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Our first stop at Toy Fair was to the Gamewright booth. We got to see a bunch of games that have just released or will be out later in 2019. One thing Gamewright is doing this year is taking two of their popular games and created new games with different gameplay elements.

Sushi Roll

For any fans of Sushi Go, Gamewright has re-imagined it into a brand new game Sushi Roll! In Sushi Roll each player rolls a set of dice and chooses which to add to their plate. The remaining sushi pass to the next player on a conveyor belt. Then each player rolls their new dice before choosing which to add to their plate. The player board lists the point values for each kind of sushi. The game includes scoring tokens as well, so players who enjoy Sushi Go, have the option to use them there as well. Sushi Roll releases later in 2019.

Rat-a-Tat Roll

Rat-a-Tat Roll is the second popular game to be re-imagined. The same aesthetic and core game element remains the same, but there is a big change, namely the board and rolling dice. The original Rat-a-Tat Cat is strictly a card game. In contrast the new Rat-a-Tat Roll game included as board that players move around, and try and gather cards with the lowest score. Rat-a-Tat Roll releases later in 2019.

This Game Goes to Eleven

Gamewright has taken this simple counting game for two to five players, which given it a light heavy metal theme. This Game Goes to Eleven is a Target Exclusive, and is for players ages eight and up. Players discard cards in their hand and add the numbers as they go. If the pile of cards is exactly eleven after you play your card, you give the whole pile to another player. On your turn, if your card bring the total over eleven you get the pile too. The player with the least cards at the end wins. This Game Goes to Eleven is available now.

Bloom

Roll and write games a very popular right now, and Bloom is a great one in that genre. In Bloom you are trying to gather flowers of the same color and quantity as on your sheet. On your turn you roll the dice and choose which color and number best matches the flowers in your garden. To end the game, a player must have three colors of flowers where they circled all the flowers of those colors, or completed four garden beds. Bloom releases later in 2019.

Whozit?

Whozit? is a cooperative party game where there is a clue giver and the other players are trying to select a person or character from a pool of six. Players give clues by placing statements on a continuum from “definitely” to “definitely not”. Each correct answer moves a pawn along a small board, and players can see how well they have done at the end of the five rounds of the game. Whozits? releases later in 2019.

Port-A-Party

Everyone needs a silly party game in their collection, and Port-A-Party fits that bill. Players add or take away different attribute cards. The attributes are sorted by color and players try and name a person who meets all the criteria of the description, all while being timed. Port-A-Party releases later in 2019.

Punto

Tiny and in a portable tin Punto is a great game to take on the go. Players are trying to build a consecutive row in any direction of six of their color cards. Players may not build beyond a six by six grid, and can place their card on top of another players if they have a higher valued card. Punto will be released later in 2019.

Guju Guju

If you are looking for a silly game to play with young children check out Guju Guju. Fruit cards are placed face up in the center, and each player has a hand of additional fruit cards. Players do not know what is in their hands. Before flipping a card players must guess the fruit, if they are right a fruit frenzy occurs where they try and place as many fruits cards down as possible on the banans before all the bananas are covered.
Guju Guju is available now.

Quixx Deluxe

Quixx Deluxe takes this favorite roll and write and super sized it. There are now dry erase boards to mark your score instead of the typical consumable pad. The original game only plays up to five players, and Quixx Deluxe can support up to eight. An additional way to play is included in this edition, which is available now.

Twin It!

Speed is the name of the game. Twin It! has players quickly flipping cards trying to make matches. Keep a close eye out, there are 119 different patterns and some are very similar. The game also has three modes of play: cooperative, cooperative, or team. Twin It! is available now.

Dragon Realms

Gamewright is putting out Dragon Realm, which is the next chapter in the world of Dragonwood. Minimal details are available about the game. We know the name and there was a box for the game, but no specifics about gameplay or components. Gamewright is anticipating a launch of the game at Gencon in August.

Keep your eyes on EngagedFamilyGaming.com for more updates and reviews!

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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GameWright Games was at New York Toy Fair  this year, just like normal, and it was my pleasure to take a look at their 2018 games. Their full 2018 slate was there, with the sole exception of the cooperative game Forbidden Sky.

I was treated to brief demos of most of their games this year. All of them are cute and many of them will do very well, but my attention was drawn to two specific games that I think you need to hear about.

Trash Pandas

Trash Pandas - Gamewright Games

Trash Pandas is a push your luck card game where players take on the role of raccoons digging through a neighborhood’s trash.

The first part of the game involves rolling dice in order to collect tokens that determine what actions are available. There are six tokens representing possible actions that you can take on an turn. You roll a die and claim the token that matches the symbol that comes up. At that point you can either move to the next phase and spend your tokens to take those actions or roll again to try to earn more tokens. If you roll a symbol that has already come up, then you bust and your turn is over. Taking actions will allow you to draw cards, bank them for points, or mess with your opponents. The game ends when the deck runs out of cards.

This is a game that is firmly nestled in Internet meme culture. Trash pandas is a term for raccoons that showed up on Reddit. It has just been almost universally adopted by users across the Internet. Its funny, its vaguely descriptive, but most importantly, it gives you an idea of the sense of humor that this game is built around. It is juvenile, but not crass. This lighthearted fun is involved in every part of the game from the artwork all the way to the terminology used on them. It even influences the box art. Trash Pandas will be releasing sometime in early 2018 and we can’t wait to get our hands on it.

 

Squirmish

Squirmish - Gamewright Games

Squirmish is a a card combat game that we reviewed before it was launched on Kickstarter several years ago. The highlights of the game at that point was its square cards, the quirky art design, and interesting combat. This is a new track for GameWright to take because normally they don’t focus on games that involve combat. Instead, they favor games that focus on either cooperation or gentle competition.With that said, this game fits perfectly with GameWright’s other offerings by being lighthearted, silly, and fun.

