Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Favorite Board Games -- Or Games I Don't Regret Purchasing

Games are great for conversations and getting to know people -- and also for teaching and entertaining children. Games can provide hours of entertainment (What did people do before TV -- they played games to socialize!) You’ll may be amazed at what you learn about people when you play games — who’s competitive; who’s a gracious (or cranky) loser, and who’s able to laugh at themselves.

I have purchased some games I've regretted. What follows is a list of games I do not regret having purchased -- whether for my family, or for others. Some of these have made great Christmas Gifts. Maybe you know a game I haven't mentioned?

1)Dread Pirate

My kids just love this game and enjoy playing it with their Aunt and Uncle. I originally bought it for my kids, but was afraid they wouldn't like it. So, I gave it to their Aunt and Uncle. Funny, they play it whenever they get together. The came is competitive with the fun and swashbuckling adventure of Pirates of the Caribbean® condensed into a board game! Dread Pirate comes complete with cast metal doubloons, glass jewels, and pirate ship playing pieces. The rules of the game may seem a little vague, but that is what pirating is about! Avast Mateys!

2. Master Labrynth by Ravensburger

I gave this to my brother's family before I had kids. They told me how much they enjoyed it. So, when my kids got old enough, I purchased it. It is a game we enjoy playing. It teaches kids to think ahead about their moves. I think it was once on a Mensa list.

3. Ticket to Ride

My son, a train fanatic, loves this game. But you don't have to enjoy trains to enjoy this game. Game play is engaging for all levels of play. The game accommodates both laid back and cutthroat gaming styles. There are different versions of the game for different geographies -- US, Europe, Switzerland, etc. Players connect cities with trains. On their turn, players simply draw train cards, claim routes on the board, or draw more destination tickets. Players must balance drawing cards into their hand with claiming routes before opponents in this friendly, yet competitive board game

4. Apples to Apples

There are various editions of this game -- junior editions, party editions, jewish edition, etc. I've only played the party edition. My family plays this frequently -- even if we only have a few minutes. Why? Because we can get a few good laughs together, even if we only have a few minutes. Laughter is a good medicine.

5. Imaginiff by Buffalo Games

We think this game is hilarious. This game encourage interaction because the players are the subject of the game. Players pick a card that poses a question and has six possible answers (for example, "Imaginiff _____ were a crime. Which would he/she be?"). Read the question aloud, plugging in the subject's name. Then read out the six answers (in this case, they range from "homicide" to "indecent exposure"). Players pick an answer to fit the question. Players who pick the most popular answer move forward. Winning is obviously not the point: laughter is the point. My kids sometimes want to pick out the cards and just answer the questions as they are sometimes hilarious. If their is a subject they don't know about (like old TV shows), we just skip the question.

6. Blokus

This is a clever 2-4 player strategy game. Players take turns laying down pieces of different shapes on a grid, attempting to block their opponents and make more room for themselves. The player who places the most pieces is the winner. The play is fast -- about 10 minutes (unless of course people take time to think). I know people who sometimes play several plays of the game during their lunch hour.

7. Pictionary

Granted, I don't have the current version as I own the classic version from about 20+ years ago. I play it with the kids now. You dont have to be an artist to enjoy this game. Pictionary is sort of like charades with pencil and paper. Older kids, teenagers, adults -- everyone can play, and up to a fairly large group of people, too, because you play in teams. Its basically like the old TV show "Win, Lose or Draw?" The main point is to draw a simple picture within the time limit and have your team members guess what the picture is. It's pretty simple. Remember that you're not going to win for drawing the best picture. The "all team draw" comes up pretty regularly. That helps keep interest in the game. I think this game would be fun to do on white boards.

8. Dominoes

OK, so I dont have the particular version pictured, but I do have a double 12 set and I have played the Mexican Train game with our set and it is a blast. When my kids were younger they used to play dominoes and learn to count and match patterns. There are endless games that can be played with a good domino set. My husband and I used to play dominoes with his grandmother with a classic set. Dominoes is a classic game and it has many variations.

9. Rivers, Roads & Rails by Ravensburger

This game is for 1-8 players, Ages 5-adult. I'm not sure I've played the EXACT game in the rules, but my kids still like to play this game. I bought when my son, the train-lover, was young. By connecting illustrated tiles, players build roads, railroads, and waterways. Each player must try to add a tile that matches any one of the ebranching ends of the expanding network of rivers, roads and rails that emerge or discontinue during play. What I like is you can play competitively or play cooperatively. Since my kids were young, we played cooperatively since they hated to lose. Besides, building the roads and rails was like building a puzzle. This was more fun than dominoes for younger kids. Older players can challenge themselves to connect all the pieces in the most compact shape possible -- or try to block the other players! I have to be honest -- I usually love Ravensburger games. This early learning game prompts matching, visual discrimination, observation, sequencing, and making associations.

10. Scotland Yard (Ravensburger)

I haven't actually played this game yet. But my children and their friends have and they have enjoyed playing it. I couldn't stop hearing about Mr. X! Scotland Yard is a game that requires all players to think and communicate with each other while trying to capture one player, who has been selected to be Mr. X. The others players playas Scotland Yard detectives who search for Mr. X throughout London. If Mister X makes 24 moves without being caught he or she wins. Detectives move independently but cooperate to track down Mister X

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2009 401K contribution limits

IRS announced last week the 401K plan contribution limits for 2009. However, investing doesn't seem too attractive in today's current economic climate. If your 401K plan has interesting options to choose from, then now can be a good time to purchase some funds at some low prices.

2009 401 K contribution limits are as follows:

2009 401k Contribution Limit: $16,500
2009 Catch-Up Contribution Limit (if you are age 50 years old and older): $5,500

You are also subject to the limits imposed by your company’s 401k plan. Matching contributions, if any, provided by your employer do NOT effect these limits. Check with your employer to see if they have any contribution limits.

You can find 2008 Contribution Limits here.

There is talk in Congressional committees about removing the tax benefits of 401(k)'s. So, take advantage of the tax benefits while you can -- especially if you have employer matching.

You can find the text of the IRS release and other Pension Plan limitations on the IRS Website. It lists contribution and income limitations for IRA's, SEP's and other such technical plans.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Authors and Dreams

I spent an enjoyable day at the Duarte Festival of Authors (put on to benefit the Friends of the Duarte Library). I brought my teen-aged son -- an avid reader. It was a wonderful event put on by a small town. Of course, living in Southern California, sometimes, we are fortunate to have access to local celebrities.

The authors we listened to were D.J. MacHale, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen J. Cannell. The authors didn't succeed immediately in their life. They all had various struggles along their path. Ray Bradbury (see photo) was such a treat to hear him tell his story of struggle and success: "Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down." Don't hesitate at the top. Just jump off. You'll build them on the way down. I blogged about him previously.

Stephen J. Cannell struggled with dyslexia (he wasnt diagnosed until he was 35 and he had one of his children diagnosed). He was working for his father during the day, but would go home each night and write for 5 hours. "If you're willing to assign a high priority to what you want to achieve, you can't help but succeed." This dedication and persistence paid off.

D.J. MacHale (Pendragon Series) started out in film before writing. I think he inspired my son who loves producing movies. He said the most often heard word for aspiring authors is "No."