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They say necessity is the mother of invention. Well, if that is true then quarantine is the mother of creative solutions. Social distancing has made it so we cannot get together and play board games with extended family and friends. However, with the technology available, friends can still hang out together while maintaining social distancing. For school and work many of us have been getting acquainted with different video conferencing forums. While those of you in the business world have been using platforms such as Webex for years, it is new to many of us.

There are a few ways to approach gaming via video conferencing: where all players have a copy of the game, where one player has a copy, or if there are common components players can scavenge from other games.

With One Copy

DIY Tripod to display the game board. (4 cans used)

To make it so all players can “share” the game components there needs to be all open information. It generally is not possible for each player to have a private hand of cards. Whomever has the game needs to have a way to display a view of the game. One option is to use their phone while logged into the video conference. Then putting it on a tripod or holding it is place with a stack of books or cans. I found a buffer is needed between the metal can and the phone. The height needed depends on the size of the game.

Cooperative Games

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game for two to four players. It pits a team of adventurers against an ever-sinking island in a quest to obtain four ancient artifacts and escape before the island sinks.

In Stop Thief player take on the roll of investigators trying to catch several thieves. They collect the reward money so they can retire. This game incorporates an app that provides sound clues to the location of the thief, different levels of difficulty in play as well as a cooperative mode.

Castle Panic places up to 6 players in a realm where all sorts of fantasy creatures are attempting to breach their castle. Players then work together to defend the castle from being taken by an army of orcs and trolls and goblins and their leaders. See the review here.

Competative Games:

Blurble is a game all about racing and talking.  So many of us love to talk and this gives us the chance to put that talking to good use. In Blurble, players race to say a word first that starts with the same letter as the picture on the card.  See the review here.

Sushi Roll takes the popular game Sushi Go and instead of card drafting players draft dice. There is no hidden information in this game. So if there is only one copy as long as the other players can see their choices they could make their choices on their turn. See the review here.

Each Location With a Copy

When each location has a copy of a game it opens up more options. Players can each draw from a deck or they can set up a simple game so the board at each location is identical. Some publisher have also created special rules to make their game playable over video conference.

Exploding Kittens is a family favorite that is just plain ridiculous. The team at Exploding Kittens has come up with a special set of rules for playing over video chat, which they are calling Quarantined Kittens. See the rules here,and our review of Exploding Kittens here.

Zombie Dice is a push your luck dice game where you want to roll (eat) brains before getting your turn ending by the shotgun blasts. These are custom dice, so they wouldn’t be able to be substituted with plain dice. See then review here.

Roll For It!
Roll For It!

Roll For It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play. See the review here.

Apples to Apples and Apples to Apples Jr. are found on most family’s game shelf. This game has a rotating judge with silly words and phrases. With this each location can have their own draw decks.

Quixx is a roll and write where each roll also opens up an option to take a number for all players. In this game the color of the dice is significant, so if you have six sided dice of the appropriate color you could scavenge for dice if need be.

Dice Games using Standard Dice

Yatzee is a classic, and this may be the perfect time for an oldie but goodie. Most people have 6 sided dice around, even if they have to borrow from other games. If everyone can scrape together 5 dice, they can play! The score sheets can be found online and printed or just written on blank paper.

Farkle is a simple push your luck dice game that uses six standard six sided dice. Just like Yatzee if you can find six dice you can play. The score sheet can also be found online.


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

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Spending more time at home is the new normal at the moment. With schools being closed and parents now facilitating their child’s distance learning or home schooling there is a tremendous amount of stress, worry, and exhaustion. One positive we can take is many more of us are finding we have time to spend quality time around the table playing games. This creates a perfect time to unwind.

Face the Uncertainty

pandemic board

First we have the elephant in the room, Pandemic. When local governments began shutting down schools and not essential businesses, there were families that reached for this game, and shared pictures online. Playing Pandemic at this time may or may not be right for you. Some people felt it gave them a sense of control, in a way they do not right now. If this game is a favorite in your house it may be a good time to dust it off. See the review here.

Beautiful Games

Noctiluca

In a remote jungle there can be found Cerulean Pools beautiful luminescent Noctiluca. Players take on the roll of divers collecting these Noctiluca in jars. The neat twist to the game is to collect the dice (Noctiluca) you have to select a number shown on the dice, and collect all in a straight light from the edge of the pool to the center with that number. However, on the jar, the numbers are irrelevant, only the color matters.

Wingspan

Wingspan gets a lot of criticism for being “overhyped.” I guess that might be true? It did build a lot of hype before most of the people on Earth had taken a single turn, but a big part of that was the simple beauty of the art on the cards. Each card features a different bird and the art looks like it came from an ornithology textbook.

Seikatsu

Seikatsu is, without question, one of the most beautiful games I have ever laid eyes on. The game board has three beautifully painted gardens around the outside edge and the tiles are covered with paintings of birds. The box is even prettier than it has any right to be. Sitting down in front of this game is breathtaking . It only gets better as players lay tiles and the board fills up.

