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Linda Wrobel

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

Expansion Components

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

Gameplay

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

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

Firehawks

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

New Cards

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

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

The Shadow

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

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

Ability Cards

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

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

Event Cards

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

The new events include:

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

Family Game Assessment

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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

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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 that can be revealed, gives Skyjo just enough suspense to provide just a bit of tension in the game.

Game Components

  • 150 Playing Cards
  • Score pad

Gameplay

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

The round ends when 1 player has revealed all 16 of their cards. One final turn occurs for the remaining players. Finally, players reveal their remaining cards and calculate points. There is a risk to ending the round, because that player must have the lowest score or their points are doubled.

Additional rounds are played until one player meets or exceeds 100 points. The player with the lowest score wins the game. There is one special condition in the game. If a player has three cards in a row a vertical row that are the same number they may remove the entire column.

Family Game Assessment

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


  Once they are familiar with the gameplay, young gamers could play independently.  Skyjo comes in a small box that is easily packable and portable, and can be brought pretty much anywhere. Players need a larger play space because each player has a three by four grid of cards in front of them. So it doesn’t make a good restaurant game or small space game.

Final Thoughts

Skyjo is a must for a family game collection. It is small, inexpensive, simple and easy.  As a bonus it also supports a wide range of player counts, making  perfect for family gatherings.


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

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Phones and tablets are allowing connection to friends and family in an unexpected way. We are being asked to adhere to Social Distancing, but with technology we can still be social with friends and extended family. Since we are limited in who we can sit down across the table, the online space can begin to fill the void of being physical distant. There are free or inexpensive apps that allow you to connect to friends and play through the app. This may help to scratch that itch of wanting to play games with your friends and socialize, while still maintaining safe spacing.

Exploding Kittens

The Exploding Kittens takes the fun and ridiculousness of the card game and translated it to the digital space. The app allows you to play against two to five strangers, play a match with friends or play alone using the AI. The Exploding Kittens app contains exclusive cards too.

  • Rated: E 10+
  • Available on: iOS and Google Play
  • Cost: $1.99 (in app purchases)

Scrabble Go

Scrabble Go takes the classic game and taken it up a notch. In the app you can challenge and play with friends. Plus there are other competitive games modes to play including: Duels, Word Drop, Tumbler, and Rush.

  • Rated: E
  • Available on: iOS and Google Play
  • Cost: $0 (contains ads and in app purchases)

Words With Friends 2

The original Words With Friends was released in 2009 and was a game so many of us had on our phones. Words with Friends 2 is an updated version with new game modes, including word games, word puzzles, and more ways to challenge friends.

  • Rated: E
  • Available on: iOS and Google Play
  • Cost: $0 (contains ads and in app purchases)

Quiz Up

If you like trivia Quiz Up allows you to specialize by interest. For those with a wealth of knowledge you can also make own quizzes. The app also gives you the option to connect with friends or randomly connect with those who share a similar interest.

  • Rated: E
  • Available on: iOS and Google Play
  • Cost: $0 (contains ads and in app purchases)

Houseparty

Houseparty adds a unique element to the game apps, and it included video chat. There are a few games the can be played including: Heads up which is like the app of the same name, Chips and Guac which is like Apples to Apples, Trivia which has 18 different trivia decks, Quick draw which is like Pictionary

  • Rated: E
  • Available on: iOS and Android
  • Cost: $0 (in app purchases)

Mario Kart Tour

Mario Kart Tour is an app that will draw in experienced video gamers and casual phone gamers. Players can connect with up to seven other players in different locations. A Nintendo account is required to play. Players navigate the wide range of courses inspired by real world cities, with just their finger to steer and drift.

  • Rated: E
  • Available on: iOS and Google Play
  • Cost: $0 (in app purchases)

Scattergories

The classic game of Scattegories can be right at your fingertips. In Scattegories players are trying to come up with as many words beginning with a given letter on a category list. Players can challenge friends in a group or join with others randomly.

  • Rated: E
  • Available on: iOS and Google Play
  • Cost: $0

Catan Universe

For the gamers seeking a bit more strategy you can play Catan Universe. The game up to three players free of charge. There are so many different versions of Catan, and the app includes: the original board game, the card game and the expansions. A new feature added is ‘Catan – Rise of the Inkas‘!

  • Rated: E
  • Available on: iOS and Google Play
  • Cost: $0 (in app purchases)

Roll For It!

