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Coder Mindz is the latest programming game from the maker of Coder Bunnyz, nine year old Samaira Mehta along with her brother Aadit.  In Coder Mindz, you are a programmer of a bot in the year 2045.  Players create code and train their robot to “identify” images and collect data, using tokens represent the images and date.

Game Components

  • Code Cards
    • Basic Code Cards
      • Move  Forward, Move Right, Move Left, Move Any, Move Any 2
      • Zap
    • Advanced Code Cards
      • Conditional
      • Loop
      • Function
  • Tokens
  • Game Board
  • 6 Sided die with numbers 1-3
  • 4 Wooden Bots

 

Levels of Play

Coder Mindz has multiple levels of play which increase in complexity as you move through the levels.  Each level adds additional coding skills and strategies.

  1. Training
    • 1.1 Basic
    • 1.2 Advanced
  2. Image Recognition
    • 2.1 Inference
    • 2.2 Adaptive Learning
  3. Autonomous
    • 3.1 Basic
    • 3.2 Advanced

Gameplay

Overview

Like its predecessor, Coder Mindz has you using cards to program the motion of your Bot to land of their end point. There are multiple variants which increase in difficulty as you gain skills in the game.  Zap cards are also incorporated in multiple variants.  Zap cards send an opponent back to their starting space.

To play

  1. Players start their turn by rolling a sisix-sidedie which has the numbers one, two, and three on it. Then they draw the number of cards indicated by their roll.
  2. The active player determines the order they wish to use their cards, discarding any that are unplayable. A player may also play a Zap card during their turn at any point their Bot in a position allowing the use of a Zap.  However, a Zap card may only be used once per player per game.
  3. The player moves their Bot based on their program cards.
  4. The first player to get to their end point wins. The remaining players can continue playing to determine the second, third and fourth place.

Levels of Play Variations

In the Training mode, players start by becoming familiar with the Code Cards and how they can plan bot movement with basic Code Cards.  Advanced Code Cards are introduced only one per turn in Advanced Training.

Image Recognition incorporates one image token which is split into two pieces.  Players place the two pieces strategically on the board.  Before the bot reaches their endpoint they need to collect both image pieces. Players can scale the level of difficulty by adding or omitting advance function cards as well as Zap cards.

Autonomous mode of play has players plan their whole code before moving their Bot. Players then execute the code they developed correctly.  Players place the image tokens on the board.  They take turns rolling the die to determine how many cards to draw each turn.  Once determining the next steps of their code the cards are placed face down, so the players have to remember where it would put them on the board. Once a player thinks they have “programmed” their bot to collect the image tokens and arrive at their endpoint they announce that their code is complete.  The player then flips their cards over an follows the code to move their Bot.  If the code is successful the player wins, if not they have a chance to debug their code, but can not win the game.

Family Game Assessment

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.

I introduced Coder Mindz to two 6-year-olds at a family gathering, and both kids picked up the basic game within minutes.  They were so engaged and excited by the game they wanted to play again as soon as our robots got to their endpoints.

Of the coding games I have had the opportunity to play, Coder Mindz is the most streamlined and easy to learn.  The limited number of variants keep it from being overwhelming, and the components are easy to manage for younger players.

Educational Applications

This is a great tool for teaching code at any age.  The Bots are adorable and engaging for players of all ages.  The Autonomous Mode is challenging and demonstrates the accuracy and precision needed in writing code.

Conclusion

Coder Mindz is a great introduction to coding by using cards to program motion.  Of the coding games in my library this is my favorite.

FCC Disclosure: A copy of Coder Mindz was provided for review.

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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. North Star Games published Blurble, which takes about 15 minutes to play, is recommended for ages 8 and up and plays 4-8 players

Game Components

Blurble contains 348 colorful cards with a wide range of pictures. An Exercises booklet included gives many ideas for other ways to use the cards beyond the game.

Gameplay

To begin a round, players select one player as the Blurber.  This person puts the deck between them and the player to their left.  First, the top card is flipped over, and then two players then go head to head racing to first shout out a legal word starting with the same letter as the picture. The other players act as referees. They determine who said their word first and if it meets the criteria to be a legal word. The card goes to the winner, and the card scores a point. The Blurber then moves to next player clockwise around the table until that Burbler has raced every player.

