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Stephen Duetzmann

The American Tabletop Awards are awards given to board games that were released in the previous calendar year. The awards committee is comprised of a number of talented and experience board games media specialists.

The awards are given in four categories: Early Gamers, Casual Games, Strategy Games, and Complex Games.

The 2020 American Tabletop Award Awards have been announced. Here are the winners.

Early Gamers

Winner – Draftosaurus

Designers: Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, Théo Rivière
Publisher: Ankama

Your goal in Draftosaurus is to have the dino park most likely to attract visitors. To do so, you have to draft dino meeples and place them in pens that have some placement restrictions. Each turn, one of the players roll a die and this adds a constraint to which pens any other player can add their dinosaur.

American Tabletop Awards

Casual Games

Winner – Ship Shape

Designer: Rob Daviau
Publisher: Calliope Games

Set sail for fun, adventure, and riches with ShipShape! This game is about outwitting and outbidding all others to earn the biggest bounty while keeping your hold shipshape! As a savvy captain, you must skillfully use your crew to fill your ship’s hold with the best combination of treasure, cannons, and perhaps some risky – but lucrative – contraband. Over three voyages, use numbered crew cards to bid for crates off the central stack. Score coins by comparing your holds with everyone else, looking only at what’s visible in your hold!

American Tabletop Awards

Strategy Games

Winner

Wingspan

Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave
Publisher: Stonemaier Games

Wingspan is a competitive bird-collection, engine-building Game for 1-5 players. You are bird enthusiasts researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your aviary. Each bird extends a chain of powerful combinations in one of your habitats (actions). these habitats focus on several key aspects of growth: gain food tokens via custom dice in a birdfeeder dice tower. Lay eggs using egg miniatures in a variety of colors draw from hundreds of unique bird cards and play them the winner is the player with the most points accumulated from birds, bonus cards, end-of-round goals, eggs, cached food, and tucked birds.

American Tabletop Awards

Complex Games

Winner

The Taverns of Tiefenthal

Designer: Wolfgang Warsch
Publisher: North Star Games

In the village of Tiefenthal lies “The Tavern of the Deep Valley”. There, all citizens from the area gather, but it’s important to attract new, wealthy guests for only then is there enough money to expand the tavern, which will then lure nobles into the tavern as well. But which tavern expansion is best? Should you focus on money? Or rather ensure that the beer will keep flowing?

American Tabletop Awards

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

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Microsoft is giving away free Minecraft Education content to help with distance learning for kids that are out of school thanks to Covid-19.

Microsoft, the company that owns Minecraft, announced that they have added a new category to the Minecraft Marketplace that includes content meant to help supplement learning on a variety of subjects. The content includes things like a model of the human eye and a very detailed map of Washington DC.

Educators around the world are doing everything they can to provide digital lessons for the half a billion students who are out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not an easy task and we want to do our part to help keep young minds sharp and stimulated. 

Microsoft

All of this new content is free to download from the Microsoft Marketplace until June 30, 2020.

What do you think? Are you and your kids going to take advantage? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Check out our review here!) released on March, 20, 2020. One of the features that players are bound to be excited about is the multiplayer. There is just something about teaming up with your your friends and running around a village in Animal Crossing and it looks like New Horizons is going to give players some great options.

There are two different ways to play with other people. Take a look below to see how they work.

One Switch

Each Nintendo Switch can have a single Animal Crossing: New Horizons deserted island. Each account can have a different island resident with their own home. Up to four of those players can play on the island simultaneously (with separate joy-cons and controllers) using the local multiplayer option.

This is accomplished by one of the players starting Animal Crossing, accessing their NookPhone (Using the ZL button) and “calling” the other players who live on the island using the “Call Islander” app.

The player who does the calling is the Leader and everyone else is a follower. The leader controls the camera, and can access menus while the followers have to stay on the same screen as the leader. Likewise, the leader is the only one who can access their pockets. Followers can catch fish, bugs, fruit, and wood but those items end up in the recycle bin near the Resident Services building to retrieve later.

