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Stephen Duetzmann

We talk a lot about flashy video games and freshly released board games on EFG, but today I want to take a moment to share the instructions for one of my family’s absolute favorite card games.

We spend a lot of time playing Frustration as a family, especially on family vacations. We laugh. We yell. We talk a lot of trash. (Of course we do. I’m there.)

The best part? You and your family can share in a little bit of our fun without needing more than a couple decks of dollar store playing cards.

Cards Required

  • 4 players – 2 standard playing card decks with 4 jokers
  • 5-6 players – 3 standard playing card decks with 6 jokers
  • Wild Cards – Jokers and Dueces

Rules

  • Deal 11 cards to each person for each hand.
  • A players turn begins by drawing the top card from the deck or the discard pile.
  • The player may then “meld” if they have the appropriate cards for the step they are on
  • Then they discard a card from their hand. Note: A player MUST have a discard at the end of their turn. There are no exceptions.
  • If a player “melds” and completes a step they will then be playing to “Go Out.” This ends the hand.
  • Each Step must be made by a player during a hand to advance to the next step. For example, if a player completes a step and then goes out and you did not, then you will remain on the same step and they will move forward.
  • All 11 steps must be completed to win – if more than one player completes the 11 steps during the hand, the lowest scoring hand wins.

Steps

Book – Groups of cards of the same number. Suit does not matter.

Run – Groups of cards where the numbers are in descending or ascending order. They must be the same suit.

Note – You must have more natural cards in a book or run than Wild cards. You cannot even have the same number.

  • Step 1 – 2 Books of 3 cards
  • Step 2 – 2 Runs of 3 cards
  • Step 3 – 1 Run of 4 cards and 1 Book of 3 cards
  • Step 4 – 2 Books of 4 cards
  • Step 5 – 1 Run of 5 cards and 1 Book of 3
  • Step 6 – 3 Books of 3 cards
  • Step 7 – 1 Run of 7 cards
  • Step 8 – 1 Run of 6 cards and 1 Book of 3 cards
  • Step 9 – 2 Runs of 4 cards
  • Step 10 – 2 Books of 5 cards
  • Step 11 – 1 Run of 9 Cards

Notes

  • A wild card may be replaced in any run (but not books) with the card it represents, but only if the wild card can be used to meld in that turn.
  • Additional melds of 3 cards can be player and more cards can be played on other melds after a player has completed their step meld.

What do you think? Are you going to play our family favorite? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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One thing that a LOT of homebound families have been doing these last few weeks is puzzles. I’ve seen so many pictures of happy families smiling over completed jigsaw puzzles I could burst! But, I know a lot of families out there might be getting frustrated! Some of those puzzles are tough.

Puzzles are a big deal in our family. My mom would ALWAYS have a puzzle on the dining room table if she didn’t need the surface for other things. She loves to build puzzles with her kids and grandkids so I thought to myself, “Who better to consult with than the master?”

So, without further delay, here are some tips from the puzzle master herself!

  • Place all pieces on the table face up
  • Sort for outside edges.
  • Figure out the main color themes of the puzzle
  • Sort the pieces by color (this is a great job for younger puzzlers!)
  • Fit all outside edges together to make a frame if you can
  • Work on large swaths of color or obvious shapes
  • Keep completing shapes until you feel like you have most of the obvious ones put together
  • Sort those shapes by size
  • Consult the picture on the box when you get stuck
  • Look for clues – letters, straight edges, faces
  • When you get stuck? Move on and try another area.
  • Share the experience and work as a team!
  • Don’t give up! All puzzles have a solution!

Did these tips make you want to grab a puzzle for yourself? Head to this Amazon link and grab one (or ten)!


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

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When Will Minecraft Dungeons Be released?

Minecraft Dungeons is going to be released on May 26, 2020.

It will have a simultaneous launch on Xbox One, Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4.

How much will it cost?

Minecraft Dungeons – Standard Edition will be available for $19.99 USD. 

