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The OP has announced another family friendly board game set in the Harry Potter Universe – Harry Potter: House Cup Competition.

It will be the first worker placement game set in the Wizarding World. Players will “act as iconic members of Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin to earn the most points and win the coveted House Cup.” This is a theme that I never saw coming, but really is perfect for a worker placement game.

Each player will have three students to use as their “workers.” They will have their students attend classes like Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts and complete in thematic challenges that can earn points for their house!

People have grown VERY attached to the different houses in the Harry Potter universe in the years since the series started. I think giving people a game where they can choose to represent “their” house is a great tactic. I have a feeling that Gryffindor will be HOTLY contested in my house. I’m curious how the designers implemented the houses. I think it would be interesting to see the theme of each house represented by a unique player power.

Harry Potter: House Cup Competition Box Art
Harry Potter: House Cup Competition Box Art

Harry Potter: House Cup Competition is going to be available this summer for a retail price of $49.99.

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Weird Giraffe Games has another unique game coming to Kickstarter. Tumble Town takes several gaming elements and mixes it with an old west theme. What you get looks like tons of fun!

Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game?The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc.

Tumble Town is a town and engine building spatial puzzle game for 1-4 players that plays in about 45 minutes for ages 8+. Construct the best town in the West before all the building resources run out!

What is the elevator pitch?

Everyone knows Tumble Town deserves to be the best town in the West – so it needs a mayor to match! The Tumble Townspeople are hosting a competition to turn the town tootin’ and boomin’! It’s up to you to impress them with your construction and planning skills! Tumble Town has engine building, dice manipulation, set collection and a spatial puzzle, so there’s something for everyone all rolled up into 45 minutes of gameplay.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

February 25th

Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete?

Pretty close! We are in the final planning stages for the Kickstarter.

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game? ]

Fantastic Factories has dice, engine building, and dice manipulation.

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game?

Tumble Town shows that there’s beauty and color in the Old West, where you might not expect that. It’s also a really interesting decision on what kind of town you’re going to construct, whether you’ll choose a building for the power it grants, because it’s made of materials you have, or because you get extra points for constructed buildings with icons or special features that that building has. There’s a lot of choice, but it’s also really accessible to lots of player types. Maybe most of all, you get to build your own town, which is always a great thing and it’s super photogenic.

What was your design process like?

There was a lot to it! There was a lot of trial and error to get a game that was as intuitive as I wanted it to be. We definitely had to streamline and simplify a number of aspects, but I think it’s for the best as it means that players can simply look at the cards, know what they do, and how to build the buildings shown.

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

There’s no other games that combine such a variety of mechanics and choices into such a great package where you feel this satisfied by the creation you made at the end. Every time I play it with new players, they almost always take pictures of their town, that’s how proud of it that they are.

How long has this game been in development?

Almost two years

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

The end game was a particularly large obstacle that took several iterations to get correct.

What did your first prototype look like?

It was a lot more brown than the current game, but it wasn’t as far off as a lot of games I’ve worked on. The game has always been called some version of Tumble Town, with players constructing buildings out of dice.

Why did you get into making games?

To satisfy my creativity while making people happy!

What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?

Weird Giraffe Games is dedicated to creating engaging games focused on player choices & layered with strategy. We make games that are different and just a little bit weird, but that’s okay, as we’re all a little bit weird sometimes.

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Sushi and dice are a winning combination you will not find on any menu. Sushi Roll takes the popular game Sushi Go and instead of card drafting players draft dice. The game is for ages eight and up and can play two to five players. Like it predecessor it is easy to learn and quick to play.

Components

  • 40 scoring tokens
  • 30 dice
  • 20 pudding tokens
  • 18 menu tokens
  • 12 chopsticks tokens
  • 5 conveyor belts
  • 5 trays
  • 1 dice bag

Gameplay

Set up

To begin, each player takes a tray and places it in front of them. Next, player put the chopstick and the menu tokens in the center of play area. Each player takes two chopstick and three menu tokens to begin the game. The dice are all put in the dice bag and it shaken to mix. The conveyor belts are shuffled, including the one with the red border. Each player receives a conveyor belt. Players draw dice from the bag, the number of dice per player depends on the number of players.

Gameplay

At the start of a round, all players take the dice they drew from the bag, roll their dice, and place them on their conveyor belt without changing them. Next, beginning with the player who has the conveyor belt with the red boarder, player have the option to use a menu token and/or a chopsticks token. The menu token allows a player to re-roll any of their dice, but they must keep the result of the roll. With chopsticks tokens players may switch one of the dice on their conveyor belt with a die on another player’s conveyor belt. The face of the die does not change. These actions may be done multiple times provided the player has the tokens to spend.

