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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.

Dragomino

The game Kingdomino took the boardgame world by storm winning the Spiel De Jahres in 2017. Now there is a My First version that is for players ages five and up, with a dragon theme. Dragonmino takes the same tile drafting and placement mechanism, and simplified it further for younger players. With each match with the tiles players earn a dragon egg and are trying to collect eggs with baby dragons inside.

Dragon’s Breath the Hatching

Dragon’s Breath The Hatching fits into two categories: Games for Young Gamers and If You Like. Haba took the popular Dragon’s Breath game, which is a great game for young gamers, to the next step. The Hatching is a versatile addition to any family’s game collection. It can be a stand alone game, or expansion to the original Dragon’s Breath game. As an expansion it adds a fifth player.

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.

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.

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.


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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
  • Age 8+

Buy Ticket to Ride on Amazon!

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
  • Age 8+

Buy Sushi Go on Amazon!

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. Then 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. 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.

The Crew

  • Trick Taking, Cooperative Strategy
  • 3-5 players
  • Age 10+

Buy The Crew on Amazon!

Multiple award winner, the 2020 Kennerspiel Des Jahres and 2021 American Tabletop Casual Game, the Crew combines two unique gaming styles, cooperative game play and trick taking. Players take on the roll of a space crew trying to complete missions. The rule books tells the story of each mission as well as the conditions players need to follow to succeed. Once a mission is completes successfully players can move on to the next mission. The game has 50 mission, which increase in intensity both within the story and in the requirements needed to be successful.

The Crew does a great job of adding small elements to each mission to make the difficulty increase. It is done in a gradual way that keeps the game approachable for families. For a small game, and modest number of components there is a lot of game packed into the small box.

Abandon All Artichokes

  • Deck Builder (Deck Deconstruction)
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 10+

Buy Abandon All Artichokes on Amazon!

Winner of the 2021 American Tabletop Early Gamers category, Abandon All Artichokes has you build your hand of garden vegetables by deconstructing your deck of artichokes. In Abandon All Artichokes, players start with a hand of all artichoke cards. The goal is to abandon their artichoke cards and create a hand with other vegetables from the garden.

This is a great deck builder game for players new to that style of game, and has been referred to as a “my first deck builder” While the game is rated for age 10 and up this is a game that can scale down to slightly younger players. The non-artichoke vegetable cards have text with the actions the card allows. Young players being able to read the cards is helpful.

Qwixx

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

Buy Quixx on Amazon!

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. Players must choose carefully once you cross off a number you can not go backwards.

Kingdomino

  • Tile Laying
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Kingdomino on Amazon!

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
  • Age 10+

Buy Forbidden Island on Amazon!

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. Which reveals 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 leads to huge variety and replay value. The difficulty can be scaled to all abilities based on how high the water level starts the game. 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
  • Age 8+

Buy Pandemic on Amazon!

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
  • Age 8+

Buy Tsuro on Amazon!

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+

Buy Zombie Kids Evolution on Amazon!

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.

Happy Salmon

  • Party Game
  • 3-8 players
  • Age 6+

Buy Happy Salmon on Amazon!

Happy Salmon is a great game for motivating your family to get up, laugh, and shout their way through a game. The rules also suggest being creative for a silent mode in locations where shouting is too disruptive. Each player gets 12 cards in their personal deck with three of each action card and the players who stand around a table. Each player shuffles their deck and flips it over so only one card is visible.

Once play begins, all players simultaneously say the name of the action on the revealed card. They are trying to find another player with a matching card. If no one has the same card the card moves to the bottom of their deck. 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 Five, Fish Bump, Switch it up (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
  • Age 7+

Buy Exploding Kittens on Amazon!

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
  • Age 8+

Buy Evolution: The Beginning on Amazon!

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. It can be played with a wide range of players.

Block Ness

  • Area Control/Basic Resource Management
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Block Ness on Amazon !

Loch Ness Monsters are taking over the Loch, in Block Ness by Blue Orange Games. Players are vying for the limited space and trying to make their monster the longest before running out of room. To keep space limited and challenging at all player counts the number of players impacts the size of the loch (play space).

Each player gets 12 segments of their color monster, including a head and tail. Each segment is slightly different, they vary both in length and height. As players add to their monster, they can place a new piece horizontally or vertically only. Monster pieces can also (and eventually will need to) go over other monster pieces. The must be taller than the existing piece to cross over.