The next round begins by moving the roll of Blurber to the left.  Play continues until all players have been the Blurber twice in a 4-6 player game or once in a 7 and 8 player game. The player with the most points wins.  The rules also state that in the case of a tie the youngest player wins.

The criteria that qualifies what is a legal word in this game is very straight forward.  First the word must start with the same letter as the picture. Secondly, the word must be in English. Finally, each word is only playable once per game.  Additionally for the restrictions the word cannot be; a proper noun, a number, an acronym, or have any part of the name or the card or answer overlap (for example rain and rainbow).

Rule Variants

The rules also offer multiple rules variants. There are two  variants for playing with younger children against an older player.  The first suggestions are that the younger player does not have the same restrictions on their words, just that it begins with the same letter.  The second variant has the younger player following the standard word rules, but the older player has additional restrictions, such as it must be a noun.

Game play variants can add some different flavor to the game.  The variants include; King of the Hill, The Thief, and The Brainiac. 

  • King of the Hill: Each race winner becomes the Blurber. The game plays to 10 points.  
  • The Thief:  All players may jump in when an illegal word is used and try and steal the card by providing a legal.
  • The Brainiac: Players further limit the criteria on what makes a legal word for all players.

Family Gaming Assessment

Blurble allows play with multiple ages and skills by adjusting the criteria of a legal word, and the recommended ages 8 and up and without any changes that age works well.  In playing with a kindergartener (age 5), he could not come up with a word quickly so for children who are pre-readers or beginning readers this may require some customization of the rule to best use the game. Blurble takes minutes to teach and can play up to 8 players making it great for a gathering of family or friends.  Scaling criteria of a legal word accommodate multiple skill levels within the same game.

I think it is an asset of the game that the rules can be so adapted and flexible.  The one rule I encountered, which I questioned is the rule in the event of a tie. The rules state that in that instance the youngest player would win.  In this case I disagree with that default. I would much prefer a final head to head between the two players to determine a winner. Choosing the youngest player to win is arbitrary. The rule could just as easily said the player with the longest hair wins in the event of a tie.   

Educational Exercises

Blurble contains a booklet labeled Educational Exercises. Within it explains other uses of the cards in Blurble as an educational tool for parents and teachers.  Activities are categorized by type, and then further broken down by age.  As a primary teacher, I found these great ideas to utilize the cards in a range of other activities. 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. The activities suggested could be helpful for Home School lessons, centers in a classroom, or skill reinforcement at home.

The educational opportunities are quite extensive with the range of quality pictures on the cards.  There are additional possibilities for educational activities using the Blurble cards beyond the Educational Exercise suggestions.  Some possibilities include sorts, phonic feature identifications, and story starters.

Conclusion

Blurble tailors to accommodate multiple skills and ages within the same game and provides a great deal of flexibility on how to play. This is a good party game with the ease of learning, and the player count up to 8.  The additional educational activities available utilizing the game cards exponentially adds the opportunities to interact with the components of the game.

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Coder Bunnyz is a coding game created by Samaira Mehta when she was a second grader.  Her goal was to combine her love of bunnies and coding into a board game so that children of all ages could also learn to code. Coder Bunnyz is designed for 1-4 players ages 4 and older, and the difficulty scales up as players master game skills.

Game Components

  • Game Board
  • Die: with numbers 1-1-2-2-3-3
  • Code Cards in four colors
    • Move  Forward
    • Turn Left
    • Turn Right
    • Jump
    • Repeat 2, Repeat 3, Repeat 4
    • Function
  • Bunnyz tokens
    • Bunnies (in each color)
    • Bug-Fixit!
    • Carrots
    • Destination (Park, Carnival, School, Zoo)
    • Fence
    • Puddle

Gameplay

The objective of the game is to navigate your bunny to their carrot and then to your destination first.   There are thirteen variants in the game, and as the player skills increase the gameplay can advance with their skills. 