Next, the player then selects one die from their conveyor belt and without changing its face places it on their tray. Scoring occurs at the end of the round. If a player takes a Pudding , Menus, or Chopsticks dice they immediately take a token or tokens equal to the number of icons on that face of the die. Players who have a wasabi die and select a nigiri place the nigiri on top of the wasabi, since together they triple in value.

Once all players have selected their die, they simultaneously side their conveyor belts to the left. Each player re-rolls the dice in their conveyor belt and returns the dice to the belt. Players repeat the section steps, and again slide the conveyor belts once everyone has selected. The process repeats until all dice have been selected. That ends the round and players score the dice on their tray. Players take scoring tokens to track their score so far.

To begin a new round all the dice player return the dice to the bag, shaken, and redrawn by each player. Players complete three rounds and calculate final scores at the conclusion of the game. At the end of the game, players count and scored
pudding tokens as well as any remaining chopsticks or menu tokens.

Family Game Assessment

Sushi Roll is a great game to learn the mechanic of drafting. The game has a very simple drafting mechanic using dice. In card drafting players need to remember what cards they saw as the hands were passed. With the dice, the information about available dice is open to all. This open information allowed for more coaching to new or younger players while learning the game.

The trays are well designed to support player and have the information they need to make strategic selections. By listing the different sushi, it allows players to see the values for each piece of sushi. The scoring tokens also allow players to keep track of their score without needing to write it down. This streamlining of information and score keeping also helps the game span generations and abilities.

The game box is a larger box to accommodate all the components, which makes the game less portable than it’s predecessor. It is a worthy trade off to get the additional components in exchange for portability. For anyone that has played Sushi Go, the differences can be picked up in just a few minutes. Those new to the game will find it is easy to pick up and quick to learn.

Final Thoughts

For families that know and love the game Sushi Go, or just enjoy dice and sushi, Sushi Roll is a must addition to any game collection.



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As a Storm Trooper you tremble at the sight of the Millennium Falcon. It bobs and weaves above your head as you try and dodge out of the way. In Loopin’ Chewie, You are trying to defend you are storm troopers from Chewbacca in the millennium Falcon. To defend your storm troopers you have a paddle to knock the Millennium Falcon away. Your goal is to be the last person to still have storm troopers in play. Loopin’ Chewie is a game by Hasbro that supports two to three players ages four and up.

Game Components

  • Millennium Falcon
  • Base unit
  • 3 paddle arms
  • 3 paddle units
  • 1 flight arm on center cone
  • 9 tokens (Storm Troopers)

Gameplay

To begin the Millennium Falcon starts pointing straight up to the ceiling on it’s swiveling arm. One player turns on the motor and releases the Millennium Falcon to spin around. Players use their pad to tap the Millennium Falcon up and over their storm troopers. However, players need to be careful not to use too much force which can shake their own storm troopers out of play.

Loopin’ Chewie has a player elimination style with a bit of a twist. Once all 3 storm troopers are knocked below a player is no longer eligible to win the game. They may however continued to play and try to knock the millennium Falcon into the storm troopers of their opponents. The last player with with Storm Troopers at the end wins the game.

Games are played very quickly with a simple reset. This lends the game to be played multiple times in a row.

Family Game Assessment

Loopin’ Chewie is quintessential family game. With it simple set up, simple gameplay, and fast play it encourages multiple plays in one setting. The format allows for multi age and multi generation play, by being so simple and requiring little skill or strategy.

The Star Wars theme is engaging across the ages too. It is not the most portable game, being a medium size box. However the pieces do disassemble easily to fit back in the box, which is convenient for storage. For a quick light game Loopin’ Chewie is a great game in a family collection.

Final Thoughts

For any young Star Wars fan Loopin’ Chewy is a great addition to a family game collection. It is a good quick game that takes moments to set up and play.

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Poison brewing? Stubborn donkey pushing? Table flipping? Let the Orclympics begin!

Brain Games

Get ready for a menagerie of different creatures battling head to head to win Orc-lympics events. Orc-lympics is a card game were you are drafting your team of Orclympians to compete in various events. You then need to manage the roster as your Orclympians compete. The game is for two to five players ages eight and up and plays in 10 to 20 minutes.

