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Kickstarter Preview – Empty Space

Empty Space is a set collection card game about exploring the vastness of space and, ultimately, landing a rocket on an exoplanet.

It is currently live on Kickstarter. The campaign is asking for less than $2,000 US. That is a very modest goal, and one that they should meet. This is a very cool game.

Empty Space doesn’t have a board. Instead, you deal out an array of cards from the deck in whatever shape you want. It is best to start with a 4 x 6 grid with 4 exoplanet cards on one side, but you (or your kids!) can get wild with it and create all kinds of cool shapes.

On their turn, each player has a choice to either research or explore.

  • Researching consists of drawing cards from a deck blindly or choosing from a pair of revealed cards (similarly to Ticket to Ride).
  • Exploring consists of attempting to move your probe or rocket onto and across the various cards that on the array you created at the beginning of the game.

You’re trying to do a number of things by choosing between those steps and you need to balance them carefully.

  • All of the cards in the array start face down, with the exception of a few that are chosen at the beginning of the game. Players discard non-matched pairs of cards to peek at the cards or flip them over.
  • Building a probe for exploration and a rocket to eventually fly to the exoplanet you discovered requires discarding sets of four matching colored cards.
  • You can “shape the universe” and block your opponent or help yourself by discarding three matched cards. This is, in my opinion, one of the hardest decisions you’ll make as a player. You really have to be careful messing with your opponents because it can bit you in the end by making your own path more complicated.

Our whole family enjoyed Empty Space for different reasons. My oldest enjoyed the map variety and has suggested a whole bunch of differently shaped arrays. My youngest likes the ease of exploration (and messing with her brothers by putting black holes in their path). I just like a simple game that all of us can play together without any real difficulty.

Our friends at the Stay at Home Gamersgot their hands on Empty Space as well! I was able to watch their family of four play the game on a live stream. Their experience confirmed my thoughts. Their kids loved the experience and were chattering the whole time.

I love how easy it is to modify the difficulty of Empty Space. We can make it a little easier when playing with the kids and increase the difficulty when playing with only adults.

Darcy – Stay at Home Gamers

I agree with Darcy on this one. One of Empty Space’s strengths is that is plays well among different age groups. Younger kids can play it together and enjoy it without much intervention from parents or older siblings. Families with mixed skill levels can enjoy it as well.

The campaign will be live on Kickstarter for a little while longer and is definitely worth a look. Head on over!

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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Kickstarter Preview – Dungeon Drop

I’m known as one of the family gaming guys. So, naturally, I’m sent and shown a lot of games that purport to be family friendly and accessible to younger gamers.

A lot of the games we see attempt to take complex game types like dungeon crawlers, RPGs, dexterity games, etc and eschew some of the mechanics or components to simplify the experience. This approach works wonders because most kids love to play games and just need a few obstacles cleared out of their way in order to really enjoy themselves.

The Game!

Dungeon Drop achieves this simplicity in an elegant and clever way: it skips the entire concept of a game board.Look. I know what you’re saying. How, exactly, do they do that?

Honestly, the answer is so simple you are going to be embarrassed that you didn’t think of it on your own. (I know I am!) – They skip the board part entirely.

This is an animated gif illustrating the rules of the game.
This is literally the entire game.

The titular “Dungeon” in Dungeon Drop is created by dropping an assortment of colored cubes onto the play surface. Each colored cube represents a different object ranging from grey pillars (which help form the rooms) to orange keys, and green Boblins. (No. I didn’t spell that wrong.)

On their turn, each player sprinkles a few more cubes into the playing field to mix the dungeon up a bit, uses a player power based on their race or class, and “loots a room” by choosing three grey pillars in the play area and collecting all of the cubes inside the triangle that creates.

This simple gameplay loop can be taught in a few minutes and gameplay is fast. My first demo with a member of the Phase Shift Games staff took place between ordering our sandwiches at a restaurant and those sandwiches arriving. Experienced players will cruise through a game in ten minutes.

