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The team at Runaway Parade Games has taken their hit game Fire Tower and created an expansion with more fire spreading and fire fighting components. They incorporated Firehawks into the game, added new cards, added events, as well as expanded the Shadow in the Wood card. Click here to see the preview of the base game Fire Tower.

Expansion Components

  • 27 Core Expansion Cards (these include a hawk symbol in the bottom right corner to distinguish them)
  • 18 Fire Hawks
  • 1 Shadow Power Card
  • 1 Shadow Die
  • 4 Heavy Wind Cards
  • 4 Lookout Cards
  • 3 New Event Cards
  • 4 Lightning Meeples

Gameplay

The basic gameplay follows most of the original rules with the following changes in the expansion;

  • The starting hand size increases from five to six cards
  • New cards included: Rolling firebrand, A Crown fire, Creeping fires, Helitack’s, Backburns, Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, Southeast
  • Firehawks and special Firehawk cards
  • New events
  • New abilities
  • Expanded The Shadow in the Wood role in games with three or four players
  • Solo mode

Firehawks

Based on the Australian birds, the real life birds carry burning branches to areas not burned trying to flush out prey. In the game, Fire hawks start in a vacant space in the players quadrant of the board. If a fire gem lands on the same spaces of a Firehawk, that Firehawk is activated. The player of the activated Firehawk immediately moves the fire gem to any vacant space on the board adjacent to a pre existing fire gem.

New Cards

The new cards add a few new ways to spread the fire, and a few new ways to put out the fire. What is so intriguing about the base game a fire tower as well as the expansion is that all the terminology is authentic firefighting terminology. The new cards include:

  • Rolling Firebrand is a rolling flaming log, and it allows the player to move any two orthogonality adjacent fire gems two spaces horizontally or vertically.
  • A Crown Fire is what occurs when the fire spreads across the treetops. With this card players can place two fire gems orthogonality adjacent to a fire gem on the board. This card has one special feature and if you have two of these cards you can play both and place up to four cards.
  • Creeping Fires a caused by bits of burning plant matter that spreads the fire to the surrounding trees. To play this card the players can add three gems to anyplace on the board that is adjacent to existing gems and are not orthogonality adjacent to each other.
  • Helitack’s use helicopters to transport in supplies or crews in to support fire fighting efforts. This card allows you to remove two adjacent gems and one other gem that can also be adjacent or separate.
  • Backburns is the strategy of intentionally burning an area in controlled manner to consume the fuel. Playing this card allows players to remove one fire gem and replace it with a firebreak token.
  • Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast wind cards allows the players to either change the wind direction in either cardinal direction, roll for a new wind direction, or place one gem in the direction on the card.

The Shadow

The Shadow of the Wood represents the vengeful spirits of eliminated towers. In the base game the Shadow exists as a single card and has a single time effect. In the expansion, the role of the shadow is expanded and re-imagined. Players can choose to add in The Shadow in a game with three or more players. Any eliminated player immediately becomes the shadow. The Shadow wins the game if all the towers in the forest are burned before the start of the next active towers turn. This feature removes the player elimination element from the game. Once a players tower burns their role merely shifts.

To add to the mayhem, the actions taken by the Shadow have a random element. On their turn the the player rolls a 6 sided die, and performing the action corresponding with that number on the Shadow Power card. Some of the actions the Shadow may take include: Activating a firehawk, place a fire gem, draw three cards and play two. The most interesting option provided a push your luck element. The Shadow players can roll as many times as they want. If the roll is under 5 the Shadow gains a fire gem, and can continue adding gems as long as their rolls are one through four. The player can stop rolling and place the accumulated gems at any time. However, if the player rolls a five or six before they stop, all the gems get discarded.

Ability Cards

Rising Flames adds two new abilities, and like the bucket card in the original game, these abilities have two sides to them. One is the Heavy Wind/ Light Breeze. This card allows the player the one time use of Heavy Wind where they can play as many wind cards as they want, and add fire gems as noted at the bottom of the card. The card is then flipped over and the player has the Light breeze ability for the rest of the game. The light breeze allows the player to play one additional; wind card on their turn and place a fire gem in that wind direction.

The other ability card is Look Out. This one time ability allows the player to draw three cards, play one of them and discard the other two. After using the Look Out ability, players flip the card and gain the Patrol ability. Patrol allows the player to discard on card from your hand without taking that action. Then draw two cards from the deck, play one and keep the other in hand.

Event Cards

Just as in the original game, new event cards go into effect as soon as they are drawn. Also, players have the flexibility to incorporated as many or few events as players want. This flexibility allows players to make the game more challenging.

The new events include:

  • Dry Storm, which is a weather event with lightning but no rain. At the beginning of the game four lightning bolts are placed on the board. These lightning bolts moved around over the course of the gameplay as fire moves into their spaces. Once the Dry Storm card comes up, the player rolls the wind die and adds fire gems in that direction off of each lightning bolt. The lightning strike four times, so this process is repeated three more times!
  • Kettle Flight has the group of Firehaws, move about the board. A group of firehawks is known as a Kettle . Each player in turn order starting with the players that drew the card, can active or add two firehawks, depending on the number of players. Players can also rearainge their firehawks.
  • Mobilization has the player who draws the card then draw one more card than the number of player. They then pick and play one card, and passes the cards to the next player who picks an plays a card. Each player picks a card from these drawn card, and the one extra is discarded.

Family Game Assessment

The base game of Fire Tower is a wonderful family game. Rising Flames add rich gameplay and enhances the game experience. Both the base and the expansion list the age as 14 and up, but it is a great game for much younger players. The prerequisite for accessibility of this game is reading ability, once a player can proficiently read the different cards then they can play the game. The readability needed is typically approachable by children about age seven or eight. A precocious reader who is experience in board games and strategy could be even younger and successfully play. I played with my whole family and my youngest just turned eight, and he needed little help with reading the cards, but still was able to play with little support.

What makes they perfect for the family is there are so many ways to pick and choose different elements in the game to make it easier or harder. Players can pick and choose the event cards they include in the game. For younger players, they can skip the events altogether.

The other element that adds a huge family friendly component is the Shadow in the Woods. This removes the player elimination from the game. With children, it can be very frustrating when their tower burns and they is only a chance the will get to effect the game again. With the expanded Shadow roll now there is no elimination, only a change in roll. This makes the game a better fit for more families.

One final feature that is noteworthy is the firehawk meeples. Fire Tower has a beautiful board that looks more amazing as it fills with fire gems. The fire hawk meeple adds another amazing visual effect to the board.

Conclusion

If you have a copy of Fire Tower it is a must to get the expansion Rising Flames. If you have not played Fire Tower it is a great addition to your game collection, and Rising Flames adds such wonderful new elements, and it is a must buy! For more information you can click here to sign up for the mailing list or get more information.

FCC disclosure: a preview copy of Rising Flame was provided for review.


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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This week Stephen and Linda are here to talk about board games with Gwen and Sam from Runaway Parade Games. It’s all about Fire Tower and the upcoming expansion coming to Kickstarter.

This podcast is sponsored by:

ReadyPlayerMom – mixer.com/readyplayermom

The Virtual Economy Podcast

Around the Horn

Galaxy Trucker

Aerion

Topic

Rising Flame – the expansion to Fire Tower

Sign up for their mailing list!

