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Stephen Duetzmann

Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

It’s that time of year again. Finding great gifts for people can be tough. Here are some of our recommendations for the grown-up gamers in your life!

Control

Price: Check on Amazon

Control is the X-Files game we always wanted, but never got. You play as a woman named Jessie as she explores The Federal Bureau of Control in search of answers about her past. In short order, she becomes the director of the Bureau and acquires psychic powers and a transforming gun. Every twist and turn in the story (and the building itself) is interesting and you’ll be kept guessing until the very end. This is definitely a great gift for the grown up gamers on your list.

Resident Evil 2 Remake

A high definition remake made by game designers who grew up as fans of the original. This game is not only a visual upgrade, but an expansion of the original story that brought the zombie apocalypse of Raccoon City to the PS1 Era. Resident Evil 1 and 2 favored fixed camera angles and prerendered backgrounds as a solution for hardware limitations of the PS1. The RE2 Remake uses the power of modern gaming hardware to present an over the shoulder view made famous by more recent editions of the series with both visual and quality of life improvements. This game is a nostaglic horror experience, with the familiar suspense found in classic horror movies.

Sekiro Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro is the most recent title from From Software Director Hidetaka Miyazaki.

The game brings the complex storytelling and difficult, yet triumphant, combat of the Dark Souls series and sets the stage in a mythical feudal Japan. Produced in conjunction with Activision, this game is whirlwind of beautiful sound, visuals and actions and is well worth a holiday pick up.

Devil May Cry 5

Devil May Cry 5 is the most recent edition of an action/brawler series that is known bombastic action, sound and visuals.

The series refuses to take itself, or its apocalyptic stakes, very seriously. Game play focuses on performing stylish combat as one of three devil hunters. DMC 5 is a AAA title with B Movie sensibilities and is an inexpensive holiday pick up. 

Code Vein

Price: $37.18
Was: $59.99

Code Vein is the complex combat and cryptic stories known for in the Dark Souls series combined with beauty and bombast of an Anime art style and sensibility. The game’s story focuses on the remnants of civilization after a post apocalyptic encounter against an inhuman foe. Like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Code Vein adds a fully voiced cast of characters and allies. Action is the same brutality as Dark Souls, but supports a system that allows you to bring an NPC ally.

Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat is a legendary franchise that is, somehow, growing in popularity with every iteration. Netherrealm Studios has managed to create a game with an incredible competitive scene AND an interesting story mode that should be the gold standard in the fighting game genre. The story mode plays out like a movie. You jump from character to character in a fantastically over the top adventure. You’re forced to play as most of the characters by the end. This has the hidden advantage of both making the experience more interesting, and giving you a chance to learn characters you might never have imagined playing.

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!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

It’s that time of year again. Finding great gifts for people can be tough. Here are some of our Xbox One recommendations for the kids in your life!

No Man’s Sky: Beyond

Price: Check on Amazon

You might have heard people talk about No Man’s Sky being a disappointment. You might have heard about it’s hideous pre-release marketing. Forget about all of that. No Man’s Sky is a completely new experience that takes the bones of the original release and builds on it so much that they could have just called it a sequel. 

No Man’s Sky is all about exploring the unknown. You fly spacecraft from planet to planet gathering resources, building bases, and discovering interesting alien creatures as you travel towards the center of the Galaxy. It even has a creative mode for spacefarers that want to build without restrictions. 

Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts 3 is the culmination of a story that has been being told since the PS2 era. The story doesn’t make much sense to anyone who hasn’t played all of the games, but that doesn’t really matter too much. The real draw is the opportunity to explore Disney worlds and battle evil alongside characters like Buzz Lightyear and Elsa. This is a complex game, and has its share of flaws, but the spectacle is worth the price of entry alone. 

Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled

Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled is a painstakingly crafted remaster of several Crash Team Racing games that were released on PS1 and PS2.

This is a challenging cart racer that will be a big hit with fans of Mario Kart 8 that are looking for more challenge. This a feature rich remaster with 31 tracks, numerous cosmetic items, and a full-fledged story mode. It’s definitely worth looking into for your family. 

FIFA 20

Soccer (Football for our international readers) is the most popular sport on Earth. It stands to reason then that the digital version would be wildly successful as well. If your kids play soccer, then they likely have this game on their wish lists every year. I can’t say that I blame them. FIFA does amazing work each year in crafting as authentic and fun of an experience that they can. This year’s biggest addition is the Volta football mode which celebrates the street soccer. Its wild, and exciting… everything a true fan would want to see. 

