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Linda Wrobel

October is a time for monsters, zombies, and all kinds of creepy creatures to get into the sprite of Halloween. There are many horror-themed games, but the themes can be too dark and intense for many kids (and maybe some adults). This collection of games have light themes and graphics that lend themselves to the Halloween season without being dark or too scary. While teens may be able to delve into the horror genre, the games below are more fitting for the younger members of the family preferring lighter Halloween themes.

Disney Hocus Pocus: The Game

The Movie Hocus Pocus has become synonymous with Halloween, and now it is also a game from Ravensburger. Disney Hocus Pocus the Game is a cooperative game for two to six players ages eight and up. Just as in the movie, players are working together to protect the children and stop the Sanderson sisters from completing their potion all before the sun rises. Players win if they can successfully ruin the Sanderson sister’s potion three times before the sun rises. In an interesting twist players can not share their hands, but may ask certain questions which can only be answered by a yes or no.

Zombie Dice

Zombie Dice is a very easy push your luck game and can be handled by children 6 and up, even though it is suggested for a slightly older audience. Our guess is that they labeled it for 10 and older because zombies are scary. But, if you have kids in your house, you know that zombies and gross things are fascinating to kids. The dice are simple icons, and not scary or overly creepy. The scariest part of the game is the art on the container for the game.

Shaky Manor

Shaky Manor is a fun dexterity game that gets everyone shaking! In Shaky Manor each player has a tray containing eight square rooms each connected by doorways. Players place an meeple, an ghost, and three treasure chest cubes into the tray. They then shake the tray to try and get the meeple and the cubes into an designated room without the ghost. The first player to do it five times is the winner. The game comes with an number of other interesting game bits. They ranged from eyeballs and snakes spiders.

Push a Monster

Push a Monster is an adorable a dexterity game which was nominated for the Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children’s Game of the Year) in 2015, and is for players ages five and up. The monsters are gathered in the Monster Arena and more monsters are trying to join, but if there is not enough room, and the monsters keep falling off the arena. The game play is very simple to learn for young player. Roll a die, place the monster you roll, and try not to let any other monsters fall. If you knock any off the rest of the players score points. Push a Monster is a great way to play with monsters that are cute and not scary for the younger players.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

If you have a big family or can get a group of friends together, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a great party game. The game is for three to ten players ages eight and up. While it can be for as little as three players, it works better with a larger group. Players are randomly given a secret roll at the beginning of the game. Some rolls include: Tanner, Villager, Seer, Troublemaker, and Werewolf. Different roles have different power, and depending on your roll you are Team Villager or Team Werewolf. The players go through “one night” which is the phase when players use their abilities. After the “one night” phase ends, then player ultimately have five minutes to talk, try determine, and vote on the players they think are the werewolves.

Broom Service

Broom Service was the Kennerspiel des Jahres (connoisseur/expert game of the year) winner for 2015. This is a trick taking game where players take on the role of witches and druids in a flying delivery services. The game is for two to five plays ages ten and up. Every round players must choose different roles, and they have a choose to be brave or cowardly. The Brave option holds more reward, but also more risk. Will the risks or the caution pay off as you make deliveries?

Cauldron Quest

Cauldron Quest is a cooperative game that will fit right at home in any house full of Harry Potter fans. It is for players 6 and up and plays two to four players. Players are working together in Cauldron Quest to brew a magic potion that their kingdom needs to break a magic spell cast by an evil wizard. They do this by trying to move special barrels of ingredients from the outside of the board into the cauldron in the center. This might SOUND easy, but the evil wizard is trying to stop them by putting magic barriers in the way. Players need to get the correct three ingredients to the center before the wizard blocks all six paths.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg: The Herb Witches

The Quacks of Quedlinburg is an award winning game. It was named the Kennerspiel De Jahares (connoisseur/expert game of the year) in 2018. The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a push you luck game for two to four players ages ten and up. You take on the roll of a miracle surgeon or perhaps “quack” doctor making special portions and brews for all kinds of ailments by drawing ingredients from a bag.

North Star games released an expansion to The Quacks of Quedlinburg : The Herb Witches. The expansion adds a fifth player to the game, additional ingredients, as well as three Herb Witches.

Last Defense

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

Ghost Fightin Treasure Hunter

​Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters is an amazing cooperative game for the whole family to enjoy. The game is for  For 2-4 players, age 8 and up. Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters was the winner of the 2014 Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children’s Game of the Year) award. Players work together to collect and escape the house before too many rooms become haunted. Players may also need to fight ghosts or haunting.

