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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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Mayfair Games

Ages 6 and Up

2-4 Players

Playtime: Approximately 30 minutes

Ahoy, matey! Catan: Junior is a pirate themed game designed to introduce young players to a modified version of the grown up game called The Settlers of Catan.

The game comes with a very well designed rules booklet, a stationary map on a board, cardboard ‘resource’ cards, plastic pirate lairs, plastic pirate ships, a very pretty die, a plastic ‘Ghost Captain’, and cardboard ‘Coco tiles’. It also contains cardboard ‘building cost’ tiles that will serve as cheat sheets during gameplay.

The cardboard pieces are very sturdy and will hold up well to use by little hands. The plastic pieces are fairly flimsy, and should be kept away from fidgety children who might like to bend and play with their game pieces.

The double sided map consists of series of islands where 2 to 4 players control pirate ships, build lairs, and avoid Spooky Island (where the Ghost Captain lives). Each island on the map generates a specific resource: wood, goats, molasses, swords, and gold.

Each player starts with two pirate lairs on different islands, one pirate ship, and a few resources. Players role the die on their turn to determine which islands produce resources (with a twist that enables players to move the Ghost Captain). Players can then use the resources they acquire to build additional ships, lairs, or get aid from Coco the Parrot. By building ships, they can expand their network. The more lairs they build, the more resources they can receive. The ultimate goal is to be the first player to control seven pirate lairs to win the game.

Gameplay is fairly simple. The game requires no reading, and only the barest concept of counting. It is the mechanics and strategy hidden within the game that make it a game for players 6 and up (or a 5 year old who is board game savvy). There are rules that can make the game more challenging for more advanced gamers.

We’ve played through the game many times with children of various ages. My 8 year old loves it, and likes to switch his strategy each time he plays. Sometimes he focuses on resource collection, sometimes on manipulating the marketplace, and sometimes he focuses on the Coco cards and Ghost Captain. We attempted a few adult supported playthroughs with our 5 year old and he got bored very quickly. The myriad of steps in each round frustrated him and he gave up. However, a friend’s 5 year old LOVED the game, but he is a very meticulous child. He enjoyed the resource collection and steps to build his network.

Some of the 6 and 7 year old children we played with did need adult prompting on each round, but a group of 8 yr old and up children played through successfully with no adult interaction at all. While the game is not quite as engaging to an adult as the original Settlers, it is still entirely playable and not boring.

Overall, this is a great introduction to the series and Euro style games in general. It has a high replay value and is a great game to play WITH your children (There are even some advanced rules to graduate to as they grow!). Catan: Junior is well worth the price. 

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Iello Games

Ages 8 and Up

2-6 Players

Play Time: 30 minutes

Attacking Aliens, Rampaging Lizards, Giant Robots, Mutant Bugs, and Ferocious Gorillas: this game has them all! King of Tokyo is a European style game that combines a board game, a dice game and a card game. You play as one of the aforementioned monsters whose main goals are to destroy Tokyo and battle other monsters in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo!

The game comes with a clear & colorful rulebook, a game board, 6 monsters each with their own control boards with spinning wheels to keep track of damage and victory points, 6 cardboard monster figures with plastic stands, 8 dice to roll each turn, 66 cards you can purchase to give your monster special abilities, 50 tiny plastic cube energy tokens, and 28 round cardboard card effect tokens.

All of the pieces are sturdy and well designed. The energy tokens are a choking hazard and very tiny and easily lost. But, we found that this problem can be solved by giving players a tiny bowl to store them in during gameplay.

Gameplay can be fairly complex. There are 4 steps involved in each turn, and the game requires basic reading and an understanding of simple strategy. We think the recommended age range is spot on.

At the beginning of the turn, each player rolls six dice. The dice show the following symbols: numbers 1, 2, or 3 (representing Victory Points that can be earned), a lightning bolt (representing Energy that can be earned), a heart (representing Healing), and a claw (representing Attack). The player with the most Attack dice goes first (the fiercest).

The player then starts the turn by rolling 6 dice. Over three successive rolls, the player can which dice to keep or discard in order to advance.

Each turn consists of 4 steps: rolling and re-rolling the dice, resolving the dice, buying cards and using their effects, and the end of turn decision.

The fiercest player will occupy Tokyo, and earn extra victory points, but that player can’t heal and must face all the other monsters alone! When you add in cards that can have a permanent or temporary effect, like growing a second head, body armor, nova death ray, etc., you get a VERY exciting game.

