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 The News in Brief

The Federal Communications Commission ruled (3-2) last week in favor of “net neutrality” rules that may allow for internet service providers to charge a premium for data “fast lanes.” This would potentially allow them to improve their service speed for those web providers and customers with the deepest pockets while leaving the rest of us behind. The FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, has denied that this is the intention, but the passed regulations do not specifically ban these so-called “fast lanes” so it is safe to assume that internet service providers will take advantage of this option as a means to increase revenue.

Opponents are calling this type of “pay for priority” system dangerous. They feel that by dividing the internet into the fast and the slow the “rest of us” will be relegated to the slow lane and the providers will have no real incentive to increase that speed. This could have a significant impact on smaller websites (like ours) that don’t have the deep pockets necessary to deliver content at the higher speed.

Why Should Parents Care?

 We are ushering our children into a digital age. Their interactions with school, each other, and the rest of the world are becoming more and more dependent on their internet connection. Any potential restrictions on internet usage will have a significant impact on them. Many of the potential outcomes of these rulings might not come into play for years which will make adapting to these changes more difficult for them as they develop habits as children. Frankly, even if there are no real restrictions the potential increase in costs for web based services are something to worry about.

These types of potential restrictions could also put a stranglehold on innovation across the internet. Think about all of the web services that you use right now: Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc. These sorts of services have come to dominate our lives, but these new rules run the risk of strangling these types of innovations in the face of bigger spending from existing competition.

To their credit the FCC has left the rules open for comment for the next 120 days. This gives each of us the chance to do just that. The Electronic Freedom Foundation has set up a website called DearFCC.org where you can complete their form and submit it.

Head on over to their site and then share this with other parents who might need some “encouragement!”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The News

Microsoft has announced a new version of its newest console, the Xbox One, that will not include the Kinect sensor. It will be available on June 9, 2014 and will retail for $399. Pre-orders are available now at GameStop, Best Buy, and Amazon.

There is plenty of room to question the decision to unbundle the Kinect. Considering the amount of time that Microsoft had spent pre-launch talking about how essential the Kinect was to the Xbox experience but, it all becomes clearer when you look at the sales figures.

Earlier this year Sony reported that it sold 7 million units to consumers, whereas Microsoft confirmed that they had shipped 5 million units. The distinction between shipped and sold  is important because it does not guarantee that all 5 million of those units have been purchased by consumers. Some of those consoles could be languishing on retail shelves, waiting to be taken home. The sales gap is even more significant when you consider that Microsoft had gathered a huge amount of momentum on the back of the spectacular Xbox 360.

This decision is not all sunshine and dollar bills, though. It does run the risk of alienating early adopters who paid a premium for a “required” Kinect sensor when it is no longer mandatory. Also, it hazards the frustration of developers who were going to (or currently are) developing Kinect-enabled or Kinect-only games. Only time will truly tell what the future holds for Microsoft.

Why should families care?

There are two reasons why this is relevant to families.

First, families will pretty much always take note anytime a console becomes less costly to purchase. This new version brings the Xbox One in line with the PlayStation 4 price wise. The change will simplify the decision-making process for some people, while complicating it for others, as it will become a battle of software.

Secondly, the Kinect sensor was one of the most significant ways that the Xbox One differentiated itself from the PlayStation 4. This decision homogenizes the playing field for these two units.

Obviously, families can still opt for the Xbox One edition that includes the Kinect sensor (at the original $499 price).They can also opt to buy a separate sensor at a later time, but it is difficult to know at this stage, exactly what the best value will be.

What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments!

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Engaged Family Gaming Logo

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend everyone!

I’ll make this one fast. Mother’s Day is tomorrow… and we here at Engaged Family Gaming want to give some you last minute folks a shot at a GREAT Mother’s Day Card.

We contacted three INCREDIBLY talented artists and had them create three gaming themed cards that you can print out (for FREE!) and have your children color. We’ve got the PDF files saved here!

Download them, print them, and share them! (Just make sure you don’t forget a gift!)

Note: The cards will print best “Double Sided along the short edge.”

Dana Haigh Print and Color Mother's Day Card
Dana Haigh Print and Color Mother's Day Card
Ben Foster Print and Color Mother's Day Card
Ben Foster Print and Color Mother's Day Card
Coggwerks Creationz Print and Color Mother's Day Card
Coggwerks Creationz Print and Color Mother's Day Card

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recently there was a post that went viral informing children that they were grounded and the conditions of their release from punishment.  In order to be allowed out of the house, the children were told that they needed to complete tasks on the list worth a total of 500 points. Tasks ranging from watering plants for 10 points to completing a load of laundry from start to fold for 100 points.

