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Calliope Games is a board game publisher that focuses on “gateway games.” This means that they focus on games that are easy to learn, quick to play, and are accessible to players who may not have been playing hobby board games for years. Put simply, they want to build the board game industry by bringing more players into the fold. They assume that there are some players who need some coaxing, and by giving them a simple game to learn first they may open their eyes to the wild world of hobbyist gaming and hopefully the rest of Calliope’s games while they are at it. (You an read our reviews of some Calliope Games right here!)

It’s become my personal mission to introduce as many people as possible to tabletop games and the experiences they create.” ~ Ray Wehrs, Calliope Games’ president

Recently, they announced the Titan Series; a line of games developed by legendary game designers. This fantastic team of game designers is responsible for amazing games like “Magic: The Gathering, Shadowrun, King of Tokyo, Mechwarrior, HeroClix, Marvel Dice Masters, Quarriors, and many more!” Each of them will be designing their very first gateway games! Check out the graphic below to see some of the talented designers they have brought on board! (Head here to view some interview videos with several of them!)

Everything is being funded via a massive Kickstarter that will launch tomorrow March 31st! The games themselves will be staggered over a period of three years so they are, naturally, at different stages of development. We don’t even know their themes or genre’s yet! Its all a huge mystery, but that really is part of the appeal of this process. Calliope is planning to involve backers as much as is reasonable throughout development. This will give prospective backers behind the scenes access and a glimpse at the work these geniuses do as they take a game from concept to prototype to full retail release!

This is huge news for family gamers because each of these games is planned to be family friendly. We won’t have to worry about any of these games being inappropriate for our kids. Kickstarter projects can evolve over time and having a publisher commit out the gate that these games will be family appropriate is a boon.

Keep your eyes peeled on Engaged Family Gaming for more updates as we have them!


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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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Resistor_ is a two player card game with a theme that some of our readers might find questionable. In it, players find themselves taking on the role of a pair of supercomputers. Each computer is trying to hack its way into the other in an attempt to prevent “mutually assured” nuclear destruction.  In short: You are trying to make your nukes go off while the other guys nukes are left as duds.

Light stuff huh?

The reality is that the concept is abstracted enough by the card playing mechanic that if the theme is problematic for your family you could easily replace it or just not discuss it at all. The choice is yours.

All theme aside, Resistor_ is an amazing game that will challenge your mind and memory in ways few other cards games can. This is accomplished through a few different mechanics that all pile on top of each other and nicely squish your brain to mush (in a good way).

First, the play area is set up with a series of seven cards laying flat on a table between the two super computer cards. These cards are double sides and all of them are printed with red and blue wires that help build a path. The goal is to make a continuous connection of wires from your computer to theirs using the same color wire. At the end of a turn if that connection exists, then you earn a point (play goes to five points).

As you can see, the play area can be a bit of a mess.


Second, the cards are double sided and you cannot look at the backs of your cards (your opponent can though)! The backs of your opponents hand (and likewise for you) are playable cards throughout the game making disrupting your opponents strategy a regular part of each turn. 

Double Sided MAYHEM!!


Lastly, during each turn players must take a series of actions in any order. They must flip one of the double sided cards. They must draw a new card from the deck and discard a card. They must also exchange a card from the lineup with a card in their hand.  These three actions keep both players engaged in the game. 

Many games allow you to shut off your brain during your opponents turn while you wait for their actions to resolve. You simply cannot do that in Resistor_. Failing to pay attention might mean missing out on knowing what is underneath a given card and cost you a point. You have to be sharp and stay that way.

I was lucky enough to play the game at PAX East 2015 with the developers. I have to admit that the crowded show floor was less than ideal for a game that requires a significant level of concentration. (Read: I got my butt kicked.) But, it was clearly a polished game experience. I cannot recommend this one enough for people who enjoy head to head competition.

You can head over here to Kickstarter and back it. They have already reached their goal, but they are climbing towards stretch goals quickly.



