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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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Kickstarter Review – Scream or Die

Scream or Die is a 2 to 8 player game by Amber Palace Games designed for players ages 8 and up. The game takes between 15 to 20 minutes to play and is very simple to learn and explain. It is currently on Kickstarter with a modest funding goal. We’re happy to report that this is a pretty good game that will be a cute addition to your family’s game collection.

The base game box comes with:

  • 8 monster mats
  • 36 scream tokens
  • 15 dice (three of each color)
  • 8 Candy trackers (two of each color)
  • Dice bag
  • Rules booklet

You play as a tiny monster that has been transformed into a child by your boss (who happens to be an evil witch). The only way to break the spell and get returned to normal is to be the first monster to bring her thirteen Halloween candies.

Gameplay

Each round of Scream or Die consists of three phases- Before the Roll, After the Roll, and Scoring.

Before the Roll

The roller removes five random dice from the bag to make a dice pool. Starting with the player to the left of the roller, each player takes turns using their scream tokens to add dice to the pool. They do this by paying the token which forces the roller to pull another die blindly out of the bag.

After the Roll

Each player gets a chance to re-roll dice of their choice. Just as before, starting with a player to the left of the roller, all players take turns using scream tokens to make the roller re-roll dice.

Scoring

Each player gets one candy for each of the monster symbols of theirs that is showing at the end of the round. Players keep track of their candy using the score tracker on their monster mat.

Players continue to play rounds until one person gets thirteen or more pieces of candy.

The game is quick to play, and the push your luck mechanics and dice influencing strategy make it much more fun than a basic dice rolling game. We love the fact that you can play with up to eight players! Our playtesters enjoyed that they were never bored because they had an action to take on every roll.

Another thing we love about Scream or Die is how great it is as a teaching tool. This is a great game for teaching the concept of resource management. It’s very easy to go through scream tokens in the hopes of adding dice that are favorable to you. But, you have to make sure that you are aware of what other players are doing so that they don’t take the lead too quickly. Some of our players forgot to save up some scream tokens to re-roll symbols that were helpful to their opponents towards the end of the game. They were VERY aware of the mistakes they made as they watched their friends rack up the points and win.

The rules include some fun variants for team play and dice drafting to keep things interesting. There is also a simpler family variant that makes scream tokens a little more fair.

Conclusion

Overall, this is a terrific party game, filler game, or introductory game for non hardcore gamers. You can back this game with confidence. We think your family will enjoy this one!

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Hasbro and Mensa Team Up To Use Classic Family Board Games in Free Lesson Plans!

Hasbro and Mensa for Kids have teamed up to take some longtime family favorite board games and turn them into learning tools. Anyone who has read Engaged Family Gaming for a long time knows that we strongly feel that every game has educational value when used correctly, but this partnership takes that belief and puts it into practice.

This partnership takes four games (MouseTrap, Perfection, Cranium Sculpt-it, and Downspin), repackages them, and uses them in Mensa designed lesson plans that are available for free download on the MENSA for Kids website.

MouseTrap

Buy it here!

MouseTrap is a game that is well known for its Rube-Goldberg style mouse trap that covers almost the entire game board. The game has been relaunched with some brighter game pieces, and what feels (to us at least) like more sturdy pieces for the trap itself than in recent versions, but with no other real gameplay changes.

Mensa has crafted a lesson plan for early elementary school students to talk about force and energy. This takes Mouse Trap from a fun little afternoon diversion into a legitimate lesson in a fundamental concept in physical science.

Perfection

Buy it here!

Perfection is an infuriating game to play if you are easily distracted. It is incredibly difficult to complete, but it can be impossible if there is anything taking your attention away from it. Mind you, that’s part of the challenge and the charm of the game. If it were easy, then it would just be a toddler’s shape sorter.

Mensa has crafted a lesson plan for Upper elementary school students that uses Perfection as an object lesson about the importance of focus. In the lesson, they encourage the teacher (or homeschooling parent) to show a clip- of a busy workplace and talk about some of the details in that video that the students missed. (If those kids are anything like me they’ll probably have missed a lot of them.) This gives an opportunity to talk about the importance of Focus in the workplace or in school.

Cranium Sculpt-it

Buy it here!

