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Board Game Review: Dixit

Asmodee Games

3-6 Players (However, 4+ is better) Ages 6+ 30+ Minutes COMPETITIVE

“Perfect nonsense goes on in the world. Sometimes there is no plausibility at all”

Nikolai Gogol, The Nose

This is the best thought I could think of to describe the game of Dixit, a game where it appears that players are making sense of nonsense! Dixit plays like Apples to Apples in the opposite direction that is far more visual. It requires that you to come up with a perfectly apt description of your own VERY surreal card that also leaves your opponents guessing.

The trick is, the description cannot be too easy or too difficult because at least one person needs to get it right for you to score. It is very likely that you are confused at that description. (I know I was the first time I played!) Let me explain the game play and then, hopefully, it will clear it all up!

First, each player is dealt six incredibly beautiful and exceedingly surreal cards. Each image is unique and makes you feel like you have drifted far into the rabbit hole, past even the furthest of Alice’s imaginings. The storyteller (active player) chooses a card and describes it. Now this is where the explanation comes in! Let’s say I chose this card:

You could say “A boy with bubbles traversing hills”, but it’s not likely anyone else would have a card that would match that description. As your opponents selections are sorted out, they secretly vote for the card they think is yours using color coded chips. If everyone guesses your card, all your opponents gain 2 points and you gain none.

Let’s say you wanted to make it harder, so you just say “Green”, as it is likely that most of your opponents would have a card fitting that description as they play a card from their hand. However; if no one chooses yours, as there is a “greener” card available, your opponents all gain 2 points (plus a bonus for anyone whose card was chosen by others) and you still get 0!

There is a third option, and this is your goal! Let’s say you said something like “The Final Frontier”, alluding to the Saturn-like shapes of the bubbles, and the fact that the child is obviously traveling. There may be better options out, or not. If one person guesses my image, I get 3 points and they get 3 points, plus a bonus for anyone choosing their card. All other players get 0.

The game is played until someone’s rabbit-shaped meeple reaches 30 points on the board!

Dixit is an immensely fun game, and it is VERY family friendly. Since there is no reading involved, young children can play, however; expect them to be more of a “wild card” to your strategy. I’ve played 5 or 6 times with my 4 year old and only the last time did she start giving clues that didn’t directly describe the card! I would recommend a lot of patience with children under 7 or 8, but once they have the hang of it, it’ll be worth it!

This game helps children to learn storytelling skills, helps broaden appreciation for art and gives them a very strong ability to articulate thoughts concisely and to comprehend metaphor. If you are looking for a tool to help your child facilitate story telling, Dixit cards can be used similarly to Rory’s Story Cubes. Randomly select cards and ask your child to tell a story about what is happening!

I have recommended this game to friends who do not describe themselves as “gamers” or as liking games because it is very simple and very entertaining once you have the hang of it! Much like Apples to Apples there is a lot of replay ability in the 84 card set, though eventually, you might want to look for more options. Asmodee currently has 4 readily available expansions that each add 84 cards to the base set. They even designed the box to accommodate expansions!

All-in-all, Dixit is a must have staple for all family game shelves!

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Board Game Review: Steampunked Time Machine

Nord Games

2-6 Players (with Expansions)
Ages 8+
30+ Minutes
COMPETITIVE

Thank goodness it isn’t raining” he thought, as he made his way back to the lab, his arms laden with the final piece he needed for his creation. The metal glinted in the moonlight as he brought the strange canister through the door to the place that would now reside, for all of time. He pulled out an oddly shaped jar full of a strange fluid and began his work. Soon, all of time would be his! Never again would they call him “Mad”!

Steampunked Time Machine is a tabletop card game, recently released via a very successful Kickstarter campaign.  Players take on the role of Mad Scientists hoping to build the first ever time machine in a Steampunk Victorian age.

First, I should probably explain what this “Steampunk” thing is. Steampunk is a literary and artistic movement that has gained prevalence in the last decade or so. It basically erases the late Victorian era and rewrites it as if Jules Verne’s works were fact.  Think of the “Wild Wild West” movie starring Will Smith or “Van Helsing” staring Hugh Jackman – lots of gear-driven, steam-powered machinery and goggles!

The game has all of those elements in spades: strange mechanical devices, body parts augmented by steam-era technology, and more brass goggles and sepia tones than you can fit in your great-grandmother’s hope chest.  So, if you are looking for a game that has the art and the feel of steampunk, this is it.