So many parents loved this idea that it carried through the internet aether and found its way to desktops and tablets everywhere.  What most of them probably didn’t realize was that this concept of points is one of the basic three components of games. PBL or “Points-Badges-Leaderboards” is a key component of a concept known as Gamification. (If you’d like to know more about PBL’s here’s a quick primer).

I’m sure that many of us have used games in the past to make things more interesting and fun for our kids.  How many parents used a reward system for potty-training or stars for good behavior? What makes these things work is that there is an added incentive that motivates the child to do the task.  Whether it’s a star for getting homework done that tracks progress toward a special treat, or a sticker worn as a badge of honor for a successful trip to the bathroom, game rewards are great motivators.

A while ago, I posted looking for ideas on how to gamify my household chores  and got some tips from some of our Facebook fans about using a star system or a reward system, which we’ve managed to implement somewhat successfully.

Stars and stickers are a great way to start, they act as both badges and points in a way, and can even be a leader board if you have multiple kids vying for them on the same poster.  The marble method, where you move marbles from one bowl to another, as a reward for good behavior or as a consequence of misbehaving, can provide an opportunity to foster teamwork in gaining these physical point representations.  But what happens when your kids inevitably bore of those simple games and need their next challenge?

Allowance and reward systems can also be introduced as kids get older, and act like a badge system for real rewards.  Using points to be allotted for certain jobs (much like the early example) can net a bonus for the week’s winner that could be anything from a monetary bonus to a free pass to get out of having to clean the toilets the following week.

This concept could also work with a more complete badge system, making cut outs that kids attain at certain levels to display in their room, like “Top Cleaner!” or “500 Points!” that unlock at determined levels of point gain or task completion.  Make your bed every day for a week get a “Now, you sleep in it” badge, finish all your homework without reminders get the “scholar” badge. The easier the task, the more it takes to get the badge, as things progress, you can increase the points needed or add on new badge levels, cleaning your room gets you a “I can see the floor!” badge, but keeping your room clean for a week gains you the “No dust bunnies here” badge or something like that.

Of course, there are simple ways to keep track of this progress, whiteboards listing scores, maybe even a family shared google spreadsheet to track and calculate points… but my favorite by far, is Chore Wars.  Chore Wars acts as a party-based fantasy game where each household member completes “adventures”. Trying quests such as “washing and folding the party’s armor” (laundry),  or “loading the enchanted cabinet of crockery washing” (Loading the dishwasher) gain the completing adventurer gold and experience (XP). They even have chances to meet up with terrifying monsters like Dust Bunnies and  fearsome Tentacles that leave behind magical items, such as the epic Rod of Plunging.

Tasks are fully customizable, right down to the monsters and rewards.  Character creation consists of picking an avatar and selecting the tasks that you most often do.  A chore selection heavy in vacuuming and taking out garbage will likely make you a barbarian, while paying bills and planning parties might earn you a place among the bards.

For $10 you can keep a log, dating back to account creation of all adventures completed for your party (a free account is one week of data) and gets you the ability to upload a custom avatar. Characters can also spend their hard earned gold for external rewards, set by the party.  So, you could say a character can pay 200 gold to get their player some extra time with the Xbox, or 30 gold to get dessert one night.

Of course, there are a lot of ways to gamify your house and to get your kids motivated to gain some enjoyment out of doing their chores.  So what are your methods?  We’d love to hear about your gamified reward systems – how do you get your kids (and even your spouses) motivated to do what has to be done?

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It’s only one week until Mother’s day and here at Engaged Family Gaming, we’ve decided to help you out in finding the perfect gift for the gamer mom in your life!

 

Game stuff:

The most obvious thing is to get her the game she’s been hinting after, something maybe that she’s more interested in than you are.  But, if your family is like my family, it’s more than likely that you share in most game desires, so consider some just-for-her add-ons to make her game a little more customized!

–>Lords of Waterdeep fan?  Check out these cool die cut adventurers to replace the simple blocks!

→ Into classic gaming aesthetics? How about a custom chess board?

→ Tired of the boring pawns for Forbidden Island? What about some detailed clay figs?

→ I think I might be asking for these new catan resources – cutest sheep ever!

Dixit bunny meeples!

→ OK, OK last meeple post, but these guys have EVERYTHING!