Cranium Sculpt-it is run of the mill guessing game. Players use the included Play-doh to create the object on a hidden card and other players try to guess it. This is a fun game to play as a family. It’s especially true if you have kids who love to create things out of clay as opposed to playing with words or drawing.

Mensa obviously saw something a bit deeper. They used the game as a component in a lesson plan for teaching middle schoolers about the Johari Window (a thought exercise about self-awareness).

 

Downspin

Buy it here!

Downspin is a neat game. It involves turning gears using a key and trying to move marbles down a track. We love the components and had a lot of fun just getting the game set up. We had even more fun playing it!

I had a feeling that this was going to be a great learning tool, but I had assumed it would have been about a STEM topic. I suppose that’s just the direction that my mind goes when looking at something like gears. Needless to say, Mensa is a bit better at creating lesson plans than I am. They actually found a way to integrate the game into a lesson for high school age students about understanding cause and effect in history!

 

What do you think? Are these lesson plans that you’ll be using? Sound off in the comments!

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Star Wars Legion

Fantasy Flight Games has announced Star Wars: Legions, a paint and play miniatures war game at Gen Con 2017 this past weekend. It is scheduled to release during the fourth quarter in 2017 and will retail for around $80.

There are several other miniatures war games on the market like Warhammer 40K and War Machines. The lore behind those games is less than family friendly so this will mark one of the first entries to the genre that will be accessible to the whole family. I can absolutely imagine a family that has been looking for a war game to get into really diving into this one.

The game itself will come with 33 unpainted miniatures that will include Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Rebel Troopers, Stormtroopers, an AT-ST, and 74-Z Speeder Bikes. It will also include all the the extra materials you need to play the game, like cards and dice, and some rudimentary terrain. There will also be expansions available after release that will increase the size of the armies and will likely allow for some great fantasy matchups.

One thing that is going to be a major difference between Star Wars: Legion and other games in the genre is that Star Wars lore is already very established. Darth Vader is a very specific and well known character. This limits the customization options for players who like to do that sort of thing with their figures. Kit-mashing and custom paint jobs won’t necessarily be common as a result. On the other hand, though, I think one could argue that the iconic characters will be just as attractive in the long run for some people.

Fantasy Flight is making aggressive use of the Star Wars License. I can’t say that I blame them considering how popular the brand is recently. This is the most recently in a slew of other games including Star Wars: Armada, Star Wars: Imperial Assault, and Star Wars: Rebellion.

If this sounds like something you are interested in, then you should make a point to check out the Star Wars: Legions mini-site on the Fantasy Flight website.

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Family Board Game Review: Rampaging Jotunn

 

Rampaging Jotunn is a 2 player viking themed game by Lost Cog with a hex board made of large tiles. The object of the game is to avoid the Jotunn (a magically strong giant from Viking mythology), and protect your village using your army. The Jotunn is a constant variable in the game.  The game is for players 8 and up and is expected to take 30 minutes to play.

Game Contents

  • 12 Different land tiles (containing 10 hex spaces with forests, fields, mountains, and on some, a volcano)
  • 1 Center Hex
  • 2 Defense line Hexes
  • 1 blue die
  • 1 red die
  • I Jotunn (marker and stand)
  • 2 Blue vikings (Marker and stand)
  • 2 Red Vikings (marker and stand)
  • 6 Wooden longhouses (3 red, 3 blue)
  • 2 Terrain Cards
  • 6 Army movement cards (3 red, 3 blue)
  • 73 Rampaging Jotunn playing cards
  • Rulebook

Gameplay

Setup: To set up the center hex with numbers is placed in the center.  This is the Jotunn’s direction indicator.  The 12 terrain tiles are shuffled and six are randomly selected. Players take turns placing the tile around the center hex to create the board. Next, players take turns to place their three villages, placing one on each turn. Then, players take turns to place their two armies, and they must put them on an adjacent tile to two of the villages. Each player is given 3 Army Movement Cards, and have a Terrain card for movement reference for the Jotunn and their armies. Players are also dealt five Rampaging Jotunn playing cards. The final step of setup is to place the Jotunn on the center tile and roll to see which number he faces for his starting direction.

During their turn, players have several options.  