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More From Jonathan on Facebook

Music from https://filmmusic.io

“Android Sock Hop” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)

License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

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Hello and Welcome to Engage!: A Family Gaming Podcast! This is episode 130. This week we are talking board games and this week Stephen and Rob are joined by the team at Runaway Parade games to talk about Fire Tower!

Host:

Stephen Duetzmann @EFGaming

Co-Host:

Rob Kalajian, A Pawn’s Perspective

Runaway Parade Games

Around the Horn

The Legend of Korra: Pro Bending Arena

Streets of Steel

Qwirkle Cubes

Sumer

Topic

Fire Tower Kickstarter!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

Follow us on Facebook!

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Subscribe to our Newsletter!

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Fire Tower is a area control and hand management fire fighting board game that is currently live on Kickstarter.  It was designed and is being published by Runaway Parade Games. They took the time to answer some questions for us about their campaign. Take a look below and check out the campaign! It is currently funded and a copy of the game is only $39 with free shipping in the United States.

Can you give us a “Tale of the Tape” for your game? The title, genre, playtime, age ranges, etc.

Fire Tower is for 2-4 players, ages 13+ (although this is only because of certification, since 7-year-olds have enjoyed this game). The game takes 15 – 30 minutes, and is a competitive forest fire fighting game.

What is the elevator pitch?

Prepare for a unique experience, a relentless battle for survival packed with shocking reversals and exhilarating victories. Fire Tower is a competitive fire fighting game for 2-4 players where each player mans a fire tower in the forest. Most games about firefighting have some cooperative aspect, with players working together to beat back the flames and stem the chaos. In Fire Tower your objectives are to protect your own tower and spread the flames towards your opponents. Can you be the last tower standing?

One of the main mechanics in the game is the wind, an unrelenting natural force that can be diverted but never stopped. At the start of each turn you must expand the fire in the direction of the current wind. If you find the flames encroaching on your tower, you’ll want to look to your action cards. In your five card hand you’ll find wind cards that allow you to harness the destructive force of the gale. Fire cards add a varying of patterns of fire to the board.  Water cards beat back the flames. Firebreak cards that let you remove combustible vegetation to create barriers that slow the blaze.

Your opponents will come after you with explosions, burning snags, and flare ups, but you can fight back by calling in airdrops of water, deploying fire engines and smoke jumpers, or constructing fire breaks. Undermine your opponent’s defenses by replanting trees they’ve removed, or douse flames on your tower with your trusty bucket. The choices are numerous; it’s up you to make the right one.

Fire Tower is easy to learn, has minimal set-up time, and is intuitive to play, so that the action begins within minutes of opening the box. That said, this is not a simple game to master: multiple variables allow for a wide range of strategies, and no two games look alike. Fire Tower features a vibrant watercolor design by celebrated artist Kevin Ruelle. You can see Kevin’s fine art by visiting his website, ruellefineart.com.

When is your Kickstarter going live

The Kickstarter launched April 24, 2018, and funded in 2 hours.

Where are you in production/development? How close are you to complete?

The game is finished, has been heavily play-tested, the artwork is complete, and the manufacturer is chosen. We have spent the past 3 years working on the game, tweaking it, paying close attention to every detail. Of course, we are open to new ideas, and we always welcome feedback from the game community, which has been incredibly warm and welcoming to us throughout this entire process.

Are there any other games that you think are comparable to your game?

One of our favorite things about Fire Tower is that people who play our game can never think of another game that is quite like it. There are other games about fire fighting, but all the ones we know are cooperative games. There are other games that use patterns and spatial planning to strategize, but most of them are abstract games that don’t also include the more secretive elements that come with having a hand of action cards. What we love about Fire Tower is it has a retro look and feel, but the mechanics themselves are very unique.

You’re a game designer. You could have made any game you wanted. Why did you make THIS game?

This is the first game that we have taken this far into the production process, so it is definitely our baby! The two of us have always loved board games and board game design, and our conversations often start with, “What if you made a game about…” and go on for hours and hours.

One day we were going for a walk in the woods and we were talking about how coop games are fun because you are playing against the game, and competitive games are fun because you are playing against each other. What about a game where you are playing against both? We wanted to create an experience that ramps up over time, one where it becomes increasingly difficult to resist the building momentum of the game. A forest fire really stuck out to us as an exciting theme with a natural progression that would be both formidable and exhilarating.

What was your design process like?

You can always tell when one of us is really excited about a game, because they start building a prototype right away. After we went for that walk, we couldn’t stop talking about Fire Tower, and it was only a matter of days before we had a prototype built and were playtesting it. Of course, the game was very different from what it is now. The mechanics were different, the cards were different, and we were playing on this huge piece of white board that took up half our dining room. But the basic idea was the same, and after we played the game once, we couldn’t wait to play again. That’s how we knew we were onto something.

We’ve been lucky to have an amazing community of gamers and designers around us as we’ve gone through this process. We can’t thank them enough for all the insights they’ve offered. The two of us kept meticulous notes on all suggestions received, and have developed a framework to apply this information. We really tried to distill player’s impressions of the game into positive change, and learned the importance of finding common ground in what at first seems like contradicting feedback. Parsing out the trends in our data led to important developments that have been essential to Fire Tower.

What is the number one reason why a family MUST purchase this game?

This game takes about five minutes to learn and gets everyone laughing almost instantly. It is competitive, but at the same time lighthearted. One of our favorite parts about demoing Fire Tower at conventions has been watching the interactions between families as they battle for control of the forest. We love showing this game to kids and their parents, because it’s fun to listen to their hilarious banter as they go after each other. The game also works well for families because it presents core gameplay that young gamers can easily grasp, while at the same time offering unique mechanics and strategies that appeal to more seasoned gamers. This keeps every age bracket invested in the action, and also leaves room for kids to develop more nuanced strategies over time.

We wanted to create a game that was accessible to different types of learners, and tried to make it as intuitive as possible. We included cards that have both text and visual-based instructions, with a grid on each card that shows how it can be used. At one convention we met a father whose son had a hard time understanding text-based instructions and was pleasantly surprised that he found the visual directions of Fire Tower easy to digest. We’re overjoyed that Fire Tower is an inclusive experience that spans age and learning style. The social interactions the game encourages also compliment family gaming. Temporary alliances form and break as the wind changes, with players working together to send the fire away from themselves (and towards the other opponents).

Fire Tower forces players to try to predict how others will react to a varying range of situations, which leads to a lot of interesting interplay between personalities. The game is fiercely competitive, but at 15-30 minutes a game, it’s hard to be too sore of a loser (especially when you can just play again). In the meantime, kids are learning wildfire fighting terms and enhancing their spatial planning skills.

How long has this game been in development?

Just about three years. We are excited to finally get the game into the hands of gamers!

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

Because Fire Tower is the first game we’ve taken to the edge of production, and our first KS project, we have had to educate ourselves on every aspect that goes into making a game.  Ranging from the first design concept to the final product on your shelf. It’s hard to imagine the entire process while drawing your first prototype on a piece of poster board! We want to make sure that we manufacture a high quality product that is affordable for gamers. This means spending countless hours finding the perfect component.  This included waking up in the middle of the night and weighing options of card size or the shade of our fire gems. We needed to consider sizing the game box to fit efficiently on pallets, and so much more. Overcoming these obstacles has helped us create a better product.

