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Family Board Game Review: Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a beautiful science themed game that features the tree life cycle and a rotating sun to collect light points. Blue Orange Games published Photosynthesis and it is recommended for players 8 years old and up. The game plays two to four players and takes 45 minutes to an hour to play. In Photosynthesis the sun moves around the board three times and players plant and progress trees through their life cycle to collect points.  The trees are three dimensional and provide a beautiful visual as the forest “grows”.

Game Components

  • Game board
  • Sun Segment
  • 4 Sun Revolution Counters
  • 4 Player Boards
  • First Player Token
  • 24 Scoring Tokens
  • 4 Light Point Trackers
  • 24 Seed Tokens (6 of each variety)
  • 32 Small Trees (8 of each variety)
  • 16 Medium Trees (4 of each variety)
  • 8 Large Trees (2 of each variety)

Game Play

Photosynthesis plays in rounds. Standard play is three rounds, and there is an advanced variant that adds a fourth round. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase. In the Photosynthesis Phase the Sun Segment moves clockwise to its next angle.  There are lines on the board creating a hexagon to guide the sun placement and a square on the bottom of the sun segment to help the Sun Segment stay in the proper place. Once the sun is moved light points are calculate for each player.  Each tree that is not in the shadow of another tree earns Light Points.   Your own trees cast shadows and potentially cost you light points. Also, larger trees cast larger shadows. We found it helpful to go one player at a time and count collaboratively so we did not omit a tree’s light point or miss a shadow. Players track their light points on the individual player boards.

During the Life Cycle Phase players spend their light points.  Players can complete multiple actions, however they may not take more than one action the same space within a turn.  Players spend their Light Points to buy trees or seeds, plant seeds on the board, grow a tree, and collecting.  Collecting is when you take your large trees and end their life cycle.  You then earn a scoring token based upon their location on the board, which represents the richness of the soil.

The game ends after the sun makes three complete revolutions around the board.  Points are then calculated based on scoring tokens and unuse light points.

Family Gaming Assessment

This is a wonderful game for the family.  We played it with a nine year old and he picked up the format of the rounds fairly quickly. He did need significant coaching for the strategy. The very first game took over an hour as we all learned the rules and mechanics, but the game moved more quickly once we completed the first round.  The complexity of the rounds and strategy is sufficient that this game would not scale down well. After seeing the coaching needed for the 9 year old, it may be better for 10 and up.

The format of the rounds are straightforward, and the game progresses smoothly once all players understand the flow of each round.  We found it helpful to collaboratively count light points with each movement of the sun, since as the board became more full it was more challenging to keep track.  Though not for the younger players, this is a great family game with older childern.

Conclusion


Photosynthesis is a great addition to your game collection.  It is playable by a wide range of ages, incorporates science, and the artwork is beautiful. Plus, for any parent or child who has heard the album Here Comes Science, by They Might Be Giant, you can’t help but hear their song Photosynthesis in your mind as you play.

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An Educator’s Perspective: Nintendo Labo

One of the largest and latest crazes for kids is STEM, which is the incorporation and integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (all high demand subjects).  STEM also furthers the develop of innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving. Nintendo appears to be dipping its toe into the STEM realm with their newly announced Nintendo Labo kits.  They have two kits available for pre-order right now; the Variety Kit which includes: fishing pole, toy house, motorbike handlebars, two RC cars, and a 13 key piano.  The second kit is the Robot Kit which allows you to build a backpack harness that controls a robot.  The variety of these kits allow for a diverse range of exploration, discovery, and connecting to technology.

Make Play Discover Verses STEM

The Labo kits announced from Nintendo are the latest foray into STEM with an intriguing technology component. These kits are not advertised as STEM on the Nintendo website, which is a wise move on their part.  These Labo kits are not STEM in the ideal educational model. They don’t meet the definition because they don’t provide an opportunity for the child to design and problem solve. Ideally in a STEM activity, materials are provided and the child has to determine how to build the item.  With that said, the Labo tagline is “ Make, Play, Discover.” This cuts right to the core intention of STEM. First, the kits allow the children to construct items which turn their joy-cons into “toy-cons”. Then they can learn about the engineering and technology involved.

Educational Assets

Nintendo Switch Labo Variety Kit

They may not be STEM kits in their purest form. But they have great potential. They let kids see how these cardboard objects are interacting with the different technological components in the Switch.  This is a great fit for children who enjoy building.  Labo provides kids with the opportunity to explore the mechanics of how each toy-con works.  Then using the software, they delve deeper into how each item utilizes the Switch technology. Nintendo states that there also is the ability to create beyond what is in the kit, and that creation is at the heart of STEM.