There are four basic levels of play with sub skills introduced separately:

  • Level 1: Basic Coding
    • Teaches Sequence
    • Introduces jump
    • Introduces conditionals
    • Teaches Code-it!
  • Level 2: Advanced Coding (recommended for players 8 and up)
    • Repeat
    • Introduces Function
  • Level 3: Strategic and Code-it!
    • Single color
    • Mix-N-Match
  • Level 4: Pro Coding
    • Introducing Inheritance
    • Parallel Play (introducing Parallelism)
    • Getting List-Y
    • Queue-Y (Introducing Queue)
    • Stack Y (Introducing Stack)

The basic gameplay has a few consistent elements across all levels.  These include selecting cards and programming the movement your rabbit takes to first get their carrot and then go to their destination.  At some levels, the number of cards you draw is determined by rolling the die. The pool of Code Cards increases as you advance through the levels of play, and the cards become more complicated in what they represent.  

Family Game Assessment

Coder Bunnyz is a great accessible game to introduce young children to the basics of coding and to develop coding skills in older children.  I introduced it to my 6-year-old and he picked right up on the concept of planning the movement of his bunny. As a beginning player, he did benefit from some coaching, as well as the Bug-Fixit! Token to undo a move that would not have worked.  We played through level 1.1 and 1.2 which is the most simplistic and introduces the sequence cards and the jump card.

Having thirteen variants of play included within the four basic levels allows the game to scale with the age and skill level of the players.  This makes it challenging and engaging for players of all levels.

One thing we noticed while playing Coder Bunnyz was game board was bumped frequently causing the tiles to shift. This happened more while playing with younger players, though we were able to fix the board easily.  Players who struggle with fine or gross motor skills may find the tiles shifting frustrating if the game board is bumped.

Educational Application

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.

Conclusion

For any family or teacher looking to introduce the fundamentals of coding, Coder Bunnyz provides a wonderful tool.  With the focus in education on problem-solving and STEM it is critical to support children in developing reasoning and planning skills. Coder Bunnyz is a tool that can help children develop skills that will be an asset to them in school and beyond.   

FCC Disclosure: A copy of Coder Bunnyz was provided for review.

 

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Amaze is a single player maze game from ThinkFun, and recommended for players ages 8 to adult. The maze board is changeable with 16 different mazes, and puts an interesting spin on maze games.

Game Contents

  • Maze board and an attached stylus
  • 16 challenge settings available on the back (with three difficulty levels)
  • Instructions included in the box provide further directions and also proved the solutions to all the mazes

Game Play

Amaze is extremely easy to set up.  There are red indicators on the left side of the board, and those indicators program to one of 16 mazes.  These settings make the maze progressively harder.  Once the player set the maze, you trace your path through the maze without lifting the stylus from start to finish.  During play, the player pushes the red bars left or right to open up a new path, or potentially trap you.  

Family Gaming Assessment

Amaze is a perfect travel game for families.  Amaze has the ideal design feature, attaching the stylus so it can not be lost.  Additionally, the maze itself is small enough to fit in a purse or backpack. For as simple as the design is the mazes are challenging and don’t present obvious solutions.  Being a single player game kids or adults can work on the maze for a while and put it away easily when they need a break.  Another advantage of Amaze is this is a battery free quiet game.  Amaze is perfect for a waiting room, since play is quiet.

Conclusion


Since this game has come into my house is has been played by children as young as five and up to adults.  The appeal is in the simplicity of the game, yet challenging nature of the mazes.  This is a great addition to a game collection for travel or quiet play and will appeal to anyone who enjoys mazes.

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For anyone who has thought about getting a tattoo, No Regerts lets you enjoy tattoos without the pain or expense!  No Regerts is a tattoo themed card game by Poisonfish Games. It is a two-six player game for ages 12 and up with game play taking between 25-45 minutes.  The object of the game is to fill you “body” represented by card placement on the table around a formation card with cool tattoos and avoid “lame” tattoos.  Players gain and loose points based on the tattoos they collect.

