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Dustin Crewell

If there’s one word parents dread, it’s “more.”  Once a child latches onto something they like, they want as much as they can get their hands on, whether it’s french fries, piggyback rides, or roleplaying games. As I’ve said before, Hero Kids’ straightforward mechanics make for a great introduction to roleplaying games.  Once a kid decides they like it, though, the challenge comes to keep them in new adventures, a trial experienced Game Masters will be familiar with.  Real life is filled with so many things that eat away at your time that it can be tough to come up with missions for the players, ways to link them together, or places for them to explore.  Even a game as straightforward as Hero Kids requires time and creativity to set up new trials for the heroes.

Adventures in Bayhaven cover art

Adventures in Bayhaven looks like a lot of fun!

Adventures in Bayhaven, by Roving Band of Misfits Press, takes care of some of that legwork for you, alleviating that stress with a series of new adventures, centered in the port city of Bayhaven.  Adventurous kids will interact with the locals, establish themselves as heroes, and carry out acts of bravery. What sets Adventures in Bayhaven apart from the main Hero Kids game is not the list of the twenty-one adventures planned to be released this year (though that is entirely awesome in and of its own right), but the gazetteer and optional rules that come along with the adventures. The gazetteer expands the world, providing information on the city, including a list of inhabitants (complete with descriptions and personalities) and several maps (including an unlabeled map that the adventurers can label…or just color when they are bored).  The consistent location links the adventures together around a central city, providing recurring characters for the players to get to know and work with.  While the adventures are technically all independent, as they all center around the port city of Bayhaven, and given that the Kids will interact with certain characters over and over again, it’s easy to string them together if needed.

Were your hero kids successful in catching a thief?  The captain of the guard is more likely to trust them to escort someone now.  The optional rules allow the players to pick up extra perks from continuing their adventures, up to and including becoming apprentices to assorted adults (and getting the benefits from that job.) If you’ve got dedicated Hero Kids to entertain, Adventures in Bayhaven is a solid route to take.  The sheer number of available missions means they’ll be busy for a long time, and the additional rules and setting information makes game mastering a lot easier.

Take a look at our review of Hero Kids – Space Heroes to see some other content for the game!

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Game Overview

  • Z-Man Games
  • Age: 8+
  • Players: 2-4
  • 45 Minutes

Buy Pandemic here on Amazon

Several virulent diseases are ravaging the globe.  Standing between humanity and rapid extinction is a small group of brave CDC employees dedicated to saving the world.


In Pandemic, 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.

Visually, the game is very pretty, but complex; on the board are the figurines for each of the players, colored cubes representing the diseases (and how many they’ve infected), counters recording how many epidemics have rocked the world, and cards that help the players travel the world, cure diseases, and determine where the next infection arises.

Game play follows a fairly standard turn-based approach: a 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 – a cure that won’t immediately eradicate the disease, but will make it easier to treat.

Pandemic might look intimidating, but it is a lot of fun!
Pandemic might look intimidating, but it is a lot of fun!

Family Game Assessment

Make no mistake: this game is difficult.  Play can change from “we’ve got this!” to “wait, how did we lose?!” in a heartbeat.  I recommend expecting to lose your first game, while you learn the game and start figuring out the tactics.  That said, once you know how the game is played, this is an excellent way to test your teamwork and tactical skills; 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.)  Game play can be made more difficult by increasing the starting number of infections.

Given the complexity of the game, it’s unlikely that younger players will be able to handle the game without a lot of coaching.  Most younger players will be able to easily grasp the basic concepts – using location cards to move around the map, or using turns to treat diseases requires only limited reading and counting skills – but the high-end strategies and teamwork needed to beat the game before cards run out is most likely above the capabilities of most pre-teens.  For those who can, however, the game presents excellent opportunities to work on team dynamic and leadership skills.  Likewise, the decision-making requirements – and the potentially catastrophic (in the game) consequences – is a great way for kids or adults to learn the best methods for weighing their available options, and determining what to do when given a number of bad options.

Final Thoughts

Despite – or perhaps because of – the difficulty of this game, it’s a definite winner.  The game pieces provide a good abstraction to the concept of epidemics, and the challenge will keep you coming back until you can beat it, and get the rush of exhilaration from the perfect mix of planning, teamwork, and luck.

Love cooperative games?  Want more? Check out our reviews here!

