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2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

The board game market has been growing at a rapid pace for a while now and the last few years have been especially good. Take a look below for our recommendations for board games to share as gifts this year!

Hoagie


Hoagie is a fun, quick paced, and lighthearted card game great for anyone ages 5 and Up. In this game you are building a 5-piece sandwich and trying to spoil the components of your opponent’s sandwich.  The pictures on the spoiled food and special action cards are gross in a silly cartoon way, and are not excessively disgusting or scary, rather Hoagie has a level of gross that kids and adults will find entertaining. The first complete sandwich unspoiled wins. This game is great for the whole family and can be taught in minutes.  There is some strategy to Hoagie, but there is enough random chance it really is anybody’s game.    

Tak


Tak is an abstract strategy game similar in play to Chess, Go, and Mancala, recommended for ages 12 and up. It has simple rules, looks beautiful and is easy to play, yet has complex layers of strategy.  Players use beautiful wooden pieces to build a road from one side of the board to the other. The concept of Tak originated in the second book in The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. For any fan of the series or of fantasy in general to connection to literature is an intriguing extra layer to the game.  Pairing the game with the novels is a great gift set!

Imhotep


Imhotep is a beautiful Egyptian themed game. Players use wooden blocks as stones to “build” different ancient Egyptian structures. The game is designed for 2-4 players ages 10 and takes about 40 minutes to play. Imhotep has an alluring aesthetic to draw in younger gamers, and the Ancient Egyptian theme has a great deal of appeal to a wide range of ages.  This is a game that is easy to learn, but has a deeper strategy that is much more challenging.  Imhotep was also a 2016 Spiel des Jahres nominee.

Lanterns the Harvest Festival


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.  Players collect cards based on the color lanterns that are oriented towards them on the lake cards.  Players then 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.

Seikatsu


Seikatsu is a visually beautiful and serene competitive token laying game. Players lay tokens with birds on them and the token is bordered by flowers.  The objective is to gather flocks of matching birds, and to line up rows of matching flowers from the perspective of their pagoda. A significant amount of strategy is needed to balance these two objectives.  The components of the game as well as the the board are gorgeous. The game is for 1-4 players and is recommended for ages 10 and up, though it ages down well.  The game is very easy to learn and has a good combination of luck and strategy infused into the gameplay.

Monopoly Gamer




Monopoly Gamer is a must see for any Nintendo fan.  Not only is the Nintendo elements infused through the game, but the gameplay is vastly different.  Power-ups have been added to the game and give players the ability to collect coins, force opponents to drop coins, and move forward. Instead of paper dollars, coins have replaced them, and are used for everything. Passing Go now has player activating Boss Battles, and these Boss Battles will reward the victor with additional coins for the end of the game, as well as some fun treats like a free property, or stolen goods from an opponent. Finally, Mario, Peach, Donkey Kong, and Yoshi come with the base game. Other characters can be purchased through a $3.99 character pack, which comes with the board figure, a sticker, and the player card with the character’s abilities.  This game is vastly different from versions of Monopoly in the past, and is worth a look.

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.

DropMix by Harmonix


Harmonix is well known for being the company behind the music game genre in video games. They are bringing their expertise to play in a video game/board game hybrid called Drop mix now.

Dropmix is built around a series of cards that each represent the different pieces of a song that are mixed together. One card might represent the drum line to Cary Rae Jepson,’s “Call Me Maybe” while another card might represent the rhythm track from a song by The Roots.

There are multiple game modes available. One of them is a free play mode that turns players into a DJ. Another is a battle mode when players place cards down of various colors to try to be the first to play fifteen cards. All of the game modes are interesting, and all of them allow for some very interesting card combinations that result in sweet music.

Googly Eyes


Googly Eyes is a Pictionary style game with a twist. The artist during each turn has to put on a pair of whacky glasses that distort their vision while they draw. Families that find games like Telestrations , but have been craving a different experience will want to check this one out.

 

Square up by Mindware



Square Up is a fast paced puzzle games where players slide tiles around the game board to be the first to match the color pattern in a special cube shaker. This is a great puzzle toy that will be perfect in competitive families. It comes at a relatively low price point too!


Be sure to take a look at our other Holiday Gift Guides for 2017!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

Microsoft had a rough year this year with the Xbox One. They had to delay and/or cancel a bunch of games. Fortunately, families have several great options for games to play. Take a look below for our recommendations.

Star Wars Battlefront II


Star Wars is on everyone’s mind right now. How can it not be with Episode 8 looming this holiday season?

Star Wars fans will want to take a look at Star Wars Battlefront II this holiday. It isn’t available for purchase yet as of the time that I published our gift guide, but most early indications from a public beta have been positive. There have been some concerns raised by critics about the micro-transactions that are available in the game, but we don’t have all of the details from the final version of the game yet. We’ll need to wait and see if they end up being a true problem.

Forza Motorsport 7


Another year passes; another Forza game is released for the Xbox One. Last year we were able to race around the Australian Outback in Forza Horizons 3 (which is still a great gift idea in its own right if you have a racing fan in the house). This year we have Forza Motorsports 7. The biggest difference between these two games is where they place their focus on the driving.