→ Stuck playing Memory on repeat? How about a copy customized to your family?

→ What about cool new dice for Arkham Horror or a fancy new set for her tabletopping needs?

→ Not into board games? What about a custom controller?

→ Or a top of the line gaming headset, so she can have a little break time without the family noise.

I could go on for hours, but those of some of the best gift ideas that are directly related to games. Here are some other ideas if just getting gaming accessories doesn’t sound like something she’d love right now.

Jewelry:

Let’s take a twist on a classic gift, jewelry is always the go to for birthdays, anniversaries Valentine’s Day.  What kind of gamer is the mom in your life is she a…

d20 Tabletop gamer?

Euro game Queen?

→ CCG/Tabletop Diva?

The Last of Us Groupie?

Final Fantasy Femme?

A Siren of the SNES?

Undefinably geeky?

WoW head? (Ok, OK, they have Alliance too, but I figured you could find that on your own).

Princess of Kingdom Hearts?

Special Snowflake who’d love to wear her avatar?

 

Game + hobby = gold

Gaming is a hobby, but it’s rarely a gamers ONLY hobby.  Help merge your Gamer mom’s interests into one:

→ Knitters and crocheters are always in need of stitch counters, knitting needles and patterns!

→ If she’s into soap making, candy making or anything else that needs molds – check these out!

→ Gamer/Runner? Pwnitwear has some cool running style gear for gamers!

→ Cycling & Gaming? It might not have the thrill of the outdoors, but a FitDesk is pretty great for laptop gamers (you might want to add a mouse rest though).

→ If she’s a bibliophile, maybe a book on projects to do with the kids, or some game inspired fiction?

Home Decor:

Decor for the home and car seems to be a very popular Mother’s day gift idea.  If your lady is more interested in where to hide her terrain maps than what shade of olive green throw pillow suits your settee, some of these might be for her.

Customize her console in a way that she will know it’s hers!

Customize her laptop.

→ Hide her terrain maps from guests, store ALL THE GAMES, and still manage to have a sweet dining room table! Perfect for visiting in-laws and work parties!

→ Does she hate it when drinks leave those horrible water rings on tables? Maybe some Portal coasters are the perfect gift!

→ Is she an avid tabletopper with a favorite character?  Maybe a LARPer who’d love to be immortalized in character?  What better gift than a custom portrait of her favorite character?
How about an epic, in-character FAMILY portrait? Too much? Maybe a car family sticker with Mommy’s little Pandaren?

→ Maybe a sign for the game room/game shelf is more her thing?

→ A new mousepad?

→ Or some fantastically huge wall art of her favorite game?

Flowers:

You can never go wrong with flowers, right? But would she prefer these flowers, or these or maybe these?

Clothes:

This area can be kind of touchy, so Ieave it to your judgement, but there are some cool options out there for her to showcase her geek, while still remaining mom-appropriate!

T-shirts

Hoodies

Scarves

Socks?

→ Is she expecting?

→ Honestly, pretty much anything here.

 

For the subtle geek:

This section is for the awesome nod to gaming that only she, and possibly very few super fans will recognize.  These are the kind of items that are perfect for corporate jobs or other non-game friendly places.

→ Here’s a great necklace inspired by Zelda.

Final Fantasy more her thing?

A Diablo III Lanyard for her employee ID?

Call of Duty Sunglasses?

Fallout chainmaille necklace?

Pokeheart Necklace?

Kingdom Hearts Argyle Purse?

Beauty products:

Another traditional gift is the basket of soaps and perfumes and bath products galore, so if you want to go this route, why not mix it up a bit!

League of Legends nail polish! Because what lady doesn’t want to feel the thrill of battle at the tip of her fingers, she can even top it off with some Triforce Decals!

→ Now who wouldn’t want to clean themselves with a sudsy, scented meeple?

→ Know your Gamer Mom is a Neutral Good Elf?  Now she can smell like one too (Note: BPA’s scents do wonders to cover up the smell of random food you didn’t know was encrusted somewhere on your clothing.)

→ And she can store it all in her space invaders makeup bag!

 

Kitchenware:

Of course, every site will tell you that all mom wants is 15” cast iron pans and a Cherry Red Kitchen Aid mixer.  I’m not going to put down on that idea, because, I know that I would love a Kitchen Aid Mixer, but if your Mother’s Day purse is a bit light, here are some other ideas that might appeal to your gamer lady.