In order to win the game, one must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 victory points, or be the only surviving monster once the fighting has ended.

This game fits so perfectly into our household of comic and cartoon obsessed boys, that it has eclipsed all other games that we own. My oldest son LOVES it, and often chooses this game when he has friends over. He tends to play for Attack and cool card abilities, while his more cautious friends play for Victory Points. My 5 year old was begging to try, and we gave it a few attempts, but he got bored very quickly. While he liked to roll the dice, the strategy and steps in each round frustrated him and he gave up playing, but stayed to watch.

 

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By: Jennifer Duetzmann

Publisher: Days of Wonder

Players: 2-5

Ages: 8+

Play Time: 30-60 minutes

Price: MSRP $49.99 (we found it on Amazon for $36)

Ticket To Ride contains 1 nicely designed heavy cardboard map of North American train routes, 225 multicolored train cars, 144 really tiny cards, 5 wooden score markers, and a rules booklet that is very simply organized. It takes up a lot of space, so you’ll need a big table to play on. Since pieces are tiny and easily lost, you’ll want to save the bags that the pieces come in and make sure you keep uncoordinated little hands out of the way when you’re putting things away.

During gameplay, players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout the United States.

It only takes about 15 minutes to learn the game. One of the nicest things about Ticket To Ride is how deceptively easy each turn is. On each turn you can only take one of 3 actions:

  • Draw Train Car Cards (you need specific colors to match up with routes)
  • Claim a Route between two cities on the board (you earn points based in the length of your route)
  • Draw additional Destination Tickets (you earn extra points if you connect the two destinations by the end of the game)

The object of the game is to score the highest number of total points.

It sounds simple and almost too basic, right? Think again. Each round allows for players to plan, think strategically, and make tactical decisions. Do you try to claim as many long routes as you can to earn the most points? Do you choose to risk negative points and collect and fulfill Destination Tickets to get your points in big chunks? Do you attempt to build the longest continuous route? Or, do you attempt to block your opponents from scoring points?

When playing the game with a mixture of adults and children, we found that the 8+ age range seems to be spot on. Maybe an advanced 7 year old could play, but the strategy would be completely overlooked by younger players. Also, fine motor skills would be a problem due to the tiny cards and pieces. Since the map is fairly geographically accurate, we found that adults with a knowledge of North American cities had a slight advantage over the children who didn’t know their geography. The children had to give away some of their ‘secrets’ by searching for or asking an adult to help them find their cities. Also, children needed to talk through their actions, while adults often made their plays quietly.

During gameplay, a few interesting things happened. It seems that when adults took their turns, the tension was higher. I know for me the tense feelings came from choosing between greed (picking up more colored cards or wild cards) and fear (keeping an opponent from claiming a critical route). Also, another adult player actively tried to block opponents routes, which led to frustration. The children who played either focused on achieving Destination Card connections, or making the longest route. Most of the children seemed to take the possibility of taking the longer routes in stride when they got blocked off. I’m guessing it was because they were unaware of the time management part of the game and were simply enjoying the playing. Every child seemed surprised when it was time for the game to end (based on a mechanic in the rules) and tally up points. Another aspect that the children overlooked was the point deduction from not achieving Destination connections.

Overall, Ticket To Ride has a high replay value. We don’t see it getting boring any time soon. And, because the game has expansions for other geographical areas (Europe, Asia, India, etc), we can add to it later on to keep things fresh. We love the fact that this game includes opportunities to learn counting, patterns, color matching, planning, and geography without actually seeming like it’s teaching.

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Robot Turtles: A Game for Little Programmers

By: Jennifer Duetzmann

1-4 players (plus one adult)

Ages 3-8

Thinkfun (Dan Shapiro)

$25.00

Robot Turtles is a family board game created to teach kids computer programming.  It is simplistic and super fun.  The goal is for kids to is to place directional cards on a board to get their turtle to a matching colored jewel. It starts out easy, but as your child learns, you can add obstacles to make it more complex.   The children get to be the programmers and take control by playing out cards.  The grown-ups act as the computer, following commands and making all sorts of goofy noises as they play. The key is that the computer has to follow the commands exactly as entered by the kids. For example, turning left and moving forward twice is different than going forward twice and turning left. It is a sneaky way to instill in children the importance of the order of operations in programming.

You might have heard about this game in the news.  Maybe you’ve seen someone who has it.  Maybe you’ve seen it reviewed on a website. But, you’ve looked everywhere for it. It appears it was only released on Kickstarter and there might be a few copies left online. But it’s crazy expensive. Guess you will never have a chance to get it for your family, right?

