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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. I happened upon this game listening to a podcast about board games. Most of the games the discussed were heavier weight game, and then one mentioned Skyjo. It sounded perfect for my family, so I found it online. It was an instant hit!

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 twelve cards face down at the beginning of the round they reveal two 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 one player has revealed all twelve 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.

Buy Skyjo here on Amazon!


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By: Jesse Stanley

  • Age Rating 7+ * (Note there is a NSFW edition that should not be played with children due to language and adult content)
  • Players: 2 – 5* (Can be played with up to nine people by adding a second deck)
  • 15 Minutes
  • Competitive
  • Buy Exploding Kittens here on Amazon

Exploding Kittens exploded into our lives in early 2015. The game became the most-funded project in Kickstarter history at that time, backed by the most people ever. More than 219,000 people showed their support to make this happen. The popularity of Matthew Inman and The Oatmeal certainly helped.

With all the buildup the expectations for this game have been rather high. When the announcement that the game had shipped came it wasn’t too long thereafter that people were posting photos of their spoils online, it was here, but was it good?

The Game

There are fifty-six cards in the deck. The artwork is exactly what you may have come to expect from The Oatmeal. Characters such as Tacocat and Beard Cat make an appearance alongside original artwork on each card. The gameplay is quite simple; the box claims it takes two minutes to learn. They weren’t kidding.

You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple.

There are a variety of cards that make the game move along and add a layer of strategy to the game. You can use cards to skip your turn or force others to take two turns in a row. There are cards that allow you to steal card or peek at the deck. There are even some that allow you to reshuffle the deck. If you don’t like a card that your opponent has just played you can counter it with a Nope card, though if they respond by playing their own it becomes a Yup!

If you are unfortunate enough to draw an exploding kitten the only thing that can save you is a defuse card. After that is played you put the explosive feline back into the deck anywhere you like. You can do this in front of everyone or even bring the deck under the table to place it. One rather mean strategy is to place it right on top for the next player to draw.

The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out. This feature makes games pretty quick and it was quite refreshing to know that the games were short and sweet.

Family Game Assessment

After playing the game several times now, it was a lot more fun than anticipated. The concept is rather simple, but the execution was nice. It is by no means a game with deep strategy, but that is what makes it so fun. It’s a game about exploding kittens. It isn’t meant to be serious, and the humorous nature of the cards really adds an air level of levity to the gaming table.

During the games it wasn’t uncommon for everyone at the table to cheer and laugh as kittens were revealed and either placed back in the deck in a clever way or took a player out. Overall this game is a good time and comes with a good recommendation so long as you aren’t taking it too seriously.

Expansions and Spin off Games

The team at Exploding kittens has been busy since the Kickstarter of the original Exploding Kittens hit the board game scene. Below are just some of the games and expansions they have put out since then. There are even more outside of the Exploding Kittens theme too!

The ease of the game makes it a great game for the age ranges that are indicated on the box and it plays well for groups of adults as well. The real test will be how much replay value it has. Given the short nature of the game it is a nice way to cleanse the palate between other longer more involved games.

  • Exploding Kittens Party Pack
  • Exploding Kittens Recipes for Disaster
  • Zombie Kittens
  • Exploding Minions
  • Exploding Kittens NSFW (Not Safe for Work)
  • Barking Kittens (expansion)
  • Imploding Kittens (expansion)
  • Streaking Kittens (expansion)

Conclusion

For some reason, this game is a lot more fun than one might think it would be. It plays very quickly and is very easy to learn. Pick it up for something additional to do during a night of gaming. It probably couldn’t support a game night on its own, but it is a fine addition to throw in while someone is running to grab and set up something else.

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Château is a brand new roll and write game coming to Kickstarter on February 7, 2023. You can follow the campaign here on Kickstarter.

Château is a quick to learn family game where you take on the role as an architect constructing the blueprint of a stunning château in Europe. Players select a Château and try to be the first to completely fill in all the squares on their boards by utilizing polyomino shapes.