  • They can:
    • use one of their Army movement cards and move their army (note: once your three movement cards are used you get all three back to use again)
    • Play a Jotunn card and move the Jotunn (or follow any special directions on the card)
    • Discard 3 cards from your hand to raise an army
  • At the end of their turn a player draws to bring their Jotunn hand back up to 5, also if the Jotunn was not moved on a players turn it moves forward one space in whatever direction it is facing.
  • Battles:
    • If you move your army onto the hex of another army you both have to roll to “battle” the offensive army gets plus one to their roll and the higher roll wins.  The defeated army is removed from the board.
    • If the Jotunn lands on an army it instantly defeats the army, and it is removed from the board.
    • Should the Jotunn land on a village that has not gotten a defense line hex, it is instantly defeated.  With a defense line hex under the village the Jotunn must roll a three or more to defeat the village.
    • Armies can also attack an opponent’s village.  

If a player loses all their villages they lose the game.

Family Gaming Assessment

Rampaging Jotunn is a good game for the family to play together.  The game does take a little time to learn and is not intuitive with some of the multiple steps and mechanics per turn.  This game, especially with younger players would benefit from a play through to learn the rules. The age rating is 8 and up, and I agree. An inexperienced gamer on the lower end of the age range will benefit from support with the steps and mechanics until they are more comfortable with the game.Once the rules and mechanics of the game are understood and comfortable the gameplay move smoothly. There is also a notable amount of strategy, mixed with some luck, and that may make it more challenging to play with two different skill levels.

Currently, the game is only available as a two player game. According to the developer, Matthias Bonnici, as of June 2017, that they are looking to do a Kickstarter “soon” for a four player version of Rampaging Jotunn. As a two player game it is more challenging to include the whole family playing, so a four player game is one to watch for on Kickstarter.

Conclusion

The viking theme of Rampaging Jotunn is entertaining and the graphics are appealing to players of all ages. The game was easily mastered in one play through and was engaging to play. The gameplay while a bit complicated to learn more smoothly once a few turns were played. Rampaging Jotunn is a good addition to a family’s game collection, especially if you enjoy the Viking theme.

 

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monopoly gamer box

By: Stephen Haberman, TheGeekyHusband

If I were to guess how many coins I collected in video games over my lifetime, I would bet I’d be the Warren Buffet of in-game currencies. When it comes to Monopoly however, I find it difficult to pronounce myself as anything more than an average property connoisseur.

I have played Monopoly all of my life. It started during childhood when they released a “Town of ____” Monopoly for basically every town in America. It continued into my early teens when I was playing on my Gameboy or begging my folks to take us to McDonalds. Even soon after college, my wife and I found new love for the game with “Monopoly City” which moves from cash to credit cards. So, I can say my interest in the game has always existed, but it is a game that can run long, and can feel as if the odds pile up against you.

Now, Monopoly Gamer comes to market with a promise to reinvigorate the title, by incorporating everyone’s favorite plumber into the mix: Mario. Mario is actually not a stranger to the Monopoly world, having already had a Monopoly game rebranded with his likeness before, and having tried to mimic the game’s core mechanics in Nintendo video game releases of Mario Party, as well as Fortune Street.

The problem with a simple rebranding is that the core of what makes Mario familiar and fun is not just the characters, but the collectibles, the power ups, and the journey to defeat all enemies that stand in his way. Monopoly Gamer brings all of those mechanics into this new board game, and does so while also waking up a stagnant Monopoly series.

Power-Ups

How does this differ from other Monopoly games?  To start that conversation, we need to talk about power-ups. Power-ups have been added to the game while also replacing a six-sided die. At the beginning of a turn, you’ll roll a power-up die and a six-sided die. The power ups give players the ability to collect coins, force opponents to drop coins, and move forward.

 

Coins! Coins! Coins!

Coins, the only currency that matters in the mushroom kingdom, have replaced cash, and are rewarded/used for everything.

  • Rent is paid with coins
  • Coins are awarded for landing on unique spaces
  • Picking up coins that players were forced to drop

 

Boss Battles

It used to be that passing Go over the course of Monopoly was just a way to get some extra cash in your pocket, but now you (and anyone else that passes Go) will be activating the Boss Battles every time around the board. 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.