Minecraft Dungeons – Hero Edition will also be available for $29.99 USD. This is a deluxe bundle that will come with a number of cosmetic items that include a Hero Cape, two player skins, and a chicken pet (The chicken pet is probably worth the price increase on its own). The hero edition will also include two DLC packs at no additional charge once they are released. WILL MINECRAFT DUNGEONS BE INCLUDED IN XBOX GAME PASS? 

Minecraft Dungeons – Standard Edition will also be available as part of your families Xbox Game Pass membership. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members will have access on both console and Windows PC.

Xbox Game Pass members will also receive a 10% on related Minecraft Dungeons DLC.

So… What is it?

First off: No it isn’t a Minecraft expansion. This is an entirely separate game set in the Minecraft universe that features a different camera perspective and a different combat style.

Minecraft Dungeons is an action-adventure game set in the Minecraft universe inspired by classic dungeon crawlers like Gauntlet and Diablo. Players will battle new-and-nasty mobs across varied levels in either single player or up to four-player co-op in a quest to defeat the evil Arch-Illager.

What about Multiplayer?

Minecraft Dungeons will feature online and local multiplayer for up to four players. The number of players will help influence the difficulty, the loot, and the enemy count to make sure every will be having a fun and rewarding gameplay experience. 

Will it have Crossplay?

You´ll be able to play online multiplayer with players on the same platform at launch. They’ll be adding cross platform multiplayer at a later date with a free update.

How do you play it?

Minecraft Dungeons features a real time battle system that is very reminiscent of games like Gauntlet and Diablo. Gameplay is designed around encouraging players to experiment with different fighting styles, weapons, and enchantments.

There are no character classes in Minecraft Dungeons. Instead, you build your character around the powerful items, artifacts, and weapons that you equip.

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


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Bubble Bobble was originally released by Taito back in 1986. I still remember renting it and trying to get to the end with my younger brother. Bubble Bobble 4 Friends revisits the core structure of the original while adapting it beautifully to the Switch.

The core gameplay loop is the same as it has always been. You play an adorable dinosaur-monster that bounces around levels blowing bubbles. You can bounce on them OR use those bubbles to capture enemies. The primary difference is that now it earns the 4 in the title by allowing up to four players to play at once.

The levels are plentiful and the challenge curve is great. I loved the early levels that I could share with my daughter without any real trouble. Later levels were a bit much for her, but she still stuck it out to play with her old man.

I really enjoyed what I played of it, but the bulk of that enjoyment was grounded in the past. I felt myself longing for the past as opposed to fully enjoying the present. It just didn’t do enough differently to make me hungry to play it for a long time. That isn’t to say that it is bad. It is well made, and looks wonderful, (Seriously. Screenshots betray its toy-like animation.) but it falls short of greatness because it plays it safe sticking to a tried and true formula.

Can a kid play this game?

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is not a difficult game to play. Your move set as your adorable dinosaur. You jump, you blow bubbles, and you bounce on top of bubbles to climb onto higher platforms. That’s it. It also is a fully 2D game so you only move left to right.

The feature that makes this game even easier for younger gamers to pick up is the 4-player multiplayer. The game is plenty chaotic, but having more players means there are more people to help catch you when you are about to lose a life.

There is also next to zero reading in this game. Even the youngest of gamers will be able to play without any trouble.

Another feature that needs to be mentioned is the invincibility mechanic that unlocks after you fail a level three times. I’m glad to see that this has been more widely adopted because it is a great tool for allowing younger players explore the mechanics of a game and get some practice in without having to restart over and over.

Should a kid play this game?

This is one of the most wholesome games I have ever seen. I have a difficult time imagining any parent having an issue here. Players defeat enemies by trapping them in bubbles and bouncing into them.