As co-designers it is hard to give up on some of your own ideas, even if you know they aren’t right. Both of us have had to learn to step back and ask, “Am I defending this idea because it truly enhances the game, or because I came up with it?”.  Some of the hardest choices in the design process have been deciding when something has run its course and letting it go. Although some of these missteps end up fueling the next breakthrough! Creating Fire Tower has been one of the most challenging and rewarding logic puzzles we have ever encountered.

Designing a game brings out that same feeling of exhilaration you receive when planning out a complicated move for your next turn at game night. Designing Fire Tower has turned out to be one of the most addictive games we have ever played. Where all the limitations imposed on gameplay are up to your own discretion, and the possibilities for adjustments are endless.

What did your first prototype look like?

Our first prototype was this monolithic piece of poster board that had five or six versions of the game board. We used a lot of different things to represent the fire gems at first: plastic golden coins with a skull and crossbone printed on one side, pennies, torn pieces of paper, and sugar packets when we were in a bind once. Our first playtesters got to pick from a pile of plastic animals to represent their towers on the board. People often argued about who got to play as the jellyfish.

The first version of the firebreak tokens were ceramic tiles we found at a craft store. We had various friends with artistic skills who helped us draw the initial art on the cards. The deck was always changing! We used this setup until we’d locked down the core mechanics of the game. It was very exciting when we finally had some real artwork and were able to print a prototype through The Game Crafter. Still, sometimes we miss our giant poster board game.

Why did you get into making games?

Both of us have played around with game designing our whole lives. As kids we developed games that we played with our parents and close friends. At a certain point we were bouncing around so many ideas that we just had to see one all the way through. Designing a game was also an excuse to embed gaming even more into our lives. Meeting designers and playing their games has been one of our favorite parts of this whole process. Once we have Fire Tower produced and delivered we’re excited to turn our attention to other designs we’ve been working on!

What other information do you want us to know about you, your company, and/or your game?

Runaway Parade Games has a core mission to bring enjoyment to gamers through unique tabletop experiences. We’ve really enjoyed the process of showing Fire Tower to people at a range of extraordinary conventions including The Connecticut Festival of Indie Games, SnowCon, Pax Unplugged, Total Con, The Boston Festival of Indie Games, RetroWorld Expo, Too Many Games, Metatopia, and more. Games have been a lifelong passion for us. We’re excited to bring a new edition to a world that has brought us an extraordinary amount of joy. We’ve received a warm welcome from the tabletop world as a whole. Going forward we want to give back to the community, and share everything we’ve learned with people who are now embarking on the same journey we started three years ago.

 

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Most fire fighting games are cooperative, but in the game Fire Tower, you compete with other players to protect your fire tower from the fire and spread the fire to your opponent’s tower. There are components of hand management and area control incorporated into the game. Fire Tower is for 2-4 player ages 13 and up. Game play takes approximately 15-30 minutes. Fire Tower launched on Kickstarter April 24, 2018.

Setting the Stage

Smoke rises on the horizon. A fire rages somewhere in the heart of the forest. From the height of a fire tower, you command the efforts to defend your tower and take down your opponents. With each turn, the inferno grows. Harness the power of the wind to push the blaze towards the other towers, clear tracts of land to fortify your tower, hinder the plans of your opponents with torrents of water, and unleash an arsenal of fire cards upon your foes. Each card has a unique pattern with its own tactical advantage. You must effectively direct the resources in your hand and use sound spatial planning to deploy them.

Game Components

  • Folding Board with grid
  • 50 Action Cards
    • Fire Cards
    • Water Cards
    • Fire Breaks
    • Wind Direction
  • 4 Bucket Cards
  • 1 Firestorm Card
  • Custom Eight-Sided Die
  • Rule Book
  • 24 Wooden Firebreak Tokens
  • 135 Fire Gems

Gameplay

First, each player receives one bucket card, which is kept face up.  Next, 5 cards are dealt to each player as their starting hand, and finally the weather vane die is rolled to determine wind direction.   

Player Turns

At the beginning of each players turn they must add one fire token in the direction indicated on the weather vane die.  The fire token must be adjacent to an existing fire token or the eternal flame. The fire occupying four squares in the center represents the eternal flame. The second portion of their turn each player can either play a card and draw a new one or discard as many as they want and redraw to 5 without taking any actions.  This option comes in handy when there are no viable options in your hand.

Player can take  a range of actions depending on the card they play. There are Fire cards that spread the fire regardless of wind direction.  Water cards put out the fire in a small area. Fire Break cards create areas the fire is unable to burn, but may not be added to adjacent spots with a Fire Break.  One exception is that they may be placed diagonally to an existing Fire Break.

Players are working to defend their Fire Tower, the nine squares in the corner of the board, and to breach their opponents. In the Fire Tower squares fire can spread, but water and fire breaks can not be used. This is where the bucket card comes into play.  Players can use it once per turn to extinguish 3 fire tokens in a row, as long as one is within the tower. Once fire reaches the orange square in the corner that player is eliminated.

Eliminated Players and Victory

Eliminated players give their cards to the player that eliminated them. That player adds the cards to their hand, and discards down to six cards. All remaining players in the game add a card to their hand.  The eliminated player rolls the weathervane die to exact their “revenge” and causes a Firestorm. A Firestorm add one fire token in the wind direction to all existing fire. There is also one card which causes the same effect. Play continues and if there is another elimination the hand size increases to seven. The last player without a burned Fire Tower wins.

Family Gaming Assessment 

Fire Tower is enjoyable and accessible. I think that players far younger than the recommended age can have fun with this. The rules and game play are easy to learn and the game play is intuitive.

Fire Tower has core mechanics that are easy to grasp by younger players and novice gamers.  Additionally, it also incorporates a depth of strategy which veteran players can find engaging.  The variety of mechanics and strategy makes this game a good choice for mixed ages and various skill levels.

The theme, while about a spreading forest fire and burning a Fire Tower, is not graphic.  If anything the more the board fills with fire tokens the prettier it gets.  The cards incorporate a description and a grid representation of the effect making them easy to understand.  This is another great way the game scales down to both younger and less experienced gamers.

Conclusion

Fire Tower is a awesome addition to any family game collection.  I have played the prototype and . I was able to teach the game to new players on my second play through. The Kickstarter funded in only two hours, and there is a lot of excitement for this unique games. This is the your chance to get unique and family friendly game though Kickstarter.

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Restoration Games has been in business for about a year now. Their mission is to find old games that had a spark of greatness, but were held back by the state of the board game industry. They had announced three projects so far, until Gen Con 2017. They came out at the Dice Tower panel during the event to announce their hottest game yet: Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kalar.

The game is going to be a re imagining of the, now ancient and legendary, board game Fireball Island. It was originally released in 1986 and is remembered fondly by people who grew up in that era as “The crazy marble game.” (OK. It might just be me that remembers it that way, but I digress.)Players took on the role of explorers on a mysterious island searching for a long lost treasure. The game’s most memorable feature is its game board. It was made using vacuum formed plastic and featured Val-Kur, the volcano, at its center. I’ll never forget the commercials that showed a rad marble spitting out of the volcano and rolling down the games path wildly and knocking players to their doom. The game’s visuals DEFINITELY masked some of its flaws. By modern standards this is a roll and move game. Its hardly better than games like Sorry.