There is even a version with pets!

Lanterns

Lanterns is a tile laying game which also incorporates color matching and set collecting.  Players are decorating the lake for the Harvest Festival in Imperial China. They collect cards based on the color lanterns that are oriented towards them on the lake cards.  Then players cash in sets of the lantern cards to make a dedication. These dedication cards each have a number, and the player with the highest number of dedication points at the end wins.  The game is beautiful as you expand the lake covered in lanterns as tiles are added.  Gameplay is very easy to learn, and the easy steps on each turn make this game great for the whole family.

Azul

An imagine of the board game box and components for Azul from Plan B Games

Azul is an award winning game designed by Michael Kiesling. It 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. 

Sagrada

There is something uniquely breathtaking about the sun beaming through a stained glass window. In Sagrada dice represent the glass pieces. Players draft to meet the color and share requirements of their window and public as well as private objectives. The game boards only look more and more stunning as the windows are build.

Comfort Food, Your Old Favorites

Ticket To Ride

I can’t think of “comfort food” board games without Ticket to Ride crashing right to the front of my brain. Ticket to Ride became the first “real” board game bought for the EFG board game library., when the decision was made to cover board games. I remember opening it and looking at the board in bewilderment. Initially I found the rules confusing by, but after two turns I felt like a pro. We have shared TtR with everyone possible and I cannot WAIT to get it to the table again. See the review here.

Sushi Go

Sushi Go!
Sushi Go!

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 popular card game – Sushi-Go!

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. See the review here.

Tsuro

Tsuro: The Game of the Path
Tsuro: The Game of the Path

If you are looking for an excellent and simple introduction to the genre of tile laying and path finding games, look no further than Tsuro: The Game of the Path. It is an Asian themed game with beautiful dragon tokens and a pretty box and board design. The object of the game is to keep your flying dragon token on the board longer than anyone else’s. As the board fills up this becomes a challenge because there are fewer empty spaces. Other player can purposefully change your path to an undesirable one. See the review here.

Kingdomino

Kingdomino , the 2017 winner of The Spiel Des Jahres (The Game of the Year), combines the universal simplicity of dominoes with kingdom building. Players draw domino shaped tiles and lay them out in their 5×5 block kingdom. The goal is to sort their kingdom to that they have large contiguous biomes (lakes, forests, etc) to earn points. The gameplay is quick, easy to teach, and the game ages down very nicely.

Splendor

Blending a  balance of easy to learn rules and deeper strategy, Splendor is a fantastic game for older children and grown-ups alike. Players acquire gems in order to buy mines, which in turn provide more gems (and ultimately points). While the gem-dealer theme may feel thin at times, the card drafting mechanic and  “engine-building” feel to the gameplay will quickly make this a family game night staple. See the review here.


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

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With current events unfolding, parents are thrust into the roll of facilitating their children’s distance learning or homeschooling. Both parents and educators have jumped into distance learning with little to no warning. Below are some games that are easily available, or you may already have on your shelf at home. These may help to activate some of the educational concepts in a way that is more fun and approachable. Games by no means replace the schoolwork, but they are a nice supplement. Check out your game collection and see what games you have with educational elements too.

STEM Games

Roller Coaster Challenge, Gravity Maze, Laser Maze Jr are single player puzzle STEM games. Each game has a series of cards with challenges that get increasingly more difficult. These are all engaging with hands on, that encourage problem solving and flexible thinking. While these are single player families can create opportunities for collaboration. Kids and adults love to build and see their construction succeed.

See the reviews of Gravity Maze here, and Laser Maze Jr. here.

Coding

Understanding coding is a critical 21st century skill. There are several great board games that teach the skills of coding.

The most well know is Robot Turtles, which hit the world by storm on Kickstarter in 2013. It is simple and super fun.  The goal is for kids 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.  See our review here.

Two other great coding games are Coder Bunny and Coder Mindz both created by Samaira Mehta as a second and fourth grader respectively.  Coder Bunny gives players thirteen variations of ways to play, which incorporate different elements of coding. Coder Bunnyz also has a strong educational benefit.  It introduces the basics of coding in a friendly and accessible format. Younger beginning players benefit from coaching and direct instruction on the best way to program the motion of their bunny.  Older and more experienced players can create greater challenges with the board layout to refine their strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

Coder Mindz presents the concepts of coding in an accessible format for a young player, but it is also engaging for older players.  Having three modes of play with two levels of difficulty at each level makes the game easy to scale based on the age of the players as well as the experience they have with creating code.

See the review of Coder Bunny here, and Coder Mindz here.

Reading

In Blurble, players race to say a word first that starts with the same letter as the picture on the card. There are lots of additional educational options with the cards too. Blurble contains a booklet labeled Educational Exercises. Within it explains other uses of the cards in Blurble as an educational tool for parents. The activities include Object Identification/Vocabulary, Spelling, Storytelling, Identifying Characteristics, Information Retrieval, and Group games. These activities range for ages 2 with object identification to age 11 with storytelling.  See the review here.