Coffee & Life Hearts, go together like Coffee and Moms.

→ Maybe a bottle of wine, and some Super Mario Wine Charms might be more up her alley!

→ I can’t imagine anyone that wouldn’t want a POWER GLOVE Oven Mitt!

→ Chop onions in style with a Legend of Zelda cutting board!

→ Does she split her time between piloting X-wings in Star Wars: The Old Republic & baking muffins? Then, perhaps this R2 unit can help with both!

Food gifts:

If you’ve gotten this far & you are still lost, a food gift might be your only hope!

→ So, pamper her with a new dice set, made of chocolate or a D20 Lollipop.

→ Or if video games are more her thing, try a chocolate controller that looks a bit like something the Easter bunny may have forgotten!

→ How about a wine board game? Just be sure to bring her wine to go with it!

→ More of a tea drinker?  How about Mass Effect or Team Fortress 2 teas? Or even Pokemon or Magic the Gathering teas! Maybe a board game cup cozy?

This list is far from comprehensive and we really don’t expect you to buy anything off of it.  Basically, it’s meant to be some ideas for you to use when getting a gift for the Gamer Mom in your life that says “I appreciate you for who you are, Happy Mother’s Day”.  Best of luck finding the perfect gift, there’s an achievement for that!

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2-4 Players
Ages 10+
10-15 minutes

COMPETITIVE

Have you ever dreamed of being an enzyme? Do your thoughts drift to Adenine, Guanine, Thymine and Cytosine more than you’d like to admit? Have you ever wished you could act just like mRNA? Well, you’re in luck!

Linkage is a fast-paced game of DNA transcription… that’s right, DNA transcription!  Players create a shared strand of DNA from a deck of beautifully designed nucleotide cards, and then use their own hand of RNA nucleotides to try to match it.  It’s as easy as protein synthesis!

I know what you’re thinking, “I left my DNA Helicase in my other genome”! It’s OK, you won’t need it with this game!  Gameplay starts with each player drawing 4 cards from the RNA deck, and laying out the DNA promoter next to the DNA deck.  The promoter starts the nucleotide sequence that you will need to try to match to when transcribing your strand. Each subsequent DNA card has a secondary color that corresponds with the color of the RNA nucleotide cards in your hand.

Play starts by laying the first card of the DNA deck next to the promoter, the oldest player then must draw a card and must play a card.  Of course, the goal is to match the laid down DNA card, however, that may not be an option! Once a card is played, the next player completes a draw-play turn.  The turn ends and the next nucleotide is drawn in the DNA strand.

Since RNA transcription is never as simple as it sounds, there are some other mechanics at play.  Chaperone cards act as a wild card and can replace any active nucleotide in your strand, DNA Mutation allows a player to switch out a card in the DNA sequence and any RNA card marked as a Mutation can steal a card from someone else’s RNA strand.

The round continues until the Terminator (no relation to John Connor’s T-800) is drawn.  Players then add up their points for the round, gaining points for each card in the sequence that matches the parent strand, and racking up bonuses for long strands.

Currently, there is no suggested “best play” number of rounds, but our test went well with three.  Playing like a classic card game, Linkage is very much a learning game that puts the entertainment in edutainment. Color matching lends to play with younger kids interested in science, while the more complicated strategic mechanics will keep older kids ribosomes revved up for transcription!

I can’t imagine a better game to teach budding scientists (or even those struggling with the concept of Uracil as a general agent of confusion) some tough concepts through play.  Though many of the mechanics seem advanced, little reading is necessary, as the game can be played via symbol and color recognition.  Children who have mastered games like UNO and Phase 10 might struggle a little with the DNA Mutation and Chaperone cards, but would be able to grasp it after a few rounds of guided play.

Now that the Kickstarter has ended, Linkage has a $19.99 price tag and is available here!

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Asmodee Games
Ages 8+
2-8 Players
15 Minutes

COMPETITIVE

 

When Sherlock Holmes drank his tea, did he use a tea bag or had it not been invented yet?  What came first, eye glasses or whiskey? These and many more are the pressing questions that you must answer in order to defeat your opponents at Timeline.

Timeline is a very fast game to learn.  Each player has at least four cards to start, adding more as they desire a higher difficulty level, and a single card is revealed. Each card is two sided, with a matching picture on each side, however; one side has a caption describing the picture like “The invention of the Electric Iron” and the other has the year “1882”.  In order to play the game players must find the correct place on the timeline for their card without seeing the year printed on the back.

