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Hero Forge Games Ages 4-10 2-7 players Playtime 30-60 minutes TABLETOP RPG

What happens when your town is in trouble, and all of the adults are off saving people in far-off lands? It’s time for the kids to show off what they’re made of! Designed to be an introduction to tabletop pen-and-paper role-playing, Hero Kids is all about playing, well… heroic kids. The characters are the young yet capable offspring of some of the land’s greatest heroes, who have inherited their parents’ adventurous spirits and impressive talents. Whether it’s facing off against rats who have kidnapped a friend, or trying to protect the local farm from hungry wolves, these kids show that bravery isn’t linked to size.

The rulebook, which is available in print and PDF versions via DriveThruRPG , include the rules, a starting adventure, and 10 different characters to choose from. The rules are fairly straightforward; all of the actions are done by rolling a set number of six-sided dice (which you’ll need to provide), and comparing the highest outcome on each side.

Like any good roleplaying game (RPG), there are plenty of supplements available: extra adventures, new characters, the ever-important loot, and even pets. Or, for those feeling adventurous themselves, you can create your own material, using the information that comes with the basic rulebook as a guide. This will likely come in handy later, as some kids may chew through the available pre-made missions faster than new ones come out. It will also help with older kids who feel they need more of a challenge, as the basic material is a little bit more geared towards the younger end of the age range.

There’s no reading necessary on the part of the players, as there are symbols next to each of the relevant statistics (a shield for defense, a sword for attack, etc.) Math skills are fairly basic: reading a six-sided die, comparing two numbers, and the basic addition and subtraction of getting wounded and healing. The most critical skill, though, is imagination and problem solving. Beginners can be guided and prompted, but there’s a good chance that parents will find themselves surprised by how fast kids pick up on this form of make-believe. As gameplay progresses, concepts like tactics and teamwork can be stressed, helping the young heroes face ever more difficult challenges.

As with many independently published RPGs, Hero Kids does have some grammatical and spelling issues that you might need to watch out for. Keep in mind that this is a simple system, and it does lack one of the basic components of pretty much every RPG: leveling. The game is built to allow for children to easily swap characters after each adventure, with character cards are provided for ten different classes in the basic set. The full PDF bundle offers another ten characters mostly resembling cartoon characters that may be familiar to little gamers. Each character also has a corresponding coloring sheet which will allow your kids to personalize their pre-constructed characters a bit.

Older children who are ready for more complex play might enjoy the blank character cards, which are provided along with simple guidelines on how to build npp steroid your own character. Each card comes with a paper stand-up mini that matches the picture on the card for use on the maps provided with each adventure, and blank cards allow you to draw your own mini.

For gamer parents wanting to introduce their kids to tabletop RPGs, at $6-$15 ($6 gets you a PDF rulebook, while $15 gets you a PDF rulebook, coloring pages, extra features & 9 pre-made adventures), Hero Kids is a fantastic stepping stone to future gaming. For non-gamers looking for a good outlet for their kids’ imagination, this system requires very little additional investment (just a couple of standard dice), and will give your kids hours of creative entertainment!

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Gamewright
Ages 8+
2-5 Players
15+ Minutes
108 Cards in a cool metal case

COMPETITIVE

In the fast-paced world of a sushi chef, you must be the most creative and the fastest of all to be the best! Will you serve Nigiri with Wasabi, or create Maki rolls in quantities never before imagined?  Did you remember to serve dessert?  Find out if you are cut out to be the best in Gamewright’s newest card game – Sushi-Go!

Players start with cards in their hand based on the number of players, and select one card to play before passing the rest of their cards to the next player to choose from!  The game is played in 3 hands where all but dessert cards are cleared from the table and scored at the end.  The strategy of the game lies in making the most of the cards passed to you, while trying to stop opponents from making the combinations they need to maximize points.

There are cards that act as multipliers, cards that must be in a set of two or three to be counted and cards that give you points for having the largest quantity at the end of a round.  This teaches or reinforces simple multiplication, pattern recognition, and strategic planning. Pudding cards, which are scored at the end of the game and represent the only negative scoring possibility in the game, teach children collection/set mechanics as well as delayed gratification.