Durability

With the Nintendo Labo, building is a one shot experience.  Additionally, sharing among siblings may provide difficulty, especially for the robot.   I have reservations about the durability of the cardboard, however, being cardboard a resourceful parent to child potentially could remake the creation.

Conclusion

The  kits incorporate another level of play into the Switch that is far beyond solely interacting with the software.  We may be seeing the next stage of technology integrating into kits for children. There have been kits to build robots for years.  To incorporate the interactive technology that the Switch provides takes these STEM kits to a whole other level.  While the complexity of the software of the Switch is undenied, I wonder if this will be the beginning of more interactive DIY kits.  Ones that incorporate the technology we already own, such as our phones.

Overall, I am cautiously optimistic that Labo will be a great STEM experience for children to compete and enjoy with their families.  We will have to wait until April 20th when it launches and then can see for ourselves once it is in the hands of our kids.  

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Family Board Game Review: Flashlights and Fireflies

Flashlights and Fireflies is a board game version of flashlight freeze tag for 2-5 players.  The game is recommended for ages 6 and up, and is published by Gamewright.  In Flashlights and Fireflies, you play the role of children playing flashlight freeze tag in the woods.

The game plays in three quick phases per round, and the game ends when one player reaches home.  The board includes three sections; the woods, the firefly field, and the path home.

Game Contents

  • 36 Woods tiles
  • 6 player pawns
  • 6 player tiles
  • 20 firefly tokens
  • 6 flashlight cards
  • 1 game board
  • 1 wooden die

Gameplay

Flashlights and Fireflies plays in rounds, and each round include four phases: hide, catch, shine, and sneak.  In the hide phase of the round, you draw woods tiles and hide your player tile, then the tiles (four to start) are laid out face down in front of you.  The woods tiles may have woods on them, or a pest that you might find in the woods.  

In the catch phase, each player takes turns rolling the die to determine how many firefly tokens they can draw.  The firefly tokens have between one and three fireflies on them, or they can have a mosquito.  A mosquito token drawn during the catch phase ends the phase for that player.

In the shine phase players take their firefly tokens and place them in front of the other players to find them.  For each firefly, the player can turn over one opponent’s tile, then if a player token is found the found player is frozen for the round.  If they find trees nothing happens, and if they find a pest the seekers turn immediately ends.

 The final phase of the round is sneak, and in this phase, each unfrozen player moves their pawn up the path one step closer to home.

Family Gaming Assessment

Flashlights and Fireflies is a great game for the whole family.  The game moves quickly through each round and takes about 20 to 30 minutes to play.  The age recommended is 6 and up, but since there is no reading in the game it does scale down nicely to slightly younger players.  The artwork is cute, and the tokens and tiles are made of high-quality, thick cardboard.   

The game is fairly easy to learn and players are typically very comfortable after one or two rounds. However, it might be worthwhile to do a few rounds of practice with the youngest gamers to help build familiarity.  One additional point of note is that the directions are a little wordy and can be confusing initially.  Once we played it through once and worked through the phases it was much easier.

Conclusion



For any family with younger gamers, Flashlights and Fireflies is a great addition to their collection.  It has simple game play, and does a great job introducing the gaming element of rounds to younger players. The directions can be slightly confusing, but it is worth taking the time to understand the game for a quick and easy game for younger kids.  Flashlights and Fireflies is a fun simple game that the whole family can enjoy playing together.


Make sure you check out our other board game reviews!

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Kickstarter Preview – Cheese Quest: The Quest for Cheese

 

Cheese Quest is a game created by Phil Schadt with the art by Peter Gandia.  It is for 2-4 players and is recommended for ages 9 and up. The gameplay is anticipated to take 45-60 minutes. The premise of the game is that you are in a house trying to navigate around the cats, the other mice, and the mouse traps to bring two pieces of cheese back to your nest.

Gameplay

The game board is made from connected hex pieces referred to as room pieces, and provides a wide variation in the game board.  There is a deck of action cards called “the pantry”.  The cards can both help the player advance and act to undermine the goals of the other players.  For example you can move a cat from one cat bed to another.  The game also includes cat and trap tokens.  The artwork is a darker cartoon aesthetic.  It is reminiscent of the harder lines and more angular features in cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s. The graphics are not scary and they maintain a kid friendly look.

