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Teaching Math By Making Up Your Own Rules for the Pokemon TCG!

Guest Writer: Nicole Tanner

Lots of games are designed specifically to teach something. But often, you can find ways to teach with otherwise “un-educational” games. My daughter’s interest in Pokémon has provided us with an opportunity to teach math. The main Pokémon TCG is a great way to teach addition and subtraction, but we had to improvise a bit and the result ended up teaching multiplication.

Ana had been asking for Pokémon cards for a few months, so when Emerald City Comic Con rolled around my husband came home with a slew of cards, picked up willy-nilly from multiple booths. Not having played the game ourselves, we had no idea we had to have a “Trainer’s Kit” in order to play the game properly. Ana still wanted to play with her cards until we got one, so my husband designed a variation on “War.”

 

 

Here’s the basic idea. Each player has a deck of Pokémon – no Trainer Cards or Energy – just Pokémon. The number of cards in the deck doesn’t really matter as long as each player has the same amount. Evolutions and special powers don’t matter either. Taking turns, each player picks a Pokémon from their deck to play. The other player then selects a Pokémon from their own deck to do battle.  You have to figure out how many hits it would take for your Pokémon to beat the other one using the highest scoring attack on each card. The Pokémon that would use the least hits to knock out his opponent wins. Once the match is over, the winner gets both cards. You continue playing this way until the decks are empty. Then the player with the most cards at the end is the winner.

Ana picked up the gameplay rules after just a few play-throughs, and she was able to figure out the math with little help pretty quickly. We now have all the pieces to play the real thing, but the official card game is a bit too complicated for her to understand at this age. This game suits her skill level and doesn’t mean the hundreds of Pokémon cards have to go unused until she can understand the real thing.

Oh, and it’s helping her learn math.

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Kickstarter Preview: Take the Gold

Take the Gold is an adorable, pirate-themed card game available on Kickstarter. It is a 2-6 player, all-ages card game where players take on the role of cute kitten pirates as they trial to steal gold coins from corgi officers.

The game was designed with simplicity in mind so they really aren’t kidding when they say that this game is designed for all ages. All of the information on each card is easily displayed and understood without complex rules text. The game itself has a draw/play style that will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played UNO or other card games before.

Gameplay works as follows: each player is dealt two cards face down and the rest of the cards are placed in the center of the table as a draw pile. On each players turn they draw a card and then either play a card or pass. Players have an unlimited hand size in this game so you don’t have to play anything. The goal is to be the first player to have four gold coin cards in your hand. You can’t be too greedy though. Players can play pirate cards from their hand to take cards from their opponents. This means big hands will be regularly targeted by other players. You also have to watch out if your hand gets too fat because other players can play the Kraken card and force you to discard everything and start over.

Take the Gold is meant to be very short so it looks like it will be a great filler game or a game to bring to a restaurant.

The Kickstarter campaign is still active, but it will be ending very, very soon so I would definitely recommend checking it out before it ends. The cost to back it is incredibly low at $12 with free shipping to US backers.  Take a look at the campaign video below and then head on over and back it! Let them know that EFG sent you!

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Family Board Game Review: The Oregon Trail

Publisher: Pressman Toy

Players: 2 to 6 Players

Age range: 12 and up

Play Time: 30+ Minutes

MSRP $12.99

Style: Card Game

Have you ever thought that life would be easier if you were born in an earlier time? Have you ever wondered if life would be great without the never ending distractions of the whirs and rings and cacophony of modern electronics? Wouldn’t we all be healthier and more fulfilled without the baggage of modern life? Oregon Trail might convince you otherwise. Play with your friends did family and learn about the struggles of a society very different from your own.

Introduction

The Oregon Trail card game is based on the 1980s video game of the same name. Oregon Trail was an edu-tainment videogame that attempted to teach the history of 19th-century pioneer life when traveling by covered wagon across the country. This new game is basically the same game (right down to the artwork and commands) in a card game format. The only difference is that this game is a cooperative game designed to be played socially instead of playing by yourself on a computer.

Contents

  • 58 Trail Cards
  • 32 Calamity Cards
  • 26 Supply Cards,
  • Laminated Wagon Party Roster,
  • Erasable Marker,
  • 1 Die
  • Illustrated Instruction booklet

Gameplay

Each player’s name is written on the laminated board as part of the wagon party. The back of the board has tombstones to move deceased players names to when they inevitably die off tragically.