Roll for It! is a a simple game with bit of chance and a bit of strategy. Roll dice and match the cards to earn points, but choose carefully where you place your dice as you work towards a card. Once you put dice towards a card, you don’t get the dice back until someone wins the card. The app allows you to play locally with play and pass, online with friends, or against the AI.

  • Rated: E
  • Available on: iOS and Google Play
  • Cost: $1.99 (in app purchases)

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

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They say necessity is the mother of invention. Well, if that is true then quarantine is the mother of creative solutions. Social distancing has made it so we cannot get together and play board games with extended family and friends. However, with the technology available, friends can still hang out together while maintaining social distancing. For school and work many of us have been getting acquainted with different video conferencing forums. While those of you in the business world have been using platforms such as Webex for years, it is new to many of us.

There are a few ways to approach gaming via video conferencing: where all players have a copy of the game, where one player has a copy, or if there are common components players can scavenge from other games.

With One Copy

DIY Tripod to display the game board. (4 cans used)

To make it so all players can “share” the game components there needs to be all open information. It generally is not possible for each player to have a private hand of cards. Whomever has the game needs to have a way to display a view of the game. One option is to use their phone while logged into the video conference. Then putting it on a tripod or holding it is place with a stack of books or cans. I found a buffer is needed between the metal can and the phone. The height needed depends on the size of the game.

Cooperative Games

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game for two to four players. It pits a team of adventurers against an ever-sinking island in a quest to obtain four ancient artifacts and escape before the island sinks.

In Stop Thief player take on the roll of investigators trying to catch several thieves. They collect the reward money so they can retire. This game incorporates an app that provides sound clues to the location of the thief, different levels of difficulty in play as well as a cooperative mode.

Castle Panic places up to 6 players in a realm where all sorts of fantasy creatures are attempting to breach their castle. Players then work together to defend the castle from being taken by an army of orcs and trolls and goblins and their leaders. See the review here.

Competative Games:

Blurble is a game all about racing and talking.  So many of us love to talk and this gives us the chance to put that talking to good use. In Blurble, players race to say a word first that starts with the same letter as the picture on the card.  See the review here.

Sushi Roll takes the popular game Sushi Go and instead of card drafting players draft dice. There is no hidden information in this game. So if there is only one copy as long as the other players can see their choices they could make their choices on their turn. See the review here.

Each Location With a Copy

When each location has a copy of a game it opens up more options. Players can each draw from a deck or they can set up a simple game so the board at each location is identical. Some publisher have also created special rules to make their game playable over video conference.

Exploding Kittens is a family favorite that is just plain ridiculous. The team at Exploding Kittens has come up with a special set of rules for playing over video chat, which they are calling Quarantined Kittens. See the rules here,and our review of Exploding Kittens here.

Zombie Dice is a push your luck dice game where you want to roll (eat) brains before getting your turn ending by the shotgun blasts. These are custom dice, so they wouldn’t be able to be substituted with plain dice. See then review here.

Roll For It!
Roll For It!

Roll For It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play. See the review here.

Apples to Apples and Apples to Apples Jr. are found on most family’s game shelf. This game has a rotating judge with silly words and phrases. With this each location can have their own draw decks.

Quixx is a roll and write where each roll also opens up an option to take a number for all players. In this game the color of the dice is significant, so if you have six sided dice of the appropriate color you could scavenge for dice if need be.

Dice Games using Standard Dice

Yatzee is a classic, and this may be the perfect time for an oldie but goodie. Most people have 6 sided dice around, even if they have to borrow from other games. If everyone can scrape together 5 dice, they can play! The score sheets can be found online and printed or just written on blank paper.

Farkle is a simple push your luck dice game that uses six standard six sided dice. Just like Yatzee if you can find six dice you can play. The score sheet can also be found online.


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

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Spending more time at home is the new normal at the moment. With schools being closed and parents now facilitating their child’s distance learning or home schooling 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.

Face the Uncertainty

pandemic board

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

An imagine of the board game box and components for Azul from Plan B Games

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

Sushi Go!
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

Tsuro: The Game of the Path
Tsuro: The Game of the Path

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.


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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Families everywhere are adapting to the new normal. We are all practicing social distancing and staying inside for days at a time. This is stressful and frightening for a lot of families across the world. Sometimes, the only answer is a good laugh. Below is a list of relatively inexpensive games that are all fun to play.