Forza Motorsports 7 is a simulation racer so the developer’s attention is focused on crafting as realistic of a racing experience as possible. Forza 7 is also one of a handful of games that is being optimized for play on the Xbox One X so it will be a great way to showcase that new 4K TV Santa brought you!

 

Destiny 2


Destiny 2 is an amazing multiplayer shooter experience set in a cool sci-fi universe. It is also a great compromise for parents looking to find a shooter for their kids to play that isn’t as grim as Call of Duty: WW2 or Battlefield 1.

Cuphead



Ok. This one might be divisive. Cuphead is one of the coolest looking games to be released in years. With that said, it is also incredibly difficult so it will be difficult for inexperienced gamers to fully enjoy.

 

I am putting this game on the list because it is inexpensive, gorgeous, and will definitely appeal to families with kids who LOVE a challenge. Cuphead will push them to the limit, but you’ll love watching it while it happens!

Minecraft


I know I sound like a broken record, but Minecraft should be on top of everyone’s shopping list. It may be one of the best selling games of all time, but there are plenty of kids who don’t have it.

Rocket League



If I told you a few years ago that millions of players would be playing digital soccer using rocket powered cars you’d has told me I was crazy. But, here we are! Rocket League is a game that you will LOVE to watch your kids play. The colors are bright. The action is wild. And the game is just absurd enough that you’ll be laughing the whole time. Don’t sleep on this one. Its great.


Make sure to look at all of our other Holiday Gift Guides for 2017!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

There were a lot of awesome games that came to the PlayStation 4 this year. Take a look at the games we recommend for Holiday gifts this year!

Horizon: Zero Dawn



Arguably the best game of 2017 for young adult gamers. Horizon: Zero Dawn is a story of life and struggle over the remnants of a future civilization. Robotic animal creatures roam a landscape filled with the remnants of a fallen civilization.  Players experience the story of Aloy, a young woman trying to survive and understand the great tragedy of her land.

I linked the Complete Edition above. It will be coming out on December 5th and will include the DLC pack that is launching in November.

 

Star Wars Battlefront II



Star Wars is on everyone’s mind right now. How can it not be with Episode 8 looming this holiday season?

Star Wars fans will want to take a look at Star Wars Battlefront II this holiday. It isn’t available for purchase yet as of the time that I published our gift guide, but most early indications from a public beta have been positive. There have been some concerns raised by critics about the micro-transactions that are available in the game, but we don’t have all of the details from the final version of the game yet. We’ll need to wait and see if they end up being a true problem.

 

Everybody’s Golf



Everybody’s Golf is a casual golf game that the whole family can play. You create goofy characters and play on relatively wild courses. The action is simple enough that just about anyone can play with a little practice. The $40 price tag doesn’t hurt either.

 

Destiny 2


Destiny 2 is an amazing multiplayer shooter experience set in a cool sci-fi universe. It is also a great compromise for parents looking to find a shooter for their kids to play that isn’t as grim as Call of Duty: WW2 or Battlefield 1.

 

Crash Bandicoot Collection


Crash Bandicoot was Sony’s attempt to compete with Super Mario. He never quite succeeded in supplanting him, but there are a lot of people who look back on his games fondly. The N-Sane Trilogy is a collection of the first three Crash Bandicoot games that have each been lovingly remade from the ground up and made available in a $40 collection.

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX



Kingdom Hearts 3 is coming soon. (They say its coming next year, but I’ll believe that when I see it.) Players need to get ready for it and this is a collection of every meaningful game in the series so far.

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age


A sprawling tale about the never ending cycle of war and intrigue. FF12 is the last game in the series from the PS2 era and was recently re-released for PS4 with an HD upgrade. Zodiac Age is the smooth update and rebalancing of an already great game. It even includes some features that never made it to the States on its initial debut.

Minecraft



I know I sound like a broken record, but Minecraft should be on top of everyone’s shopping list. It may be one of the best selling games of all time, but there are plenty of kids who don’t have it.


Be sure to check out the rest of our holiday gift guides for 2017!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

The Nintendo 3DS family of systems has been a boon to families for years. They are sturdy, compact handheld gaming systems with a huge library of cool games. Unfortunately, the way that Nintendo handled the naming, and the branding of the console as they have iterated on it over the years has created a very confusing environment for parents. Below is a low-down on the available systems in the family and our recommendations regarding them.

“New” Nintendo 3DS XL


This is a redesign of the Nintendo 3DS XL hardware with a more powerful processor in it. This allows it to play a handful of “New” 3DS only games (like Minecraft). This is a great handheld for families that want to use the #D function in the games that include it.

Most of the special edition 3DS consoles that are released at this point are this model. So, if you buy one of those, then this is what you are getting.