Combat in Squirmish involves playing square-shaped cards onto the table creating a spiraling battlefield that is referred to as a Squirmish (shocker. I know.).We had our issues with the game initially before the game went to Kickstarter, but most of them were about game balance. GameWright has come through and smoothed out the design. They redesigned the game to make it faster and more aggressive.

Squirmish will be released sometime in 2018 and we cannot wait to get our hands on this new and improved game. Keep your eye on EFG for more information.

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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Gamewright announced their 2018 lineup of games today. This year their releases range from a preschool game about collecting ice  and a colorful cooperative card game that rewards smart communication. The games will be on display at this year’s New York Toy Fair which will take place from Feb. 17-20th. Take a look at their lineup below and let us know in the comments if you see anything that catches your eye.

 

Chill Out!

A “refreshing” new pre-school game, with dice that look like ice.

Chill Out - Gamewright Games

“Fun on the rocks! A bevy of freshly-squeezed drinks waits to be served – all they need is ice!  Roll the color die, choose a matching tray, and scoop up the ice cubes. Then drop them one at a time around the board, hoping to land some in your cup. Snag a blueberry for extra points, but watch out for slippery hands trying to snag your cubes! Fill up the frostiest float and you’re the coolest!”

  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 5+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $16.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018

Trash Pandas

A raucous raccoon-themed card game, the latest in our signature card game line.

Trash Pandas - Gamewright Games

“Trash is treasure! In this raucous card game, paw through the deck to find sets of day-old pizza, half-eaten candy, and other luscious leftovers. Roll the die to tip over the garbage or raid a rival’s rubbish, if there’s no Doggos standing guard. The more you roll, the more actions you can take – but get too greedy and your turn is scrapped! Stash the most trash and you’re pick of the litter!”

  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $12.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018

Long Cow

A hilarious new card game, packaged in a milk carton that actually “mooos!”

Long Cow - Gamewright Games

 

“It’s the moo-mentous card game of competitive cattle construction! Build cows by collecting heads, tails, and middles from the deck. The longer the cow, the more points you score. Bolster your barn with holy cows, robot cows, and even a cross-bred Franken-cow. But make hay before your herd is hit by a tornado, or worse- an alien abduction! Round up the biggest bovines and party like the cows came home!”

  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $16.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018

Zoinx!

An “all or nothing” dice game, packaged in our popular “Qwixx” box.

Zoinx - Gamewright Games

“It’s high-rolling hijinx with this game of dicey decisions! First, all players secretly predict how many dots they think you will roll. Then shake the dice and keep rolling as long as you meet your target. But push your luck too far and Zoinx! – you lose everything and the points go to the players who bet against you!”

  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $11.00
  • Availability: Now Shipping

Squirmish

A humorous “card battling” game, featuring a cartoonish cast of odd-ball brawlers.

Squirmish - Gamewright Games

“Enter The Squirmish, a ridiculous rumble where creatures clash and only the strangest survive! Draft an odd-squad of warriors with names like Kittyclops, Pompaduck, and Killgore the Conqueror. Then position them into the melee and roll to attack. Each of seventy scrappers has its own preposterous powers, so you’ll need strategy – and a bit of luck – to survive! Knock out the competition and become the beastie boss!”

We actually previewed Squirmish while it was on Kickstarter before Gamewright picked it up!

  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $16.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018

Cahoots

A colorful new cooperative game where communication is key.

Cahoots - Gamewright Games

“In this colorful card game, cooperation is key! Play cards to one of four piles by matching color or number. Work together as a team  to complete a series of goals – without communicating what’s in your hand. Can you make all piles purple or green? Every card lower than four? All cards add up to 10? There’s only one way to win before time runs out: play in cahoots!”

  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $15.00
  • Availability: Spring 2018

Say It!

Our latest Port-a-Party game, where crazy combos lead to hilarious answers.

Say It - Gamewright Games

 

“It’s the frantic party game where crazy combinations lead to laugh-out-loud answers. Draw a pair of prompt cards, and then compete to shout out the most entertaining response. What’s “something sticky”… “that you find in the couch cushions?” Or “something shocking”… “you know too much about?”  Don’t delay it,  just Say It!”

  • Players: 3-8
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $10.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018

Sneaky Cards 2

A second wave of missions for this best-selling “play it forward” game.

Sneaky Cards 2 - Gamewright Games

“54 brand new missions! Become a secret agent of joy, spreading creativity and kindness to an unsuspecting public. Give a stranger flowers, challenge someone to a dance-off, throw an impromptu surprise party. Complete each objective and then pass along the card to an unwitting accomplice, who now becomes part of the game. The fun is ever-expanding, but it all starts with you – Play it forward!”

  • Players: 1+
  • Ages: 12+
  • S.R.P.: $10.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018

Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think! Which of these games are you looking to pick up?

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

Bring Your Own Book

bring your own book

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

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

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

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

Sushi Go Party!

sushi go party

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

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

Go Away Monster!

go away monster

 

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

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

Babba Yagga

baba yaga

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


 

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

 

Cardventures – Stowaway 52 and Jump Ship

 

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

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

Skiwampus

 

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

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

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This year at the NY Toy Fair there will be a lot to see. Manufacturers showing off the newest innovations in toys and games… We’re excited to see what they have to show us, and one of our favorite publishers, Gamewright, has given a sneak peek!


Check out the new cover art!
Turns out in addition to the publication of Farm Fresh Games’ Super Tooth which we announced earlier, there are some other amazing things coming our way.

First off, Sleeping Queens will be getting a brand new 10th Anniversary Edition! This new edition will come in a tin (like Sushi Go!) and will be complete with never-before-seen queens and kings and exclusive stickers! So, if you are like me and your child has managed to bend every card as the Rose Queen and the Star Queen talk over an imaginary picnic lunch, this is a great way to upgrade.