This seems limiting, but it is very easy to change who the leader is using the NookPhone menus.

Up to Eight Switches

Up to eight people can play Animal Crossing: New Horizons using separate Switches. This can be done locally using the Local Play options or Online.

Players access this option by visiting their deserted island’s airport and talking to the Dodo bird. He will give you multiple options for opening up your island to visitors.

All my friends!

If you select the “All My Friends” option, then anyone that you are friends with on the Nintendo Switch that also has a Nintendo Switch online membership will be able to visit your town.

Only my Best Friends

You can designate visiting players as Best Friends using the Best Friends app on your in game Nook Phone. If they are Best Friends, then they CAN use tools like axes and shovels. Be sure to explain this difference to your kids to avoid trolling or innocent accidents.

Once you have people on your Best Friends list you can choose the “Only My Best Friends” option which limits the people who can come to your island to just Best Friends.

Invite via Dodo Code!

The Dodo Code is essentially a password that you set up to let people enter your game that you might not already be friends with on Switch. Anyone who has the Dodo Code can enter the island so you definitely want to make sure that your kids only use it sparingly.

Why Play Online With Other People Anyway?

At first glance, Animal Crossing: New Horizons doesn’t look like an online game. You’re just a cute little person running around a deserted island. But, its definitely not intended to be a purely solo experience.

Playing with other people is helpful for a few reasons beyond just being social and seeing other people’s creations.

  • You and other players can trade decorations, tools, resources, and fruit
  • Each fruit that you plant on your island will help you complete a Nook Miles ticket.

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

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We’re all going to be stuck indoors for a while, so this is a great opportunity to play one of the MMOs that you have always been meaning to try, but never had the time.

Free to Play MMOs

Some of the best MMOs on the market are free to play right now. Many of them are supported with in-game purchases like cosmetics and experience boosts, but they can be downloaded and played from front to back without spending money. These are a great option if you want to dive in, but don’t have the money to throw down for a new video game right now.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars is, obviously, a very big deal right now. The Old Republic is an MMO that has been around for a while (it released in 2011), but it still receives updates and has an active community (nearly 200,000 users a day). The story takes place long before the movies and explores one of the cooler parts of the Star Wars timeline. If you or your kids are big into Star Wars, then this is going to be a good choice.

Star Trek: Online

Star Trek Online has about 100,000 monthly active players and has been around since 2010. This MMO gives you the chance to become your own Star Fleet captain with your own ship to command. There are quests that explore all of the major Star Trek storylines from the shows and the movies and lots of original content, too. Trekkies shouldn’t sleep on this one.

Guild Wars 2

GW2 has a very active user base with almost 350,000 daily users. It has a very immersive story that responds to player choice. It is a fun, high fantasy game with cool interesting races to choose from. You play as a member of a guild of adventurers who are gathering to hold off a group of ancient dragons from destroying the world.

Old School RuneScape

“Old School Runescape” was released in 2013 and has been receiving continuous support since it launched. It started as just being a relaunch of the 2007 version of the game, but its wild success has led to graphics overhauls, and new quality of life improvements. This version of Runescape is even bigger than the original with more than 2 million daily users.

Free (For Now)

Dungeons and Dragons Online

Dungeons and Dragons Online is exactly what the title says it is: an MMO build using the Dungeons and Dragons races, classes, and themes. This is a free to start game that is supported with DLC content packs that includes raids, challenges and dungeons. The developer has announced that, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, they are making the game and its content completely free for a limited period of time. The details are listed below:

  • All dungeons and raids, including those in expansion packs, are open to everyone through April 30.
  • The Buddy Bonus 5% XP will be active from March 20 through March 29. This will be in addition to the weekend events.
  • Mimic event will be active starting March 26 through April 6.
  • The anniversary event will be active starting March 26 through April 30.

