Sugar and Dice’s Top 5 Games for Family Christmas Fun

Christmas time is all about coming together with loved ones and all that jazz. We all have those memories of gathering around the table after eating far too much turkey and playing traditional classics like Monopoly and Scrabble. Half-way through the game, the arguments start and components going flying across the room.

Here is a list of our 5 favourite games to get you together around a table and having some giggles. We have them in stock too, so come and grab them quick before Santa takes them all!

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1) Cash ‘n’ Guns – Are you tired of your family taking all your money? Have you been eyeing up that heirloom? Is it time to settle that family feud once and for all? In this game you get to recreate a Mexican standoff and try and get all of the loot for yourself, from money and diamonds to famous art paintings, whilst choosing carefully which of your family members to shoot at with foam guns. Hilarious fun!

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2) Obama Llama – We’ve all done Charades and Pictionary, but here is a brand new party game taking the world by storm! By UK designers Big Potato, it’s a team game where you have thirty seconds to find words that rhyme with other words, for example Obama rhymes with Llama… Can you find the RHYME in TIME?

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3) Coup – Everyone takes on a secret identity as you try to deceive your fellow players and try and deduce what everyone else is up to. The game will have you bluffing and lying, so make sure to practice your best poker face! The game takes less than ten minutes, but once you start you won’t be able to stop.

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4) Carcassonne – You place tiles in order to build the Medieval city of Carcassonne. The game play is very simple: All you do is draw a tile and then place a tile. Occasionally you will place a ‘meeple’ (pawn) on your tile to get points. It’s a firm Sugar and Dice favourite and we even have a Junior version available for the little people in your life.

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5) Codenames – This game won the boardgame Oscars of the year and for good reason! A wonderful group game where you have to give crypic clues to your team members and try to connect words without giving too much away to your opponents. We’ve written about this game here and have created many happy family moments, mostly including the word ‘ham’.

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SUGAR AND DICE ARE HIRING

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We are looking for a variety of lovely people who want to join our team of happy, friendly staff. We are looking for full-timers as well as flexible workers who are available until midnight on weekdays and weekends.

Your job will include helping out in the kitchen, serving food and drinks to our guests and of course explaining boardgames to the various groups of people that come to visit. Basically, we want to make sure our guests have the best time ever at Sugar and Dice.

Does this sound like you? If so, send your CV with a cover letter to hello@sugaranddice.co.uk. Please outline why you want to work at Sugar and Dice, list relevant experience, what kind of board games you enjoy and the hours you are available to work, including a start date.

We look forward to hearing from you,
The Sugar and Dice Team

*Applicants must be over 18.

Venue News – It’s Happening!!

Yippeeeeeeeeeee! So we have been given the go-ahead for our chosen venue and we are so delighted! It’s been an interesting journey, from viewing properties that needed so much work done to them that it would’ve been quicker to knock them down and start over, to losing two venues we had fallen in love with. We were just about ready to give up – I can tell you there are so few suitable commercial properties in Liverpool and then the moment you show interest in one, the price doubles, there are suddenly ten other people interested and for us as a start-up business it’s even harder to push through the competition… However, it’s been worth the agony and the wait… We’ve done it and we absolutely LOVE the place.

We got the Keys!

We were looking for a place within walking distance to all the important sights in Liverpool with good transport connections,  where people would enjoy coming to, in an area with good parking (free after six in the whole area) that we could make our own. The previous owner has left the place in a bit of a mess, so we have to clear it all out (for example: there is bread still there from last year and I’m not going to tell you what colour it is now… ahem). We are knocking down a room and building a new kitchen from scratch into the newly made space  and the heaters/lights need to be moved around and hopefully upgraded. Then comes the fun bit – painting and decorating it to make it your new favourite place!

As most of you have probably seen, we have also launched a Kickstarter campaign to help get Sugar and Dice off the ground. We’ve pretty much maxed out our credit cards, especially after quitting our jobs to work on this full time almost a year ago. We have saved up for the rent and lots building work, but we are hoping for a little bit of help to upgrade the place to something really spectacular. The current lights are randomised and different strengths. Winter is coming – as Game of Thrones keeps telling us –  and we want to make sure you can see those board games once those dark winter nights arrive. Tables are also a huge expense, but a necessary one – we want you to sit with your friends comfortably for a few hours and be able to fit your game, your dinner and your drink on the table without feeling squashed. We also want to move the radiators around and get a top oven so we can bake everything on the premises. A commercial dishwasher is another thing we really would love to have, so we have more time to chat to you all instead of washing up all day long. More information is on the Kickstarter website.