On each turn there are five potential actions a player can take, but they can only complete three actions a turn (and are permitted to repeat an action). The actions include: move your mouse token one space, pick up a cheese token, draw any card from the pantry, play a card from your hand, and disable an obstacle on the board. Players need to balance advancing their mouse verses thwarting the efforts of the other players.  

From the Kickstarter information, this looks like a fun and relatively light strategy game that could be played as a whole family.  The reading involved with the cards, game play option, and the strategy involved the recommendation for age nine and up seems quite appropriate.

The Campaign

 The game is on Kickstarter will end on October 11th.  To get a copy of the game requires a pledge of $29. As of the time of this write up the game has $7166 pledged of their $12,000 goal and has 128 backers.  With only a few days left of the Kickstarter campaign anyone interested needs to check it out before time runs out.

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Kickstarter Preview – The Legend of Korra: Pro-Bending Arena

 

For Avatar fans, the Legend of Korra series was a wonderful addition to the Avatar world.  The Legend of Korra television series introduced a competition to the story, Pro-bending, and now it is a game!  IDW Games has a Kickstarter for a two player sports game of Pro-Bending with miniatures based on the first season of the show.  The game was created by Sen Foong-Lim and Jessey Wright.

 

Gameplay

Each player controls a team with three benders: earth, fire, and water elements.  The players are either the Fire Ferrets or the White Falls Wolfbats which are teams from season one of the show. The miniatures are highly detailed and add great flavor to the Avatar world.  The game play includes elements of deck crafting and building and team customization.

The objective of the game is to be on the other team’s side of the arena when the game ends or pushing all opponent’s benders off the back of the arena, which ends the end the game immediately.

Each player has a strategy deck with different actions their characters can take. The deck is divided into three groups based on the element.  Players can craft their strategy decks to customize plays during the course of the game. The strategy deck also includes two types of trick cards; very powerful moves that can be used once per game, and less powerful moves which may be used multiple times.  However, with these less powerful moves require players to roll a referee die with each use. If you roll a fan you get a yellow fan token for “cheating”.  If a bender receives 2 yellow fans they are out of the game.  

The Campaign

The Kickstarter is wrapping up and ends Friday, September 29th.  Currently, the project is 720% funded and has 2,353 backers.  There are a few Kickstarter exclusives:

  • Exclusive, Limited Deluxe Edition Packaging.
  • A limited edition championship promo-poster.
  • 7 mystery expansion teams, totaling an additional 15 miniatures.
  • 30 trick cards separated into 5 themed packs. Tricks are usable by all teams in the game.
  • 30 punch-to-plastic upgrade components
  • There is an Amon Expansion for an additional $30.

The Legend of Korra: Pro-Bending Arena looks great for any fans of the Avatar universe. Act fast and check of the Kickstarter if you want the exclusives!

 

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Family Board Game Review: Rampaging Jotunn

 

Rampaging Jotunn is a 2 player viking themed game by Lost Cog with a hex board made of large tiles. The object of the game is to avoid the Jotunn (a magically strong giant from Viking mythology), and protect your village using your army. The Jotunn is a constant variable in the game.  The game is for players 8 and up and is expected to take 30 minutes to play.

Game Contents

  • 12 Different land tiles (containing 10 hex spaces with forests, fields, mountains, and on some, a volcano)
  • 1 Center Hex
  • 2 Defense line Hexes
  • 1 blue die
  • 1 red die
  • I Jotunn (marker and stand)
  • 2 Blue vikings (Marker and stand)
  • 2 Red Vikings (marker and stand)
  • 6 Wooden longhouses (3 red, 3 blue)
  • 2 Terrain Cards
  • 6 Army movement cards (3 red, 3 blue)
  • 73 Rampaging Jotunn playing cards
  • Rulebook

Gameplay

Setup: To set up the center hex with numbers is placed in the center.  This is the Jotunn’s direction indicator.  The 12 terrain tiles are shuffled and six are randomly selected. Players take turns placing the tile around the center hex to create the board. Next, players take turns to place their three villages, placing one on each turn. Then, players take turns to place their two armies, and they must put them on an adjacent tile to two of the villages. Each player is given 3 Army Movement Cards, and have a Terrain card for movement reference for the Jotunn and their armies. Players are also dealt five Rampaging Jotunn playing cards. The final step of setup is to place the Jotunn on the center tile and roll to see which number he faces for his starting direction.

During their turn, players have several options.  