Components

  • 12 event cards
  • 42 Orc-lympics cards: Humans, Goblins, Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, Halflings, and Djinns
  • Gold and silver trophies

Gameplay

Orc-lympics plays in three phases: Reveal Competitions, Build Team, Compete.

Reveal Competitions

At the beginning of the game, to reveal the competitions, player set up the deck by shuffling the 12 event cards. There are three main event cards as well, which are set aside initially. Players deal the 12 event cards face up and six face down into two parallel rows. The face up cards have different scores and an illustration of the competition. Players sort cards least to greatest. The Main Event cards is randomly selected at the end, and is worth 7 points. The remaining 6 event cards which are face down are worth two points each. A main event card is placed at the end face down and is worth four points.

Build Team

To build teams, shuffle the 42 Orc-lympians cards and eight cards, and deal to each player. Players then draft their cards. To do this each player selects one card from their hand simultaneously and places it face down on the table in front of them. Players then take the remaining cards and pass them to the player on their left. Players continue to pick and pass cards until all eight cards have been selected. Next, players edit their team. They must limit their team of players to any three races, discarding any cards exceeded that criteria.

On each Orclympian card there are scores for three attributes; Speed, Cunning, and Strength. These scores are essential for competing in the competitions.

Compete

To Compete, players go around and can play any number of cards. However, the attribute listed on their Orclympian myst be one or greater in the skill of the competition. When a player becomes the highest scoring player they take the gold trophy,and second place player takes silver. Play may continue to go around with players adding cards if they wish, though one a player passes they can not add more players to the competition. Once all players have passed for that competition, it ends.
The player in first place takes the face up competition card and earns the points listed. The second place player takes the face down competition card under it and earns two points for regular competitions and four points for the main event. For the first and second place they also discard a cards used in the competition. The remaining players may take one card back and must discard the rest. Play continues until all seven competitions conculde. Each player is not required to compete in each competition.

Is this a Family Game?

Orc-lympics is a great gateway to more complex game mechanics. It incorporates drafting and resource management in a simple and accessible way. Players draft their “Orclympians,” edit their teams, and manage their players. It is nearly impossible to compete in every event so players need to prioritize how they will utilize their competitors to try and earn the most points.

There is quite a bit if strategy both with drafting and managing the resources of the Orc-lympians. There are several different layers of strategy, so you’ll need to coach younger players. Our youngest player was six years old and he needed a lot of support. He has learned some of the strategy needed after several games, but still benefits from coaching to keep the frustration at bay. With that said, the recommendation of age eight and up seems a good fit.

Final Thoughts

The Orc-lympic theme is light hearted and ties nicely into sports competitions and creating teams. As a stepping stone into card drafting and light resource management Orc-lympics is a good fit. At first glance the game seems complicated, but the steps are easy to understand and the game plays quickly so different strategies can be tried in rapid succession.


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  • Plan B Games
  • Age Rating: 8+ 
  • Players: 2-4
  • Timeframe: 30-45 minutes
  • MSRP: $39.99
  • Style: Abstract Strategy/Drafting

Introduced by the Moors, “azulejos” (originally white and blue ceramic tiles) were fully embraced by the Portuguese, when their King Manuel I, on a visit to the Alhambra palace in Southern Spain, was mesmerized by the stunning beauty of the Moorish decorative tiles. The king, awestruck by the interior beauty of the Alhambra, immediately ordered that his own palace in Portugal be decorated with similar wall tiles.

– Plan B Game

Azul is an award winning game designed by Michael Kiesling that took the gaming world by storm in 2018.  This is an abstract strategy game where players compete as artisans hired to decorate the walls of the Royal Palace.  Players must plan ahead and carefully draft the correct quantity and style of tiles in order to achieve the highest score all while being careful not to create waste for the next round. 

Contents

  • Complete Rule Booklet
  • Linen Bag
  • 100 Multi-colored tiles 
  • 4 Player Boards
  • 9 Factory Display Boards
  • 4 Scoring Markers
  • 1 Starting Player Marker

Gameplay

Azul is played over a series of rounds, each round consisting of three steps.  During the round, players take turns drafting beautifully colored tiles from factory supply disks to their player board. Later in the round, players score points based on how they’ve placed their tiles on their player board to help decorate the palace walls. Extra points are scored for  completing specific patterns and completing sets. Any wasted supplies harm the player’s score. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Setting Up The Game

Players start by laying Factory Display disks in the center of the table.  Colored tiles are placed in the linen draw bag, and the starting player places four randomly drawn tiles on each disk.  Each player gets a player board and score token.