The most interesting dynamic of this game is the chopsticks, which are played in one round, and used on a subsequent turn to play two cards at once from the current hand.  The chopsticks are then passed on to be used by someone else.  While this is likely the hardest concept for smaller children to grasp, they will enjoy the requirement to shout out “Sushi Go!” when they are finally used.

Sushi Go! requires little reading and can likely be played using just color, pattern and number recognition with younger children.  In fact, removing the chopsticks and possibly the wasabi multipliers might assist in making this a game that would be easily played by a pre-schooler while not boring the rest of the family!

As is, Sushi Go! is a fun game to play with your children or even with your adult friends, even if you don’t like sushi!

 Wondering about other Gamewright games? Check our our reviews here!
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2-4 Players
Ages 10+
10-15 minutes

COMPETITIVE

Have you ever dreamed of being an enzyme? Do your thoughts drift to Adenine, Guanine, Thymine and Cytosine more than you’d like to admit? Have you ever wished you could act just like mRNA? Well, you’re in luck!

Linkage is a fast-paced game of DNA transcription… that’s right, DNA transcription!  Players create a shared strand of DNA from a deck of beautifully designed nucleotide cards, and then use their own hand of RNA nucleotides to try to match it.  It’s as easy as protein synthesis!

I know what you’re thinking, “I left my DNA Helicase in my other genome”! It’s OK, you won’t need it with this game!  Gameplay starts with each player drawing 4 cards from the RNA deck, and laying out the DNA promoter next to the DNA deck.  The promoter starts the nucleotide sequence that you will need to try to match to when transcribing your strand. Each subsequent DNA card has a secondary color that corresponds with the color of the RNA nucleotide cards in your hand.

Play starts by laying the first card of the DNA deck next to the promoter, the oldest player then must draw a card and must play a card.  Of course, the goal is to match the laid down DNA card, however, that may not be an option! Once a card is played, the next player completes a draw-play turn.  The turn ends and the next nucleotide is drawn in the DNA strand.

Since RNA transcription is never as simple as it sounds, there are some other mechanics at play.  Chaperone cards act as a wild card and can replace any active nucleotide in your strand, DNA Mutation allows a player to switch out a card in the DNA sequence and any RNA card marked as a Mutation can steal a card from someone else’s RNA strand.

The round continues until the Terminator (no relation to John Connor’s T-800) is drawn.  Players then add up their points for the round, gaining points for each card in the sequence that matches the parent strand, and racking up bonuses for long strands.

Currently, there is no suggested “best play” number of rounds, but our test went well with three.  Playing like a classic card game, Linkage is very much a learning game that puts the entertainment in edutainment. Color matching lends to play with younger kids interested in science, while the more complicated strategic mechanics will keep older kids ribosomes revved up for transcription!

I can’t imagine a better game to teach budding scientists (or even those struggling with the concept of Uracil as a general agent of confusion) some tough concepts through play.  Though many of the mechanics seem advanced, little reading is necessary, as the game can be played via symbol and color recognition.  Children who have mastered games like UNO and Phase 10 might struggle a little with the DNA Mutation and Chaperone cards, but would be able to grasp it after a few rounds of guided play.

Now that the Kickstarter has ended, Linkage has a $19.99 price tag and is available here!

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There is nothing in this world that a child loves more than playing a game with their parents… Except dinosaurs.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to play Super Tooth this past week with my family. I’ll admit that I had my doubts when the game arrived. It looked too simple. But, Super Tooth hides its complexity well. So well, in fact, that you might not notice it if you aren’t looking for it. That is one of the secrets of a good family game in my eyes.

Super Tooth is, at its core, a matching card game. Players are tasked with collecting matched sets of plant eating dinosaurs. Each turn a “landscape” of three cards is laid out on the play area. Players will then resolve event cards (like the egg that lets the player bring back a card that had previously been discarded), feed or chase away meat eaters, and then ultimately choose one type of plant eater from the board. There is some luck involved here, but it is important to choose carefully to make sure that you are getting matched sets and not just random cards.

The game itself includes the cards (the number will vary depending on how many expansions you are using, and “Cretaceous Coins” that are used to help keep score. The cards were thick enough that they would survive through a lot of play, but it would be best to protect them from little hands whenever possible. They would fit very well in standard card protectors.

