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NYTF 2016

We have talked at length already about the value of playing cooperative games with your kids.

With that in mind you can only imagine my surprise when I was able to set an appointment at New York Toy Fair with a company that specializes in them. In fact, coop games are the only kinds of games they publish.

I got a look at a number of their games. Below is a list of the ones I found most interesting. We’ll be publishing reviews of several of them over the next few months s keep on eye on EFG!

Cauldron Quest

This is a cooperative game that will fit right at home in any house full of Harry Potter fans.

Players are working together in Cauldron Quest to brew a magic potion that their kingdom needs to break a magic spell cast by an evil wizard.

They do this by trying to move special barrels of ingredients from the outside of the board into the cauldron in the center. This might SOUND easy, but the evil wizard is trying to stop them by putting magic barriers in the way.

This is a game that really commits to its theme and we can’t wait to get more time with it.

Race to the Treasure

Tile laying games are great and Race to the Treasure is a great introduction to the genre. Players take turns laying tiles on a grid trying to make a path to a treasure before a monstrous ogre can take five steps. He takes his steps whenever players reveal his special tiles.

This is a challenging game that will test players of all ages.

The Fairy Game

The Fairy Game is in the running for the most adorable thing I saw at New York Toy Fair. Mr. Winter is trying to freeze the fairies’ magical flowers and players have to work together to make them bloom before the ice takes hold. The game play includes light card matching while you race to keep the flowers from freezing over before they bloom!

 

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New York Toy Fair was an interesting place. The Javits Center was filled to the brim with just about everything you could ever imagine a kid (or child-like adult) playing with. There were even a few things that I couldn’t have imagined if I spent a week trying.  ROXs, by A-Champs, one of them.

ROXs_Image2

The original pitch email that came to me described ROXs as an “off-screen game console” designed to get kids moving. The product consists of three plastic “ROXs” that are basically small, vaguely square shaped pucks that have LED lights and speakers in them. They are controlled using a central unit that lets players choose one of ten different games to play using them.

The example given to me was “The Crazy Chicken Game.” Players will use special (included) belts to attach one of the ROXs to their backs. One of them will start to beep and flash and that player will then become the “Crazy Chicken.” That makes them essentially “it.” Other players can chase them and tap the ROXs on their back to capture them. Shortly thereafter a different ROXs will go off and THAT person will be it.

The designer has created ten games so far that use the ROXs in creative ways, but they emphasised in my time with them that these rules are only limited by the player’s creativity. The crazy chicken game, for example, is really just a game that has randomly generated targets. Running isn’t a required part of the game. Players could strap the ROXs onto trees or other targets and use them as targets to throw footballs at or even to shoot at with NERF guns.

I spoke briefly with Kilian Saekel, the inventor, at NYTF and he shared with me that he really wanted to create a toy that would help get kids who were otherwise sedentary moving around. His plan here was to take advantage of the game systems typically used in video games and use the ROXs to help transform the kids into the characters in the games!

We’ll be getting some hands on time with ROXs later this Spring for a full review so keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for more updates!

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Election years can be nerve wracking as our country prepares to transition to new leadership, but they also present an excellent opportunity to teach our kids about how the process works.

These are becoming increasingly more important lessons for parents to teach because schools have started to reduce their focus on civics and social studies.

The Presidential Game is a board game that brilliantly illustrates the game-like strategy that plays out as presidential hopefuls hit the campaign trail in and try to win the election. The game board is a map of the United States and players take turns fundraising and campaigning in the various states in an attempt to lock up the appropriate number of electoral votes. The genius behind the game is that it forces smart players to put significant effort into the so-called “battleground states” without directly labeling them as such.

A typical turn will play out as follows. First players will choose to either fundraise or campaign. If they choose to fundraise then they will choose one of the larger states like California, Texas, and New York and roll dice to determine how many of their influence chips they will place there. If they choose to campaign they will then be asked to choose three states and will roll three six sided dice. They will then place a number of influence chips equal to one of their die rolls on each state. The next player will repeat that choice, but can also campaign in states where their opponents have already built influence because each chip they WOULD place there will instead remove one of their opponent’s. This continues until a predetermined number of turns has been completed.

The back and forth battle between candidates may not match the political reality that we live in (none of the states have any political predisposition on the game board), but that actually helps to illustrated the process better.

We will be receiving a copy of this one soon and will post a detailed review in the coming months. So keep your eye on Engaged Family Gaming for more information!

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It is always great to visit Gamewright at New York Toy Fair. Last year they showed us games like Dragonwood, Flashlights and Fireflies, and Outfoxed which ended up being a lot of fun. This year they showed us a whole pile of games that looked like they had some great potential. Take a look below for some details.