Spot It and Spot it Jr. are simple, inexpensive, and your child has a decent shot at beating you in it. This is a matching game with several variables of play.  There is one matching picture on every card so you are trying to be the first to find the matching picture.  This is great for even the youngest gamers and helps to develop their observational skills, and language. There is also an alphabet version that can develop letter identification.

Zingo is a bingo game that incorporates a Zinger, which distributes the tiles. Kids love using the Zinger and it adds a fun component to the game. Thinkfun has also created  multiple versions of Zingo. They include: Zingo 1-2-3Zingo Sight Words, Zingo Time-Telling, and Zingo Word Builder.  These can be great ways to develop beginning reading and math skills, and for preschool and primary students the Zingo variations are a great fit.  

Math

Cross Curricular Connections

Zeus on the Loose has players building up “Mount Olympus” which is the discard pile, to equal 100, but watch out, by playing a Greek God all kinds of special powers can happen. On their turn “Mount Olympus”, the discard pile and state the new total for the pile. This is a great way to practice mental addition to 100. The Greek gods themselves can also be a launching point for reading about the Greek myths, or other books incorporating Greek Mythology, such as the Rick Riordan books.

Number Recognition

Roll For It!
Roll For It!

Roll For It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play, which is perfect in building subitizing in young children. Subitizing is where you can look at the pips on a dice, or at a small group of objects and instantly know the number without counting. One of the best features of Roll For It! is its simplicity. Players who do not play games often will pick up this game and understand how to play after seeing one turn. See the review here.

Addition and Subtraction


Skyjo is a set collection card game for two to eight players were your goal is to get the least amount of points per around. The recommended age is for eight and up. The game does scale down especially once children can understand the negative cards by relating them to take away. Unknown cards in front of each player and fifteen different cards that can be revealed, gives Skyjo just enough suspense to provide just a bit of tension in the game.

Creating Sets and Probability

Dragonwood is a light set collection game with a fantasy theme and beautiful art. You take on the roll of an adventurer defeating monsters. Players have three different ways to defeat a monster and each attack requires a different type of collection. Players can collect sets of the same card, the same color, or numbers in sequence. These different ways to sort cards helps support flexible thinking probability, and sequencing.

Science

Life Science

Photosynthesis is a beautiful science themed game that features the tree life cycle and a rotating sun to collect light points. The trees are three dimensional and provide a beautiful visual as the forest “grows”. Photosynthesis plays in rounds. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase. The game ends after the sun makes three complete revolutions around the board.  Points are then calculated based on scoring tokens and unused light points. See the review here.

The Evolution Series by North Star Games has multiple games in this line. In the Evolution games you are evolving your creatures with various traits to help their survival. Each animal needs to have enough food or they die out and can go extinct. There is something for everyone in this series. For elementary age students you can start with Evolution: The Beginning. This is a simplified and streamlined version of the game good for ages eight and up. For older children: Evolution, Flight (which is an expansion), Climate, and available for pre-order Oceans.

Physics

Ice Cool is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. Players take turns flicking their penguin pawns through the halls. The goal is to get your pawn through open doorways to catch fish  and earn points. This is more complicated because each player takes a turn as the hall monitor who’s objective is to catch the other players. Ice Cool is more fun than I expected and the kids love it. You may be wondering how this helps with science, and this is where it helps to think outside the box. All the shots you are making involve Physics!

Ice Cool 2 is the sequel to the original Ice Cool game. If you combine it with the original Ice Cool game you can play up to eight players and set up multiple layouts. These new layout options can also become a learning tool for Physics may lead to finding which setup creates easier shots and which produce more complicated shots.


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

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The question I get the most from parents is: what can I play with my young children? The games put out by Peaceable Kingdom are a great for toddlers and preschoolers. This year at New York Toy fair we got to check out their newest games, and all the games have released.

New Games for the Youngest Players: Ages Two and Up

Duck Duck Dance

Duck Duck Dance is a movement game for players age two and up. There are three simple steps to the game. First roll the over-sized dice to reveal dance moves, perform the dance moves, then flip card on the board to reveal an audience member. The game ends when all audience members are revealed. Duck Duck Dance incorporates many skills needed for toddlers: Gross Motor, Sequencing, Counting, Imitation, Turn Taking, and Vocabulary building.

Panda’s Picnic in the Park

Panda’s Picnic in the Park is a matching game for players age two and up. The game comes in a picnic basket and players take turns pulling items out of the basket and matching them with things on their plate. There are multimple ways to play. Learning skills include: Color and Shape. Pretend play, turn taking, gross and fine motor skills, and vocabulary building.

Games for Preschoolers Ages 3 and Up

Blast Off Bingo

Blast Off Bingo is a color matching games for ages three and up. The game is perfect for a quick family game supporting two to six players. Players use the dice popper to call the colors, and players are color matching, using chips. The game also supports the skills of turn taking and following directions.