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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the links to the new Deadwood: The Forgotten Curse game launched April 14, 2015.

Editor’s Note: We have awarded Deadwood: The Forgotten Curse our award for Game of the Show For Pax East 2015. Read on to find why!

Do me a favor.

First: Picture the Legend of Zelda.

Second: I want you to picture Pinocchio.

Finally: Jam them together and make a game out of it.

That is pretty much what Steamroller Games is pitching us all on Kickstarter right now and I, for one, am very excited for it. The elevator pitch is straight forward. You play as Lathe (Yes. This game is made by a bunch of dads so I fully expect the “Dad Jokes” to flow) as he fights to hold back a curse from spreading across Knottington.


The day and night cycle is something that adds a LOT to the game. By day he is accompanied by a giant stone golem called Roguard. He is massive, powerful, and has your back. That all changes every night when he falls asleep instantly and becomes more than a little vulnerable. You have to stop all of your light exploration and build walls, lay down mines, and fight off a horde of wooden zombies infected by the Deadwood.

I have to admit that when I first met these guys at PAX East I had my doubts. The concept looked cute, but I wasn’t sure that it would play well. Fortunately, they had a very early playable demo of the game that helped give players an idea of what this game will turn out to be.

Players spend each day wandering around a colorful landscape collecting materials that they will need to use at night to build a makeshift fortress to protect your golem friend. it plays like a twin stick shooter (like Geometry Wars) in that you move with one stick on the controller and aim your peashooter-esque gun with the second stick.

The peace and wonder that I experienced during my daytime wanderings lulled me into a restful state that made me PAY once night fell. Dozens of Deadwood monsters popped up out of the ground and immediately started attacking my friend. The demo cheated a bit in my favor by giving my Golem friend infinite health. I was not so lucky and was dead quickly. The best part is that I knew exactly what I did wrong though so dying didn’t frustrate me.

Kids that start playing this game will feel immediately at home in the day/night cycle based on their experience with Minecraft. In fact, this mechanic will help kids jump into the game and find success in spite of the challenge.

Just look at this!!!!

I played for about ten minutes and I was sad to have to walk away. It was gorgeous, and the game played much smoother than it should considering the game is expected to come out in the Fall of next year.

I cannot express enough how important I think this game is. This group of dads is doing some great work here. Head on over to Kickstarter and back this project. It will cost $15 for a copy of the game and to help get this beautiful game made.

Keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for more updates as the game comes closer to release!

Editor’s Note: Through 4/15/15 you will be able to back this project and get a copy of the game on STEAM for $10 when it is complete!


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We were lucky enough to be provided an early release prototype of the two player board game Wizard Dodgeball last week. It is currently on Kickstarter and, while it has a way to go, looks like it is building a decent fan base! We spent some time over the last few days playing a bunch of games and we can see why. To be blunt: Wizard Dodgeball is crazy good.

The premise is simple. Each player controls a team of five wizards as they take turns moving around the court on a grid picking up, throwing, and catching a set of dodgeballs. The action is fast paced as players will alternate turns controlling one of their wizards. This ensures that no one feels like they are watching their opponent play solitaire during the match.

Wizard Dodgeball

Man these wizards would look cool! Back this project and make it happen!

All of the action is determined using contested dice rolling based on the characters stats. It took reading through the rules a few times to really understand it, but once we took our time and just played a few rounds it made sense immediately. The uncertainty of landing a hit (and the possibility that your opponent could roll doubles and catch the ball to eliminate you) added a lot of tension to every round. Nothing was a given. A lucky die roll by an exposed player can help bring a team back from the brink since the catch eliminates the thrower AND brings back one of the eliminated wizards on the catcher’s team!

It is hard to say what the final components will look like once the Kickstarter is complete, but there is concept art available on the Kickstarter page. The prototype version we received included a game board that looked as close to a final revision as we can imagine. It was well made and really evoked the feeling of playing on a wooden dodgeball court.