Unfortunately, if you are looking for it to be a really great game, this game likely isn’t for you.  What STM has in expandability, look, and dedication to its genre, it lacks in its rules and game balance.

First, the rules are printed on the paperboard box provided with the game (I’d assume the retail version would have a better package) and don’t even explain the most basic concepts of the game.  In order to figure out how to play “parts” – a significant portion of gameplay – we had to venture to their Kickstarter page. The rules themselves need major clarification and overhaul to be understandable to a general retail audience at all.

To play the game, players choose a Mad Scientist from a pool of varying size (this changes depending on expansions and booster packs).  We assumed this was a random choice, since their powers vary so significantly; however the rules hold no clarification.  Once the character is selected, each player is dealt 7 cards.

The rules don’t state who goes first, so we chose whoever’s character name was first in alphabetical order.  The game is played in phases.

First, the Quackery phase.  Here you turn over any used Quackery cards (we assumed this meant our flipped characters as well, but again, we aren’t sure), and can play 1 Quackery card, which generates the energy you need to play when flipped.  Magic: the Gathering players might find this to be a familiar mechanic.

Next, we enter the main phase, where energy is used to play cards to build our time machine or to help ourselves/hinder our opponents. Note: There are some cards that can be cast…. errr… played… at any time & it is noted in the text. There are some very interesting cards that steal parts or Quackery or allow some diving in the discard pile, but there are quite a few cards that will more than likely just rot in your hand.

Luckily, there is a mechanic that allows you to spend energy to discard or draw cards.  This is definitely a nice fix to the stale hand issue that erupts from a random deck game that is so similar to Magic: the Gathering.

Once you’ve completed the main phase, you enter the End Phase where you draw up to 7 cards (unless you have cards that change that), and pass your turn.  In the expansions, there are cards called “Allies” and “Villains” and “Inventors” which must be played immediately when drawn.

Allies give everyone a boost, Villains cause global negative effects, and Inventors give alternate win conditions.  Assuming (again) that since this happened as part of the End Phase, we finished drawing to the requisite 7 cards whenever this occurred. This is definitely an interesting mechanic allowing for some environmental change to spice up the game.

Turns keep progressing in that order until someone gets all 9 pieces of the time machine.Note: The list of 9 pieces is not in the rules, nor is the count, it is located on the back of the Mad Scientist cards.

Unfortunately, this game is poorly tested and leaves much to be desired.  It is definitely family playable, but does involve a decently high reading level.  I would recommend it as a precursor to Magic: the Gathering for those children who might be overwhelmed by the breadth of available cards and more sophisticated game play, though you are probably better off with a M:tG starter deck and some patience!

If the game had more consistent levels of Characters and if there wasn’t SO much guessing and research required to play, it might have a chance to be one of the only lights in the steampunk card-genre.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of revision and fine-tuning needed before this game can really stand the test of time.

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Gamewright Games

Ages 6 and Up 2-6

Players 20 minutes

Card Game

Flip, stack, slap! Slamwich is a fast-paced, silly, and energetic card flipping game reminiscent of Slapjack, War, Uno, etc. The game comes with 55 playing cards that are die cut to resemble bread and illustrated with various sandwich fillings and toppings. Some of the special cards have artistic illustrations of people.

We love Gamewright games at EFG and were very excited to find this on sale at a local big box retailer. It looked like a great, somewhat goofy game that would appeal to my 5 year old son. Slamwich has an MSRP of $9.99, but if you look on Amazon, you can find it for less. Gameplay starts by dealing out the deck as evenly as possible.

Taking turns, each player takes the top card of their deck and flips it onto a center pile. If a set of criteria is met, players race to slap the pile. The combinations are easy to understand. A Double Decker-If the flipped card is identical to the card directly underneath. A Slamwich– If two identical cards have exactly one card in between them (like a sandwich). Special cards like a Thief or a Muncher add unique criteria and help to make winning more random. If a player runs out of cards, they are out of the game. Whoever collects all of the cards wins.

We’ve played through the game many times with children of various ages. My 8 year old says it’s silly and fun and very easy. My five year old says it’s gross and fast and he usually ends up in fits of giggles because of the unique food combinations. My husband doesn’t like that the kids are faster than he is. But, adults can play all out and not be guaranteed to win (which is always a great teaching by example opportunity).