Note: The links in the descriptions for these games are Amazon Affiliate links. if you click these links and buy the games, then EFG will get a small amount of revenue from your purchase.

Exploding Kittens

exploding kittens
exploding kittens

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

Not Parent Approved

If you are looking for something to get everyone laughing then check out Not Parent Approved. It is played in the same style as Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, with one player as the judge and the rest of the players trying to provide the best answer to the prompt card. The game has a large range of cards, and for younger players, parents may want to screen the cards for content.

Happy Salmon/Funky Chicken

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 game

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.

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers is also a single player game with a hilarious theme from Think Fun. In this game players are collecting cows represented by colored disks, and the red bull must be collected last. There are fences of different heights that add challenges to each puzzle.

Shaky Manor

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

Loopin’ Chewie

Loopin’ Chewie is the quintessential family game. With it simple set up, simple gameplay, and fast play it encourages multiple plays in one setting. The format allows for multi age and multi generation play, by being so simple and requiring little skill or strategy.

Loopin’ Chewie has a player elimination style with a bit of a twist. Once all 3 storm troopers are knocked below a player is no longer eligible to win the game. They may however continued to play and try to knock the millennium Falcon into the storm troopers of their opponents. The last player with with Storm Troopers at the end wins the game. See the review here.

Hoagie

Hoagie is a sandwich building game where each player is trying to build the perfect sandwich without any part getting spoiled by three oogies. It has a level of gross that kids and adults will find entertaining.  Hoagie is a light game that can be played with multiple ages all together making it a great game for the whole family. See the review here.

Unstable Unicorns

Unstable Unicorns is a card combat game that features whacky unicorns as you build an army. 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.

Go Nuts for Donuts

Go Nuts For Donuts is a card drafting and set collection game where players are trying to collect the best donuts to eat.  Really, what better topic for a game can you have beside collecting donuts! Player bid on the different donuts available in the donut row. Players bid in secret, and at the end of the bidding players may only collect those donuts where they are the sole bidder. Each kind of the 21 kinds donut ( and two beverages) has either points it gains you, an action you can take immediately upon retrieving the card, or both. The artwork and text on the cards are fun and adorable and sure to make you smile.

What Do You 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!


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

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With current events unfolding, parents are thrust into the roll of facilitating their children’s distance learning or homeschooling. Both parents and educators have jumped into distance learning with little to no warning. Below are some games that are easily available, or you may already have on your shelf at home. These may help to activate some of the educational concepts in a way that is more fun and approachable. Games by no means replace the schoolwork, but they are a nice supplement. Check out your game collection and see what games you have with educational elements too.

STEM Games

Roller Coaster Challenge, Gravity Maze, Laser Maze Jr are single player puzzle STEM games. Each game has a series of cards with challenges that get increasingly more difficult. These are all engaging with hands on, that encourage problem solving and flexible thinking. While these are single player families can create opportunities for collaboration. Kids and adults love to build and see their construction succeed.

See the reviews of Gravity Maze here, and Laser Maze Jr. here.

Coding

Understanding coding is a critical 21st century skill. There are several great board games that teach the skills of coding.

The most well know is Robot Turtles, which hit the world by storm on Kickstarter in 2013. It is simple and super fun.  The goal is for kids to place directional cards on a board to get their turtle to a matching colored jewel. It starts out easy, but as your child learns, you can add obstacles to make it more complex.   The children get to be the programmers and take control by playing out cards.  See our review here.

Two other great coding games are Coder Bunny and Coder Mindz both created by Samaira Mehta as a second and fourth grader respectively.  Coder Bunny gives players thirteen variations of ways to play, which incorporate different elements of coding. Coder Bunnyz also has a strong educational benefit.  It introduces the basics of coding in a friendly and accessible format. Younger beginning players benefit from coaching and direct instruction on the best way to program the motion of their bunny.  Older and more experienced players can create greater challenges with the board layout to refine their strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

Coder Mindz presents the concepts of coding in an accessible format for a young player, but it is also engaging for older players.  Having three modes of play with two levels of difficulty at each level makes the game easy to scale based on the age of the players as well as the experience they have with creating code.

See the review of Coder Bunny here, and Coder Mindz here.