One thing that is important to know, Château is a print and play game. This means that a physical copy is not provided, only the digital file and you are responsible for printing. This is quite important since not everyone has easy access to a color printer.

Recommended Components:

  • Two six sided dice
  • One pencil per player
  • printed Château Board per player

A career as an elementary teacher has prepared me well for a print and play game. I could not resist “teacher-ing” up my copy the game. While the intent is for players to print and mark their Château with pen or pencil, I raided my classroom and used dry erase pockets paired with dry erase markers. This allowed me to reuse the printed boards.

My next step is going to be to laminate the sheets with my personal laminator with heavier thickness laminate to make the boards more durable and again eliminates the need for reprinting.

Roll of 2 or 3

Optional Components/Tools

  • Dry Erase Pockets (find them here on Amazon)
  • white board/ dry erase markers
  • Laminator and laminate sheets
  • Cardstock

Gameplay Overview

  • 1-99 players (you are only limited by the copies printed)
  •  Ages 7+
  • 15 min playtime

Before the first roll of the dice, each player marks five adjacent squares on the player board to their left. Players roll two dice and simultaneously mark their boards to resolve. Each number on the die represents a certain outcome, which the board depicts. The two dice give you two outcomes per roll. Overall the number rolled for 2-5 is the number of adjacent squares you mark. There are some exceptions based on special abilities which vary by Château. (This is explained further below)

Options with roll of 5
  • 1 – Catapult, This is the one roll that results in interacting with another player’s boards. When a one is rolled, it is resolved first, and the players all mark on square on the board of the player to their left. A space containing a hammer may not be marked.
  • 2- A two square polyomino
  • 3 – A three square polyomino
  • 4 or 5 – for most boards you have four and five polyomino shapes respectively and must choose one to use and mark it off, and may not use it again.
  • 6- Item, Items are scattered throughout each Château. When a six is rolled each player selects one items and marks all of the squares off containing that item.

Hammers

The Château all have hammers, and marking a space with a hammer allows you to mark an additional space. When players mark a hammer they may mark any other square, including another hammer. Thus gaining the ability to mark another additional square. Other players may not mark hammers in the initial five polyomino shape marked nor when a Catapult is played.

Individual Bonuses

Each Château has a unique bonus listed in the upper right hand corner of the board. Players announce their bonuses at the beginning of the game, before the first dice roll.

Château in the Base Game

Base Game and Expansions

In the preview file I received it contains the base game and two expansions. There are five château in the base game The United Kingdom expansion includes three châteaus. The Scandinavian Expansion includes three expansions.

Family Game Assessment

Château grabbed our family and friends right away. We played with mixed ages and still learned the game in just a few minutes, and by the third roll of the dice, the game flowed quickly and easily. Out of pure chance, we had quite a few ones roll. There was laughter and just a little frustration when we once again passed our boards to the right. Inevitably, our plans were thwarted as the opponent marks a square of their choice. The tension certainly built up as we looked around and some people had more complete boards, and we could see them closing in on the win, with the rest of us just a few squares behind. The game was such a hit after the first play that we immediately wiped of the boards, picked new Château and played again.

Game in progress with Chateau in a Dry Erase Pocket

Having actual architecture featured creates a link to geography and history which adds a layer beyond the game. The artwork is beautiful and accentuates each location. With the expansions, the available Châteaus cover a wider geographic range, offering more history to explore outside .

The number of Château is fixed, however, by printing additional copies, the player count in nearly infinite, since players will make unique choices with the placement of polyominoes. The format of all players using the same two dice to make their choices on squares they mark, allows a significant flexibility in player count.

Final Thoughts

Château is a great game for families. The cost is quite reasonable and affordable, and even if you use more premium materials, such as card stock, and lamination. The cost per board for a family size set is low. The rules are so simple, the game takes just minutes to set up and learn, making it accessible and fun for a huge range of players both in age and experience. This is one to watch for the Kickstarter launch and back on day one!

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There are times when game recommendations come from unexpected sources. I was quite surprised to hear about a game going to Kickstarter through a fan page for the small company Svaha

Frya is a card stacking game abstract strategy game with 68 cards which funded on Kickstarter in 2021.