While not as complicated or thought provoking as some of Gamewright’s other games, it is still entirely playable. We liked some of their other choices for early gamers better than this one, but it’s a good game to have on hand for younger children that requires no reading or number recognition.

Is this game worth running out to buy immediately? Perhaps not. But, it’s a great stocking stuffer or add-on gift for your young gamer. Overall, this is a simple and fun way to reinforce early literacy skills such as pattern recognition and sequencing. While kids are flipping and stacking cards, they’re actually learning how to recognize a series, make combinations, and anticipate what might happen next.

Wondering about other Gamewright games? Check our our reviews here!

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Gamewright Ages 8+ 2-4 players 15 minutes Strategy Game COMPETITIVE

Choosing! Pulling! Sliding! These are all fun words to describe one of Gamewright‘s newest strategy games. Pyramix is a three-sided, clever, and easy to learn strategy game with a unique Egyptian look and feel. The pyramid shaped base and hieroglyphs on the cubes are a nice touch. We recently received this game to review from Gamewright and when we first opened the box, the game set up looked intimidating. There are a LOT of small wooden cubes and a complex looking base all organized into a cute pyramid shape inside of the box. But, don’t be fooled! It is far simpler to set up and play than it looks. The base itself keeps all of the cubes under control! We appreciated that convenience and thoughtfulness in design right off the bat.

The game comes with 56 colorful cubes, a base tray, and a cleverly folded rulebook. While the triangular folded shape of the rulebook fits nicely with the theme, it will make you slightly crazy if you’d like to keep it folded exactly as it was when you received it.

Game play starts with the player with the most triangular nose. This might start a fight, so be careful about those not so nice nose comments. (In our household, I will always go first.) Each player removes one cube per turn (following certain rules) from the base until all that remains is a single layer on the base. The cubes slide down and fill in the openings all on their own. At the end, you use the scoring criteria to tally points. Whoever scores the highest number of points wins. (As an aside, our eight year old son picked up on a cute little trick the first time we played. The ankh has one ‘leg’ and counts for one point. The crane has two ‘legs’ and counts for two points. The eye has three ‘legs’ and counts as three points. The cobra has no ‘legs’ so it isn’t worth anything. We think this is a great way to keep track as you go along.) The cubes on the base layer are divided based on who controls the most of each color ankh.

This game has some unique tensions when playing that are fun and much less heart pounding than Forbidden Island or Forbidden Desert. A lot of the tension comes from choices made along the way. Do you play aggressively to rack up points in the early game, or do you play a slow and steady game that might earn lots of bonus points at the end?

We’ve played through the game with a few different groups since we received it. One group was a mix of adults and children, one group was all adults, and one group was all children with an adult supervisor. Overall, it was a much more challenging game with adults than with children. It was easy for the children to get caught up in collecting ankhs and missing out on what was on the base of the pyramid. Adults were much more competitive, which meant that overall points at the end of the game were VERY close. One disappointment is that it is very easy to take an early lead in the game. Once that happens, and other players see a clear winner, the game quickly goes downhill.

In the end, we really enjoyed the way this game teaches strategic thinking, visual discrimination, and pattern recognition in a way that is appealing to tactile and visual learners by including pieces to touch and pull and bright, colorful graphics. Our youngest players also enjoyed the clacking sounds that the cubes made when sliding into the base.

At a MSRP of $21.99 this Mensa Select award winning game is another solid strategy game to add to your collection.

Wondering about other Gamewright games? Check our our reviews here!

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Homeschool Games
2-6 players
10+ minutes (depending on player number and skill)
COMPETITIVE

 

“….Texas has Austin, then we go north

To Massachusetts’ Boston, and Albany, New York

Tallahassee, Florida, and Washington, D.C.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Nashville, Tennessee.

Elvis used to hang out there a lot, ya know.” – Wakko’s America

 

Who can forget the immortal words of the genius that is Wakko Warner, as he fiddled his way through the capitals of all 50 states? Sadly, since the retirement of the Warner Brothers (and the Warner sister), there has been a severe lack in fun ways to learn geography!

Have no fear!  State Master is here!

State Master is a quick competitive game that allows children to learn state trivia in an engaging way! It’s like the U.S. State version of trivial pursuit with the initial roll mechanic of most board games.  Each of the 50 state master cards are double sided, with the state flag & name on the front and six state facts on the back.