Our Kickstarter runs for another 5 days. We have made over half of the target and it’s incredible! Such a lovely feeling to know so many people are excited for all the gaming goodness in the cafe. We were featured on Independent Liverpool too and this has all helped to bring together a community of board game lovers in Liverpool.

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We obviously then need to fill the place with shelves and shelves of amazing board games. As we will be putting our entire collection into the shop, we are already wondering what to with all the space we will soon have in our living room – haha!

The full address will be revealed in a few days – but I can tell you that it’s near the Albert Dock and is about four minutes walk from Liverpool One. We are so so soooooo excited to meet you all there soon!

Testing the Menu

There are so many difficult things to consider when opening up your own café, from location and decor to PR strategies and kitchen equipment. However, my favourite thing until now has been researching the menu. Oh yes, that literally means it is our job to eat, whether it’s testing the best chocolate brownie (OMG you lucky people – they are incredible!!) to figuring out which veggie burger will be the most popular. It’s a hard task, but somebody’s got to sacrifice their stomachs and that’s what we’ve been doing for you all this week.

It’s been quite challenging actually… Trying to decide if a delicious vegan burger dribbling with sweet chilli sauce and sun-dried tomatoes can be topped with a burger made from quinoa, tomato, red pepper and guacamole sauce… But who am I kidding? Can you beat a mushroom and halloumi burger? I don’t think it’s ever been done… and so we tasted, discussed, licked our fingers and then tasted them all over again…

How is it possible to choose between these tasty burgers?
How is it possible to choose between these tasty burgers?

In the end we loved them all so much we still haven’t decided. And that’s just the burgers! Imagine having to decide on salads, sandwiches and cakes… well, it’s a hard job but someone has to do it! I guess it’s back to the dinner table for now…

Finding a Venue

So most of you out there have probably had to look for a new home at one time or another; whether it was university accommodation, moving out of the family home or even finding a new place to live abroad. And if not, how about trying to find the right hotel to stay at during your last holiday? Either way, I’m sure you can remember how hard it is trying to find that perfect place.

Your Sugar and Dice Team have moved all over the world before we settled in the lovely city of Liverpool, so we know it’s a struggle, but imagine searching for that perfect venue for your dream café! Let’s just say that it feels like a full-time job where you have no control at all over the outcome. We’ve been searching since the beginning of the year. Now it’s already August and we have found a venue, but we are still waiting for the go-ahead. It’s been very stressful over the past months as one place after the other fell through.

The first place we found back in January was an enormous basement – we could have fit around 200 people inside with a huge kitchen, kids play area with huge board games, relaxing section for people who just want to chill on sofas and read books… To cut a long story short, we went for the property and suddenly the price shot up. Then there was talk of creating another basement underneath ours. Then apparently the building had been set ablaze a few years ago… We loved the place and the location, but we just didn’t trust the owner or the Estate Agents who sometimes took weeks to get back to us. So it was back to Square One.

Next we found the perfect place. It was a great size, amazing location and already in a good condition. We immediately went for it, but there seemed to be a lot of competition. The landlord was hard to get hold of, so for months we waited patiently, hoping we would get the venue. One day the landlord said yes, the next he said we were his second choice, then he was worried because we were a start-up company, then about three months of waiting, we were suddenly told the landlord had decided to rent it to his friend. Apparently this had been the plan all along, we were just made to hang around waiting to find that out.

Some of the properties we've seen need quite a lot of work...
Some of the properties we’ve seen need quite a lot of work…

It’s exasperating. We have looked at so many places. Most had no flooring, no toilets, no rooms, no radiators or heating. The last one we looked at was a great space, but the previous tenant had gone bankrupt and just decided in anger to trash the whole place. Every single wire in the building had been cut, the floor tiles had been smashed, the walls had holes axed into them… We’ve seen places where mould grows like mushrooms bigger than the size of my face, stepped into weird green gunk growing on floors, jumped in surprise as abandoned shops had pigeons living inside…

And then finally we found a venue once again that we loved. The location is fab, the area is lovely and there is lots of parking nearby too. It is a tad on the small size, but we can work with that and will make it cosy. We just want to have a place we can call Sugar and Dice Café and we hope we’ve finally found it! Excitingly, the landlord is happy for us to move in immediately, so we are working on all the paperwork and should have news for you by the 24th of August! So we are just going to need you all to cross your fingers and toes and everything else for us. We are nervous, terrified, preparing and mostly excited for our new adventure to begin. Here’s hoping I can give you a venue address soon! 🙂

Congratulations to Codenames

It’s been quite an exciting week for board games as the Spiel Des Jahres was announced! It’s like the Oscars of the board game world, when some of the finest board gaming minds come together to pick the best game of the past year. I’m glad I don’t have to decide, as it feels like an impossible task! Almost every game we play we absolutely love and to have to pick just one out of all the games that have been released in Germany in the past year… well… I don’t envy that job at all!

