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Linda Wrobel

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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Weird Giraffe Games has another unique game coming to Kickstarter. Tumble Town takes several gaming elements and mixes it with an old west theme. What you get looks like tons of fun!

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

Tumble Town is a town and engine building spatial puzzle game for 1-4 players that plays in about 45 minutes for ages 8+. Construct the best town in the West before all the building resources run out!

What is the elevator pitch?

Everyone knows Tumble Town deserves to be the best town in the West – so it needs a mayor to match! The Tumble Townspeople are hosting a competition to turn the town tootin’ and boomin’! It’s up to you to impress them with your construction and planning skills! Tumble Town has engine building, dice manipulation, set collection and a spatial puzzle, so there’s something for everyone all rolled up into 45 minutes of gameplay.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

February 25th

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

Pretty close! We are in the final planning stages for the Kickstarter.

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

Fantastic Factories has dice, engine building, and dice manipulation.

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

Tumble Town shows that there’s beauty and color in the Old West, where you might not expect that. It’s also a really interesting decision on what kind of town you’re going to construct, whether you’ll choose a building for the power it grants, because it’s made of materials you have, or because you get extra points for constructed buildings with icons or special features that that building has. There’s a lot of choice, but it’s also really accessible to lots of player types. Maybe most of all, you get to build your own town, which is always a great thing and it’s super photogenic.

What was your design process like?

There was a lot to it! There was a lot of trial and error to get a game that was as intuitive as I wanted it to be. We definitely had to streamline and simplify a number of aspects, but I think it’s for the best as it means that players can simply look at the cards, know what they do, and how to build the buildings shown.

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

There’s no other games that combine such a variety of mechanics and choices into such a great package where you feel this satisfied by the creation you made at the end. Every time I play it with new players, they almost always take pictures of their town, that’s how proud of it that they are.

How long has this game been in development?

Almost two years

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

The end game was a particularly large obstacle that took several iterations to get correct.

What did your first prototype look like?

It was a lot more brown than the current game, but it wasn’t as far off as a lot of games I’ve worked on. The game has always been called some version of Tumble Town, with players constructing buildings out of dice.

Why did you get into making games?

To satisfy my creativity while making people happy!

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

Weird Giraffe Games is dedicated to creating engaging games focused on player choices & layered with strategy. We make games that are different and just a little bit weird, but that’s okay, as we’re all a little bit weird sometimes.

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

Components

  • 40 scoring tokens
  • 30 dice
  • 20 pudding tokens
  • 18 menu tokens
  • 12 chopsticks tokens
  • 5 conveyor belts
  • 5 trays
  • 1 dice bag

Gameplay

Set up

To begin, each player takes a tray and places it in front of them. Next, player put the chopstick and the menu tokens in the center of play area. Each player takes two chopstick and three menu tokens to begin the game. The dice are all put in the dice bag and it shaken to mix. The conveyor belts are shuffled, including the one with the red border. Each player receives a conveyor belt. Players draw dice from the bag, the number of dice per player depends on the number of players.

Gameplay

At the start of a round, all players take the dice they drew from the bag, roll their dice, and place them on their conveyor belt without changing them. Next, beginning with the player who has the conveyor belt with the red boarder, player have the option to use a menu token and/or a chopsticks token. The menu token allows a player to re-roll any of their dice, but they must keep the result of the roll. With chopsticks tokens players may switch one of the dice on their conveyor belt with a die on another player’s conveyor belt. The face of the die does not change. These actions may be done multiple times provided the player has the tokens to spend.

Next, the player then selects one die from their conveyor belt and without changing its face places it on their tray. Scoring occurs at the end of the round. If a player takes a Pudding , Menus, or Chopsticks dice they immediately take a token or tokens equal to the number of icons on that face of the die. Players who have a wasabi die and select a nigiri place the nigiri on top of the wasabi, since together they triple in value.