Game Overview

  • 1-4 players
  • Ages 4 and up
  • Playtime 5-25 minutes

Gameplay

In Fyra, each player selects a “team” color. The goal of the game is to be the player with the least of your color showing when you run out of cards. Each card has four corners. The corners may be the same or different colors in the four colors: purple, yellow, blue, red.

To begin the game, two cards are placed in the middle next to each other face up. Each player receives three cards. On their turn each player puts down only one card. The must match what is under it exactly. If a portion of their card (one, two or three corners) match what is under it they draw a card at the end of their turn. Part of the card may hang off the end, and the pile grows outward with each turn.

If a player is able to match all four corners of their card they do not need to draw a card. If there are no matches at all the player puts their card adjasent to the cards and must draw two cards. When a player runs out of cards they are out of the game.

To scorce, the player who has run out of cards counts the number of corners with their team color showing at that point of the game. Play continues until only one player remains with cards.

Family Game Assessment and Final Thoughts

Fyra is a game with a wide appeal and wide accessibility, playable by children ages 4 and up. That said, it has enough strategy for grown-ups. With no text to read and only colors to match Fyra is approachable by every level of gamer. An additional feature is the distinctive designs on each color to accommodate players with color blindness or play in poor lighting. The rules are very easy to learn. The game teaches in just a matter of minutes at a rough minutes. Even with the easy rules, the strategy is challenging. This is a game that is easy to learn and hard to master.

Where to Find Fyra


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Buy Abandon All Artichokes on Amazon!

There is nothing like a day spent in the garden. In Abandon All Artichokes you are trying to get an assortment from the garden and have no artichokes. Abandon All Artichokes has won multiple awards including: Geek Dad Game of the Year, Parent Choice Silver Honor, and American Tabletop.

Overview

  • Publisher: Gamewright
  • Ages: 10+
  • 2-4 Players
  • Game Style: Deck Building (deconstruction)
  • Components: 100 Cards
  • Playtime: 20 minutes

Abandon All Artichokes is a fast paced deck building/ deconstruction game where players are trying to take their personal decks and draw a hand without artichoke cards at the end of their turn. A deck building game has players curating the cards that are in their deck to optimize what they draw.  Players accomplish this by both discarding and adding different cards to your personal deck.

Gameplay

To begin the game players have ten artichoke cards as their personal deck.  The remaining non-artichoke cards are shuffled and create The Garden Stack.  From this a field of five cards create the Garden Row. Then players draw five cards (out of their ten) into their hand. At the beginning of the game they are only artichoke cards.

On your turn players complete five phases.

  • Replenish: Refill the field of five cards in the Garden Row by drawing and placing cards from the Garden Stack
  • Harvest: Select one card from the Garden Row and add it to your hard. It may be played at any time during your turn
  • Play: Play any number of cards from your hand, however you must be able to fulfill all the requirements on the card.
  • Discard: Discard all cards in your hand face up to your personal discard pile.
  • Draw: From your personal deck, draw five new cards.

When you draw the five cards at the conclusion of your turn, if there are no Artichoke cards, you loudly declare ”Abandon All Artichokes” and you win.

Family Game Assessment

Once again, Gamewright has made a great family game. The mechanics of deck building in this game, and the deconstruction nature of the gameplay are both a great gateway to other deck building games. The deconstruction element is a more unique game mechanic and Abandon All Artichokes presents it in a way that is easy to learn.  This game is a “one round teacher”, meaning that by just playing through one round, players then completely understand the game play.  While the age recommendation is 10 and up, this is a game that can scale down to age 8 especially if they are an experienced gamer. With the quick 20 minute playtime, it is an easy game to find time to play as a family.

Conclusion

The EFG team got our first of look at Abandon All Artichokes at New York Toy Fair 2020. We knew it would be a hit once we played a round. This is a great addition to any family gaming collection.


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A Nessie pokes their head above the water.. then another appears…and another…and another. See if your monster can dominate the loch in this family strategy game Block Ness. In this game you’re using three dimensional pieces to try to add on to your monster and create the longest monster.

