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We love to hear about parents trying new types of game experiences with their kids. We recently found a father on Facebook named Casey (shout out to the RPGs with Kids Facebook group) who not only introduced his six year old son to Dungeons and Dragons, but created an awesome placemat style character sheet to help guide him. Take a look at the picture below. It’s AMAZING.

We thought it was cool enough that we wanted to chat with him briefly about his experience with his son and maybe get some perspective on Dungeons and Dragons with a youngster.

How long as you been gaming?

To be honest, I’ve only been into the tabletop life for 2 or 3 years. But I’m the type to dive in head first and completely submerge myself into a passion. In that time I have become my group’s main DM and have been the one to teach them all the rules. I’ve studied under the YouTube masters to perfect my craft, though I still have a lot to learn.

Be honest, how long have you been waiting to introduce DnD to your son? Were you putting giant fuzzy dice in his crib or what?

Pretty much from the moment he learned to read and do basic math. (Haha)

Dungeons and Dragons Character Sheet 6 yr old

Dungeons and Dragons Character Sheet 6 yr old

We love the character sheet that you made for him. Did you find a template for that online or was it entirely your design?

It was my own design. I remember, starting out, the questions my buddies all asked, and the difficulties they seemed to have. “What do I roll for this?” “Can I use my bow at close range?” “Which one is the d20?” So I just tried to make it as detailed as possible. I made a little bar up top to organize his dice. I labeled his weaponry and drew a picture of them next to it. I added little stickers to his stats to help him know the differences. It really seemed to help. So much so, that I made a v2.0 sheet the next morning.

It looked like he was playing a halfling character based on his name. Was it a stock character? Or did the two of you do any custom character creation?

Ah. Dudley Bumbleroot. This was actually the FIRST PC character that I ever played. Kind’ve a family heirloom. I updated him for 5e D&D but, barebones it’s the same character.

A lot of people that want to tabletop with their kids hesitate because some of their early struggles can disrupt a game groups flow. How quickly did your son take to the game?

By, probably, his 5th turn he was going strong. He was giving the group his ideas and telling them things like, “hey I can fit through this Crack in the wall, right?” I was so proud.

I have a six year old myself and have been thinking of taking the plunge. What advice do you have for me? Anything I should make sure that I do?

Just have fun. Be his buddy. Or if you’re the DM, have another PC be there for him. Kids can pick up on things more quickly than you realize.

He was the only person in the picture when you posted on Facebook. Did you play with anyone else? Or was it a one on one game for simplicity?

I had a couple other buddies with him. He fit right in.
You indicated that you ran the Lost Mines of Phandelver as your quest with your son. Did you have to modify it at all? Or did he pick it right up? He picked it right up. As far as difficulty, that’s a level one adventure, as it is from the starter set. He did have a BIT of an advantage, though. He and the others at the table were level 3 to begin.

What’s next for your gaming group? Are you going to create your own campaign? Or perhaps run some of the prepackaged adventure books Wizards is putting out?

I usually create my own, but they always turn out very linear. I wanted to try my have at something with some depth. Side quests and plot twists, you know? After one session, I’m pleased. I’ll still make you own, but I’m learning new tricks as I go.

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EFG Podcast: Board Game Grab Bag!

This week Stephen and Amanda come together to chat about all sorts of board games!

Magic: the Gathering War of the Spark

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition – Curse of Strahd

Vast: The Crystal Caverns

Beyond Nexus

This podcast was produced in partnership with SuperParent.com!


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Subscribe to our Podcast!

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The Official E3 2018 EFG Roster!

The Electronic Entertainment Expo is just around the corner and EFG is going to be there. The entire team has been hard at work preparing for a full week of INSANE coverage. We’re going to grab every little bit of family gaming news from that show floor and share it with the world!

Here is how it is all going to play out.

  1. The convention press conferences take place starting on Saturday and run until Tuesday morning. We’ll be publishing news updates for every family-friendly game announced during the conferences.
  2. The show takes place from June 12-14. We will have a team at the show taking pictures, video, recording audio, and posting their impressions of the games we are playing.
  3. Every morning From Monday through Friday you will be able to wake up to a Special edition of Engage! A Family Gaming Podcast with updates from the previous days show.
  4. We’ll be launching our YouTube channel this week as well so be sure to keep your eyes there for trailers, game impressions, and other cool videos from the show.