Rory’s Story Cubes is getting another release of it’s popular Mix expansions which were released around Christmas. So, as you roll your story, you can search your house for clues, or take a stegosaurus on a boat, or have Batman meet his fairy godmother! I’m pretty excited to check out Enchantment, Clues and Prehistoria for myself!

To give you a background, Gamewright is known for its commitment to surprisingly fun family games. We don’t have to suffer through Candy Land and Cootie for the 10,000 time. They take concepts that are fun for children and they mix them with strategy and gameplay that even boring, old adults can be entertained by. So, needless to say, while we’re excited about the games we’ve played before getting some new life, we’re REALLY excited about the new games they have coming out!

Sneaky Cards - Play it Forward
Have you ever thought about doing something silly, like taking a picture with someone you’ve never met, or dancing where EVERYONE can see? Well, Sneaky Cards – Play it forward, is a game that lets you do just that. It’s a scavenger hunt where you pass an activity on to the next person… playing it forward. It’s a very interesting concept game where every move is a social experiment!

Outfoxed! A Cooperative Whodunit Game
So, one thing we know Gamewright excels at is cooperative games, with titles like Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Island it’s almost a given that we’d be interested in Outfoxed! Outfoxed! is a cooperative game for players ages 5+ where the players are… chickens. Chickens chasing clues to catch a fox that has absconded with a prized pot pie (let’s hope it’s vegan), what family can resist working together to solve such a heinous crime? I know mine can’t!

Go Nuts! The Completely Cracked-Up Dice Game
The only thing that can follow a game full of poultry intrigue, is one about squirrels. Go Nuts! is a dice game where you want to collect as many nuts as you can, while dodging cars, and before your opponents can send the dogs after you! It almost sounds like Zombie Dice for fans of the fluffier game protagonists.

Flashlights & Fireflies - A Game of Shine and Seek
We don’t know too much about Flashlights and Fireflies. According to Gamewright: “Get ready for a backyard dash-through-the-dark in this game of firefly-powered flashlight freeze tag! First, catch fireflies to power up your flashlight. Then shine it on other players before they sneak back to home base. All along, watch out for bats, raccoons, and other nighttime critters that are out to trip up your tracks. Be the first to reach home and you’ve outshined the competition!” I would guess that it is a board game, but I’m not sure – I guess we’ll need to find out once we see it!

Dragonwood - A Game of Dice and Daring
Now here is where I get really excited. Dragonwood is a game that promises to be reminiscent of all of my fantasy-based tabletop roleplaying games. Building a hand of adventurers while fighting goblins and orcs and dragons (Oh my!) with a constantly changing strategy? This game could be amazing! And knowing Gamewright‘s dedication to making games that encourage the whole family to play, I have to say I’m excited to play a roleplaying-like game and to NOT have to be the Dungeon Master!

So, that’s Gamewright‘s line-up for 2015! I’m looking forward to most of these titles from what I’ve learned so far, I can’t wait to get a chance to actually play!

Wondering about other Gamewright games? Check our our reviews here!

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Super Tooth

In September, backers of the Super Tooth Kickstarter received their games and began playing in the prehistoric world of the dinosaurs.   As backers we were SUPER excited to get to play! Who wouldn’t love to play a game matching cartoon dinosaurs?

Of course, if you weren’t among the 239 backers for this project, you’d have to know someone who was to play.  Sadly, if you didn’t know a backer you’d never know the joy of protecting your pair of Apatosaurs by feeding a Parasaurolophus to an errant Spinosaurus.  Upset?  I know I would be.

BUT there is a light at the end of the tunnel (and it isn’t an asteroid), Farm Fresh Games has announced that Gamewright  has picked up Super Tooth  for publication and distribution in 2015!  The new printing  will be premiered at the New York Toy Fair and will be available in stores that sell Gamewright games shortly after that!

Wondering what all the hype is about?  Check out our review of Super Tooth here!

 

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Wondering about other Gamewright games? Check our our reviews here!

 

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The “8 and up” game category opens up a whole new realm of gaming options. Game become less “kid games” and more “kid-friendly”.  At this age, reading cards is no longer a concern and the kids can handle more strategy and steps per turn.  The number of games at this age level absolutely explodes and there is no way to include everything.  This list includes some of our favorites, but there is so much more to play! 

Skyjo

It is a perpetual challenge to find a game that can be played with a small or large player count. Skyjo fits the niche of being played with up to eight players without being a party game. It is the first game from Magilano.

Skyjo is a set collection card game for two to eight players were your goal is to get the least amount of points per around.   The recommended age is for eight and up. The game does scale down especially once children can understand the negative cards by relating them to take away. Unknown cards in front of each player and fifteen different cards to reveal, gives Skyjo just enough suspense to provide just a bit of tension in the game.

See our review here.

Last Defense

The city is under attach from various threats ranging from Spider Robots to Space Aliens. Players take on the roll of citizens work together in this cooperative game to try and save the city, and they only have 20 minutes. The game has a companion app that is required for game play. Players clear ruble and free the scientists so they can defeat the monsters attacking. One of the unique features is that one of the playable characters is Good Dog. It is so cool to be able to play a hero that is not a human.

Drop It!

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.

Dungeon Drop

Dungeon Drop achieves this simplicity in an elegant and clever way: it skips the entire concept of a game board.

The titular “Dungeon” in Dungeon Drop is created by dropping an assortment of colored cubes onto the play surface. Each colored cube represents a different object ranging from grey pillars (which help form the rooms) to orange keys, and green Boblins. On their turn, each player sprinkles a few more cubes into the playing field to mix the dungeon up a bit, uses a player power based on their race or class, and “loots a room” by choosing three grey pillars in the play area and collecting all of the cubes inside the triangle that creates. This simple gameplay loop can be taught in a few minutes and gameplay is fast.