My youngest son feels left out of a lot of gaming sessions because a lot of the games that cycle through our home require reading or advanced strategies that he struggles with (being five). He was in all his glory while playing Super Tooth. He was able to grasp the basic gameplay mechanics quickly and was able to implement his own strategies after his first game.

What turned this pleasant surprise into a best case scenario was the level of engagement from everyone playing. My brother was playing with us and he tends to stick with “deep strategy” games and he enjoyed himself (even if he was getting beaten by a five year old)! Super Tooth may be a matching game at its core, but the way that it is played turns it into a sort of drafting game. Players who pay attention to what other players are picking up and discarding will be able to employ strategies like counter-drafting (taking a card that your opponent needs even if it isn’t beneficial to you). My eldest son did that without giving it a name.

I’ll cut to the chase here folks. Super Tooth is an amazing game, but it might not see the light of day without a little help.  Do yourself a favor if you have younger kids and buy this game. You will not regret the chance to play this great game with them (and lets admit it… you like dinosaurs too.)

Supertooth was picked up by Gamewright for 2015!  Find out more here!

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Asmodee Games
Ages 8+
2-8 Players
15 Minutes

COMPETITIVE

 

When Sherlock Holmes drank his tea, did he use a tea bag or had it not been invented yet?  What came first, eye glasses or whiskey? These and many more are the pressing questions that you must answer in order to defeat your opponents at Timeline.

Timeline is a very fast game to learn.  Each player has at least four cards to start, adding more as they desire a higher difficulty level, and a single card is revealed. Each card is two sided, with a matching picture on each side, however; one side has a caption describing the picture like “The invention of the Electric Iron” and the other has the year “1882”.  In order to play the game players must find the correct place on the timeline for their card without seeing the year printed on the back.

As the game progresses, it gets more and more difficult to place cards as there are many possibilities of spots they could fit in if you aren’t sure when they might have occurred.  What happened first “The Domestication of Cattle” or “The Domestication of Cats” and where does “The invention of the oil lamp” fit in?

If you place your card correctly, it is revealed and becomes part of the timeline, if not, it is discarded and you draw a new card.  A round ends when a player places their final card correctly.  If any other players also place their final cards correctly that same round, a new round is played.  Rounds are continued until only one player finishes a round with no cards.

Timeline is a quick play game, and the expansions can be stand-alone or added together for more difficult play.  While the game does allow for a two player game, playing a four card hand does not play well, it is somewhat uneventful, as most games are when played with the minimum players.  To make it more interesting, I would suggest playing a minimum of 6 cards for a 2-player game and/or drawing 2 starting cards and placing them correctly for some real challenges.

Asmodee has rated this game as 8+, but it would be very easy to modify for smaller history buffs.  Not only does this game teach the history of inventions, science, music and global events, it also teaches children about chronology and number line placement.  Years prior to zero are represented as negative numbers, so that the reverse ascension of negative integers can be taught or reinforced (nearly) painlessly.  Some reading is required, however; that can be done prior to the game starting and when questions are asked.

If your child is old enough to understand 4-digit integers, you can modify the play to allow them to “peek” at a date on a card.  This takes the game from a historical trivia strategy game to a basic lesson in number theory strategy game.  This way a smaller child can participate with the older members of the family without feeling as if they are cheating.

Once a child graduates to always getting the placement correct on the line by peeking, you can start to ease back on allowing it once per round or once per game until they can play fully on their own.

Timeline is a quick and easy to learn game.  Each expansion depicts the same steampunk styled character in different settings on a sturdy metal box.  For a game that retails under $15, it is one of the better quality levels.

Outlived your copy of Timeline?  Need to add more challenges? Check out the Timeline expansions:

Now this game can be yours for FREE!  Engaged Family Gaming is proud to announce our first ever giveaway! Entries for this giveaway will run from 4/19/14 at midnight (EST) until midnight (EST) 4/27/14! U.S. Residents only please!

Click the link  to participate in a Rafflecopter giveaway for a copy of this game!

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Privateer Press/Bodger Games
Ages 8+
1-6 Players
45+ Minutes
COOPERATIVE

 

Holed up in the walls of a besieged brownstone, our heroes defend their lives, and the lives of their friends, from the shambling, leaping, and running hoards of undead.   Building massive contraptions of zombie destruction, they tinker to avoid their own demise – or worse, infection.  Who are these brave and brilliant souls who are the last line against a terrible foe? Goblins.  That’s right, Goblins.