  • They can:
    • use one of their Army movement cards and move their army (note: once your three movement cards are used you get all three back to use again)
    • Play a Jotunn card and move the Jotunn (or follow any special directions on the card)
    • Discard 3 cards from your hand to raise an army
  • At the end of their turn a player draws to bring their Jotunn hand back up to 5, also if the Jotunn was not moved on a players turn it moves forward one space in whatever direction it is facing.
  • Battles:
    • If you move your army onto the hex of another army you both have to roll to “battle” the offensive army gets plus one to their roll and the higher roll wins.  The defeated army is removed from the board.
    • If the Jotunn lands on an army it instantly defeats the army, and it is removed from the board.
    • Should the Jotunn land on a village that has not gotten a defense line hex, it is instantly defeated.  With a defense line hex under the village the Jotunn must roll a three or more to defeat the village.
    • Armies can also attack an opponent’s village.  

If a player loses all their villages they lose the game.

Family Gaming Assessment

Rampaging Jotunn is a good game for the family to play together.  The game does take a little time to learn and is not intuitive with some of the multiple steps and mechanics per turn.  This game, especially with younger players would benefit from a play through to learn the rules. The age rating is 8 and up, and I agree. An inexperienced gamer on the lower end of the age range will benefit from support with the steps and mechanics until they are more comfortable with the game.Once the rules and mechanics of the game are understood and comfortable the gameplay move smoothly. There is also a notable amount of strategy, mixed with some luck, and that may make it more challenging to play with two different skill levels.

Currently, the game is only available as a two player game. According to the developer, Matthias Bonnici, as of June 2017, that they are looking to do a Kickstarter “soon” for a four player version of Rampaging Jotunn. As a two player game it is more challenging to include the whole family playing, so a four player game is one to watch for on Kickstarter.

Conclusion

The viking theme of Rampaging Jotunn is entertaining and the graphics are appealing to players of all ages. The game was easily mastered in one play through and was engaging to play. The gameplay while a bit complicated to learn more smoothly once a few turns were played. Rampaging Jotunn is a good addition to a family’s game collection, especially if you enjoy the Viking theme.

 

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Minecraft

Minecraft was first released in 2011 and since then has become one of the best selling video games of all time. Its aesthetic is instantly recognizable and the blocky voxels allow for some easy crafting adaptations for a wide range of skills. There are many blogs and Pinterest pages with crafts, many of which are too complicated for children. This collection of crafts use common materials with simple steps that children with a range of skills can complete.

 

Mosaic Magnets

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224910729/

 

Using just a simple print out and an adhesive magnetic sheet and a pair of scissors you can create a wide range of Minecraft creations (especially using the 8 bit designs listed below).

Steve and Creeper Heads

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/Ab38Xdz2aGo0CErUkDDrgjhq9Pr8mlg_2hkfaLQmscHyUky6C9AA8Ts/

These cross over into costume/dress-up too. The link provides directions for making Steve and Creeper heads out of cardboard boxes. The labor intensive part for the adult is going to be making the grid lines.

8 Bit/Perler Bead Patterns

 

These patterns are perfect to use with perler beads. Younger crafters can follow these designs and create their favorite characters.  These designs are not limited to beads, and can be used for a range of crafts for more experienced crafters.  Some additional crafts include: Friendship bracelets, quilt squares, knitting or crocheting.

 

Steve

 

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224910706/

 

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224910703/

 

Torch

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842717/

 

Skeleton

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842707/

 

Zombie

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842701/

 

Diamond

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842711/

 

Stone Weapons

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/AVDdgSN-t31aqkdLJLq9KT7gcR5QiS9XlkyCeNWjqjEfmbTZc8SGdas/

 

Diamond Sword

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842673/

Diamond Ax

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224913238/

 

Ender Dragon

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842670/

 

Assorted characters

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842588/

Armor and swords

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842721/

Friendship Bracelet

This design is longer and thin which is intended as a friendship bracelet, but could easily be used for other crafts.

 

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224921401/

 

Characters on canvas

For kids that like to paint and (mostly) can stay in the lines, this is a great painting activity. For younger kids an adult would need to paint the grid and indicate the color to use.  For older kids, they may still need assistance creating the grid. These could also become bedroom decorations for a Minecraft fan.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224910694/

 

DIY Shrinky Dinks

Shrinky Dinks are a classic craft that you can create using any theme.  By tracing Minecraft pictures you can make you can have Minecraft Shrinky Dinks!

