Working Together To Beat The #Tabletop Pandemic

pandemicIt’s no secret that I love playing tabletop games. However, at times, my oldest has a tough time with them. When dealing with Autism, social skills can be tricky to navigate. Simple things like winning a game gracefully or accepting when you lose can spiral out of control.

During the second Passover Seder, a family member brought Pandemic for us to play. I had heard of it before but never really to look closely at it much less play it. When we realized it was a cooperative game, my boys and I got excited. Instead of trying to best each other to the goal, we would be working together to win the game.

Unfortunately, our first game got cut short by the Seder, but we loved that small taste so much that we ordered it a few days later.

disease-spreadingIn Pandemic, each player controls a medical professional working to stop four plagues afflicting the world. You collect city cards to come up with a cure while trying to battle the diseases back. As the game progresses, more cities become infected, some so much that they infect neighboring cities. If this happens too many times before you find all four cures, the game is over and you lose.

Each player’s character has a special trait. The scientist can find a cure with four city cards instead of five. The researcher can pass city cards to other players without needing to be in that particular city. The medic can cure all of the disease in a city in one move before a cure is found. Only by working together can you find the cures before time runs out.

So far, we’ve played the game quite a few times. We’ve won every time, but some of those games were pretty close. We were also playing at the easiest level. We might ramp it up next time.

I’d recommend this game for anyone looking to work together as a family. The game says it is for two to four players age 8 and up. My eight year old had little trouble picking up the rules. Younger kids can play but might need help understanding what moves they can make. Since Pandemic is such a great cooperative game, I could even see it being used as a casual office team building tool.

Pandemic is a great game that encourages cooperation. Instead of fostering an "everyone for themselves" attitude, it encourages players to work together towards a common goal. This can lead to not only a fun time, but some great life lessons be they to a child learning appropriate social actions or coworkers trying to pool their strengths to succeed.

A Seder Filled With Pandemic, Lost Teeth, And No Internet

Toothless_JSLFriday night was the first night of Passover.  As such, we had the first Seder.  It was nice and the boys enjoyed it.  They even stayed up until the very end – going to sleep at 12:30am!  (Their bed time is usually 8:30pm so this was quite the late night for them.)  The next day/night, though.  THAT’s when things got interesting.

As the second Seder neared, we decided to give the boys a snack.  After all, there’s a lot of stuff to get through in a Seder before we eat.  So, among other snacks, I cut up some apples for us to share.  Now, JSL had two very loose teeth for some time.  They were actually pointing outward a bit which was quite creepy to look at.  The first one came out after JSL bit into a slice of pizza at an Autism fair.  (I ran with him to the bathroom to extradite the tooth.)  As he bit into an apple slice, the second tooth began to bleed and got very wiggly.  As much as I shook it, though, it wouldn’t come out.  The bleeding stopped, though, so we made our way to the Seder.

Once we arrived, the boys and I played a few games with one of B’s relatives.  It turns out that he’s quite the gamer and brought along Pandemic.  He explained the game as he set up for the four of us. We didn’t get to play the whole game (as the Seder started), but what we did play was very different from other games I’ve played.   In other games, you are out for yourself (and, perhaps, a teammate) trying to beat the other players.  In Pandemic, all of the players are working together.  You don’t sabotage the people playing with you, but try to figure out ways to help them.  After all, you are all playing as medical professionals fighting a series of illnesses.  If you all lose, the illnesses spread out of control.  If you all win, the illnesses are eradicated.  I could definitely see playing this with B and the boys to help NHL understand how to work with people to achieve a goal.  I could also see this being used in an office environment as a team building exercise.  I’ve been eyeing the game ever since that night and it’s only a matter of time before I buy it.

The pre-meal portion of the Seder passed without anything unusual happening.  Which is saying something considering that B’s family’s Seder routinely involves people being whipped with scallions, her uncle talking like one of her aunts, and another relative of hers read her passage with liberal use of the Hebrew word shadayim (breasts).  (It’s quite a fun Seder.)  As we began eating the meal, JSL eagerly started eating the matzo ball in his soup… and then screamed out.  His tooth was bleeding again.  I was prepared and took him away from the table where this time the tooth came out.  I wrapped it up, helped him with his bleeding mouth, and comforted him (it was late already and a bit traumatic).