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

You can also look at our other video game definitions from previous weeks 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

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Greater Than Games

Ages 13+

2-5 players

45-60 minutes


It was a quiet day in Megalopolis when, suddenly, all TV channels blared an ominous message: Baron Blade was threatening to pull the moon into the Earth!  The superheroes known as the Freedom Five assembled to fight Blade and his minions, hoping to save the planet!

Sentinels of The Multiverse allows players to immerse themselves in a comic book universe, taking on the roles of an assortment of heroes, banding together to face off against devious villains in a variety of environments.

The characters in the Multiverse echo heroes and villains familiar to many; Wraith is a billionaire-turned-vigilant, armed with a cape and a utility belt; Tachyon runs super-fast; Omnitron is a malicious, skeletal robot.  While there is plenty to learn about each character and location, they are similar enough to jump in with little prep work.

Players select a hero, a villain, and an environment, each represented by a specialized deck of cards.  The villain and the environment are functions of the game; no one plays as either of those roles.  Instead, when those two roles get their turns (before and after the players, respectively), the players draw the next card in the deck and perform the actions on the cards.  During their turns, players draw and play cards from their own decks, using their hero’s powers.

Accompanying the cards are a number of tokens to record the temporary effects, as well as tokens for the hit points of the heroes, villains, and minions.

The variety presented by the different combinations of hero-villain-environment, as well as the randomness presented by drawing the cards, lends to an immense amount of replayability.  Each game can go differently, as situations change and the heroes respond accordingly.

While the game says that it is for ages 13+, it can be played by younger players.  Heroes and villains are assigned a difficulty rating; with some guidance, younger players can learn a particular hero and become effective members of the team.

The game requires a number of skills – reading, problem solving, teamwork, and math.  Since it’s a cooperative game, there’s no reason to not play with “open hands”, so if there are players with weaker reading or strategic skills, they can easily get a boost from other players.

Sentinels of The Multiverse has had several expansions. Look for more info on each of them soon!

Want more cooperative games?  Check these reviews out!

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Hero Forge Games
Ages 4-10
2-7 players
Playtime 30-60 minutes

Hero Forge Games is at is again with the release of the expansion to their blockbuster Hero Kids – Space Heroes! If your kid is more into sci-fi than fantasy, or just wants to branch out to play a guardian of the galaxy far, far away, this is definitely something to put on your wish-list.  As shown in their first teaser, the straightforward mechanics are staying the same, meaning parents and children will be able to dive into sci-fi adventures quickly.  While the Space Heroes are compatible with the normal Hero Kids adventures, there’s also three new adventures specifically designed to make user of the new setting.

 As with the base game, the expansion is is available in print and PDF versions via DriveThruRPG.  While the base game is required to get the basic rules, the expansion has the now-standard 10 different characters to choose from (and cut-out paper markers for each character), along with a number of blank character sheets for players who want to draw their own characters.  The expansion also gives details on the new skills the space heroes have, which experienced players can quickly find analogs for in the base rules.

If you’re not familiar with the base Hero Kids game, I’d recommend checking out our review.  If you are, the biggest change you’ll want to be aware of is the introduction of Nadic-Binding, which is the Space Hero equivalent to magic (and may bear a resemblance to a certain Dark Lord’s “sorcerous ways”.)

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Developer: Press Play
Rated: E10+
Release Date: December 2013 for Xbox One, May 2014 for Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox One
Price: $12


Overall Review:

Anyone with a younger sibling might find themselves drawn in (pun intended) when it comes to Max: The Curse of Brotherhood.  The title character finds his younger brother Felix smashing his toys, and in a fit of annoyance, casts a spell found on the internet to get rid of his nuisance brother.  In a move that’s reminiscent of the classic Labyrinth, a monster really does steal Felix away!  Max takes off in hot pursuit, muttering, unsurprisingly, that his mother is going to kill him.

Thus begins the side-scrolling puzzle platformer that is The Curse of Brotherhood.  Armed with a magically-powered magic marker, Max jumps, climbs, and swings his way after his brother.  Along the way, the marker gains new abilities: drawing pillars of earth, tree branches, rope-like vines, pillars of water, and fireballs.  Max uses these powers to get past obstacles and defeat the minions of the diabolical Mustacho, the villain who seeks to steal Felix’s youth for himself.

The mechanics of the marker are the most unique part of the game.  Getting from point A to point B isn’t always obvious, which is where the marker’s powers come in.  By creating (and destroying) items with your marker, you create platforms and ropes to jump to (or, in the case of the water spouts, be flung from) in your quest.  With frightening monsters chasing you, you need to figure out where you’re going, and FAST!