Fortunately, Restoration Games is on the case. Their new game will be less of a direct remake of the original, and more of a redesign that will include all new game play designed by Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt and the rest of the team. The goal is to help create the game we remember loving even if it isn’t much like the game we played. It will also have physical components designed by Noah Adelman (That’s the guy behind Mech’s vs Minions.)

We don’t have many details now, but we do know that they will be launching a Kickstarter campaign later on this year and are currently planning on a 2018 release. If you want to know more, then you can sign up here to be on the mailing list. I also recommend following their Instagram account for behind the scenes access.

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The Engaged Family Gaming team has the mission to provide information and support families who want to play board games with their kids (and video games too). We work hard to provide parents with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their children’s gaming. To facilitate this, we help parents who might not be “gamers” themselves learn to understand the games their children are playing and help them find great board games for their kids.

The “EFG Essentials” is a core collection of games we frequently recommend across different genres. The purpose of these essentials is to provide a starting point for families to engage with high-quality games. Below are our EFG Essential board games for kids.

Ticket to Ride 

  • Route Building and Set collection 
  • 2-5 players
  • 8+

Ticket To Ride is the quintessential starting place for families looking for the next level in board games beyond Monopoly or Uno. This is the game that was the starting point for multiple members of the EFG team to become passionate about board games.

During gameplay, players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout the United States. Each player is working on completing their own secret routes. If another player claims a path they need, the player needs to try and find another path to complete their route, if possible. This also adds a potential “take that” element to the game.

On each turn you can only take one of 3 actions: draw Train Car Cards, claim a Route between two cities on the board, draw additional Destination Tickets. The object of the game is to score the highest number of total points. Points are earned from completing routes, and lost for incomplete route cards. Each round allows for players to plan, think strategically, and make tactical decisions.

Ticket to Ride has expansions for other geographical areas (EuropeAsiaIndia, etc), in addition to First Journey for younger players. We love the fact that this game has so many version and appeals to such a wide range of players.

  • See our review of Ticket to Ride here.
  • See our review of Ticket to Ride First Journey here.

Sushi Go

  • Card drafting 
  • 2-5 players
  • 8+

Sushi-Go takes place in the fast-paced world of a sushi chef, you must be the most creative and the fastest of all to be the best! The game comes in a cute tin and plays two to five players.

Players start with cards in their hand based on the number of players, and select one card to play before passing the rest of their cards to the next player to choose from!  The game plays in 3 rounds, where all but dessert cards are cleared from the table and scored at the end.  The strategy of the game lies in making the most of the cards passed to you, while trying to stop opponents from making the combinations they need to maximize points. The most interesting dynamic of this game is the chopsticks.  They are played in one round, and used on a subsequent turn to play two cards at once from the current hand.  The chopsticks get passed on to be used by someone else.

Sushi Go! is a fun game to play with anyone, and it is a light streamlined game that is a perfect first card drafting game.

See our review here.

Qwixx

  • Roll and Write
  • 2-5 players
  • 8+

Qwixx is a simple roll and write where all players participate in every dice roll. However, you must be strategic about the numbers and colors you select each turn. Roll and write games have a set of dice and each player has a scoring sheet. The genre of roll and write games have become more popular in the last few years, and Qwixx is the perfect game to learn the genre.

To play, there are six dice, two white, one yellow, one red, one blue, and one green. On a turn, the active player rolls and announces the total of the two white dice. All players have the option to mark any color on their sheet with the corresponding number.  The active player only has the additional option to add one white die with any one of the red, yellow, blue, or green dice to select a number on their record sheet. The more numbers you can mark off the more points you score, but players must choose carefully once you cross off a number you can not go backwards.

Kingdomino

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-4 players
  • 8+

Kingdomino, the 2017 winner of The Spiel Des Jahres (The Game of the Year), and combines the universal simplicity of dominoes with kingdom building. It is a tile drafting and placement game for two to four players.  The game is played in short rounds.

First, tiles are laid out in a field and players take turns drafting tiles based on the order of the previous round. Players draw domino shaped tiles and lay them out in their 5×5 block kingdom. only one side of their domino needs to match the land the connect to, but it can gain them more points if both sides match. The goal is to sort their kingdom so that they have large contiguous terrain (lakes, forests, etc) to earn points. Points are calculated by taking the number of continuous terrain times the number of crown icons found on any domino in that terrain. The gameplay is quick, easy to teach, and the game ages down very nicely.

See our Spiel Des Jahres 2017 article here.

Forbidden Island

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • 10+

Forbidden Island puts players on an island that is slowly sinking into the ocean, and they need to work together to gather treasures then escape. Each turn is filled with tension as players flip over cards that indicate which tile will sink (and thus shrink the board). As the game progresses it really feels like the world is sinking.

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

The randomness of the tile layout as the board leads to huge variety and replay value, as does the multiple combinations of adventurer play styles (especially in combination). The difficulty can be scaled to all abilities based on how high the water level starts the game, and even at the easy setting can provide a decent challenge for some of the most experienced gamers.

See our review here.

Pandemic

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • 8+

In Pandemic, two to four players take on one of several roles, such as Medic, Dispatcher, or Researcher, in their quest to cure 4 diseases before time runs out and humanity is wiped out.

Game play follows a standard turn-based approach. Each player starts their turn by drawing from an event deck to determine where the newest infections are.  Then, they use location cards to move around the globe, treating diseases to prevent outbreaks.  Finally, they draw more location cards to restock their hand.  If a player can get three location cards of a single color and can get to a lab, they can create a cure.  The cure that won’t immediately eradicate the disease. Rather, it will make the disease easier to treat.

There is one way to win (working together to cure all 4 diseases), and multiple ways to lose (running out of time, being overwhelmed by diseases, etc.)  Players can change the difficult by increasing the starting number of infections.

See our review here.

Tsuro

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-8 players
  • 8+

Tsuro is a tile laying game for two to eight players with a beautiful Asian aesthetic. In this game you are a flying dragon. Your dragon is represented by a colored carved token. Tsuro consists of tiles with twisting lines on them, a 6×6 grid on which to lay these tiles and a token for each player.

Each player has a hand of tiles. On your turn you do two things: place a tile from your hand onto the board next to your token and move your token as far as it can go along the line it is currently on. You continue to move it until it is stopped by an empty space with no tile in (yet), the edge of the board, or if you collide with player’s token. If your dragon reaches the edge of the board or collides with another player’s token, you are out of the game.

The goal of the game is to be the last player left with a dragon on the board. The strategy, therefore, consists of trying to drive your opponents either into each other or off of the board while trying to extend your own route in directions that will make it difficult for your opponents to hinder your path.

See our review here.

Zombie Kids Evolution

  • Legacy/ Cooperative
  • For 2-4 Players
  • Ages 7+
  • 5-15 minute playing time per session

Your successes or failors affect the game in your future plays of the game, in Zombie Kidz Evolution. This is a perfect first step into Legacy games. Legacy games are played over a series of sessions and what occurrences in previous sessions permanently changes the game and can influence the next events in the game. In Zombie Kidz Evolution you are working together to protect yourselves and drive off the zombies in the school. All the staff at the school zombies. The rules start off very simply, and as the game progresses new rules and abilities are added.

Rhino Hero

  • Dexterity
  • 2-5 players
  • 5+

Rhino Hero is a competitive  3-D stacking game where players are building a tower of cards and moving Rhino Hero up the tower.  This is a great games for younger players and involves no reading.