King of Tokyo: Halloween

Attacking Aliens, Rampaging Lizards, Giant Robots, Mutant Bugs, and Ferocious Gorillas: this game has them all! King of Tokyo is a game for two to six players that combines a board game, a dice game and a card game. You play as one monster whose main goals are to destroy Tokyo and battle other monsters in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo! Each turn consists of 4 steps: rolling and re-rolling the dice, resolving the dice, buying cards and using their effects, and the end of turn decision.

King of Tokyo Halloween is an expansion, and remains for two to six players. The game plays in about 30 minutes and adds two new monsters  Boogie Woogie & Pumpkin Jack. The game also includes their evolutions, and costume cards. The costumes can also be stolen!

Zombie Kidz Evolution

Your successes or failors affect the game in your future plays of the game, in Zombie Kidz Evolution. This is a perfect first step into Legacy games, that are played over a series of sessions and what occurrences in previous sessions affect the next events in the game. Zombie Kidz Evolution is for player ages seven and up and has fifteen minute play sessions. In this cooperative game you are trying to work together to protect yourselves and drive off the zombies. It is set in a school and has all the adults as the zombies.

Disney The Haunted Mansion Call of the Spirits

The Haunted Mansion is a new game from Funko Games. This is one of the games we got to get a sneak peek of at Toy Fair in New York. The Haunted Mansion is a set collection game for two to six players ages eight and up. Players can acquire two kinds of cards: Ghost Cards and Haunt Cards. The game has an “Endless Hallway” piece in the center of the board. This is a lazy Susan turntable. There are eight different areas to explore on the game board, and these are right from the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney. The hitchhiking ghosts from the ride are also featured in the game.

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

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From the quiet librarian to the rock star. This Game Goes to Eleven is a light card game with an equally light rock theme. It is for two to six players ages eight and up, and takes approximately 20 minutes.

Components


• 72 cards
• Guitar pick


Gameplay

In This Game Goes to Eleven, each player is dealt a hand of 3 cards. Players take turns putting down one card with the goal of getting all the cards in the pile to reach a total of eleven. When you play your card, if the total is less than eleven, play moves to the next player. Should you put down a total equaling exactly eleven you give the pile of cards to the player of your choice. However, if your card makes the pile total over 11 you must take the entire pile of cards.


There are two special cards in the deck. The first is the number eleven, and his card instantly brings the pile to eleven. You then give it to the player of your choice. The other is the Librarian which is zero. This card does 1 of 2 things 1 way to use this card is to place it on top of the pile and reset the pile to 0. The other way to do it is to counteract a 11 card and the person who played the 11 now must take the pile. The goal of the game is to have the fewest number of cards at the end. The values on the cards are irrelevant to the score.

Variant

The variant incorporates the included guitar pick. The guitar pick designates which player gets the pile instead of the player deciding. Once the pile equals eleven, the pick holder must collect the pile. The pick then passes to the next player. This changes the dynamic of selecting who receives the pile versus having it in turn, and is a helpful variant with children so they feel the pile collection is more equitable.

Family Game Assessment

This Game Goes to Eleven is a perfect light family game. While recommended for ages eight and up, the game scales down for younger children that can do simple computation up to eleven. The game is extremely easy to teach at has very few rules. Players on their turn merely have to select one of the three cards in their hand to play and try to strategize with those limited choices. This is a good fit for young gamers or non gamers since the rules are simple and streamline. The limited choice in what to do on your turn and limited strategy also keeps turns simple.. There is an element of luck in the game with what numbers you pick up when you draw at the end of your turn. However, having three card does allow a bit of strategy into the game to keep it interesting.

This is also a game that would work multi generational since there is limited skill and strategy incorporated.

Final Thoughts

For a light family game that can include multi ages or generations This Game Goes to Eleven is a great addition to a family collection. You can crank this game up to an eleven and enjoy laughs around the table.

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

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The Spiel Des Jahres awards go to the best board games released in a German speaking country during the previous year or current year. The award is a high prestige for the winner.  There are three awards each year: The Spiel Des Jahres (The Game of the Year), the Kinderspiel Des Jahres (Children’s Game of the year), and the Kennerspiel Des Jahres (Connoisseur Game of the year).

Spiel Des Jahres 

Pictures

  • Party Game
  • 3-5 players
  • Ages 8+
  • Play time: 30 Minutes
  • US Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Pictures is a unique party game that takes place over five rounds. The game begins with a field of 16 photo cards placed in a four by four grid. Then each player uses a series of unique items to best represent one picture. The kinds of objects are radically different and each have their own challenges.