Once all players have selected their die, they simultaneously side their conveyor belts to the left. Each player re-rolls the dice in their conveyor belt and returns the dice to the belt. Players repeat the section steps, and again slide the conveyor belts once everyone has selected. The process repeats until all dice have been selected. That ends the round and players score the dice on their tray. Players take scoring tokens to track their score so far.

To begin a new round all the dice player return the dice to the bag, shaken, and redrawn by each player. Players complete three rounds and calculate final scores at the conclusion of the game. At the end of the game, players count and scored
pudding tokens as well as any remaining chopsticks or menu tokens.

Family Game Assessment

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

The trays are well designed to support player and have the information they need to make strategic selections. By listing the different sushi, it allows players to see the values for each piece of sushi. The scoring tokens also allow players to keep track of their score without needing to write it down. This streamlining of information and score keeping also helps the game span generations and abilities.

The game box is a larger box to accommodate all the components, which makes the game less portable than it’s predecessor. It is a worthy trade off to get the additional components in exchange for portability. For anyone that has played Sushi Go, the differences can be picked up in just a few minutes. Those new to the game will find it is easy to pick up and quick to learn.

Final Thoughts

For families that know and love the game Sushi Go, or just enjoy dice and sushi, Sushi Roll is a must addition to any game collection.



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As a Storm Trooper you tremble at the sight of the Millennium Falcon. It bobs and weaves above your head as you try and dodge out of the way. In Loopin’ Chewie, You are trying to defend you are storm troopers from Chewbacca in the millennium Falcon. To defend your storm troopers you have a paddle to knock the Millennium Falcon away. Your goal is to be the last person to still have storm troopers in play. Loopin’ Chewie is a game by Hasbro that supports two to three players ages four and up.

Game Components

  • Millennium Falcon
  • Base unit
  • 3 paddle arms
  • 3 paddle units
  • 1 flight arm on center cone
  • 9 tokens (Storm Troopers)

Gameplay

To begin the Millennium Falcon starts pointing straight up to the ceiling on it’s swiveling arm. One player turns on the motor and releases the Millennium Falcon to spin around. Players use their pad to tap the Millennium Falcon up and over their storm troopers. However, players need to be careful not to use too much force which can shake their own storm troopers out of play.

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.

Games are played very quickly with a simple reset. This lends the game to be played multiple times in a row.

Family Game Assessment

Loopin’ Chewie is 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.

The Star Wars theme is engaging across the ages too. It is not the most portable game, being a medium size box. However the pieces do disassemble easily to fit back in the box, which is convenient for storage. For a quick light game Loopin’ Chewie is a great game in a family collection.

Final Thoughts

For any young Star Wars fan Loopin’ Chewy is a great addition to a family game collection. It is a good quick game that takes moments to set up and play.

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Poison brewing? Stubborn donkey pushing? Table flipping? Let the Orclympics begin!

Brain Games

Get ready for a menagerie of different creatures battling head to head to win Orc-lympics events. Orc-lympics is a card game were you are drafting your team of Orclympians to compete in various events. You then need to manage the roster as your Orclympians compete. The game is for two to five players ages eight and up and plays in 10 to 20 minutes.

Components

  • 12 event cards
  • 42 Orc-lympics cards: Humans, Goblins, Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, Halflings, and Djinns
  • Gold and silver trophies

Gameplay

Orc-lympics plays in three phases: Reveal Competitions, Build Team, Compete.

Reveal Competitions

At the beginning of the game, to reveal the competitions, player set up the deck by shuffling the 12 event cards. There are three main event cards as well, which are set aside initially. Players deal the 12 event cards face up and six face down into two parallel rows. The face up cards have different scores and an illustration of the competition. Players sort cards least to greatest. The Main Event cards is randomly selected at the end, and is worth 7 points. The remaining 6 event cards which are face down are worth two points each. A main event card is placed at the end face down and is worth four points.