Don’t let that simplicity concern you though. The race/class combinations are enough to add variety to a game with a fixed board. The fact that the “board” changes every game based on how the cubes bounce is a bonus!

The Downside

Dungeon Drop was a fun game to play, but there is one unavoidable pitfall that you encounter when playing it with kids. Building the dungeon required dropping a bunch of tiny pieces onto the playing surface. One miscalculation when a younger player does the initial drop can lead to a HUGE dungeon, a big mess (as cubes go flying everywhere), and a challenging play experience without a yardstick.

The rules give you guidance on how to avoid it, but the risk is there regardless. I highly recommend that families add the additional house rule that oldest player at the table do the initial drop. (Trust me.)

The Bottom Line

Dungeon Drop’s asking price on Kickstarter is $16 (with a $22 deluxe edition). That’s a very good price when you take into account the amount of game in this tiny package. It’s definitely worth a look.

FCC Disclosure: A prototype copy of Dungeon Drop was provided for the purposes of this review.

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Episode 166: More New York Toy Fair News!

This week Stephen, Amanda, and Linda talk about New York Toy Fair 2019!

They talked about Amanda’s impressions of the show, Talisman: Kingdom Hearts, Hasbro, and all sorts of news from the show!

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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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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Kickstarter Campaign of the Week: Christmas Lights Card Game

Summer has just begin, and Christmas is the last think on our minds.  It is time to think cool, plan ahead, and check out Christmas Lights Card Game, a holiday-themed set collection game.  It has the 9 additional bonus games that can be played using the cards.  The game is currently live on Kickstarter, and runs until June 27th. The cost for one copy is $15 and the shipping in the U.S. is only $2. The game is for 2-6 players and is recommended for players age 6 and up.

Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game? The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc.

Christmas Lights Card Game – holiday themed family-friendly set collection game ages 6+ for 2 to 6 players

What is the elevator pitch?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas! Players will swap, play, trade, and draw Christmas Light Bulbs into their own sets of lights as they race to be the first to complete two strands.

Christmas Lights Card Game features art by Dave Perillo and was designed by Adam Collins and Chad Head.

 

When is your Kickstarter going live?

We went live Tuesday May 29th and were quite excited to see us fund in under 8 hours! The campaign runs until June 27th.

Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete?

The game is complete and will be ready to go to production shortly after the Kickstarter campaign concludes.

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game?

It gets a lot of comparisons to a competitive version of Hanabi, mainly because players hold their cards facing outward. Each player cannot view their own hand, but can see all of the cards other players are holding.

 

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game?

I love the Christmas season. I’m one of those people who decorate their house right after Halloween and keeps it up through mid January. When I saw the design that Adam Collins and Chad Head made with Christmas Lights, I just had to contact them about partnering up with me to publish their game.

What was your design process like?

The game was largely complete when I brought it on board. One of the first things we did was start to trim down the card counts by making a few modifications. Next I wanted to create a little more player interaction, so I worked with Adam and Chad H. to add more variability with the wild and event cards.

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

Value and variety. For what is a very reasonable price point, you can play 10 different games with a variety of player counts and ages.

How long has this game been in development?

I started with working with Adam and Chad H. back in February to get the game ready to launch on KS in late May.

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

I would say time was really the biggest obstacle. We had a lot to do in a very short window of time in order to bring this game to KS early enough in the year to give us the runway to fulfill it to backers by the holidays.

 

What did your first prototype look like?

When I signed the game, they already had some placeholder art for the game. I wanted to give it a retro vintage styling with a modern touch. I’ve been a fan of Dave Perillo’s artwork for some time and he has that look to the work he creates. I was fortunate to have him work on the project and it looks drastically different from when the game was first signed from the designers.

Why did you get into making games?

I’m a board gamer first and foremost. I love playing all kinds of tabletop games. As such, I approach every new game project with the same enthusiasm and passion for creating something I can be proud to put on the table.

