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EFG Podcast: Board Game Grab Bag!

This week Stephen and Amanda come together to chat about all sorts of board games!

Magic: the Gathering War of the Spark

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition – Curse of Strahd

Vast: The Crystal Caverns

Beyond Nexus

This podcast was produced in partnership with SuperParent.com!


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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Engage! A Family Gaming Podcast:  Small Board Games to Fit in Small Places

This week Stephen and Linda talk about great board games that come in small packages… for some reason… in case you wanted to put a board game somewhere small. 

For some reason. 

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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Episode 169: Initial Thoughts on Competitive Play

This week Stephen and Amanda share their thoughts on competitive play in games like Magic The Gathering, Warhammer 40K, and others.

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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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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Kickstarter Preview: Alliance The Card Game

Card battling games have been a popular genre for decades (arguably as long as playing cards have existed). We have seen countless variations on similar themes. A handful of those variations succeed and others have fallen short. Alliance The Card Game is one of the few that rise above the rest.




When I first started writing reviews I was taught to frame my review as a comparison of execution vs. expectations. This way I would avoid comparing a game to others in the genre. In essence, I am looking to compare the game to an idealized version of itself. (Please forgive the navel-gazing. I promise I’m getting to the point.) Alliance the Card game succeeds because it does exactly what it promises that it should do. It is a straight forward card game that is easy to set up and tear down. It is also, most importantly, a game that is so simple to learn that young kids can take it out and teach each other to play with no outside intervention.

That last point is super critical for me. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been pulled away from another game, or from another activity to have to walk my younger kids through games or to help them teach their friends how to play. Alliance solves for that problem by being simple enough to be taught by a kindergartener.

This ease of use doesn’t come at the expense of quality either. Players are treated to an interesting battle game with some strategic decisions to be made. The cards feature amazing art in a new, but familiar, sword and sorcery setting.

It is worth mentioning that this Kickstarter is for a Starter Kit that will only feature two armies. The intention is to design and sell more cards and card sets is expansions that will help deepen the strategy of the game.

Alliance The Card Game plays with two players ages 6+. Each player plays with a 35 card deck that includes a Leader, generals, and various warriors. Play begins by placing the leaders in their respective places on the game board. Players then take turns taking cards from the top of their deck and placing them in one of five spaces towards the center of the board.

The real action takes place once the front rows of each side of the board have been filled. Players take turns activating two of their five active creatures to attack creatures on the other side of the board. Activation is straight forward; you choose a character and then roll a metal die. If the number that comes up matches an attack number on the card, then damage is dealt to the target.

When cards are defeated they are moved to the slain pile. Each player can only replace one card per turn so the goal is to put the pressure on and get ahead. Once all five spaces have been cleared you have a chance to attack the enemy leader.

Conclusion

If you back Alliance the Card Game at $39 on Kickstarter, then you will get the base game. There is a $44 pledge level that includes the designer’s autograph.

If you and your family are looking for a straight forward card battling game set in a sword and sorcery setting, then I think this will be a great addition to your collection.


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Episode 161: Our Most Anticipated Board Games of 2019!

This week Stephen, Linda come together to chat about their most anticipated Board Games of 2019!

This podcast is now a joint co-sponsored effort with SuperParent.com!

Follow us on Facebook, our home for family-friendly memes and all the gaming deals the Man Behind the Curtain can find. You can also keep up with all of our content as we release it!

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Check out this episode!

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Tournament of Towers is a dexterity game from Iron Hippo Games where players try to draft the best pieces using cards to create the highest scoring tower.  Players have the role to build the greatest monument for the kingdom of Geometria. This game was originally funded on Kickstarter and is now available for retail. The game is for players age five and up and can play two to four players.

Game Components

  • 4 Foundation Pieces
  • 4 Architect Figures
  • 40 Stone Pieces
  • 20 Gold Pieces
  • 60 Building Material Cards
  • 1 Event Die

Gameplay

Tournament of Towers incorporates a drafting component into the dexterity and strategy of building your tower.  Additionally, there are multiple rule variants.

Standard Rules

The game plays in two rounds.   The game begins by distributing a foundation piece and Architect figure to each player.

In each round, you start by shuffling the building material cards and dealing seven cards to each player.  Players then draft the cards.  To do this each player chooses one card from their hand and places it face-down in front of them.  Then they pass their remaining hand to the person on their left. Again, they choose a card from their new hand and pass the remaining cards to the left.  Drafting continues until all cards have been used.  Next, each player designates their building order. This is done by placing their cards in a row, and the building order is read left to right.  Then, there is the option to roll an event.  Depending on the round different events occur such as changing the order of your Building material cards or moving a piece from the player to your right and add it to your tower.