Block Ness is a great family game, and it plays well multi generational. The rules are very easy to learn and only takes 15 minutes to play, making it a great addition to family game collections.

Splendor

  • Engine Building
  • 2-4
  • Age 10+

Buy Splendor on Amazon !

Splendor

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! 

Skyjo

  • Set collection
  • 2-8 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Skyjo on Amazon!

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 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 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.

Drop It

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

Buy Drop It on Amazon!

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 
  • Age 8+

Buy King of Tokyo on Amazon!

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
  • Age 14+

Buy Fire Tower on Amazon!

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.

Dragoon

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

Buy Dragoon on Amazon!

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.

For Young Gamers

Rhino Hero

  • Dexterity
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 5+

Buy Rhino Hero on Amazon!

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
  • Age 4+

Buy Animal Upon Animal on Amazon!

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
  • Age 4+

Buy Hiss on Amazon!

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
  • Age 3+

Buy Sneaky Snacky Squirrel on Amazon!

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
  • Age 4+

Buy Hoot Owl Hoot on Amazon!

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.


The EFG Essentials are reviewed and updated every few months to make sure we have the most current information for our readers. Last updated 7/31/21.


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!

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Nintendo has set itself apart in the gaming console world by focusing on accessibility and family games. Features have been added to some games to make them more approachable for younger and inexperienced gamers. The Nintendo library includes many games rated E, but that does not tell you the difficulty rather it only is a measure of the content. The EFG Staff has put together a list of games that are more approachable to young gamers, specifically those who are beginning readers.

Games with Accessibility Features

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey is one of the best switch games available. Mario is well known and his games are well-loved

Odyssey takes steps to be more accessible by including an assist mode that tells you where to go and gives you more health. One of our editor’s sons played through the game and finished it at around age five. some of the platforming challenges were difficult, but since there were no game overs he never felt defeated. 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 

Mario Kart is on this list for two reasons. First, it is an amazing game that everyone will want to play together. Second, unlike past Mario Kart games (I’m looking at you Mario Kart Wii) it has accessibility options that make the game much easier to play. You can turn on an Auto Accelerate, which makes it so you don’t have to hold down the A button to go. Having to hold a button the whole time can be very hard for small hands. Additionally, you can turn on auto-steering. This feature makes it so you cannot go off-road, and it keeps you facing forward. You can have both of these on at once or choose one.

Great Games With Reading Help Required

Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu/ Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee

Kids everywhere recognize Pokémon, with Pikachu and Eevee as some of the most well known. After Pokémon Go had such wide popularity, Nintendo took the feel of that and turned it into a console game. The quests are simple, and the game allows players to just run around, explore, and catch Pokémon. Unlike other Pokémon games, players do not battle their Pokémon to catch them. Instead, they can befriend them by feeding them berries, making them easier to catch with Pokeballs.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is an interesting beast. It is perfect from a content perspective, but the game can be challenging depending on your personal goal within the game. 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is about making a villager and building a community on a deserted island. You explore collect bugs and decorate. There is no real conflict in the game. All of the characters are friendly, anthropomorphic animals. Each day the player is given a small list of tasks to do. This is a great game to play in short bursts and still feel like you accomplished something. It also teaches kids about lists of tasks by rewarding them for completing said tasks each day.

The real challenge is going to come if more than one person wants to play the game. Each Switch as One island and everyone on that switch shares it; meaning if your five-year-old places a tree in front of your house, the tree will be there when you log on. This means that in order to progress everyone will need to work together. This can be challenging when you have players of different age groups.

Another challenge is that only one player gets to make decisions about the island. That happens to be the first player. One family in the EFG team had their 7 year old start the game before her mother. Due to the design of the game, it meant the 7 year old was the one making decisions and getting to experience the “story” Her mom was frustrated by not being able to do things with the island decision wise and ended up having to log on to 7 year old’s account to make progress the island. The lessons learned have been an asset to other families. Our advice it to carefully plan who is the first one to start Animal Crossing New Horizon. With careful planning the who family can enjoy playing on their island.

Games with Online Play

Nintendo does a great job to try and make their online game experiences as family-friendly as possible. Even with the best precautions, there is always a chance something inappropriate could be missed by the filters. Our recommendation is to just be aware that the filters are not flawless and to proceed with online play with that understanding. The following games have online play as a core component, but all these games have some aspects which can also be played offline.