After dessert, the Seder started back up, but we had to leave.  It was already past midnight.  We got home and despite my suggestions, JSL insisted on writing a note to the Tooth Fairy that night.

We also discovered something else:  We had no Internet.  None at all.  It had been getting a bit flaky over the past month.  Honestly, we wondered whether this was intentional due to our cutting cable, but the person on the phone insisted (after trying many things) that it looked like a bad Ethernet port in our cable modem.  Since we own our own modem and don’t rent it from the cable company, we had to buy a new one.  (We figured out that – given how much this one cost us and how long it lasted – we paid about $2.80 a month for it.  So it was a very good deal.)   On Sunday, we decided to shop for modems.

Except there was one problem.

It was Easter Sunday.

Stores are closed on Easter Sunday.

In the end, we found a store that was open, had the cable modem we needed, and at a decent price as well.  We brought it home, got it set up, and… still nothing.  Another call to our cable company and some tests later and we still had no Internet.  Just when I thought we’d need to wait a few days until they could send a technician over, the guy on the phone said he’d try sending a refresh signal to our modem.  Sure enough, that did it.  Which leads me to wonder whether that was the problem all along and whether our old modem is still good.  (We might give it to B’s parents to try since they need to stop renting a modem.)  Either way, we have Internet again and it seems pretty reliable so far.

And that was our eventful Seder.  Instead of "Next Year In Jerusalem", perhaps I should close my Seders with "Next Year… a bit more boring please."

Was your holiday weekend eventful?

The Family That Minecrafts Together

About a month ago, JSL came home from a play-date proclaiming that he loved Minecraft.    We had intended on introducing his older brother to the game at some point figuring that he’d enjoy the building aspect.  We didn’t expect his brother to fall in love with it first.  Still, we purchased Minecraft: Pocket Edition to put on their tablets and off they went building.  After doing some research, I even set up a PocketMine server so we could all play in the same world.  (After doing this, I realized that we could just pop into each other’s worlds while we were all on the same Wi-Fi network. ) I also downloaded some maps for the boys to start them off with some creations to build on.

After awhile, I began to get curious about just what they saw in Minecraft so I installed the game and got a theme park map installed.  Soon, I was having fun on the pre-made rollercoasters.  The boys quickly jumped into my world and we all ran around in-game trying out coaster after coaster.

As I tired of simply riding what others had built, I decided to see how easy it was to build coasters.  I started to build my own coaster and was hooked.  I made a "Coaster To The Sky."  It went up as far as Minecraft would allow me to build – just about touching the clouds – and then raced down.


Every time I thought I was done, I got another idea to add to it.  Eventually, I had the cart end up dropping into a deep pit where it landed in a room floored with cake.


JSL tired of trying to build rollercoasters and asked me to install a castle map that he had found.  As he played, I jumped into his game and looked around.  When he told me that the castle was off-limits for my building, I walked into the lake and began to dig.  Eventually, I was able to build a cavern underground that was dry.  I improved on my new underground lair, but tired of the water constantly threatening to flood my land.  So I blocked off the entrance, dug a tunnel to another, drier, section, and expanded my underground operation.  At this point, I have stairs, a bedroom, a dining room, and a few spare rooms whose purpose I haven’t decided upon yet.



Even in Minecraft, JSL is a bed invader.  He decided to come into my area and lay down on my virtual bed.


The only downside to Minecrafting underground?  Heading to bed immediately afterwards and feeling seriously claustrophobic.  Every time I closed my eyes, all I could see were the dark stone walls of Minecraft’s underground surrounding me with no way out.  I felt boxed in which doesn’t help a good night’s sleep.  In the future, I need to remember to stop playing long enough for the trapped feeling to pass.  (I’ve since made my rooms larger to avoid any future in-game claustrophobia.)

Now that the boys and I are hooked on Minecraft, we can play and build together often.  There’s only one thing missing: We need to get B hooked on Minecraft also!