Cards are then shuffled with their respective type and each player is dealt 5 Trail Cards and a selection of Supply Cards based on the number of players. The remaining Supply Cards are organized to create a shop that you can purchase from later in the game.

You then take the Start (Independence, MO) and Finish (Willamette Valley, OR) cards and place them 3 feet apart.

On your turn, you must do one of the following

Play a Trail Card: In order to play a trail card, it must connect with the existing path when placed evenly against the previous trail card. You may rotate the card to make this connection if needed. If your trail card has instructions on it, you must immediately follow the instructions on the card (more on that later). If you have a trail card that does not connect or you run out of trail cards, you must draw a new trail card and pass the turn.

OR

Play a Supply Card: Supply cards are used to remedy specific calamity cards. Supply cards can be played on a turn instead of a trail card. The supplies cannot be used immediately after a calamity is drawn.

Trail cards include

  • Forts: This card allows you to collect two supply cards
  • Towns: This card allows you to collect one supply card or remove a single calamity card.
  • Basic: These are one of the best kinds of trail cards, you progress without any event.
  • River: These cards will require you to roll a die in order to progress. A failed die roll will sometimes result in a supply card being lost or you drowning. (We found some ambiguity on some of the river cards and haven’t been able to find a consensus on how to play it so we came up with their own house rules)
  • Press the Spacebar: these trail cards trigger a calamity and make you draw a Calamity card.

Once you’ve resolved everything to the best of your ability on your turn, play passes to the left. When 5 trail cards have been placed they are then collected and stacked with the first card played going on top. The next trail card must connect to the top card.

The game is over when everyone in the party is dead OR when 10 sets of five cards is completed with at least one person still living when you get to Willamette Valley.

Is it a Family Game?

The box states that the game is best for players 12 and up. This is definitely not accurate. We have had seven and eight-year-olds play the game and have quite an enjoyable time. Gameplay is fairly simple once you get over some of the unclear instructions. Keep in mind, the game is designed to teach a little bit about history. You may be discussing some unfortunate things like measles and dysentery and other calamities that happened often in the 19th century.

Also, some of the calamities immediately cause your character to die with absolutely no recourse. This can happen very quickly and happens frequently. Calamities can take players out of the game on the first round and since the game does that last at least 30 minutes, you may have players that or upset and board by the player elimination mechanics.

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Collecting 10 sets of five cards does take a while especially with bigger parties. We have made the game go quicker but choosing to collect five sets of five cards (25 as opposed to 50). In addition to making the game shorter, this does make it easier to win. This might be a house rule that you want to incorporate when you are playing with younger players

Conclusion

We purchased this game purely for the tug of nostalgia. It certainly has the look and feel of the game from the 1980s that we were all so fond of and familiar with. Dying of disease and failing to ford a river happen often enough in this game that we feel satisfied. However, some of the more educational aspects of the 1980s game were removed from the card game testosterone enanthate. The decision to remove things like the roles of the players in the party, proper trip planning, and some of the decision-making regarding supplies and speed of travel simplified the mechanics of the game and made it more accessible to many players. Unfortunately, this leaves the game feeling slightly watered down and it relies way more on luck that it does on strategy and skill.

The MSRP on this game is very reasonable. If you are looking for a game that has a neat nod to nostalgia, then this will make for a fun evening. Because this game does not require a lot of player skill or strategy, your more experienced gamers might be bored or frustrated by the random luck in this game. Overall it is great icebreaker and a fun game to relax and socialize while playing. It does spark some discussion about history and while it is not as educational as the 1980s video game, it’s still a fun experience.

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Originz The Super Powered Card Game

Originz is a card game where players use awesome superpowers to battle for supremacy on the kitchen table. Flavor Faction, the people behind the game, look like they have a hit on their hands as it heads to Kickstarter September 5th.

Originz: The Super Powered Card Game includes twelve decks of cards that are each focused around a different super power (or Origin). The list includes things like Weather Control, Power Armor, and Super Strength.