The graphics of the game are phenomenal and almost cartoon quality.  The voice acting is good as well, as Max occasionally provides verbal queues (“Up! Up! UP!”) as you scramble to safety.


Family Gaming Assessment:

There is a little bit of cartoon violence; some of Mustacho’s monster minions do meet unfortunate ends, but most of them are simply avoided.  And, of course, Max’s younger brother is kidnapped by a giant monster, locked in a dungeon, and experimented on.  That said, the E10+ rating seems appropriate, as the game is mostly about solving the puzzles of how to safely get from one side of the screen to another.


Playability Assessment:

Sadly, this does not look like a game to have a child work the controls, simply due to it’s complexity.  Certainly, having them there watching can be a boon (both to help solve the puzzles, and to laugh along when you try to make a jump and fail miserably), but if they do the driving, expect to be summoned for assistance for the tougher puzzles.

No reading is involved, but the puzzle solving aspects are significant.  Sadly, the marker drawing is done via the control sticks, which can be a bit tough even for a grown-up.  Still, this is a great chance for kids to work on their problem-solving skills; for puzzles that aren’t time-dependant, you can easily ask them for their opinions on how to get out of a sticky situation.  The death mechanic is fairly forgiving; save points are frequent, so failing a particular puzzle rarely sets you back more than a few seconds.



Overall, this game is tough, but really fun to play and even to watch.  At $12, it’s a fairly good deal for some light-hearted yet challenging gameplay (and quite a few achievements)!


Disclosure: Review code was provided to Engaged Family Gaming by the developer.

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Hero Forge Games Ages 4-10 2-7 players Playtime 30-60 minutes TABLETOP RPG

What happens when your town is in trouble, and all of the adults are off saving people in far-off lands? It’s time for the kids to show off what they’re made of! Designed to be an introduction to tabletop pen-and-paper role-playing, Hero Kids is all about playing, well… heroic kids. The characters are the young yet capable offspring of some of the land’s greatest heroes, who have inherited their parents’ adventurous spirits and impressive talents. Whether it’s facing off against rats who have kidnapped a friend, or trying to protect the local farm from hungry wolves, these kids show that bravery isn’t linked to size.

The rulebook, which is available in print and PDF versions via DriveThruRPG , include the rules, a starting adventure, and 10 different characters to choose from. The rules are fairly straightforward; all of the actions are done by rolling a set number of six-sided dice (which you’ll need to provide), and comparing the highest outcome on each side.

Like any good roleplaying game (RPG), there are plenty of supplements available: extra adventures, new characters, the ever-important loot, and even pets. Or, for those feeling adventurous themselves, you can create your own material, using the information that comes with the basic rulebook as a guide. This will likely come in handy later, as some kids may chew through the available pre-made missions faster than new ones come out. It will also help with older kids who feel they need more of a challenge, as the basic material is a little bit more geared towards the younger end of the age range.

There’s no reading necessary on the part of the players, as there are symbols next to each of the relevant statistics (a shield for defense, a sword for attack, etc.) Math skills are fairly basic: reading a six-sided die, comparing two numbers, and the basic addition and subtraction of getting wounded and healing. The most critical skill, though, is imagination and problem solving. Beginners can be guided and prompted, but there’s a good chance that parents will find themselves surprised by how fast kids pick up on this form of make-believe. As gameplay progresses, concepts like tactics and teamwork can be stressed, helping the young heroes face ever more difficult challenges.

As with many independently published RPGs, Hero Kids does have some grammatical and spelling issues that you might need to watch out for. Keep in mind that this is a simple system, and it does lack one of the basic components of pretty much every RPG: leveling. The game is built to allow for children to easily swap characters after each adventure, with character cards are provided for ten different classes in the basic set. The full PDF bundle offers another ten characters mostly resembling cartoon characters that may be familiar to little gamers. Each character also has a corresponding coloring sheet which will allow your kids to personalize their pre-constructed characters a bit.

Older children who are ready for more complex play might enjoy the blank character cards, which are provided along with simple guidelines on how to build npp steroid your own character. Each card comes with a paper stand-up mini that matches the picture on the card for use on the maps provided with each adventure, and blank cards allow you to draw your own mini.