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224910674/

 

Creeper Magnets

This craft uses glass gems (found in most craft sections of stores) creeper face printouts and adhesive magnets. The blog link also has directions for Minecraft Sticker Block art and Construction Paper Pixel Art

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842732/

 

Creeper Made with Toilet Paper Rolls and a Small Box

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842594/

 

Creeper Construction Paper Art

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/Af2lUetIco90NrlvcvhDTE4e_1iTADgZiz1gwRXTGPnaywSO4Bat4wY/

 

Torch

This blog details a Minecraft Themed birthday party.  The paper torch was one activity for the kids to enjoy.  Directions for the torch are about near the bottom of the page.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842613/

 

Tin Can Containers

Creating a pencil tin using paper and an old tin can is a classic craft.  This simple activity takes a Minecraft print out and attaches it to a tin can to decorate.  For the younger crafter this is nice and simple. For a more skilled older child, they could use grip paper to design their own image.

http://www.redtedart.com/minecraft-desk-tidy-diy-printables/

 

No Sew Pillows

This blog details how to make Minecraft pillows without sewing at all!  The pillows are held together with fusible bonding, which you iron to bond it, or fabric glue.  The Minecraft characters are painted or glued on with felt.  This is a more involved craft, but being no sew it is safer for crafters of all ages.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/432275264224842640/

 

Minecraft is wildly popular and in the game Creative Mode allows the players to use their imaginations.  The crafts listed above allow them to tap into their interest of Minecraft and be creative in the real world. There are crafts that have a wide range of skills, depending on the child and the level of support desired by the adult.  Crafts are a fun ways to connect the love of creation in Minecraft to making real objects.

 

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Board Game Review: Hoagie

 

Hoagie is a sandwich building game from Monkeybeak Games.  It is a card game for 2 to 5 players that is recommended for ages 5 and up.  In this fast paced game each player is trying to build the perfect sandwich without any part getting spoiled by three oogies (pictured on the spoiled food and special action cards).

Game Contents

  • Fresh Ingredient Cards (bread, lettuce,meat, cheese)\
  • Spoiled Ingredient Cards
  • Special Action Cards

Gameplay

Hoagie’s gameplay is very easy and takes just minutes to learn.  Each player is dealt a hand if 6 cards to start the game.  On each players turn they play a card from their hand. Several actions with the cards can occur, but only one can occur per turn.  

The actions include:

  • The player can play a fresh ingredient  in front of themselves to build their sandwich.
  • The player can replace a spoiled ingredient on their sandwich.
  • The player can spoil and ingredient on another player’s sandwich.
  • The player can use a special action card these include:
    • Skip:skip any player’s next turn,
    • Reverse: reverse the game play order
    • Double Play: play 2 additional cards from your hand after a  double play card is played

At the end of the players turn they draw back up to 6 card. In order to win, a player must begin their turn with a perfect sandwich, which consists of bread, meat, cheese, lettuce, and bread.

 

 

Family Game Assessment

Hoagie is very simple to learn and the only reading needed is on the Skip, Reverse and Double Play cards. Even then, once a younger player is familiar with the picture on each card, the need to read the card is mitigated. The pictures on the spoiled food and special action cards are gross in a silly cartoon way, and are not excessively disgusting or scary, rather Hoagie has a level of gross that kids and adults will find entertaining. The game play is quick paced and the 20 minute time noted on the box is accurate. Hoagie is a light game that can be played with multiple ages all together making it a great game for the whole family.  The way the mechanics of Hoagie work, adults and children can easily play together and the children have just as likely a chance of winning as the adults without help.  There is some strategy, but there is enough random chance it really is anybody’s game.  

Conclusion

Hoagie is a wonderful family game that is great for a range of ages to play together. It is easy for young players, and is fun for older kids and adults as well. This is a great addition to any game collection.

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Family Board Game Review: Poop The Game

Poop the Game from Breaking Games is a toilet and pooping themed card game.  It is a 2-5 player game recommended for ages 6 and up. A second deck, labeled the Party Pooper Edition, can be incorporated to make this up to a 10 player game. Play time is estimated at 15 minutes.  This was a Kickstarter in 2014 that was successfully funded and has expanded since then to include a Public Restroom Edition, which was also funded through Kickstarter.  

