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1/26/2015
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Games To Play During The Blizzard

Games to play when you're snowbound, bored, or just looking for fun.

If you're reading this on the East Coast, you're probably stuck in a blizzard. Whether this year we call it Snowmygod, Snowpocalypse, or the Blizzard of Oz (because it isn't in Kansas, anymore), you're going to have some time on your hands.

(source: troll.me)
(source: troll.me)

Fear not, you won't be bored: We've got you covered. Here's a gaming and app guide that offers all you need to pass the time. Light a fire in the fireplace (or put on that old Yule Log DVD with the sound down) and settle in for a couple of days of relaxation courtesy of Mother Nature. If you aren't on the east coast, call in sick, turn up your air conditioning, make some cocoa, and pretend you're snowed in.

[ What are the best videogames this year? Read Video Games Of 2015: 10 Hot Releases To Watch. ]

Games To Play Before The Power Goes out

Before you lose power, don't do any mobile gaming. You'll use up your lives or get bored of the game. Stick to your PC or console with these games. Here are some good ones for the snowbound.

Hearthstone -- One of the most highly rated collectable card games ever online. Hearthstone is a tactical CCG set in the World of Warcraft universe. Unlike many online CCGs that rely on an automated set of rules, you can aim your cards at specific enemies (within a set of capabilities). It removes much of the luck and places a premium on skill. Here's a (long) demo of a game:

To be honest, I'm not a fan of the game. I was excited about it, and even joined the early beta testing. I found the game repetitive, and the sound effects (as you can tell from the video) annoying. But the repetition takes a few days to kick in, so if you are new to it, it is a totally great couple of days. Also, if you haven't caught the joke from the World of Warcraft reference, the people who make the game call themselves … wait for it … Blizzard.

Mario and Sonic at the Sochi Winter Games -- Why just look out the window at the snow? You could imagine skiing down a mountain or bobsledding at breakneck speeds. And why not do it with Mario, Princess Peach, and all of your favorite Nintendo characters? I mean, just the humor of watching Donkey Kong figure skating ought to get you through a few hours.

Tropico 5 -- When you're finished with shoveling your car out of a snowdrift, you probably want to dream of being on a warm tropical island. Why not run the warm tropical island? Tropico 5 allows you to be the dictator of a small Caribbean island. You can exploit the island's labor in sweatshops to get back at your boss for trying to make you work in this weather. Or, you can build a beautiful tourist industry so you can imagine lying on the warm beach far from the snow.

Survive coups, make your enemies "disappear," or run a benevolent dictatorship where you make everyone as happy as possible. Your choice. This is one of the best "builder" games ever made. And, if you need more or are on a budget, try Tropico 4. The graphics are less good, but the game play is probably even a little better.

Games To Play After The Power Goes Out

No more electricity? You still have your smartphone. Hearthstone has a mobile app, and here are some mobile games to try.

Disney's Frozen Freefall -- Tired of Candy Crush Saga, but not tired of "Let It Go"? Try this Candy Crush clone and imagine the snow outside was made by a fairy tale princess. And, if you get tired of the ice, you can always imagine what happens "In Summer."

Spaceteam -- If you've got a friend over, Spaceteam is the way to find out if they are friends for life or you if should immediately unfollow them on Twitter. I'm serious. Marriages have probably broken up over Spaceteam. The game is fiendishly simple and impossible not to love. You connect devices over  WiFi (or, in the case of a power outage, via Bluetooth). Each device is given a console with buttons, knobs, and switches on it. You will then be given a series of silly commands like "defrag the hard drive" or "set tachyon field to 4." Only one device has the ability to do each thing.

You will be inundated with commands, and the team must follow each one or the ship will be destroyed. The catch is that not all of the commands show up on all of the devices, so you have to shout them to each other. You have a limited time to follow the command or the ship takes damage. The fun starts when your friends start yelling at you to repolarize the warp drive and you get to yell back that they have the button to do it. Trust me, it is more fun than it sounds. They really should have called it "Chaos with Friends." Skip to the last minute of this video to see what I mean. [Warning: mild adult language.]

Goat Simulator -- If you haven't caught on to this phenomenon yet, you're in for a treat. Goat simulator is exactly what it says it is. You play a goat. You eat stuff. You ruin as much stuff as possible. The developers say it is like an old-school skating game. It reminds me more of the old Japanese classic Katamari Damacy. If you've never played Katamari Damacy, add that to your list of games to play before the power goes out. Want to have a sense of the attitude of the Goat Simulator developers? This is what they say about their own game in the app store: "Goat Simulator is a completely stupid game and, to be honest, you should probably spend your money on something else, such as a hula hoop, or a pile of bricks, or maybe pool your money together with friends and buy a real goat."

Games To Play When Your Battery Dies

Board games are fun, especially by candlelight. Here are two you may not have heard of that are probably available if you run out really fast before the snow hits:

Machi Koro -- A quick, 30-minute game that is a little too reliant on dice, but is made beautifully with very nice art. You are the mayor of a city that only has a bakery and a field of grain. Your people want places to work, eat, and play. Build them amusement parks, radio stations, and convenience stores before someone else does, so you can keep your cushy job as mayor. A quick game to learn, and even non-gamers will like it.