Guess again.  Here is some wonderful news direct from Dan Shapiro (the game’s creator):

Thinkfun, one of the top publishers of kids educational games, is releasing a shiny new version of Robot Turtles this summer. And for anyone who preorders, they’ll include a really cool expansion pack.

Check out the link here:

http://www.thinkfun.com/robotturtles/

We really enjoyed playing as a family.  The biggest draw has been the scaling difficulty. It lets my sons play together despite their vastly different abilities. My 4 year old loved the basic game, and was super excited to have a robotic turtle with lasers.  My 8 year old liked coming up with 3 card at a time moves in advance, and my 20 something year old brother-in-law liked writing his entire program up front (he was even able to experiment with function commands) .  The game uses simple concepts to sneakily teach computer programming concepts and kids enjoy it.  From an educational standpoint, it doesn’t get much better.

We definitely think it’s worth preordering a copy for your family.

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By: Jenna Duetzmann, staff writer

Created by:

Steve Jackson Games (yep, the same person as the Munchkin series)

Publisher:

Edge Entertainment

Pegasus Spiele

Steve Jackson Games

Published in 2010

Players: 2 − 99 players ages 10 & Up

Braaaains! Grr! Zombies are THE in thing right now, and Zombie Dice  capitalizes on that. Play time is on average 10 minutes, making this a great warm up game or ice breaker, much like Tenzi, which I wrote about earlier. The concept is simple: You are a zombie hungry for “BRAAAAINS!!!” and you’re searching for victims. The victim can flee, defeat you with a handy shotgun, or get their brains eaten.

Sounds gruesome, right? Nope, not all all. The game comes in a cool dice cup filled with 13 dice and an instruction sheet. The picture on the cup is a little creepy, but nothing a 6 year old can’t handle. The dice aren’t gruesome at all. They are black six sided dice with simple graphics of an explosion, some running feet, and a cartoonish brain. The dice are supposed to be the ‘victims’ that zombies will be chasing. The dice are three different colors, which indicate how difficult it is to catch a victim. Green is easy, yellow a slightly bigger challenge, and red is difficult.

Here’s how the game is played:

The player with the most terrifying “BRAAAAAINS!!!” sound effect starts the game (usually my 7 year old son). To play the game, players will shake the dice inside the cup and draw three dice from it without looking. They then roll those dice. If the player rolls brains, they move those dice to the side and save them until the end of their turn. Brains are good! If the player rolls shotgun blasts, they move those dice to the side and save them until the end of their turn. Shotguns are bad! If the player rolls footprints, nothing happens.

After the first roll, the player can choose to either keep rolling or stop and tally the brains they rolled (one brain = one point). If they choose to keep going, they draw more dice from the cup to replace the brains and shotgun dice that were moved off to the side. If a player rolls three shotgun blasts, their turn is over and they score nothing for that round, no matter how many brains they may have collected.

Each player takes turns until one person reaches or exceeds thirteen points. At that point, every other player takes one final turn in an attempt to score as many brains as they can. The winner is the person with the most BRAAAAAAINS at the end of the game.

Zombie Dice is very easy to play and can be handled by children 6 and up, even though it is suggested for a slightly older audience. Our guess is that they labeled it for 10 and older because zombies are scary. But, if you have kids in your house, you know that zombies and gross things are fascinating to kids 6 and older. Since there is no necessary in game reading, we decided to introduce it to our boys and it didn’t take long for them to understand the rules.

We found that the “press your luck” mechanic and strategy part of Zombie Dice (the dice being coded with three different difficulty levels) is a bit complicated for younger players, but it is a big part of what makes the game interesting. One of my children was super cautious and the other was a HUGE risk taker. It was surprising and fun to see how each player responded to the dice rolls.

Overall, gameplay in Zombie Dice is fast and fun. The game requires you to make a decision each turn, which will keep players actively engaged. This is another portable and fun addition to our family game night. Our only complaint is that over enthusiastic shakers can shake the bottom right off of the dice cup and dice will go flying everywhere. But that’s hardly a real complaint, right? All in all, we love it and can’t wait to try out the expansions!

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By: Jason Jarusinsky, collectible card game editor

Today we are focusing on a game I have been playing for the last eighteen years: Magic: The Gathering (M:TG). It is one of the biggest collectible card games on the market, so we wanted to provide an overview of the game, and what you can expect if you and your children start to play.