The ESRB has rated Bubble Bobble 4 Friends “E for Everyone. “

This is an action platformer in which players control small dinosaurs through whimsical levels. Players defeat small enemies and bosses by trapping them in bubbles in order to progress. Bubbles often burst, causing enemies to turn into fruit; boss battles show characters getting charred after oversized bombs explode.


ESRB.com

Conclusion

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends won’t win any game of the year awards, but it is a cute blast of nostalgia for fans of the original on NES that lets us play with our kids as opposed to taking turns with them.


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

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the biggest games of the year. LOTS of families are picking it up and it can be hard to figure out what to do next sometimes. The EFG staff has pooled our collective knowledge and put together a list of tips for new players. Take a look below (and comment if you think we should include something)!

You can also check out our multiplayer explanation and a story about sharing an island.

The Basics

  • Weeds grow on your island every morning. It can be tedious, but make sure that you pick them every day. They can be used for lots of useful things like:
    • Hay beds. 20 Clumps of weeds = one Hay bed that you can sell for 400 bells. 
    • Medicine (Weeds and a Wasp Nest)
    • Various crafting recipes
  • You can shake trees and gather the fruit that drops. You can then sell that fruit to Timmy and Tommy. Be aware that sometimes shaking trees will drop a beehive or a wasp nest. Be ready to run away (or catch them with a new!)
  • Make sure to go to the beach every day to gather shells and bottles. You can sell the shells to Timmy and Tommy. The bottles contain DIY recipes. 
  • More resource gathering becomes available after you craft your tools.  You can use your net to catch bugs, your fishing pole to catch fish, and your shovel to hit rocks and to dig up fossils. 
  • Make sure you are grabbing branches when you see them. They are very important for making simple tools (and replacing broken ones). All of your simple tools aside from the vaulting pole and ladder will break over time.  
  • Make sure you are grabbing branches when you see them. They are very important for making simple tools (and replacing broken ones). All of your simple tools aside from the vaulting pole and ladder will break over time.  
  • Try to make one of every recipe you have access to. This will help complete Nook Miles tickets. 
  • The first thing to spend your Nook Miles on is your initial home/tent loan. After that you should target increased inventory space. Having more room in your bags will make almost every part of Animal Crossing better/easier. 
  • You can hit rocks with an axe or a shovel. Hitting rocks will give you clay, iron nuggets, and sometimes gold. There is even a rock on the island every day that will give you bells. If you dig holes behind you when you hit the rocks, then you won’t be knocked back and it will help you get the resources faster. Nuggets and clay are important to craft DIY items and advanced tools.

Advanced Tips


  • Visit your friends and have them visit you! This is a great way to share resources and earn Nook Miles and bells. 
  • The first “loan” you have to pay off in Animal Crossing is paid back in Nook Miles. This forces you to participate in a wide range of different activities. You need to earn 5000 Nook Miles to pay it off the first time. After that the loans will be paid in bells (like in previous games). 
  • You unlock “Nook Miles+” after you pay off your first loan.  These are relatively small tasks/challengers compared to regular Nook Miles challenges. They are replaced upon completion so you can grind them for rewards if you need to. They also give you some sense of direction when you are overwhelmed with different activities. 
  • Talk to EVERYONE. Talking to your villagers every day will help you earn NOOK miles over time. They may even give you items like DIY recipes, clothing, or decorations. 
  • Visit the NOOK ATM every day.  Visiting the NOOK ATM every day will help you earn NOOK miles over time. 

Tips for Remote Island Tours


  • Prepare yourself before you go to a remote island using a Nook Ticket. Be sure to empty your inventory except for:
    • Vaulting pole
    • Shovel
    • Net
    • Fishing pole
    • Axe
  • Remote islands don’t belong to other players so it is alright to take all of the resources. So make sure you take everything that you can to make the most of your Nook Ticket (They’re expensive). You will also NEVER return to the same island twice. 
  • Keep in mind that you can craft replacement items for flimsy tools you break. 
  • If the remote island has trees that you do not have, then eat the fruit you have found on the island and use your shovel to dig the tree up. You can then plant that tree on your island. This will help you earn bells and Nook Miles.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know if we missed anything!