Let’s introduce the team, shall we?

The Away Team

EFG is going to have five people scouring the show floor to help find all of the great families games that E3 2017 has the offer.

Stephen Duetzmann – Editor in Chief

Stephen has been running Engaged Family Gaming for five years now and he is very excited to be leading the troops into the wilds of E3. He is a father of three (ages 12,9,5) and a lifelong gamer. He is ready to head to E3 for the second time and go bananas finding great games to tell you about!

Jesse Hennessey – Associate Editor

Jesse started his gaming career at the ripe old age of 8, with the Dungeons and Dragons red box set. Over thirty years and hundreds (thousands?) of table top, play-by-mail, console, live-action, computer, mobile and online games later his wife still tells him every day, ‘You know its 1am right?’.

With a love for RPG’s of all types he started participating in LARP’s in high school, and has owned and run one for over a decade. He started his family at a LARP in Y2K, when he ran down his future wife in the woods, and she killed him…with necromancy.

Jesse spends a large portion of his gaming time teaching his daughter to play games both old and new, table top, console, online and live-action. As a family they deal with the difficulty of overcoming both ADHD and ODD to make sure she learns to play fairly and safely in each unique gaming environment.

 

 

John Wrobel – Resident Project Manager

I believe that I am currently the prototypical representation of the casual gamer. I don’t have as much time as I would like play all the games that I want having two elementary schoolers, so being able to get the most value out of what I play is very important to me.  This applies to the video games we buy as a family as well as the multitude of board games that we have in the house.  I think that is what makes what is done here on this site so important to me.  Having a reliable resource to go to in order to make decisions around what we spend our time with is very important as it saves us a tremendous amount of time, money and headaches.

Getting the opportunity to cover E3 with our Editor in Chief was an opportunity that I could not pass up for three reasons.

  1. Someone has to be there to keep our Editor in Chief out of trouble

  2. We don’t have In-N-Out Burger in CT

  3. See #1. (Editor’s note: This is factually correct)

Drew Habersang – Associate Editor

Drew Habersang is a novelist and blogger from Manchester, Conn. He’s a lifelong gamer and unrepentant nerd with a nigh uncomfortable passion for all things “Destiny” (1v1 me bro!). He can best be described as a something very cool and manly with the soul of Mario and the heart of something even cooler like a dragon or whatever I dunno just make it sound awesome, Steve! Habersang has a BA in Political Science from UConn, and has been a guest lecturer at both UConn and the University of Hartford on narrative and storytelling an was a featured storyteller at The Mark Twain House. Drew enjoys console and table top gaming, discussing politics, and “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.”

James Pisano – Producer

At his day job, James Pisano is a partner and Creative Director at Blue Moon Studios, a commercial ad agency. Since James has been a passionate gamer his whole life, he jumped at the chance to become a contributing producer at Engaged Family Gaming. In 2017, James attended E3 for the first time with EFG, and saw the unfortunate lack of information tailored to parents trying to guide their children through the labyrinth of what is “new and cool” in games and geek culture, while making sure they aren’t being exposed to inappropriate content. This ignited James’ passion to bring informative and insightful information to EFG’s audience. Using video, research, and the written word, James is looking forward to helping families the world over come together over the games we all love, with an informed mindset. See you all at E3 2018 and beyond!!!

Home Base

The members of the home base team will be helping with logistical support, production assistance and all sorts of other jobs that we won’t think of until it is way too late.

Jonathan Tomlinson – The Man behind the Curtain

Jonathan started as an intern in high school at WPLR then went on to Connecticut school of Broadcasting. After his training he went on to WEBE108 and AM600WICC. After being replaced by his computer overlords he started his own podcast network and it’s selftitled flagship “Six Pack Nerds” and produces “Engage! : A Family Gaming Podcast” as The Man behind the curtain as well as other tasks. He owns all the systems and is a software hobbyist.