Before we go much further I need to point out one thing. You’ll notice that I said the decks were based on various super powers as opposed to different super heroes. This is critical, because Originz isn’t about playing as a superhero or supervillain. It is about pretending to be one yourself. There are plenty of games where you get to play as Iron Man, Batman, or the Hulk. But, Originz is all about making YOU the hero and that makes a big difference when it comes to theme.

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It is impossible to play this game and not recognize elements from other games and intellectual  properties. It is a card battle game that is reminiscent of Magic: The Gathering, and that features decks based on the superpowers of some of our favorite superheroes and villains. You might think that those familiar elements might take away from the experience. But, they don’t. Instead, it helped our play group feel immediately comfortable and helped us get into the action quickly.

Gameplay could not be simpler. Players start their turns with three energy and may use that energy to play cards from their hand OR activate them. This is important because this limitation prevents you from playing and using your most powerful cards in the same turn. Any cards that you do activate are put on the bottom of your deck to, potentially, be drawn later. Take a look at this great gameplay video!

The most interesting feature here is that each player’s deck acts as their life total and players are forced to discard cards when they take damage. This makes attacking your opponents about more than just dealing damage. The attacks can actually disrupt their strategies by forcing them to take important cards off of the top of their deck. As we played through our many demo games this mechanic reminded my playgroup of all of the times we’ve seen our favorite heroes win the day by ruining their opponents plans as opposed to just punching them. That may not have been the original design intention, but it felt great to us.

Using your cards as a life total also makes the game state easy to keep track of. Games like Magic and Pokemon require some way to keep track of life totals. People use all sorts of creative methods for doing so, but none of them are necessary here. You just count your cards. You can’t help but appreciate the elegance in the game design.

Many of our games were played as one on one battles using various decks, but this game is designed to be a tool for creating whatever kind of battle you can imagine. You could draft. You could pick a few decks and put them together for a SUPER battle. The game and its components are infinitely flexible.

Is it a kids’ game?

There is nothing inappropriate in this game. It features super hero art, so if your kids are accustomed to comic books and their associated moves, then this should be no problem.

Can kids play it?

The age recommendation for this one is 10+ and we think it is accurate. The decks are small, but they are all build around very specific combinations of cards that take some thinking to pilot correctly. Our oldest son is 10 and was successful, but he definitely had to think about it.

Conclusion

This is a very cool game that features a lot of content for the price. I definitely recommend backing this one.

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By: Kelly Allard
Gamewright
2-8 Players
Family
20+ Minutes
$10.99
COMPETITIVE

As the dark clouds masked the azure sky belying the intention of  brewing a powerful storm.  A greater threat looms for a fleet of merchant vessels than the choppy seas and swirling winds.  In the distance, a sail appears emblazoned with the most terrifying of sights as the menacing, eyeless face of the Jolly Roger materializes into view.  The ship attempts to outrun the a feared buccaneers, only to see another from the west, and yet another from the east, escape is no longer an option.  As the pirates close in, which captain will take the ship for their own, and who will get the Loot.

Players in Loot are the pirates battling to pad their coffers with the largest share of  ill-gotten gains acquired from unsuspecting merchant ships. The deck of 78 cards is brandished with a treasure map on the back and caricatures of ships and their over zealous captains on the back. As each player begins with their hand of 6 cards, they play in turns choosing between actions, such as drawing cards, playing merchant ships, attacking merchant ships or playing a captain or an admiral.

Play is interesting as it involves some unique mechanics.  First, if a player uses their action to play a merchant ship, it has a value attached varying from 2-8 gold.  If a ship is captured the pirate gains that much gold towards their final total. A player places his merchant ship in front of him, and if the next player opts to attack it, they choose any color pirate ship from their hand.

Pirate ships come in four colors, purple, yellow, green and blue, and vary in strength from 1-4. So, a player may choose a ship from their hand in an attempt to attack the vessel, if they do, it must pass an entire round (all players have had their turn and it is back to that initial players turn) before they can claim the vessel.

Were another player to challenge against that pirate, they may only play a ship that is a different color than one already played on that ship.  So two players could not play a green pirate ship, even if their strengths differed.  As play passes between players, they can opt to strengthen their attack by playing additional ships of the same color to add to their overall power.  The player with the highest strength against a merchant ship for an entire round, takes that ship’s loot.