This dexterity game directs players were the wall cards need to go on each turn.  Players have wall and ceiling tiles.  On their turn, the player first builds the wall in the place indicated on the ceiling tile and then place their ceiling tile.  Actions indicated on some of the ceiling tiles and those benefit the player, such as skipping the next player.  The game ends when the tower fall, a player places their last roof card, or all the walls are built. 

Animal Upon Animal

  • Dexterity
  • 2-4 players
  • 4+

Animal Upon Animal is a dexterity game perfect for young games, where players are stacking wooden animal pieces.  On a turn, players roll a special die to determine what happens on their turn. If the player rolls one pip they add one animal, two pips the add two animals, the crocodile image has the player place one animal on the table touching one side of the base animals, therefore further expanding the base. The hand icon has the active player choose one of their animals and give it to another player who then has to add it to the stack. Finally the question mark icon has the other players determine which animal the active player has to add to the stack.

Should animals fall off while a player is trying to add one to the stack, the player who was placing the animals takes them if there are one or two that fall. Should more than two fall one two are kept and the rest returned to the box.The game ends when a player runs out of animals to stack, and the last player to place their piece can declare victory.

Hiss

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-5
  • 4+

Hiss is a competitive game perfect for very young gamers, where players draw tiles and try and build the longest snakes.  Each snake has different colors and players need to match the colors for adjacent snake pieces.  To build a complete snake they need to have a head, at least one middle body segment, and a tail. This is a game that easily scales down to the youngster players.

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

  • Set Collection
  • 2-4 players
  • 3+

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is where you are collecting acorns to feed your hungry squirrel.  At the beginning of each turn you spin the spinner and that dictated the color acorn you can take or if another event occurs.  If a player lands on a storm cloud their acorns get blown back onto the tree. A sad squirrel means you lose a turn.  The thieving squirrel picture allows the player to steal one acorn from another player. The first person to fill their log with acorns wins.

This is a great simple game for very young gamers.

Hoot Owl Hoot

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • 4+

Hoot Owl Hoot is a cooperative game where players work to bring the owls back to the nest.  The goal is to get all the owls back before the sun comes up.  Each player has three cards dealt in front of them.  Players choose a color card to play, and draws a card to refill at the end of their turn.  With a color card the player selects an owl and move it to the next corresponding space of that color. If a player has a sun card they must play it, and the sun moves one space on the tracker. The difficulty can be increased by adding more owls to put back in the nest.

Happy Salmon

  • Party Game
  • 3-6 players
  • 6+

Happy Salmon is a great game for motivating your family to get up, laugh, and shout their way through a game. You can even buy two copies (there are two different color versions) so you can get up to 8 players. A hand of cards is dealt to the players who stand around a table.

Players draw a card from their deck and say the name of the action trying to find another player with a matching card. If no one has the same card they put it at the bottom of their deck, but if they find a match the two players perform the action and discard the card in front of them. The actions of Happy Salmon include: High 5, Pound It, Switcheroo (where players switch places), and Happy Salmon (where players slap arms together) will leave players doubled over in laughter.  The first player to run out of cards wins.

Exploding Kittens

  • Player Elimination and Hand Management
  • 2-5 players
  • 7+

Exploding Kittens is one of the silliest games in our collection, and is a family favorite. There are fifty-six cards in the deck. The artwork is exactly what you may have come to expect from The Oatmeal. Characters such as Taco Cat and Beard Cat make an appearance alongside original artwork on each card. The game play is quite simple; the box claims it takes two minutes to learn. They weren’t kidding.

You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple. The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out. 

This game is a lot more fun than one might think it would be. It plays very quickly and is very easy to learn.

Check out the review here.

Evolution: The Beginning

  • Engine Building
  • 2-5 players
  • 8+

The Evolution Series by North Star Games has multiple games in this line. In the Evolution games you are evolving your creatures with various traits to help their survival. Each animal needs to have enough food or they die out and can go extinct. There is something for everyone in this series. For elementary age students you can start with Evolution: The Beginning. This is a simplified and streamlined version of the game good for ages eight and up. For older children: Evolution, Flight (which is an expansion), Climate, and Oceans.

The Evolution: The Beginnings the perfect lighter family game. It has streamlined the game elements of the Evolution series. For players new to engine building board games this gives a framework for that genre of game that is easy to understand. An engine building game is where the players are building something that will ultimately produce points for them in the game. The theme of Evolution is also very engaging to a wide range of players, and can be played with a wirde range of players.

Seikatsu

  • Tile Laying
  • 1-4 players
  • 10+

Seikatsu is, without question, one of the most beautiful games we have ever laid eyes on. The game board has three beautifully painted gardens around the outside edge and the tiles are covered with paintings of birds. The box is even prettier than it has any right to be. Sitting down in front of this game is breathtaking. It only gets better as players lay tiles and the board fills up. 

Seikatsu is a tile laying game where the players are placing the bird tiles to form a flock. Players earn more points each turn for the number of adjacent matching birds to the one they place. The tiles also have different color flowers around the perimeter. At the end of the game, from the perspective of each player’s pagoda, players earn points for the number of matching flowers in each row.

The two layers of strategy are simple to understand yet challenging to master.

Splendor

  • Engine Building
  • 2-4
  • 10+

Blending a  balance of easy to learn rules and deeper strategy, Splendor is a fantastic game for older children and grown-ups alike. Splendor is a simple and elegant set collection game for two to four players. This is a game that is easy to teach, quick to learn, and will take a long time to master. The bottom line here; Asmodee has a huge hit on their hands as this has become one of our family’s favorite games.

In Splendor, players take on the role of Renaissance jewelers who are working to build their prestige and attract the attention of wealthy noble patrons. They do this by gathering resource tokens and spending them on development cards that represent new designs, tools, mining operations, and store fronts. The game is essentially a race to fifteen prestige points. Players acquire gems in order to buy mines, which in turn provide more gems (and ultimately points). While the gem-dealer theme may feel thin at times, the card drafting mechanic and  engine-building gameplay will quickly make this a family game night staple.

Check out our review here

Skyjo

  • Set collection
  • 2-8 players
  • 8+

Skyjo is a great addition to any game collection. It supports of wide range of players and scales well at all player counts. Being able to support up to eight players is a huge asset. It is challenging to find a game, which is not a party game, that supports such a high player count. Skyjo’s rules are simple and easy to learn. It fits a casual gaming and multi generational gaming setting.

Players receive sixteen cards face down at the beginning of the round they reveal three cards. On their turn a player can either draw a revealed card from the discard pile, or they can take a card from the draw pile. If a player selects a revealed card from the discard pile, they must use it either for one of their face up cards or flip over a card and use it there. Should they choose an unknown card from the draw pile, then players can either substituted for a visible card or flip a card as well.

The round ends when 1 player has revealed all 16 of their cards. One final turn occurs for the remaining players. Finally, players reveal their remaining cards and calculate points. There is a risk to ending the round, because that player must have the lowest score or their points are doubled. Additional rounds are played until one player meets or exceeds 100 points. The player with the lowest score wins the game. There is one special condition in the game.

Check out our review here.

Roll for It

  • Dice rolling
  • 2-4 players
  • 8+

Roll for It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play. The game players two to four, however by purchasing both the red and purple sets, you can increase the number of players to eight.

Game play is quite easy and takes mere minutes to explain to new players. On their turn the player completes three actions.