 

 

Linda Wrobel – Contributing Editor

Video games and gaming as a whole was not a large part of my childhood experience. I was given my first exposure to what some would consider traditional gaming in high school with an attempt playing D&D ( which overwhelmed me).  Little did I know that eight years later I would be bitten by the gaming bug by participating in a LARP campaign, which then led back to D&D with friends, and board games.  Now that I have two young boys, becoming more informed to what video and board games are age appropriate and worth our time has become more of a priority. Being an elementary school teacher shapes my perspective of games geared to children and families.  My interest has evolved into a drive to delve deeper into the family gaming world and share my experiences and thoughts with others.

 

Jenna Duetzmann – Contributing Editor

I am a 40-something year old Mom to three wonderful children ranging from ages 4 to 11. All 3 of my children love to play games- board games, video games, tabletop games, and card games! If it has rules and you can play it, they will gravitate towards it.

I grew up playing classic board games with my family and friends and enjoyed many an evening learning card games from my parents and their friends. Even though video games were reaching peak popularity when I was a child, my exposure was very limited. I got to play Frogger on a friend’s Atari and I watched my cousins play Zelda, Super Mario, and about a million different sports games on their various systems. I tried to play the games, but unfortunately I was terrible at them. Old school video games were hard!  And, since I didn’t have a system of my own to play on, I never got to practice. But, never fear, eventually my husband (our wonderful Editor in Chief) gave me my first video game system. It was a Nintendo 64. I played what was soon to become my favorite game EVER on that system- The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. That purchase sparked my interest in so many more games!

My background is in the field of Education and we use my knowledge as a way to incorporate learning experiences in a fun way in every game we play. I love how every game has the potential to inspire learning. They can teach everything from literacy and math skills to teamwork, cooperation, sharing, hand eye coordination, social behavior, etc. The list of things our children can learn through games is endless, and it is my goal to use Engaged Family Gaming to share that learning potential with all of our readers, listeners, and viewers.

 

Michael Duetzmann – Contributing Editor, the Infinite Co-host

Mike has been Stephen’s player 2 as soon as he was old enough to pick up a controller. A stay at home dad, he has turned his interest in game design and writing towards researching family friendly games while still being a devoted father and husband. He is no stranger to the gaming table and has experience with tabletop games, collectible card game, and video games.

 

Sound off in the comments and cheer us on!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Subscribe to our Podcast!

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D & D Beyond – Taking Your Game to the Next Level

D&D Beyond at first glance is a collection of online gaming tools for Dungeons and Dragons 5.0, but the ease of use and friendly interface makes it more than the sum of its parts. D&D Beyond is an evolution of previous tools released by Wizards of the Coast for D&D 4.0 and improves on its subscription model, and improved stability by running everything in the browser instead of separate programs. All D&D Beyond’s best services are free with the creation of an account connected to Twitch.tv. Paid services include expansion of storage in the character creator and Dungeon Master related tools.

Why is it Awesome?

This is hands down the friendliest and most flexible set of tools for Dungeons and Dragons I have ever used.

The biggest features of D&D Beyond is its searchable databases and character creator. The D&D Beyond Website features not only an all-purpose search bar but a set of icons that lets you narrow your search through specific content, including content made by yourself.

It is important to note how much D&D Beyond supports user made, or “homebrew”, content. Every listing to search for a spell, magic item, or race, also give you the option to create or change an existing one in the same menu. While storage of homebrew content can get cramped with only the free subscription, the ability to play around with the tools was a creative opportunity all on its own.

Before I talk about the character creator, I wanted to point out the “Compendium”: Online access to purchase digital copies of every rulebook and adventure module for D&D 5.0. The Compendium, besides to the news updates posted to D&D Beyond, further supports a one-stop location for all things Dungeons and Dragons.

The character creator on D&D Beyond is not only the best character creator for Dungeons and Dragons by far, it is accessible tool for all levels of family gamers, from child to young adult to parent. The character creator has a “Show Help Text” option that starts turned on, so younger or less experienced gamers get additional information, while those with experience building characters can turn it off for a less cluttered experience. With the help text guiding you through the character creator, you will get detailed descriptions of every part of a character in Dungeons and Dragons as you make your choices.