Bandit’s Memory Mix Up

Bandits Memory Mix Up is a game for two to four players ages three and up which challenges memory. This game has players take the spy glass and placed five garden tiles inside then shake it up. One garden tile is removed secretly. The challenge: remembering the removed tile. The first player to identify the missing tile wins. There are also variants which support solo and large group play. Play reinforces the skills of turn-taking, visual discrimination, and memory.

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse

Smoosh and Seek Tree house is a cooperative game for 2 to 4 players ages 3 and up. In this game players are working together to find all the different Woodland animals playing hide and seek in the tree before Mr. Prickles climbs the ladder. Players worked together to remember the location of the different seekers when they think they have located a seeker they state who they think it is pick up the disk and smash it into the smash to to reveal who’s hiding. If they successfully find a hide or they place a token to show that seekers has been found. Game play reinforces memory, simple strategy, cooperation and fine-motor skills.

Sunny Storyday

Sunny and Stormy Day is a unique game for families with children ages three and up. This game integrates a picture book with a memory game and sharing tiles. This game focuses on social emotional learning by working on emotional understanding, communication, and compassion for others. In the course of the book there are ups and down, referred to as sunny and stormy. Children can match the up those sunny and stormy moments with tiles. The tiles multipurpose as a memory game.

Yarrr Har Hunt

Yarrr Har Hunt is a cooperative treasure hunt race. Players uncover clues to discover the shell island treasure before ship returns and ends the search. The game is for ages three and up, and fosters communication, simple strategy, cooperation and shared-decision making.

Tic Tac Surprise: Dragons Vs. Dinosaurs

Tic Tac Surprise Dragons vs. Dinosaurs is the newest theme in the series released in 2019. The Tic Tac Surprise series are a spin on the classic Tic Tac Toe game. The wild cards have a dinosaur roaring or a dragon breathing fire. These wild cards allow the players to place on top of a previously played card, changing the strategy of the classic game.


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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The Pokémon Company has finally revealed the details for Pokémon Home. It will launch in February 2020 on iOS, Android, and on Nintendo Switch.

 The Pitch

Pokémon Home is a subscription service that acts as a replacement to Pokémon Bank. The service is both a mobile and switch app. The core purpose of the service is to allow players to start the Pokémon they have captured or bred in various Pokémon games in the cloud and upload them into compatible games.

How Does it Work? 

Subscribers can connect their Pokémon Home account to a Nintendo account. Once that is complete then they will be able to connect to compatible games and services to transfer Pokémon into their “home.” They can then transfer those Pokémon from their “home” into compatible games.

The games that Pokémon Home can currently connect to are:

            Pokémon Sword

            Pokémon Shield

            Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu

            Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee

Pokémon Home cannot currently connect to Pokémon Go, but that functionality will be added in the future.

Pokémon Home can also connect to Pokémon Bank. This is the only way for players to bring their Pokémon from Pokémon games on the 3DS and earlier into Home.

Features

Trading

Pokémon Home serves another purpose aside from acting as cloud storage for your Pokémon collection. It allows you to trade your Pokémon to help fill out your Pokedex through a bunch of different methods.

Wonder Box

Wondertrading in Pokémon is the act of offering up a Pokémon from your collection in exchange for a random Pokémon that someone else has offered up using the same feature. This is one of my favorite features in Pokémon games because I am always surprised at the interesting things that people are willing to give away. A lot of times I will end up receiving Pokémon that competitive players have been bred that don’t have perfect stats. This is great for casual fans who aren’t concerned with stats and just want to build a collection.

The free version of Pokémon Home allows you to Wondertrade one Pokémon at a time. The premium version bumps that number up to three.

GTS

The Global Trade System (GTS) allows you to offer up one of your Pokémon and list it online requesting to trade it for another specific Pokémon. This is a good way to build your collection if you are looking to catch ‘em all, because you can put up duplicates of rare Pokémon you own to trade specific Pokémon that you need to complete your collection.

The free version of Pokémon Home allows you to put one Pokémon at a time into the GTS. The premium version bumps that number up to three.

Room Trade

Another of Pokémon Home’s great features is Room Trading. You can use the apps to create rooms that nearby friends can join to trade their Pokémon. Anyone can join a Room, but only Premium Subscribers can create one.

Friend Trade

Friend Trade is a feature that allows you to trade Pokémon with players who you have become friends with on the service.

Other Features

Trading isn’t all though. There are several other useful features in Pokémon  Home to consider.

National Pokédex

Any Pokémon  you bring into Pokémon  Home will be registered to your National Pokedex. This will bring you one step closer to catching them all!

Mystery Gifts

Mystery gifts are a big part of the Pokémon experience. The Pokémon Company regularly distributes them as part of events and sometimes just for fun. The Pokémon home service lets you redeem the gift codes you find without having to get out your Switch. There will even be Mystery Gifts that exclusive to Pokémon  Home.

Judge Pokémon

Premium subscribers have access to the Judge function. This is a tool that lets you carefully examine your Pokémon  to determine how strong they are. This is a must for competitive players who are looking to build the perfect team.