To play State Master, five cards times the number of players are placed flag side up ten for two players, thirty for six, etc.) as well as a blank political map of the United States (which is labeled on the back). Players then chose their dice and roll, seven dice are provided, six different colored dice that basically act as player’s pieces and one special die.  The person that rolls the highest places their die on the state of their choice and so on down – the instructions do not provide any guidance on ties, so we rerolled ties – though whatever your house rules for ties are would work fine.

After all the dice are placed, the first player for the round rolls the special die which chooses the category of trivia. The categories are:

  • Abbreviation
  • Capital
  • Largest City
  • Year of Statehood
  • Nickname
  • Population Rank

Each player must then answer for their state.  If they are correct, they must then chose their state on the map, in order to win the card.  Each round progresses the same way until their are fewer cards on the board than there are players in the game.

State Master is overall a pretty fun game in the educational realm, and I was surprised at how little I knew, even about my home state! It definitely has some great learning and memorization potential and the cards could even double as flash cards if you were so inclined.  Replayability will likely be high for a while until your children have mastered most of the data, however; in a classroom setting, this game could be fantastic and would likely never grow old.

There is no age range for this game, which makes sense, as you could easily read the answers to a younger child, though reading at a moderate level would be required to play independent of an adult.

All in all, State Master is a fun and well thought out game that has a price point of $15 or less (if you get in early) and is worth it for helping your child learn more about the country we live in. State Master is currently on Kickstarter and will end its campaign (appropriately) on July 4th!  As Wakko would say it’s “Faboo”!

 

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Gamewright
Ages 10 and Up
2-5 Players
Playtime: Approximately 45 minutes
COOPERATIVE

“Gear up for a thrilling adventure to recover a legendary flying machine buried deep in the ruins of an ancient desert city. You’ll need to coordinate with your teammates and use every available resource if you hope to survive the scorching heat and relentless sandstorm. Find the flying machine and escape before you all become permanent artifacts of the Forbidden Desert! ~ Gamewright”

 

Forbidden Desert is a cooperative game for two to five players which pits a team of adventurers against a sandstorm in a burning hot desert. The sandstorm threatens to block players from successfully locating the parts to a flying machine that they need to escape the all of the sun and sand.

It sounds a lot like another game we reviewed, right? Forbidden Island, perhaps? Well, it is similar in a lot of ways, but it is MUCH more complex.

Much like Forbidden Island, the game “board” is actually a series of 24 tiles shuffled and laid out to form a 5×5 grid with a hole in the center. That hole represents the eye of the sandstorm. Orientation of the tiles to form the grid is VERY important. Read the rules. Seriously. If it is set up incorrectly, it will really confuse gameplay. Also, unlike Forbidden Island, where the tiles just look pretty, these tiles actually do something! They’re pretty, too. But actually interacting with the tiles beyond just moving them around or flipping them over adds to the sense of adventure and makes you really feel the archaeology/Indiana Jones aspect.

The game also includes 31 storm cards, 12 equipment cards, 6 adventurer cards (these determine a player’s role in the game), 48 sand markers, 6 pawns, 6 meter clips, 4 flying machine parts (propeller, engine, solar crystal, navigation deck), 1 flying machine model, 1 sandstorm meter, and 1 sandstorm meter stand, and a rules booklet.

Much like Forbidden Island (or any cooperative game), gameplay consists of a sequence of turns. First, the adventurers take their turn. Then the environment takes its turn. On their turn, each adventurer has a series of 4 actions that they can complete. Adventurers can Move, Excavate, Remove Sand or Pick Up a Part. If an adventurer is on the same tile as another player, they can Share Water or Pass Equipment. After each adventurer completes their actions, the environment gets a turn. The adventurer draws storm cards (which increase as the game goes on) that direct the storm to move one to three spaces in a given direction. The tiles move to fill in the hole where the storm was, depositing sand and possibly cutting you off from water or your team members. The complexity in this game is more significant than Forbidden Island, because in addition to the sand cutting you off, you also have to deal with the burning sun from the storm card deck. Add in the need to find wells, gear, location clues, tunnels, and mirages and you end up with a myriad of decisions to make each turn that can cause your group to win or lose the game.

Players WIN when all adventurers get to the Launch Pad! Once you have the four necessary parts, all players must find their way to the Launch Pad tile where everyone can insert the parts into the flying machine, start the engine, and escape for the win. Remember: The Launch Pad tile MUST be unblocked in order to enter it and/or take off for the win.