Minecraft

Any five year old who has had exposure to older kids or youtube will be exposed to minecraft. The survival mode will be too challenging for most, but ht ecreative mode will be just right. The creative mode in minecraft makes you invincible lets you fly and gives you unlimited resources of any typee, this turns minecraft into a sandbox where you can build anything that your iomaginatiuon can cook up..Since all of the blocks in minecraft are the same size minecraft is a great place to learn about patterns and 3 dimensional shapes.

Super Mario Maker 2

Activate creativity by creating your own Mario levels from different Mario editions in this “sandbox” game. There are multiple modes of play including: Make and Play your own Mario Levels, Make Together (on the same screen),Play Together (on the same Switch), Story Mode, Online: Share and Download levels, plus compete or cooperate online too. For younger gamers the story mode, make and play your own levels, and play together are the best starting places. Those are also the safest, since players do not interact with any strangers.

Arms

Fighting games that are family friendly can be extremely hard to find. Arms portrays fighting in a lighthearted and approachable way for players of all ages. There are many different combinations of buttons and motions with the joycons to execute the different fighting moves. While the game walks you through each move once, players can go back and look up moves as they get more comfortable. This is a game that a novice (such as our board game editor ) or young gamer can jump right in an play.

Splatoon2

Splatoon 2 is a shooter that even young kids can play. The Squid kids (Inklings)shoot paint and try to cover the largest area. This competitive game has many new tools that open up the more you play and level up. Additionally, there is the option to play locally or online. This is one that anyone can jump in and play. The local play is a great way to get comfortable with the controls before joining a game online and participating in a turf war.


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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Here at Engaged Family Gaming we want to help you with your holiday shopping.  These are some of our favorite new games for a range of ages and gaming styles.  For additional ideas of games that would best suit your family or friends you can check out recommendations by age articles, which are linked at the bottom of the gift guide.

Azul

 

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Azul is an abstract game for two to four players ages eight and up, and won the 2018 Speil De Jahar. Players are working to replicate the design on their board.

Azul plays in rounds. Players score points as  they place their tiles.  Adjacent tile or completing a column or row on their “wall” earn additional points.  The game ends when one or  more players have completed a row by the scoring phase of a round. This is a beautiful game and a great addition to anyone’s game collection.

Photosynthesis

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Photosynthesis is a beautiful science-themed game that features the tree life cycle and a rotating sun to collect light points. The game plays two to four players ages eight and up. In Photosynthesis the sun moves around the board three times and players plant and progress trees through their life cycle to collect points.  The trees are three dimensional and provide a beautiful visual as the forest “grows”.

Photosynthesis plays in rounds. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase. The game ends after the sun makes three complete revolutions around the board.  Points are then calculated based on scoring tokens and unused light points.

See our review here.

Go Nuts For Donuts

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Go Nuts For Donuts is a card drafting and set collection game for two to six players ages eight and up where players are trying to collect the best donuts to eat.  Player bid on the different donuts available in the donut row. Players bid in secret, and at the end of the bidding players may only collect those donuts where they are the sole bidder.

Each kind of the 21 kinds donut ( and two beverages) has either points it gains you, an action you can take immediately upon retrieving the card, or both. The kinds of donut cards available to players increases with the player count. While the game is recommended for ages eight and up, it can be scaled down to age five by reading the text on the cards for them and a little coaching.

Funky Chicken

Funky chicken, which is found in a chicken shaped carrying case, is more or less an expansion to Happy Salmon. It is for three to six players ages six and up, and includes four new moves:  Swing, Bump, Spin, and Funky Chicken.

Funky Chicken is a great party game where everyone is laughing and being silly.  At the encouragement of the publisher North Star Games the Engaged Family Gaming team successfully combine Happy Salmon and Funky Chicken into one massive silly game! 

Monster Match

The Monster Match Game is a matching game for two to six players ages six and up. A series of cards are laid out on the table, and players roll a pair of dice. One of the dice represents an number between zero and five. The other will show either eyes, arms, or legs. Players then race to pick an card featuring an monster that has the appropriate number of arms/legs/eyes indicated on the dice. The game is adorable, fast, and accessible for almost all ages. Each card has a stack of doughnuts on them and the winner is determined by who has the most doughnuts on their total cards at the end of the game.