Selecting the option for race, for example, starts with a simple list, but each selection expands into a full section with scroll-able text and full detailed description of your possible choice. Everything in the creator has collapsible text, which can help deal with the flood of information that can often come with character creation.

When you complete the character creator, which includes detailed sections for race, class, ability scores, background, and equipment, you have the option to either view and store the character sheet on your internet browser or download the sheet onto your computer.

Should you use this?

As a free service, D&D Beyond is the best set of Dungeon and Dragons online tools I have ever used. The Hero and Master subscriptions expand D&D Beyond with family-friendly services.

Hero subscriptions, which averages about three dollars a month, allow for unlimited character storage. This is useful for easy access and updating of a family’s worth of character sheets, as well an ad-free experience. Easy access to published homebrew content from other players is part of the subscription.

Master Subscriptions, which average about six dollars a month, while more expensive, allow you to share any purchased digital product with other players in the same campaign. This option would be best for many families of gamers to share access to one collection of digital books.

D&D Beyond is definitely worth every family gamer’s time to explore and use if they are fans of Dungeons and Dragons.

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E3 Banner

The Electronic Entertainment Expo is just around the corner and EFG is going to be there. The entire team has been hard at work preparing for a full week of INSANE coverage. We’re going to grab every little bit of family gaming news from that show floor and share it with the world!

Here is how it is all going to play out.

  1. The convention press conferences take place starting on Saturday and run until Tuesday morning. We’ll be publishing news updates for every family friendly game announced during the conferences.
  2. The show takes place from June 13-15. We will have a team at the show taking pictures, video, recording audio, and posting their impressions of the games they are playing.
  3. Every morning From Monday through Friday you will be able to wake up to a Special edition of Engage! A Family Gaming Podcast with updates from the previous days show.
  4. We’ll be launching our YouTube channel this week as well so be sure to keep your eyes there for trailers, game impressions, and other cool video from the show.

Let’s introduce the team shall we?

 

The Away Team

EFG is going to have five people scouring the show floor to help find all of the great families games that E3 2017 has the offer.

Stephen Duetzmann – Editor in Chief

Stephen has been running Engaged Family Gaming for four years now and he is very excited to be leading the troops into the wilds of E3. He is a father of three (ages 11,8,4) and a lifelong gamer. A trip to E3 has been on his bucket list since before the kids were born and he can’t wait to make them proud!

Jesse Hennessey – Associate Editor

Jesse started his gaming career at the ripe old age of 8, with the Dungeons and Dragons red box set. Over thirty years and hundreds (thousands?) of table top, play-by-mail, console, live-action, computer, mobile and online games later his wife still tells him every day, ‘You know its 1am right?’.

With a love for RPG’s of all types he started participating in LARP’s in high school, and has owned and run one for over a decade. He started his family at a LARP in Y2K, when he ran down his future wife in the woods, and she killed him…with necromancy.

Jesse spends a large portion of his gaming time teaching his daughter to play games both old and new, table top, console, online and live-action. As a family they deal with the difficulty of overcoming both ADHD and ODD to make sure she learns to play fairly and safely in each unique gaming environment.

 

Dr. Regina McMenomy – Contributor, Founder GeekEmbassy

Studying and writing about geeks and geek culture is Regina’s favorite thing to do when she’s not reading student papers, dancing an excessive amount of calories away, or chasing after her daughter. Inclined towards social and mobile gaming, Regina also loves a good round of 7 Wonders, Qwirkle, Small World, or Lords of Waterdeep. Video games play such a significant role in her life she’s integrated games into every part of her personal and professional life. From writing a game studies based dissertation about identity and digital RPGs, to a memoir about motherhood as a gamer, Regina takes games seriously.

 

John Wrobel – Resident Project Manager

I believe that I am currently the prototypical representation of the casual gamer. I don’t have as much time as I would like play all the games that I want having two elementary schoolers, so being able to get the most value out of what I play is very important to me.  This applies to the video games we buy as a family as well as the multitude of board games that we have in the house.  I think that is what makes what is done here on this site so important to me.  Having a reliable resource to go to in order to make decisions around what we spend our time with is very important as it saves us a tremendous amount of time, money and headaches.