  1. Roll for it! The player rolls dice once per turn
  2. Match it! The player then matches the results of their roll with the dice images shown on the three face-up Roll For It! cards, ignoring results that don’t match any images.
  3. Score it! Players score a Roll For It! card as soon as they’ve matched all of its die images with dice of their own color. A card is worth points equal to the number printed at the bottom.

See our review here.

Drop It

  • Dexterity/ Abstract Strategy
  • 2-4 players
  • 8+

Some of the best family games are easy to learn, but hard to master. Drop It has very simple rules and can be taught in minutes, yet has enough strategy within the simple rules to keep it engaging for all members of the family. Do not be deceived by the bright primary colors of the game, Drop It is more than a kids game!

In Drop It, each player has a collection of shapes in one color, and players drop them down the vertical game board to try and score points. The challenge come in meeting the criteria to score points. Along the side and the bottom there are colors (or shapes depending on the set up you select) and if your piece touches the side of the same color it does not score any points. Pieces also may not land touching another piece of a matching shape or color. The player with the most points when they run out of shapes wins.

King of Tokyo

  • Push Your Luck 
  • 2-6 Players 
  • 8+

Attacking Aliens, Rampaging Lizards, Giant Robots, Mutant Bugs, and Ferocious Gorillas: this game has them all! King of Tokyo is a game for two to six players that combines a board game, a dice game and a card game. You play as one monster whose main goals are to destroy Tokyo and battle other monsters in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo!

At the beginning of the turn, each player rolls six dice. The dice show the following symbols: numbers 1, 2, or 3 (representing Victory Points that can be earned), a lightning bolt (representing Energy that can be earned), a heart (representing Healing), and a claw (representing Attack). The player with the most Attack dice goes first (the fiercest). Each turn consists of 4 steps: rolling and re-rolling the dice, resolving the dice, buying cards and using their effects, and the end of turn decision.

The fiercest player will occupy Tokyo, and earn extra victory points, but that player can’t heal and must face all the other monsters alone! When you add in cards that can have a permanent or temporary effect, like growing a second head, body armor, nova death ray, etc., you get a VERY exciting game. In order to win the game, one must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 victory points, or be the only surviving monster once the fighting has ended.

See our review here.

Fire Tower

  • Area Control and Hand Management
  • 2-4 Players
  • 15-30 minute games
  • Ages 14+

Most fire fighting games are cooperative, but in the game Fire Tower, you compete with other players to protect your fire tower from the fire and spread the fire to your opponent’s tower.

Players are working to defend their Fire Tower, the nine squares in the corner of the board, and to breach their opponents. In the Fire Tower squares fire can spread, but water and fire breaks can not be used. Players take  a range of actions depending on the card they play. There are Fire cards that spread the fire regardless of wind direction.  Water cards put out the fire in a small area. Fire Break cards create areas the fire is unable to burn, but may not be added to adjacent spots with a Fire Break. Once fire reaches the orange square in the corner that player is eliminated. The player with the last unburned tower wins.

See our preview from when this was on Kickstarter here.

Ice Cool/ Ice Cool 2

  • Dexterity
  • 2-4 players
  • 6+

Ice Cool is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. Players take turns flicking their penguin pawns through the halls. The goal is to get your pawn through open doorways to catch fish  and earn points. This is more complicated because each player takes a turn as the hall monitor who’s objective is to catch the other players. Ice Cool is more fun than I expected and the kids love it. The game board designed allows for some really interesting trick shots like flicking your penguin pawn so that you have a decent spin going and having it travel in an arc through multiple doors. You can even try to send your penguin OVER walls if you like.

Ice Cool2 is the sequel to the original Ice Cool game.  It is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. The game is for two to four players ages six and up. If you combine it with the original Ice Cool game you can play up to eight players and set up multiple layouts.  New to this game there are: Tasks on the 1-point cards, Fish-moving power on the 2-point cards, and there are optional tournament scoring.  This takes a silly flicking game and adds even sillier components to it.

Dragoon

  • Area Majority/Influence
  • 2-4
  • 13+

Dragoon, by Lay Waste Games, is a game where players take on the role of mighty dragons that are competing to build their treasure hoards on a remote island. Dragoon is a game that squeezes a lot of strategy out of a very small rule set. The game board is a cloth map and the components can come as metal or plastic. the Metal pieces are stunning and give the game a unique elegance.

A game of Dragoon takes place over a series of rounds. Each of these rounds has three different phases: Populate, Action, and Tribute. The goal in Dragoon is to be the first player to accumulate more than 50 gold at the end of the turn. Players do this by moving around the gorgeous map and choosing to either claim or destroy the settlements that pop up across it. Claiming a settlement gives a chance for gold each turn based on a die roll. Destroying it grants an immediate gold increase.

See our review here.

The EFG Essentials are reviewed and updated every few months to make sure we have the most current information for our readers. Last updated 3/27/21.

The EFG Essential Guide Collections

Check out our other Essentials Guides for great collections of games!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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This week Stephen, Amanda, and Linda are here to talk about Board Games!

This podcast is sponsored by:

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Around the Horn

Stephen – Game of Phones by Breaking Games

Linda – Fire Tower by Runaway Parade Games

Amanda – Everdell by Starling Games

Kickstarter Corner

Brancalonia

Topics

Games that make you Laugh!

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Music from https://filmmusic.io

“Android Sock Hop” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)

License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

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The Boston Festival of Independent Games is nearly upon us. Engaged Family Gaming will be on the scene with a big team and will be taking in as many games as we can. We’ve always enjoyed their Tabletop Showcase and this year doesn’t look to be any different. There are nearly fifty games in the showcase this year, but there are six of them that immediately stood out to us as games we wanted to check out.

 

Druid Dice by Geek Fever Games

Druid Dice combines match-three puzzle mechanics with dice to create a strategy game. Each player’s army is a grid of dice that they manipulate, move, and swap to gain power and attack their enemies. This is an interesting combination of mechanics so I’m excited to see how it plays out.

We love dice games at our house. The more dice we get to roll the better. So here’s hoping this one scratches that itch.

Battlecats: A Compound Deckbuilding Game by Gary Chavez

Battlecats is a card combat game where players compete using a shared deck. The goal of the game is to take turns using standard deck building mechanics to “buy” cards from their own colored decks and add them to a common deck. Each turn twelve cards are laid out and both the turn order and the available actions are determined by the order that the cards are dealt. More of a given player’s color being dealt means they get more actions and the potential for more victory points.

I think that sounds like an interesting concept to play around with. I’ve never played a game like it before.

Fire Tower by Runaway Parade

We actually played Fire Tower already at the CT Festival of Independent Games. But, it was so good that we can’t wait to play it again. This is a game where players compete to be the last player standing as a wildfire rages in a forest area between four fire towers. Players use a spinner to determine the direction that fire will spread and use cards to help protect themselves and attack their opponents.

The gameplay was great when we first got our hands on the game, but our favorite part was the game board. It was a hand-painted, watercolor painting of a forest on a black background. It was an awesome board to play on and the fact that the art was darker added to the experience.

Cake Duel by Sizigi Studios

Cake Duel is a card combat game that includes a strong bluffing mechanic. It seems like it plays like a hybrid between Sheriff of Nottingham and War. I assume that is a bit reductive, but it is a simple game. I also really liked the cartoonish art style.