Lord of the Rings Online

Lord of the Rings Online is an MMO that was originally released in 2007. It is a very lore heavy dive into the world of Lord of the Rings and is a great story to play through if you are a fan of the movies OR the books. It is a free to start game that is supported by DLC packs that include raids, quests, and “skirmishes.” The developer has announced that, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, they are making the game and its content completely free for a limited period of time. The details are listed below:

  • All quests, instances, and skirmishes, including those in expansion packs, are open to everyone through April 30.
  • The Curator will be returning starting March 26 through April 30.
  • There will be a 10% virtue XP boost starting on March 26 through April 6.
  • The Baggins’ Birthday event will be available March 26 through April 6.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are a few options out there that are worth mentioning in spite of the fact that they aren’t free.

World of Warcraft

How can I make a list of MMOs without mentioning World of Warcraft? It’s true that WoW has a monthly subscription, but it does have a fun demo. You can play up to level 20 as just about any race and class. This is a great option if you or someone in your family just needs a game to play for a short period of time and has no real intention of continuing the game beyond that.

Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV has become massively popular and is available on PC and PS4. The full version of FFXIV does require a purchase and a monthly subscription, but there is a free trial. The limitations on the trial are:

  • Free Trial Players can create only eight (8) playable characters, restricted to one (1) playable character per world.
  • Free Trial account characters have their level capped at level thirty five (35).
  • Free Trial account characters can obtain only a capped amount of in game currency (GIL).

What do you think? Are you or your kids going to play any of these games? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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Nintendo released an Indie Showcase video today. It lasted around 20 minutes, but was FULL of great game announcements. I had a lot of fun watching it, but I grew more and more excited with each passing announcement as the number of family friendly games that were announced grew. Take a look below for a list of the highlights (and buckle in, because there were a BUNCH of them).

Baldo – Summer 2020

If you had told me a year ago that I would see a game get announced that combines Legend of Zelda and Studio Ghibli-esque animation I would have told you that you were crazy. Baldo (not to be confused with Balto. That one is about a dog) is an open world action adventure RPG that looks like it will be a wonder to behold. The colors are bright. The action looks sharp. I cannot wait to get my hands on this one.

B.ARK Bio-Interstellar Ark – Late 2020

B.Ark is pretty much made for us. It is an adorable couch co-op game where you play as adorable animals piloting cute spacecraft while battling aliens.

Play as Barker, a loveable and friendly pug who heals his friends and turns his enemies into frenemies! Or Felicity, a fierce leader who’s cat rage can really boost her firepower. There’s also Walker, the Bear with a protective spirit and Marv, the speedy rabbit that can zip around in his enemies with ease! Choose your fighter’s wisely, as different tactics can help your odds against the evils that await!

https://www.tictocgames.com/

Look at me with a straight face and tell me that doesn’t sound awesome?

Summer in Mara – Spring 2020

I love farming games and Summer in Mara looks like its going to be a great one! It features all of the farming, crafting, and ranching that we have come to expect. But, it also includes underwater exploration, light seafaring, and the ability to explore a large city nearby.

I had seen this game before in Facebook advertisements, but this was the first time I was able to see some of the colorful characters (many of whom are anthropomorphic animals). This one is coming soon and I cannot WAIT to give it a try.

The Last Campfire

The Last Campfire is a 3d adventure game being designed by a small team within Hello Games, the people beyond No Man’s Sky. We don’t know all the details, but after watching this trailer I desperately want to help these little pillow people.

Wingspan

Wingspan, from Stonemaier Games, has been a massive hit in the board game world. Each of its print runs has quickly sold out as soon as it hit North American shores. And now? A digital version of the bird watching engine builder is on the way to the Nintendo Switch. They didn’t give us a release date (or a release window for that matter), but the fact that it was announced is good enough for me. I love that game so I can’t wait to get my hands on it for my Switch!