Bring Your Own Book

bring your own book

Imagine a party game where each player takes a turn (or multiple turns) as a judge while other people offer up humorous answers to a randomly selected question. Ok. Got one? Got more than one? Got twenty? Don’t laugh. This style of games is turning out to be ubiquitous in the board game industry over the last handful of years. Cards against Humanity really blew the doors off and everyone else is rushing to catch up.

I’ll admit I was surprised to see Gamewright jump into the pool here, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the way that they did it.

The mechanics match Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity almost to the letter. The difference is that instead of a deck of random cards each player is expected to bring their own book. This could be everything from a children’s book to a romance novel. The judge chooses a subject like “Unpublished Stephen King Novels” and the rest of the players have to flip through their book and find a passage that best represents that topic. The judge picks the winner and the game continues.

The fact that it involves books will make this game appeal to book nerds right off the bat. But, the fact that players provide their own books means that this game will change based on the audience and the books they bring. This limits the two main problems that some people have with games like this: repetition and, in the case of Cards Against Humanity, inherent offensiveness.

Sushi Go Party!

sushi go party

Sushi Go is one of our favorite games. It’s hard to beat a game that is interesting, cheap, and all but infinitely replayable. Gamewright looks like they pulled it off.

It comes in a bigger tin that shows off more cute sushi rolls, but the main gameplay difference is that players spend the first bit of gameplay choosing which cards to include in the deck that everyone drafts. There is no established rule in the book for determining which cards are selected either. They expect that players will come up with their own interesting methods.

Go Away Monster!

go away monster

 

This is a rerelease of a game for the younger set with new art and prettier components. The main thrust of the game is that you have to fill up your card with different puzzle pieces to make up a child’s bedroom. You do that by reaching into a blind back and feeling around for the piece that you need.

The trick is that there are monsters in the bag and if you pick one out of the bag then you lose your turn.

Babba Yagga

baba yaga

This is a rare game where the game designer and the artist are the same person! Baba Yaga is a gorgeously drawn card game where players attempt to rid their hand of the highest value cards and pick up Baba Yaga cards that are worth 0. The goal is to have the LOWEST score possible.It’s a fast paced game that will really get your kids thinking.


 

The below games aren’t on the Gamewright website yet, but we were able to put some pictures up on Instagram.

 

Cardventures – Stowaway 52 and Jump Ship

 

The Cardventures series of games is a group of card based, single player, choose your own adventure games. The first two games in the series are Stowaway 52 (a space adventure) and Jump Ship (a pirate themed adventure).

They are marketed as a single player experience, but I really think there is an option for a collaborative experience. Groups of players could read through the cards and discuss the decisions that the characters make and negotiate what to do. There is a lot of learning to be had in that experience.

Skiwampus

 

I’ll be blunt here. Skywampus is a tough game to describe. Players are given piles of diamond shaped tiles and race to fit them all together to complete circles using the numbered and colored sections at their corners. The goal is to complete challenges that are listed on poker chip type markers to earn points.

It is super fast to play and requires quick thinking and flexibility, but if you and your family have ever thought about competitive puzzling (is that even a word?) then this is going to be a good game.

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Video games are ubiquitous today. Virtually everyone has a home console or, at least, a smartphone that can play games. This has created an entire generation of kids who dream of making their own games when they grow up. The problem is that making games has, so far, been arcane and difficult to understand. I write about video games every day and even I struggle to understand exactly how the process works. (I’m actually convinced that some of these companies use magic.) Fortunately, a number of companies are working on finding creative solutions to that problem.

bloxels picture

Bloxels, marketed as“The most kid-friendly video game creation platform ever,” was a sight to behold at New York Toy Fair this year. The system consists of an iPad app and a checkerboard-esque platform with a series of slots in which its user can place different colored cubes. The app is programed to read these cubes using the iPad’s camera and use them to generate pixel art that players can use to create their own platform games.

There are two layers to the design process. First,players can use the layout grid to design individual characters or single block sized segments of scenery. The second layer allows players to design individual levels. Each different color block represents different a different component of the level from a platform, to a hazard, to an enemy. The process is simple and it is easy for players to visualize what they are doing while creating each screen.

Bloxels with kids

Budding game designers have a great deal of artistic control over their games and can even go so far as to design the backdrops for their levels, add destructible objects, to place powerups, or even story elements.

Even better? Players have access to what is called the Infinity Wall. This is a place where players can share their creations with others OR they can take interesting components to and to their own games. The designers expect that there will be some players who really only want to do one part or the other and are happy to let those two communities build off of eachother.

There are clearly some shortfalls that Bloxels will need to overcome though. This is a product that produces platformer games to be played on the iPad, which can be tricky to use because it lacks real buttons. But, thankfully, no one is touting this as the next Unreal Engine. This is a creativity tool that helps establish some strong fundamentals in design and helps reinforce the idea that most game design is done in segments.

The Bloxels system retails for $49.99 and includes everything you need to jump right into the world of video game design.

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The coolest thing I got my hands on at New York Toy Fair was an app-connected smart duck. Let’s take a second to let that sink in.