Contents

  • 216 cards;
    • 100 Positive tattoos
    • 76 Negative Tattoos
    • 36 Modifyers
    • 6 Formation Cards

Gameplay

To begin the game, each player draws five cards, and places a formation card in front of them.  The formation card helps to organize the placements of the cards for each body part as it gains tattoos.  There are two arms, two legs, chest, and back to be covered. The person with the most tattoos goes first.  If no one has any tattoos each player rolls a die (not provided )to determine who starts. Each turn is comprised of four steps.

  1. Get a Tattoo: To get a positive tattoo on your “body” you need to “pay” by discarding another positive tattoo card or a modifier card.  You may only start one body part per turn but can add to existing tattooed parts.  The maximum is 3 tattoos per body part. If you can not play a positive tattoo card, you need to play a negative tattoo card, and there is no “fee”.  If you are unable to get a tattoo you must discard two cards, and then draw back up to your maximum hand.
  2. Open Play: You can play an additional tattoo on yourself if you have another tattoo card to pay for it.   Modifiers can be played at this point. If you have a Bad Advice card you can put a negative tattoo on another player.  One card must remain in your hand at the end of this step.  
  3. Discard: Discard one card
  4. Refresh: Draw back up to your max hand size (5 cards unless you have a modifier that changes that number)   

The game ends when one player has filled all available spaces on their body (3 tattoos each space).  The person who ends the game earns 5 extra points.  Then everyone adds the points from positive tattoos and subtracts their negative tattoo ;points to determine who has the highest number of points, and the player with the highest number of points is the winner.

Family Game Assessment

This is an entertaining player versus player card game.  The artwork of the cards is beautiful and detailed.   The tattoos represented are not “adult” themed but some are a bit suggestive. Therefore, players should follow the recommended ages 12 and up. Both the topic and game mechanics against other players make this a better game form older kids.  This is not a game I would feel comfortable playing with younger kids, but is great for families with older children.  Even though each turn has multiple steps it is an easy game to learn, especially for an experienced gamer.  A good understanding of the range of tattoo and enhancement cards allows deeper strategy to be used both for building your own tattoos, and thwarting your opponents.

Conclusion

For a family who appreciates the art of tattoos No Regerts is a great addition to your collection.  While not an optimal game for young players, it is a fun family game that older children and adults can play together and enjoy the theory of tattooing without the commitment of the real thing.

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Most fire fighting games are cooperative, but in the game Fire Tower, you compete with other players to protect your fire tower from the fire and spread the fire to your opponent’s tower. There are components of hand management and area control incorporated into the game. Fire Tower is for 2-4 player ages 13 and up. Game play takes approximately 15-30 minutes. Fire Tower launched on Kickstarter April 24, 2018.

Setting the Stage

Smoke rises on the horizon. A fire rages somewhere in the heart of the forest. From the height of a fire tower, you command the efforts to defend your tower and take down your opponents. With each turn, the inferno grows. Harness the power of the wind to push the blaze towards the other towers, clear tracts of land to fortify your tower, hinder the plans of your opponents with torrents of water, and unleash an arsenal of fire cards upon your foes. Each card has a unique pattern with its own tactical advantage. You must effectively direct the resources in your hand and use sound spatial planning to deploy them.

Game Components

  • Folding Board with grid
  • 50 Action Cards
    • Fire Cards
    • Water Cards
    • Fire Breaks
    • Wind Direction
  • 4 Bucket Cards
  • 1 Firestorm Card
  • Custom Eight-Sided Die
  • Rule Book
  • 24 Wooden Firebreak Tokens
  • 135 Fire Gems

Gameplay

First, each player receives one bucket card, which is kept face up.  Next, 5 cards are dealt to each player as their starting hand, and finally the weather vane die is rolled to determine wind direction.   

Player Turns

At the beginning of each players turn they must add one fire token in the direction indicated on the weather vane die.  The fire token must be adjacent to an existing fire token or the eternal flame. The fire occupying four squares in the center represents the eternal flame. The second portion of their turn each player can either play a card and draw a new one or discard as many as they want and redraw to 5 without taking any actions.  This option comes in handy when there are no viable options in your hand.