See our Kickstarter Preview here.

What Do Meme Family Edition

What Do You Meme is a hilarious game that invites players to create funny memes using a stack of funny pictures straight from the deepest corners of the internet and a huge deck of caption cards. The problem is that the original version of the game is a bit… grown-up for our tastes. The good news for all of us is that there is a bespoke Family edition of the game that replaces the sex and drugs with fart jokes (which just makes it all around better in my opinion). Just look at the box. It’ll all make sense. This is the definitive edition of the game!

Starlink

Try and seal your victory in Starlink by creating constellation. This party style drawing game is engaging and can play three to six players. Players draw a secret word and on their turn they need to try and draw the secret object by connecting stars. Players earn bonus points for fitting their constellation inside the telescope circle.

This Game Goes to Eleven

This Game Goes to Eleven is a perfect light family game. While recommended for ages eight and up, the game scales down for younger children that can do simple computation up to eleven. The game is extremely easy to teach at has very few rules. Players on their turn merely have to select one of the three cards in their hand to play and try to strategize with those limited choices. This is a good fit for young gamers or non gamers with simple and streamline rules.

See our review here.

Timeline 

Timeline is a competitive game for two to eight players that takes about 15 minutes to play. Players begin with at least four cards to start, and reveal a single card. Each card is two-sided, with a matching picture on each side, however; one side has a caption describing the picture like “The invention of the Electric Iron” and the other has the year “1882”.  In order to play the game players must find the correct place on the timeline for their card without seeing the year printed on the back.

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

See our review here.

Dixit 

Dixit, a storytelling game for three to six players.  It requires that you come up with a description of your own surreal card that also leaves your opponents guessing. First, each player is dealt six incredibly beautiful cards. The storyteller (active player) chooses a card and describes it with a word or phrase. Your opponents then select one of their cards that matches your description, trying to trick the other players into voting for their card. The Storytellers and the other player cards are shuffled and displayed face up.

Players secretly vote for the card they think is the Storytellers using color-coded chips. If everyone guesses your card, all your opponents gain 2 points and you gain none. However, if no one chooses yours, your opponents all gain 2 points and you still get 0!  Should one or more person guesses my image I get 3 points and they get 3 points, plus a bonus for anyone choosing their card.

See our review here.

Kingdomino

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

Photosynthesis

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 and takes 45 minutes to an hour to play. 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. Standard play is three rounds. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase.   Each tree that is not in the shadow of another tree earns Light Point  You then earn a scoring token based upon their location on the board, which represents the richness of the soil.

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.

Tsuro

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 last player left with a dragon on the board is the winner. 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.

Evolution the Beginning

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 wide range of players.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket To Ride is a two to five player game with a nicely designed heavy cardboard map of North American train routes. 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.

See our review here.

Dragonwood

In Dragonwood players take on the roll of adventures traveling and defeating creatures, collecting items to help on your adventure.  This all occurs while players deal with events cards as they come up and ultimately earning the most victory points.  Dragonwood incorporates set collection and hand management and is for two to four players.

At the beginning of the game five cards from the Dragonwood deck are laid out in a landscape.  These cards include the magical creatures, enhancements, and events.  On their turn players may draw an adventurer card or  try to capture a card from the landscape by striking, stomping, or screaming.  Players collect sets of adventurer cards and can play them to earn the number of dice equal to the number of adventurer cards they use. Players then roll to see if they can roll a total number equal or greater to the number on the card for the attack they selected. The game ends once the adventure deck has been played through twice or the two dragons in the deck are captured.  The player with the most victory points wins.

Go Nuts For Donuts 

Go Nuts For Donuts is a card drafting and set collection game for two to six players where players are trying to collect the best donuts to eat.  Since there is no sharing in this game, player are bidding on the different donuts available in the donut row. Players bid in secret and at the end of the bidding only can collect those donuts with a single bidder.  This brings in an element of  strategy with bidding. 

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. The game ends when there are not enough cards to complete another round of bidding and the player with the most points wins.

Sushi Go

 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 hands, 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 pass to be used by someone else.

As is, Sushi Go! is a fun game to play with your children or even with your adult friends, even if you don’t like sushi!

See our review here.

Sushi Go Party

Sushi Go Party takes the best of  Sushi Go and adds more. It plays two to eight players,and comes in a bigger tin that shows off more cute sushi rolls. The main gameplay difference is that players spend the first bit of the game choosing which cards to include in the deck that everyone drafts. There is no established rule in the book for determining which cards are selected either. The rule book includes eight deck suggestions, and players can come up with their own interesting combinations.

Sushi Roll

Sushi and dice are a winning combination you will not find on any menu, and Sushi Roll takes the popular game Sushi Go and instead of card drafting players draft dice. The game is for ages eight and up and can play two to five players. Like it predecessor it is easy to learn and quick to play.

Sushi Roll is a great game to learn the mechanic of drafting. The game has a very simple drafting mechanic using dice. In card drafting players need to remember what cards they saw as the hands were passed. With the dice, the information about available dice is open to all. This open information allowed for more coaching to new or younger players while learning the game.

Monopoly Gamer

Monopoly Gamer is a must see for any Nintendo fan.  Nintendo elements infuse through the game, and the gameplay is vastly different.  Power-ups give players the ability to collect coins, force opponents to drop coins, and move forward. Coins replace the paper dollars, and are used for everything. Passing Go now has player activating Boss Battles, and these Boss Battles will reward the victor with additional coins for the end of the game, as well as some fun treats like a free property, or stolen goods from an opponent.

With all of these added features and a significantly faster pace, Monopoly Gamer feels like a game Nintendo and Parker Brothers can be proud to have their names on. The ability to add additional player characters is also a great way to add replayability to this one.