Getting the opportunity to cover E3 with our Editor in Chief was an opportunity that I could not pass up for three reasons.

  1. Someone has to be there to keep our Editor in Chief out of trouble

  2. We don’t have In-N-Out Burger in CT

  3. See #1

Home Base

The members of the home base team will be helping with logistical support, production assistance and all sorts of other jobs that we won’t think of until it is way too late.

Jonathan Tomlinson – The Man behind the Curtain

Jonathan started as an intern in high school at WPLR then went on to Connecticut school of Broadcasting. After his training he went on to WEBE108 and AM600WICC. After being replaced by his computer overlords he started his own podcast network and it’s selftitled flagship “Six Pack Nerds” and produces our “Engaged: A Family Gaming Podcast” as The Man behind the curtain as well as other tasks. He owns all the systems and is a software hobbyist.

 

 

Linda Wrobel – Contributing Editor

Video games and gaming as a whole was not a large part of my childhood experience. I was given my first exposure to what some would consider traditional gaming in high school with an attempt playing D&D ( which overwhelmed me).  Little did I know that eight years later I would be bitten by the gaming bug by participating in a LARP campaign, which then led back to D&D with friends, and board games.  Now that I have two young boys, becoming more informed to what video and board games are age appropriate and worth our time has become more of a priority. Being an elementary school teacher shapes my perspective of games geared to children and families.  My interest has evolved into a drive to delve deeper into the family gaming world and share my experiences and thoughts with others.

 

Jenna Duetzmann – Contributing Editor

I am a 40-something year old Mom to three wonderful children ranging from ages 4 to 11. All 3 of my children love to play games- board games, video games, tabletop games, and card games! If it has rules and you can play it, they will gravitate towards it.

I grew up playing classic board games with my family and friends and enjoyed many an evening learning card games from my parents and their friends. Even though video games were reaching peak popularity when I was a child, my exposure was very limited. I got to play Frogger on a friend’s Atari and I watched my cousins play Zelda, Super Mario, and about a million different sports games on their various systems. I tried to play the games, but unfortunately I was terrible at them. Old school video games were hard!  And, since I didn’t have a system of my own to play on, I never got to practice. But, never fear, eventually my husband (our wonderful Editor in Chief) gave me my first video game system. It was a Nintendo 64. I played what was soon to become my favorite game EVER on that system- The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. That purchase sparked my interest in so many more games!

My background is in the field of Education and we use my knowledge as a way to incorporate learning experiences in a fun way in every game we play. I love how every game has the potential to inspire learning. They can teach everything from literacy and math skills to teamwork, cooperation, sharing, hand eye coordination, social behavior, etc. The list of things our children can learn through games is endless, and it is my goal to use Engaged Family Gaming to share that learning potential with all of our readers, listeners, and viewers.

 

Michael Duetzmann – Contributing Editor, the Infinite Co-host

Mike has been Stephen’s player 2 as soon as he was old enough to pick up a controller. A stay at home dad, he has turned his interest in game design and writing towards researching family friendly games while still being a devoted father and husband. He is no stranger to the gaming table and has experience with tabletop games, collectible card game, and video games.

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Dungeons and Dragons Character Sheet 6 yr old

Episode 62: D&D: (Branche Management and Balazaar Boogie)

Hello and Welcome to Engage!: A Family Gaming Podcast! This is episode 62. This week we are talking about boardgames. Specifically, tabletop roleplaying games and our game of Dungeons and Dragons that we started with our two sons. Today we are joined by my wife Jenna, and my brother Mike (The infinite co-host who was k.o.’d last episode, but don’t worry… He’s back!

My name is Stephen Duetzmann: Editor and Chief of EFG Gaming. You can reach out to us via our community page at www.EFGgaming.com/community. You can also reach out us viar Twitter: @EFGgaming, and our new email address: EFGpodcast@engagedfamilygaming.com. I am a co-host of the Gaming with Mom’s Podcast and a contributing writer to Pixelkin.