Play in Rounds

Each round consists of three steps. 

First is the “Factory Offer” – Players may either choose one set of tiles from a Factory disk in the center of the table or tiles that are already in the center.  If a player chooses a disk, they take all the tiles of one color from the disk and discard the rest in the center of the circle. If a player takes from the center, they must take all tiles of a single color/pattern.  The first one to take from the center becomes the starting player on the next round. After the player selects their tiles, they must place them on ONE pattern line on their player board. Players may only place tiles of the same color/pattern on a single line.  Once that line is full, it is complete, and extra tiles go on the floor line (which count against your score). After a player has chosen and placed their tiles on their player board, it’s the next player’s turn. Play continues like this until all tiles have been claimed from the Factory disks and center of the table.

Next up is “Wall-Tiling” – During this phase, players move tiles from their completed (full) pattern lines to the wall area on their player board. Players perform this simultaneously.  Starting at the top of their pattern lines, players move one tile from each complete line to the corresponding tile on the wall in that row. Players score each tile immediately.  All of the remaining tiles from that pattern line are placed in the game box. Any tiles left in incomplete rows remain until the next round. The scoring portion of this step is where all of your strategy and pre-planning pays off (or not). 

Lastly, players Prepare for Next Round – This step is fairly obvious.  Players follow the instructions for refilling factory disks and prepare for the next round.  Play continues in rounds until all one player completes a horizontal row on their tile wall. Here are additional points to be earned at the end of the game based on pattern completion choices.

Is it a Family Game?

This game is designed for players eight and up and has very simple rules that are easy to explain and understand.  The game pieces are sturdy, pretty, and easy to manipulate (the tiles are a LOT like Starburst candies). There is no reading involved which makes it great for young players.  However, we found the seeming simplicity to be deceptive. The strategy and choices you make have a huge impact on your overall score and make the game much more complex. There are so many different ways to play which ensures the game does not get stale.  You can play specifically to obstruct your opponents, you can play casually and only worry about your own player board, or you can play the long game to score high via combos in the end. Younger players often miss these options and may get frustrated by low scores. 

Conclusion

This game is visually stunning, easy to set up and clean up, easy to understand, and is quite challenging.  The different choices and options accommodate differing playing styles and it is clear that the design of the game was well thought out.  While the game does have a theme, it does not carry through the game or effect gameplay. It is very similar to abstract strategy game along the lines of Indigo, Tak, Seikatsu, etc.  We do feel that there is plenty of replay value to this game and can clearly see why it won so many awards.


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So many great board games releases in 2019! It was a challenge to limit the list into a comprehensive collection of games for all types of games. To help your family find the best game we have broken the games into categories so you can see what may best suit your gift giving.

For the Youngest Gamers

Topper Takes a Trip

Topper Takes a Trip is a cooperative game for players ages two and up by Peaceable Kingdom. For the youngest players this is a great game to encourage discussion and vocabulary development. Players select a destination card and match the packing list for each destination as well. Players then gather the items on the packing list, and place them in the suitcase. Once all pieces are gathered players can pretend they are enjoying the activities of that destination. Topper travels to three places to complete the game. There are also suggestions for extending the play and enriching the experience to develop early skills. The skills include: gross motor, problem solving, color matching, spatial reasoning, and visual discrimination.

Guess It Get It Gumballs

Guess It Get It Gumballs is a cooperative memory game for two to four players ages four and up from Peaceable Kingdom. Players take turns picking up gumballs of the matching color from a spinner. They then guess the face on the reverse side by making that face into the mirror. The gumball is grabbed by using the suction cup on the reverse of the mirror. Players are trying to get a rainbow of gumballs before getting the stinkface. With the current awareness of Emotional Intelligence this game is great for helping young children recognize and identify feelings.

Small Games

Punto

Punto is a tiny tin box card laying game for two to four players ages eight and up from Gamewright. Players each have a pile of dot cards in one color. The cards are randomly shuffled within their pile. Cards are placed once player at a time either diagonally or orthogonally. The objective is to get five cards in a row at two player game or four cards in a three or four player game. Players need to keep the cards within a six by six grid. The game ends when one player has won two rounds. While the game is recommended for age eight and up, since there is no reading and the rules are not complicated this can scale down in age.