Reading

In Blurble, players race to say a word first that starts with the same letter as the picture on the card. There are lots of additional educational options with the cards too. Blurble contains a booklet labeled Educational Exercises. Within it explains other uses of the cards in Blurble as an educational tool for parents. The activities include Object Identification/Vocabulary, Spelling, Storytelling, Identifying Characteristics, Information Retrieval, and Group games. These activities range for ages 2 with object identification to age 11 with storytelling.  See the review here.

Spot It and Spot it Jr. are simple, inexpensive, and your child has a decent shot at beating you in it. This is a matching game with several variables of play.  There is one matching picture on every card so you are trying to be the first to find the matching picture.  This is great for even the youngest gamers and helps to develop their observational skills, and language. There is also an alphabet version that can develop letter identification.

Zingo is a bingo game that incorporates a Zinger, which distributes the tiles. Kids love using the Zinger and it adds a fun component to the game. Thinkfun has also created  multiple versions of Zingo. They include: Zingo 1-2-3Zingo Sight Words, Zingo Time-Telling, and Zingo Word Builder.  These can be great ways to develop beginning reading and math skills, and for preschool and primary students the Zingo variations are a great fit.  

Math

Cross Curricular Connections

Zeus on the Loose has players building up “Mount Olympus” which is the discard pile, to equal 100, but watch out, by playing a Greek God all kinds of special powers can happen. On their turn “Mount Olympus”, the discard pile and state the new total for the pile. This is a great way to practice mental addition to 100. The Greek gods themselves can also be a launching point for reading about the Greek myths, or other books incorporating Greek Mythology, such as the Rick Riordan books.

Number Recognition

Roll For It!
Roll For It!

Roll For It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play, which is perfect in building subitizing in young children. Subitizing is where you can look at the pips on a dice, or at a small group of objects and instantly know the number without counting. One of the best features of Roll For It! is its simplicity. Players who do not play games often will pick up this game and understand how to play after seeing one turn. See the review here.

Addition and Subtraction


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 that can be revealed, gives Skyjo just enough suspense to provide just a bit of tension in the game.

Creating Sets and Probability

Dragonwood is a light set collection game with a fantasy theme and beautiful art. You take on the roll of an adventurer defeating monsters. Players have three different ways to defeat a monster and each attack requires a different type of collection. Players can collect sets of the same card, the same color, or numbers in sequence. These different ways to sort cards helps support flexible thinking probability, and sequencing.

Science

Life Science

Photosynthesis is a beautiful science themed game that features the tree life cycle and a rotating sun to collect light points. The trees are three dimensional and provide a beautiful visual as the forest “grows”. Photosynthesis plays in rounds. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase. The game ends after the sun makes three complete revolutions around the board.  Points are then calculated based on scoring tokens and unused light points. See the review here.

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 available for pre-order Oceans.

Physics

Ice Cool is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. Players take turns flicking their penguin pawns through the halls. The goal is to get your pawn through open doorways to catch fish  and earn points. This is more complicated because each player takes a turn as the hall monitor who’s objective is to catch the other players. Ice Cool is more fun than I expected and the kids love it. You may be wondering how this helps with science, and this is where it helps to think outside the box. All the shots you are making involve Physics!

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


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

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The question I get the most from parents is: what can I play with my young children? The games put out by Peaceable Kingdom are a great for toddlers and preschoolers. This year at New York Toy fair we got to check out their newest games, and all the games have released.

New Games for the Youngest Players: Ages Two and Up

Duck Duck Dance

Duck Duck Dance is a movement game for players age two and up. There are three simple steps to the game. First roll the over-sized dice to reveal dance moves, perform the dance moves, then flip card on the board to reveal an audience member. The game ends when all audience members are revealed. Duck Duck Dance incorporates many skills needed for toddlers: Gross Motor, Sequencing, Counting, Imitation, Turn Taking, and Vocabulary building.

Panda’s Picnic in the Park

Panda’s Picnic in the Park is a matching game for players age two and up. The game comes in a picnic basket and players take turns pulling items out of the basket and matching them with things on their plate. There are multimple ways to play. Learning skills include: Color and Shape. Pretend play, turn taking, gross and fine motor skills, and vocabulary building.

Games for Preschoolers Ages 3 and Up

Blast Off Bingo

Blast Off Bingo is a color matching games for ages three and up. The game is perfect for a quick family game supporting two to six players. Players use the dice popper to call the colors, and players are color matching, using chips. The game also supports the skills of turn taking and following directions.