If no one threatens a merchant ship then the player who put it out gets it’s loot!  Now, if a player really wants to take a merchant ship, they can play a captain in the color that matches the ship they already played on it, there are only 4 captains in the deck, so they should be used wisely. The last captain played on the merchant vessel wins it.  If a player wants to protect the ship they played, they can play the one Admiral in the deck and collect the booty from their capture.

At the end of the game, players count up their gold, and the player who managed to plunder the most, wins!

Loot is a pretty easy game to start up, but it does require some strategic thinking and decision making.  Players must sometimes sacrifice a vessel they played or are attacking for a better bounty, and will sometimes have to let other players collect on vessels with no resistance.  The game play challenges children to think of how to get the most “bang for their buck” by reserving scarce resources and sometimes taunting opponents into attacking a vessel to distract from a bigger play.

Loot also comes with a variant play allowing for teams to interact in capturing vessels (for 4, 6 or 8 players) so even large groups could have some fun in the plunder.

Conclusion

Overall, Loot is a well thought out and very fun game.  It’s possible to play it well with younger children, but it will take patience as they develop their skills and start to find strategy beyond playing anything they are able to.  The game suggests ages 10+, but the game is very suitable for children who have developed skills in Uno or Zombie Dice.  There is simple math involved with adding up power totals and recognizing merchant ship values, there is no reading.  Children can also practice grouping, multiplication and addition at the end game as they come up with total gold values.  All in all this is a fun game that is a bit of a twist on normal strategy.  Definitely recommended for those who are looking for a little privateering in their game closet.

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

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Mars vs Earth, by Geek Fever Games, is a hidden allegiance game set in the 1950s with a War of the Worlds theme. It has been carefully crafted over the last few years by a small team based in Connecticut. The development process has been a family affair as their playtesting team has included the designer’s wives, children, and closest friends. Forgive my sappy phrasing, but this game was obviously created by a family to be played by a similar type of group.

The bottom line here: If you are looking for a game to add to the rotation for your regular play group or to play as a family, then this is a very good choice. Just be prepared to question everything they ever say again.

The bulk of the game play works as follows.

Each player is secretly dealt a DNA card at the start of the game. This card will determine whether you are a human or an alien and will likewise determine your overall goal.

The players, as a unit, will be given a series of missions that will need to be completed. Humans want missions to succeed as completing twelve of them will eliminate the alien invasion. Aliens want to see them fail and thus weaken the human race for the ultimate takeover.

Completing missions requires players to discard skill cards into a collective pool. These discards are done blindly, meaning that an alien among the players could easily put the wrong skill type into the pool as sabotage. They can’t be too obvious though because after each set of missions is completed (whether they succeeded or not) players can accuse other people at the table and potentially reveal them.

After four missions have been successfully completed a new round of DNA cards is distributed (secretly) that will either turn loyal humans into Alien clones OR make already existing aliens that much more powerful.

I had the pleasure of sitting in on several games of Mars vs Earth with the designers and it was a blast. It only took them five minutes to teach me to play and I was engrossed in the action. This is a very “mechanics light” game so people who are easily intimidated by other board games should be put at ease.

It is also worth noting that the artwork in Mars vs. Earth is incredible. Each Agent card features carefully crafted illustrations and the game board, while a little chaotic, gives players a clear view of their objectives.

As for families with younger children: There is very little reading involved, but playing the game successfully does require that players have a reasonable poker face. Young children who have trouble keeping secrets will struggle with this one. This experience is ideal for a group of players that can all bluff their way through the different scenarios. Even one player who giggles in the face of accusation (or has any other obvious tell) will hurt everyone’s enjoyment.

Mars Vs Earth

Mars vs. Earth can be purchased here.

Disclosure: The artist on Mars vs. Earth is Ben Foster who is one of the writers on Engaged Family Gaming. 

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Take a look below for our list of pirate themed board games to help celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day! (Or any time you feel like sailing the seven seas for some pirate-y action!)

Catan: Junior

The Settlers of Catan, now referred to simply as Catan, has been credited with being responsible for the board game boom in recent years. It is certainly a fan favorite of many gaming groups across the world, but it is very difficult in places for the younger set.

Fortunately, Catan Jr. fixes all of that by providing a very similar gameplay experience while eliminating the trading aspects of the game and using a fixed board as opposed to movable tiles. This allows kids to develop and refine their own strategies.

