Starter Kits for Games

Booklist Onlinerecently published some extremely practical and useful lists for librarians involved in games programming. Scott Nicholson created a Board Game Starter Kit and JP Porcaro put together a Video Game Starter Kit.

If you like these,do two things: (1) read and use them; and (2) let Booklist know you’d like more such things, and that this kind of information is important to you professionally.

Earlier this week, I gave a half-day pre-conference workshopat the Arizona Library Association’s annual meeting, presenting with Don Dehm from Pulp Gamer. As it happens, the Booklist lists fit neatly with what we talked about: Get Lucky: Gaming Beyond Monopoly and Rock Band. (Sadly, some of Slideshare’s formatting borked, although it was correct during the talk. My apologies.)

We had a fabulous audience,some of whom were pretty savvy about games and some obviously less so. Knowing that video games get the press and the glory for library gaming activities ‚ but that board and tabletop games account for a larger proportion of gaming activities in libraries overall ‚ we brought a slew of games along for playing and as a “petting zoo” for people to look at during the break. We were asked “Which would you recommend most and for what ages?”

On our Get Lucky handout(also available on Slideshare), we listed all the games we brought, although some fit a library environment better than others. We had: Blockus, Wicked Witches Way, Alibi, Forbidden Island, Pillars of the Earth, Family Business, Word on the Street, Backseat Drawing, Settlers of Catan, Hey! That’s my fish, Lascaux, Monuments, Toledo, Pack & Stack, Lemming Mafia, Qwirkle, Wits & Wagers Family, Tsuro, Saboteur, Back to the Future card game, Lord of the Rings game, Pandemic, Fluxx, Aquarius, Ody-see, Myth Pantheons, Grave Robbers from Outer Space, Lunch Money, Munchkin. You’ll have to put on your librarian researcher hat to look for more details about all of these. During the talk, I recommended Boardgame Geek as one of the better spots on the Web for a place to read useful crowdsourced information about such hobby games.

Many of Scott’s games match our choices.In fact, I told the audience that if they went and bought only one game from the tabletop collection we’d talked about or shared, it had to be Tsuro, one of his top picks. Hey! That’s my fish, Wits & Wagers Family, and Word on the Street are also on both lists.

I can’t unreservedly recommend every gameon our AzLA list to every library: the list is simply those games we brought along to talk about. A perfect example would be Lunch Money. Despite being an Origins Award winner, Lunch Money is hard to recommend without explanation. Libraries typically support gaming as potentially uplifting, literacy-enhancing, and socially important. Lunch Money is, instead, a grimly-humorous, satirical card game about forcefully stealing lunch money from other kids. Like Gloom (also from Atlas Games), the game will appeal to the same mindset that reads Lemony Snicket, and teens are likely to love the idea of delivering payback in a “safe” game setting instead of the dark reality of the schoolyard.

I spotlight the gamehere, in fact, because it is what I am calling an “Opportunity” game … an opportunity to take gaming activity beyond just throwing down games and saying “Let’s play.” Playing for fun is good, very good, and certainly easy and worthwhile… but we can do more. If you want a darn good way to open up discussion of bullying and even cyberbullying for a library program, play Lunch Money as your icebreaker.

Game on!



  1. Brandon says:

    “If you want a darn good way to open up discussion of bullying and even cyberbullying for a library program, play Lunch Money as your icebreaker. ”

    That’s an excellent idea!

  2. Brian says:

    A whole different approach is to get a game related to something that’s a current fad (movie, comic/manga, book, etc.) with the age group you are working with. Then, once you have those new to gaming comfortable, try branching out from there.

  3. Nick says:

    You should also check out the reviews on for any prospective board games, they have quite a large community on there and you can see what people have actually bought themselves and rated too.