We actually thought that Karuba would win as it’s definitely family-friendly and such a different style of game to the hundreds we have played, plus every time we play it the game makes people laugh, agonise and panic, but the committee of Germans has spoken and we have a winner!

Let me tell you about Codenames. The hardest thing is probably splitting your gaming group into two teams – how do you choose which side to play on? There is a red and a blue team which each having its own team leader, so dividing Liverpool against Everton fans would work… But I would suggest pick the people who know you best – this game is all about giving cryptic clues to your partners and hoping they understand what you are trying to tell them.

The playing field
The playing field

Next, you create a grid of 25 cards in a 5×5 pattern and each card has a random word on it, for example ‘ham’, ‘buffalo’ or ‘opera’. Then in battle-ship style, the red team leader has to get their team to guess which of the 25 words belong to red and the blue obviously are looking for the blue cards.

The team captain (or 'spymaster') uses this square as a key to what colours the words need to be in order to win the game.
The team captain (or ‘spymaster’) uses this square as a key to what colours the words need to be in order to win the game.

The way you guess, is by giving a one-word clue and a number to say how many cards have that one clue in common. I have no idea how you would come up with a clue that connects ‘ham’, ‘buffalo’ and ‘opera’, but that is the challenge. You also have to be careful that another random word can’t be accidentally and confusedly connected to the clue. There are some words that are “innocent bystanders” and one word (the black cross) that makes your team lose instantly if guessed.

Here you can see that both red and blue are neck-and-neck, both needing just one more correct guess to win. You can also see the 'innocent' grey cards that were wrong guesses...
Here you can see that both red and blue are neck-and-neck, both needing just one more correct guess to win. You can also see the ‘innocent’ grey cards that were wrong guesses…

It’s a hilarious and silly game, full of confusion and bizarre clues. I (Vanessa) am a bit 50-50 on it, as I think it can be pretty dull waiting for someone to come up with a clue for a few minutes. Obviously using one clue for one word is boring, so you try and get creative to use one clue for a few words, but it seems not everyone is skilled in this way. I certainly am not. I would ALWAYS recommend using the timer to speed things up and the more players the better. Even though it says the game can be played from 4 players, to me it just doesn’t really work unless you have at least six or better still eight players. It’s been interesting to see the reviews about Codenames since winning the prize as it’s been very mixed. Many people are delighted and absolutely love the game, however there are also lots of people who don’t really see it as a ‘family game’ or a very fun game… Luckily for all of you, we have a copy of Codenames at Sugar and Dice so you can find out for yourself!

Karuba – One of our current favourite games!

So we promised to tell you all about the nominees for the coveted award of ‘Spiel des Jahres 2016’, so here I am! Your Sugar and Dice team and our Number One Fan Mike played all three nominated board games in one afternoon and I’m going to confess that my favourite by far was Karuba. At first it looked a bit like a spin-off of Carcasonne and I think that game is pretty much unbeatable, but WHOA, Karuba is fun!

Every player gets a board in which you create your own maze to try and get four explorers to their own personal temple of the same colour. Everyone has the same 36 square numbered tiles and one lucky chosen person will become the ‘bingo caller’. Their job is to randomly pick a tile, shout out the number on it to the rest of the table and at the same time everyone places that tile somewhere onto their own board.

It’s amazing how everyone’s board turns out completely differently. Here’s my yellow explorer trying to grab a crystal and a gold on the way to his temple.
It’s amazing how everyone’s board turns out completely differently. Here’s my yellow explorer trying to grab a crystal and a gold on the way to his temple.