Madden 20

Time marches on. Years pass. Seasons come and go. New Madden games come out. This might sound like a complaint, but it’s not. Madden releases every year like clockwork to the delight of video game loving football fans. Madden 20 includes a new Face of the Franchise mode where you play a high school quarterback who is recruited into college, plays through the NCAA Football playoffs, and is drafted into the NFL. This replaced the Longshot mode from the last few years, but is a welcome addition. 

Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair

Playtonic is a studio made up of former Rare developers who worked on the legendary Banjo Kazooie franchise. They reunited a few years back to release Yooka Laylee thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. The game itself was not very well received. But, the success of the crowdfunding campaign sent the message that people were hungry enough that they should try again. Fortunately, they did! Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair is wonderful new game that embraces the joy of the first game, but plays in 2D like a Donkey Kong Country game. This is a budget title so it is a wonderful gift idea for families looking so save some money (or get an extra game without paying for a full priced game).

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

EA has held the exclusive rights to make Star Wars games for years, but their efforts have been lackluster so far. This is especially true for fans who want to play single-player, story-focused games. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is just the panacea that those fans need. It features exciting lightsaber combat, a cute droid, multiple planets to explore, and a canonical story. This is definitely one to keep your eye on for the Star Wars fan in your house!

NBA 2K20

Price: $39.35
Was: $59.99

The NBA2k series may be part RPG and part basketball simulation, but it is all one big celebration of basketball culture. Every kilobyte of data built into this game is there to help basketball fans party together while experiencing their favorite sport. The music, the style, the storylines – they are all here. And they come included with a technical marvel of a basketball game that lets you take on the role of your favorite star, or beat them to the hoop with your own. 

Just Dance 2020

The Just Dance series is one of the most joyous games I have ever played.

Each year Ubisoft releases a new entry in the series with new songs and access to old hits. Every time they do that they entrance a new wave of fans. This year will grab a whole bunch of younger fans thanks to its inclusion of Pinkfong’s smash hit Baby Shark (Don’t lie. You started singing it, too.)

Plants Vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare has been a hit with kids for years. The two games in the series have given countless kids a chance to cut their chops in the competitive shooter space without having to play some of the more violence games out there. 

Fortnite Battle Royale may be an ever present threat to PvZ’s place in your living room. But, Battle for Neighborville fights back with a great sense of humor. It features goofy characters like a ninja mushroom and a football player zombie.


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!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

It’s that time of year again. Finding great gifts for people can be tough. Here are some of our Nintendo recommendations for the kids in your life!

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

The 8th generation of Pokemon is upon us! Pokemon Sword and Shield will be the perfect gifts for the Pokemon fans in your family. These games can easily provide a hundred or more hours of entertainment, and these newer games will likely include even more! Sword and Shield are the first Pokemon games released on a home Nintendo console so they look great, but, as always, they are right at home on the go.

Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2 is one of the best creative tools for young and adult gamers alike. This game lets you create Super Mario Levels from across the history of Nintendo, with a well made tutorial that offers plenty of new ideas. Players can browse player made content by individual creator or in an endless mode that select levels based on difficulty. Super Mario Maker 2 is easily the best level creation experience for the Nintendo Switch.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a shot for shot remake of a game (by the same name) that was released on the Game Boy Color in 1993. This version released in September with an adorable new art style and an orchestral soundtrack. This is a perfect gift for Zelda fans that are too young to have played the original AND for those of us looking for a chance to relive our glory days. 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

If your child spent hours arranging all of their Imaginext toys in massive battles, then Fire Emblem is worth a look. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a strategy game set in a sword and sorcery themed academy for heroes. (It’s not exactly Hogwarts for Dungeons and Dragons characters, but it’s pretty close.) Battles play out on massive fields where you move your different characters around strategically to take advantage of enemy weaknesses. This is a challenging game, and the characters are teenagers (so they come with the appropriate thematic baggage), but it ends up as a T-rated game. 

Steamworld Quest: The Hand of Gilgamech

All of the Steamworld games are amazing, but this is easily one of my favorites. Steamworld Quest is a friendly RPG where you control a team of robots during a fantasy/steampunk era.  The combat is card-based. You build a 24 card deck using a card pool determined by which robots are in your party. Every fight turns into a puzzle that is very satisfying to solve. The story is also relatively short so this will be a great game for Holiday break!