Zone Control

If you played Monopoly,  then you know that owning property and getting all of the properties of the same color is a key to victory. It is no different in Monopoly Gamer, but the costs for purchase and rent are much smaller in scale to other version of the game. Also, with the inclusion of Player abilities, power ups and Boss Battles, you could own all the property and still come up short.

Player Select

What tops off the experience is the difference in experience you can have due to the character power-ups. Characters range from the well-known (Mario, Luigi, Peach) to the less familiar (Boo, Diddy Kong). All of them have a unique power up ability, and a unique event that occurs if you should land on the invincibility star space.

Not all characters come with the game by default, though.  Mario, Preach, Donkey Kong, and Yoshi come with the base game. Others 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.

 

Go!

With all of these new features being added and a pace that really speeds up a game known for dragging on,  Monopoly Gamer feels like a game Nintendo and Parker Brothers can be proud to have their names on. The ability to add additional player characters is also a great way to add replayability to this one.

I would recommend this game for any video game fan looking to have something to play when unplugging, or a board game fan with less free time. I would even say the character figures, design and style of the game as a whole will look good on your shelf.

If you have any further questions about the game, please check out a full play through of the game I did with my wife on my Twitch Channel here!

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Kickstarter Review – Cauldron: Bubble and Boil

Magic Circle Games

Age Rating: 12+

Players: 2-4

Timeframe: 45-60 minutes

MSRP: $50.00 (Special Kickstarter price- $39)

Style: Resource Management

It’s time for your coven to select a new leader! Prove that you deserve to be chosen as the greatest amongst the other talented witches by creating the best gardens to gather the components needed to brew the most powerful potions. Don’t forget to use your powers to hex your competitors while you work on brewing your potions. The witch with the most wicked potions and victory points wins!

Introduction

Cauldron: Bubble and Boil is a game designed by Robert Booth that will be available as a Kickstarter on July 25, 2017. The theme of the game is a lot of fun and lets you explore your evil side while still encouraging friendly competition. This game uses some familiar mechanics such as resource gathering, set collection, objective completion, and a bit of “take that!” play which all combine to make a really unique game.

Contents

Rules Booklet
1 scoreboard
8 player markers (2 for each player)
4 cauldrons
80 cauldron cards
30 crone tokens
30 corruption tokens
128 garden tokens (32 red, 32 orange, 32 yellow, 32 green)

The artwork on the box, the cauldrons, and the cauldron card design really invoke the wicked witch feel and add to overall fun of the game.

Gameplay

Each player starts the game with a hand of five cauldron cards, a cauldron containing 1 of each resource type, and a diablerie track. On their turn, players may use their cauldron cards to cast a hex, harvest resources from an existing garden, plant a new garden, or record potion recipes to their recipe book.

If a player chooses to play their cauldron card as a hex, they pay the cost described on the card, follow the action (which can be good or bad for the player and opponents), and move their token on the diablerie track (hexes count in scoring in the end game).

A player can also choose to play their cauldron cards to plant a garden. Gardens require 2 or more cards with matching resource cubes in order to be planted. Players may only have 2 gardens at one time. Gardens yield resources which you can harvest later and they also help you gain crone tokens (victory points) when completed.

Players can also choose one cauldron card from their hand to place face down under their cauldron in a recipe book. These cards have a recipe on them that require a certain combination of components to complete and if you have all of the components to successfully brew the potion at the end of the game, you will earn the victory points listed on the card.

If a player is dissatisfied with the cards in their hand, they may discard and draw new cards. At the end of a turn, players draw back up to five cards and play passes to the next player.

The game end is triggered when one or more end condition is met.

  • A player has stored his or her 7th recipe under their cauldron
  • When two resource colors are depleted
  • The last crone token or corruption disk is taken from the supply
  • If one or more players reach the top of their diablerie track

Once the end game is triggered, players play until the end of the round and then score victory points based on the various rules.

Is it a Family Game?