Player can take  a range of actions depending on the card they play. There are Fire cards that spread the fire regardless of wind direction.  Water cards put out the fire in a small area. Fire Break cards create areas the fire is unable to burn, but may not be added to adjacent spots with a Fire Break.  One exception is that they may be placed diagonally to an existing Fire Break.

Players are working to defend their Fire Tower, the nine squares in the corner of the board, and to breach their opponents. In the Fire Tower squares fire can spread, but water and fire breaks can not be used. This is where the bucket card comes into play.  Players can use it once per turn to extinguish 3 fire tokens in a row, as long as one is within the tower. Once fire reaches the orange square in the corner that player is eliminated.

Eliminated Players and Victory

Eliminated players give their cards to the player that eliminated them. That player adds the cards to their hand, and discards down to six cards. All remaining players in the game add a card to their hand.  The eliminated player rolls the weathervane die to exact their “revenge” and causes a Firestorm. A Firestorm add one fire token in the wind direction to all existing fire. There is also one card which causes the same effect. Play continues and if there is another elimination the hand size increases to seven. The last player without a burned Fire Tower wins.

Family Gaming Assessment 

Fire Tower is enjoyable and accessible. I think that players far younger than the recommended age can have fun with this. The rules and game play are easy to learn and the game play is intuitive.

Fire Tower has core mechanics that are easy to grasp by younger players and novice gamers.  Additionally, it also incorporates a depth of strategy which veteran players can find engaging.  The variety of mechanics and strategy makes this game a good choice for mixed ages and various skill levels.

The theme, while about a spreading forest fire and burning a Fire Tower, is not graphic.  If anything the more the board fills with fire tokens the prettier it gets.  The cards incorporate a description and a grid representation of the effect making them easy to understand.  This is another great way the game scales down to both younger and less experienced gamers.

Conclusion

Fire Tower is a awesome addition to any family game collection.  I have played the prototype and . I was able to teach the game to new players on my second play through. The Kickstarter funded in only two hours, and there is a lot of excitement for this unique games. This is the your chance to get unique and family friendly game though Kickstarter.

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bring your own book

If you love games and books this is the best combination.  Bring Your Own Book by Gamewright is a hilarious combination of judging phrases and book quotes.  The game is for three to eight players and the larger the group the crazier and funnier it becomes.  Bring Your Own Book is recommended for ages 12 and up.

Game Components

  • 100 Prompt cards
  • 1 60 second timer

Gameplay

Each player needs to bring a book to the game.  It can be any book from an encyclopedia to a picture book, to a gardening book.  The gameplay is very straightforward and players take turn being the picker.  

At the beginning of a round the picker starts by drawing the top card off the Prompt Card deck.  There are two prompts on each card and the picker selects one to read to the group. Second, the other players seek through their book for a word, phrase, sentence(s) that satisfies the prompt.  Third, the first player to find their text calls out I’ve got it!”. This starts the 60 second sand timer for the rest of the players to finish finding their passage.

Once the 60 seconds ends players take turn reading their passage and the picker judges which one is their favorite and awards the card to the winner.  The first player to four cards in a 6-8 player game or the first to five in a 3-5 player game is the winner.

Family Game Assessment

For children 12 and up and adults this is a wonderful family game, especially for family gathering.  The rules and gameplay are so simple and easy to teach that even the occasional gamer can feel comfortable.

Due to inferencing, this is a difficult game to scale down well, but some depth is lost with younger players. With younger players the resulting book lines may not be as relevant or they may need extra time to find a text to read.  It is essential that all players be fluent readers and familiarity with the book is helpful.

Bring Your Own Book plays well with tweens or teens mixed with adults. This game is also a great way to include adults or older kids that want a simple game.

Conclusion


Bring Your Own Book is a fun light game that is great for a group or party setting.  The game can play up to eight, but that number could easily be expanded by playing teams.  It is a wonderful game for integrating reading and gaming.

 

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The best part of camping is roasting marshmallows over the campfire. In Toasted or Roasted, from Education Outdoors, you are building the campfire and trying to toast marshmallows without them becoming roasted. Toasted or Roasted is for two to four players and is recommended for ages 6 and up.