Tic Tac Surprise

Tic Tac Surprise is a two player game for ages five and up. This game by Peaceable Kingdom takes the classic game of Tic Tac Toe and adds a twist. The cards instead of X’s and O’s have two pictures. There are multiple versions of the game, so you can have dogs/cats, chocolate/vanilla donuts/ or fairies/unicorns. Within each picture type there are some special cards with an additional feature. For example on the donuts some of the donuts have sprinkles. These special cards allow players to place that card on top of an opponent’s card. Now a space is never truly unavailable.

Snowman Dice

Snowman Dice is a fun fast rolling, stacking, flicking, and pushing dice game for two to four players ages six and up from Brain Games. The photo above is of a prototype we previewed at New York Toyfair, and the finalize version in a snowball shaped bag. Additionally, the playtime and age recommendations have been changed since we saw the prototype. In Snowman Dice players are trying to roll the three pieces of their snowman and push the stack to the center marker, which is the North Pole. The dice also have an arrow, snowflake, which is a wild, and a snowball icon. The arrow is needed to push your snowman. With the snowball the player can flick the dice at an opponent’s snowman to try and knock it down and thwart their progress. Then winner is the first player to the North Pole.

Dirty Pig


Dirty Pig is a simple light card game from Happy Planet, a subdivision of North Star Games. In this game players are trying to be the first to make all of their pigs dirty. The game is for two to six players and is recommend for ages six and up. To play, all players begin with clean pigs. The number of pigs varies depending on the number of players. Each player draws three cards and can play one per turn, drawing a new card at their end of their turn. Cards include: Dirty Your Pig, Rain, Barn, Locked Barn Door, Lightning, Lightning Rod, and Clean That Pig. This is a light silly game good for multi-ages and can even scale younger since there is no reading involved.

Games for the Whole Family

Pyramid of Pengqueen

Pyramid of Pengqueen is a spin off theme from the Ice Cool games from Brain Games. The penguins have ventured in search of the mummy’s magical treasure. One playing takes on the roll of the mummy and the rests of the players are the adventures searching for the treasures. In the game there is a two sided vertical board with magnets. The players know were the mummy is but the mummy do not know where the penguins are. If the mummy finds a penguin it is sent to the mummy’s tomb. Players are trying to collect enough treasures before the mummy catches them too many times.

This Game Goes to Eleven

Gamewright has taken this simple counting game for two to five players, which given it a light heavy metal theme. This Game Goes to Eleven is for players ages eight and up. Players discard cards in their hand and add the numbers as they go. If the pile of cards is exactly eleven after you play your card, you give the whole pile to another player. On your turn, if your card bring the total over eleven you get the pile too. The player with the least cards at the end wins. There are two special cards. The eleven card instantly brings the pile to eleven regardless of the cards below.

Bloom

Roll and write games a very popular right now, and Bloom is a great one in that genre. In Bloom by Gamewright you are trying to gather flowers of the same color and quantity as on your sheet. On your turn you roll the dice and choose which color and number best matches the flowers in your garden. To end the game, a player must have three colors of flowers where they circled all the flowers of those colors, or completed four garden beds. Bloom is for players age eight and up and supports two to five players.

Adventure book

Quirky Circuits



Quirky circuit is the next adventure book from Plaid Hat Games. This one features a automatic vacuum cleaner, similar to a Roomba, and you need to direct it to achieve certain goals. The challenge is that players please down their movement cars in secret from the other players to there are many challenges with getting the correct path to complete the objective. This game is for two to four players ages seven and up. The game contains 21 different scenarios within the adventure book.

Legacy

Zombie Kidz Evolution

Zombie Kidz Evolution is a perfect first legacy game for children. The game is for 2 to 4 players ages 7 and up and episodes take 5 to 15 minutes each approximately. The game takes place in the school and the player’s objective is to secure all the doors to keep the zombies out. As players move through the challenges they can open envelopes which adds new characters and makes changes to the board and to the rules.

If You Like. ..

Imhotep Duel


Imhotep Dual is a 2 player game that takes the strategy and gameplay of the original Imhotep and makes it a 2 player only game. The game is for ages ten and up and plays in about 30 minutes. Since it is only 2 players the premise is you are Nefertiti and Akhenaten, the famous Egyptian couple. Fans of the original will enjoy this 2 player version.

Sushi Roll

For any fans of Sushi Go,Gamewright has re-imagined it into a brand new game Sushi Roll! In Sushi Roll each player rolls a set of dice and chooses which to add to their plate. The remaining sushi pass to the next player on a conveyor belt. Then each player rolls their new dice before choosing which to add to their plate. The player board lists the point values for each kind of sushi. The game includes scoring tokens as well, so players who enjoy Sushi Go, have the option to use them there as well.