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The American Tabletop Awards are awards given to board games that were released in the previous calendar year. The awards committee is comprised of a number of talented and experience board games media specialists.

The awards are given in four categories: Early Gamers, Casual Games, Strategy Games, and Complex Games.

The 2020 American Tabletop Award Awards have been announced. Here are the winners.

Early Gamers

Winner – Draftosaurus

Designers: Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, Théo Rivière
Publisher: Ankama

Your goal in Draftosaurus is to have the dino park most likely to attract visitors. To do so, you have to draft dino meeples and place them in pens that have some placement restrictions. Each turn, one of the players roll a die and this adds a constraint to which pens any other player can add their dinosaur.

American Tabletop Awards

Casual Games

Winner – Ship Shape

Designer: Rob Daviau
Publisher: Calliope Games

Set sail for fun, adventure, and riches with ShipShape! This game is about outwitting and outbidding all others to earn the biggest bounty while keeping your hold shipshape! As a savvy captain, you must skillfully use your crew to fill your ship’s hold with the best combination of treasure, cannons, and perhaps some risky – but lucrative – contraband. Over three voyages, use numbered crew cards to bid for crates off the central stack. Score coins by comparing your holds with everyone else, looking only at what’s visible in your hold!

American Tabletop Awards

Strategy Games

Winner

Wingspan

Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave
Publisher: Stonemaier Games

Wingspan is a competitive bird-collection, engine-building Game for 1-5 players. You are bird enthusiasts researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your aviary. Each bird extends a chain of powerful combinations in one of your habitats (actions). these habitats focus on several key aspects of growth: gain food tokens via custom dice in a birdfeeder dice tower. Lay eggs using egg miniatures in a variety of colors draw from hundreds of unique bird cards and play them the winner is the player with the most points accumulated from birds, bonus cards, end-of-round goals, eggs, cached food, and tucked birds.

American Tabletop Awards

Complex Games

Winner

The Taverns of Tiefenthal

Designer: Wolfgang Warsch
Publisher: North Star Games

In the village of Tiefenthal lies “The Tavern of the Deep Valley”. There, all citizens from the area gather, but it’s important to attract new, wealthy guests for only then is there enough money to expand the tavern, which will then lure nobles into the tavern as well. But which tavern expansion is best? Should you focus on money? Or rather ensure that the beer will keep flowing?

American Tabletop Awards

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

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Microsoft is giving away free Minecraft Education content to help with distance learning for kids that are out of school thanks to Covid-19.

Microsoft, the company that owns Minecraft, announced that they have added a new category to the Minecraft Marketplace that includes content meant to help supplement learning on a variety of subjects. The content includes things like a model of the human eye and a very detailed map of Washington DC.

Educators around the world are doing everything they can to provide digital lessons for the half a billion students who are out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not an easy task and we want to do our part to help keep young minds sharp and stimulated. 

Microsoft

All of this new content is free to download from the Microsoft Marketplace until June 30, 2020.

What do you think? Are you and your kids going to take advantage? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Check out our review here!) released on March, 20, 2020. One of the features that players are bound to be excited about is the multiplayer. There is just something about teaming up with your your friends and running around a village in Animal Crossing and it looks like New Horizons is going to give players some great options.

There are two different ways to play with other people. Take a look below to see how they work.

One Switch

Each Nintendo Switch can have a single Animal Crossing: New Horizons deserted island. Each account can have a different island resident with their own home. Up to four of those players can play on the island simultaneously (with separate joy-cons and controllers) using the local multiplayer option.

This is accomplished by one of the players starting Animal Crossing, accessing their NookPhone (Using the ZL button) and “calling” the other players who live on the island using the “Call Islander” app.