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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Just about everyone is stuck indoors for the foreseeable future and many of us are going to be looking for new things to watch on our streaming services. If you are looking for something to watch and want to learn a little something about games, nerd culture, or any of the other things we love here at Engaged Family Gaming, then take a look at the list below!

The Toys That Made Us – Netflix

TTTMU is one of my favorite documentary series running right now. They deep dive into the origins and evolution of popular toy lines like LEGO, Transformers, and My Little Pony. I have learned a LOT about some of my favorite things while watching this show.

Thomas Games Docs – YouTube

This is a channel where you can go for relatively brief videos that either talk about a specific piece of gaming trivia or the development of an interesting character or game. This channel covers a wide range in topics so you should likely choose the videos based on the topics presented, but they are definitely fun. The video about Reggie Fils-Aime and his infamous “My body is ready” line is quite good.

League of Legends: Origins – Netflix

League of Legends is one of the biggest games on Earth. You might not play it, but you probably know someone who has played it. This Netflix documentary does a great job of explaining the history of the game and its transformation into one of the pillars of the video game world. This is a must watch for any family that is heavily into the eSports scene.

NoClip – YouTube

This is a YouTube documentary series that is fully crowdfunded and focuses on deep dives into games and their development. This series is definitely more for older kids or adults because some of the games they cover are rated M and the language they use is… unfiltered… in some of videos. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the channel. Their work is top notch and very informative.


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

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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!

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Dungeons and Dragons has never been more popular! And I know that so many of you dream of running a wonderful campaign for your family, but are intimidated by the perceived cost. I’m here to tell you that you and yours could be roaming the countryside and venturing into dangerous dungeons without spending a dime.

The internet and a little ingenuity go pretty far nowadays, and, frankly, if the internet can teach me how to fix my furnace, then it can help you play D&D with your kids.


We wrote an article with tips for playing D&D with your kids. You can check it out here.


Imagination

At its core, Dungeons and Dragons is a shared storytelling game. There are tactical combat rules, but you can eschew or improvise away so many of them that they aren’t all that important. What *IS* important though is a sense of imagination. You’ve been telling your kids stories since they were born. This is an opportunity for them to tell the story with you.

I know some folks might think that’s cheesy, but it’s not. More than half of the fun of running a D&D game is watching what the players do and seeing how they react to your characters and actions. That is even more interesting when you are watching your kids. You’ll be amazed at the wild things they do and the stories they come up with!

Dice Rolling Apps

The internet and meme culture will tell you that you absolutely MUST have 15-20 sets of multicolored dice made from different materials. I’ll admit that they are fun, but they aren’t necessary to play. You have a bunch of different options such as:

  • SIRI (Go ahead. Right now. Ask SIRI to roll a D20.)
  • Free iOS Apps like Dice Ex Machina, Dungeon Dice, or Tabletop RPG Dice.
  • Free Android Apps like RPG Simple Dice, Dice Roller, and Dice – A free dice roller.
  • When in doubt Google it.

Rules

You do have the option to purchase the Players Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual from Amazon or your local book store.

However, both the basic rules for Dungeons and Dragons and the SRD or “System Reference Document” are both available on the Dungeons and Dragons Website.

The Basic Rules

https://media.wizards.com/2018/dnd/downloads/DnD_BasicRules_2018.pdf

The System Reference Document

https://media.wizards.com/2016/downloads/DND/SRD-OGL_V5.1.pdf

Note: A System Reference Document(SRD) is a reference for a role-playing game’s mechanics licensed under the Open Game License (OGL). This document is published to allow third party publishers to create content using those rules.

Character Sheets

Another barrier that some people see to being able to play D&D are character sheets. They are important to the game, but they aren’t costly. Firstly, you could just make your own character sheets, but there are plenty of character sheets that you can print (or fill out digitally). Two examples from DMSguild.com are listed below. They are both great free resources that you can use.