Players automatically LOSE if ANY player reaches the skull and crossbones symbol on their canteen. Players also LOSE if they get Buried (If you need to add a sand marker to a tile but there aren’t any left in the supply). Players LOSE if they get Swept Away (the sand storm meter reaches the skull and crossbones symbol).

Is the game any fun? Of course it is! The atmosphere is cool. Who hasn’t dreamed of exploring and finding buried treasure? The mechanics are complex, but after a play-through, simple to learn. And, most importantly, the play is challenging and requires thoughtfulness, cooperation and decision making. Being a co-op game that really relies on teamwork, this can be a great break from other more cutthroat games to get the family working together.

Gamewright recommends ages 10+ for the game, and we think that’s spot on for independent play. We played through with 1 adult, a 9 year old and two 8 year olds and it felt like barely controlled chaos. We also played through with a group of very overtired adults and kept confusing the direction of the storm movement because of player orientation around the table. It is probable that younger players certainly can grasp and enjoy the game when playing with the help of adults, but they probably wouldn’t be able to “lead” the team to success as their are too many variables to keep track of.

At a price of $24.99, Forbidden Desert is a great deal and a fantastic second step in the co-op board game genre. Just like Forbidden Island, the randomness of the tile layout as the board leads to huge variety and replay value, as does the multiple combinations of adventurer play styles (especially in combination). The difficulty can be scaled to all abilities based on the sandstorm level set at the beginning of the game, and even at the easy setting can provide a decent challenge for some of the most experienced gamers. This is another win from Gamewright!

Wondering about other Gamewright games? Check our our reviews here!

Love cooperative games?  Check out our other reviews here!

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Math 4 Love 2-4 Players Ages 10+ 15+ Minutes (Highly dependent on skill) COMPETITIVE/KICKSTARTER

Racing into a growing spiral, faster and faster as the magnitude increases monotonically. Decahedrons, your only ally to your nigh indivisible goal, the Prime goal, one-hundred-and-one.

Prime Climb is a game of decision making and strategy that has you competing with your opponents to get your pawns to the safety of the board’s final number. As if it were the progeny of Sorry! and Chutes and Ladders, Prime Climb employs both the sequential numeric board, a single occupant mechanic (where you might be compelled to say “Sorry!”) and a “Home base”-esque aspect for the space labeled 101. Prime Climb utilizes all of the simplicity of these classic games, but it offers far more depth!

The first main difference is the dice, Prime Climb shirks the standard six-sided be-pipped cubes we are all so familiar with in exchange for two ten-sided dice. These dice are used to move around the board and can be added, subtracted, multiplied or divided against the number a pawn currently occupies. Since each die is counted singly and can apply to either of your two pawns, turns can take some time as children mathematically plot the best next move. (Make sure to be patient!)

Doubles also provide a twist, when two identical numbers are rolled, players have four copies of that number to use on their turn! Roll two 9’s, you can take one pawn to 81 from 0, and the other to 18, and so on. The single occupier rule also applies to your own pawns, so it’s worth remembering especially in this case.

The biggest difference is the board, it uses six different space colors (seven if you count black at the 0, or starting space). Grey, orange, green, blue, purple, and red adorn a black board arranged in an Archimedean Spiral, however if you were looking for a Candy Land-esque repetition you are in for a surprise!

Prime Climb uses these colors to represent the first of the early primes. Orange represents 2 and all factors of 2 that follow have an orange segment in their space. So, four would be split with two (2×2) orange halves. Three is green, so the six space (3×2) is half-orange, half-green, and so on! Red spaces are reserved for primes, and as numbers increase to have higher magnitude prime factors, those numbers printed in the red space of the factor. Primes have the added bonus of allowing you to draw a card that adds some additional effect to your turn (or a future turn).

That’s right, Prime Climb uses color to represent prime factorization! This innovative method of teaching children how to multiply and divide allows even young minds to engage in learning via pattern recognition.

To test out the idea that this could work with a younger child, I played with my four-year-old daughter, who loves patterns and can only add and subtract numbers up to 10. After studying the board and explaining to her how it worked, she invented her own basic game — she decided to determine the factors of the numbers in her fortune cookie (You know, those 6 lucky numbers that are printed under the Chinese word for Shoe).