Once all players finalize their building material cards, they gather the pieces shown on their cards and build their towers in the order of the building cards. Players have the option to add their Architect figure to the top of their tower to gain an additional point. Players call out “Done” when their tower is complete. Which ends the round for them.  If the tower falls between rounds it is considered a Mulligan and can be rebuilt.

A Mulligan is where a player is permitted to fix their tower by placing the pieces in approximately the same places they were before it falls.

Rule Variants

Simplifying

To scale down the challenge level deal out fewer cards which result in placing fewer pieces.  The recommendation is to only deal four or five cards and add an extra mulligan.

Family Style

Family Style tower building becomes a cooperative game.  Players construct until the collectively decide the tower is complete and a masterpiece worthy of the King and Queen of Geometria or until the tower falls.  Players begin by shuffling the whole deck.  On their turn, a player draws to cards and decides which one to play. The piece placed corresponds to that card.  The selected card is placed in the discard pile and the unused card is placed at the bottom of the deck.

Ultimate Tower

Using a single foundation piece the player or players are challenged to create a tower using all the pieces of the game.

Apprentice Rule

In this variant, players may use one Mulligan per round to fix their tower if a piece falls.

Competitive play

Players place each piece of their tower one at a time in turn.  For example, each player individually places their third piece, and unlike in other modes of play, the turns are not done simultaneously.

Family Gaming Assessment

The beauty of Tournament of Towers as a family game is its flexibility and how easy it is to learn. It took the family only a few minutes to learn the game and start playing. The ease of learning makes is a game that is perfect for a family party.  The rules can be scaled to the skill level of the players. The rules recommend that that novice players use fewer cards per round and add Mulligans.

Children as young as 5 can certainly access and enjoy this game, but the children I played with struggled to complete a tower after the first round when we played standard rules. Later we played by the simplified rules by playing fewer cards per round. The game became much more accessible and less frustrating for the kids.  As we were getting to know the balance features of each of the pieces there were also unlimited Mulligans.

For anyone looking for some STEM activities for their children Tournament of Towers incorporates engineering.   The Ultimate Tower challenge is a perfect example of a STEM task when there is an end goal and components and the player problem solve and work through how to balance all the pieces.

Conclusion

Tournament of Towers is a unique game with wonderful components.  The pieces of this game provide such a range of open ended opportunities. It is accessible for a huge range of players. The rules are so simple and the gamplay so quick making it a great fit to family gatherings and game nights.

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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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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Engaged Family Gaming Holiday

Here at Engaged Family Gaming we want to help you with your holiday shopping.  These are some of our favorite new games for a range of ages and gaming styles.  For additional ideas of games that would best suit your family or friends you can check out recommendations by age articles, which are linked at the bottom of the gift guide.

Azul

 

Azul is an abstract game for two to four players ages eight and up, and won the 2018 Speil De Jahar. Players are working to replicate the design on their board.

Azul plays in rounds. Players score points as  they place their tiles.  Adjacent tile or completing a column or row on their “wall” earn additional points.  The game ends when one or  more players have completed a row by the scoring phase of a round. This is a beautiful game and a great addition to anyone’s game collection.

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a beautiful science-themed game that features the tree life cycle and a rotating sun to collect light points. The game plays two to four players ages eight and up. 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”.

Photosynthesis plays in rounds. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase. The game ends after the sun makes three complete revolutions around the board.  Points are then calculated based on scoring tokens and unused light points.

See our review here.

Go Nuts For Donuts

Go Nuts For Donuts is a card drafting and set collection game for two to six players ages eight and up where players are trying to collect the best donuts to eat.  Player bid on the different donuts available in the donut row. Players bid in secret, and at the end of the bidding players may only collect those donuts where they are the sole bidder.

Each kind of the 21 kinds donut ( and two beverages) has either points it gains you, an action you can take immediately upon retrieving the card, or both. The kinds of donut cards available to players increases with the player count. While the game is recommended for ages eight and up, it can be scaled down to age five by reading the text on the cards for them and a little coaching.

Funky Chicken

Funky chicken, which is found in a chicken shaped carrying case, is more or less an expansion to Happy Salmon. It is for three to six players ages six and up, and includes four new moves:  Swing, Bump, Spin, and Funky Chicken.