Wizard Dodgeball will be an immediate hit with anyone who enjoys the whimsical side of the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Many of the characters in the game feel like they jumped out of those stories and came to find a home here. My oldest son is halfway through the series and was immediately drawn to the various wizard characters. This was important as it kept him engaged and wanting to learn to play the game even if some of the deeper strategies were tough for him to grasp. Any game that makes a child want to stick with a game even if it might be very challenging for them is a winner in my book!


If you are looking for a two player game that will bring out your inner wizard then this game is a must own. Head over to the Wizard Dodgeball Kickstarter page and back it right away! You will not regret it.

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The Kingswood logo Kickstarter

“A fantastic treasure has been discovered at the heart of The Kingswood. Now the race is on, as the Great Merchant Houses pave over roads of rivals to the treasure – and use the gold to buy The Kingswood itself!”

Inthelaz Games recently provided us with a preview copy of their upcoming game The Kingswood. It is currently on Kickstarter, but you had better act soon because the campaign is ending within a few weeks. The question on your mind at this point likely is, “Should I bother backing the game?”

The answer is a resounding “YES!” We had a LOT of fun giving The Kingswood a whirl this past weekend.

The first thing that we thought of when we set up the board was that it was going to be just another tile-laying Carcassone variant. But, we changed our tune quickly once we started playing. The tile laying is certainly the bulk of the game play, but there are enough significant differences that it was by no means a clone.

The biggest, and most entertaining, difference was the meta-game of player role selection. At the beginning of each turn players secretly choose one of five roles. Each of them has their own unique ability and are able to use a super power as long as no one else chooses the same role. This produces maddening results when you choose a role looking to make a specific play and someone else had a similar thought.

Another interesting mechanic, and one that is critical to the game play experience comes through the tile laying itself. Each merchant house controls a fort lying on the outskirts of the forest. Players take turns laying tiles over the forest creating roads that help connect their forts to one or more of the treasure gates. Players can even stack tiles and, in essence, pave over older roads. This adds a significant layer of competition. Players place two tiles per turn so they can even spend part of each turn disrupting their opponents.

We played several games using the prototype that was sent our way and didnʼt run into any repetitive scenarios. There is enough variety in the tiles that they alone would keep most groups from bring bored. The aforementioned meta-game with the players roles sweetens the deal significantly. We had a lot of fun in our first five games and we expect that fun to continue for a very long time.

All of that should be enough to get any hobbyist gamer interested, but I havenʼt even gotten to my favorite part of The Kingswood: the aesthetics. This game simply oozes charm. Each of the merchant houses is represented by a different animal (Geese, Sloths, Llamas, and Manatees) and each of the five role cards has a hilariously drawn character on it representing each animal. Our personal favorite out of the bunch… a ninja manatee.

We were only playing with a prototype since the game is still on Kickstarter, but we could tell that great care was places in the design of the game board and the various components. We simply cannot wait to see this game in print.


If your family enjoys playing tile placement games and is looking for an experience that allows you to be a bit more competitive, then The Kingswood is a game that should be in your collection. Back this game right away!

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2-4 Players
30+ Minutes

A long time ago, when I was a child myself, tic-tac-toe was an endless stream of winless frames. My mother showed me the most amazing game that could ever be played on the back of a restaurant placemat. She began by using a pen she kept in her purse to draw what seemed like an expansive square of deliberately spaced dots and instructed us to use the three restaurant provided crayons to begin drawing one line at a time between them.

We obliged, and soon, she had closed off a square and emblazoned the intervening space with the ominous and forever taunting letter, “M” (for mom).  Once we caught on to this plot, letters began to appear everywhere, before we knew it, our primary colored maze of squares and line segments was a resting place for the bright orange of macaroni and cheese and the chocolate laden smiling face of an ice cream clown.