Build Team

To build teams, shuffle the 42 Orc-lympians cards and eight cards, and deal to each player. Players then draft their cards. To do this each player selects one card from their hand simultaneously and places it face down on the table in front of them. Players then take the remaining cards and pass them to the player on their left. Players continue to pick and pass cards until all eight cards have been selected. Next, players edit their team. They must limit their team of players to any three races, discarding any cards exceeded that criteria.

On each Orclympian card there are scores for three attributes; Speed, Cunning, and Strength. These scores are essential for competing in the competitions.

Compete

To Compete, players go around and can play any number of cards. However, the attribute listed on their Orclympian myst be one or greater in the skill of the competition. When a player becomes the highest scoring player they take the gold trophy,and second place player takes silver. Play may continue to go around with players adding cards if they wish, though one a player passes they can not add more players to the competition. Once all players have passed for that competition, it ends.
The player in first place takes the face up competition card and earns the points listed. The second place player takes the face down competition card under it and earns two points for regular competitions and four points for the main event. For the first and second place they also discard a cards used in the competition. The remaining players may take one card back and must discard the rest. Play continues until all seven competitions conculde. Each player is not required to compete in each competition.

Is this a Family Game?

Orc-lympics is a great gateway to more complex game mechanics. It incorporates drafting and resource management in a simple and accessible way. Players draft their “Orclympians,” edit their teams, and manage their players. It is nearly impossible to compete in every event so players need to prioritize how they will utilize their competitors to try and earn the most points.

There is quite a bit if strategy both with drafting and managing the resources of the Orc-lympians. There are several different layers of strategy, so you’ll need to coach younger players. Our youngest player was six years old and he needed a lot of support. He has learned some of the strategy needed after several games, but still benefits from coaching to keep the frustration at bay. With that said, the recommendation of age eight and up seems a good fit.

Final Thoughts

The Orc-lympic theme is light hearted and ties nicely into sports competitions and creating teams. As a stepping stone into card drafting and light resource management Orc-lympics is a good fit. At first glance the game seems complicated, but the steps are easy to understand and the game plays quickly so different strategies can be tried in rapid succession.


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

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So many great board games releases in 2019! It was a challenge to limit the list into a comprehensive collection of games for all types of games. To help your family find the best game we have broken the games into categories so you can see what may best suit your gift giving.

For the Youngest Gamers

Topper Takes a Trip

Topper Takes a Trip is a cooperative game for players ages two and up by Peaceable Kingdom. For the youngest players this is a great game to encourage discussion and vocabulary development. Players select a destination card and match the packing list for each destination as well. Players then gather the items on the packing list, and place them in the suitcase. Once all pieces are gathered players can pretend they are enjoying the activities of that destination. Topper travels to three places to complete the game. There are also suggestions for extending the play and enriching the experience to develop early skills. The skills include: gross motor, problem solving, color matching, spatial reasoning, and visual discrimination.

Guess It Get It Gumballs

Guess It Get It Gumballs is a cooperative memory game for two to four players ages four and up from Peaceable Kingdom. Players take turns picking up gumballs of the matching color from a spinner. They then guess the face on the reverse side by making that face into the mirror. The gumball is grabbed by using the suction cup on the reverse of the mirror. Players are trying to get a rainbow of gumballs before getting the stinkface. With the current awareness of Emotional Intelligence this game is great for helping young children recognize and identify feelings.

Small Games

Punto

Punto is a tiny tin box card laying game for two to four players ages eight and up from Gamewright. Players each have a pile of dot cards in one color. The cards are randomly shuffled within their pile. Cards are placed once player at a time either diagonally or orthogonally. The objective is to get five cards in a row at two player game or four cards in a three or four player game. Players need to keep the cards within a six by six grid. The game ends when one player has won two rounds. While the game is recommended for age eight and up, since there is no reading and the rules are not complicated this can scale down in age.