“New” Nintendo 3DS


This is a smaller edition of the “New” 3DS. They have the improved internal tech that is built into the XL, but in a smaller package. The biggest difference between the two systems (aside from size) is that the standard addition uses

“New” Nintendo 2DS XL


This is the newest iteration of the console. It has the same screen size as the 3DS XL models, but it eschews the 3D feature much like the standard 2DS models.

Some might consider that to be a downside, but it really doesn’t make much of a difference. Most 3DS games made at this point don’t really use the 3D features on the handheld at all, and even when they do the feature is not required for gameplay.

Nintendo 3DS

 

This was the original release of the handheld and is nearly impossible to find. I would not recommend getting this version of the console unless it is being handed down from someone you trust. It has likely been around since around the console’s launch and might have some damage.

With that said if the handheld you are being offered is in good condition it will still work. I just recommend being cautious.

Nintendo 3DS XL

 

This is the original large model of the 3DS. These are still available, and are relatively inexpensive, but I find it hard to recommend this model. Its underpowered compared to its cost. If you are looking for a 3DS option that will be gentler on your wallet, then I would recommend the “New” Nintendo 2DS XL instead.

Nintendo 2DS

 


The Nintendo 2DS was a brilliant redesign on Nintendo’s part. They removed the standard clamshell design in favor of a flat device that looks like a cross between a tablet and a Game Boy. Removing the hinge did away  

with one of the console’s biggest weaknesses as they are relatively fragile. It did some with a downside though.

The clamshell design protected the consoles dual screens from scratches.

Another significant difference is the removal of the 3D features. This is important for some parents who have concerns about their young children’s vision. It also helps Nintendo reduce the cost of the system.

This was my favorite iteration of the handheld for a very long time until the “New” Nintendo 3DS XL was released. I love the button placement and the durability. It is still readily available in a bundle that includes Mario Kart 7.

A PSA About Special Editions


There are a whole bunch of Special Editions available built for different 3DS games. They are beautiful machines, but it is important to note that they don’t include a copy of the game.


Make sure to check back out all of our other 2017 Holiday gift guides!

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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

The Holidays are a great time for families to get new home consoles. They make great gifts for the whole family and can be responsible for a lot of great memories. Take a look below for our recommendations for home consoles this year.

Nintendo Switch


The Nintendo Switch launched in March of this year and has been a wild success for Nintendo. It is, without question, the best console for families on the market right now and it isn’t close. The console/tablet hybrid has just passed its 6 month anniversary and it is already home a better lineup of family games that either of its main competitors.

The main attraction for the Nintendo Switch is that it serves two purposes. It is both a home console that you can play on the family TV and a handheld console that you can take on the go. This can be a godsend for families that have multiple siblings because you can use it in “tabletop mode” to play multiplayer games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition anywhere!

Looking for some Switch games to give? Heres our list of Switch Games!

Sony PlayStation 4



The PlayStation 4 is another great console option. It doesn’t have the strongest lineup of exclusive games, but it is home to all of the major third party games like Destiny 2. You shouldn’t have any problems finding games to play with your family here. The catalog is already full of great games already and the future is bright since Spider Man will come out next year.

The biggest decision that new PlayStation owners will have to make when shopping for a PS4 is whether to purchase a base model or to spend a little bit extra for a PS4 Pro. The main difference between those two systems is going to be the graphics performance. Both of them will play the same games, but the PS4 Pro will make them look better if your family owns a 4k television.

Looking for some PS4 games to give? Here’s our list of PS4 games for this holiday!

Microsoft Xbox One


2017 has been a challenging year for Xbox fans. The exclusives have been in short supply and several high profile games have been delayed or cancelled.

There is a ray of hope though. The Xbox One X has been announced and it looks like a great console for families looking for a powerful console to help show off their new 4k television.

Looking for some Xbox One games to give? Here’s our list of Xbox One games for this holiday!

Last Generation Consoles



Families that aren’t interested in standing on the bleeding edge of console gaming technology still have plenty of reasons to pick up older consoles like the PS3, Xbox 360, and, to a lesser extent, the Wii U. These consoles should be relatively easy to find used from places like GameStop and have huge catalogs of games just waiting to be plucked from bargain bins.

In the worst case scenario a uses Xbox 360 will be a serviceable Minecraft machine for families that want to let their children play, but don’t want them using the family PC or laptop.

3DS Family of Hardware


The Nintendo Switch is the most exciting thing that Nintendo has on the market right now, but the 3DS handheld systems are still useful. They will be great purchases for families that want to introduce gaming to their children, but want something sturdier. The handheld may be entering the sunset of its life, but it has a library with hundreds of games that your children will love.

The only real problem with the 3DS family of systems is that there are so many versions that it can be hard to keep track of them. Fortunately, EFG published a handy guide to help sort all those details! You can read it here.

SNES Classic

The SNES Classic isn’t a traditional console, but it is such a big deal that I had to include it somewhere. It is a bite-sized console that includes twenty of the best games ever made. Its going to be in high demand though, so keep that in mind if you are adding it to your shopping lists.


Thats it for the consoles, but make sure to check out the rest of our 2017 Holiday Gift Guide!

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