See our review here.

King of Tokyo

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 specialized dice. 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

Food Fighters

Food Fighters is a 2 player game. This game is a player elimination style of game with some fun dice rolling mechanics as well as a bit of card drafting and component collecting opportunities. The rule booklet is fun and well laid out. The game mechanics are clear and well balanced(though the power cards initially felt uneven, further game play changed our opinion).

On their turn, each player completes three actions- a) Roll for Beans or Swap fighter tiles or Attack b) Spend Beans to buy a tool from the pantry c) Allow opponent to repair their formation. After these actions are complete, play passes to the opponent. The ultimate goal is to be the first player to knock out three matching enemy fighters. This is great strategy battle game that plays quickly and is easy to learn and explain to other players.

See our review here.

Azul

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

At the beginning of each round players select tiles from a factory display represented by  circles with four tiles on each or the center discard pile. Players each take one design and discards the rest to the center pile. The selected tiles are placed in pattern lines. There are one to five spaces for tiles in each pattern line. Extra tiles are placed on the floor line and score negative points at the end of that round.  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.

Zombies Keep Out

Zombies Keep Out is a cooperative games for one to six players. Like all cooperative games there are MANY ways to lose and only one way to win. Players must collect parts and build 3 contraptions while facing nearly insurmountable odds as each player’s turn increases the urgency of the situation! The interesting dynamic that Zombies Keep Out has that sets it apart, is that the player who draws the aptly named “Terrible Things” card must choose between 3 options of many possible occurrences that do their title justice.  As the game progresses. “Terrible Things” become “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” Things.

The pool of zombies (it is actually a literal swimming pool full of zombies) depletes, and the option of being bitten becomes more and more probable.  Biting adds a very kid-friendly scale of terribleness. The bitten player looses the ability to speak normally and their decision making is increasingly hindered with additional bites. Any bite past the third will turn you into a full fledged Zombie, groaning continuously.

This game is immensely enjoyable and the cartoonish characters will be a quick favorite of most children. Zombies Keep Out is basically the answer to the question on all of our minds: what happens after Pandemic?

See our review here.

Hanabi

The game is simple.  Hanabi is the Japanese word for Fireworks, and you are pyrotechnicians who have accidentally mixed up all of the parts of your fireworks display and now — THE SHOW MUST GO ON!  You have to work together to create the best display you possibly can despite your myriad of mistakes! The kicker is, you can’t look at your own hand!

Your teammates can give you limited information about your hand as their turn, but if you misunderstand and play the wrong firework, it can be disastrous!

The game is immensely challenging, and really makes you consider every move!  While the recommended age is 8+, this game mechanic seems to lend itself to older players.  It requires patience, reading your team-mates and figuring out how best to convey half (or less) of the picture to your fellow “fireworkers”.  Hanabi teaches simple strategy and teamwork in a somewhat high pressure environment where you don’t have access to all of the variables at play.

See our review here

Santorini

In Santorini players take on  the roll of builders to create beautiful towers with two to four players.  On each turn, players move one of their two builders to an adjacent space. Players are then required to build on a neighboring space. Players are trying to complete a three level building and have a worker standing on top of it.  The first player to accomplish this wins the game.  Buildings may be complete it with a dome, and that blocks players from placing their worker on it.  

Santorini also incorporates god and hero powers into the game in the form of Greek gods and heros.  These god card allow for special actions or a change in win conditions. The god cards add a unique variability to the game.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is a medieval France themed tile laying and area control game for two to five players. Players are trying to build features and have their followers (meeples) on features to score points.

Players take turns taking a tile and placing it against a matching feature, such as city, road, and fields. There are also monasteries, which sit in the middle of fields. Players score points for: completed roads, completed cities, surrounded monasteries, and completed fields.  When players run out of tiles the game ends and players get partial points for incomplete features.

Carcassonne is well know for its many expansions and versions.  The current base game now include two mini expansions: the River and the Abbott. At the time of this writing the Z-Man Games website had 8 expansions for sale.  There also is a big box versions which contains the base game and 11 expansions. Additionally, there are three stand alone games with different settings and themes.

Pandemic

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.

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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Spending more time at home is the new normal right now. With some families facing distance learning, the uncertainty of in-person learning being disrupted as schools are closed, there is a tremendous amount of stress, worry, and exhaustion. One positive we can take is many more of us are finding we have time to spend quality time around the table playing games. This creates a perfect time to unwind. Below are some games that can help families come together and relax at the end of the day.

Face the Uncertainty

Pandemic

First we have the elephant in the room, Pandemic. When local governments began shutting down schools and not essential businesses, there were families that reached for this game, and shared pictures online. Playing Pandemic at this time may or may not be right for you. Some people felt it gave them a sense of control, in a way they do not right now. If this game is a favorite in your house it may be a good time to dust it off. See the review here.

Beautiful Games

Noctiluca

In a remote jungle there can be found Cerulean Pools beautiful luminescent Noctiluca. Players take on the roll of divers collecting these Noctiluca in jars. The neat twist to the game is to collect the dice (Noctiluca) you have to select a number shown on the dice, and collect all in a straight light from the edge of the pool to the center with that number. However, on the jar, the numbers are irrelevant, only the color matters.

Wingspan

Wingspan gets a lot of criticism for being “overhyped.” I guess that might be true? It did build a lot of hype before most of the people on Earth had taken a single turn, but a big part of that was the simple beauty of the art on the cards. Each card features a different bird and the art looks like it came from an ornithology textbook.

Seikatsu

Seikatsu is, without question, one of the most beautiful games I 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.

There is even a version with pets!