Obviously, you have to place the tiles in a strategically clever place so you get your explorer to the temple faster than the other players. Sound easy? Well, I assumed we would pretty much all end up placing the tiles in the same empty square, but from the first turn placement we had all chosen differently and it’s fascinating to see even with such little choice how unique each maze becomes. The explorers rush to their temples, grabbing golden nuggets and crystals for bonus points on the way. The player who’s coloured explorer gets to their temple first gets lots of points, while subsequent explorers of the same colour to arrive will receive fewer etc.

We’ve played this many times with a whole bunch of different people and everyone loves it. It seems so simple and easy, but once you start the game, it feels like you are in this forest world, desperately cheering for your explorers to run faster. I’ve blocked off my temples by mistake, placed tiles so the path doesn’t join and forgotten to grab gold… it’s exasperatingly hilarious! I love it – definitely a new firm favourite of mine and I (Vanessa) predict it will win the Spiel des Jahres Award this year. Fingers Crossed!

I won even though I sacrificed the purple explorer in the end – he couldn’t even get into the forest – doh!
I won even though I sacrificed the purple explorer in the end – he couldn’t even get into the forest – doh!

Epic New British Games

A few weeks back we went to the UK GAMES EXPO in Birmingham. Of course I’m going to tell you it was purely research purposes for Sugar and Dice, but we all know we were really there to check out new releases, play them and buy as many as our arms could carry back home with us!

Without further ado, I’m going to tell you about a few of our new favourites and about some of the artists we met.

The best placed stall goes to YAY Games – they were literally in front of you as you walk through the doors. We hadn’t even stepped into the place properly before we were beckoned over to play Ominoes by the designer Andrew Harman. I knew instantly that I would love the game – rolling dice to get a specific pattern whilst trying to annoy your opponents? What’s not to love?! Then Andrew showed us Sandcastles… We played a timed variant where you have 10 minutes to build the best sandcastle before someone steals your bucket! This was my favourite game at the Expo and I’m not surprised many many other people have said the same. It’s easy to learn, has a great theme and makes everyone giggle.

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Obviously doing the Egyptian Dance with Andrew, the creator of Egyptian-themed game Ominoes
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Sandcastles was my favourite game at the EXPO – you absolutely HAVE to play this game!

Over the weekend, I was most excited to finally meet Andy Allen, the designer of Hexagony, a game for 2 to 3 players in which you place tri-coloured hexagons on an ever-growing mass of tiles in order to make complete hexagons of your designated colour. The rules are super simple, just take one of your tiles, place it so that it touches another tile of the same colour and make sure that all other sides touch the matching colour of the adjacent hex. Once all the tiles have run out, the player with the most solid colour hexes wins. That’s pretty much it. For something that is so simple, it is a real brain burner. You agonise (get it?) over where each of your hexes will be placed as you don’t want to set up your opponents for an easy point. The game won an award at the UK Games Expo for the Best Abstract Strategy Game of 2015 and I can clearly see why. It was so good to finally meet Andy, as we’d chatted to him over Instagram for ages and even won a copy of Hexagony in a competition. We enjoy the game so much, we’ve even made Hexagony-themed cupcakes – something for the café!

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Andy must be the world’s friendliest and happiest board game creator!
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Our delicious Hexagony-themed cupcakes!

Our must-pick-up game this year was Tatsu by John Yianni at Gen42 Games. We actually met John at the Essen Spiel Board Game Expo in Germany last year and he taught us how to play this game. We planned to grab it then, but we were limited by our Ryanair luggage space – we’ve since learnt to take the car to expos, so we have plenty of space for a massive game’s haul – haha! We love John’s game Hive and Tatsu is another two-player game. We like to describe it as Backgammon on steroids – a similar idea of moving your pieces around a board, but with extra rules, plus it’s dragon-themed, which basically makes it amazing! It’s easily the game we’ve played most since the Expo and I can foresee this being a firm favourite of many of you too!

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Interestingly, all the above games are from UK designers – a market we really wish to promote. There have always been tonnes of games coming out of Germany and then America, but the British market is here and it’s amazing. There is so much talent in this country and we can’t wait for you to discover these games and many more at Sugar and Dice… Where everything is very nice 🙂

T.I.M.E Stories

So by now you probably know that we have a board game collection of over 200 games and we’ve played them all. There are certainly games we love to pieces and others that will mostly likely not be played again, but today I will tell you about the first game ever to literally give me goosebumps.