Funky Chicken is a great party game where everyone is laughing and being silly.  At the encouragement of the publisher North Star Games the Engaged Family Gaming team successfully combine Happy Salmon and Funky Chicken into one massive silly game! 

Monster Match

The Monster Match Game is a matching game for two to six players ages six and up. A series of cards are laid out on the table, and players roll a pair of dice. One of the dice represents an number between zero and five. The other will show either eyes, arms, or legs. Players then race to pick an card featuring an monster that has the appropriate number of arms/legs/eyes indicated on the dice. The game is adorable, fast, and accessible for almost all ages. Each card has a stack of doughnuts on them and the winner is determined by who has the most doughnuts on their total cards at the end of the game.

Forbidden Sky

Forbidden Sky is the next installment in the Forbidden series by Gamewright.  It is a cooperative game where players work to lay tiles to create the paths on a floating platform in the sky.  As players build, large and small circles are created on the board and they lay disks.  Players also  lay circuit components. Meanwhile, players are trying to survive against the wind and lightning.

As in previous Forbidden games each player has a role with special powers, and players are all trying to get the the rocket before the circuit is complete to indicate it takes off. Completing the circuit lights up the rocket and includes sound effects.

See our reviews of the predecessors:  Forbidden Island, and Forbidden Desert

 

Queendomino

Price: $27.32
Was: $29.99

Queendomino takes the Kingdomino game that we recommended in last year’s holiday guide (click here for the 2017 guide )  and adds several interesting elements to it.  In Queendomino there is a new land tile and that tile that allows you to place buildings. These buildings can give you a range of perks including, knights, towers, and crowns.  In each round if player has the most towers or matches another player in number of towers they get to have the queen visit their lands and the player enjoys some perks from her presence. This is a great tile laying game for two to four players ages ten and up with elements beyond just basic tile laying.

Ice Cool 2

Ice Cool2 is the sequel to the original Ice Cool game.  It is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. The game is for two to four players ages six and up. If you combine it with the original Ice Cool game you can play up to eight players and set up multiple layouts.  New to this game there are: Tasks on the 1-point cards, Fish-moving power on the 2-point cards, and there are optional tournament scoring.  This takes a silly flicking game and adds even sillier components to it.

Rhino Hero Super Battle

Rhino Hero- Super Battle is the sequel to Rhino Hero and is a dexterity game where you build a tower with the cards.  The game is for ages five and up and plays two to four players. This game adds three more superheros:  Giraffe Boy, Big E. and Batguin.  The walls now come in two sizes; tall and short and there is a superhero medal.  Additionally there are spider monkeys which attack.

The gameplay has additional steps they includes: 1. Build!, 2. Spider monkey attack (place a spider monkey hanging from the floor if there is a spider monkey symbol and see if it makes the tower fall), 3. Climb the skyscraper! by using a die to determine how many floors to climb, 4. Super battle if two superheros are on the same level, 5. Superhero medal goes to the players if their super hero is the furthest up at this phase in their turn, 6. Draw another floor card.  The game ends when all or part of the tower collapses or all the playable floors are used.

Roller Coaster Challenge

 

 

Roller Coaster Challenge is a single player STEM game focusing on engineering for ages six and up.  It come with 60 challenge card in a range of difficulty.  The player sets up the posts and required pieces on the challenge card.  They then need to design a roller coaster that travels to the bottom successfully using some of the additional posts, 39 tracks.  The roller coaster is successful if the roller coaster car makes it to the end.  This was a Toy of the Year Finalist in 2018.

Additional Resourced by age:

Games for 2-4 year olds
Games for 5-7 year olds
Games for kids 8 and up 

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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Penguin Slap! is an adorable game I played at the Boston Festival of Independent Games.  The game fully funded on Kickstarter with the campaign running until October 28, 2018.  It only costs $15, plus shipping, to get a copy of the game. 

 

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

Penguin SLAP! It’s a take-that style card game for 2-4 players, ages 9 and up. Players need basic reading comprehension to play. My name is Rich, and I co-developed the game with my partner Jewlz.

What is the elevator pitch?