Lanterns

Lanterns is a tile laying game which also incorporates color matching and set collecting.  Players are decorating the lake for the Harvest Festival in Imperial China. They collect cards based on the color lanterns that are oriented towards them on the lake cards.  Then players cash in sets of the lantern cards to make a dedication. These dedication cards each have a number, and the player with the highest number of dedication points at the end wins.  The game is beautiful as you expand the lake covered in lanterns as tiles are added.  Gameplay is very easy to learn, and the easy steps on each turn make this game great for the whole family.

Azul

Azul is an award winning game designed by Michael Kiesling. It took the gaming world by storm in 2018.  This is an abstract strategy game where players compete as artisans hired to decorate the walls of the Royal Palace.  Players must plan ahead and carefully draft the correct quantity and style of tiles in order to achieve the highest score all while being careful not to create waste for the next round. 

Sagrada

There is something uniquely breathtaking about the sun beaming through a stained glass window. In Sagrada dice represent the glass pieces. Players draft to meet the color and share requirements of their window and public as well as private objectives. The game boards only look more and more stunning as the windows are build.

Comfort Food, Your Old Favorites

Ticket To Ride

I can’t think of “comfort food” board games without Ticket to Ride crashing right to the front of my brain. Ticket to Ride became the first “real” board game bought for the EFG board game library., when the decision was made to cover board games. I remember opening it and looking at the board in bewilderment. Initially I found the rules confusing by, but after two turns I felt like a pro. We have shared TtR with everyone possible and I cannot WAIT to get it to the table again. See the review here.

Sushi Go

In the fast-paced world of a sushi chef, you must be the most creative and the fastest of all to be the best! Will you serve Nigiri with Wasabi, or create Maki rolls in quantities never before imagined?  Did you remember to serve dessert?  Find out if you are cut out to be the best in Gamewright’s popular card game – Sushi-Go!

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. See the review here.

Tsuro

If you are looking for an excellent and simple introduction to the genre of tile laying and path finding games, look no further than Tsuro: The Game of the Path. It is an Asian themed game with beautiful dragon tokens and a pretty box and board design. The object of the game is to keep your flying dragon token on the board longer than anyone else’s. As the board fills up this becomes a challenge because there are fewer empty spaces. Other player can purposefully change your path to an undesirable one. See the review here.

Kingdomino

Kingdomino , the 2017 winner of The Spiel Des Jahres (The Game of the Year), combines the universal simplicity of dominoes with kingdom building. Players draw domino shaped tiles and lay them out in their 5×5 block kingdom. The goal is to sort their kingdom to that they have large contiguous biomes (lakes, forests, etc) to earn points. The gameplay is quick, easy to teach, and the game ages down very nicely.

Splendor

Blending a  balance of easy to learn rules and deeper strategy, Splendor is a fantastic game for older children and grown-ups alike. 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” feel to the gameplay will quickly make this a family game night staple. See the review here.

A new version was recently released that merges the Marvel Universe with Splendor. The theme of collecting gems work so well together. It is a version to check out if you are a fan of Marvel.


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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As parents, we are all familiar with the world of edutainment. We are bombarded with choices daily- from the endless ABC Mouse commercials to the learning description at the introduction to every Noggin cartoon to the countless app ads on our smartphones. How do we know which choice is right for our children? Do these things even work?

Learning Styles

Before we go into the actual games, we need to discuss learning styles. Your child’s learning style will determine the type of game they will be most likely to enjoy and get the most out of. The three primary learning styles are Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Kinesthetic Learners. Visual learners are going to enjoy games with lots of graphics, bright colors, fun artwork, and maybe charts. Auditory learners will enjoy games where they get to listen to snippets of stories and hear others have discussions about different aspects of the game. Kinesthetic learners enjoy games where they get to be hands-on that have lots of pieces to move and manipulate. It’s good to think of the people you are going to be playing with to come up with the best game for your group.

Eduplay Games

While this article focuses on mainstream family-style games that are available at big-box retailers, we would be lax if we didn’t mention that there is a huge world of board games designed specifically for classroom learning. These games are designed to drill down and reinforce specific learning concepts like letter recognition, language acquisition, phonics, reading comprehension, storytelling mechanics and so forth.

Lakeshore Learning and Edupress are staples in the educational field. We’ve played a few games in this style, and they do not have the spark that we like to have in our games. Unless you were using your gaming time as a type of additional homework, we don’t find the replay value to be very high or the desire to play to be very high. But, there is no denying that this type of game is a useful learning tool. They at least add a skin of fun over traditional learning.

Here at Engaged Family Gaming, we have come up with 12 games that are a lot of fun to play that teach some of these Literacy concepts as well.

Games with Literacy Concepts

Scrabble 8+ (Vocabulary Development and Letter Arrangement)

Scrabble, by Hasbro games, is a classic for a reason. It has retained its popularity through the years (think Words With Friends) because it is fun to play and challenging. In case you’ve never played Scrabble, it is a word game in which two to four players score points by placing tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a gameboard which is divided into a 15×15 grid of squares. The tile must be placed in a crossword pattern (words flow left to right in rows or downwards in columns). The words must be standard and acceptable words in an agreed upon dictionary. Players score points based on the numbers on their letter tiles and can add bonuses from cues on the gameboard.

Scrabble has many variations, including a Junior version designed to help younger kids with letter matching and recognition. This is a great game for kinesthetic learners because there are small pieces to manipulate which these learners LOVE to handle.

Bananagrams 7+ (Vocabulary Development, Letter Arrangement, Time Management)

Bananagrams, by Banagrams, is a similar game to Scrabble, but it doesn’t require a game board, pen, paper, etcetera. It is a letter tile game that comes in a fun banana shaped zip up pouch. It is easily portable and gives you more freedom than Scrabble because you play independently for speed while making your individual crossword board. There are no complications from trying to get the perfect spot on the board, or waiting for a slow player to make a decision, or from losing out on the triple letter space. This game moves quickly because you are working against a clock. There are some unique challenges and ways to manipulate game play which add some fun elements into the game and can allow you to put a crimp in your opponents’ play. In our playtests of this game, we found that this game can be more of a challenge for younger players because it lacks some of the structure built into Scrabble, but some of your outside the box players will enjoy this one much more.