How Much Does it Cost?

There are three purchase options for the Premium Subscription.

  • 1 month (30 days) – $2.99
  • 3 months (90 days) – $4.99
  • 12 months (365 days) – $15.99

Advice

The free version of Pokémon  Home is a no brainer for anyone with more than one Pokémon  game. It adds limited functionality to your games for no charge.

The premium version of the service is a tougher nut to crack. You need to evaluate your activity level and your enthusiasm for Pokémon to determine if it is worth it. I think the biggest question is if you have Pokémon in the Pokémon bank. If you do, then the premium service is the only way to access them and bring them forward.


Do you have a question we didn’t address here? Leave your question in the comments and we will reply and add to the guide!

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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Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origins Access

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to the Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Plus

A Parent’s Guide to Nintendo Switch Online

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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The Nintendo Switch is wildly popular, and Nintendo is pairing it with an online subscription service similar to both Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus. Their service, called Nintendo Switch Online, launched in the fall of 2018 and is a great value for families looking to get more out of their Switch experience. 

The Pitch

Nintendo Switch Online is an annual subscription service that is required into order to play Nintendo Switch games like Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate online. It also includes bonus features like access to cloud saves, and access to a suite of NES and SNES games. Subscribers also get access to exclusive sales offers and Switch online exclusive games like Tetris 99. 

Nintendo Switch Online is an annual subscription service that is required into order to play Nintendo Switch games like Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate online. It also includes bonus features like access to cloud saves, and access to a suite of NES and SNES games. Subscribers also get access to exclusive sales offers and Switch online exclusive games like Tetris 99. 

How Does it Work? 

Nintendo Switch Online is a subscription based service that can be purchased annually, or in smaller increments. The service needs to be maintained in order to continue the benefits and maintain access to the features. 

The service includes: 

Online Play – Online multiplayer gaming using the Nintendo Switch Online platform

NES and SNES – Nintendo Switch Online – Nintendo Switch Online members have access to curated library of more than 60 NES and Super NES classic games. The collection initially only includes NES games, but was updated a year later to include SNES titles. The curated library of games will grow over time. These games also include online competitive/cooperative play with friends. Certain games (like Super Mario Bros.) even include the ability to virtually pass the controller back and forth.

Save Data Cloud – Subscribers can back up their save game data to the cloud. This makes it easier to retrieve their save data if they lose their Switch or start to use a new one. It is worth mentioning that some games aren’t compatible with cloud saving. The most noteworthy examples are Pokemon Sword and Shield and the upcoming Animal Crossing: New Horizons. 

Smartphone App – Nintendo has released a smartphone app (available for iOS and Android). It syncs with the subscriber’s Nintendo account and includes some minor enhancements for different Switch games. You can also use it to use voice chat with your Nintendo friends as you play. (Certain games, like Fortnite, circumvent Nintendo’s app and allow voice chat through the game software itself. This isn’t universal though.)

Special Offers – Subscribers will have access to exclusive sales and product offerings. They have included controllers, discount game vouchers, and even an exclusive game (Tetris 99). 

How Much Does it Cost?

Nintendo Switch Online can be purchased annually, quarterly, or monthly. The service also has a 7 day free trial. 

Annual Subscription: $19.99

3 Month Subscription: $7.99

1 Month Subscription: $3.99

Nintendo Switch Online also has a Family Membership option where up to 8 Nintendo Accounts can share an online subscription for $34.99 annually. 

Advice

This service is a great value for families. The cost is relatively low at $20 a year and it includes a wide array of free games to play.

If your kids aren’t interested in the NES/SNES games and only play Fortnite, then this is a service you can likely avoid. Fortnite doesn’t require an active subscription to play.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origins Access

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to the Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Plus

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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Choosing your starter Pokémon is one of the biggest decisions your child will make while playing Pokémon Sword and Shield. They get to choose one of three Pokémon that each have two evolutions: Scorbunny, Grooky, and Sobble. 

At the end of the day, any of the three starter Pokémon will be viable choices to help finish the game. If you fully evolve your starter then they will most likely be the most powerful Pokémon of the appropriate type in your party. 

However, their different types do lend some advantages in the way you handle the first few gyms. In order, the first three gyms are Grass, Water, and then Fire. 

Scorbunny

If they choose Scorbunny, then it means that they elected a fire type Pokémon.

Scorbunny!

This means it will be super effective against the Grass type gym that comes first. But, it will be weak against the the next gym which is water type, so there will be a sharp spike in difficulty. It’s a good idea to make sure you catch a Yamper (a yellow and brown Pokémon that looks like a corgi) because he is electric type or any of the grass type Pokémon on the routes leading up the the Second gym. Electric type and grass type Pokémon are both super effective against water type Pokémon. The third gym you encounter is a fire type gym. Obviously, Scorbunny, being fire type, is not very effective against its own type. Fortunately, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to catch water type Pokémon on the way up to and leading away from the second gym. Water type Pokémon are super effective against fire so you’ll want to make sure to catch and use one.