Forbidden Sky

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Forbidden Sky is the next installment in the Forbidden series by Gamewright.  It is a cooperative game where players work to lay tiles to create the paths on a floating platform in the sky.  As players build, large and small circles are created on the board and they lay disks.  Players also  lay circuit components. Meanwhile, players are trying to survive against the wind and lightning.

As in previous Forbidden games each player has a role with special powers, and players are all trying to get the the rocket before the circuit is complete to indicate it takes off. Completing the circuit lights up the rocket and includes sound effects.

See our reviews of the predecessors:  Forbidden Island, and Forbidden Desert

 

Queendomino

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Queendomino takes the Kingdomino game that we recommended in last year’s holiday guide (click here for the 2017 guide )  and adds several interesting elements to it.  In Queendomino there is a new land tile and that tile that allows you to place buildings. These buildings can give you a range of perks including, knights, towers, and crowns.  In each round if player has the most towers or matches another player in number of towers they get to have the queen visit their lands and the player enjoys some perks from her presence. This is a great tile laying game for two to four players ages ten and up with elements beyond just basic tile laying.

Ice Cool 2

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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.

Rhino Hero Super Battle

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Rhino Hero- Super Battle is the sequel to Rhino Hero and is a dexterity game where you build a tower with the cards.  The game is for ages five 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 playable floors are used.

Roller Coaster Challenge

 

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Roller Coaster Challenge is a single player STEM game focusing on engineering for ages six and up.  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.

Additional Resourced by age:

Games for 2-4 year olds
Games for 5-7 year olds
Games for kids 8 and up 

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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Roller Coaster Challenge is a STEM single player game that is great for kids ages six and up. It includes cards with 40 challenge. This article will walk you through the process to complete a challenge. We received a request for clarification on how to play from a reader when we featured the the game in our article Games for Beginning Readers. Confessions time, I have terrible spatial relations, so I had the help of my son to complete the challenge below.

If you do not already have a copy, buy Roller Coaster Challenge on Amazon!

Step 1: Select A Challenge Card.

There are four difficulty levels Easy, Medium, Hard, Very Hard. The cards are all numbered, and each card is slightly more challenging as the numbers increase. Each card has the starting locations of some of the pieces, and the other pieces that are needed to complete the challenge are at the bottom of the card.

Pieces needed for Card 10

Step 2: Place the Starting Pieces Per the Card

Use the icons on the card to set up the initial board. Some of the icon can be confusing at first. As you get more familiar with the pieces it become faster to pull and set up the beginning pieces.

Step 3: Complete the Challenge Using the Remaining Pieces

Using the pieces listed at the bottom of the card complete the roller coaster so the ball can go from the top to the bottom. This can take much trial and error. If you really get stuck the answer is on the back of the card.

Step 4: Test Your Roller Coaster!

See if your coaster makes it to the bottom!

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to complete one challenge, you can go thought the deck to more and more challenging setups. These steps are also applicable to other games by Thinkfun. There are an array of challenges and themes in Gravity Maze, Laser Maze, and Circuit Maze.


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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Blurble is a game all about racing and talking.  So many of us love to talk and this gives us the chance to put that talking to good use. In Blurble, players race to say a word first that starts with the same letter as the picture on the card. North Star Games published Blurble, which takes about 15 minutes to play, is recommended for ages 8 and up and plays 4-8 players

Game Components

Blurble contains 348 colorful cards with a wide range of pictures. An Exercises booklet included gives many ideas for other ways to use the cards beyond the game.

Gameplay

To begin a round, players select one player as the Blurber.  This person puts the deck between them and the player to their left.  First, the top card is flipped over, and then two players then go head to head racing to first shout out a legal word starting with the same letter as the picture. The other players act as referees. They determine who said their word first and if it meets the criteria to be a legal word. The card goes to the winner, and the card scores a point. The Blurber then moves to next player clockwise around the table until that Burbler has raced every player.

The next round begins by moving the roll of Blurber to the left.  Play continues until all players have been the Blurber twice in a 4-6 player game or once in a 7 and 8 player game. The player with the most points wins.  The rules also state that in the case of a tie the youngest player wins.

The criteria that qualifies what is a legal word in this game is very straight forward.  First the word must start with the same letter as the picture. Secondly, the word must be in English. Finally, each word is only playable once per game.  Additionally for the restrictions the word cannot be; a proper noun, a number, an acronym, or have any part of the name or the card or answer overlap (for example rain and rainbow).