Bandit’s Memory Mix Up

Bandits Memory Mix Up is a game for two to four players ages three and up which challenges memory. This game has players take the spy glass and placed five garden tiles inside then shake it up. One garden tile is removed secretly. The challenge: remembering the removed tile. The first player to identify the missing tile wins. There are also variants which support solo and large group play. Play reinforces the skills of turn-taking, visual discrimination, and memory.

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse

Smoosh and Seek Tree house is a cooperative game for 2 to 4 players ages 3 and up. In this game players are working together to find all the different Woodland animals playing hide and seek in the tree before Mr. Prickles climbs the ladder. Players worked together to remember the location of the different seekers when they think they have located a seeker they state who they think it is pick up the disk and smash it into the smash to to reveal who’s hiding. If they successfully find a hide or they place a token to show that seekers has been found. Game play reinforces memory, simple strategy, cooperation and fine-motor skills.

Sunny Storyday

Sunny and Stormy Day is a unique game for families with children ages three and up. This game integrates a picture book with a memory game and sharing tiles. This game focuses on social emotional learning by working on emotional understanding, communication, and compassion for others. In the course of the book there are ups and down, referred to as sunny and stormy. Children can match the up those sunny and stormy moments with tiles. The tiles multipurpose as a memory game.

Yarrr Har Hunt

Yarrr Har Hunt is a cooperative treasure hunt race. Players uncover clues to discover the shell island treasure before ship returns and ends the search. The game is for ages three and up, and fosters communication, simple strategy, cooperation and shared-decision making.

Tic Tac Surprise: Dragons Vs. Dinosaurs

Tic Tac Surprise Dragons vs. Dinosaurs is the newest theme in the series released in 2019. The Tic Tac Surprise series are a spin on the classic Tic Tac Toe game. The wild cards have a dinosaur roaring or a dragon breathing fire. These wild cards allow the players to place on top of a previously played card, changing the strategy of the classic game.


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

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An alien has crash landed in Blackwood Grove. A boy on a bicycle must try to pass through the force field to help the alien before the Agents do!  Visitor in Blackwood Grove has the quintessential 80’s theme, and is a unique asymmetrical reasoning game for players age 8 and up.  It is published by Resonym, with quick games only taking 5-15 minutes
for three to six players.

Game Components

  • Force Field Board
  • Object Deck (142 cards)
  • Visitor Shield
  • Trust Board
  • Trust Token
  • Role Cards (Alien, Kid, 4 Agents)
  • 13 Example Pass Rule Cards
  • 5 Card Markers (Kid and agents)
  • 4 Guess Tokens
  • Cloth bag
  • Rule booklet

Gameplay

Being an asymmetrical game, the different characters in the game have different roles and a variety of win conditions.  If the Kid figures out the pass rule first, the Visitor and Kid win. Should one Agent figure out the pass rule first, they win.  The Agents are from competing government agencies and do not share information. Finally, if the Visitor has no cards at the start of a turn all the Agents win.

Turn Options

The Visitor creates the rule for what can pass through the force field. These rules must be general enough to make it challenging for the agents but not so hard the kid cannot figure it out. The game provides thirteen rules as examples. Some pass rules include: things containing metal, things in this room,  and things with strings.

Each Agent on their turn has two options; they can Test an Object or Prove the Pass Rule.  To test and object an Agent hands a card to the Visitor without showing it to any other players. The Visitor then places the card face down either inside the forcefield or outside to prove that Agent additional information about the Pass Rule. Only the Agent that played that card can go back and look at their face down cards. An Agent successfully proves the pass rule to win the game (described below).

The Kid has two options on their turn; they can Predict an Item or Prove the Pass Rule. To Predict Objects, the Kids shows a card from their hand. The Visitor states “admitted” or “repelled”. The kid may make up to three predictions, one card at a time. If the card is repelled the Kid’s turn is over and they gain no trust. If all the cards are correct, the Trust Token moves up the Trust Board. The Kids and Visitor benefit as trust develops. The Kid gaining Trust unlocks powers and rewards for the Kid and the Visitor.

Winning The Game

The key to winning is to Prove the Pass Rule. For either the Kid or the Agents the player draws four cards from the deck. The player aligns the cards they think will be admitted forward. While, the cards they think are repelled back. Meanwhile, The Visitor, behind a screen, indicates which cards pass through or get repelled using tokens. The visitor pushes them forward or back to correspond with the cards. If the tokens reveal the cards are all correct that player is the winner. Should any cards be incorrect their turn is over. If an Agent guesses and they are wrong, the Kid also gains two trust.