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3

It’s tough to find a kid that doesn’t love Marvel super heroes and Ultimate Alliance 3 has a TON of them. Ultimate Alliance 3 is a celebration of recent Marvel history that has a character just about every kid will enjoy. MUA3 is a paint by numbers action RPG for up to four players. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but it doesn’t really need to in order to be a great gift. 

Yoshi’s Crafted World

Every year I get asked about video game gifts for younger gamers. Yoshi’s Crafted World is this year’s answer to that question. It’s adorable. It’s simple to control. And it’s engaging. This will be a great game to share with the younger siblings/cousins who might not be ready for bigger challenges just yet. 

Ring Fit Adventure

Nintendo has made fitness games before. Wii Fit (and the Wii Fit Balance board) where huge hits back when they came out. Ring Fit Adventure is their latest attempt to break into that scene on the Nintendo Switch. Ring Fit Adventure is an RPG adventure where you move around the world by running in place, and attack monsters by completing exercises using a specially designed pilates band. The story isn’t anything to write home about, but its good enough to help motivate players to complete a short workout every day. 

Untitled Goose Game

(Honk)… A PC game that charmed the Internet with its simplicity, Untitled Goose Game is best described (without spoilers) as an environmental puzzle game. You are a goose, with the mind of mischief and the talents of a… goose. You have a list of things to do, and no idea how to do them. Our advice is to pick it up on Steam as a gift for the holidays and enjoy the mayhem. 


Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled

Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled is a painstakingly crafted remaster of several Crash Team Racing games that were released on PS1 and PS2. This is a challenging cart racer that will be a big hit with fans of Mario Kart 8 that are looking for more challenge. This a feature rich remaster with 31 tracks, numerous cosmetic items, and a full-fledged story mode. It’s definitely worth looking into for your family. 

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Luigi doesn’t get the spotlight very often. That honor is normally reserved for his brother Mario. The Luigi’s Mansion series is the exception. These spooky adventures feature Luigi while he tries to rescue his lost brother from King Boo. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is out now for the Switch and includes a lot more variety in the environments because it takes place in a massive haunted hotel. This will be a great game for kids who love to explore and solve puzzles. (Note: This game is definitely more silly than it is spooky so don’t be super concerned about kids getting scared.)


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!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

It’s that time of year again. Finding great gifts for people can be tough. Here are some of our PlayStation 4 recommendations for the kids in your life!

Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts 3 is the culmination of a story that has been being told since the PS2 era. The story doesn’t make much sense to anyone who hasn’t played all of the games, but that doesn’t really matter too much. The real draw is the opportunity to explore Disney worlds and battle evil alongside characters like Buzz Lightyear and Elsa. This is a complex game, and has its share of flaws, but the spectacle is worth the price of entry alone. 

MLB The Show 19

Baseball fans have only one place to go when it comes to playing as their favorite players and teams on their home consoles. MLB The Show is a long-running series that is always a hit with fans. This year included several significant upgrades on the defensive end. Skilled players are more likely to make great plays on D than ever before. The Road to the Show is still here and it is, essentially, a baseball RPG. 

Madden 20

Time marches on. Years pass. Seasons come and go. New Madden games come out. This might sound like a complaint, but it’s not. Madden releases every year like clockwork to the delight of video game loving football fans. Madden 20 includes a new Face of the Franchise mode where you play a high school quarterback who is recruited into college, plays through the NCAA Football playoffs, and is drafted into the NFL. This replaced the Longshot mode from the last few years, but is a welcome addition. 

FIFA 20

Soccer (Football for our international readers) is the most popular sport on Earth. It stands to reason then that the digital version would be wildly successful as well. If your kids play soccer, then they likely have this game on their wish lists every year. I can’t say that I blame them. FIFA does amazing work each year in crafting as authentic and fun of an experience that they can. This year’s biggest addition is the Volta football mode which celebrates the street soccer. Its wild, and exciting… everything a true fan would want to see. 

NBA2K20

The NBA2k series may be part RPG and part basketball simulation, but it is all one big celebration of basketball culture. Every kilobyte of data built into this game is there to help basketball fans party together while experiencing their favorite sport. The music, the style, the storylines – they are all here. And they come included with a technical marvel of a basketball game that lets you take on the role of your favorite star, or beat them to the hoop with your own. 

Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled

Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled is a painstakingly crafted remaster of several Crash Team Racing games that were released on PS1 and PS2. This is a challenging cart racer that will be a big hit with fans of Mario Kart 8 that are looking for more challenge. This a feature rich remaster with 31 tracks, numerous cosmetic items, and a full-fledged story mode. It’s definitely worth looking into for your family. 

Yooka Laylee and The Impossible Lair

Playtonic is a studio made up of former Rare developers who worked on the legendary Banjo Kazooie franchise. They reunited a few years back to release Yooka Laylee thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. The game itself was not very well received. But, the success of the crowdfunding campaign sent the message that people were hungry enough that they should try again. Fortunately, they did! Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair is wonderful new game that embraces the joy of the first game, but plays in 2D like a Donkey Kong Country game. This is a budget title so it is a wonderful gift idea for families looking so save some money (or get an extra game without paying for a full priced game).

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

EA has held the exclusive rights to make Star Wars games for years, but their efforts have been lackluster so far. This is especially true for fans who want to play single-player, story-focused games. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is just the panacea that those fans need. It features exciting lightsaber combat, a cute droid, multiple planets to explore, and a canonical story. This is definitely one to keep your eye on for the Star Wars fan in your house!

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!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

People buy a lot of games. That can make it incredibly challenging for those of us that want to buy cool games for the gamers in our lives. Fortunately, every console (including PC) has a subscription subscription service. These make “practical” gifts that will always be appreciated.

These services  can all be purchased for various lengths of time to accommodate your budget. You don’t even need to worry about whether they are subscribed or not. `You can purchase a subscription card for them and the time will be added to the end of their existing subscription!

Take a look at the options below to see what you might need!

PlayStation Plus

PlayStation Plus is a subscription service for PlayStation that is required in order to play online multiplayer games over the PlayStation Network. The service also includes periodic discounts on digital purchases through the PlayStation Network. It also includes a suite of free PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3, PlayStation  Vita, and PlayStation VR games that are available for free each month.

(We wrote a parent’s guide for PlayStation Plus. Take a look here for a full explanation!)

PlayStation Now

PlayStation Now (PSNow) is a Netflix-esque streaming service for PlayStation 4 and PC. Subscribers have unlimited access to stream a collection of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games over the internet on their PlayStation 4 console or PC.

Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass is a service that allows unlimited downloads of a wide range of games on the Xbox One for a relatively low monthly fee.

We wrote a parent’s guide to Xbox Game Pass. Take a look here for a full explanation!)

Xbox Live Gold

Xbox Live Gold is a subscription service for Xbox that is required in order to play online multiplayer games over Xbox Live. The service also includes periodic discounts on digital purchases through the Xbox Marketplace. It also includes a suite of free Xbox One and Xbox 360 games that are available for free each month.

(We wrote a parent’s guide to this service. Take a look here for a full explanation!)

EA Access

EA Access is an Xbox One exclusive subscription service run by Electronic Arts that gives subscribers early access to EA games, discounts on digital purchases, and access to the “EA Vault.”

(We wrote a parent’s guide to this service. Take a look here for a full explanation!)

EA Origins Access

Origins Access is a PC subscription service run by Electronic Arts that gives subscribers early access to EA games, discounts on digital purchases, and access to the “Origins Vault.”

(We wrote a parent’s guide to this service. Take a look here for a full explanation!)

Nintendo Switch Online

Nintendo Switch online is a service that allows online multiplayer for Nintendo Switch games as well as cloud saves, and a suite of NES games.

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!

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Family Board Game Review: Tiny Ninjas

Tiny Ninjas is a heads-up two player card game where players take turns playing ninja cards in an attempt to deal damage to their opponent. One of its coolest features is a transforming game box that not only stores the game components, but makes it portable so you can take your ninja battle anywhere (even in the car!)

How Do You Play?

Players are dealt five card hands. They then take turns as the either attacker or the defender as they play cards into the arena. The attacked goes first by playing a card, follower by the defender. Then the damage is resolved by comparing the two cards (and any associated die rolls). The attacker can continue to play cards from their hand to try and deal extra damage, but they have to be careful because the player on defense can draw back up to their starting hand size when they switch roles, but the attacker cannot. That hand management is crucial.

The Tiny Ninjas website features several wonderful how to play videos that are even highlighted in their rulebook.