Forbidden Sky

Forbidden sky is the next adventure in the forbidden series from Gamewright. In this adventure players are now in the sky exploring a platform inside of a storm trying to launch a rocket. Game right for the very 1st time incorporates an electronic element and you need to complete the circuit and have the rocket light up and make sound to complete the game in succeed. One false move and you could be blown off the platform. The game is for ages 10 and up and plays 2 to 5 players.

Dragonrealms

Dragonrealm takes place in the same world as Dragonwood and moves it to the next adventure. This time instead of defeating creatures you are trying to look for treasure in different locations. As in Dragonwood you collect sets of cards that allow you to complete different actions. Adventure cards in a numerical row allow you to sneak. Cards all the same color allow you to search. Cards that are all the same color allow you to storm. The number of cards being played allows the player to have that many dice to roll to try to reach the required number on a location to complete the action. The total rolled by the days becomes their score and players discover if they have succeeded or failed. Once the dragon location is complete the game ends and players Pat up their coins. The player with the most coins wins

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know if you’re picking any of these games up!

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Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game? The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc.

Camp Pinetop is a hand management, card drafting game for 1-5 players. It’s appropriate for players 8 and up, with play time around 60-75 minutes (although prior experience and smaller player counts will cut that down).

What is the elevator pitch?

You are the leader of a group of campers who are exploring the wilderness. Along the way, you will need to collect achievement patches, which will give your scouts special abilities and allow them to level up to the highest rank (Badger), which is how you ultimately win.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

Camp Pinetop went live Tuesday, September 24, 2019 and runs to October 18, 2019. Check out the Kickstarter here!

Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete?

The base game is all done, and we are working some add-ons and a few extra fun things for the Kickstarter.

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game?

There are some parallels to other games, but I cannot say there’s a great, singular comparison to it.

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game? 

I had to! The idea of collecting patches was too exciting of an idea for me to pass up. The theme is just something I’m personally invested in as well. I’ve been an avid hiker my whole life, love the outdoors, went to summer camps as a kid and worked at them as an adult.

What was your design process like?

I would try a few different things, move onto another design for a while, then come back to it. Since the theme came first, the mechanics tested out had to relate to some aspect of outdoor adventuring and stay interesting. For instance, I experimented with the idea that the more equipment you had while hiking adversely impacted the speed at which you could travel. That early idea did not made it into the final but was something I explored early on.

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

Camp Pinetop hits the sweet spot of being easily learned and understood, but contains lot of depth and options in what strategies can be pursue. You can play it as an opportunist, just earning the patches that are easiest for you to get based on your position and the cards you have – or you can pursue a strategy of getting all of your campers on the map fast and getting them in advantageous spots. Or you can stick with a single camper, focus on the patch abilities that let you be nimble and mobile.

Honestly, when I set out to design Camp Pinetop, making a game for kids was not the focus. I prioritized making a game that I wanted to play. I also noticed it appealed to a wide age range. So I made sure to make it accessible to the people who kept coming by my table, whether they were in elementary school or retired.

How long has this game been in development?

The game in its current form has been in development for 3 years. But I have been playing around with the theme for probably 5 years now.

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

What is clever and interesting mechanically vs. what is actually fun. I mentioned earlier the idea of travelling faster with less equipment vs travelling slower with more equipment. There was a pick-up-and-deliver aspect of the game very early on that I really liked. Unfortunately, it wasn’t fun when I tested it out, and so it had to be cut. I think a lot of designers struggle with this on a regular basis. But that’s a game that could be fun in another context, with that struggle at the center of it, just not in this one.

What did your first prototype look like?

I have a tupperware container of scraps of paper and wooden tokens of those early attempts, and I try very hard to not invest too much time in the final look in the early stages. Rather, just focusing on clear graphic design and maybe a fun table display for events. I do not always succeed in that restraint. At the midway point I started exploring different styles in the prototypes before settling on the final look.

Why did you get into making games?

I loved board games as a kid. My sister introduced me to a couple of more modern board games as an adult, and it sparked something in my brain. I started working up ideas for my own games immediately. The thought never really occurred to me before that, even though I’ve done a lot creatively up the that point. I’m very engaged by the balance of right-brain and left-brain tasks that are needed.

What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?

You can find more about me on my website stephenbdavies.com and get in touch with me through Twitter: @stephenbdavies

Talon Strikes Studios is the publisher that is helping me develop it and bring it to Kickstarter: TalonStrikes.com

You can find them on Twitter: @TalonStrikes

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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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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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