The game has many different mechanics to keep track of and does require some basic reading. A savvy gamer of 8 and older should be able to play this game, especially considering the Kindly Crone variant listed in the rules booklet. The recommended age on the box seems to be a bit high. This is a light game that requires strategic thinking, planning and forethought, as well as some advanced memory and critical thinking skills. Players really need to have the ability to remember recipes, make independent decisions, and think about what their end game objectives are. Our adult players found both the theme of the game and the actual gameplay enjoyable. There were so many different ways to achieve the most victory points at the end, and we love the fact that the rules booklet contains variants for longer or shorter games and for more advanced gameplay

Conclusion

Cauldron: Bubble and Boil makes good use of game mechanics to balance play. It is very difficult for anyone to take an obvious lead. Also, it provides lots of play choices each turn so there are many different viable strategies to accommodate differing play styles among players.

It is apparent that there was quite a bit of thought put into the design of this game. The game was easy to learn, turns moved quickly, and there are is plenty of replay value. We had fun trying out different strategies each time we played to see which was most successful. We also loved the artwork and the theme. This game comes highly recommended by our play testers!

Check it out on Kickstarter ASAP!

FCC disclosure: A copy of this game was sent to us by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

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Board Game Review: Compose Yourself

Compose Yourself by Thinkfun is a fascinating product for those who are musically inclined or interested in classical music.  It is an intriguing activity where you can use the cards to create a composition using an website.  There is a great deal of focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities.  Compose Yourself is a product that supports STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math).

Contents

  • 60 Transparent Music Cards ( in Treble clef )
  • Composer Code Card
    • This code allows you to access the website to create your compositions
  • Instructions with Composing Tips
  • Online Tools and Resources
  • Travel Bag

Gameplay

Compose Yourself is played by arranging the cards on the table.  The clear cards allow them to be rotated and flipped to create the look and sound you want.  Next, you enter the code on the cards into the website provided.  As you arrange the cards you can place up to 4 in a row a create 4 rows.  That is the maximum you can input into the website. The cards have unique codes on each corner of the card so it can be input as  you have arranged it.  Once entered you can flip and rotate the cards digitally.  Additionally you can drag cards to rearrange them, and remove ones you do not want. Each card can be played to hear it individually. You are then able to play your composition using three sound settings: Marimba, Orchestra, or Both.   Finally, once your piece is complete you are able to print it and download it as an MP3.  

Family Game Assessment

Compose Yourself is an intriguing activities for families who enjoy classical music.  It has a great deal of potential for the family to create and share short compositions both together and individually.  The website is very easy to navigate and the cards are simple to lay out and arrange even with younger participants. To use the website you do need to register using the enclosed code.  There is one detail that is noteworthy; you need to agree to license it under a Creative Commons License.  Under the Help option in the Play page of the website it summarizes it well:

Please remember that you are free to share, sample, play, and have fun with your composition so long as it is not for commercial use.”

While this license can be considered a minor detail it informs the user of the nature of the music they are producing.  While it is your original work, it is not exclusively yours to do as you please and limits exist.

Compose Yourself is absolutely appropriate for  ages 6 and up as recommended by Thinkfun. The music is limited to the treble clef, and the tempo and the key signature can not be changed.  While there are some musical limitations for a more sophisticated musician, especially for children, it is a fun and easy way to play around with music in a very accessible way.

Conclusion

For the novice or less experienced musician, Compose Yourself allows you to dabble in creating original compositions.  I hesitate to call this a game in the traditional sense, however Thinkfun does lists it on their site as a game.  Regardless of what you call it, for those interested in music is a fun product that provides immediate reinforcement by hearing you music immediately.  

 

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Kickstarter Preview: Rise of Tribes

Publisher: Breaking Games

Age Rating: 10+

Players: 2-4

Timeframe: 30-60 minutes

Style: Light Strategy Game

You are a nomadic, prehistoric people. Your tribe prospers by growing in population, moving across a variety of lands, gathering resources, and by having a strong leader. Be the first to victory by scoring 15 points! Will your tribe rise above the rest?

Introduction

Rise of Tribes is a much anticipated game designed by Brad Brooks (creator of Letter Tycoon) that will be available as a Kickstarter on June 6, 2017. The artwork and component design is striking and extremely dialed in to the overall theme of the game. While this game uses some familiar mechanics such as resource gathering, dice rolls to determine actions, and quest completion, it puts them together with a unique twist that makes the game simple to play while adding some advanced strategy and technique for experienced gamers to really sink their teeth into.