Since this isn’t a review of that simple, on-demand game that parents everywhere use to hasten the apparent time between ordering and the arrival of unnaturally colored cheese. You are probably wondering why I am taking this trip down memory lane. Well, Three Sticks is basically what you get when you combine the original dot-matrix design (yes, I know what I did there) with Scrabble-like point gains and variable sized pieces.  Except, instead of making a simple square of area 1 unit2, you are attempting to build much more complicated and interesting polygons.

This isn’t your mother’s dinner distraction, this is a forward-looking strategy game with points based on the shape, it’s perimeter (you might have to remember that from school) and how unique that shape is to the game (has it been played before).  Also, there are Scrabble-like bonus points scattered around the board to give you a chance to take your score even higher.

The board consists of a 26×26 grid composed of dots (way bigger than any board my mother ever made), bordered by 4 color-coded number lines for each player to keep score as they work to reach the ultimate, game ending score of 500.  What’s interesting about this line is it uses 3 tokens to keep track of 10’s position, so were you to score 114 points, you’d move one token to 100, one to 10 and the last to 4.  It cuts down on the space needed significantly and helps to promote better understanding of multiples and 10’s and 100’s place counting and addition for higher numbers.  It’s an innovative method for score-keeping that also promotes a different way of thinking about large number addition.

To begin the game players are dealt 5 “Power Cards” that they keep for the duration of the game.  They also select one “Reload” card that provides them with some combination of 6 sticks for use on their turn. Sticks come in three varieties, hence the name of the game, a 3-unit purple stick, a 4-unit orange stick and a 5-unit red stick.  The sticks may only be played if they are end-to-end with another already placed stick, and only the red stick can be played at an angle.  If you remember your trigonometry, you might recall this Pythagorean triple.  If not, when a segment with a length 4 intersects at a right angle to a segment of length 3, the resultant triangle will have a hypotenuse of 5 (a2 + b2 = c2).  In non-math, if a purple stick and an orange stick are aligned at their edges where one is vertical and one is horizontal the red stick will make it a triangle.

The oldest player goes first (because they are at a first turn disadvantage unless they have power cards to help them to score) and has a series of actions they can take.  Unfortunately, this is one of the parts of the game that needs some polish, as it is unclear whether the actions must be taken in the order given, or not.  We assumed they should be, which made some of the power cards work poorly on their own.

First, if the player has no sticks, they may draw a reload card to gain 6 more.  Next, a player may play a stick, for the first turn, an end of that stick must touch the central “X” of the board.  On subsequent turns, if that stick makes a shape, it’s scored.  Then another stick may be played, which will trigger another scoring.  After this is complete, that player may play up to two power cards from their hand.  Power cards add mechanics like “Skip”, “Gain two sticks”, or “Play two more sticks” to the game. They can even allow you to play sticks completely independently of the board or to manipulate points.

Once the player has finished the turn, play moves on.  When a shape is made, if it is the only shape made by that stick, it is scored simply with the method above.  If it creates more than one shape, the active player must determine the highest point shape they can be credited with to gain the most points.  This deliberation and puzzling out can take some time, and the more disparate the level of the players, the more frustrating this can be.  With younger players, it helps to point out the shapes and let them determine the highest point values from your calculations.  Older players have the ability to look forward and to plan moves to trick opponents into giving them higher point plays, also older players are more aware of multi-faceted shapes and how they can vary, whereas younger players will need that explained and will require assistance.

Adding the perimeter to the point calculation is also quite ingenious, it strengthens the child’s ability to understand the concept of a shape’s size and it also gives them a visual relationship to the term.  With a younger child, I’d suggest either not using this calculation or doing it for them.  Having the child recognize the bonus shape on the poster will help develop the understanding of higher tier shapes, and larger numbers.  Older children can have it taken a step further, for an added challenge, have the child calculate points in area of the shape as opposed to perimeter, this variation could allow for reinforcement of multiplicative skills, as well as a better grasp of how to assess area for abnormal shapes.