Show notes:

Overview topics/questions:

What is tabletop gaming?

What do kids need to know to play tabletop games?

What are some games that can get kids started on table top games like Dungeons and Dragons?

  • Adventure Maximus
  • Hero Kids
  • Mice and Mystics

What were the initial challenges of inviting the kids to play D&D?

Interview!: J-man and E-man share their stories of Branche and Balazaar (And Leaf)

Getting into the weeds:

How do you balance the role of parent/adult and player/GM?

What kind of things do we recommend when you are playing a mixed ages game of Dungeons and Dragons with your kids?

Our final thoughts on Dungeons and Dragons, and what we would do in the future.

Thanks for listening! You can find any of the games that we talk about here on Amazon.com. Please use our affiliate links so that your purchases support our staff!

Finally, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and support us on Patreon. As always: Thanks for listening to Engage!: A Family Gaming Podcast.

And Remember: Get Your Family Game On!

Below are all of our website and social links. If the links appear broken, then go to the social media site and search for Engaged Family Gaming. You’ll find us! Thank you!

Website

Facebook Page

Facebook Community

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube

Patreon

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I went to PAX EAST 2016 in Boston this past weekend and saw a TON of games, but one game in particular caught my eye that I had never seen nor heard of before: Mages of Mystralia by Borealys Games. I was even lucky enough to get to play it for about a half hour during the show.


Mages is an action RPG where you take on the role of a young girl who happens to also be a wizard. You lead her on a wild adventure with a narrative written by Ed Greenwood, the man behind the Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting Forgotten Realms. The game plays out much like other action RPGs. You navigate a 3d world that is full of monsters, traps, and interesting puzzles. In Mages of Mystralia, however, there is one significant difference. In this game you are able to design your own spells to attack each obstacle.

The way this works is simple on the surface, but will undoubtedly get more complex as the game progresses. You have four different kinds of spells that are each mapped to a different button. You have access to a grid for each spell where you can lay down modifiers like teleporting, exploding, and multi-shot. You can even keep stacking these modifiers on your spells to give them different effects on the battlefield.

This lets you customize your approach to every combat and come up with interesting ways to approach different puzzles. For example, you might need to light a torch with a fire spell, but it might have obstacles in front of it. In order to overcome the challenge you could create a fire spell that arcs to the right or left. Once the puzzle is done? You can wipe it out and create another spell.

The game is still a year away from release so we have a long time to wait, but you can count on Engaged Family Gaming to keep bringing you information about this very promising game.

 

 

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By Stacey Beshers, guest writer

Library PS3 Games

This is just an idea of the games that might be available for FREE at your local Library!

As many gamer parents know, there are so many options out there for kids and parents alike to enjoy together. There are video games, board games, role-playing games, and many more! And yet, sadly, gaming parents also know the pain all of these games can bring to their wallets. What is a parent to do when they just don’t have the cash they need? The answer is simple!

Look to the library!

Did you know that you can check out video games at the library? It’s true! Though some people have images of dusty old libraries where children are expected to remain silent, and fun-free, in their head, the truth is that this image is old and antiquated. Many libraries across the country are working hard to become centers of their community and also leaders in technology trends. I’m a librarian at the Attleboro Public Library in Massachusetts and I can personally attest to how hard we are working to give you, the public, what you want. We currently have Wii games and PS3 games just waiting to go home with you. Other libraries in my community have 3DS, Xbox One, and PC games on their shelves as well. All are available for checkout to bring home, and best of all it’s all free! Contact your local library to see if it has video games available for checkout. If not, let them know you’d be interested in seeing it offered as a service. Libraries are always looking to satisfy patron interests, so if you let them know that gaming is something your family loves to do then they will listen.

Not into video games just yet? Did you know that some libraries have gaming books available? From Pathfinder source books to Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manuals, even comic books that feature the characters from World of Warcraft; these are all things you can check out at the library. Your library doesn’t currently have it in on the shelf? Don’t despair!  When you are at your local library: Ask and you shall receive. You can speak to your librarians about Inter-Library Loans. It’s a service that allows libraries across the country to deliver what you desire; again at no cost to you. So if you ask about getting the book you want, chances are that your librarian can find a way to get it for you even if they don’t currently have it.