What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?

This is my fourth tabletop project, having published two puzzles and one prior game. I am currently working on art development for the next game 25th Century is going to publish in Q4 called “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.” I also have two additional game designs from different designers for 2019 that will begin development efforts soon.

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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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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bumuntu board game

Bumúntú is a two to four player game by Gameworthy Labs designed by Tim Blank which is in the final stages of development and was available to be played in its prototype form. It is an animal themed game which also incorporate cultural elements of the Kongo culture in Central Africa.  It is being published by WizKids and will come to market sometime in 2018!

We had a chance to play a prototype version of the game before its designer found a publisher and came away very impressed. We had a STRONG feeling that Tim would find a publisher so we held our impressions until we knew for sure that had happened.

Game Contents

  • Grid game board
  • Animal tokens: chimpanzee, elephant, flamingo, rhinoceros, giraffe, lion, crocodile, zebra
  • Crop Cards
  • Animal Scoring Track
  • Movement Pawns
  • Animal movement card

Gameplay

At the beginning of the game an animal token is placed on each space of the game board. Each player received a pawn and places it on a animal token on their turn.  They can move one space at the beginning of their turn and if the player lands on an animal they can perform a certain movement depending on the animal. For example the flamingo can fly up and land on any flamingo token on the board, and the rhinoceros  can go in a straight line to the end of the board and knock any player’s token out of the way.  The players also collects the animal token when they land on them. There is a symbol on the token which indicates and additional task to complete.  Symbols include Crops, Nkisi, Yowa and bordered tokens.  Tokens with a border the player can move one animal on a scoring continuum, which bumps others around.   Nkisi earns players points at the end for most collected and second most collected.  Yowa gains points at then end of the game according to position on track.  You can move your token or opponents when you collect a Yowa token.  There are four positions on the track 0, 1,3,6 and it goes in a circle, so you could bump an opponent to zero.  Crop tokens allow you to collect a crop cards. To earn points you try and gather unique crops, and the number of unique crops dictates your score in that area (based on the scoring guide).  The crops were also foods commonly grown in the Kongo.  Once all the animal tokens have been collected the game ends.

Family Game Assessment

This game has good potential for a family game for older children.  There were multiple steps to each turn in the game and the strategy and the scoring was a bit complex.  The movement for each animal was different, and there was too much complexity.  While there was no age noted on the game, this is easily and 8+ game for an experienced gamer, and may be better suited for a 10+ recommendation.  The basic content of the game is family friendly and all elements of the game have significance or symbolism for the Kongo Culture.  The game has the potential to spark an interest in learning more about the Kongo culture and can be a wonderful social studies link in older children.  

Conclusion

Bumúntú is an interesting and entertaining game. The game play which multi step per turn was fairly easy to learn, and the game was fun to play. Overall, Bumúntú was enjoyable to play and could be a good addition to a family game collection when it is published later this year!

 

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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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Taco vs Burrito

Taco vs Burrito by Hot Taco Enterprises is our Kickstarter Campaign of the week! No joke… this is a card game designed by a seven year old boy named Alex Butler. It is the ULTIMATE food fight on game night!

Game play is straight forward. Players draw cards and add wacky foods to their taco or their burrito to earn points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins. There are gotcha cards that can mess with your opponents strategy so it isn’t THAT simple. I think the theme is funny enough and the cards are cute enough to keep me interested regardless.

I still can’t get over the fact that this game was designed by a 7 yr old. This kid is less than two years older than my daughter and he has already designed a successfully Kickstarted card game? That’s just crazy! I’m looking forward to playing this game just to see where this kid’s head was during design.

Taco vs Burrito launched on Kickstarter with a modest goal and reached it in three hours! This is a cool looking filler game at a low price.

 

 

Take a look at the campaign video below! If for nothing else… do it for the Taco costume!

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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