Sobble

If they choose Sobble, then it means that they selected a water type Pokémon.

Sobble!

This means that the first gym will be particularly difficult because the grass type Pokémon there will be super effective against your starter. This makes it very important that you collect a flying type or bug type Pokémon in the very early game. One good flying type Pokémon the capture is Rookidy. This is a flying type Pokémon that will remain strong throughout your time with the game. Sobble is also not very effective against its own type, so you will have another difficult time against the second gym. Just like if you chose Scorbunny, It’s a good idea to make sure you catch a Yamper (a yellow and brown Pokémon that looks like a corgi) because he is electric type or any of the grass type Pokémon on the routes leading up the the Second gym. Electric type and grass type Pokémon are both super effective against water type Pokémon. Sobble, gets its chance to shine in the third gym where it is super effective against the fire type Pokémon there. 

Grooky

If they choose Grooky, then it means they selected a grass type Pokémon.

Grooky!

This means it will not be very effective against the grass type Pokémon in the first gym you come across. This makes it very important that you collect a flying type or bug type Pokémon in the very early game as they are both super effective against grass types. One good flying type Pokémon the capture is Rookidy. This is a flying type Pokémon that will remain strong throughout your time with the game. Grooky is super effective against the water type Pokémon in the second gym. The third gym will be particularly difficult because the fire type Pokémon there are super effective against your starter. Fortunately, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to catch water type Pokémon on the way up to and leading away from the second gym. Water type Pokémon are super effective against fire so you’ll want to make sure to catch and use one.

This choice is ultimately a matter of taste. There are players who will swear by one type or another and others that will choose a different type every game based on which Pokémon is the cutest.

What do you think? What Pokemon are you choosing?

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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Pokémon Sword and Shield are finally available to the public and they are incredibly popular. Lots of kids will be asking for them, and we suspect a lot of parents will need help. If you happen to be one of those parents, then this is our guide for you. Bookmark this page and refer to it if you need help with your kids’ newest favorite game.

What is the ESRB Rating?

Pokemon Sword and Shield are rated E for everyone by the ESRB.

The content descriptors are Comic Mischief and Mild Cartoon Violence.

The rating summary reads, “This is a role-playing game in which players assume the role of a Pokémon trainer trying to become champion. Players explore the fictional Galar Region and engage in turn-based combat with other trainers. Players select various attacks (e.g., fire, lightning/electricity) from a menu to defeat Pokémon. Melee-style attacks (e.g., rolling, scratching, bouncing) are also used, as impact sounds, light effects, and diminishing health bars indicate damage. One creature is seen with a large drop of mucous hanging from its nose.”

What are the differences between the two games?

The Pokémon Company and Game Freak always release two different versions of their Pokémon games. The biggest differences  between the two versions has always been in the available Pokemon, but this time around there are version exclusive gyms to battle in as well.

Pokémon Sword Exclusive Pokémon

Pokémon Shield Exclusive Pokémon

Version Exclusive Gyms

The fourth and sixth gym that you battle in during the game are different based on which version you play.

In Pokémon Sword the fourth gym features Bea and her party of fighting-type Pokémon. The sixth gym is run by Gordie and his squad of rock-type Pokémon.

In Pokémon Shield the fourth gym is run by Allister  who uses ghost-type Pokémon and the sixth gym is led by Melony and her ice-type Pokémon.

All of the other gyms are identical in both versions.

The differences in the gym lineups means that you’ll need different Pokémon in your party to help overcome the gym challenges and, ultimately, the gym leader.

Legendary Pokemon

Each game features a different legendary Pokémon that is pictured on the front cover of the game. You are able to capture them after you complete the main story arc of the game. 

Pokémon Sword has Zacian who is fairy type. When you find the rusted sword and give it to him he becomes fairy/steel type.

Pokémon Shield has Zamazenta who is fighting type. When you find the rusted shield and give it to him he becomes fighting/steel type.

Do you need Nintendo Switch Online?

Nintendo Switch Online isn’t mandatory, but it does a lot to enrich the experience. Nintendo Switch Online is required for online battling and trading. You also need it in order to participate in Max Raid Battles with other players. (The game will provide you with AI controlled teammates, but it just isn’t the same.)

How do you reset the game?

Sometimes you will just get stuck and feel the need to start over. The Pokémon Company, knowing that its target audience is largely made up of children, makes it relatively difficult to delete a save game so you can start over. They don’t want it to be something that can be done by accident.

In the case of Sword and Shield, you use the data management settings in the Switch menu. 

  • Turn on your Nintendo Switch
  • From the Nintendo Switch Home Screen, select System Settings
  • Find Data Management on the next screen
  • Navigate down to the Delete Save Data option
  • Choose Pokémon Sword & Shield to delete your file for your current profile.
    • Note: Make SURE that you are deleting the save file for the correct profile. 

You can then restart your Pokémon Sword or Shield game. 

What starter Pokémon should they pick?