Game Components

  • 4 Firewood/Campfire Disks (two-sided)
  • 4 Toasting Stick/Toasting Fork Disks (two-sided)
  • 10 Fire Starter Cards
  • 16 Marshmallow Cards
  • 16 Toasted! Cards
  • 8 Roasted! Cards
  • 2 Rain Cards
  • 2 Strong Wind Cards
  • 1 Picnic Table Board

 

Gameplay

Game setup includes giving each player one Firewood/Campfire Disk, and one Toasting Stick/Toasting Fork Disk. The cards are all shuffled together and each player is dealt four initially.  The Picnic Table Board sits in the center and has the draw and discard pile as well as a place for extra fire starters.  

There are several objectives to complete in Toasted Or Roasted.  First, each player needs light their campfire by playing a Fire Starter card.  Once you play a Fire Starter card you flip your Firewood Disk over to the campfire side.  Then, each player needs to try and toast 3 marshmallows.  

On their turn, players draw a card, bringing their hand to five.  If they have a fire starter card they put that down to light their campfire.  Then the player flips over their Firewood Disk to the campfire side.   However, if another player has a Strong Wind card they can play it immediately to prevent you from lighting your campfire. If they can not light their campfire, the player discards a card.

Once your campfire is lit, on your next turn if you have a marshmallow card you place that on your toasting stick.  Other players, on their turns can play a Roasted! Card to ruin your marshmallow or play a Rain Card to put out your campfire.  There is a balance on each turn to thwart other players verses working on toasting your own marshmallows, since you can only do on action on your turn.

Toasted or Roasted also has an interesting twist.  Once you successfully toast your first marshmallow, you can flip your Toasting Stick over to the Toasting Fork. The Toasting Fork allows you to put two marshmallows on.  The only downside is if both your marshmallows become roasted, you must flip the Toasting Fork back to the Toasting Stick side.

The first person to successfully toast three marshmallows wins.

Family Gaming Assessment

Toasted or Roasted is a great light family game.  The game has minimal reading so it can easily scale down to players even younger than the recommended 6 years old.  My five-year-old plays quite easily, and it could scale down even to 4 year olds.  The only caveat is the young players need to understand they will get marshmallows roasted, and they need to be able to handle it if someone “spoils” their marshmallow.

Toasted or Roasted is great family game for younger players, but for older children, this is a bit on the simple side.  As a game for multiple ages it works nicely since there is a mix of luck of the cards and strategy.

Conclusion


Toasted or Roasted does a great job at replicating some of the fun of cooking marshmallows over the campfire.  For a simple game for younger gamers or a way to recreate the fun of camping it is a great choice.


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

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Family Board Game Review: Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a beautiful science themed game that features the tree life cycle and a rotating sun to collect light points. Blue Orange Games published Photosynthesis and it is recommended for players 8 years old and up. The game plays two to four players and takes 45 minutes to an hour to play. In Photosynthesis the sun moves around the board three times and players plant and progress trees through their life cycle to collect points.  The trees are three dimensional and provide a beautiful visual as the forest “grows”.

Game Components

  • Game board
  • Sun Segment
  • 4 Sun Revolution Counters
  • 4 Player Boards
  • First Player Token
  • 24 Scoring Tokens
  • 4 Light Point Trackers
  • 24 Seed Tokens (6 of each variety)
  • 32 Small Trees (8 of each variety)
  • 16 Medium Trees (4 of each variety)
  • 8 Large Trees (2 of each variety)

Game Play

Photosynthesis plays in rounds. Standard play is three rounds, and there is an advanced variant that adds a fourth round. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase. In the Photosynthesis Phase the Sun Segment moves clockwise to its next angle.  There are lines on the board creating a hexagon to guide the sun placement and a square on the bottom of the sun segment to help the Sun Segment stay in the proper place. Once the sun is moved light points are calculate for each player.  Each tree that is not in the shadow of another tree earns Light Points.   Your own trees cast shadows and potentially cost you light points. Also, larger trees cast larger shadows. We found it helpful to go one player at a time and count collaboratively so we did not omit a tree’s light point or miss a shadow. Players track their light points on the individual player boards.