Contents (The Standard Edition)

  • Complete Rules Booklet
  • 80 Meeples (in 4 player colors)
  • 15 Hex Tiles (the game board)
  • Action and Score Keeping Board
  • 4 Scoring Discs (1 for each of the4 player colors)
  • 60 Goal Cards (15 for each of the 4 player colors)
  • 14 Custom Dice
  • 24 Wood Tokens, 24 Stone Tokens, 24 Food Tokens
  • 12 Event Cards
  • 6 double sided Leader Power Cards
  • 6 Player Boards (1 for each Tribe)

The artwork on the box, the player boards, and  the rules booklet all help to evoke the tribal feel of the game. The cards and dice are of high quality and the cardboard components are of higher quality than most board games. The Kickstarter promises a Deluxe Edition with wooden components that definitely seem worth paying a bit extra for to really keep players immersed in the theme.

Gameplay

The object of game is simple – be the first Tribe to score 15 Victory Points. At first the rules and mechanics look intimidating, but if you dive in and play through a turn or two the mechanics become much easier to understand and play starts to move very quickly and competitively.

After laying out the hex grid for the terrain and setting up the Action Board and dice according to the rules booklet, the players put meeples on the board to start the game based on turn order. 

The first player rolls 2 dice and then chooses where to put them on the action board. The player must take 2 actions on their turn (each action must be different). The player can choose to GROW their Tribe, MOVE their Tribe members, GATHER resources, or LEAD their Tribe. GROW allows the player to add more tribe members to the board. MOVE allows you to expand your tribe to more hexes and different terrains. GATHER helps the player get resources to build villages or complete goals. LEAD allows a player to get goals to complete which give the player additional Victory Points and some fun benefits.

When they player rolls their dice and chooses an action, they add the first of their die rolled to the first die slot of an Action, pushing all the other dice along to the right. The end die gets placed on the bottom of the Action Board and will be rolled on the next turn. The result of the 3 dice on the top of the Action Board determines the power of the action chosen. This mechanic adds quite a bit of strategy to the gameplay and adds the ability to influence future turns for opponents. This helps balance the fact that your initial actions are determined by chance dice rolls. Once the first Action is fully completed, the player follows the same steps for their second Action. The dice also have another function. If doubles are rolled, a game wide Event is triggered. These Events become active immediately and get resolved by following the directions on the card. Events cards resolve at different paces and can change play positively or negatively depending on the directions.

After the Actions or any Events are completed, Conflicts get resolved. Conflicts occur when more than 5 tribe members occupy a hex. Villagers are removed until only one Tribe occupies the hex. After Conflict gets resolved, players can Build villages or reach Goals.

Is it a Family Game?

Because the game has so many different mechanics to work with, we think the age of 10+ is accurate. A savvy gamer of a younger age may be able to play with some adult coaching. There is also reading involved in the Event Cards and the Goal Cards, so that also adds to the minimum age that a player must be. 

This is a light game that requires strategic thinking, planning and forethought, as well as some advanced logic and critical thinking skills. Players really need to have the ability to make independent decisions and the ability to understand long term consequences. Our adult players found both the theme of the game and the actual gameplay enjoyable. They loved the fact that there were so many different ways to achieve the objective of the game.

Conclusion

The first few turns we played through moved fairly slowly, but as we continued, meeples and villages quickly filled up the board and players became much more aggressive, searching out conflict and rushing to pick up Lead cards. The more we played through the game, the more we saw that there were many different strategies to get to 15 points.

We were super impressed with the thoughtfulness that went into game balance. All of our games were close matches and the dice movement mechanic really required players to think a few steps ahead. This game was extremely playable by players of all types. Our 11 year old quickly taught his friends and they each jumped in with their own style of play. Our experienced players found that the pace of the game kept everyone involved until the end of the game. You couldn’t predict who would win, because the score could change drastically in one turn.

We really loved the fact that this game can be customized to play at a more advanced level with the Leader Power Cards once players have gotten the basic game strategy down pat. We also see many expansion possibilities for the future in this game (5-6 players, perhaps)!

Overall, it’s a tightly designed game with a beautiful theme that uses familiar mechanics in a unique way that really allows players to tailor their strategy and use their own personal style to achieve victory and rise above the rest! Replayability is high, and it is more than worth the MSRP.

FCC disclosure: A copy of this game was sent to us by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

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