Tzolk'in -- If you got more snow, Tzolk'in is the game for you. It is a three- to four-hour game (two hours if everyone knows how to play). It is one of those games where, when you play it the first time, and you get to the end, you realize all the stuff you did wrong. Then you want to play it again right away. Then you play it again and realize that you've overcompensated and need to play it a third time. Twelve hours later, you are ready to go to bed and dream about it. The coolest part about the game is the special gear system that moves your people around as if they were on a little carousel. They represent the calendar, and as the gears spin, your little people can get crushed on the gears of time if you aren't careful. Build farms, mines, and temples to please the gods. Watch the people go around, and don't anger the gods!

Of course, you can always go out and play in the snow. But if the idea of the cold makes you want to crawl under a quilt and sip some chicken soup, we recommend one of these options instead.

What do you do when you're stuck in the house? What are your favorite snowy-weather activities? Tell us in the comments section below.

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
1/28/2015 | 9:00:41 PM
Re: Games To Play During The Blizzard
It requires two players (at the same keyboard), but the online game I'm currently addicted to -- when I have someone to play with -- is Wrestle Jump.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
1/28/2015 | 8:59:07 PM
Re: Snowmaggedon
I've always been a big SimCity fan, and my goal used to be to just get as big of a city as possible while meeting the constant, nagging demands of the citizenry.  I remember buying a strategy book on SimCity 2000 back in the heyday of that game (oh, God, I'm getting old) and in that book they profiled five power players' unique cities, and it was fascinating because these players -- while they had large, thriving cities, certainly -- had focused more on some sort of ideal or utopia or even dystopia.  (One guy's city was almost perfectly symmetrical along all four sides.  Another was a dystopic vision of an overcrowded police state.  And so on.)  These players weren't just playing a game; they were making art.

It really opened my eyes to the vast possibilities of those types of open-ended games from then on.

GTA V is a great example of how I've extended that philosophy.  I'll play the game totally differently depending upon which character I choose because I choose to "roleplay" as that character as well, acting and reacting to everything as I imagine that character would.

Needless to say, I get a lot more wanted stars when playing as Trevor.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
1/28/2015 | 8:53:55 PM
Re: Something simpler
Fascinating.  Sounds like Kolejka meets Oregon Trail meets Survivor.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/28/2015 | 1:45:12 PM
Re: Games To Play During The Blizzard
@zerox203- Stay safe. Stay warm. One of the things I'm a big fan of these days with multiplayer gaming is casual mobile games like Clash of Clans. You have a clan and are cooperative, but it doesn't take a quick twitch connection to play it. Another I'm enjoying is Destiny because of the way multi-player is handled. You can play at the same time as other people but they don't have to depend on you. You can be in the middle of a patrol, and some level 5000 guy will just come by and save you from certain death and then wander off. Or you can join up with people until your connection or your level ability makes it obvious you should hang out with them.

That said, I see what you are saying. As i age, the time I'm willing to devote to gaming, the money I'm willing to devote to my gaming rig, and my connection are combining to make me a little slower on the draw than I used to be.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 6:43:05 PM
Re: Something simpler
@jastroff- The funny thing is that I'm not a huge Words with Friends player, so every time someone says WWF I picture professional wrestling. I like to picture you guys giving each other a suplex and trying to take the belt. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 5:26:32 PM
Re: Something simpler
@jastroff- checkers is one of the games that is considered "solved" by computers, as in a powerful enough computer can make the optimum move in every situation. I think we've reached that with a few other games. One that was recently "solved" was head's up Texas Hold "em poker. I think it is fascinating to watch humans create games that they compete happily against each other with totally ruin those games by having computers perfect them. :)

I'll be sad the first time I can't beat my computer at bridge or hearts.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 2:58:43 PM
Re: Snowmaggedon
@Joe- My wife is a big Sims 3 fan. She is now exploring Sims 4 and enjoying it as well. I'm not a fan of open-ended games. I like rewards and goals and missions. But if you don't mind making your own goals or having no goals, it is a very well-made game.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 2:57:15 PM
Re: Something simpler
@joe- Sounds great! Going to check that out. It reminds me of another game that I truly love. I think it is called lifeboat. The idea is that a ship is sinking. Your family gets on a bunch of life boats with othe families. The life boats slowly move to shore. Your object is to get as many people as possible from your family to shore. But as the boats move, some boats get leaks in them, and people get voted off the boat so the boat can keep floating. And in other cases, people get "Super market checkout line syndrome" and a bunch of people jump out of their lifeboats and get into others convinced that one is going faster. You keep moving your people around the different lifeboats while some people get voted to drown. It is an amazingly funny game as long as you don't take the idea that the pieces are dying people too seriously. 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
1/27/2015 | 2:51:41 PM
North Yankton
My brother restarted GTA V today, and it occurred to me that that would be a great game to start stuck in the snow, because the first mission starts in a snow-filled setting.

My brother and I, however, are presently in Florida.  Go figure.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
1/27/2015 | 2:49:44 PM
Re: Snowmaggedon
Thanks for the link!  I happen to have come into possession of Sims 3 by accident; I bought it for Christmas for someone but she didn't want it.  I have yet to try it out.
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