Choosing your starter Pokémon is one of the biggest decisions your child will make while playing Pokémon Sword and Shield. They get to choose one of three Pokémon that each have two evolutions: Scorbunny, Grooky, and Sobble. Check out our guide to help you choose between them!


What is the difference between Dynamax and Gigantamax?

One of the key new features in Sword and Shield is the Dynamax mechanic. Pokémon have the ability, in specific situations, to grow to a massive size and power up each of their attacks. This is similar to the mega-evolution that was introduced in Pokémon X and Y (Generation 6), except that the dynamax has a maximum duration of three turns. The attacks your Pokémon uses while in dynamax form are called Max Movs and are very similar to Z-moves that were introduced during  Pokémon Sun and Moon (Generation 7). 

You might hear your kids using the term Gigantimax in relation to these battles. These terms are NOT interchangable. Any Pokémon can Dynamax, but there are only certain Pokémon that has a Gigantimax form. This means that they have a special form and access to super powerful G-Max Moves that are unique and powerful. 

The only way to find Gigantimax Pokémon is in Max Raid battles. These are special battles that you enter by finding circular rock formations in the wild area. 

Tips for catching Pokémon

  1. Make sure you are using the right Pokeballs. You start with access to regular Pokeballs. But, as you defeat gyms you’ll have access to Great Balls and Ultra balls in the PokeCenter shops. You’ll get the best results from using the higher levels Pokeballs. You get a single Master Ball After defeating all of the gyms and completing the story. That should be reserved for catching the game’s legendary Pokémon Zacian or Zamazenta.
  2. Reduce the opposing Pokémon’s HP as low as you can without making it feint. This can be tricky, but you can buy a move called False Swipe at the PokeCenter on the way to Route 3. (False Swipe will never reduce a Pokémon to 1 HP.)
  3. Use status effects! Pokémon who are under status effects are easier to catch. Ideally, you would use one of your Pokémon to put them to Sleep, but poison, paralysis, and frozen work as well.

Was this guide helpful? Leave your comments and questions below! We can add more to this document as time goes on!

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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People buy a lot of games. That can make it incredibly challenging for those of us that want to buy cool games for the gamers in our lives. Fortunately, every console (including PC) has a subscription subscription service. These make “practical” gifts that will always be appreciated.

These services  can all be purchased for various lengths of time to accommodate your budget. You don’t even need to worry about whether they are subscribed or not. `You can purchase a subscription card for them and the time will be added to the end of their existing subscription!

Take a look at the options below to see what you might need!

PlayStation Plus

PlayStation Plus is a subscription service for PlayStation that is required in order to play online multiplayer games over the PlayStation Network. The service also includes periodic discounts on digital purchases through the PlayStation Network. It also includes a suite of free PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3, PlayStation  Vita, and PlayStation VR games that are available for free each month.

(We wrote a parent’s guide for PlayStation Plus. Take a look here for a full explanation!)

PlayStation Now

PlayStation Now (PSNow) is a Netflix-esque streaming service for PlayStation 4 and PC. Subscribers have unlimited access to stream a collection of PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games over the internet on their PlayStation 4 console or PC.

Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass is a service that allows unlimited downloads of a wide range of games on the Xbox One for a relatively low monthly fee.

We wrote a parent’s guide to Xbox Game Pass. Take a look here for a full explanation!)

Xbox Live Gold

Xbox Live Gold is a subscription service for Xbox that is required in order to play online multiplayer games over Xbox Live. The service also includes periodic discounts on digital purchases through the Xbox Marketplace. It also includes a suite of free Xbox One and Xbox 360 games that are available for free each month.

(We wrote a parent’s guide to this service. Take a look here for a full explanation!)

EA Access

EA Access is an Xbox One exclusive subscription service run by Electronic Arts that gives subscribers early access to EA games, discounts on digital purchases, and access to the “EA Vault.”

(We wrote a parent’s guide to this service. Take a look here for a full explanation!)

EA Origins Access

Origins Access is a PC subscription service run by Electronic Arts that gives subscribers early access to EA games, discounts on digital purchases, and access to the “Origins Vault.”

(We wrote a parent’s guide to this service. Take a look here for a full explanation!)

Nintendo Switch Online

Nintendo Switch online is a service that allows online multiplayer for Nintendo Switch games as well as cloud saves, and a suite of NES games.

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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The Holiday season is fast approaching! Games are coming out so fast that it can be very difficult to keep track. We take  time every year to list the very best family games of the year that came out on every console.

Take a look below for our list of the best video game gifts for PlayStation 4 owners!

(Full disclosure: These Amazon links are affiliate links. Purchases made using these links will help us earn revenue.)

Spider Man – PlayStation 4

Spider-Man may well be our game of the year this year. It is a fantastic game that features a character that kids love. It is rated T for teen and earns that rating thanks to frequent combat with gun toting enemies, but it is a great story that features interesting takes on long time villains and heroes. I can’t understate how wonderful the movement feels though. Web swinging through Insomniac Games’ s interpretation of Manhattan is invigorating. This is a must own for PS4 owners this year.