Zombies Keep Out is exactly what you’d expect from a Goblins vs Zombies cooperative game,which is to say, a lot of fun for children with an impressively complex gameplay to keep adults entertained as well.  OK, so maybe that’s not what you’d expect, considering that it’s not likely you’ve actually thought about a game pitting these two completely separate factions of under-the-bed creatures against one another.  I assure you, it’s worth expanding your imagination’s boundaries to accommodate this unlikely rivalry.

Like most cooperative games, there are MANY ways to lose and only one way to win. Collect parts and build 3 contraptions while facing nearly insurmountable odds as each player’s turn increases the urgency of the situation! The interesting dynamic that Zombies Keep Out (ZKO) has that sets it apart, is that the player who draws the aptly named “Terrible Things” card must choose between 3 options of many possible occurrences that do their title justice.  Adding zombies, moving zombies, infecting characters, and even more problems must be chosen by the current player without consulting other players.

To make it worse, a player cannot choose an action that cannot be completed at that time, so as the game progresses. “Terrible Things” become “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” Things.

Players get a trade and a single action on their turn. They can repair damage to parts of their building, to protect the much-needed contraptions from destruction. They can defend against zombies, flinging spare parts at the oncoming horde. They can tinker with a device to work on completing it. Or, they can scrounge for parts. It is crucial for players to act together, as completing contraptions requires an exact sequence of cards. Once a contraption is completed, it adds another action called… “Press the button!” which activates the contraption’s special abilities!

As the pool of zombies (it is actually a literal swimming pool full of zombies) depletes the option of being bitten becomes more and more probable.  Biting adds a very kid-friendly scale of terribleness. The first bite takes away your ability to trade with other players and makes you speak more slowly and sickly. The second bite brings you even closer to the precipice of undead-dom (yes, that’s a word) by making your words even less intelligible, and removing your ability to take a tinker action.  A third bite will render you completely unable to speak beyond the iconic zombie groan, and will make you BLINDLY select an option (using hand signals, of course) from each “Terrible Thing” you draw on your turn!  Finally, any bite past the third will turn you into a full fledged Zombie, groaning continuously (to add to the atmosphere of mostly primary colored, large headed monstrosities), and you now have your ability to take actions replaced by drawing another “Terrible Thing”, as you assist your brain-dead brethren in their quest to consume the ever popular delicacy that is green brains. Kermit beware!

This game is immensely enjoyable and the cartoonish characters will be a quick favorite of most children.  It’s an easy game to modify for younger players, by allowing the group to decide the “Terrible Thing” for each card drawn.  Smaller children can build their strategic planning skills individually and even advance to figuring out what’s best for the group as they choose their own actions.

Adults will find themselves questioning decisions and calculating moves as zombies shamble ever closer to devouring their most precious asset… their contraptions.

ZKO is basically the answer to the question on all of our minds: what happens after Pandemic?

Zombies Keep Out! will be available April 23, 2014 from Privateer Press! If you’d like to add more fun to your already awesome ZKO game, Privateer Press has just announced Zombies Keep Out: Night of the Noxious Dead will be released Late Spring 2014!  Adding Glow in the Dark Zombies to the swimming pool near you!

Love cooperative games?  Check out our other reviews here!

Big Zombie Fan?  Here are all our Zombie reviews!

 

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Protean Games
Ages 8+
2-6 Players
30+ Minutes
COMPETITIVE

This weekend at PaxEast the EFG team had the overwhelming privilege of getting to try out some fantastic new games prior to release. Even better… we finally got to try a game that is currently on Kickstarter. (Why don’t you go ahead and back it now. You’ll want to at the end anyways. Then come on back and read about it.)

Mix! is a Card Game of Tactical Color Theory. (Don’t worry, I had no idea what that meant either until I played!) The goal of the game is simple. Players make moves that place game pieces in strategic positions on the palate play board by mixing colors. These colors are used to earn Victory Points which decide the game.