It also doesn’t help that the game is given a pirate theme which is much easier for children to understand and identify with.

Loot

Loot is a card based strategy game where players set sail for adventure and control fleets of pirate ships as they compete to grab the most treasure. It is a simple game that is super inexpensive and packs a lot of punch. We especially like the fact that it includes rules for team play to help broaden the possible game experiences.

Piña Pirata

What happens when you combine the card matching familiarity of Uno with the chaotic, ever shifting rules of Fluxx? Piña Pirata!!

In Piña Pirata, players control a hand of cards containing one or two anthropomorphic pirate-animals. Each card is played into a central pile, with the basic rule being that you must play a card with a pirate-animal that matches one of the ones on the previous card. If you cannot play a card, you draw a new one. The first player to play all their cards wins the round.

The twist? The game starts with two “extra” rules, randomly drawn from a set of tiles. Each round, the winner draws two more tiles and selects one rule to add (the other they keep for scoring). The game continues to get more and more chaotic as rules are added that modify gameplay, give certain cards special powers, and make each game feel different and unique.

Black Fleet

If you want a game that allows you to play the part of pirates, the merchants they raid, and the naval ships that hunt them, all at the same time, look no further than Black Fleet.

Black Fleet is an incredibly family-friendly game of “pick up and deliver”, with a whole bunch of “take that” thrown in. Players use cards from their hand that designate their movement values for three different ships – their large merchant ships, their smaller pirate raiders, and then the neutral Imperial Navy ships. Each player is trying to acquire gold by picking up goods with their merchant and delivering them elsewhere on the board, stealing goods from other player’s merchants with their pirates, and sinking pirates with the Navy ships.

As players acquire gold, they are able to spend it to “buy” one of their unique player powers, and once all their powers are purchased, trigger the end-game condition. These variable player powers can drastically change the strategy that each player may use from one game to the next and lead to tons of replayability in the game.

 

Walk the Plank

Walk the Plank is a programmed-movement/action-selection game that plays in about 20-30 minutes. Players are trying to shove their opponents meeples down the “plank” and into the water where they will be consumed by a cartoonish sea monster, while simultaneously trying to keep their own group of pirates out of harm’s way.

Players select three action cards from their deck, place them face down, and then go around the table revealing and resolving the actions one at a time (each player resolves card #1 in order, then card #2, etc). Chaotic fun ensues, as players are suddenly not where they intended when their next action comes up, but are still forced to execute on it. This is a fantastic filler game for any game night.

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Kickstarter Review: Cogs in a Machine

Mikeware
Competitive
2-6 Players
Ages 12+

The machine whirred loudly, a perfect musical backdrop to the ears of the factory employees.  As the harmonious percussion of gears and steam-powered whistles reach what should be the crescendo of engineering-melody the Gnomish mechanical symphony sputters with a discordant CLANG!  The Gnomes spring into action to repair the very machine that keeps them all employed and tinkering.  But who will manage to build the most interesting and complex fixes for the machine? What fun would it be if it wasn’t every Gnome for himself?

 

Cogs in a Machine is the fast paced game of invention, repair and and displaying your Gnomish chops as you race to be the best Gnome you can be.  There are six different Gnome roles you can play, all with different abilities and very appropriately themed skills.

The artwork is fantastically thematic and adds to the gameplay. CiaM is a competitive dice and resource management game played in turns and phases.  To start the game, players have 6 dice; characters start with the same five dice and one die unique to them. The board has an empty “machine”, three possible components to build and nine upgrade dice available for purchase.

Rolling your six dice is the first phase, each type of die has various possible outcomes. Build cog(s), build teeth, reroll (wrench), wild (star), auto-upgrade and blank-sides.   Phase two is the rerolling phase where you can reroll any wrenches (with another die) or stars (wilds) that you choose, and/or use a rerolling ability.  Next up, players get to supervise you! They can use an ability to affect your dice roll by spending a previous roll or resources you’ve gathered. After that, you get your parts, which consist of two resource types: cogs and teeth.  

Teeth are personal resources and are stored on your character card.  It takes more teeth to build components than cogs, and you can have a maximum of 10 of them at the end of your turn.  Cogs are what makes this game unique; a cog that is built goes into the “machine” and is now accessible by any player on their turn.  

