March 2022 Family Game Night – Deadbolt Mystery Society Box

One of my favorite things, something that actually helped me stay slightly sane during quarantine, is subscription boxes. Getting surprises in the mail is the best! So, I had a wish list on Crate Joy (a subscription box website) for Christmas 2020, and we were very lucky to be gifted a subscription to The Deadbolt Mystery Society. Keith and I have been doing the boxes for a little over a year at this point, and we really enjoy them. We even have a system of solving them so that we can pass the box on to someone else – minus the collectible sticker that comes in each one. (I LOVE stickers – that is my other subscription box obsession….)

This month, we did not get a family game night. It felt like we were just really busy, but I really don’t recall what we were doing… Anyway, Keith and I did do the Blackout box from Deadbolt Mystery Society. I am not going to give away any of the clues or anything, but I will show you a little about the boxes. We always use a separate notebook or my reusable Rocketbook Notecards to keep all of our notes and ideas in one place. This is what we see when we first open the box:

The Start Here page has all sorts of helpful information, including a link to make sure that you have everything you are supposed to have in your box. We have never been missing anything, but you never know. When we spread everything out, it usually looks like this:

There is always a Beginning Brief, at least 1 large envelope to be opened at a specified time in the mystery, and then there are usually suspect cards of some sort. The rest varies wildly. We look through everything to try to figure out what we should be doing. There are always QR codes, so we like to use an iPad because we are older and so are our eyes. You could also use a phone or anything else that you can use to read QR codes. Sometimes there are audio clues, there was a virtual room once, and there are often pictures and cyphers when you scan QR codes. We have been pretty happy with the different types of clues – there is truly something new in each box. There are also hints available, but I think we have only used that one time.

Overall, we would definitely recommend The Deadbolt Mystery Society. We would not recommend all boxes for all ages – some can be pretty dark, so be aware of that if you are wanting to do these with kids. Have you ever done any mystery boxes? Do you have any that you recommend? Let us know in the comments!

March 2022 Adventure Date – German Village Mystery Picnic

Last weekend we had a chance to do a double date with some friends of ours. We had been talking about doing a Mystery Picnic since last summer, so we were really excited that it finally worked out. We booked the experience through a company called AmazingCo and we chose the German Village option. We were hopeful that booking the end of March would be warm – you know, March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb and all? Well, it ended up being super chilly. Like in the 20s. But, we persevered and took advantage of the warm businesses we got to patronize.

To start the adventure, we were emailed a link to the clues the night before our adventure. We separately solved the first clue and compared notes to find out where we would be meeting the following morning. I am not going to ruin any surprises because we do recommend this experience to others. I can tell you that we were happy to be given hot drinks at our first stop.

When you book, they tell you to bring plates, cups, a cooler bag, and a knife with you. We had all of that, but because of the weather, we really only needed the bags. We were allowed to “picnic” inside our last stop, so that worked out really nicely for us. Here is a shot of our “picnic” set up.

We had clues that led to 4 different destinations in German Village to pick up food. Everything was pre-arranged and all we had to do was tell the people at the businesses that we were doing a mystery picnic with AmazingCo and they had our orders ready pretty quickly. We would then solve our next clue and we were off. If the weather had been warmer, I am sure we would have explored some more. We did find a few interesting things along the way, though, so I will include those photos below.

Overall, it was a great experience. We enjoyed a variety of foods, tried some new places, and got to spend time with our friends. I would give this 4.5 out of 5 stars – there was a little confusion at the last stop about where we would be able to eat, but once that was solved, we were very well taken care of. I think this is because of a little miscommunication on the part of AmazingCo, but it was very minor.

Have you ever done a food adventure? This is our second – you can read about our first here. So far, our food adventures have been double dates, and we have very much enjoyed that. We are definitely on the look out for the next food adventure – tell us your ideas below! 🙂

February 2022 Family Game Time – Jackbox Games

It is the last day of February today, and I am coming in just under the wire with this post friends. We had a bit of a crazy February with weather and car shopping and dinner theatre at our high school and auditions and classes and two birthdays and a wedding. I wasn’t sure this was going to be a month where we hit this goal. It wasn’t looking good. And then, yesterday we found a pocket of time in the afternoon to play a few Jackbox Games together. It wasn’t a long pocket of time, but it was enough. I think we all walked away feeling a little more connected to each other. And that’s really the point, isn’t it?

We started our time playing Drawful 2. We have usually been big fans of this one, and it did not disappoint this time. Keith and I actually tied for this round – something that has not happened before, but I think we all had some pretty funny/interesting drawings. To get into the game, you have to go to Jackbox.tv on your phone or tablet and enter the code shown on your computer. Once everyone has done that, you can start playing. When the game starts, every player is given a prompt to draw. Then everyone is shown the drawings and writes what they think the prompt could have been. In the end, everyone tries to guess which is the true prompt for each drawing. It really is a lot of fun! Here are a few highlights:

The next game we tried is Quiplash. For this one, you are given prompts and you write funny quip – like a witty description or summary. The game pairs up two players for each prompt, and you blind vote for the quip you like best. This one is harder for Charlotte because of the writing and her dyslexia, but I think she ended up in second and I lost big time. Maddie was the big winner of this one. Here are a few highlights:

The final game we played this time was Guesspionage. For this game, each player gets a turn each round. You are given a question that involves a percentage of people – like “What percentage of people like Jackbox Games?” You set the percentage to your best guess, and then everyone else gets to guess if the real answer is higher or lower. Some of the questions are pretty obviously high or low, but some are really difficult to guess. The answers come from polling people online, so that is always at least in the back of my mind because I think it does narrow down which people would be answering. The big winner for this game was Charlotte, mostly because she was just really good at guessing the percentages on her turn. Here are some of the questions we had:

I know that we will definitely play some Jackbox games again – either as a family or with our friends. It is enjoyable for larger groups and can be done completely online, so it was our go-to for a while during quarantine.