Buy Block Ness on Amazon!

Game Overview

  • Age 8+
  • 2 to 4 Players
  • Playtime: 15 minutes

Game components

  • Game board (pegboard style)
  • 4 sets of 12 loch monster pieces

Game play

Players begin with only the head and tail of their monster in the water. On their turn players add one piece onto their monster, either at the head end or the tail end. Once you place the new monster segment, move the head or tail piece to indicate the end of the creature. Players must make sure that their new pieces their pieces are adjacent to one of the head or tails of their monster. The pieces must be placed horizontally or vertically. Players will need to cross over other pieces of competing monsters, but they must be a taller height than the piece they are going over.

A player is out when the they no longer can place a piece to the head or tail of their monster. This occurs when there are no more available pegs, or your monster is blocked by other monster pieces.

The size of the play space also scales based on the number of players. The shade of blue indicated the play space, so fewer players have a smaller space they are competing to take over.

One tip we found very helpful was to sort all the pieces by size. Sorting the pieces shortest to tallest it allows players monitor what pieces remain. This helps strategizing how to use those to best build their monster.

Family Game Assessments

Block Ness is a wonderful family game. The rules are easy to learn, but with a plethora of strategy incorporated into the game. We have played with a mix of adults and kids and everyone was able to pick it up quickly. It was so natural for the kids one of them actually won the game.

While there is player elimination, it occurs very late in the game. Typically there is only another turn or two before the game is over. Gameplay is fast and a whole game usually is 15 to 20 minutes.

This is a fun light game that is great for any collection.

Final Thoughts

If you want a light family strategy game, Block Ness fits that need. It is easy to play with a range of ages and skill levels within the same game.


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Quest and Cannons:The Risen Islands takes place in a fanciful world where the characters from one of three nations: Dwunny (Dwarf-bunny), Porcs (Pig-Orcs), or Delves (Duck-Elves) battle for resources. The nations have three characters , each with special traits. Players move their characters around a hexagonal map exploring, collecting, completing quests and battling other nations. Ultimately the goal is to gain Prosperity points. This is the first game from Short Hop Games.

  • Age: 14+
  • Play Time: 20-120 minutes (20 minutes/player)
  • Plays 1-6 players
  • Gameplay mechanics: Pick up and Deliver, variable player powers, hand management

Quests and Cannons has multiple modes of play giving players many options. The game can be played in solo mode, with up to six players in a free for all, as a 2 verses 2 or 3 verses 3. There are also guidelines for map setup, but even within the guidelines there is a significant amount of variability. With so many choices on game play and board set up this game will feel fresh and exciting with each new play.

Quests and Cannons is coming to Kickstarter on September 21, 2021. Click the link to check it out!

Components

  • 6 player ship dashboards
  • 18 sail tokens
  • 6 wooden player ships
  • 50 Resource tokens (10 of each kind)
  • 24 Cannon tokens
  • 6 Traveler’s Dice
  • 24 Cargo slot covers
  • 54 Ammo dice
  • 30 Hull damage tokens
  • 9 Character stands
  • 3 Dwunny Champion Tiles
  • 3 Porc Champion Tiles
  • 3 Delf Champion Tiles
  • 21 Tri-hex Terrain Tiles
  • 15 Single-hex Terrain Tiles
  • 3 Trading post Tiles
  • 3 Starting Kingdom Tiles
  • 3 Outpost Tiles
  • 18 Island Feature Tokens
  • 6 Score trackers
  • 39 Coins
  • 45 Quest cards
  • 18 Map clues cards
  • 45 Loot Cards

Game Play Overview

There are quite a few different elements to game play, actions players can take and choices to consider for players. Without getting into every choice, there are some key features of the game to know. Players are working to gain Prosperity Points to win, and Prosperity Points are earned by completing Quests, following Map Clues, and attacking other ships.

Resources found on the island

Types of Spaces

There are eight different types of spaces you may encounter, different seas affect you movement.