Tic Tac Surprise

Tic Tac Surprise is a two player game for ages five and up. This game by Peaceable Kingdom takes the classic game of Tic Tac Toe and adds a twist. The cards instead of X’s and O’s have two pictures. There are multiple versions of the game, so you can have dogs/cats, chocolate/vanilla donuts/ or fairies/unicorns. Within each picture type there are some special cards with an additional feature. For example on the donuts some of the donuts have sprinkles. These special cards allow players to place that card on top of an opponent’s card. Now a space is never truly unavailable.

Snowman Dice

Snowman Dice is a fun fast rolling, stacking, flicking, and pushing dice game for two to four players ages six and up from Brain Games. The photo above is of a prototype we previewed at New York Toyfair, and the finalize version in a snowball shaped bag. Additionally, the playtime and age recommendations have been changed since we saw the prototype. In Snowman Dice players are trying to roll the three pieces of their snowman and push the stack to the center marker, which is the North Pole. The dice also have an arrow, snowflake, which is a wild, and a snowball icon. The arrow is needed to push your snowman. With the snowball the player can flick the dice at an opponent’s snowman to try and knock it down and thwart their progress. Then winner is the first player to the North Pole.

Dirty Pig


Dirty Pig is a simple light card game from Happy Planet, a subdivision of North Star Games. In this game players are trying to be the first to make all of their pigs dirty. The game is for two to six players and is recommend for ages six and up. To play, all players begin with clean pigs. The number of pigs varies depending on the number of players. Each player draws three cards and can play one per turn, drawing a new card at their end of their turn. Cards include: Dirty Your Pig, Rain, Barn, Locked Barn Door, Lightning, Lightning Rod, and Clean That Pig. This is a light silly game good for multi-ages and can even scale younger since there is no reading involved.

Games for the Whole Family

Pyramid of Pengqueen

Pyramid of Pengqueen is a spin off theme from the Ice Cool games from Brain Games. The penguins have ventured in search of the mummy’s magical treasure. One playing takes on the roll of the mummy and the rests of the players are the adventures searching for the treasures. In the game there is a two sided vertical board with magnets. The players know were the mummy is but the mummy do not know where the penguins are. If the mummy finds a penguin it is sent to the mummy’s tomb. Players are trying to collect enough treasures before the mummy catches them too many times.

This Game Goes to Eleven

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

Bloom

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

Adventure book

Quirky Circuits



Quirky circuit is the next adventure book from Plaid Hat Games. This one features a automatic vacuum cleaner, similar to a Roomba, and you need to direct it to achieve certain goals. The challenge is that players please down their movement cars in secret from the other players to there are many challenges with getting the correct path to complete the objective. This game is for two to four players ages seven and up. The game contains 21 different scenarios within the adventure book.

Legacy

Zombie Kidz Evolution

Zombie Kidz Evolution is a perfect first legacy game for children. The game is for 2 to 4 players ages 7 and up and episodes take 5 to 15 minutes each approximately. The game takes place in the school and the player’s objective is to secure all the doors to keep the zombies out. As players move through the challenges they can open envelopes which adds new characters and makes changes to the board and to the rules.

If You Like. ..

Imhotep Duel


Imhotep Dual is a 2 player game that takes the strategy and gameplay of the original Imhotep and makes it a 2 player only game. The game is for ages ten and up and plays in about 30 minutes. Since it is only 2 players the premise is you are Nefertiti and Akhenaten, the famous Egyptian couple. Fans of the original will enjoy this 2 player version.

Sushi Roll

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

Forbidden Sky

Forbidden sky is the next adventure in the forbidden series from Gamewright. In this adventure players are now in the sky exploring a platform inside of a storm trying to launch a rocket. Game right for the very 1st time incorporates an electronic element and you need to complete the circuit and have the rocket light up and make sound to complete the game in succeed. One false move and you could be blown off the platform. The game is for ages 10 and up and plays 2 to 5 players.