Overall, Three Sticks is interesting and could be a lot of fun with a well matched group, or with very patient adults among children. Of course, if you are like many people, you probably don’t remember much about polygons (beyond that octagon you accidentally forgot to stop at this morning) and likely wouldn’t know a parallelogram from a decagon if it bit you in the rhombus. (Editor’s note: Yes. I AM sorry I had our resident mathlete review this game. I’ll try to better next time. – Stephen ) Well, lucky for you, Three Sticks includes basic descriptions and pictures of these shapes (in their most ideal forms) to help guide you to geometric maximization. 

Three Sticks is currently on Indegogo – check it out here!

Need more math games? Check out our math-related games!

Looking for more educational games?  Check out our list here.


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Matthew Inman may well be the King of the Internet.

OK, he may be ONE of the kings, at least. For those unfamiliar with his work, Inman, an author and illustrator, often works under the pseudonym “The Oatmeal” and is best known for his wildly popular online comic of the same name. He often focuses on wide-ranging topics from marathon running to technology, Sriracha, and grammar. All of this is done with a slightly off-kilter sense of humor to pair with his poignant observations.  He also understands (and plays heavily with) the internet’s ongoing and perhaps unhealthy obsession with cats.This cat obsession was, perhaps, the catalyst for Kickstarter’s recent golden child: Exploding Kittens.

According to their Kickstarter page, the card game was conceived by former XBOX Chief Design Officer Elan Lee and designer Shane Small as a card version of Russian Roulette, but it was not until Inman’s involvement in the team that the game’s current theme seems to have fully evolved.

In essence, the game consists of players drawing cards until a player draws an “exploding kitten” card, at which time that player is eliminated. The game is played until the last player standing is declared the winner. The complexity of the game appears to come into play in all of the non-kitten cards in the deck, which allow players to defuse an exploding kitten card, or perform other actions that may give them an advantage in the game (such as look at the top cards of the deck, skip your turn, etc).

So what does this have to do with Inman’s cyber-royalty status? Exploding Kittens had a $10k funding goal that was reached in less than twenty minutes. Since then it has exceeded two million dollars in funding (in less than 48 hours). These sales numbers are nothing short of astonishing for a card game.

There are still 28 days of funding left and if we extrapolate the rate of growth the project is on track to be far and away the highest-funded game project in Kickstarter history.

How did this happen though? It’s just a card game after all. The answer is simple. Exploding Kittens did A LOT of things right.

  • They have a solid, reputable team with proven industry experience.
  • They released the game as a base pledge for the family friendly version of the game (ages 7+) at an affordable price point of $20.  While the wacky theme may not apply to all kids, we can certainly see our elementary school age boys getting into it.
  • They also created a “NSFW” (Not-safe for work, or kids, for that matter) version available as a $15 add on. It cannot be played without the base game, so parents can easily keep it separate if they want both versions.

Bringing Inman into the fold was the companies biggest win. We can only speculate, but much of the wildfire success of the campaign can largely be attributed to the Oatmeal’s quirky art style, razor sharp humor, and finger on the pulse of all things internet/geek culture.

Being fans of the Oatmeal’s work on staff, we’ve lined up to pledge. We recommend you take a look at the project over on Kickstarter and consider joining us, as well as the the other sixty-thousand-and-growing backers.

So Matthew Inman, come collect your scepter and crown. You’ve earned it.


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Board Game Review: Steampunked Time Machine

Nord Games

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

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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Yacht Club Games
Reviewed for WiiU (Also on 3DS and PC)
Rated E for Everyone

Release Date: 06/26/2014

Overall Review

Many of us have been playing games for more than twenty years. There are a lot of games in the rear view mirror for us. So many, in fact, that we just don’t remember how they actually played. We love them so much that we forget how absolutely soul crushing they could be. Shovel Knight is a rare game that evokes all of those positive memories without constantly slapping its players in the face with archaic game mechanics.