  • Calm sea: one movement  points space
  • Stormy Seas: Two movement points space
  • Treacherous Sea: must roll die, with a roll on 1,2,3 your ship takes hull damage.
  • Impassable Terrain: can not be moved through

Other Spaces include:

  • Outposts: upgrade their ships, or deliver resources for a quest, repair their ship, buy ammo, sell resources
  • Trading Post: trade or sell resources
  • Starting Spaces: return completed map clues, repair their ship, buy ammo, sell resources
  • Islands: explore: gather resources, gain Quest Cards
Sails add one movement

Turns

A player’s turns consists of using three action points. There are different combinations of actions players can take, which give lots of options within three simple choices. On a player’s turn they can:

  • Move one space in any direction (sails add one additional movement per sail), different terrain (noted above) costs different movement points
  • Gather resources from an island
  • Attack, fire your cannons at an enemy player

Free Actions

In addition there are free actions as well. These give players even more options on their turns, though there are limitations since these are dependent on being at certain locations.

  • At a Trading Post players are able to exchange resources for others resources they need or to sell resources for coins.
  • At Outposts players can spend resources and coin to upgrade their ship. Outposts are also a location for players to complete Quests by delivering the resources.
  • Starting spaces are where players can return their Map Clues, and most importantly gain a Prosperity Point when they do so.
  • Both the Outposts are Starting Spaces allow you to also repair your ship, buy ammo, and sell resources, Loot cards, or Map Clues
Player Board keeps everything organized!

Family Game Assessment

Quests and Cannons is a more complicated game both in components to manage and choices per turn, than I am used to playing. Even thought the set up takes some time, and there are quite a lot of components to manage it was totally worth the time at the front end once we began playing. The set up did become easier and a little faster once you know the game. As play begins the turns are easy and move quickly, keeping my whole family engaged. There are quite a few elements to keep tabs on, and the ship dashboard organize many of those elements so well.

Quests and Cannons is recommended for ages 14 and up, but with support, scales down a bit. My boys, ages nine and thirteen were able to play, with support. An experienced gamer as young as 9 or 10 and have success playing, especially with a veteran gamer to guide them. Based on how my children took to the mechanics, this could be used as a “gateway game” into a more complex series of mechanics and managing components.

For a family looking to add a game with more complexity to expand their collection Quests and Cannons is an excellent choice. The complex components and mechanics are organizing them in a way to streamline the gameplay making it a great fit for a range of gaming skills.


A prototype of Quests and Cannons was provided for review, so final production may have some changes.


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Silliness ensues as you pop, snatch and grab your way to victory in Over Under Ostrich by Dolphin Hat Games. This is a hilarious dexterity set collection game for two to eight players ages eight and up. The game is quick, one you get the technique, and games run about five minutes.

Game Components

  • Deck of 54 Ostrich cards containing 6 different ostriches
  • 8 Clipper Cards

Gameplay

Set up for Over Under Ostrich is quite easy, simply spread all the cards face down on a table. Making sure all players can reach the cards is the greatest challenge during set up all players. This gets more challenging with a large group. After the card setup is complete, each player creates their “ostrich head” using one hand and arm. The players bend their hand at the wrist and pinch their fingers together to create an ostrich head. With their body ready, players “pop and snatch”.

The game begins players simultaneously slide one card at a time to the edge of the table near them, then pop the card into the air with the back of their fingers, and snatch if from the air before it lands on the table. If the player does not successfully grab the card, even if it is not one that they need, they must continue to try to successfully pop and snatch this card. A card that is successfully snatched but not needed is tossed back onto the table face up.

The objective is to collect one of each hairstyle into your “Ostrich Sanctuary”, which is the area in front of you. Other players can try and thwart you by playing a Clipper card. If a player collects a Clipper card they can place it on one of the Ostriches in an opponents Ostrich Sanctuary. The forces the player to have to collect that card again.

The first player to collect all six ostriches in their Sanctuary yells “Heads Up!” to win!