Components

Tiny Ninjas is meant to be a portable board game experience so everything is made with that in mind. The box would likely survive being hit by a car (although we didn’t specifically test that). The cards are of great quality that won’t bend easily. The custom dice are large enough that they are easy to find when dropped in the back seat of a car (we did, unfortunately, test that).

The component list includes the following:

58 Ninja cards
2 reference cards
1 shuriken die
1 kunai die
2 connector walls
2 health dials
4 sensei markers
1 transforming game box
1 rulebook

Is it a kid’s game?

The box says the game is for ages 8+ and I agree. In fact, I think game savvy kids could play this game at any age as long as they are familiar with numbers.

Tiny Ninjas does include an advanced rule set that will need to be reserved for more skilled players/readers, but the base game has very little reading at all.

Will kids want to play it?

We live in a world that is crowded by two player card combat games that cover all sorts of themes. Tiny Ninjas does a great job of battling its way to the top of the heap.

First, it is impossible to talk about this game without addressing the art style. Put simply, we loved it. Ninjas will always be a hit in our house, but the Tiny Ninjas took things to another level. My youngest was actually disappointed to find out that it wasn’t a licensed game with a Netflix show to binge watch. The characters all share the same template (tiny body, giant round head), but they were still infused with personality.

Second, Tiny Ninjas is surprisingly deep. I mentioned hand management above, but it is worth mentioning again. Managing your hand to ensure that you are applying pressure to your opponent while also leaving yourself cards to defend yourself is very important. The cards don’t all deal static amounts of damage, because of their reliance on dice rolls. This means that, at any time, your opponent could draw into a very explosive hand. It is incredibly risky to empty your entire hand on offense. As we play tested the game for our review, we found that there was never a right answer. The different card combinations kept anyone from “solving” the game.

Lastly, we really enjoyed the fact that this small box included, essentially, two games in one. The advanced ninja rules add another layer of depth by allowing players to use more complex ninja cards and play with cool Sensei Abilities. These add even more complex decision to the gameplay.

Conclusion

Tiny Ninjas is a great addition to your board game collection. I particularly recommend it for families looking for additional options on long road trips. The transforming box is made of thick cardboard and easily set up in the back set of a car to keep kids occupied without electronic devices.

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Tips for Playing Dungeons and Dragons with Kids!

A lot of gamer parents ask us about how to get started with playing tabletop RPGs with their kids. In fact, we’ve given (and heard) so much advice that we thought we would just put it all down on a page and publish it here on EFG!

This list isn’t the be all and end all for playing RPGs with your children, but this is going to be a great place to start. Take a look below, and make sure to let us know in the comments if we missed anything.

Note: Most of the text here will refer to Dungeons and Dragons, but the majority of these tips will be applicable to any tabletop RPG out there.

Start with a Kid-focused RPG

Lots of gamers have dreamed of playing Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs with their kids for years. It stands to reason that some of those gamers would design their own games to help fill in that void. Darcy Zalewski from the Stay at Home Gamers suggested playing some of those games first!

Some examples include:

Hero Kids

No Thank You, Evil by Monte Cook Games

The Tales of Equestria Tabletop RPG

Establish The Ground Rules

Lots of tabletop RPGs are full of rules, charts, and tables to search through to help understand how to play the game. But, those aren’t as important as the general rules for playing at your table.

You will likely have your own rules, but some suggestions are below:

  1. Respect is key. Make sure to respect your fellow players and the DM.
  2. Be courteous.
  3. Don’t draw in, or rip up game books that are loaned to you. Treat them like your own toys.
  4. No cussing or inappropriate jokes.
  5. If everyone isn’t having fun, then no one is!

Focus on Shared Storytelling

A lot of folks assume that the story comes from the DM, but that’s actually untrue. At the end of the day tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons are collaborative storytelling games. This means that everyone is working together to make an interesting story. I think it is important make sure kids understand that.

The story isn’t just happening TO them. It is happening AROUND them. Let them describe their actions whenever possible. Encourage them to talk about how their character does the things they are doing. That adds layers to the experience for everybody!

Let Them Drive (Unless They Aren’t)

It is important to let the kids drive the bus. They might take wrong turns, get hyper-focused on something weird, or kick your sandbox over in any number of cruel, unusual, and exciting ways. Let them do it. As long as they are engaged and enjoying the experience you have won!

