Mysterious text adventure

I used to love the old Infocom text adventure games. They were interactive stories where you affected the outcome by making decisions and doing things as you moved around a world described in words only. A friend told me about a free web-based text adventure called Spider And Web and I am enthralled by it. I don’t want to say anything about the plot. Just give it a try. — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Random places

I love playing this geography game. Go to Geoguessr.com. It will place you on a random spot in the world in Google Earth/Maps, and you have to figure out where you are by walking around in Street View. Easy clues like words on signs are usually blurred out. Might be hard to even locate the right continent. You get points for how close your guess is to your actual location. Was your guess five miles or 5000 miles away? It probably appeals to world travellers like myself, but I enjoy the hunt for telltale signs of a different culture. — KK

PlayClaudia Dawson
Cooperative tabletop game

Most board games have a winner and a bunch of losers. But there are a number of games where users must work with each other to achieve a goal. One of the best is cooperative games is Forbidden Island ($18). The goal of this attractively designed card and token game is to recover four life-saving treasures from an island before it sinks into the ocean, drowning all the players. Achieving victory requires players to formulate plans, agree on strategies, and make sacrifices. — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Card magic DVD

I’ve been interested in card magic for the last five years or so. The best way to learn is not by books (which are confusing), but by videos (which make the sleights and handlings clear). A great video collection for beginner and intermediate card magicians is the 7-DVD set called Complete Card Magic ($25). Get this and start amazing people. – MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Japanese toys

Leave it to the Japanese to sell toy models of prehistoric invertebrates. Not fierce dinosaurs, or ancient predators, but spineless slugs and amorphous marine creatures extinct millions of years ago. The Favorite Store offers two of my favorites, inexpensive anatomically accurate soft casts of Opabinia and Anomalocaris. (Use chrome to translate).— KK

PlayClaudia Dawson
Wise oracle cards

Second to the traditional Rider-Waite deck, my new favorite set of tarot cards is the Tao Oracle. It is the I-Ching, without the coin throwing, in beautifully-illustrated oversized cards. The guide book itself is a sacred text. I often just read random pages for quick, calming wisdom. — CD

PlayClaudia Dawson
Zelda: Breath of the Wild

My wife bought me a Nintendo Switch portable game player for Valentine’s Day and, on my 14-year-old daughter’s advice, the first game I bought for it was Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Much has been written about the beautiful world and fluidity of motion of the game, and once I started playing it I realized why long time gamers are saying it’s freaking amazing. It really feels like there’s a planet in there, with weather, varied terrain, plants, animals, and people. I transport myself into the world of Zelda every spare moment I have. I can’t wait for my 18-hour flight to Singapore later this month! — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Who are you?

Know Yourself is a set of 60 cards to prompt you to examine your beliefs. Example card: “List five things that are important to you in your life. How much of your time do you give to each of these?” The back of each card offers advice to make sure you answer the questions in a useful way. You can use their cards on your own or with another person you feel close to. Be prepared to surprise yourself. — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Make your computer 35 years older

In the summer of 1983 my friends and I became addicted to a role playing computer game called Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. It was a lot like Dungeons and Dragons, and had very primitive wireframe graphics to represent a multi-level underground maze filled with orcs, zombie kobolds, bushwhackers, bleebs, bubbly slimes, and many other monsters. We started playing at 9pm every night, drinking beer and sitting around a monochrome PC until 3 in the morning, sleeping for a few hours before going to our summer jobs (installing a sprinkler system for a new golf course) and starting over again the next day. It took us all summer to complete the game. Recently I told my 14-year-old daughter about Wizardry and she wanted to try it. It’s no longer for sale, but the files are available online if you search for them (I don’t know if it’s legal for these sites to give away the files, so I’m not going to link to them here.) In order to play Wizardry on my Mac laptop, I had to download a DOS operating system emulator called DOSBox. It turns my 2017 laptop into a 1983 PC. It’s free and works like a charm. My daughter and I are now playing Wizardry almost every night. No beer this time around, and we call it quits at 10pm, but it’s still thrilling to make the hand drawn maps as we crawl our way through the monster- and trap-filled dungeon. — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Mini-card game

Iota ($10) is a tiny card game in an equally tiny tin, making it perfect for taking on trips with friends. The object is to assemble the colorful cards in a grid so that the colors, shapes, and numbers are all the same or all different. — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Google autocomplete game

Google Feud is a game that challenges you to guess the top ten Google autocompletes for a particular word or term. For instance, the game might prompt you with “my friend is addicted to” and you have to fill in the rest of the query. (FYI, the top ten autocompletes for this example are weed, her phone, drugs, coke, pills, drama, oxycodone, crack, anime, and alcohol.) — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Create a board game

I bought the Junior Game Inventors Kit to build with my stepson. We had a lot of fun creating a board design and brainstorming “consequence" and “reward” cards. We didn’t get a chance to finish and play the game, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves. Very reasonable price for a kit that ignites creativity. — CD

PlayClaudia Dawson
Anti-boredom

I always carry a deck of cards. Not to play card games, but to practice sleight of hand. It’s easy to have a conversation and practice moves at the same time, and it prevents me from fidgeting. This 4 DVD set, The Royal Road to Card Magic is a bargain at $15, and a great way to get started. — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Imp bottle magic trick

I bought this $5 pocket trick in 2015. It’s a tiny plastic bottle with a spherical base. It has a weighted bottom to keep it from tipping over. I can make it lie on its side, but no one else can (unless they know the secret, and surprisingly few do). Drive your friends crazy with frustration. — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Two Rooms and a Boom

I played this social deception/deduction game with about a dozen other people. If you’ve played Werewolf or Mafia you’ll be familiar with this kind of game. In Two Rooms and a Boom, the goal is for team red to blow up the president, and the goal of team blue is to stop them. Each game takes about 15 minutes and if you’re like me, you’ll end up playing multiple rounds until way past your bedtime. It’s addictive — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson
Smooth speedcube

Rubik’s Cube, and whenever I used to try, I’d get discouraged because the cube would lock up when turning it. Then I discovered Chinese speed cubes. They are very smooth and a pleasure to use. I’m working on a 2 x 2 x 2 mini-cube ($7) instead of the usual 3 x 3 x 3. Still haven’t cracked it! — MF

PlayClaudia Dawson