In starting the game, each player draws one two-sided goal card with a primary color on the front and a secondary on the back. The card is places primary side up in front of each player, giving other players the opportunity to counter their quest for obtaining points. What their opponents don’t know is what the color they lose points for is, which creates an interesting counter strategy for players.

Then players draw two pattern cards. Pattern cards make up the major strategic plays of the game and depict a grey version of the palate board with variable objectives. These objectives can be applied to any color, as long as you can turn it in some way to match the configuration. These cards are kept secret to start and are nor revealed until they can be scored. Since these cards might be more difficult to understand with smaller players, this dynamic can be removed or graduated to in advanced play.

A number of Painting tokens are handed out, based on the number of players in the game. These are used to actually tally the score in the game. (We’ll explain these more in a bit.)

Finally, each player is dealt three cards from the draw deck. These cards represent the colors they have available to Mix! as well as some special cards that clear or reset pieces on the board. One of the coolest design elements of this game is now in the players hands: each color card is unique a unique brush stroke even among identically colored cards! The beautifully simplistic card composition will make you feel as if you looking at a new piece of abstract art with every draw.

Game play is turn-based, with the order consisting of a mandatory play phase, an optional action phase and a mandatory draw phase. When playing a card, each player chooses a primary color (or one of 2 special cards) from the masterpiece that is their hand to the play area. They may then choose to pass, “Mix”, “Paint”, or choose another pattern.

Mixing involves taking two (or more) primary colors and combining them to create a color.  Two blue cards move a token from the center of the palate to the blue area, a red and a blue move a token from the center to the purple area, and so on. While most older kids will get more strategy lessons out of this piece of the game (making patterns, setting up to score, etc.), allowing a younger child to assist in the possible identifying color combinations could be a fun “little sibling” activity (even if they try to make purple out of red and yellow). While tokens move around due to mixing, the score doesn’t change while players jockey for position, until someone takes a Paint action.

Scoring is player driven, with players using their action and spending a Painting tokens to update the score. What this means is that each color that has at least one game piece in it scores one counter (and only 1), and anyone with a pattern card that can be completed may complete it at that time. Scores for players are not tallied or recorded in this phase, as secondary colors are not revealed until the end, but score tokens add up! This is one of the most unique aspects of this game (and possibly the most difficult for younger players to grasp); wisely spending your Painting tokens to maximize your own points is harder than it sounds.

Choosing a pattern is always the same: draw two, chose one, put the other on the bottom of the deck. You don’t lose points for uncompleted patterns, but you are limited to 2 unplayed patterns at a time, so it’s important to choose the ones that seem most likely to be completed. The harder a card is to complete, the more it’s worth in Victory Points.

Play continues until the draw deck empties, which went pretty quickly, even for our group of brand new players. A final score phase happens, and the points are tallied. All players receive 1Victory Points (VP) for having Painting tokens remaining, 2 VP for each score counter in their primary color, and -1VP for each in their secret secondary color.

Mix! is a very fun game that is not only aesthetically interesting and well thought out, but also a fantastic strategy teaching tool for children who have mastered more complex strategy games like UNO. While reading is not necessary, some modification might be necessary for play with children who have not yet reached this gaming milestone. This game was designed to be played with children, and seems like the kind of game that would lend itself well to house rules and even adult only play!

Kickstarter is a tricky creature. If we don’t put the effort into helping Protean Games this amazing game might not see the light of day. That would be a shame, so make sure to check out Protean Games’ Kickstarter and help them get it made!

 

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Kobe Bryant, perennial all star and current member of the Los Angeles Lakers, is one of the most competitive men on the planet. He skipped college and entered the NBA straight out of high school as part of his unending quest to be one of the best ever. (Spoiler alert: He succeeded.)

Patrick Rothfuss is the New York Times bestselling author responsible for The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear. He is currently working on book three of the Kingkiller Chronicles (if I have to wait much longer I may go insane).

Would you believe me if I told that these two men have something in common? What if I told you that this one little thing they have in common is actually relevant here on Engaged Family Gaming?

Probably not.

But, its 100% true.

Both of them are devoted fathers who have played Candy Land with their children… and neither of them let their children win. (See Mom! I have three things in common with an NBA player and a fantasy author!)