She was able to follow the spiral, and identify all of the factors of each of the numbers (though I’ll admit that the first three were 7,19 and 43 so that did make it easier)! When we played the game we had to assist her with determining where she should move, since the decision making process with two pawns is far harder than you’d expect once you’ve made it to the larger numbers! But we were able to show her where she could move by teaching her to look for the colors!

As an example, let’s say you were on 6, it has factors of 2 (orange) and 3 (green), and you rolled a 7 (purple). To determine where 7 would take you if you multiplied, you just need to find the first space that has three segments in orange, green & purple which is 42, the product of 6 x 7!

It takes patience to play it to a younger audience, but it is definitely a possibility to help introduce the artistry of mathematics to a child before they learn it as rote memorization and “plug and chug” problem solving.

All-in-all Prime Climb is a fantastic family game for the mathematically inclined and for those who like fun. I was lucky enough to get a print-and-play review copy to check out while it runs on Kickstarter, and you could too! The print and play runs $15 and comes with a matching multiplication table and hundreds chart, for the full game experience you can back at the $35 level and get those same printable files!

Prime Climb is fully funded and on their way to some great stretch goals! Check them out before the campaign ends June 6th!

Looking for more games and math? Check out more articles here!

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Gamewright Ages 10 and Up 2-4 Players Playtime: Approximately 30 minutes COOPERATIVE

Seawater splashes around your ankles as you trudge across the Cave of Embers, reaching desperately for the Crystal of Fire. Your partner is frantically laying sandbags to prevent the rising tide from blocking your only escape. The distant hum of a helicopter’s blades sounds in the distance where the rest of the team awaits with the other elemental treasures. You only hope you can make it to them in time before the waters rise and you sink, along with the rest of this…. Forbidden Island.

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game for two to four players which pits a team of adventurers against an ever-sinking island in a quest to obtain four ancient artifacts and escape before the island sinks. Sounds easy enough, right?

Not so much.

The game “board” is actually a series of 24 tiles laid out at random. Each tile represents a location on the island, and has a corresponding location card in the 24-card “Flood Deck.” The game also includes 28 Treasure Cards, 6 pawns and 6 corresponding Adventurer cards (more on those later), 4 sculpted treasure figurines representing the four Elements (The Earth Stone, The Statue of the Wind, The Crystal of Fire, and The Ocean’s Chalice), as well as a Water Level Marker and Meter.

The tiles are laid out in a set island pattern, and six cards are flipped from the Flood Deck. As cards are drawn from the Flood Deck, the corresponding tile on the board is flipped over to a blue tinted version of the same piece. This represents the location “flooding”. If a flooded location floods a second time (via the same flood card being drawn later in the game), that location is lost to the abyss and both the tile and the corresponding flood card are removed from the game.

Players are each dealt (or select) one of the six adventurer cards and place their pawn on a designated start tile on the board. Each player is dealt two treasure cards and the Water Level marker is set to the level of difficulty the players want out of the gate.

Gameplay in Forbidden Island is relatively simple. Players can take up to 3 actions per turn. Actions can be any of four types

  1. move to one adjacent tile (up, down, left or right),
  2. “Shore up” an adjacent tile or the tile the player is on (by flipping it from the blue tinted flooded-version to its normal happy colored version),
  3. Give a treasure card to another player on the same tile
  4. Capture a treasure.

Each Adventurer Card also has a set skill or power that the adventurer can use throughout the game. For example, the Pilot can move to any tile on the board once per turn for one action, the Engineer can shore up two tiles as one action, and the Messenger can give a Treasure card to any player on the board without being on the same tile. These skills are absolutely critical to success in the game, so play the characters wisely!

After taking three actions, the player will draw two Treasure Cards, and then Flood Cards equal to the current water level indicated on the meter. The Treasure Cards are the key to winning. There are four treasures that the adventurers must acquire, representing the four elements – Earth, Wind, Fire and Air. The players must acquire four Treasure Cards of the same elemental type, and then move to one of the two tiles on the board that matches that element – Caves for fire, Gardens for Air, etc. Then the player can use one action to discard those four Treasure cards and acquire the treasure. Also hidden in the Treasure Deck are helpful cards – Sandbag (which can be discarded to allow the player to shore up any tile at any time, without using an action) and Helicopter Lift (which allows the player to move to any tile at any time, without using an action.) Also hidden in the Treasure Deck, however, are the dreaded Waters Rise cards.