Cogs and teeth can be spent them to build components in the following phase.  Components give special abilities (like upgrading dice, trading in teeth for cogs, etc.) and are used toward your final goal.  In the end phase, you trash excess resources and set up for the next turn.

The game ends when one Gnome builds five components, and lets everyone else have a chance to build one last time. Component points are counted up by their cost in cogs (like mechanical victory points) and the Gnome with the fanciest array of parts reigns supreme.

All in all, gameplay goes pretty quickly, and with symbol usage and rules cards, it’s relatively easy to follow for even a younger gamer.  Some reading is needed, but there aren’t enough cards to cause it to be cumbersome to explain to a smaller gamer, far younger than the suggested age of twelve. The game plays two to six, however one of my chief complaints is that there are in effect only five rules cards.

Let me explain.  The game plays up to six Gnomes, and there are six rules cards; unfortunately one of those cards is meant to be used as the machine. Normally, I wouldn’t be bothered by that, and would just use a table for a six player game, of course.  But the tokens for cogs and teeth are very thin card-stock and difficult to pick up if they aren’t on some sort of backing.

Component-wise, the cards are well made and descriptive with fantastic well-thought out artwork (though, adding a female Gnome or two would be nice).  The game comes with 20 dice with sticker sides including white starter dice, white upgrade dice, black general dice and a single colored die associated to the Gnome of that color.  As well there are the aforementioned component tokens, which could use some thickness.

Overall, this game is well thought out, the characters seem balanced in two to three player games, and I would assume the same for larger games. The theme is cute and it’s a quick game to learn, the shared/personal resource split is a fun strategy that helps younger kids grasp the basics of strategy.  Plus, it has Gnomes.

Cogs in the Machine is currently on Kickstarter ending 9/22/15.  You can get a copy of this game at the $45 backer level.

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By: Jesse Stanley

Age Rating 7+ * (Note there is a NSFW edition that should not be played with children due to language and adult content)

Players: 2 – 5* (Can be played with up to nine people by adding a second deck)

15 Minutes

Competitive

Exploding Kittens exploded into our lives in early 2015. The game became the most-funded project in Kickstarter history, backed by the most people ever. More than 219,000 people showed their support to make this happen. The popularity of Matthew Inman and The Oatmeal certainly helped.

With all the buildup the expectations for this game have been rather high. When the announcement that the game had shipped came it wasn’t too long thereafter that people were posting photos of their spoils online, it was here, but was it good?

The Packaging

The quality of the packaging is quite nice. The box is very sturdy and the artwork is appealing. The box has a magnetic lid and spaces inside for two decks and the rule book. Overall it is a very impressive box. The designers also promised a secret addition to the game as a stretch goal. The secret addition did not disappoint and will remain a secret here. (Take a look on YouTube if you are interested. It’s pretty funny. – Stephen)

The Game

There are fifty-six cards in the deck. The artwork is exactly what you may have come to expect from The Oatmeal. Characters such as Tacocat and Beard Cat make an appearance alongside original artwork on each card. The gameplay is quite simple; the box claims it takes two minutes to learn. They weren’t kidding.

You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple.

There are a variety of cards that make the game move along and add a layer of strategy to the game. You can use cards to skip your turn or force others to take two turns in a row. There are cards that allow you to steal card or peek at the deck. There are even some that allow you to reshuffle the deck. If you don’t like a card that your opponent has just played you can counter it with a Nope card, though if they respond by playing their own it becomes a Yup!

If you are unfortunate enough to draw an exploding kitten the only thing that can save you is a defuse card. After that is played you put the explosive feline back into the deck anywhere you like. You can do this in front of everyone or even bring the deck under the table to place it. One rather mean strategy is to place it right on top for the next player to draw.

The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out. This feature makes games pretty quick and it was quite refreshing to know that the games were short and sweet.

After playing the game several times now, it was a lot more fun than anticipated. The concept is rather simple, but the execution was nice. It is by no means a game with deep strategy, but that is what makes it so fun. It’s a game about exploding kittens. It isn’t meant to be serious, and the humorous nature of the cards really adds an air level of levity to the gaming table.

