggs Family Christmas, Vol. 2” (2014). While you’re helping Santa wrap gifts and trying to decompress from all the madness of the shopping season, play The Riverside Brass Quintet nice and low. Their album “Riverside Yuletide” (2014) will make you feel like you’re listening to amazing street performers in London.

Before the family comes over on Christmas Eve, don’t forget to give yourself some R & R. Chill out in a hot bath before guests arrive, but first download the comfort of the Carpenter’s “Christmas Portrait” (1987). It’s a nice change of pace.

Now it’s Christmas Eve. This is part one of the big show. If your home is playing host this year you need a long playlist with a huge variety of 20th Century radio classics. I recommend getting on Hoopla and checking out “50 X-Mas Hits” (2014). It’s great to put on in the background of the family room. If you’re off to grandma’s house on Christmas Day and have young kids who love sing-alongs, “Disney’s Family Christmas Collection” (2008) is a lot of fun.

A big and busy family Christmas with kids isn’t for everyone. If you’re putting on an adult-only or late-night Christmas affair, I have some albums for you! If you need a little swing or pop with your party, I highly recommend the contemporary marvel that is “Christmas” (2011) by Michael Buble. If you need songs without lyrics and prefer solely orchestral music, “Tchailkovsky’s Nutcracker Suite” (2007) by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will definitely sweep you away like a dream.

During or after Christmas, if you need to set the mood for a one-on-one cozy evening, Hoopla has “Christmas Romance: 15 Romantic Holiday Favorites” (2014). It’s also a great fit for a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day dinner. It’s a surprisingly solid blend of easy listening, jazz, and lounge-style music.

Get downloading and get merry this holiday with Hoopla!

What’s your favorite holiday album?


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