During the Life Cycle Phase players spend their light points.  Players can complete multiple actions, however they may not take more than one action the same space within a turn.  Players spend their Light Points to buy trees or seeds, plant seeds on the board, grow a tree, and collecting.  Collecting is when you take your large trees and end their life cycle.  You then earn a scoring token based upon their location on the board, which represents the richness of the soil.

The game ends after the sun makes three complete revolutions around the board.  Points are then calculated based on scoring tokens and unuse light points.

Family Gaming Assessment

This is a wonderful game for the family.  We played it with a nine year old and he picked up the format of the rounds fairly quickly. He did need significant coaching for the strategy. The very first game took over an hour as we all learned the rules and mechanics, but the game moved more quickly once we completed the first round.  The complexity of the rounds and strategy is sufficient that this game would not scale down well. After seeing the coaching needed for the 9 year old, it may be better for 10 and up.

The format of the rounds are straightforward, and the game progresses smoothly once all players understand the flow of each round.  We found it helpful to collaboratively count light points with each movement of the sun, since as the board became more full it was more challenging to keep track.  Though not for the younger players, this is a great family game with older childern.

Conclusion


Photosynthesis is a great addition to your game collection.  It is playable by a wide range of ages, incorporates science, and the artwork is beautiful. Plus, for any parent or child who has heard the album Here Comes Science, by They Might Be Giant, you can’t help but hear their song Photosynthesis in your mind as you play.

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Family Board Game Review: Flashlights and Fireflies

Flashlights and Fireflies is a board game version of flashlight freeze tag for 2-5 players.  The game is recommended for ages 6 and up, and is published by Gamewright.  In Flashlights and Fireflies, you play the role of children playing flashlight freeze tag in the woods.

The game plays in three quick phases per round, and the game ends when one player reaches home.  The board includes three sections; the woods, the firefly field, and the path home.

Game Contents

  • 36 Woods tiles
  • 6 player pawns
  • 6 player tiles
  • 20 firefly tokens
  • 6 flashlight cards
  • 1 game board
  • 1 wooden die

Gameplay

Flashlights and Fireflies plays in rounds, and each round include four phases: hide, catch, shine, and sneak.  In the hide phase of the round, you draw woods tiles and hide your player tile, then the tiles (four to start) are laid out face down in front of you.  The woods tiles may have woods on them, or a pest that you might find in the woods.  

In the catch phase, each player takes turns rolling the die to determine how many firefly tokens they can draw.  The firefly tokens have between one and three fireflies on them, or they can have a mosquito.  A mosquito token drawn during the catch phase ends the phase for that player.

In the shine phase players take their firefly tokens and place them in front of the other players to find them.  For each firefly, the player can turn over one opponent’s tile, then if a player token is found the found player is frozen for the round.  If they find trees nothing happens, and if they find a pest the seekers turn immediately ends.

 The final phase of the round is sneak, and in this phase, each unfrozen player moves their pawn up the path one step closer to home.

Family Gaming Assessment

Flashlights and Fireflies is a great game for the whole family.  The game moves quickly through each round and takes about 20 to 30 minutes to play.  The age recommended is 6 and up, but since there is no reading in the game it does scale down nicely to slightly younger players.  The artwork is cute, and the tokens and tiles are made of high-quality, thick cardboard.   

The game is fairly easy to learn and players are typically very comfortable after one or two rounds. However, it might be worthwhile to do a few rounds of practice with the youngest gamers to help build familiarity.  One additional point of note is that the directions are a little wordy and can be confusing initially.  Once we played it through once and worked through the phases it was much easier.

Conclusion



For any family with younger gamers, Flashlights and Fireflies is a great addition to their collection.  It has simple game play, and does a great job introducing the gaming element of rounds to younger players. The directions can be slightly confusing, but it is worth taking the time to understand the game for a quick and easy game for younger kids.  Flashlights and Fireflies is a fun simple game that the whole family can enjoy playing together.


Make sure you check out our other board game reviews!

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