When Waters Rise cards are drawn, two key actions happen – the Water Level marker on the Water Meter goes up, meaning that more Flood Cards may need to be drawn each turn, and all of the cards in the Flood discard pile are shuffled and put back on the TOP of the Flood Deck. This means that any tile that recently flooded will flood again soon (and potentially be lost forever)

In order for the Adventurers to win, all four treasures must be captured, all of the players must move to the Fools Landing space, and a Helicopter Lift card must be played to escape from the island.

The tile-sinking mechanic encompasses nearly all of the possible lose-conditions for the adventuring team. If both tiles matching an element sink before the adventurers can acquire that corresponding treasure, the players lose. The loss of Fools Landing – the extraction point at the end of the game – also represents a lose condition for the players. Additionally, if a player is on a tile that is lost and the player cannot move to an adjacent tile, they drown, and the game is lost. (Are you sensing a theme?) Lastly, if the water levels rise too high, the game is lost.

If it sounds like there are many more lose conditions than win conditions, you are absolutely right. This adds to the tension in the game, giving players the real Indiana Jones feeling of snatching treasures up and rushing to escape right as the catastrophe swallows the island whole. Sinking tiles can cut off movement paths, and often times key decisions hinge on a choice between shoring up a sinking tile, or rushing across the board to capture another treasure.

So the real question – Is Forbidden Island fun? And the answer is: incredibly so. The atmosphere in the game is great, the mechanics are simple to learn, and the play is challenging. Being a co-op game that really relies on teamwork, this can be a great break from other more cutthroat games to get the family working together. The game can even be played solo (controlling two adventurers, as some of the game mechanics rely on two Adventurers) for a fun and challenging time. While Gamewright recommends ages 10+ for the game, we think that younger players certainly can grasp and enjoy the game. There are no scary illustrations, and the gameplay is simple enough that the 8 yr old we played with was able to “lead” the team to success while the adults merely consulted. Even players as young as 5 could likely enjoy the game with a heavier guiding hand from the grown ups at the table.

With a list price of only $17.99, Forbidden Island is one of the cheaper european board games out there, and a fantastic introduction to co-op board games before moving on to something more complex like Pandemic, or Flash Point Fire Rescue. The randomness of the tile layout as the board leads to huge variety and replay value, as does the multiple combinations of adventurer play styles (especially in combination). The difficulty can be scaled to all abilities based on how high the water level starts the game, and even at the easy setting can provide a decent challenge for some of the most experienced gamers. For the value, we highly recommend picking up a copy for your family and enjoying hours of fun!

Love cooperative games? Check out our other reviews here! Wondering about other Gamewright games? Check our our reviews here!

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Have you ever walked into a living room with no television in it? It’s a little weird, right? I mean, statistically speaking the average American household has more television sets than people living there (according to a 2010 Neilsen report). It’s kind of a crazy statistic, but not one that surprises me.

What’s weird about walking into a living room without one isn’t just the lack of the TV itself. It’s that the entire rest of the room changes: the orientation of the furniture, the focus of the room, the feel of the place. In a traditional TV-set living room, the furniture serves the function; all the seating is arranged so that it’s occupants can face the all-powerful screen. In a TV-less room, that requirement is out the window.

Most traditionally, that means all the seating faces inwards, promoting conversation,socialization, face-to-face interaction with the other occupants. So what does all this talk of living room furniture have to do with gaming? Well, it’s precisely the reason that my family’s Wii is gathering dust while our board game collection grows.

When our family sets up to play a board game, we are typically gathered around the dining room table, face to face. There’s an implied level of socialization there that, no matter how “party” your video game is, just seems to be lacking with that medium. By facing your opponents (or teammates, in a cooperative game) you are experiencing a social connection that a TV screen cannot replicate.

The pacing of board and card games also tends to lend itself to more discussion, and many games are designed with the intent of encouraging conversations. For some of those games, the social aspect is secondary, like a trading mechanic that is part of a game, but not essential, and for others the social aspect is one of the core gameplay mechanics.

So, is it only socially that board games are winning us over? Depending on your perspective, no.

Quintin Smith had a fascinating article on Kotaku several years back (you can read it here) where he touches on the “interference” of technology into the creative process, or what he calls “lossless game design.” He states that, due to the numbers of creators that are needed in a large video game production, the end product is rarely what the creator imagined in their initial designs. For a board game designer, however, the steps from idea to working prototype are far fewer, and the end product less diluted along the way.