I have to admit that I’m terrible at bluffing games so this might be a complete bust for me. But, it’s definitely worth a look to see if my sheepie battle skills are worth anything.

Re-Chord by Yanaguana Games

Re-Chord is another game that we got our hands on at CTFIG. It is a guitar-themed strategy game where players place colored guitar pics on a game board and try to score points based on playing different chords. This is a unique concept that plays well. We know that Yanaguana has been hard at work improving the game since we last saw it, so this will be interesting to check out.

Re-Chord will be launching on Kickstarter on September 27th so this will definitely be an important show for them.

Rainbow Octopus by Cray Cray Games

The website for Rainbow Octopus declared that it was a game that all ages could enjoy, but that featured scalable mechanics to allows players of mixed skill levels to play together. That sounds right up our alley. It didn’t hurt that our youngest thought the octagonal, Octopus game board for each player was super cute.

 

This is just a list of games that have us pumped though. You can read the full list of tabletop games here and make your own decisions. Sound off in the comments!

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Finding games that are the right fit for children aged 5 to 7 can be challenging. As they move into school age they can begin handling more in games.  Young children who are just learning to read or are beginning readers are often not ready for games with lots of reading or complex turns.  Attention spans still tend to be short so game duration is a relevant factor.

Some game in this age range are part of a movement in the game industry to make simpler versions of their games.  Ticket to Ride, and Catan have tapped into this age by creating “my first” or “junior” versions of their games.

Throw Throw Burrito

Throw Throw Burrito is a ridiculous dodgeball card game by the Exploding Kittens team. Players collect matching sets tying to be faster than their opponents . Then you throw in burritos, literally! You collect cards and earn points, however those points are lost when you get hit by the flying burritos. There are three kinds of Burrito Battles: Brawl, War, and Duel. Each has slightly different rules and nonsense ensues regardless of the the kind of battle.

Zombie Kidz Evolution

Your successes or failures affect the game in your future plays of the game, in Zombie Kidz Evolution. This is a perfect first step into Legacy games. Legacy games are played over a series of sessions and what occurrences in previous sessions permanently changes the game and can influence the next events in the game. In Zombie Kidz Evolution you are working together to protect yourselves and drive off the zombies in the school. All the staff at the school zombies. The rules start off very simply, and as the game progresses new rules and abilities are added.

Shaky Manor

Shaky Manor is a game unlike any I have ever played before, where each player is given a tray containing eight square rooms each connected by doorways. Players place an meeple, a ghost, and three treasure chest cubes into the tray. They then shake the tray to try and get the meeple and the cubes into a designated room without the ghost. The first player to do it five times is the winner. The game is noisy, silly, and loads of fun!

Taco Vs. Burrito

Taco vs Burrito is a card game designed by a seven year old boy named Alex Butler. It is the ULTIMATE food fight on game night!

Game play is straight forward. Players draw cards and add wacky foods to their taco or their burrito to earn points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins. There are gotcha cards that can mess with your opponents strategy so it isn’t THAT simple. I think the theme is funny enough and the cards are cute enough to keep me interested regardless.

Outfoxed!

Outfoxed! is a cooperative game deduction game for players ages 5 and up and for two to four players where the players are…chickens. Chickens chasing clues to catch a fox that has absconded with a prized pot pie.  What family can resist working together to solve such a heinous crime? The game includes a special evidence scanner to rule out the different fox suspects by showing if the thief is wearing a particular object. On each players turn they declare if they will Search for Clues or Reveal Suspects. They then have three chances to roll the dice to get all three dice icons to match their choice. If they success they complete the stated action, but if not the culprit moves closer to escaping with the pie.

Too Many Monkeys

Too Many Monkeys A Totally Bananas Card Game is a playful, lively game is designed to appeal to young gamers and parents alike. It is a fast paced, simple game for ages 6 and up and for two to six players that subtly reinforces math concepts such as number sequencing and probability while still allowing kids to be silly and have fun.

Too Many Monkeys is played in a series of rounds. Players are dealt out 6 cards face down. Players draw from the discard pile or the draw pile and swap it face up with a card in the position that matches the number on the card they drew. The winner of the first round gets dealt one less card at the start of the next round. All other players have the same number as the previous round. Play continues as above with players’ hands getting smaller each round. You continue in rounds until one player is down to just one card and draws the number 1 card (with Primo asleep). When that happens, Primo is back to sleep and the game is over!

Slamwich

Slamwich is a fast-paced, silly, and energetic card flipping game reminiscent of Slapjack, War, Uno, etc. The game is recommended for ages 6 and up for two to six players. Taking turns, each player takes the top card of their deck and flips it onto a center pile. If a set of criteria is met, players race to slap the pile. The combinations are easy to understand. A Double Decker-If the flipped card is identical to the card directly underneath. A Slamwich– If two identical cards have exactly one card in between them (like a sandwich). Special cards like a Thief or a Muncher add unique criteria and help to make winning more random. If a player runs out of cards, they are out of the game. Whoever collects all of the cards wins.

Super Tooth

Super Tooth is, at its core, a matching card game for ages 6 and up for two to four players. Players collect matched sets of plant eating dinosaurs. Each turn includes a “landscape” of three cards on the play area. First, the player resolve event cards, such as the egg that lets the player bring back a card that had previously been discarded. Next, they player feed or chase away meat eaters, and then ultimately choose one type of plant eater from the board.

Super Tooth relies a little on luck, but it is important for players to choose cards carefully to build matched sets and not just random cards. Players cash in matching sets of cards for tooth tokens, and the more matching cards the more tokens they earn.  The first player with 3 tokens in a three or four player game wins, and 5 tokens in a two player game wins.

Toasted or Roasted

Toasted or Roasted has you building the campfire and trying to toast marshmallows without them becoming roasted. It is for two to four players and is recommended for ages 6 and up.There are several objectives to complete in Toasted Or Roasted.  First, each player needs light their campfire by playing a Fire Starter card.  Once you play a Fire Starter card you flip your Firewood Disk over to the campfire side.  Then, each player needs to try and toast 3 marshmallows to win.  

Toasted or Roasted is a great light family game.  The game has minimal reading so it can easily scale down to players even younger than the recommended 6 years old. Roasting a competitor’s marshmallows is a light “take that” element.  Young players need to be able to handle it if someone “spoils” their marshmallow.

Hoagie

Hoagie is a fast paced game for two to five players that is recommended for ages 5 and up.  Each player is trying to build the perfect sandwich without any part getting spoiled by three oogies (pictured on the spoiled food and special action cards). Hoagie’s gameplay is very easy and takes just minutes to learn.  Each player is dealt a hand if 6 cards to start the game.  On each players turn they play a card from their hand on their sandwich or an opponent’s. Several actions with the cards can occur, but only one can occur per turn. In order to win, a player must begin their turn with a perfect sandwich, which consists of bread, meat, cheese, lettuce, and bread.

Tenzi

Tenzi is a super simple dice game for two to four players ages 7 and up that is very fast-paced. This is a great icebreaker, boredom buster, or introduction to kick off a bigger game night. The game is noisy, quick, and simple. The variations within the rules make it something that has a high replay value. It’s also nice the game does a tiny bit of teaching while still being fun. We found that it’s been playable by children as young as five while still being entertaining to adults.