For gamer parents wanting to introduce their kids to tabletop RPGs, at $6-$15 ($6 gets you a PDF rulebook, while $15 gets you a PDF rulebook, coloring pages, extra features & 9 pre-made adventures), Hero Kids is a fantastic stepping stone to future gaming. For non-gamers looking for a good outlet for their kids’ imagination, this system requires very little additional investment (just a couple of standard dice), and will give your kids hours of creative entertainment!

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ESRB: Teen (Blood and Gore, Mild Language, Sexual Themes, Violence)

Original release: December 2011

v 2.7.1

May the Fourth…er, Force, be with you.  This weekend marks the annual Star Wars holiday, which makes it a perfect time to play The Old Republic (SWTOR), the Star Wars based Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG, or MMO for short).

For those familiar with the Star Wars universe, the game is set in the past, before the movies.  Jedi are in their heyday, as are the Sith forces that oppose them.  There’s several races available, and several character types.  Players can choose wise Jedi, stalwart Troopers, wily Smugglers, or other classes.

Gameplay follows many of the classic MMO formulae: characters start in a tutorial area to learn the basic controls; they are given missions to perform, with experience points, money, and gear as rewards; and there are plenty of options for solo and group play.

The missions that you receive are one of the game’s strengths: its story-driven nature.  While there are certainly a vast number of side quests (inconsequential tasks, such as helping a local with a minor issue, something that can be easily skipped) to help your character grow stronger on their journeys, they are simply steps along the path in a greater story, an almost movie-like tale that focuses on you.

Another helpful feature of the game is the companion mechanic.  Each character is paired with a non-player character (NPC), a computer-controlled companion that helps you out, converses with you, and lets you know what they think about what is going on.  Though the companion has their own story, and own tasks, they are your greatest asset when it comes to completing the missions, which are woven into a consistent story line.  While players can team up with other players (for the short- or long-term), players can also play solo, with the companion’s help.

At the core of the game, though, is a series of moral decisions: there is a Light Side and a Dark Side to the Force, and that concept infuses the game.  While players can choose to side with the Jedi (Republic) or the Sith (Empire), they also have to decide whether to stay with the Light or the Dark, based on the decisions they make during their story: do they spare their defeated foe, and send them to a trial, or do they finish them off and end the threat?  These aren’t simply theoretical questions; characters are faced with not only the decisions, but the consequences.  Companions will change their opinion of you based on your actions, and characters will be marked by which path they take; fall too deeply to the Dark Side, and the corruption will start to show, as a character will start to look scarred and diseased.

The Light/Dark mechanic is the greatest teaching moment of the game, but is also the source of greatest concern, in my mind.  While the Light options are solid virtues to reinforce (honesty, selflessness, bravery), the Dark options can be very dark (senseless violence, torture, etc.)  I would recommend encouraging teens to stick to the Light side, and either keeping up with their progress to see how they’re doing, or by playing with them.

The other issue to watch for is play time.  By nature, MMO games are time-consuming, with many hours of gameplay going into completing “just one more mission!”  Parents will want to monitor the amount of time that players sink into the game.

Gameplay is a combination of mouse and keyboard work; the mouse controls movement, while actions can be selected by keyboard or mouse.  Actions happen in real time, so younger players (and maybe even a few older ones!) might be challenged to determine what to do during a fight.  Problem-solving and tactical skills will definitely be put to the test.  Fortunately, if you’re defeated, you are simply sent back to the nearest medical station, from where you can continue your story.

The visuals are good, but not phenomenal; they’re to be expected of a game that’s 2+ years old.  The sound, on the other hand, is top-notch, full of familiar Star Wars music and excellent voice-acting.  Dialog is also subtitled, allowing someone to read along with the dialog (either to work on reading skills, or to play with the sound down in case younger siblings are sleeping.)

Following a recent trend in MMO, there’s two tiers of play in SWTOR: free, and subscription.  Subscribed members earn better rewards from missions and have more options as a result of their paid status.  For folks not interested in paying out $15 a month for a full subscription (or who play too infrequently or erratically to warrant a subscription), there is a mechanic to unlock subscription benefits in an a la carte manner.

Overall, Star Wars the Old Republic is a good game for fans of Star Wars.  The Light/Dark mechanic is a great method to teach (and reinforce) moral decision-making skills, and the Free play option makes it accessible for gamers on a budget.  For mature teens (and parents!), this is a good way to get your lightsaber fix, but the younger crowd might want to skip this one.

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