Fab board games: Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples, Match Mate, Scribblish, Jenga Ultimate

Over the past year, we have discovered some really fun board games (plus one classic we’ve played for years deserves a mention). Board games are a great social enabler; a good excuse to get together with friends or family for some laughs; a cheap, fun form of entertainment. On the other hand, depending on your personality or how you’re playing, these games can be a potential source of frustration as well. Here are five notables, perhaps ones to consider for our Canadian Victoria Day long weekend?


1. Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan is an award-winning strategy game where you collect and trade resources (i.e. wheat, ore) to build roads, settlements and cities. You collect points based on how many you build and how many special “development” cards you receive. The first person to reach ten victory points is declared the winner. The board is made up of removable hexagonal pieces, so each game has a new configuration; each game will be different. There are a number of expansion sets available (sold separately) so you can add more players to the original version or explore new aspects of the game. This game is so popular, Settlers fanatics compete in tournaments around the world. Three to four players, ages 10+.

Why I like Settlers of Catan: I like that the game is different each time you play. It is pretty easy to learn, and requires strategic thinking. More importantly, you can wrap a game up in about 90 minutes…whereas a game like Risk takes hours.


2. Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples is a great game for get togethers or family gatherings. Each person takes a turn as a judge, selecting the theme or topic for that round. Each player then chooses a card from their hand, that best represents this theme, and anonymously provides a card to the judge. Once all cards have been submitted, the judge reviews the cards and selects the winner of that round.  You can have a lot of fun with this game if you don’t take the theme too literally. For four to ten players, ages 12+.

Why I like Apples to Apples: The cards can kick off great conversations and laughs. It isn’t intimidating, anyone can play, and can be a good ice breaker.

Tips: learn the strategy is to understand how each judge thinks, and play accordingly. Best with at least five or six players.


3. Match Mate

We’ve only played this once, and although a little skeptical at first, we surprisingly loved Match Mate! This is meant for two to four couples, and is a test of how well you know your partner. The questions cover four different categories (memory, personality, sensuality, and odds & ends). They can be quite provocative, for example: (to the women) “In bed, is your partner a clown, a lion tamer, or a ring master?” / (to the men) “What is the colour of your partner’s favourite toy?”. For two to four couples, ages teenage +.

Why I like Match Mate: Some of the answers can be absolutely hilarious; sometimes it can be frustrating if your partner doesn’t know the answer. We’ve had quite a few laughs since we played, and this is a great way to know your friends a lot better. Depending on how you’ve answered, “what is said in the room, stays in the room?”.

Tips: It’s actually a test of how you anticipate how your partner will answer…don’t take it personally! :)


4. Scribblish

From the Cranium family comes Scribblish, what I like to call a “pictorial broken telephone game”. Up to six players can play. There are a number of timed rounds; during each round all players either write a caption, draw the caption or interpret the drawing. What helps is the “Scribble Scroll”, a plastic holder that you place your note paper on; after each round, you scroll the paper up to hide the previous answer. May sound confusing, but once you see it, you’ll understand. Once this cycle has been completed twice, all Scribble scrolls are placed together for everyone’s review. Each player then tries to determine which final drawing represents their original caption. If you determine yours correctly, you win a point. You can also earn points if you’re voted as having the best drawing or caption. For four to six players, ages 8+.

Why I like Scribblish: You don’t have to be a good drawer. In fact, if you’re a terrible drawer, like myself, this will make the game even funnier.


5. Jenga Ultimate

My hubby introduced this to me years ago. Jenga Ultimate (emphasizing the “ultimate” as it makes a difference) is a building block game, with blocks in three different colours (beige, red, black). Each person takes a turn by rolling the dice; the colour shown is the block colour the player must pull from the tower. The key is to keep going as long as you can. The last player to take a turn without making the tower tumble is the winner. For one to as many players as you wish, ages 8+.

Why I like Jenga Ultimate: The tower can become unstable fairly quickly, making this a game of skill and dexterity. Another great ice breaker.


Let me know your thoughts on the above games if you’ve played them before…better yet, let me know if there are any other games I should consider for another upcoming post. Happy gaming!



One of my fave apps: Shazam

How many times have you heard a song and thought “Damn, what song is this and who sings it?!?”. I’m sure many of you are familiar with this app, but if you’re not…download it now (it’s free)! Shazam. How does this wonder work? Simply press the Shazam icon, and hold up your phone to the music to “tag” the song. In about 15 seconds, Shazam spits out the song name, artist, and then allows you to share it, download from iTunes, tour info, youtube videos…you name it. Note: it can’t identify singing, humming or live performances; only recorded music.

I’ve used Shazam a few times this week: I liked the song on the Nivea TV commercial (Rihanna “California King Bed”), and I recognized the song for one version of the Diet Coke commercial but couldn’t place it (The Temper Trap “Sweet Disposition”). When I was in HMV a few months ago, I liked the music they were playing. I didn’t feel like asking the staff, so I broke out Shazam – and boom! Florence + The Machine “Never Let Me Go”. Awesome.

My hubby and I have fun trying to stump Shazam. It knows everything except for completely obscure music. Maybe a new game should be created: “Stump Shazam”.

I use this app to discover new music when I stumble upon it.  But on shazam.com, it looks like they started to expand the benefits i.e. LyricPlay (allows you to see and learn the lyrics). Too techie for me. Just go check it out if you haven’t already.

Dr. Mario: a true classic

My husband introduced me to Dr. Mario nearly two decades ago (hmm…trying not to date myself). In the beginning, I didn’t understand what the hoopla was about it, because he and a buddy would play it all the time. But then the first time I played it, I became hooked.








Dr. Mario is an action puzzle game, with the goal of eliminating all viruses on the screen. Coloured “pills” drop, which you use to align with the coloured “viruses”. Once you match four-in-a-row, they are removed from the screen & removed from play. Higher levels = more viruses. Click here to see the game in action.

What makes this game even more awesome is the multiplayer mode, where you compete against someone else. The goal is to clear all of your viruses before the other player does. When you solve multiple viruses or cause chain reactions, additional capsules to drop on your competitor’s screen. Fuuunnnn times!

*Sigh* sadly, this game is only available on older Nintendo systems (i.e. Game Boy, Nintendo NES) but you can play it on the Nintendo DS. You may need to check Ebay or used video game stores to get your hands on a copy.

Warning: Dr. Mario is friggin’ fun, but can be super addictive…