Much like Scrabble, this game appeals to kinesthetic learners because of the tile manipulation. Also, since there is no game board, please make sure to play this one on a smooth surface. The tablecloth became way more of a hindrance during play than any of us anticipated.

Rory’s Story Cubes 8+ (Language Development, Vocabulary Development, Story Sequencing, Storytelling)

Rory’s Story Cubes, by Gamewright, is a pocket-sized creative story generator. The original game comes in a box with 9 cubes (dice) with different images on each side. Players simply roll the cubes and let the pictures spark their imagination and tell a story out loud based on the pictures on their cubes. There are several expansions to the base game with different themes (actions, voyages, clues, Batman, intergalactic, etc.). There are infinite ways to play with Rory’s Story Cubes. The rules suggest playing solitaire or with others. The 8+ age suggestion is misleading. This game can definitely be played with younger players.

We’ve used this game as a party game or ice-breaker and I’ve used it to work with my youngest on speaking & listening skills. My oldest finds a way to use these as story starters for creative inspiration in his writing activities. They can also help early learners with literacy development and problem-solving. Again, because this game involves dice rolling, it is great for kinesthetic learners. And, because the stories are told aloud, we’ve had great luck honing our children’s auditory learning skills with this game. Finally, because of the creative images on the cubes, this game works as a great inspiration for visual learners. All around, these are a terrific learning tool to add to your arsenal.

Fitzit 10+ (Language Development, Vocabulary Development, Reading Comprehension)

FitzIt, by Gamewright, is a card based party game where you play a card with a simple statement on it. The player has to name an object that fits the attributes on their cards and then play them to the grid. The more cards you play, the faster you score. Gamewright has a few party games in this style, but we like this one because it is simple to play, plays very quickly, and the statements are easy to read for early readers. Again, the 10+ guideline is a bit misleading. Our early readers love this game because it encourages creativity, imagination, and helps them reinforce their reading comprehension skills. They players’ answers require your child to display an understanding of the words they read to come up an object that makes sense.

In a Pickle 10+ (Language Development, Vocabulary Development, Reading Comprehension)

In a Pickle, by Gamewright, is game of creative thinking and silly scenarios. Players try to win a set of cards by fitting smaller things into bigger things (there’s some juice in a pickle, in a supermarket, in a parking lot). Play the fourth word card to claim the set, unless one of your opponents can trump with a larger word. The player with the most sets at the end is the BIG winner! This game is more abstract than FitzIt and really encourages creativity and imagination. The scenarios get very outrageous and it requires players to think outside of the box and invent options that seem preposterous. The silliness is fun for kids, but we think the 10+ guideline on this one is accurate because of the challenges in making the words fit.

Last Letter 8+ (Vocabulary Development, Letter Recognition, Picture Cues, Time Management)

In Last Letter, by ThinkFun, each player gets five cards featuring intricate, fun, and brightly colored illustrations. Players must race to come up with and shout out a word from one of the picture cards in their hand. The word MUST begin with the last letter of the word previously called. The first player to get rid of all of their cards will win the round. This game is an awesome game for visual learners! The fast paced nature of this game might make it more challenging for younger players who are slower to process what they are seeing in front of them. If play around the table gets too excitable and loud, you may lose younger auditory learners as well. But, be prepared to be surprised by the creative words kids come up with from the images that adults would not normally think of.

Smartmouth 8+ (Letter Arrangement & Recognition, Vocabulary Development, Time Management)

In Smartmouth, by ThinkFun, players race to make the best word in 60 seconds. Players roll the die to determine the word category, slide the Letter Getter to reveal two letter tiles and, using those letters, shout out a word that fits the given category before the timer runs out. The player who calls out the first word and the player with the highest-ranking word both collect a letter tile for the round. Once all tiles are gone, the player with the most tiles wins.

The categories of adjective, verb, natural objects, famous people, man made objects, etc. help reinforce language skills learned in school. The game includes dice rolling and manipulating the letter tiles and the timer and slider which will appeal to kinesthetic learners, while the picture cues on the dice will appeal to visual learners. Because answers are shouted out loud, auditory learners will be engaged as well.

Zingo 3+ (Letter Arrangement & Recognition, Vocabulary Development, Picture Cues, Time Management)

Zingo is a new classic with a few different variations of the game available. It’s like Bingo with a fun twist. The original Zingo is a matching game that encourages pre-readers and early readers to match pictures and words to their challenge cards. The Zingo! Zinger dispenses tiles as players race to be the first player with a full card and yell “ZINGO!” With two levels of play, this matching game builds language skills through fast-paced play. This game is designed to develop early literacy skills for very young players. Zingo Sight Words and Zingo Word Builder are also available and these games introduce more challenging literacy skills. Our children request these games regularly and LOVE to play them. While these are learning games at their core, they use fun and exciting game mechanics to keep young players engaged!

Letter Tycoon 8+ (Letter Arrangement & Recognition, Vocabulary Development)

Letter Tycoon, by BreakingGames, is word game for 2-5 players that can best be described as a cross between Scrabble and Monopoly. Players take turns forming a word using a seven-card hand and a three-card community card pool, scoring money and stock rewards based on length and letter strength in their word. When enough of the alphabet has been claimed, players finish the current turn, then score all money, stock and letter patents owned. The game has an awesome antique look and style that really appealed to my family. Letter Tycoon’s game mechanics were easy to understand and fun to play, but our younger players had difficulty competing with adult players. The game aesthetic really appealed to us more than other games in this genre and encouraged discussion about some of the historical and antique aspects mentioned in the game.