Rule Variants

The rules also offer multiple rules variants. There are two  variants for playing with younger children against an older player.  The first suggestions are that the younger player does not have the same restrictions on their words, just that it begins with the same letter.  The second variant has the younger player following the standard word rules, but the older player has additional restrictions, such as it must be a noun.

Game play variants can add some different flavor to the game.  The variants include; King of the Hill, The Thief, and The Brainiac. 

  • King of the Hill: Each race winner becomes the Blurber. The game plays to 10 points.  
  • The Thief:  All players may jump in when an illegal word is used and try and steal the card by providing a legal.
  • The Brainiac: Players further limit the criteria on what makes a legal word for all players.

Family Gaming Assessment

Blurble allows play with multiple ages and skills by adjusting the criteria of a legal word, and the recommended ages 8 and up and without any changes that age works well.  In playing with a kindergartener (age 5), he could not come up with a word quickly so for children who are pre-readers or beginning readers this may require some customization of the rule to best use the game. Blurble takes minutes to teach and can play up to 8 players making it great for a gathering of family or friends.  Scaling criteria of a legal word accommodate multiple skill levels within the same game.

I think it is an asset of the game that the rules can be so adapted and flexible.  The one rule I encountered, which I questioned is the rule in the event of a tie. The rules state that in that instance the youngest player would win.  In this case I disagree with that default. I would much prefer a final head to head between the two players to determine a winner. Choosing the youngest player to win is arbitrary. The rule could just as easily said the player with the longest hair wins in the event of a tie.   

Educational Exercises

Blurble contains a booklet labeled Educational Exercises. Within it explains other uses of the cards in Blurble as an educational tool for parents and teachers.  Activities are categorized by type, and then further broken down by age.  As a primary teacher, I found these great ideas to utilize the cards in a range of other activities. The activities include Object Identification/Vocabulary, Spelling, Storytelling, Identifying Characteristics, Information Retrieval, and Group games. These activities range for ages 2 (with object identification) to age 11 with storytelling. The activities suggested could be helpful for Home School lessons, centers in a classroom, or skill reinforcement at home.

The educational opportunities are quite extensive with the range of quality pictures on the cards.  There are additional possibilities for educational activities using the Blurble cards beyond the Educational Exercise suggestions.  Some possibilities include sorts, phonic feature identifications, and story starters.

Conclusion

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Blurble tailors to accommodate multiple skills and ages within the same game and provides a great deal of flexibility on how to play. This is a good party game with the ease of learning, and the player count up to 8.  The additional educational activities available utilizing the game cards exponentially adds the opportunities to interact with the components of the game.

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The PC Gaming Show leading into E3 showed off a lot of independent titles. While most of the reveals were for mature related content, we found some family-friendly games that we think you would be interested in. Take a look below and see what we mean. 


Satisfactory

Satisfactory is a first-person building game much in the same vein as Minecraft, but with a focus on production and simulating science and engineering. Build giant machines to make things to make bigger machines. That plastic container? You are going to need to build pipes and pumps to draw oil from beneath the ground. I wonder what this games equivalent to “punching trees” will look like?



Neo Cab

Neo Cab is a suspense story set in a cyberpunk Uber. Narrative constraints can often lead to interesting possibilities in storytelling, and this seems to be an entire story set in the cab driving through ruined neon streets. I look forward to seeing more from this as the trailer was family friendly, and I am hoping the rest of the game is too.


Star Control Origins

Star Control Origins is a science fiction open world exploration game with a splash of humor. Star Control Origins is billed as a 100% explorable game where the entire universe is simulated at all times, While small in scale it is trying to do what No Man’s Sky failed to deliver, in giving a fun endless exploration of the universe as well as solid multiplayer content.

Puyo-Puyo Tetris

Puyo-Puyo Tetris is a mashup of the Nintendo classic as well as a franchise that is very popular in Japan and has seen moderate success in the States. It is a game that combines both puzzle styles into a single experience. Puyo-Puyo itself feels, to myself, like a cross between Dr. Mario (placing rotating two color pieces), and the chain combo systems of candy crush and its progeny (where clearing matching colors can cause other sets of pieces to fall into place, scoring and clearing more pieces). You can’t go wrong with the classics.


Morning Star

I want to know more. I would call this a farming sim, but there is a lot more than meets the eye. Farming seems to be a metaphor for something else in this game. Just watch the trailer and halfway through you will realize why I am at lost for how to describe it.