Shovel Knight was a massively successful project on Kickstarter and it feels like the entire gaming population has been waiting with baited breath for its release. That time has come and I am pleased to report that Shovel Knight delivers on all of its promises.

The most noteworthy feature of Shovel Knight is its 8-bit retro aesthetic. It draws inspiration from the pixel art used in classic NES era games like Mega Man, Castlevania, and Ducktales. The environments are stunning and the monsters are crafted to remind us of the games of our youth.

The premise of the game is straight forward. Players control the great hero Shovel Knight on a quest to defeat the members of The Order of No Quarter and reach the evil Enchantress and rescues his beloved Shield Knight. The Order of No Quarter is a nefarious team of evildoers made up of the likes of Plague Knight, Treasure Knight, Mole Knight, and Propeller Knight (among others). Anyone who noticed the familiar naming convention gets bonus points for paying attention! The different stages and their  boss encounters match up very well with those that we will remember from the Mega Man series. Each boss has a specific theme and their stages are masterfully built to match.

The different boss stages are well balanced and full of challenges. Each of them forces you to learn a new set of tricks and continuously build on it until the end. The good news here is that checkpoints are spread generously through each of the levels; many of them placed immediately after significant challenges. This is one of the most welcome design decisions Yacht Club Games has made. Spacing the checkpoints out even a little bit more might have taken the game straight from “difficult” to “frustrating.” Instead, we are treated with a smooth cadence of challenges that keep us motivated to push forward as opposed to recoiling from them.

The entire game is masterfully built in a way that invites players to achieve as opposed to punishing them for failure. That, in and of itself, is perfection made real in modern game design.

Family Gaming Assessment

Shovel Knight does involve combat, but it is abstracted by an 8-bit animated aesthetic. Outside of a few creepy moments in Specter Knight’s level there is nothing that should concern parents from a content perspective here.

Further, Shovel Knight is a true hero. He attempts to make peace with as many of the foes that stand in his way as possible. In fact, his hesitation to do battle in favor of talking this out is a pleasant change of pace as so many “heroes” rush in swords drawn or guns blazing.


There is no sugarcoating this folks. Shovel Knight is very difficult. It is rated E for everyone by the ESRB, but this is a game that can be discouraging to inexperience players. Yacht Club Games was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of the game for my eight year old son’s 3DS so I could have him give Shovel Knight a whirl. He found the character and the story interesting from the outset, but he grew frustrated within a few minutes of starting the game. His biggest challenge came from dealing with the downward shovel/pogo bouncing that is required to advance through certain challenges.

Put simply, this is not a game for novices. With that said, the game is inviting and is possessed of a light sense of humor that youngsters will enjoy. I noticed him picking the game back up when I wasn’t watching to try and master some of the challenges. He may not be playing it for long stretches, but if he earns his platforming chops from Shovel Knight I am terrified for my ability to compete when he is older.

Much of the game’s story is delivered through text so children who have a difficult time reading may miss some of the finer points of the story, but a parent sitting beside them and reading the dialogue (with exaggerated voices of course) is as good as many story books we will read to them.


Shovel Knight is now on the short list for my game of the year. It is just that good. I recommend this for anyone who enjoys challenging platformers.

Parents of young children will want to keep this game on their radar for the future and buy it up once you feel they are ready for a real challenge.

Shovel Knight Screen Capture
Shovel Forth!!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
Yes. You can go fishing in Shovel Knight, too!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
The action in Shovel Knight is instense!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
Some of the monsters are MASSIVE!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
Mole Knight!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
King Knight!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
Some enemies are a challenge to defeat!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
You'll have to dig for your treasure!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
Those are some pretty trees!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
Gears and conveyor belts huh? Where's Metal Man?
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
The Phasing Bracelet is an amazing tool!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
Those pages aren't going to last for long! Get ready to jump!
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
Shovel Pogo off of floating jellyfish? Sure! Why not?
Shovel Knight Screen Capture
This is one of the tougher monsters in the game! (and it looks it)!


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