Ok, but what about board games? Again, your mileage may vary but many libraries are trying to encourage more patrons to come through the door, and board games are a great way to do that. Some libraries keep board games and puzzles around on community tables, encouraging friends and families to sit down for some quality time together. Your library may also have clubs or special events that are great times to go visit and join in the fun and maybe meet other gaming families in the community. In our library we have a monthly Lego club, a weekly chess club, and special events such as Wii tournaments. Other libraries have Dungeons and Dragons clubs, Magic The Gathering events, and board game nights. All free, all just waiting for you and your family to come participate in.

So what are you waiting for? If budget has held you back, then you need fear no longer, just look to the library. See what they have, ask for what you want, let them know what you’d be interested in seeing. Old fashioned no longer, libraries are great resources for gaming kids and parents as well as the community at large; so get to the library and start having some fun!

NOTE: If you are not sure where your local library is (or if there are any in neighboring towns) you can do a geographic search here!

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Holiday shopping is getting more and more difficult every year. Parents used to have to worry about “the hot toy,” but now there are so many video games released each year that it can be very confusing for parents.

The following is a list of some of our recommendations for parents who need a little bit of help to make sure they make the most of their holiday dollars.

“The Games”

Below will be what we consider to be the most important family friendly games available.

Multiplatform

  • Minecraft (If you are buying your child a new Non-Nintendo console this should probably be the first game you buy to go with it.)
  • Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
  • Skylanders: Trap Team
  • Disney Infinity 2.0
  • Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare

Nintendo WiiU

Mario Kart 8 or Super Smash Bros. For WiiU

Nintendo 3DS

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire or Pokemon Omega Ruby

Microsoft Xbox 360

Forza Horizons 2

Microsoft Xbox One

Forza Horizons 2

Sony PlayStation 3

LittleBigPlanet 3

Sony PlayStation 4

LittleBigPlanet 3

Sony PS Vita

Tearaway

Board Games

Squashed Family Board Game 

Full Disclosure: We have no reviewed this game yet, but a full review is on the way!

This is an interesting strategy game that involves moving pawns around the outside of a cube. The goal is to outmaneuver your opponents as the cube rotates. You want to be the last player with a pawn on the board. This one looks interesting just for the unique game board itself.

Robot Turtles

We reviewed this one earlier this year and it is still one of the coolest learning experiences you can play with your kids. It actually manages to teach some of the basics of coding while playing a simple board game. We highly recommend it!

Qwirkle

This strategy game intended for players six and older is simple to learn and will remain fun for a very long time. In it players place wooden tiles on a flat play area and match them up in rows by either color or shape.

There is even a travel version that is great for parents on the go (and is great for teaching colors to even younger players)!

Spot It!

This game is simple, inexpensive, and portable. Oh! And your Preschooler has a decent shot at beating you in it.

Ticket to Ride

This was one of the first board games we reviewed. It is among the best family games on the market. If your family has been entertaining the idea of starting a family game night, then this is, bar none, the best game to start with.

Forbidden Island

Most board games that families are used to playing are competitive. Forbidden Island bucks that trend by being a perfect entry point into the realm of cooperative gaming.

Minecraft Stuff

LEGO Minecraft

Minecraft is a phenomenon. It has been described as “digital LEGOs” since it arrived on the scene. It actually stunned me that it took so long for LEGO to actually get in on the action. There are tons of different sets out there.

Minecraft Hoodie

I know the stereotype is that kids hate to be given clothes for presents, but this hoodie from ThinkGeek might just fix that.

Minecraft Sheet Magnets

There is a ton of Minecraft merch out there and I dug through a lot of it to make this list. I don’t know why but something about these really sung to me. Nothing screams “perfect gift” than something that will result in lots of little magnet squares attached to the fridge. This is probably most Mom’s personal nightmare right? Aunts and Uncles looking for vengeance gifts take note. (Full disclosure: My wife made me add that last bit since she basically hates these things.)

Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection

The various Minecraft handbooks are a great way to encourage kids to get excited about reading by engaging with Minecraft while they aren’t at the keyboard. The information in these books is very useful. Some of the details will likely be out of date relatively quickly as the game is patched, but the theory will be useful.

Miscellaneous Gaming Gifts

LeapFrog LeapTV Educational Active Video Gaming System – $149.99

No one should call this a knockoff. The LeapTV won’t be able to unseat any of the big name consoles, but its games are guaranteed to be child appropriate.

This may be a great option for households with a significant separation between older and younger siblings. This would be one way to keep the younger sibling away from a teenagers games.

The Bag of Holding (ThinkGeek.com) – $59.99

If you get this reference… you will want to buy this thing.

Parents: It’s ok if you don’t get this reference. This will be hysterical to your son or daughter if they play Dungeons and Dragons. Trust me.

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Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: 03/04/2016

ESRB Rating: T for Teen

Reviewed on Wii U

Overall

I have a confession to make. I ran out and bought a Wii and Twilight Princess as     quickly as I could back when the game first came out. I played for about six to seven hours and enjoyed myself (or thought I did at least). But, one day I turned the game off and never turned it back on. There was just something frustrating about the game that I couldn’t put my finger on.

When I heard that Twilight Princess was coming to the Wii U in HD I knew, as a Zelda fan, that I had to give it another shot. And boy… am I glad that I did that. The new version of the game shined a bright spotlight on my previous play through and helped me discover the exact reason I struggled: The waggle controls.

The original version of the game made use of the Wii’s motion controls, but it only worked in a haphazard way. The designers essentially mapped different shakes and thrusts to different buttons. It was a far cry from the sword play I was hoping for.

The HD remake, on the other hand, utilizes the controls that were present on the GameCube version of the game and the experience is glorious. I was immediately more comfortable with playing the game and was able to progress well past my previous quitting point in a matter of hours.

Even better? The simple textures really pop with the new resolution. My kids hardly noticed that the game was almost a decade old. They were genuinely stunned when I told them about it.

Anyone who had reservations about their previous experiences owes it to themselves to give this game another try.

This is a classic Zelda adventure that serves as a great entry point to the series for fans who have never played a game in the series. My two sons are nine and seven and thoroughly enjoyed learning about some of the core themes in Zelda games like temple design and the relationship between Link, Zelda, and Ganon. My oldest has put in a lot of time with Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask so he found it especially interesting to see all of the different threads that connect the different games in the series.

Family Gaming Assessment

Twilight Princess HD is rated T by the ESRB. The ratings summary is as follows:

“This is an action-adventure game in which players assume the role of Link, a young hero who must save a fantasy kingdom by defeating an evil villain. From a third-person perspective, players explore caves/dungeons, solve puzzles, and use swords, arrows, bombs, and magic to defeat enemy creatures (e.g., skeletons, spiders, dragons, plant creatures). Some sequences allow players to use ranged weapons/abilities from a first-person perspective; one section allows players to engage in a one-on-one sword-fight with a boss character. Cutscenes occasionally depict characters impaled by swords or shot with arrows; one boss creature emits small puffs of purple fluid when stabbed.”

The main issue that parents will need to deal with here is the violence. The vast majority of the conflict resolution in this game is managed at the point of a sword, bomb, or bow and arrow. There are some darker themes as play here, but many of them are abstracted enough through the gameplay that they aren’t really of serious concern.


 


Playability Assessment

The Legend of Zelda series has never been “easy.” They are complex games with mind bending temples full of puzzles. Frankly, even the boss fights are mini puzzles. Twilight Princess HD doesn’t change any part of that formula.

One glaring concern for many is that there is no spoken dialogue during the game at all. Everything is done using text. While this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for many families as most early readers won’t have the controller skills to play the game anyway, but it does make playing with a shoulder surfer a bit more challenging as you will have to read all of the text like a storybook. (Bonus points though if you make up a cool voice for Midna!)

Conclusion

Zelda fans probably don’t need to hear this, but this is a very good purchase. The game holds up remarkably well (and is much better if you only ever played the Wii version).

We feel comfortable recommending this one to anyone looking for an adventure on their Wii U.

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