With that said, Dungeons and Dragons depends on the players to direct the action. The stories expect the players to move forward, find clues, and discover the solutions. Kids (and even inexperienced players) can have trouble with that. Which means their indecisions can stagnate the experience for everyone. You, as the DM, are the only person who can fix that.

There are lots of great Dungeons and Dragons Products out there, and lots of them have previews online. Make sure to check out what they can add to your campaign!

Keep It Short!

Adults that play Dungeons and Dragons can play for hours without real breaks. We often brag about marathon gaming sessions. That isn’t going to be possible with younger kids. They just don’t have the attention span to focus on these games for long periods of time.

Instead, make sure to plan for your gaming sessions to be more compact and to take more breaks. You won’t make as much “progress” through stories (especially if you are using adventure modules), but they will be more engaged in the experience.

If You’re Going to Go Big – Bring a Co-GM

Rob Kalajian of A Pawn’s Perspective regularly runs a game for ten kids. (WHOA!) He loves it, but he has found that it would be impossible without the help of his wife who co-DMs with him. This lets him focus on the story and the creatures while his wife helps make sure the kids are ready to take their turns. It minimizes downtime and ensures that kids get more direct attention from a GM.

Have (Quiet) Fidget Toys!

Kids will often have a VERY difficult time sitting still for a long time without fidgeting. Dice are terrible fidget toys because they are loud, and they can get lost easily. (Nothing is more distracting than a handful of kids rolling dice and dropping them on the ground.)

Make sure you have a small collection of quiet fidget toys on hand to give them something to fuss with. Some great suggestions are fidget spinners (that you can probably get for super cheap since the fad is over) and Play-Doh.

Simplify The Game!

Dungeons and Dragons is pretty complicated. You can take steps to simplify it though. Some examples of things you can do are:

  • Only give them the dice they need. A player will very likely only needs 2-3 different dice in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition (the most recent one).
  • Create a cheat sheet to go along with their character sheet that explains in simple terms what they should do when the
You don’t need to invent your own adventures either! There are plenty of pre-made adventures available!

Don’t Make Them Manage Their Stuff

Kids are notorious for losing things or failing to take care of them correctly. And, nothing can set a game back like a player having to find a new mini or to craft a new character sheet. The best way to solve that problem according to John Christopher over at Wooden Shoe Games is to collect their character sheets at the end of the session. That keeps organization nice and simple.

You could even store all of those character sheets in a binder with some sheet protectors. They’ll be virtually indestructible.

Make Sure the Villain Is AWESOME!

Treavor Bettis and Allie Deutschmann from the Difficulty Class Podcast both emphatically told me that villains for kids need to be cool. They don’t necessarily need to be interesting and nuanced like villains for adult players though. They can, and should, be completely over the top!

What do you all think? What tips do you have for playing tabletop RPGs with kids? Let us know in the comments!

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!

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Is Grand Theft Auto V Ok For Kids?

Grand Theft Auto V was developed by Rockstar Games and published by Take 2 Interactive on September 17, 2013. It was originally released on the PS3 and Xbox 360, but it has since been ported to the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. There are even rumors of an upcoming port to the Nintendo Switch (although those rumors have yet to be substantiated).

GTAV is easily one of the most popular games on Earth and it is infamously M-rated for violence, sexual content, etc. Even when you consider its legendary place as a mature game I STILL get questions about whether or not people should let their kids play.

So, without further delay, here is my answer to the question: Is Grand Theft Auto V ok for kids?

First, I want to refer folks to the ESRB. They rate is as M for Mature and have given it the following rating summary:

In this open-world action game, players assume the role of three criminals whose storylines intersect within the fictional city of Los Santos. Players can switch between each character to follow his storyline, completing missions which often include criminal activities (e.g., stealing cars, executing heists, assassinating targets). Players use pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles, and explosives to kill various enemies (e.g., rival gang members); players also have the ability to shoot non-adversary civilians, though this may negatively affect players’ progress as a penalty system triggers a broad police search. Blood-splatter effects occur frequently, and the game contains rare depictions of dismemberment. In one sequence, players are directed to use various instruments and means (e.g., pipe wrench, tooth removal, electrocution) to extract information from a character; the sequence is intense and prolonged, and it involves some player interaction (i.e., responding to on-screen prompts). The game includes depictions of sexual material/activity: implied fellatio and masturbation; various sex acts that the player’s character procures from a prostitute—while no nudity is depicted in these sequences, various sexual moaning sounds can be heard. Nudity is present, however, primarily in two settings: a topless lap dance in a strip club and a location that includes male cult members with exposed genitalia in a non-sexual context. Within the game, TV programs and radio ads contain instances of mature humor: myriad sex jokes; depictions of raw sewage and feces on a worker’s body; a brief instance of necrophilia (no nudity is depicted). Some sequences within the larger game allow players to use narcotics (e.g., smoking from a bong, lighting a marijuana joint); cocaine use is also depicted. Players’ character can, at various times, consume alcohol and drive while under the influence. The words “f**k,” “c*nt,” and “n**ger” can be heard in the dialogue.