As the game progresses, it gets more and more difficult to place cards as there are many possibilities of spots they could fit in if you aren’t sure when they might have occurred.  What happened first “The Domestication of Cattle” or “The Domestication of Cats” and where does “The invention of the oil lamp” fit in?

If you place your card correctly, it is revealed and becomes part of the timeline, if not, it is discarded and you draw a new card.  A round ends when a player places their final card correctly.  If any other players also place their final cards correctly that same round, a new round is played.  Rounds are continued until only one player finishes a round with no cards.

Timeline is a quick play game, and the expansions can be stand-alone or added together for more difficult play.  While the game does allow for a two player game, playing a four card hand does not play well, it is somewhat uneventful, as most games are when played with the minimum players.  To make it more interesting, I would suggest playing a minimum of 6 cards for a 2-player game and/or drawing 2 starting cards and placing them correctly for some real challenges.

Asmodee has rated this game as 8+, but it would be very easy to modify for smaller history buffs.  Not only does this game teach the history of inventions, science, music and global events, it also teaches children about chronology and number line placement.  Years prior to zero are represented as negative numbers, so that the reverse ascension of negative integers can be taught or reinforced (nearly) painlessly.  Some reading is required, however; that can be done prior to the game starting and when questions are asked.

If your child is old enough to understand 4-digit integers, you can modify the play to allow them to “peek” at a date on a card.  This takes the game from a historical trivia strategy game to a basic lesson in number theory strategy game.  This way a smaller child can participate with the older members of the family without feeling as if they are cheating.

Once a child graduates to always getting the placement correct on the line by peeking, you can start to ease back on allowing it once per round or once per game until they can play fully on their own.

Timeline is a quick and easy to learn game.  Each expansion depicts the same steampunk styled character in different settings on a sturdy metal box.  For a game that retails under $15, it is one of the better quality levels.

Outlived your copy of Timeline?  Need to add more challenges? Check out the Timeline expansions:

Now this game can be yours for FREE!  Engaged Family Gaming is proud to announce our first ever giveaway! Entries for this giveaway will run from 4/19/14 at midnight (EST) until midnight (EST) 4/27/14! U.S. Residents only please!

Click the link  to participate in a Rafflecopter giveaway for a copy of this game!

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April is National Autism Awareness Month. It is a time when everyone is encouraged to educate themselves about autism and its effects on those that live with it and their families.

A good friend of mine, and mother of two children with autism, has said that if you have met one child with autism, then you have met exactly one child with autism. Each child is so different that it is difficult to predict what will work or what wont. As a result, parents are growing more and more interested in increasing their toolset to help their children adapt, learn, and grow. Research has begun just recently into the controlled use of video games and their therapeutic effects.

Temple Grandin Ph.D, one of the most successful high-functioning autistic persons in the world, has written about video games and their possible advantages.

Some examples:

  • Playing games can help promote pro-social skills like turn taking and sharing
  • Some games can help promote understanding of social cues (especially simulators that involve real life situations as opposed to fantasy such as the Sims).
  • Video game design, criticism, and QA are all valid career paths so encouraging play might help them find a job later in life
  • Fitness/Motion games can help to improve motor skills

Video games also have an advantage over other forms of media in learning because their interactive nature makes them better motivators. Jane McGonigal, a game designer and author, has written that games present vividly clear goals and provide immediate feedback to the player. There is literally nowhere else to have that sort of an unambiguous result. You either jump over the pit or you fall in. You defeat the boss dragon or you don’t.

Grandin, and others, express significant concerns regarding autistic children and addiction to video games. The harsh reality is that they are easy to fixate on and many of them present challenges with no real completion (e.g. Pac Man and other score-chase games or massively multiplayer online games (MMOs)). This is a valid concern, so parents of autistic children should make sure to educate themselves on the games they are playing and how they are played.

The caveat to all of this is that we need to treat video games differently in order for them to be enriching to anyone, autistic or not. Video games are often considered to be a solitary activity. The secret to unlocking their potential is finding ways to make gaming into a social activity and actively engaging with your child.

Editor’s note:

This article is not intended to be treatment advise. I am posting a small number of suggestions pulled from different sources and to illustrate the potential for video games to be a useful tool for parents.

If you are a parent of a child with Autism and need support please seek out your MD. But, if you are in need of support and ideas these are some resources that you can turn to.

Autism-speaks.org

Autism-society.org

Autism With a Side of Fries

Autism With a Glass of Wine

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