Dragon Ball FighterZ – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best fighting games and the bestDragon Ball of the year. It is a three on three tag team brawl with a character roster than pulls from the deepest corners ofDragon Ball lore. It was developed by Arc System Works, a company known for high quality animation and flashy combat.Dragon Ball FighterZ is a beautiful game to watch thanks to its tag and assist system, but the real fun starts when you take the controls yourself. This is a very accessible fighting game that is great for tweens.

Ni No Kuni 2 Revenant Kingdom – PlayStation 4, PC

Ni No Kuni 2 is an adventure role playing games set in a world with both anime and western fantasy appeal. The art style and thematic soul of this epic comes from Level 5 studios working with the same studio headed by Hiyo Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle). The story of a fallen leader’s return to power after a sudden betrayal features a supporting cast that would be just as home in Redwall or [The board game about mouse soliders?] The story and game play is more approachable to younger adult gamer than its original title, replacing an in game strategy guide and Pokémon style monster collection with a more organic tutorial and explanations centered around a steady cast of playable characters. This game was loads of fun to play and has themes and stories for both parents and children alike, if you can get through all of the puns that show up in the supporting cast and side missions. Definite Recommend for this holiday season.

Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 and 2 – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Purchase these games on the PSN here!

Mega Man is a well loved character and Mega Man 1 through 10 are the reason why. These two collections include 10 devilishly challenging platformers that have inspired a generation of gamers. This is a must own for families that have an interest in gaming history.

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 and 2 -Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

You can also purchase just the first collection digitally here!

Mega Man X is one of the best platformers on the Super Nintendo and it spawned a series of sequels that kept ramping up the action. Capcom released two Mega Man X collections this year. The second collection falls flat, but collection 1 included Mega Man X through X4 and is a great value.

Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion – Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Adventure Time may have come to an end on September 3rd, but there are still adventures to be had. Pirates of the Enchiridion is a great way to keep the fun going. It is an open world RPG where you explore the land of Ooo one last time with a party of classic Adventure Time characters. The animation is of particular note here as it captures the irreverent nature of the show perfectly.

Sonic Mania Plus – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Sonic Mania was a big deal when it came out initially. Many critics lauded it as the best Sonic the Hedgehog game in decades. (Some went so far as to say it was the best Sonic game of all time). Sonic Mania Plus is a re-release that also includes two new characters: Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel. They both move differently from Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles and have different powers.

Dragon Quest 11 -PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Sometimes you just want to play an epic-length, gorgeous, JRPG. Dragon Quest XI is just that. DQXI is a simple game that rewards exploration and experimentation. The cast of characters is interesting and different enough that everyone will have their favorites. This will be a great game to help spend some of the cold winter days that will come after the Holidays.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 -Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch

Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the spiritual successor to the popular PS3 title after two offshoot titles launched for the PS Vita. The game is a tactical strategy game set in an alternate, and more fantastical, version of Europe during the Second World War. The game unfolds in a series of journal entries placing the battles in context of a series of well told cut scenes and storyboards. Game play alternates between battles where you control each character in a unit as you advance and fight your way to an objective, and coordinating and upgrading your ever increasing squad in an offstage headquarters. This is a family friendly title that bridges the gap between the popular title XCOM 2 and Mario + Rabbid’s Kingdom Battle. It also has a playable demo with a save that can be rolled over to the full title. A strong title for strategy or warfare fans.

Mega Man 11 -Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch

It’s been eight years since the release of a new official Mega Man game and we have been long overdue. Mega Man is one of the essential franchises that gave birth to the platforming genre, and this newcomer to the Mega Man family is a most welcome addition. It promises new mechanics and challenges that will push the series to new heights. If you are a fan of the series or a fan of retro platforming games, then Mega Man 11 is a no brainer.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas -Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch

Starlink: Battle for Atlas was my game of the show at E3 this year. I was stunned to see a toys to life game (not called Skylanders) in 2018 and I loved it.

This is releasing this holiday season on all three major consoles and on PC, but the best place to play Starlink is going to be on Switch where it will feature exclusive content based on the legendary Star Fox franchise.

Just Dance 2019 -Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

What is there to say about Just Dance that hasn’t been said before? This is becoming one of the most venerable franchises in gaming. Just Dance is released every year with new dance routines and new songs to very little coverage from gaming sites. Just Dance 2019 has a large audience and you’ll know if your family falls into it. Do you love music? Do you love dancing? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then this should be on your radar.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy – Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Spyro is more than just a Skylander. He was the mascot for a whole bunch of 3d platformers. His games where some of the first in the genre though so they are both well loved and in need of a fresh coat of paint. Vicarious Visions has rebuild the first three Spyro games with loving detail. I went hands on with the Spyro collection while I was at E3 and I loved what I saw so far. This is going to be a great gift for your family. This is especially true if you are a parent who loved the Spyro games in the past and want to share them with your kids.


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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