Materials sets used to recreate photo:

  • 2 Shoelaces
  • 6 Wooden Building Blocks
  • Wooden cubes and Picture frame
  • picture cards, hand drawn style
  • 4 Sticks, 4 Stones

Once the pictures are recreated, each player guesses which pictures the objects represent. Players earn points by correctly guessing, and having your picture correctly guessed. Materials pass, allowing all players to use all five different materials, and the creating beings again.

Runners up:

  • My City by Reiner Knizia
  • Nova Luna by Uwe Rosenberg and Corné van Moorsel

Kinderspiel Des Jahres

Speedy Roll

  • Dexterity Game
  • 1-4 players
  • Ages 4+
  • Play time: 20 Minutes
  • Publisher:  Lifestyle Boardgames / Piatnik

Speedy roll is an adorable and versatile game for young players. The little hedgehogs want to get home, but they are hungry along the way. The game uses two different components for the hedgehogs: an adorable felt ball with eyes and wooden hedgehog meeples. Players roll the felt ball hedgehog through a field of mushrooms, leaves, and apples, which are tokens with a velcro back to collect food. The food collected is what directs the meeple’s journey along the path. However, too much food weights you down, and you do not move at all.

What is unique about this game is there is the option to play it competitively or cooperatively. When playing competitively, the hedgehogs are racing to be the first one home. In the cooperative version, there is only one hedgehog and he is trying to get home before the fox catches him.

Speedy Roll is not currently available in the United States.

Runners Up:

  • Photo Fish by Michael Kallauch 
  • We are the Robots by Reinhard Staupe

Kennerspiel Des Jahres

The Crew: Quest for Planet 9

  • Cooperative Trick Taking Game
  • 3 to 5 players
  • Ages 10+
  • Play time: 20 Minutes per mission
  • Publisher:  Kosmos

The Crew combines two unique gaming styles, cooperative and trick taking. Players take on the roll of a space crew trying to complete missions. The rule books tells the story of each mission as well as the conditions players need to follow to succeed. Once a mission is completes successfully players can move on to the next mission. The game has 50 mission, which increase in intensity both within the story and in the requirements needed to be successful.

One additional challenge, players are limited on how much the can communicate. A communication token provides information once per mission, and is based on where it is place on the card placed on the table. Different locations communicate different information to the other players.

For a small game, and modest number of components there is a lot of game packed into the small box.

Runners Up:

  • The Cartographer by Jordy Adan
  • The King’s Dilemma by Lorenzo Silva, Hjalmar Hach and Carlo Burelli

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

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Bad Guy Nonsense is a strategic family card game by Marc Rienzo. It is live on Kickstarter and ends July 21st. The project is funded and you can back the game for $28. Check out the Kickstarter page here.

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

Bounty Hunters compete to capture fantastical characters in a strategic family CARD GAME for 2-4 players. It takes only 4 minutes to learn and is about 20- minutes to play.

What is the elevator pitch? 

An UNSPEAKABLE MONSTER has unleashed a wave of DARK NONSENSE matter across the cosmos… infecting countless life forms with a NONSENSE plague. As a member of The BOUNTY HUNTER collective, you must compete to capture the infected. But be wary of BURGLARS, BANDITS, HEROES, and the cosmic WITCH along the way… they’re infected too.

When is your Kickstarter going live?

It’s already live! ending very soon on July 21

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

The game is complete, we just need backers!

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

Not that I am aware of

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

Comic Book films these days are all PG-13 or R Rated. As a father and film VFX professional, I found it frustrating many of these films were inappropriate to my young kids. So I created my own family-friendly comic book universe for like-minded parents & gamers to enjoy with their kids.

What was your design process like? 

It all began with index cards to figure out the gameplay, and then wet erase cards. The artwork and character design evolved as the gameplay evolved. At numerous points, the games was considered finished, but we really wanted it to be the best it could be so we’d rework every detail that we were not 100% on.

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

It’s popculture rich, yet family friendly with a sense of humor while also easy to learn and play!

How long has this game been in development? 

2 + years

What obstacles did you encounter making this game? 

COVID19

What did your first prototype look like? 

The first prototype was hideous, but so were the second and third! All in there were nearly a dozen prototypes before I was happy with the print quality and overall design & layout.

Why did you get into making games? 