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We had been eyeing up T.I.M.E Stories for a while now, but you can only play it once and then you know how the whole story pans out, so you can’t play it ever again. Plus it’s over £30, so for a one-off experience it’s quite pricey. However, it’s totally worth it. I’ve been gutted at the spoilers for recent episodes of GoT (Game of Thrones) Episodes and I don’t want to ruin T.I.M.E Stories for you so I can’t say too much about what happens in the actual game, but I can’t recommend this enough – everyone we know who’s played it has a new favourite game!

The best way to explain how the game works is for you to imagine a mix-up of Doctor Who and a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ book. You are assigned a role and are then transported back into history for an adventure. You have a deck of cards that dictate the story and depending on where you choose to move your characters and what they decide to do in different situations, the game proceeds. You have to make good decisions and quickly, as the whole mission is timed. The less moves it takes, the better your score at the end. Needless to say, the game is hard! We didn’t even come close to finishing on our first run through the mission, but according to the reviews, that’s normal. All you do is reset the deck of cards and start the mission once again, this time armed with the knowledge of how to save time and complete the mission faster and what routes you took that were a complete waste of time and can be avoided.

It’s one of those games that you can’t stop thinking about. There are so many different outcomes and journeys in the one game and while all this is going on you also have to figure out clues and cryptic messages. It’s the only game where I’ve screamed out ‘OMG’ one moment and my whole body got goosebumps the next. It’s incredible! A game like no other I’ve ever played with such twists and turns that days later we are still talking about it. Including the one inside the box called ‘Asylum’ where you time-travel to an asylum in 1921, there are four official stories available and annoyingly the second story is currently between prints so we can’t get our hands on it! ARGH!

The good news for you is that it’s going to be available at Sugar and Dice to play! It took us 5 hours to play and it has a clever game insert box where you can ‘save’ the game easily at any point of the story.  I’m a little bit sad to confess that we failed the mission in the end, but it was an amazing roller coaster ride and I can’t wait to play more!

 

Who is behind Sugar and Dice?

I’m sure you’re all wondering who the Sugar and Dice team are, so today, in alphabetical order, I’m going to tell you!

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Hello world! I am a born-and-bred Liverpudlian and a self-confessed board game geek. My adventure into the wonderful world of games started at a young age when my father and grandfather would regularly demolish me in countless games of Chess. After realising that I couldn’t beat them at their own game, I decided to take up a new game instead – Go – which entrenched itself firmly as one of my all-time favourites. The thing I love most about board games is the inherent ability of the hobby to bring people together around a table and experience a wealth of emotions collectively, from sheer joy as your hard-fought plans finally pay off, right through to the anguish when it doesn’t. There are games for any and all occasions and I’m hoping to share my love and passion of games with you all! Outside of games, I love learning foreign languages, cooking, dancing, singing and playing guitar, I’m still trying to come up with ways to combine all of the above into some epic Sugar & Dice event! I hope to get you around one of our tables having fun soon!

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Rachel

I love to play roller derby with the Liverpool Roller Birds – my skate name is “Button Doom”. Don’t be surprised if you come in and I’m covered in bruises… Those girls hit hard!! I had a go at bee-keeping until I realised I had an immense fear of bees –oops! I also take part in Tudor re-enactments and I like to play the ukulele, piano, flute and recorder. I also love animals and games with an animal theme. For example ‘Zooloretto’ has a panda on the box, ‘Takenoko’ which involves feeding a panda and ‘Dixit’ – as the playing pieces are bunnies! I come from a family obsessed with food so I’ve been brought up cooking and baking from a very young age. I trained and worked as a Food Technology teacher, then perfected my skills as a professional cake baker… So come by, play some games and taste my ‘life-changing’ rocky road!

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Vanessa

I was brought up in one of those weird families that didn’t have a Game Boy or a Nintendo, in fact we never even had a microwave. My family would spend hours and hours playing with a deck of cards or fighting over Monopoly. Finally, a few years ago I realised that there are literally thousands of board games out there. Now I get to be a bean farmer, collect cucumbers and cure deadly diseases at my living room table surrounded by a group of lovely, smiling people. In other news, my main hobby is eating, so I can promise you a lot of thought and tasting sessions have gone into creating our menu. I also love Rock ‘n’ Roll dancing, playing the ukulele and I’m currently trying to grow peas and tomatoes – I’d love to be self-sufficient one day and own a white piglet. My dream is to make Sugar and Dice a place for people to pop in for a few hours to be transported back to ‘the good old days’ by connecting with each other and having a laugh whilst eating the most amazing cakes ever. I can’t wait to meet you all 🙂