In Penguin SLAP! each player assumes the role of a hungry penguin hoarding fish. There are lots of goofy penguins to choose from. There’s a secret agent penguin, an emperor penguin, a polar bear dressed as a penguin, an alien dressed as a penguin, and more! To win the game, you want to be the last penguin holding fish cards. You can make other players drop fish by slapping them with your fish cards (no physical slapping required.) But you’ve got to be careful, if your opponent has a “counter” fish, they can reverse your slap back to you! The game is casual enough to play with younger audiences while also having enough strategy to entertain more advanced players.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

It’s live NOW until Oct. 28th. Check out the Kickstarter right here.  Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete?The game is complete, except for any additions that we’ll add as a result of the kickstarter.

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

We tend to describe our game as “super” Uno but backwards. In Uno you want to run out of cards first, in Penguin SLAP! you want to be the last player with cards. Our game also gives players more strategic options, which gives players more control over their fate. Since fish cards are colored on both sides (each color doing something different) and each player has two draw piles, players choose which pile (and which color of fish) to draw. Penguin SLAP! also has an equipping mechanic which adds to the strategy. Green fish can be equipped in front of a player and later are used to augment other cards. We’ve also seen players get “Mario-Kart syndrome” with our game, where it no longer matters if they win or lose. They just want to get back at that one player that blue-shelled (or slapped) them earlier on.

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

We’ve played some longer, more strategy-intensive games and, while enjoyable, sometimes a player gets a clear lead and they can be hard to catch up to. We’ve also played shorter, more casual games and found that they lack the depth that makes them interesting beyond the first few play-throughs. So we wanted something short and fun that had enough strategy to be interesting, with enough balance so that players who get a strong lead can get reeled in quickly and players that lag behind have a chance to catch up (If you run out of cards you can draw back in on your next turn.)

Penguin SLAP! games generally end very close, often the winning player wins by a single card. Each time you play you can choose a different penguin persona card to represent you, which will give you different abilities and influence your strategy. Games feel engaging and since they’re short, it’s easy to replay again and again, trying different personas. Besides, who doesn’t like penguins?

What was your design process like?

We started out with cut up sheets of computer paper. To color our fish we colored the backs of the paper with highlighter. (We couldn’t find any markers, but we had 4 different colors of highlighter. At first the cards were simple and said “+1 fish” or “+2 fish” or “-2 fish.” Once the mechanics were solid we brainstormed the penguin narrative. We’ve been playtesting for over two years now at game cafes and in Boston as members of the Boston Game Makers Guild. (Shameless plug! If you’re designing a game I HIGHLY recommend finding a Meet-up group of game designers to play with. You get GREAT feedback.) Jewlz does all the art for the game. Her amazing art is all over our YouTube page (our username is “Penguin SLAP!” Check out her speedpaints here!)

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

Penguin SLAP! aims to be entertaining and engaging from start to finish. Our game doesn’t implement any player-elimination (at least, until the very end when someone wins) and younger players seem to love the goofy story (Only penguins live on Tuxedo Island, so to get in on the prime fishing area other animals disguise themselves to blend in. All the penguins fall for the disguises except this crazy-haired conspiracy theorist penguin who wears a tin-foil hat.) The game is playable casually with kids or more aggressively with older players. The gameplay is short enough and dynamic enough that it can be played as a starter game before a longer game night, or repeatedly throughout the game night.

How long has this game been in development?

Two and a half wonderful years.

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

This is tricky. Game-mechanics-wise there were a few, but designing those out is part of the fun of game design! Finding a company that affordably prints on nice cards without the image drifting too much has been a challenge.

What did your first prototype look like?

Cut up sheets of white printer paper with pencil on one side and highlighter on the other.

Why did you get into making games?

We like creating things! For our main jobs Jewlz and I do visual effects for film (Look up Rich Hardy Jr. and Julianne Holzschuh on IMDb to find us!) Jewlz is an also an AMAZING artist and I do programming, so we were going to create a video game together, but I figured a card game would be easier to prototype and would help us understand game design better before we jumped into the deep end.

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

We’ve got more info on our Kickstarter page, which is live NOW!  We’re adding in extra penguins and art to the game right now, thanks to our AWESOME backers! We’re listening to the community as much as possible and we’re trying to respond to every comment we get.

We have a website at penguinslap.com. On our website you can read about the penguins in our game and you can download free puzzle pages and coloring pages. (Our puzzle page is a “publication” from Tuxedo Island called “The Tuxedo Telegraph.” It’s like the newspaper that the penguins read. We also have an email list that we occasionally give things away on, you can subscribe here if you’re interested.

Our YouTube channel is full of videos of Jewlz painting the artwork from our game. It’s mesmerizing to watch, and easy to get lost in.

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter as penguinslapgame.

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