As you can see, GTAV is full of content that is inappropriate for kids.

To put my answer another way:

What do you think? Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments!

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Kickstarter Preview – Empty Space

Empty Space is a set collection card game about exploring the vastness of space and, ultimately, landing a rocket on an exoplanet.

It is currently live on Kickstarter. The campaign is asking for less than $2,000 US. That is a very modest goal, and one that they should meet. This is a very cool game.

Empty Space doesn’t have a board. Instead, you deal out an array of cards from the deck in whatever shape you want. It is best to start with a 4 x 6 grid with 4 exoplanet cards on one side, but you (or your kids!) can get wild with it and create all kinds of cool shapes.

On their turn, each player has a choice to either research or explore.

  • Researching consists of drawing cards from a deck blindly or choosing from a pair of revealed cards (similarly to Ticket to Ride).
  • Exploring consists of attempting to move your probe or rocket onto and across the various cards that on the array you created at the beginning of the game.

You’re trying to do a number of things by choosing between those steps and you need to balance them carefully.

  • All of the cards in the array start face down, with the exception of a few that are chosen at the beginning of the game. Players discard non-matched pairs of cards to peek at the cards or flip them over.
  • Building a probe for exploration and a rocket to eventually fly to the exoplanet you discovered requires discarding sets of four matching colored cards.
  • You can “shape the universe” and block your opponent or help yourself by discarding three matched cards. This is, in my opinion, one of the hardest decisions you’ll make as a player. You really have to be careful messing with your opponents because it can bit you in the end by making your own path more complicated.

Our whole family enjoyed Empty Space for different reasons. My oldest enjoyed the map variety and has suggested a whole bunch of differently shaped arrays. My youngest likes the ease of exploration (and messing with her brothers by putting black holes in their path). I just like a simple game that all of us can play together without any real difficulty.

Our friends at the Stay at Home Gamersgot their hands on Empty Space as well! I was able to watch their family of four play the game on a live stream. Their experience confirmed my thoughts. Their kids loved the experience and were chattering the whole time.

I love how easy it is to modify the difficulty of Empty Space. We can make it a little easier when playing with the kids and increase the difficulty when playing with only adults.

Darcy – Stay at Home Gamers

I agree with Darcy on this one. One of Empty Space’s strengths is that is plays well among different age groups. Younger kids can play it together and enjoy it without much intervention from parents or older siblings. Families with mixed skill levels can enjoy it as well.

The campaign will be live on Kickstarter for a little while longer and is definitely worth a look. Head on over!

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!

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E3 2019 – Dragon Quest Builders 2

Dragon Quest Builders was a title that first came across our radar as a humble PS4 title with big ambitions. The game utilizes the beautiful art style of Akira Toriyama (Of Dragon Quest, Dragon Ball, and Chrono Trigger fame), blending it with Minecraft style construction and level design, on top of Dragon Quest RPG. The sequel was debuted at Square Enix’s E3 2019 presentation and seeks to top even those lofty goals. Dragon Quest as a series has always been a mainstay in the RPG genre, being one of the few games with a lineage going all the way back to the original NES.


The Dragon Quest Builders series paints itself in a much lighter tone than the Dragon Quest series.  Specifically, Dragon Quest Builders 2 integrates co-op multiplayer that shows promise for both epic exploration, combat, and construction to put it in league with Minecraft in terms of its possibilities. Unlike Minecraft though, the story of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is meant to also serve as a tutorial and narrative focus for its block based construction.  This is in contrast to the much more open world that is traditional Minecraft. The play dynamic will give some structure to keep the sprawling options presented in a meaningful way and keep the more casual fan engaged in the gameplay.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 is slated to be released on all major platforms on July 12th to both the PS4 and the Switch. It is built for a very specific audience in mind, but for that audience, this looks to be a stellar experience.

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!

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