History of the game

M:TG was released in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast with the first set called Alpha. When the game first released in order to help spread the word about the game the developers and publishers literally gave away product to players in order to get them started. It did not take long for that to happen. With subsequent releases aptly named Beta and Unlimited and the first expansion set called Arabian Nights the game caught on and caught on big. It has changed over time, but it has always revolved around the idea of an ever expanding game based on the release of expansion sets.

Sets are released in what are known as “blocks”. A block consists of three sets that are released over a period of a year. This has been tweaked here and there, but it is always more or less the same. In addition, there is a “Core set” that is released each summer. This set is comprised of basic cards that give players a solid starting point to learn the game each year.

What is this game all about?

As you sit down to play you take on the roll of a powerful wizard called a “Planeswalker” standing on a hill facing your enemy. Your deck of cards represents the creatures you will summon, the spells you will cast, and the mana you will use to do battle. This battle is represented by each player taking turns playing cards from their hand and attempting to take their opponents life total from twenty to zero.

Why is this game so great?

First, the game is deep. There are always interesting decisions to be made. The process of building a deck using all of the cards available is a meta-game in itself.

Second, the designers do a fantastic job of creating new and exciting cards to keep players enthralled with the game year after year. This is one of the main reasons I feel the game has remained so popular, and even has a Pro Tour for the most skilled players to compete in.

This is a very high level overview, but I hope you have found it useful.We’re going to talk about Magic: the Gathering a lot as time goes on so come on back to learn more.

If you have any questions at all please feel free to reach me at CCG@engagedfamilygaming.com. In future articles I will delve deeper into the formats of play, and what to expect at your first tournament if you so inclined that is the right gaming level for you!

Stay Frosty Friends,

Jason

 

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By: Samantha Oestreicher, guest writer

Editor’s note: Samantha is a college math teacher who also writes a blog entitled, “Social Mathematics.” She offered to share some of her expertise with us here at Engaged Family Gaming and we couldn’t pass it up! Read on for some excellent examples of board games that teach math concepts without being all “teachy” about it!

There is a lot of pressure from the media and from peers to believe that math is painful. Sometimes adults try to dress up mathematics to make it look like“a game”. As a gamer, I have been really disappointed in these dressed up math practice games because they miss the point of what a game really is. Instead, they are loosely veiled attempts to manipulate kids to use math in a “fun” way.

All is not lost though, great games do exist that use mathematical thinking and math skills. The following is a list of fun games that can inspire mathematical thinking. I have compiled a list of seven wonderful board games for gaming families which can be enjoyed by parent and child alike which also include mathematical thinking.

  1. Set 5+ (grouping/sorting)

Set is an amazing card game! This is a game that your 6-year-old will be better at than you are. I’m not kidding; kids totally rock this game. This is a matching game that can be played solo or with any sized group. The rules are relatively simple. The cards each have a certain number of shapes on them of a particular color and pattern. A set is three cards which all have the same type of an attribute or miss-match an attribute. Perhaps a set is three cards all have ovals with a striped pattern on them but each card has a different number of shapes (1, 2, and 3) and different colored (purple, green and red). Pro tip: Sometimes there isn’t a set available in the cards on the table. When I play set with undergraduate math majors I ask them to prove to me why there isn’t a set. Challenging older kids to explain why is excellent mathematical practice! This game fits in your purse or stroller and is perfect for a quick distraction and only requires a small table (or floor) of space.

  1. Rummikub 7+ (Numerals/grouping/relationships)

Rummikub is a 2-4 player classic game with lots of tiles to play with and sort. While Rummikub is also about color/number matching, it is more advanced than Set because you can re-organize the board. The matching rules are similar to Set, but now all the collections of tiles stay out on the table and you can steal from already created collections to make a new one. Worst comes to worst, the tiles are fun to play with and you can build things with them! This is a great game to play at home or at the end of the day on a vacation.

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  1. Connect 4 7+ (planning/pattern recognition/Loud pieces!)
Price: $6.89
Was: $12.99

Every family needs a noisy, clattering, pieces-get-everywhere kind of a game. Connect 4 is a childhood classic that supports geometric thinking, planning and pattern recognition. It is a two player game and great for two children to play together. Basically, Connect 4 is an advanced version of tic-tac-toe. I do not recommend taking this game out of your home as you will surely lose pieces. This is a great game to entertain the kids while you are finishing dinner or something.