I’ve always had a love for card games, and Bad Guy Nonsense was initially only intended for my family. But when I saw how much all their friends loved playing it too, and parent after parent started asking for copies… I knew I had something special to share.

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

Marc Rienzo is a VFX Supervisor, Artist, & Father with a love for Card Games, Comic Books and Star Wars. 20+ years of VFX experience including Marvel Studios, Disney, Bad Robot, ILM, Bruckheimer Films, Weta Digital, Digital Domain, Sony Imageworks, PDI Dreamworks, & many more.

You can find out more about Bad Guy Nonsense at:

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With beautiful artwork of Beth Soble and theme of the Alexandria Library, Fire in the Library is all about being the most successful librarian saving the books and the knowledge they contain. Fire in the Library is a push your luck game for one to six players it plays in 15 to 30 minutes and his rated for ages 8 and up.

Components

  • 26 library cards
  • 39 tool cards
  • 6 turn on or cards
  • 8 reference cards
  • 22 book tokens
  • 4 purple
  • 6 yellow
  • 5 black and
  • 7 white
  • 17 fire tokens read one library bag 1 scoring track 6 librarian figures

Set Up

To set up again you take out the four quadrants of the library representing the different sections. The cards stack into piles with the most damage on the bottom. That places the highest value card on the bottom and lowest volume on top.

Players add 22 book tokens and 7 of the fire tokens to the library bag. The remaining 10 fire tokens are added as sections of the library burn or books are burned. To set up the tool cards players reveal a field of three cards. There is a quick setup guide on the back of the rule book to streamline game setup, which we found very helpful.

Gameplay

Rounds

Each round consists of 3 steps. The first step is selecting turn order. The beginning round of the game, the turn order cards are randomly passed out. In future rounds, the player with the lowest score has the first choice of turn order. From there turn order selection follows based on score, lowest to highest. Turn order cards each have different number of safe spaces, bravery points, and risky spots.

Step two of the round has players saving books. The first portion of this step they draw tokens from the bag. The player draws one token at a time and places it on their turn order card. If the token is a book they may continue saving books. However, if they draw a fire token and placed on a risky spot on the turn order card or it is the second fire token drawn by that player the books they save burn. At the end of their turn one of two things happens. The players scores based on knowledge saved, or the fire spreads depending on the tokens they draw.

At step 3 the round ends. At this point, one section of the library burns. Players discard the card with the lowest burn index. The turn order cards are collected, and play begins at the top of the round again.

Fire Spreading

On their turn if a player pulls too many fire tokens or puts one on a risky spot it triggers fire spreading. This utilizes an interesting mechanic in the game to represent the library burning. The books they have collected “burn”, which means the player must remove the top card from each section of the library that matches the book’s color. Each quadrant of the library has a different color book on it representing the section of the library. A fire token is also added to the library bag for every card with a fire icon.

Ending the Game

The game ends immediately if a section of the library reveals a value of 10. This represents the section of the library collapsing. The player with the highest score wins.

Variants

Beyond the base rules for the game there are six variants that players can enjoy. There is iconography on the cards that comes into play with the robot variants.

  • Solo Variants: Solo Robot Variant and Lone Librarian Variant
  • Multiplayer with Robot Variant: This is usable with less than six players
  • No Tool Variant: Tool cards are eliminated and is perfect for younger players.
  • Wild Fire Variant: This variant speed up the game with two sections of the library burning each round.
  • Inferno Variant: The Wild Fire Variant plus turn order cards dealt randomly.

Family Game Assessment

Fire in the library has an engaging theme for those that are bookish. While the theme might not be for everyone the push your luck element holds the attention of all players. The anticipation builds to see how each librarian does saving the books and if they catch too many embers. There are multiple choices for players to make each round and the tension escalates as more sections of the library burn at each round. The game also accelerates as the ratio of fire tokens increases in the draw bag. There are many nuances to the game, and the rules took us a few turns to fully grasp. Despite that, once the rules are understood, Fire in the Library is relatively streamline.

While recommended for age eight and up, with the level of complexity in the game it does not readily age down well. The No Tool Variant is an option for players on the younger side or less experienced players. As a push your luck game the rules are simple enough that it would be a good introduction for all ages within the suggested age range to that gaming mechanic.

Final Thoughts

When I first saw the Kickstarter of Fire In The Library, I was intrigued. The theme, art, and gameplay resonated with me before I even sat down with a physical copy. I felt compelled to back this game and am thrilled it is in my collection. For someone who loves books and libraries it strikes a unique cord.


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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.


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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.


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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!

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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