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/266389/Sleepys-Simpler-5e-Character-Sheet

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/252711/DD-5E-Character-Sheet-editable-fillable-printer-friendly-auto-calculates-bonuses

Adventures

All of the tools don’t help much if you need an adventure to run! The first option would be to make up your own. Draw up some maps, write up some NPCs and make the adventure yourself. But, not everyone likes that (or has the time). Fortunately, there are plenty of free adventures you can download from websites like DMSguild.com. I’ve listed four well-rated adventures below, but there are TONS more available.

Follow The Lights

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/283932/Follow-the-Lights?filters=0_0_45381_0_0_0_0_0

On Her Majesty’s Pest Control Service

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/288956/On-Her-Majestys-Pest-Control-Service?filters=0_0_45381_0_0_0_0_0

A Trilogy of Shorter Adventures

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/208100/A-Chance-Encounter

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/208634/The-Mystic-Circle?src=by_author_of_product

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/209172/An-Urgent-Rescue?sorttest=true&filters=45469_0_0_0_0_0_0_

Miniatures

When you see pictures of people playing D&D on Instagram or Facebook they also ways involved gorgeously painted miniatures on beautifully detailed maps. This is NOT a requirement. I played for YEARS using miniatures that I pulled from old board games and chess sets. Bottle caps, Shopkins, and coins are all reasonable.

Maps can be a little tricky, but I guarantee that anyone reason this has a checkerboard or two lying around. You can form your dungeon rooms by placing index cards or construction paper over different parts of the board.

Another alternative is to eschew the tactical part of combat entirely and stick to descriptions.

No More Excuses

So. There we go. I just eliminated all of the objections. You don’t need to spend a dime to play Dungeons and Dragons with your kids. Now get out there and tell some stories (and make wonderful memories while you’re at it)!


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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Every week the EFG staff will be defining a gaming term that is either confusing or ill-defined. Please leave a comment with any terms you are confused by and we will try to include them in future editions!


The gaming definition this week is a term that is applicable to both video games and board games: Polyomino.

A Polyomino is a geometric shape made up of a group of equal squares touching on their edges.

These shapes are very important to the game design world because of all the different ways that they can be pieced together into a bigger puzzle.

The best, and most popular, example is Tetris. In Tetris, five different polyominoes that each contain four equal squares (called tetrominoes) fall from the top of the screen. Players are tasked with interlocking them at the bottom of the screen with as few holes as possible. Any complete rows that the player creates are cleared from the board as a reward.

The shapes in Tetris even have names. There was a meme that flew around in the last year or so that came just short of personifying them, but their names are straightforward.

  • Square
  • L
  • Skew
  • T
  • Straight

Polyominoes are also quite popular in the board game space. Part of this is because their shapes make great plastic and cardboard components. Their flat surfaces are also a great place to showcase interesting artwork or bright colors. The design reason is simple. The number of different available shapes is relatively small (especially if they are all made of a smaller number of equal squares), and the number of ways that they can be interlocked is vast. This leads to wide variety in game play situations.

Suggested Activities

Polyominoes are a great learning tool and there are all sorts of activities on the web that you can do with your kids.

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!

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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Avalon Hill has announced the newest Betrayal at House on the Hill game and this time its going to be one for the family. to play together!

I know. I know. I had to look at it twice, too.

Scooby Doo: Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is a kid friendly board game based on the award-winning Betrayal at House on the Hill board game. It includes twenty five all new haunts based on fan favorite episodes and movies.

Players each play as a member of the Mystery, Inc team as they explore a spooky mansion looking for clues and searching for a monster. The real action stats once you find enough clues to understand what’s going on. Once that happens one of the players switches sides and plays the roll of the “Monster” during the Haunt Phase.

I love that adaptation. Hidden traitor mechanics are problematic for kids because they aren’t very good at bluffing very often and it isn’t a great idea to teach them how to get better at it. The Scooby Doo version of Betrayal side steps all that by telegraphing the start of the haunt and having someone switch roles midway through the game as opposed to hiding it the whole time.

It will be available on May 15th in North America and we can’t wait to play it.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to it? 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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