  1. 20 Express 8+ (consecutive numbering/planning)
Price: $39.95

This game is great for parents to play with your kids! It’s a number game which focuses on consecutive ordering. The scoring may take parental involvement as it is a little weird at first sight. However, the cool part about this game is that everyone tries to organize the same numbers at the test cyp same time. So you, as a parent, can compare answers with the other players. “Oh, that was a good choice, I didn’t think to do it that way!” The only negative to 20 Express is that it obviously uses math and that may turn off some kids. This game is good for traveling as it doesn’t require a central table and any number of people can play at once. Each player just needs a pen and something to write on.

  1. Ticket To Ride 8+ (counting/planning)
Price: $42.30
Was: $49.99

This game is really fun! It is a time commitment (maybe an hour once everyone knows the rules) and requires a big table. There are lots of little train pieces that you get to place on the board when you build railroad tracks between cities on the map. I don’t recommend this game if you have a cat or child who likes to jump on the table and mess up the board.

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This 2-5 player game requires business optimization similar to operations research. There is no money, but you have to collect cards which include restrictions on where you are allowed to build. This game requires a longer attention, but is full of bright colors and will definitely be just as fun for the parents as the children!

  1. Rush Hour 8+

Rush Hour is one player, portable, colorful, and mentally wonderful. The board is small and packed with vehicles which have set directions that they can move. The goal is to move the vehicles in a particular order to get the little red car out of the traffic jam. A negative is that every piece is important. Don’t lose them! This game is great for waiting rooms or car trips as it comes with its own board and it small enough to hold in a child’s hand or lap.

  1. Sumoku 9+ (addition/multiplication)
Price: $14.99
Was: $15.99

Sumoku is a math-centric game for 1-8 players. Think of it as Scrabble/Bananagrams for numbers. You add to the existing tile layout based on a specific mathematical goal. For example, every row must add to a multiple of 3. This is a great game to support a young mathematical thinker because along with practicing basic computational skills, the player is also planning and matching. Unlike Bananagrams, there is no element of speed, so young players may take as long as necessary to check their math before they place their tiles. Like 20 Express, this game obviously uses mathematics. But, I believe Sumoku is interesting and dynamic enough to provide entertainment to the whole family. This game is easy to transport and requires a central table.

My recommendation is that, if you only buy one of these games, get Set. Then I would pick up Ticket to Ride. After that, your choices should depend on you and your children’s interests. And remember that your involvement always improves the quality of the game. Mathematical thinking requires self-reflection and the ability to collaborate. Challenge your kids to explain why they made a particular choice or ask them to help you with your move.

Happy Gaming!

Looking for more games and math? Check out more articles here!

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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By: Jason Jarusinsky, Collectible Card Game Editor

Last week I talked about how to organize a collection of cards for whatever collectible card game your family plays. I touched on it briefly, but I think it is valuable to talk about the different rarity levels for cards and to explain what they mean.

The vast majority of games on the market today include four different rarity levels. They are: common, uncommon, rare, and ultra-rare (also known as mythic rare, or chase rare depending on the game).

Commons

The name says it all here. These will be the most readily available cards for use. Generally speaking, 70-75% of the cards in a booster pack will be common. This is the main block of cards that beginners are encouraged to build from. The fact that they are so numerous also means that their value is low. This isn’t to say that they are garbage, but they are the cards you will want to pile in a shoebox. If you buy a lot of booster packs you will end up with a TON.

Uncommons

Uncommon is the next rarity level up and are the next most common grouping of cards. Only 20-25% of that same booster pack will be uncommon. In most cases these cards are still very readily available; however will be more expensive that commons in almost all cases. A beginner can find uncommon cards to fill out their deck with relative ease even if you purchase a few at a local card shop.

Rares

Rare cards are some of the more scarce type of cards that can be found in every booster pack. Typically only one card per pack is rare. These can be much more expensive than more common cards and you won’t have a lot of them at first until you buy more booster packs. Don’t be discouraged though, because all games are playable without them. When you child gets older you can teach them about how to trade cards to get what they might be missing from their collection.

Ultra- Rares

Ultra-Rare, Mythic Rare, and/or Chase Rare cards are the rarest variety of cards that you and your child will find. Most importantly, there is no guarantee that you will ever open one in a booster pack. Instead, the odds range from one in five packs to one in ten packs depending on the game. This has the effect of driving the value of these cards up significantly.

I hope this helps bring the types of cards you own into greater focus and as always if you have any questions or would like more information please email me at CCG@engagedfamilygaming.com and I will be happy to help.

Stay Frosty Friends!

Jason

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