Jurassic World Evolution

Yo, this is “Roller Coaster Tycoon” with dinosaurs.  You create your park, breed and genetically modify your dinosaurs while trying to balance profit, safety and pleasing the different factions in your leadership team. This is as close to that dream as I can imagine were are going to get without an actual Jeff Goldblum and/or Chris Pratt. (Correction from the readers: Jeff Goldblum is technically in the game. He does voice acting as his Ian Malcolm character.)


Stormland

Oculus Rift. First Person. Open World Exploration Game. Robots in a distant future exploring a broken land. Did I mention this was in VR?  Exploding Robots worked to keep Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles family friendly, it can work for Stormland.


Sable

Single player, open world, desert exploration, a love child of Hiyo Miyazaki and Journey. This game is just plain gorgeous and looks action-packed.  I hope to see more from this two-man development team in the future.



Noita

“An action roguelite where every pixel is simulated”

This game is going to be fun, and to tell you why I have to explain that opening sentence from the developer. “Action roguelite” is a style of game where a person, in this case, a wizard, explores endless dungeons in a quest further within, with each death forcing them to start over from the beginning (with some resources carrying over to the next adventure). “Every pixel is simulated”: imagine a cartoon where the entire animation and drawing, including every background feature, was redrawn for every frame of animation. What you get is a setting that is designed to be constantly reactive and destructible, paired with wizards who have all of their spells turned to 11.


Ooblets


Double Fine makes a Pokemon Game. I have said previously that you can tell where people have drawn their inspiration, but the sheer beauty and whimsy of what I saw in this trailer had me bobbing to the pace of my wacky young protagonists. Why have monsters fight when they can have… a dance battle? The blocky pixelated art is just detailed enough to show all of the adorable expressions on every creature and townsfolk. This one is also coming out for Xbox One as well, which is an added bonus.

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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If you love games and books this is the best combination.  Bring Your Own Book by Gamewright is a hilarious combination of judging phrases and book quotes.  The game is for three to eight players and the larger the group the crazier and funnier it becomes.  Bring Your Own Book is recommended for ages 12 and up.

Game Components

  • 100 Prompt cards
  • 1 60 second timer

Gameplay

Each player needs to bring a book to the game.  It can be any book from an encyclopedia to a picture book, to a gardening book.  The gameplay is very straightforward and players take turn being the picker.  

At the beginning of a round the picker starts by drawing the top card off the Prompt Card deck.  There are two prompts on each card and the picker selects one to read to the group. Second, the other players seek through their book for a word, phrase, sentence(s) that satisfies the prompt.  Third, the first player to find their text calls out I’ve got it!”. This starts the 60 second sand timer for the rest of the players to finish finding their passage.

Once the 60 seconds ends players take turn reading their passage and the picker judges which one is their favorite and awards the card to the winner.  The first player to four cards in a 6-8 player game or the first to five in a 3-5 player game is the winner.

Family Game Assessment

For children 12 and up and adults this is a wonderful family game, especially for family gathering.  The rules and gameplay are so simple and easy to teach that even the occasional gamer can feel comfortable.

Due to inferencing, this is a difficult game to scale down well, but some depth is lost with younger players. With younger players the resulting book lines may not be as relevant or they may need extra time to find a text to read.  It is essential that all players be fluent readers and familiarity with the book is helpful.

Bring Your Own Book plays well with tweens or teens mixed with adults. This game is also a great way to include adults or older kids that want a simple game.

Conclusion


Bring Your Own Book is a fun light game that is great for a group or party setting.  The game can play up to eight, but that number could easily be expanded by playing teams.  It is a wonderful game for integrating reading and gaming.

 

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Mommy Monday!

By: Jenna Duetzmann

“Summer is here. Yay! No school, no homework, no sports! We can do anything we want!”

Did you hear something similar from your kids a few weeks ago? Did they have EPIC plans like Phineas & Ferb at the beginning of the summer? Did all of those epic plans get foiled by the recent monstrous, oppressive, humid heat wave? If your kids are like mine, I’m pretty sure they begged to stay inside all day with your iPad, their Nintendo DS, their PS Vita or whatever electronic game system they could get their hands on.