 

Contents

  • Cards:
    • Poop cards
    • Toilet cards
    • Wild cards
    • Drinking rules card
    • Poop Remix cards (4): provide alternative rules and objectives to the games
    • Deep Doo Doo Remix, for advanced play and 2 player games

 

Gameplay

The objective of the game is to be the first to run out of cards.  To play, a toilet card is placed in the center.  The number on it represents the “clog” number.  Each player is dealt five cards and take turns placing cards on the toilet, and cards are stacked staggered so they all are visible.  Cards with poop on them have a value from one to four bases on the amount of poop represented.  Players are not allowed to meet or exceed the clog number.  If the only cards they have will meet or exceed the clog number then the toilet is “clogged” and they have to add all the cards from that toilet to their hands and flip a new toilet card.  If three cards of the same color are played in a row the toilet is flushed, all other players draw a card and the “flusher” begin play again using the same toilet.  Wild cards add interesting twists to the strategy of the game. On the wild cards there are directions containing sounds or actions on the bottom of the card, and when the wild card is played the player must do this sound/action until another player plays the same wild card.  Failure to do so results in having to draw a card if it is noticed by another player and called. Some of the actions are “grunt on turn”, “hold nose on turn”, and  “fart sound on turn”.

 

Family Game Assessment

This game was as ridiculous as it sounds.  It was played with two boys; a five year old and an eight year old. They enjoyed the game and found its theme hilarious.  In contrast, I had some reservations about the theme, and found the cards gross. The poop cards show poop piles with flies and some have corn pieces in the poop.  The noises and descriptions on the wild cards also added to the crass nature of the game. While the game is recommended for ages 6 and up, I was uncomfortable playing with my two boys, as it was encouraging behaviors I am trying to teach them are not appropriate in most situations, such as imitating bathroom sounds.

There are also additional directions to make this a drinking game.  On the box it says, “It’s a kids game! It’s a drinking game! Just not a kids’ drinking game.”  As a parent I am uncomfortable with a game that comes with drinking rules in the game, and is advertised as a drinking game right on the box.

Conclusion

While the game itself is easy to play and learn, the poop theme, descriptors on the cards to act out, and the drinking game elements make it hard to recommend this game to the average family. This could be a fun and silly game for the right family and the right situation, however, I do not feel it will be a good fit for many families.

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Board Game Review: Compose Yourself

Compose Yourself by Thinkfun is a fascinating product for those who are musically inclined or interested in classical music.  It is an intriguing activity where you can use the cards to create a composition using an website.  There is a great deal of focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities.  Compose Yourself is a product that supports STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math).

Contents

  • 60 Transparent Music Cards ( in Treble clef )
  • Composer Code Card
    • This code allows you to access the website to create your compositions
  • Instructions with Composing Tips
  • Online Tools and Resources
  • Travel Bag

Gameplay

Compose Yourself is played by arranging the cards on the table.  The clear cards allow them to be rotated and flipped to create the look and sound you want.  Next, you enter the code on the cards into the website provided.  As you arrange the cards you can place up to 4 in a row a create 4 rows.  That is the maximum you can input into the website. The cards have unique codes on each corner of the card so it can be input as  you have arranged it.  Once entered you can flip and rotate the cards digitally.  Additionally you can drag cards to rearrange them, and remove ones you do not want. Each card can be played to hear it individually. You are then able to play your composition using three sound settings: Marimba, Orchestra, or Both.   Finally, once your piece is complete you are able to print it and download it as an MP3.  

Family Game Assessment

Compose Yourself is an intriguing activities for families who enjoy classical music.  It has a great deal of potential for the family to create and share short compositions both together and individually.  The website is very easy to navigate and the cards are simple to lay out and arrange even with younger participants. To use the website you do need to register using the enclosed code.  There is one detail that is noteworthy; you need to agree to license it under a Creative Commons License.  Under the Help option in the Play page of the website it summarizes it well:

Please remember that you are free to share, sample, play, and have fun with your composition so long as it is not for commercial use.”

While this license can be considered a minor detail it informs the user of the nature of the music they are producing.  While it is your original work, it is not exclusively yours to do as you please and limits exist.

Compose Yourself is absolutely appropriate for  ages 6 and up as recommended by Thinkfun. The music is limited to the treble clef, and the tempo and the key signature can not be changed.  While there are some musical limitations for a more sophisticated musician, especially for children, it is a fun and easy way to play around with music in a very accessible way.

Conclusion

For the novice or less experienced musician, Compose Yourself allows you to dabble in creating original compositions.  I hesitate to call this a game in the traditional sense, however Thinkfun does lists it on their site as a game.  Regardless of what you call it, for those interested in music is a fun product that provides immediate reinforcement by hearing you music immediately.  

 

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