Dragonrealms

Dragonrealm takes place in the same world as Dragonwood and moves it to the next adventure. This time instead of defeating creatures you are trying to look for treasure in different locations. As in Dragonwood you collect sets of cards that allow you to complete different actions. Adventure cards in a numerical row allow you to sneak. Cards all the same color allow you to search. Cards that are all the same color allow you to storm. The number of cards being played allows the player to have that many dice to roll to try to reach the required number on a location to complete the action. The total rolled by the days becomes their score and players discover if they have succeeded or failed. Once the dragon location is complete the game ends and players Pat up their coins. The player with the most coins wins

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know if you’re picking any of these games up!

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

Camp Pinetop is a hand management, card drafting game for 1-5 players. It’s appropriate for players 8 and up, with play time around 60-75 minutes (although prior experience and smaller player counts will cut that down).

What is the elevator pitch?

You are the leader of a group of campers who are exploring the wilderness. Along the way, you will need to collect achievement patches, which will give your scouts special abilities and allow them to level up to the highest rank (Badger), which is how you ultimately win.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

Camp Pinetop went live Tuesday, September 24, 2019 and runs to October 18, 2019. Check out the Kickstarter here!

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

The base game is all done, and we are working some add-ons and a few extra fun things for the Kickstarter.

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

There are some parallels to other games, but I cannot say there’s a great, singular comparison to it.

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

I had to! The idea of collecting patches was too exciting of an idea for me to pass up. The theme is just something I’m personally invested in as well. I’ve been an avid hiker my whole life, love the outdoors, went to summer camps as a kid and worked at them as an adult.

What was your design process like?

I would try a few different things, move onto another design for a while, then come back to it. Since the theme came first, the mechanics tested out had to relate to some aspect of outdoor adventuring and stay interesting. For instance, I experimented with the idea that the more equipment you had while hiking adversely impacted the speed at which you could travel. That early idea did not made it into the final but was something I explored early on.

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

Camp Pinetop hits the sweet spot of being easily learned and understood, but contains lot of depth and options in what strategies can be pursue. You can play it as an opportunist, just earning the patches that are easiest for you to get based on your position and the cards you have – or you can pursue a strategy of getting all of your campers on the map fast and getting them in advantageous spots. Or you can stick with a single camper, focus on the patch abilities that let you be nimble and mobile.

Honestly, when I set out to design Camp Pinetop, making a game for kids was not the focus. I prioritized making a game that I wanted to play. I also noticed it appealed to a wide age range. So I made sure to make it accessible to the people who kept coming by my table, whether they were in elementary school or retired.

How long has this game been in development?

The game in its current form has been in development for 3 years. But I have been playing around with the theme for probably 5 years now.

What obstacles did you encounter making this game?

What is clever and interesting mechanically vs. what is actually fun. I mentioned earlier the idea of travelling faster with less equipment vs travelling slower with more equipment. There was a pick-up-and-deliver aspect of the game very early on that I really liked. Unfortunately, it wasn’t fun when I tested it out, and so it had to be cut. I think a lot of designers struggle with this on a regular basis. But that’s a game that could be fun in another context, with that struggle at the center of it, just not in this one.

What did your first prototype look like?

I have a tupperware container of scraps of paper and wooden tokens of those early attempts, and I try very hard to not invest too much time in the final look in the early stages. Rather, just focusing on clear graphic design and maybe a fun table display for events. I do not always succeed in that restraint. At the midway point I started exploring different styles in the prototypes before settling on the final look.

Why did you get into making games?

I loved board games as a kid. My sister introduced me to a couple of more modern board games as an adult, and it sparked something in my brain. I started working up ideas for my own games immediately. The thought never really occurred to me before that, even though I’ve done a lot creatively up the that point. I’m very engaged by the balance of right-brain and left-brain tasks that are needed.

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

You can find more about me on my website stephenbdavies.com and get in touch with me through Twitter: @stephenbdavies

Talon Strikes Studios is the publisher that is helping me develop it and bring it to Kickstarter: TalonStrikes.com

You can find them on Twitter: @TalonStrikes

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