Are you or your kids hooked on Minecraft?  If so, what’s the coolest thing you or they have built in the game?

The Game Data Facebook Conundrum

Facebook_installBack in March, I wrote about moving from my old smartphone to a new one.  Well, thanks to B getting a new phone from Verizon Wireless, I’ve had to do it again. This time, however, things didn’t go as smoothly as the first time.

For the first move, games tended to fall into one of three categories. The first was games whose data I couldn’t move over but whose data I really didn’t care about. For example, I enjoy playing a backgammon game and the app keeps track of the games won and lost. I didn’t really mind having that counter reset.  The second category was games whose data I was able to move either by signing into an online account if by contacting the developer. The third category was games whose data I couldn’t move but which I realized I hadn’t played in a long time.

This time around, there was a fourth category as well. These were games that I cared about and could be moved – but only by logging into your Facebook account.

Problem: I didn’t have a Facebook account. Though I’m on social media, I’ve steadfastly refused to open a Facebook account. I refused when I saw that a lot of people that i knew were on Facebook. I refused when groups I would like to be a part of were only accessible as Facebook groups. I refused when my wife kept telling me it was a great way to keep in touch with family and friends.

Part of my refusal was due to time constraints. I don’t have a lot of time to spend on social media in general. I’d rather focus on one or two social media platforms than to spread myself across too many and not be able to keep up with any. In addition, Facebook has had a lot of piracy and usability issues. I didn’t want to subject myself to that.

Still, I *needed* to get those games transferred. What was I to do?

In the end, I gave in and opened a Facebook account to transfer my games over. Don’t expect my to Like your Facebook posts or add you as a friend, though. My profile remains almost completely bare – I didn’t even bother to add a profile image. The only purpose for this account was to assist me in moving my game data. Now that this is done, the account is only going to be used for saving game data.

What lengths have you needed to go to to keep your game progress?

The Importance of Playing

Platformer_Game"But we didn’t get time to play!!!"

Sadly, these words have been uttered often this week.  Thanks to various activities, the boys have had little time for playing in the afternoon after they return home, eat dinner, and finish their homework.  All too often, they’ll finish their last homework problem only to find that they have a mere ten minutes until they need to start getting ready for bed.

Obviously, play time is important for kids.  It lets them relax and get creative in a manner that they find enjoyable (versus in a manner that a teacher has assigned).  However, play time can be just as important for adults.

In a conversation with a friend if mine, he asked how many hours in a week I spent on social media, playing games, and other activities that did not directly put money in my bank account.  When I answered, he suggested that I use those hours to take on extra freelance work instead.

While I do freelance work, I try very hard not to be a workaholic.  Mainly, because I think that a life consisting of only work will quickly become a frustrating and boring life.  I would rather live a life with slightly less money but one filled with family, friends, and fun.

In addition, you can easily get burnt out by working too much.  When I’m faced with a frustrating task, the worst thing I can do is keep trying to tackle it for hours on end.  When faced with problems like this, I’ll put the problem down and either play a quick game, take a walk, or work on something else.  Doing this keeps my brain from going down the same failed path over and over again.  Oftentimes, my subconscious will figure out the solution for me while I’m pursuing other interests.

Finally, there’s the "death march fallacy.". Some employers try to get their employees to work 80+ hour weeks for weeks on end to finish projects on time.  (Usually in these cases, the deadline was set by managers who aren’t directly responsible for meeting said deadline.). The theory is that the employees will put in double the hours and get the work done in half as many days.  The reality is that employees wind up overworked, overtired, and burnt out.  The quality of their work declines fast and more time is spent fixing mistakes that they make than would have been spent with a slower development schedule.  Why would I subject myself to a" freelance death march" just to earn extra money?  All that would happen would be that I would be miserable, my quality of work would plummet, and my clients would be upset about the work I was doing for them.

No, my playing a game, watching TV, or reading a book doesn’t bring in money, but every activity we do doesn’t have to be monetized. A life focused solely on money sounds like a very boring and meaningless life to me.

How important is play/recreation to you? What is your favorite method of unwinding?

NOTE: The "Platformer Game" image above is by qubodup and is available from

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