During the games it wasn’t uncommon for everyone at the table to cheer and laugh as kittens were revealed and either placed back in the deck in a clever way or took a player out. Overall this game is a good time and comes with a good recommendation so long as you aren’t taking it too seriously.

The ease of the game makes it a great game for the age ranges that are indicated on the box and it plays well for groups of adults as well. The real test will be how much replay value it has. Given the short nature of the game it is a nice way to cleanse the palate between other longer more involved games.

Conclusion

For some reason this game is a lot more fun than one might think it would be. It plays very quickly and is very easy to learn. Pick it up for something additional to do during a night of gaming. It probably couldn’t support a game night on its own, but it is a fine addition to throw in while someone is running to grab and set up something else.

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The sound of hurried footfalls on pavement echoed through the alley way.  Three young girls stop fast, as they reach momentary safety, their eyes meet. With one decisive nod, three voices call out in harmonic unison.  As the words float through the air, perfectly cut crystals hung from cords around their necks radiate light. The surrounding atmosphere begins to crackle with pure energy, enshrouding the girls within it’s ribbon-like currents of translucent, opalescent color.  The winds die back down leaving three new girls, clothed in colorful and silken suits, brandishing impossible armaments standing in the spaces once occupied by the rushing girls.  Echos of boots on cobblestone ring in their well adorned ears, as their equally saccharin rivals flowing pink ribbons come into view.  Only one team can keep their transformation crystals. Who will win? Only magic… and maybe the moon… will tell!

In Japanese, the term Mahou Shojo means “Magical Girl”.  If you’re not sure what a magical girl is, you only need to look as far as Sailor Moon or RWBY to find one.  They are young women who have an innate (or given) power to become a more powerful version of themselves, basically a magically endowed superhero set to fight evil for her ultimate cause!

Mahou Shojo is a card game that pits two teams of magical girls against each other in an attempt to prevent the other team from transforming! There are two starter sets to begin, each with two decks of very different sets of girls.  Players begin the game by selecting three alter egos and then drawing four more cards.  The game starts with an alter ego phase, where players can play an alter ego card as well as a magical girl card face-down.  Since a magical girl never looks like her alter ego (secret identity and all), any magical girl can result from any alter ego.

Magical girls have three stats, Health (HP), Attack (ATK) and Magic (MGK), which add to the base stats of their Alter Egos (who only seem to have HP and ATK).  When the girls transform, the resulting cards form a plus sign to help remember that those cards stats and abilities stack.

Mahou Shojo Transformation

 

A turn consists of four Phases – Draw, Action, Attack, End. Actions are selected from the following list: Summon, Spell, Retreat. Summon either brings a familiar into play or transforms your alter ego into a magical girl. Spells consist of Special Events and Special Attacks, these cost magic and augment your abilities.  Special Events can be played during your turn, or they can be played to stop your opponents at any time.  During the Retreat phase you may summon a single face-down alter ego or bring a different transformed hero forward to the main position to relieve your current leader.

When a magical girl is defeated, she, and her alter ego retreat to an alternate dimension and are no longer able to be played, and her opponent gains her transformation crystal. If a magical girl uses all of her magical energy, she will revert back to her alter ego, if she is defeated in this form, her opponent receives half of her transformation crystal.

Mahou Shojo plays like a CCG (Collectible card game), but with pre-constructed decks, it bypasses the initial and on-going investment needed to play such games.

Game play is quick and relatively simple for an adult, though for younger children it might be a little complex.  The recommended age is eight, however there is a lot of text and a large number of differing mechanics that might make it more difficult to navigate.  This could have been simplified by using icons for the main stats and by clarifying some of the language on the cards.

The game is still in development, so much of my criticism has to do with how it is currently structured. However, the developers are very interested in play-testing and making changes to polish the game.  The rules are in need some cleaning up and finalizing, and the language needs to be made more consistent, however the concept is solid and has a lot of potential.

Artwork in this game is fantastic, the characters are super inclusive of all kinds of women from their varied skin tones to their body types.  There is better representation of females in this game than I’ve seen in any game before it. That in itself makes this a fantastic game to empower players to find their own representative character and to help every girl find her magic.

Mahou Shojo is currently on Kickstarter, with a starter set of two decks priced at $20.  The campaign ends April 8, 2015!

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