Have you ever played any Jackbox games? Which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

Love Letters and Seven Dragons – January 2022 Family Game Night

It finally happened. We were meant to have family game night the weekend of New Years, but everyone had horrible headaches because of the weather. So we postponed it. And then got our COVID booster shots the following week, causing another weekend of not feeling so great. It was not looking good for our family game night this month, but we pivoted and had family game day instead because we were all off of school and work for MLK Day. I made fondue, we snacked and played, and a good time was had by all.

We started out by eating fondue and playing Love Letters. Keith and I had played this at a game cafe several years ago now. We remember liking the game, so we chose it as this year’s “pickle gift” (the gift received by the person that finds the pickle on the Christmas tree first). Charlotte was the quickest pickle-finder this year, so it is technically her game. We will see how that plays out in a few years.

Chocolate fondue remains and Love Letters game

Although both Keith and I remember Love Letters as a quick game, it definitely took a while to get a winner. We all enjoyed it a lot, though, and some new inside jokes were definitely created. I was the biggest loser and Charlotte came out as our glorious winner in the end, although it was a tight race amongst everyone but me…

To finish off the afternoon, we played one quick round of Seven Dragons. This is a perennial favorite of ours and is definitely a go-to if we want something quick with not much set up. I was very, very close to prevailing with my black dragon goal, but Keith managed to swoop in and win at the last second. It was a tough loss, but a very fun afternoon.

Seven Dragons with background folded laundry to add to your viewing enjoyment…

We know that family game night is going to be changing as we continue this year. It might be only 2 or 3 of us at times, but we will definitely shoot for all 4 as much as possible. We are definitely on the look out for more 2 player games – do you have any favorites we should try? Please let me know in the comments!

Winter Wonderland Game – How to Make a Seasonal Candyland Board

I don’t know about you, but I love to play board games. You may recall all of our family game nights and trips to game cafes – there’s just something about eating yummy snacks and moving tiny figures around a board. When I started teaching on Outschool, I knew that I wanted to share games with my students, but it took me a while to figure out how that was going to work. I am happy to say that I seem to have cracked part of the code, and I’m here today to share one of my very favorites with you.

I have played many a game of Candyland, so I knew that I wanted to make a game that would play similar but online. Once I got my Canva subscription (which you should run to your computer and do right now if you do any type of designing), I realized I had everything I needed to create a fun game board, spinner, and cards. I am here today to walk you through creating the same type of game – but it doesn’t have to be winter. It could be candy and monster themed for Halloween. It could be a fun spring trip through different flowers. The only limit here is your imagination. Whatever version you are going to make, you will follow a few basic steps.

Step 1: You need to create a fun background for your game board. It should have different terrains and elevations for visual appeal and optimal game play. I chose a winter wonderland with an icy bridge, chilly waterfall, mountains, trees, and some hills.

Step 2: You need to decide where you are going to make the start and where your end goal will be. On this board, I chose to start by the waterfall and then inserted an Ice Palace in the distance to welcome players to the end of the game.

Step 3: It is now time to create a winding path from your starting point to your end goal. I chose to use blue hexagons because they gave me chilly vibes and they meant the path could naturally twist and still interlock.

Step 4: This is my favorite step. This is the part where you get to make 6-7 creative checkpoint areas. These will be the areas of the board that you put on the cards that players will draw throughout the game. They will either be thrilled to skip ahead of everyone else or crushed to have to retrace their steps by moving back. I love to give these spaces personality and really play up how fun they might be to the kids – Don’t eat too many marshmallows in the fort! Be careful, they might be throwing snowballs up ahead! Don’t worry, the Yeti looks scary, but he’s really a big softie. 🙂

Step 5: You have created your areas, now you need to add some sort of marking to the actual spaces that people will go to when they draw those cards. I like to be sure there are 5-7 spaces between the special spaces, but you can make them as close or far apart as you like.

Step 6: Now is the time to make really fun names for all of your special areas. If my students are working on specific sounds, I will try to put them in all of the areas. If I have a mixed group or we are just working on language, I don’t stack sounds as much. This is another really fun step – I love making up names!

Step 7: The last step is also a naming step – you need to name your game. The name here was obvious before I even made the board, but please feel free to be as creative as you can with your name.

That’s it! You have a finished game board! Now you just need a spinner (make a circle like the one below and use a pencil and paperclip to spin) and some special cards (black and white versions are easiest on your printer).

Of course, if you don’t want to reinvent the horse, and if you would like some really nice words lists for L, R, S, and TH sounds, I have already done all of the work and you could just buy this resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It can be found under Winter Wonderland Game with R, L, S, and TH Target Words. I have a few other winter and arctic animal themed games coming really soon and a free SZ Snowman Guess Who Game available as well. I hope you will check it out and click the heart to follow me so you don’t miss any of my new products. You could also join my email list if you want to be the first to know all of my news.

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What was your favorite board game as a kid? What about now? Leave me a note in the comments if you found this helpful or if you have a suggestion for another game I should try to make. I have some others coming soon, but I am always looking for new ideas. Have a winter wonderful day! 🙂