Bryant was recently interviewed by Ben McGrath of the New Yorker (the entire piece is well worth the required subscription if you are a sports fan) and in that interview the two men had a discussion regarding Kobe Bryant, his three year old daughter, and Candy Land. The gist of the story: Kobe Bryant would not let his daughter win. The story from the New Yorker reads like this, “He recalled playing Candy Land with her when she was three, and confronting the inevitable question of whether or not to let her win. ‘You know it’s my move,’ he said. ‘She obviously can see that I can win, so she’ll know that I’m not-winning on purpose. Then what’s that teaching?”

In a similar vein, Rothfuss recently published an article on the subject of Candy Land to his personal blog. In it, he talks about how important it is not to let your children win at board games because it robs from the learning experience. Games help teach children about winning and losing. Letting them win isn’t helping anyone. (He also talks about a great way to update Candy Land to make it a more interesting game.)

Why did I write about this you may ask? Well, first and foremost, I wanted to write an article that linked Kobe Bryant and Patrick Rothfuss (Because: Reasons). But, I thought that their two points were worth bringing up. A lot of the games that we play involve directly competing with our children. It is almost unavoidable. Every parent will, at one point or another, be staring down an opportunity to win with their child staring back at them.

The important thing is to have a plan going in, because the temptation might be there to let your child win to make them feel good. We all want to see them smile, but it just isn’t worth it in the long run. Our kids are smarter than we will ever give them credit for and they WILL catch us letting them win. What exactly will that be teaching them?

What are your thoughts? How do you handle this situation? Sound off in the comments!

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We don’t talk about them much on Engaged Family Gaming, but we do owe a lot to some of the classic board games like Monopoly and Candy Land. They may be simple compared to more complex euro games. But, a lot of people who say that they “love board games” do so because of nostalgia for playing these games with their families and friends as a child.

Some of these games have been around for so long that popular house rules have become the norm during play. For example, did you know that in Monopoly there is nothing in the rules that says anything about a cash reward for landing on Free Parking? Take a look if you don’t believe me.

Hasbro, the company behind Monopoly, has taken to its Facebook page to encourage fans to share and debate their own house rules. The best among these rules will be included in a special edition of the game to be released at a later date. The discussion started yesterday (March 25th) and will continue until April 3rd.

I’m interested to see what interesting house rules end up getting the most attention. But, I’m even more curious to see what sorts of house rules you play with! Sound off in the comments and let us know the game and the adjustment you made!

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R&R Games Inc

Ages 8+
2-5 players
30 + Minutes
COOPERATIVE

I was placing an order on Amazon that included and add-on item & needed about $10 to make up the difference in order to actually make it ship.  Searching around, I couldn’t find anything I really *needed* at the time, so I thought I’d try to find some sort of game to finally allow my other items to begin their journey to delivery.

I started aimlessly searching through highly reviewed card games, like you do, and stumbled upon a game with a 4.5 star rating right in my price range: Hanabi. Victory was mine!

Two days later Hanabi arrived, a small, sturdy box with 60 cards, 12 tokens and an instruction manual.  After reading the manual, I was intrigued & couldn’t wait to play!

The game is simple.  Hanabi is the Japanese word for Fireworks, and you are pyrotechnicians who have accidentally mixed up all of the parts of your fireworks display and now — THE SHOW MUST GO ON!  You have to work together to create the best display you possibly can despite your myriad of mistakes! The kicker is, you can’t look at your own hand!

Your teammates can give you limited information about your hand as their turn, but if you misunderstand and play the wrong firework, it can be disastrous!

The game is immensely challenging, and really makes you consider every move!  While the recommended age is 8+, this game mechanic seems to lend itself to older players.  It requires patience, reading your team-mates and figuring out how best to convey half (or less) of the picture to your fellow “fireworkers”.  Hanabi teaches simple strategy and teamwork in a somewhat high pressure environment where you don’t have access to all of the variables at play.

All in all, it is a very thought-provoking game that will help your older children learn how to draw conclusions from limited data, how to give the best clues within in a constrained framework and when to take a blind chance.  As if Hanabi‘s price-tag isn’t good enough, the manual also includes 4 variants for advanced play so once you’ve mastered the strategy of the basic game you still won’t be bored!

We HIGHLY recommend this for any family with older kids that love to work together!

Love cooperative games?  Check out our other reviews here!

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