Tales and Games

Iello games has produced a series of games based on classic children’s stories and fairy tales. The games look like beautiful hardbound storybooks with classically illustrated covers and spines. Each game takes about 20 minutes to play through and they all have different mechanics and designs. They and are designed to be played by players ages 7 and up.

We have included them here because they have sparked interest in the classic stories that they are based on in our household.

Ice Cool

Ice Cool is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. Players take turns flicking their penguin pawns through the halls. The goal is to get your pawn through open doorways to catch fish  and earn points. This is more complicated because each player takes a turn as the hall monitor who’s objective is to catch the other players. Ice Cool is more fun than I expected and the kids love it. The game board designed allows for some really interesting trick shots like flicking your penguin pawn so that you have a decent spin going and having it travel in an arc through multiple doors. You can even try to send your penguin OVER walls if you like.

Ice Cool 2

Ice Cool 2 is the sequel to the original Ice Cool game. If you combine it with the original Ice Cool game you can play up to eight players and set up multiple layouts. These new layout options can also become a learning tool for Physics may lead to finding which setup creates easier shots and which produce more complicated shots.

Rush-hour Jr.

Rush-hour Jr. is one player, portable, colorful, and mentally wonderful for ages 5 and up. The board is small and packed with vehicles which have set directions that they can move. The goal is to move the vehicles in a particular order to get the little red car out of the traffic jam. A negative is that every piece is important. Don’t lose them! This game is great for waiting rooms or car trips as it comes with its own board and it small enough to hold in a child’s hand or lap. The junior version has 40 challenges and 15 blocking pieces

Roller Coaster Challenge

Roller Coaster Challenge is a single player STEM game focusing on engineering for ages 6.  It come with 60 challenge card in a range of difficulty.  The player sets up the posts and required pieces on the challenge card.  They then need to design a roller coaster that travels to the bottom successfully using some of the additional posts, 39 tracks.  The roller coaster is successful if the roller coaster car makes it to the end.  This was a Toy of the Year Finalist in 2018.

Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero is a competitive  3-D stacking game for ages 5 and up and is for two to five players where players are building a tower of cards and moving Rhino Hero up the tower.  This dexterity game directs players were the wall cards need to go on each turn.  Players have wall and ceiling tiles.  On their turn, the player first builds the wall in the place indicated on the ceiling tile and then place their ceiling tile.  Actions indicated on some of the ceiling tiles and those benefit the player, such as skipping the next player.  The game ends when the tower fall, a player places their last roof card, or all the walls are built.  

Rhino Hero- Super Battle

Rhino Hero- Super Battle is the sequel to Rhino Hero.  The game is for ages 5 and up and plays two to four players. This game adds three more superheros:  Giraffe Boy, Big E. and Batguin.  The walls now come in two sizes; tall and short and there is a superhero medal.  Additionally there are spider monkeys which attack. 

The gameplay has additional steps they includes: 1. Build!, 2. Spider monkey attack (place a spider monkey hanging from the floor if there is a spider monkey symbol and see if it makes the tower fall), 3. Climb the skyscraper! by using a die to determine how many floors to climb, 4. Super battle if two superheros are on the same level, 5. Superhero medal goes to the players if their super hero is the furthest up at this phase in their turn, 6. Draw another floor card.  The game ends when all or part of the tower collapses or all the floors that are playable have been used.

Monza

Monza is a racing game for ages 5 and up and plays two to six players. Movement of your race car in this game is based on rolling six color dice.  Players must utilize strategic thinking to use the colors you roll to plan the path for your car. Players can only move to a forward space and may not enter a space with an obstacle.

This game is more thoughtful than a straight roll and move because you need to plan your path based on the colors you roll. With a luck roll and good planning a player can move six spaces. Any die that do not correspond to a color ahead of the player on the board are discarded for that turn. The first player to the finish line is the winner.

Brandon the Brave

Brandon the Brave is a tile placement game for ages 5 and up for one to four players, where you are a knave desiring to be a brave knight like “Brandon the Brave”. Knaves prove their intuition and skills by completing tasks.  To do this players place field tiles and are trying to match colored crosses.  These crosses represent a location of a completed task and the color needs to match one color of the task card. As players lay tiles a jousting arena may be build. The player who places the sixth tiles completing the arena gets to place a task card in the center.  The game ends once a player completes all their task cards or all the field tiles are placed.

Coconuts

Coconuts is a dexterity game for ages 7 and up for two to four players where you are launching coconuts with your monkey and trying to land them into baskets in the center.  When you land a coconut in a basket you get to place the cup on your game board.  To win you need to collect 6 baskets and stack them into a pyramid on your board, but there are not enough baskets in the center for everyone to collect.  You need to try and steal from your opponent by landing a coconut in their basket. An added component is the basket are red and yellow.  Should you land in a red basket you get to take a additional shot.

The Magic Labyrinth

The Magic Labyrinth is a memory and grid movement game for ages 6 and up and plays two to four players. In this game you are playing apprentices that have lost various objects, which are now in the Magic Labyrinth.  The twist is there are invisible walls!  Players must move and remember where the wall are when they or a competitor hits a wall.  A series of wooden blocks in a grid under the gameboard create the walls.  The walls are movable so the maze can be different each time you play. The pawn is magnetic and a ball sticks to it. If you hit a wall the ball falls off an rolls to one of the trays on the side and you go back to the start corner.

At the beginning of the game players draw a few lost objects tokens and place them on their corresponding picture throughout the maze.   A players landing on the space with a token they get to keep it.  A new token is then drawn out of a bag and placed on the board.  The first player to collect five objects wins.

Catan Junior

A popular game which has been simplified for younger gamers is Catan Junior.  This is a route building  resource management game for ages 6 and up and is for two to four players.  Like the original Settlers of Catan you are collecting resources based on the numbers that  come up with each roll. These resources used to build or get Coco the Parrot cards which provide resources or the ability to build at no cost. Instead of building settlements, cities, and roads in the full version you are building pirate ships and hideouts.  The first player to build seven pirate hideouts wins.

Ticket to Ride: First Journey

Ticket to Ride: First Journey takes the formula of its predecessor and strips out several of the more complex concepts in favor of a streamlined experience that can be played by kids who are even younger! We have always said that the Ticket to Ride series was accessible to savvy kids, but this new version is even better.The map is simplified also. The game board is large, and the various cities are larger and more defined.  Each of the cities includes a colorfully illustrated image associated with it. The winner is the first person to finish six routes. This game teaches players the general flow of a game of Ticket to Ride without the burden of some of the finer details of the senior game.

Dr. Eureka

Dr. Eureka is a logic and dexterity game for ages 6 and up and is for two to four players.  It was originally published as an 8 and up game, but in later publications changed to a 6 and up game.  In this game you are taking molecules (balls) in a test tube and need to combine colors to correspond to a challenge card.  The dexterity challenge is you can not touch the balls and cannot drop them!  The round ends when one player has their molecules match the formula exactly, and they call out “Eureka”. That player gets the cards, but players do not reset their test tubes.  The players begin the next round with the configuration the ended the previous round.

This game is great for multiple ages and skills because you can scale the rules to add challenges for more advanced players, and eliminate rules as needed.  There are also several variants that add different challenges to the game.

Cauldron Quest

Cauldron Quest is a cooperative game that will fit right at home in any house full of Harry Potter fans. It is for players 6 and up and plays two to four players. 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. Players need to get the correct three ingredients to the center before the wizard blocks all six paths.


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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