Family Game Assessment

Overall

For being a quick game Visitor in Blackwood Grove has quite a few rules, and some complexities. As an asymmetrical game there are rules for the different roles within the game. The first time bringing it to the table, we found that we needed to referred back to the rule book with each turn to make sure we understood what to do. The game was quick taking about ten minutes. We play again right away, switching roles, and one the second play the game flowed much better. This game might seem overwhelming to a novice gamer initially, but with one gameplay is easy to understand.

A non reader could play this game, with the limited reading required. With that said, the age of eight and up is a good fit for most players. The asymmetrical roles, and different decisions on each turn, would be challenging for younger players.

Card Interpretation: Benefits and Perils

While we played we encountered some interpretation in the cards. There was a picture of a wooden ladder and the Pass Rule was things that contain metal. As the Visitor, I was unsure of whether to admit or repel the ladder. The picture did not show visible metal on the ladder. However, wooden ladders could have only wood pegs or have metal nails. I made the decision to assume it was build with metal nails and admit the ladder.

Having interpretation in the cards that other players might disagreed with is embedded in the components of the game. That disagreement might be a point of contention for players. You need to consider if disagreement in the interpretation of the cards is going to be problematic.

On the flip side, with children, or even with adults, it is interesting to learn how they interpreted the card in a different way. At teachable moment might be available to provide another perspective. Exploring the concept of different interpretations is a valuable experience for young players.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a game that taps your 80’s nostalgia, Visitor in Blackwood Grove is a great one to bring to the table. The quick games and different roles give this game a lot of replay-ability. This can also be played by a range of ages and skills making it a great one for family gatherings.

If this sounds good to you, then you can purchase a copy of the game here on Amazon. (And if you do, then we get a percentage to help keep the lights on!)

FCC disclosure: A copy of this game was sent to us by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

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On the floor of New York Toy Fair I had the pleasure to meet the Ok2 Win team. They showed off their newest game, DOOM ON YOU that is currently live on Kickstarter, and shared the creative process.

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

DOOM ON YOU is a friendly game of strategy, bribery, and destruction. It is a light to medium-weighted game that can be played by kids 8+, while still being fun for gamers of all ages and interests. It takes about 30-40 minutes to play, though the first round may take a little longer as everyone learns the rhythm.

What is the elevator pitch?

The world is ending and there are some surprisingly powerful animals that are battling for each other’s food. Natural disasters, food fights, and destruction await you at every turn. In order to survive and win, you will need some strategy, luck, and maybe even a little bit of bribery.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

The DOOM ON YOU is currently live and runs until March 12th. You can link too the Kickstarter page here.

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

The base game is complete and nearly ready for production . We just have to make a few modifications to the box design and create a pre-production sample with our printer. There is still some work to do to finish the design for the expansion packs, but we are confident that the game and expansions will be delivered as promised for June 2020.

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

It has a mix of Unstable Unicorns with the battles, a mix of Exploding Unicorns with the destructive DOOM cards, as well as some unique mechanics that we think really make it fun.

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

We’ve had the idea to build a game around this name for years. We met a great game designer who had a concept that we loved, and it all just came together.

What was your design process like?

This was a team effort. Ray Nelson, our game designer, presented us with the concept and we quickly fell in love with it. Our artist, Carrie Pine, helped shape the vision of which animals to use and how they should look; she also added some great elements to the game play. I have done my best to guide the process and help all of the great ideas of others come together.

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

If you want a light-hearted way to battle each other and really get the competitive juices flowing, DOOM ON YOU is it. Kids can quickly pick up on the strategy and they learn that they can work together to win a battle, though sometimes they can do it on their own.

How long has this game been in development?

Ray has been working on his idea for years, so it’s definitely been tested.

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

For every game I create, I do my best to make a high-quality and quick demo video. I still need to create the demo video for this game; and, with some of the nuanced rules and strategies, I want to make sure that I include everything that should be included in that official video. That’s the biggest project that remains, and I’ll be sure it’s completed by the time the rewards ship.

What did your first prototype look like?

Cut out pieces of paper with ink sloppily written all over the place.

Why did you get into making games?

I had worked for years in public accounting; however, I decided that I wanted to do something that brought a smile to people’s faces. Creating games is a great way to do that.

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

Company name is Ok2Win. Check out the website here.

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