We live in a bit of a board game Renaissance. While technology may “burden” the video game creation process, it has been a boon for the board gamers. The rise of online communities such as BoardGameGeek.com has given a platform for discussion and critique of games, as well as providing visibility to those truly innovative or streamlined games that may not have found it to gamer’s tables 30 years ago.

In addition, those communities and other social media platforms have given creators broad access to a pool of play-testers to help them truly refine their gameplay. Print and play distribution over the internet has made it even easier to put games in players’ hands. All of this has contributed to a higher quality and far more accessible market of games that families can bring to the game table.

Now all of this is not to say that video games have no place in our toolkit. There are plenty of skills that video games can help teach, and they provide a level of immersion that few board games could ever match. Additionally, video games tend to allow to quick scaling to number of players – an option that becomes more difficult at the tabletop.

Based on what I’ve seen on social media, it seems the Family Game Night is making a comeback, even among my “non-gamer” friends. There are so many skills that board games teach our kids (A topic we’ll continue to explore in detail through future articles on EFG). It’s exciting to see families leveraging that as a way to interact with their kids on a social level, and we hope you are too. And if the occasional game night is gathered around the TV? So be it – it’s still parents engaging with their kids in a shared activity. And really, that’s first and foremost what it is all about.

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Hero Forge Games Ages 4-10 2-7 players Playtime 30-60 minutes TABLETOP RPG

What happens when your town is in trouble, and all of the adults are off saving people in far-off lands? It’s time for the kids to show off what they’re made of! Designed to be an introduction to tabletop pen-and-paper role-playing, Hero Kids is all about playing, well… heroic kids. The characters are the young yet capable offspring of some of the land’s greatest heroes, who have inherited their parents’ adventurous spirits and impressive talents. Whether it’s facing off against rats who have kidnapped a friend, or trying to protect the local farm from hungry wolves, these kids show that bravery isn’t linked to size.

The rulebook, which is available in print and PDF versions via DriveThruRPG , include the rules, a starting adventure, and 10 different characters to choose from. The rules are fairly straightforward; all of the actions are done by rolling a set number of six-sided dice (which you’ll need to provide), and comparing the highest outcome on each side.

Like any good roleplaying game (RPG), there are plenty of supplements available: extra adventures, new characters, the ever-important loot, and even pets. Or, for those feeling adventurous themselves, you can create your own material, using the information that comes with the basic rulebook as a guide. This will likely come in handy later, as some kids may chew through the available pre-made missions faster than new ones come out. It will also help with older kids who feel they need more of a challenge, as the basic material is a little bit more geared towards the younger end of the age range.

There’s no reading necessary on the part of the players, as there are symbols next to each of the relevant statistics (a shield for defense, a sword for attack, etc.) Math skills are fairly basic: reading a six-sided die, comparing two numbers, and the basic addition and subtraction of getting wounded and healing. The most critical skill, though, is imagination and problem solving. Beginners can be guided and prompted, but there’s a good chance that parents will find themselves surprised by how fast kids pick up on this form of make-believe. As gameplay progresses, concepts like tactics and teamwork can be stressed, helping the young heroes face ever more difficult challenges.

As with many independently published RPGs, Hero Kids does have some grammatical and spelling issues that you might need to watch out for. Keep in mind that this is a simple system, and it does lack one of the basic components of pretty much every RPG: leveling. The game is built to allow for children to easily swap characters after each adventure, with character cards are provided for ten different classes in the basic set. The full PDF bundle offers another ten characters mostly resembling cartoon characters that may be familiar to little gamers. Each character also has a corresponding coloring sheet which will allow your kids to personalize their pre-constructed characters a bit.

Older children who are ready for more complex play might enjoy the blank character cards, which are provided along with simple guidelines on how to build npp steroid your own character. Each card comes with a paper stand-up mini that matches the picture on the card for use on the maps provided with each adventure, and blank cards allow you to draw your own mini.

For gamer parents wanting to introduce their kids to tabletop RPGs, at $6-$15 ($6 gets you a PDF rulebook, while $15 gets you a PDF rulebook, coloring pages, extra features & 9 pre-made adventures), Hero Kids is a fantastic stepping stone to future gaming. For non-gamers looking for a good outlet for their kids’ imagination, this system requires very little additional investment (just a couple of standard dice), and will give your kids hours of creative entertainment!

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