The player who does the calling is the Leader and everyone else is a follower. The leader controls the camera, and can access menus while the followers have to stay on the same screen as the leader. Likewise, the leader is the only one who can access their pockets. Followers can catch fish, bugs, fruit, and wood but those items end up in the recycle bin near the Resident Services building to retrieve later.

This seems limiting, but it is very easy to change who the leader is using the NookPhone menus.

Up to Eight Switches

Up to eight people can play Animal Crossing: New Horizons using separate Switches. This can be done locally using the Local Play options or Online.

Players access this option by visiting their deserted island’s airport and talking to the Dodo bird. He will give you multiple options for opening up your island to visitors.

All my friends!

If you select the “All My Friends” option, then anyone that you are friends with on the Nintendo Switch that also has a Nintendo Switch online membership will be able to visit your town.

Only my Best Friends

You can designate visiting players as Best Friends using the Best Friends app on your in game Nook Phone. If they are Best Friends, then they CAN use tools like axes and shovels. Be sure to explain this difference to your kids to avoid trolling or innocent accidents.

Once you have people on your Best Friends list you can choose the “Only My Best Friends” option which limits the people who can come to your island to just Best Friends.

Invite via Dodo Code!

The Dodo Code is essentially a password that you set up to let people enter your game that you might not already be friends with on Switch. Anyone who has the Dodo Code can enter the island so you definitely want to make sure that your kids only use it sparingly.

Why Play Online With Other People Anyway?

At first glance, Animal Crossing: New Horizons doesn’t look like an online game. You’re just a cute little person running around a deserted island. But, its definitely not intended to be a purely solo experience.

Playing with other people is helpful for a few reasons beyond just being social and seeing other people’s creations.

  • You and other players can trade decorations, tools, resources, and fruit
  • Each fruit that you plant on your island will help you complete a Nook Miles ticket.

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

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We’re all going to be stuck indoors for a while, so this is a great opportunity to play one of the MMOs that you have always been meaning to try, but never had the time.

Free to Play MMOs

Some of the best MMOs on the market are free to play right now. Many of them are supported with in-game purchases like cosmetics and experience boosts, but they can be downloaded and played from front to back without spending money. These are a great option if you want to dive in, but don’t have the money to throw down for a new video game right now.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars is, obviously, a very big deal right now. The Old Republic is an MMO that has been around for a while (it released in 2011), but it still receives updates and has an active community (nearly 200,000 users a day). The story takes place long before the movies and explores one of the cooler parts of the Star Wars timeline. If you or your kids are big into Star Wars, then this is going to be a good choice.

Star Trek: Online

Star Trek Online has about 100,000 monthly active players and has been around since 2010. This MMO gives you the chance to become your own Star Fleet captain with your own ship to command. There are quests that explore all of the major Star Trek storylines from the shows and the movies and lots of original content, too. Trekkies shouldn’t sleep on this one.

Guild Wars 2

GW2 has a very active user base with almost 350,000 daily users. It has a very immersive story that responds to player choice. It is a fun, high fantasy game with cool interesting races to choose from. You play as a member of a guild of adventurers who are gathering to hold off a group of ancient dragons from destroying the world.

Old School RuneScape

“Old School Runescape” was released in 2013 and has been receiving continuous support since it launched. It started as just being a relaunch of the 2007 version of the game, but its wild success has led to graphics overhauls, and new quality of life improvements. This version of Runescape is even bigger than the original with more than 2 million daily users.

Free (For Now)

Dungeons and Dragons Online

Dungeons and Dragons Online is exactly what the title says it is: an MMO build using the Dungeons and Dragons races, classes, and themes. This is a free to start game that is supported with DLC content packs that includes raids, challenges and dungeons. The developer has announced that, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, they are making the game and its content completely free for a limited period of time. The details are listed below:

  • All dungeons and raids, including those in expansion packs, are open to everyone through April 30.
  • The Buddy Bonus 5% XP will be active from March 20 through March 29. This will be in addition to the weekend events.
  • Mimic event will be active starting March 26 through April 6.
  • The anniversary event will be active starting March 26 through April 30.