Ok. You good?  Alright. I’ll continue then.

Edwin_The_Duck_AV5

Edwin The Duck

I met with the team from pi lab, the inventors of a toy called Edwin the Duck, at Toy Fair and was instantly impressed. I was skeptical at first. In fact, my first question to them was why a rubber duck was lined up in the tech toys section surrounded by drones and 3D printers. Their answer was simple. Edwin was “No Ordinary Duck.” He was, in fact, a toy that worked in tandem with a series of iOS apps that help turn him from a tub toy into a night light, and an interactive controller.

Edwin the Duck is, without question, the ultimate Trojan Horse for educational material. Children will build fond memories as they play with him in the bathtub or as they see him watching over them as they fall asleep. He can then use those emotional connections to help funnel knowledge right into their heads. I know that all sounds dramatic, but it made total sense once I started playing with the toy.

The team behind Edwin truly believes that “the only way to teach a child is to emotionally connect with them.” In fact, the specifically chose to make their toy a duck as opposed to a bear or other animal because the rubber duck is iconic. The team found, during their product research, that just about everyone remembered owning one as a child even if they weren’t absolutely certain of it. That kind of a connection with a child’s toy is hard to ignore.

Edwin-Sleepy-Time

If that’s not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen then I just don’t know what to say…

Edwin is more than just a rubber ducky and a night light though. He is also the controller, for lack of a better term, for a series of interactive learning games available on iOS. He has a gyroscope and four sensors that register taps the same way a button does (one on his front, one on his back, and one on each of his wings). The learning apps, right now, teach things like shapes and letter recognition, but there is a lot of potential to add more complex concepts later on.

Edwin The Duck Learning App

The team indicated that it is being marketed as a toy for ages zero to nine right now, but a lot of the content right now is targeted towards younger kids. The intention is to have the content grow as their audience does. Those emotional connections between toy and child will only get stronger. Pi lab theorizes that the content they will be able to deliver will grow alongside it.

Unlike many products that I saw at Toy Fair, Edwin the duck is currently available for sale at the Apple Store and at Best Buy for $99. This is, admittedly, pricey and will likely place this toy outside of some people’s budget. But, this is a very impressive piece of technology that is definitely worth it for families that can swing the price. I definitely enjoyed my limited time with it and I’m not even a little kid!

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I never thought that I would play a video game at New York Toy Fair. I have demoed plenty of board games and educational apps, but a new video game console was never even on my radar.

That all changed when I got an email with a press release regarding the Coleco Chameleon. This new console was purported to be a revival of the cartridge based games that I remember from my youth. The was overcome with nostalgia for a few seconds, but then I was left with some significant concerns. The biggest among them being, “what games am I going to be playing on this thing?”

I made it a point to head over to their booth and talk to Mike Kennedy, the guy in charge of the project, and get to the bottom of it.

I found their booth, a humble 10×10, in the back corner and found Mike in deep discussions with another member of the press. While I was waiting my turn his wife approached me. She took the time to explain it all to me.

As for games, they have two routes that they are using to help expand the launch lineup. (See the video below for some of the games being released at launch.)

First, they have been approached by several prominent indie developers like Double Fine and Prima for Dev Kits (prerelease consoles that can be used to help create games). This presents an opportunity to lure some high profile games onto the console.

Second, they are working with a company who is obtaining the licenses for SNES and Genesis games that might never have been released in the US and localizing them. Some of these games are exceedingly rare and are only playable right now on emulators or by players willing to spend hundreds of dollars on cartridges.

If both of those things actually happen and the system can build a robust catalog it might be able to build a place for itself in the market. I highly doubt it will compete with juggernauts like the PlayStation 4 or even the Wii U, but it could definitely be a modest success.

My visit wasn’t all talk though. I had a chance to go hands on with an SNES inspired shooter and enjoyed myself. I didn’t spend a lot of time with it, but it definitely brought back memories from my childhood. It game me a lot of hope for the consoles potential.

Some of the advantages of using an always offline cartridge based system are attractive. The chameleon’s flyer lays some of those advantages out while throwing some serious shade at the state of the current console market.

“Never patch a game. Games are tested thoroughly before release, just like the used to be.”

“Never update your system or risk turning it into a brick. Your console stays factory fresh.”

“No network connection or game server(s) required. Never fear your favorite game will get pulled and shut down.”

“No hidden costs from downloadable content or streaming.”

None of this is a real guarantee right now though. The Chameleon won’t see life without additional funding through a Kickstarter campaign that will launch on February 26, 2016. They will have an early bird funding level at $135 dollars that will include the console, an HDMI cable, a game and a controller. Once the early bird level is expended people will be able to back the product at $150.

Keep your eyes here on Engaged Family Gaming for additional info as the Kickstarter comes closer. We might even be able to get our hands on a console for more hands on impressions.

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