PaperBack 8+ (Letter Arrangement, Language Development, Vocabulary Development)

Paperback, designed by by Tim Fowers, is a Word building/Deck building game with an aesthetic that completely immerses players in the world of writing and story building. The cards are uniquely illustrated and fun. Players are supposed to be an author trying to finish kitschy paperback novels. They compete to complete Westerns, Science Fiction, Romance or even a Crime Noir.

There is no age recommendation for the game, but we have found that the player should be at least 8 years old to grasp the game mechanics. Players start with a deck of letter cards and wild cards. Each hand they form words, and purchase more powerful letters based on how well their word scored. Most letters have abilities that activate when then are used in a word, such as drawing more cards or double letter score. Players buy wilds to gain victory points. This game functions similarly to the other word building games in this list and emphasized the same skills but it has the added game mechanic of a deckbuilder.

Dixit 8+ (Language Development, Story Sequencing, Storytelling, Picture Cues)

Using a deck of cards illustrated with dreamlike images, players select cards that match a title suggested by the “storyteller”, and attempt to guess which card the “storyteller” selected. Each player starts the game with six random cards. Players then take turns being the storyteller.

The player whose turn it is to be storyteller looks at the six images in his or her hand. From one of these, he or she makes up a sentence or phrase that might describe it and says it out loud (without showing the card to the other players). Each other player then selects from among their own six cards the one that best matches the sentence given by the storyteller. Then, each player gives their selected card to the storyteller, without showing it to the others. The storyteller shuffles his or her chosen card with the cards received from the other players, and all cards are then dealt face up. The players (except for the storyteller) then secretly guess which picture was the storyteller’s, using numbered voting chips. If nobody or everybody finds the correct picture, the storyteller scores 0, and each of the other players scores 2. Otherwise the storyteller and all players who found the correct answer score 3. Players other than the storyteller score 1 point for each vote their own pictures receive.

A large part of the skill of the game comes from being able to offer a title which is neither too obscure nor too obvious. The game ends when a player reaches the end of the board (30 points). Much like Rory’s Story Cubes, this game helps children to learn storytelling skills, story sequencing, and helps broaden appreciation for art and gives players the ability to articulate thoughts concisely and to comprehend metaphor.

Tales and Games (Series) 7+ (Various)

Iello games has produced a series of games based on classic children’s stories and fairy tales. The games are designed to 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. I’ve had to bring my children to the library to find their own copies of these tales to read. The stories released so far are: The Three Little Pigs, Baba Yaga, The Hare and the Tortoise, The Grasshopper and the Ant, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Pied Piper. These are a great tie in to encourage discussing the stories and enhance reading comprehension.

For Additional Games to Support Learning

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Family game night doesn’t need to drain the family bank account. The board game industry has been growing for years! A lot of the press goes to $100+ Kickstarter campaigns and other expensive games, but there are plenty of great game that are also budget friendly! Take a look below for a list of 12 great family board games that could be yours for less than $20.

Codenames

Codenames is THE de facto party game in a lot of circles. It is simple to teach, can be played by groups of any size, and has a number of expansions that include everything from Harry Potter to The Avengers. Several of the expansions feature cards that have pictures as opposed to words so younger players can get in on the fun.

Exploding Kittens

This is an absurd card game that was a massive success on Kickstarter. The art was done by man behind The Oatmeal webcomic and the game itself, while simple, is easy to learn and fun to play. We wrote a review for the game a while back (Spoilers: We really liked it.)

Unstable Unicorns

Unstable Unicorns is a card combat game that features whacky unicorns. The art is adorable and gameplay loop as you pass between turns feels very similar to Magic: The Gathering (and I mean that in a good way). We enjoy it every time we play.

Apples to Apples

Cards Against Humanity is a non-starter for most families. This is especially true for families with younger kids. But, that style of game (The card game with a rotating judge) can be a big hit! Apples to Apples is the answer to that problem! It scratches that itch and is silly without being maddeningly offensive.

Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza

It’s silly. It’s fast. It’s challenging. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun. This is a card game where players slam cards onto the table while reciting “Taco, Cat, Goat, Çheese, Pizza” on a loop. The goal is to slap the cards your opponents plan that match what you just said. Sound bananas? You’re right! But, its worth it!

Kingdomino

Kingdomino is a tile laying game that can be taught in less than 5 minutes and is an incredible amount of fun. The idea is to try to build a perfectly square kingdom out of dominoes while trying to ALSO build large contiguous biomes (yes. Those are $5 words. But, trust me. This is a good game!)

Happy Salmon

Happy Salmon is really, really stupid. But, in the best ways. This 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. That is WILD.

Funky Chicken

Funky Chicken, just like Happy Salmon above, is also really, really stupid. But, it is stupid in the best possible way. The game play is similar enough that if you like one of them, then you should definitely get the other.

Dragonwood

Gamewright just has a way with games. They find these absolute gems and polish them until they gleam. Dragonwood is a combination of a set collection game and a dice game where players are competing to defeat monsters. The art is gorgeous and the theme is playful. I recommend this to just about anyone with kids who like to roll dice!

Sushi Go 

Sushi Go is the definitive card drafting game for families. The art is adorable. It is quick to teach. And playing it helps to lay the foundation for drafting games that you might play in the future. I can’t hardly count the number of times where I have said, “Well, its like Sushi Go except for…”

Forbidden Island

Zombie Dice

Zombie Dice was one fo the first games we picked up after we started Engaged Family Gaming. We absolutely love push your luck dice rolling and the goofy zombie theme doesn’t hurt here. This is among the best values on this list.


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!

Like us on Twitter!

Follow us on Instagram!

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