Welcome to Another Board Family! This feature takes a look at board gaming through the lens of different families around the world.
Today we get to chat with the Cappel family. This family of 4 has a passion for gaming that shows through in the games they publish as Kids Table Board Games. Helaina has brought her love of gaming into the classroom as a teacher and the owner Kids Table. Josh has established himself in the industry as an illustrator and designer of some excellent games such as Bomb Squad Academy, Wasabi, Rock Paper Wizard, Energy Empire and more.
How long has your family been playing games together?
We have been playing games together since we realized our then 2 year old was ready. Essentially, as a family we have been playing games for 6 years. My husband Josh and I have been playing for about 15 years.
As a family, what are some games that come to the table often? Do you have a particular genre you enjoy?
You can often find us playing prototypes because we’re also a publishing family. And of course, being that we are a family games company, our games are for families. So, our kids are our guinea pigs.
Essentially, Foodfighters and Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants have been played the most. Published games that have come to the table most often are Dominion, IceCool, Gulo Gulo, Santorini, Animal Upon Animal, and Looping Louie. We like to try anything and everything, but keep coming back to these core games.
How have the games you play as a family changed over time?
My outlook on what kids are able to do, as far as game play, has changed drastically over the years. We started with some of the classics before I realized that gaming, even with small children, should be more engaging and strategic.
After a year of playing Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly Jr., and Sorry, I thought I’d try out something that would have my kids think a little. I also thought it was necessary to have us parents engaged in the game play as well. At that time, there was not a lot out there. So, I decided that it was time for me to make the kind of games I wanted to play with my kids. Out came Foodfighters; a two player battle game where you literally play a faction of food fighting with another faction of food.
The game is a lot deeper than you might think. The key to a successful family game, at least to me, is to have a level playing field, so to speak. A game where kids will play and be successful without using strategy, while also engaging adults because there is some strategy to the game. While playing the game, kids realize that there are certain tactical moves that would give them advantages, thereby incorporating emergent strategy into the play.
When I watched my young children play it for the first few times, I knew I was onto something. I loved the game play, and they were learning to play strategy games. It was a perfect combination.
Do you get to play games with other groups outside your home?
Typically our game group is our family. We play a lot of games together. If we are out, it is usually at our local game cafe. When others join our family, or when we have only adults playing games with us, it typically is at our place. Our kids’ friends know us as the game family and are always happy to come over to play.
What benefits have you seen from sitting down as a family and gaming together?
When a typical family would sit down to a movie, or play video games, we will sit down to play a table top game. There are so many benefits to this that are not limited to the time we spend together as a family. I feel like playing games with my kids helps me to know who they are. For example, playing games with them helps me to know how they will react when things are not going their way. I know better how they will react when they lose at something. I will know what to say to them to encourage them to think about what their next move is going to be.
Our kids’ friends know us as the game family and are always happy to come over to play.
I don’t believe that there are drawbacks from playing games as a family. Kids get a better grasp on their executive functioning. They learn how to lose in a safe environment. They learn how to be good sports. They learn how to be graceful when they do win. Not to mention all of the technical math, strategy, and history/geography, etc. they learn from playing games.
What other hobbies do you enjoy as a family?
Thankfully, we all really enjoy the same stuff. Every summer you can find us hiking in the woods in Northern Ontario (Canada), canoe tripping, or paddling in kayaks at our family cottage. We love the outdoors.
New games are coming out almost every week. What do you look for in a game that allows you to commit to buying it?
No kidding! For me, it is always theme first. If I am interested in the theme, I will look deeper into the game. From there, I will look at the play time. If it is beyond 2 hours, count me out. I’d prefer to play 1 longer game and several filler games in one sitting than one really long game. I will try any mechanism. I also rely on certain reviews to help me decide of a game is worth it for me/our family. I have a few reviewers that I go to regularly. If they have reviewed it and approve, I know I’ll like it.
Playing games with them helps me to know how they will react when things are not going their way. I know better how they will react when they lose at something.
What classic game sticks out in your mind from your childhood? Have you introduced this to your family?
My favourite as a child was I.Q. 2000. It was a roll and move trivia game. I am pretty sure I liked it because of the graphics and because it was spaced themed. There was a time during my childhood that I had a bit of an obsession with space themed anything. But to be honest, my love for games began as an adult. Games when I was a kid (at least the ones I had access to) always left me uninspired. I think I had all of the “classics” at my home. I just never felt a connection with them. Perhaps because what I needed (even at that time) were strategy games.
Do you have any favorite moments or memories from some of your previous game sessions?
I have many. But the one that sticks out in my mind was a time I was playing Catan with my husband’s family (sister, brother, brother-in-law). One of them was not playing wisely, at least in my mind. I made a big move that made him drop most of the resource cards in his hand (there were probably about 20). I was so proud of myself that I declared that the move was “very gratifying” because I thought I had made it so that he would never win. In the next round, he won the game. It was a pretty funny moment for me. One that they will never let me live down, and one that only a gamer could understand.