I’m not going to deny it, I was tempted to give in and let them play games all day. And why not? The games are fun and fast paced with exciting challenges. And it would have kept them still and relatively quiet. But then my rational brain kicked in. We all know that when children and teens spend an excessive amount of time in front of the TV, computer, or hand-held games, it takes away from the time they could spend playing, exercising, and learning.

This is not to say that electronic gaming is all bad. We should not completely cut off a child’s access to these activities, but help our children find the balance between playing games and spending time in independent activity, outside time, and exercise.

So, what should we do?

Simply pulling the plug and banning games is silly. It leads to anger, frustration, and endless confrontations. I know I don’t look forward to seeing my own stubbornness reflected back at me from my child’s face.

Here are a few of my favorite tricks to bring balance back during the summer. Each and every tip helps you engage with your child so that real life outside of the game becomes as much fun as the game itself.

Play a video game with your child:

Have your child pick their favorite video game and give it a try with them. You may find the game fun, or challenging, or completely inane. But, you are playing with your child and building a relationship with them and acknowledging that their interests are important to you. You are engaging them. You are spending time with them. Remember, building trust encourages their willingness to respect you and listen to you.

Create a long term project/activity for your child (even better if it’s based on their favorite game):

My two older children LOVE the Angry Birds franchise. We’ve come up with a summer project that involves arts and crafts, building, and physical activity. We are currently building an Angry Bird course in real life. The project involves painting shoe boxes and cardboard boards and foam pieces to represent the bricks, boards, and other obstacles. Next we are going to create a sling shot and some paper mâché pigs. We’re going to use stuffed birds in the sling shot, and…you get the idea. My kids are super excited to work on this project!

Bring out the old fashioned board games & card games:

Sometimes it is just too hot or rainy to play outside. If I don’t want to be outside, I can’t blame them for wanting to stay in the house, right? This is the perfect time to pull out family favorite games like Monopoly and Clue. Or, you can find modern favorites like Hide and Eek and Headbandz. Or, you can even teach your children Rummy and Poker. There are many educational lessons to be learned in these types of games. They include Interaction, Cooperation, Numeracy Skills, Literacy Skills, Patience and Gamesmanship. There is a reason you loved these games as a child. Introduce them to your child and watch them fall in love too. It’s amazing how much fun stimulating your mind can be.

Play outside:

Please don’t simply tell your child to “Go outside and play!” While the imagination of a child is wonderful and amazing, it needs to be stimulated. Make sure you provide something for your child to do outside, or they’ll be bored and resentful. Have plenty of sports equipment available like a football, whiffle ball and bat, basketball and soccer ball. A used sports equipment store or children’s consignment store can be a great resource. Teach your child to play badminton, volleyball, horse, or around the world. Draw a four square court or hopscotch game with chalk on your driveway. Have plenty of sidewalk chalk available. Make up a simple scavenger hunt. Create a beanbag toss out of cardboard. Fill up water balloons. The options are as endless as your own creativity or Pinterest will let you be. And, most importantly, join in whenever you can. This will show your children that you value outdoor play as well

Go to the library:

Most libraries have a summer reading program complete with contests, games, special events and prizes. If that’s not fun enough, search for books to read to/with your kids about their favorite games or cartoon characters. You would be surprised to see how many early readers their are about Super Mario, Pikachu, Marvel Heroes, Lego Heroes, Sonic, and Spyro. A good Children’s Librarian can point you in the right direction.

Play a game with their favorite video game as the subject:

We all remember playing ‘avoid the lava pit’ games with sofa cushions, milk crates, cardboard, or whatever else was handy. Why not turn this kind of play into your child’s favorite platform game? Make a Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Mega Man, Ratchet and Clank, or Little Big Planet theme. Just do some quick Wikipedia or Google research about the main characters and obstacles and you’ll have the knowledge to use the appropriate lingo to make these simple games way more exciting and relatable to your child. Now, another BIG option under this subject is to find a game that has toys built in. There are 2 relatively new and major games that have this feature. The first is Activision’s Skylanders franchise, and the second is Disney’s INfinity franchise. Both games are video games that include action figures for your child to play with. The action figures interact with the games and can be used as stand alone toys. We’ve had many adventures with block forts and Skylanders in our household. These games allow your child to bring their imagination to life.

 Actively helping your child to spend less time playing video games requires more engaged and hands-on time from parents. This isn’t is easy with today’s time commitments and schedules. But, the best way to bond with our children and get them the balance they need is to spend more time with them and play with them.

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