Lord of the Rings Online

Lord of the Rings Online is an MMO that was originally released in 2007. It is a very lore heavy dive into the world of Lord of the Rings and is a great story to play through if you are a fan of the movies OR the books. It is a free to start game that is supported by DLC packs that include raids, quests, and “skirmishes.” The developer has announced that, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, they are making the game and its content completely free for a limited period of time. The details are listed below:

  • All quests, instances, and skirmishes, including those in expansion packs, are open to everyone through April 30.
  • The Curator will be returning starting March 26 through April 30.
  • There will be a 10% virtue XP boost starting on March 26 through April 6.
  • The Baggins’ Birthday event will be available March 26 through April 6.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are a few options out there that are worth mentioning in spite of the fact that they aren’t free.

World of Warcraft

How can I make a list of MMOs without mentioning World of Warcraft? It’s true that WoW has a monthly subscription, but it does have a fun demo. You can play up to level 20 as just about any race and class. This is a great option if you or someone in your family just needs a game to play for a short period of time and has no real intention of continuing the game beyond that.

Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV has become massively popular and is available on PC and PS4. The full version of FFXIV does require a purchase and a monthly subscription, but there is a free trial. The limitations on the trial are:

  • Free Trial Players can create only eight (8) playable characters, restricted to one (1) playable character per world.
  • Free Trial account characters have their level capped at level thirty five (35).
  • Free Trial account characters can obtain only a capped amount of in game currency (GIL).

What do you think? Are you or your kids going to play any of these games? 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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Nintendo released an Indie Showcase video today. It lasted around 20 minutes, but was FULL of great game announcements. I had a lot of fun watching it, but I grew more and more excited with each passing announcement as the number of family friendly games that were announced grew. Take a look below for a list of the highlights (and buckle in, because there were a BUNCH of them).

Baldo – Summer 2020

If you had told me a year ago that I would see a game get announced that combines Legend of Zelda and Studio Ghibli-esque animation I would have told you that you were crazy. Baldo (not to be confused with Balto. That one is about a dog) is an open world action adventure RPG that looks like it will be a wonder to behold. The colors are bright. The action looks sharp. I cannot wait to get my hands on this one.

B.ARK Bio-Interstellar Ark – Late 2020

B.Ark is pretty much made for us. It is an adorable couch co-op game where you play as adorable animals piloting cute spacecraft while battling aliens.

Play as Barker, a loveable and friendly pug who heals his friends and turns his enemies into frenemies! Or Felicity, a fierce leader who’s cat rage can really boost her firepower. There’s also Walker, the Bear with a protective spirit and Marv, the speedy rabbit that can zip around in his enemies with ease! Choose your fighter’s wisely, as different tactics can help your odds against the evils that await!

https://www.tictocgames.com/

Look at me with a straight face and tell me that doesn’t sound awesome?

Summer in Mara – Spring 2020

I love farming games and Summer in Mara looks like its going to be a great one! It features all of the farming, crafting, and ranching that we have come to expect. But, it also includes underwater exploration, light seafaring, and the ability to explore a large city nearby.

I had seen this game before in Facebook advertisements, but this was the first time I was able to see some of the colorful characters (many of whom are anthropomorphic animals). This one is coming soon and I cannot WAIT to give it a try.

The Last Campfire

The Last Campfire is a 3d adventure game being designed by a small team within Hello Games, the people beyond No Man’s Sky. We don’t know all the details, but after watching this trailer I desperately want to help these little pillow people.

Wingspan

Wingspan, from Stonemaier Games, has been a massive hit in the board game world. Each of its print runs has quickly sold out as soon as it hit North American shores. And now? A digital version of the bird watching engine builder is on the way to the Nintendo Switch. They didn’t give us a release date (or a release window for that matter), but the fact that it was announced is good enough for me. I love that game so I can’t wait to get my hands on it for my Switch!


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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