Family Game Assessment

Over Under Ostrich is a silly game the whole family can enjoy. The recommendation is ages eight and up, but is simple enough that it can scale down to younger. That said, the dexterity portion might be challenging for children under eight. Some families my find it helpful to practice before beginning the game, and make modifications for players that struggle with the Pop and Snatch technique. We found there was a learning curve for the technique.

When we played it, even with the practice time, my eight year old was struggling to snatch. To address this challenges, we made a “house rule”, and he used two hands to snatch. That little accommodation made a world of difference in reducing his frustration and letting him jump right into the game.

Conclusion

Over Under Ostrich provides families with a quick, simple, silly family game that can be played by up to eight players. It is an inexpensive game, and one that fits in small places and containers making it portable and great for gifting.


FCC disclosure A copy if the game was provided for review.

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Blokk! is a dexterity game coming to Kickstarter in October 2021. The word Blokk is the Norwegian words for Block. In Blokk! you take on the role as the Architect trying to create a perfect cube. Click here to follow their Kickstarter page.

Components

  • 1: 4×4 stencil
  • 1: 5×5 Rotating stand (360 Degree rotation)
  • 33 Blocks
  • 3 Gold Achievement pieces
  • 1 set of 36 playing cards
  • 1 multi-color dice
  • 1 scoring sheet

Blokk! gives players many options for modes of play. They also have the option of which size cube to build. Players can build a 4×4 cube or a 5×5 cube. The game also offers three options for modes of play and three options for construction modes

Modes of play:

  • I, Blokk!: This is a solo mode. The player (Architect) tries to construct their cube with minimal imperfections
  • Blokk! Party: This mode is for two to four players (Architects), players work cooperatively to adding one block per turn to construct a cube
  • Blokk! Off: This mode is for two to four players (Architects), players work competitively by taking turns constructing their cube. Once all architects have completed their Cube and each has been scored the player with the highest score wins.

Construction modes

  • Free Blokk!: (easy) In this mode, the Architect(s) choose one available block on their turn and adds it to the Cube under construction.
  • Dice Blokk!: (intermediate) In this mode, the Architect rolls the six sided color die which determines the color piece they must add to the Cube being constructed. They may choose any one piece in that color on their turn.
  • Card Blokk!: (advanced) In this mode the card deck is used and the Architect must draw one card per turn to determine the block they are to use on that turn.

Gold Blokk! Challenge

The game includes special Gold Blocks, and these unlock as players complete challenges. The prototype has 21 challenges listed in increasing difficulty. Completing three challenged unlocks the first Gold Block. Six challenged unlocks the second. Ten challenges completed unlocks the third Gold Block. Once unlocked these are optional for the player to use in all game modes.

Scoring

The scoring is very straight forward and easy to understand, and uses the same guidelines regardless of the mode or play or the construction mode. The Architect(s) start with 100 points. One point is lost for any imperfections which is a void or space outside the perfect Cube. Five points are lost of a block falls at any point. If three or more blocks fall the game is over and the player must restart.

Family Game Assessment

Blokk! is an easy to learn, easy to play, and hard to master game. The rules are simple and easy to learn in just a matter of minutes. Adults and kids enjoy the challenge of trying to make a perfect cube. The concept is easy and because there is no reading, so the recommended age of five and up is a good fit. This also has the advantage of supporting fine motor development in younger players. The different modes of play allow families to customize the game play to best suit the dynamic of the players.

Blokk! is a huge hit with the family. The Blokk! party mode has been the most popular game mode with my family. They like all the different Construction modes, but Free Blokk! is their favorite. One fun detail we learned was that if you turned the base too quickly, the blocks just perched on top were likely to fall off. It was a great example of centripetal force!

Final Thoughts

We played a protype of Blokk! and once our time was up it needed to be sent along to the next reviewer. Our family was sad to see it go, and are eager for the Kickstarter to launch in October. We would love to get this game as part of our board game collection!


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

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

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

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Humans, Cyborgs and Machines each have their own agendas in this social deduction game from Lay Waste Games. Human Era is for four to ten players, and also includes a solo variant. Players take on the role of crew members in the last time machine who need to save space and time from the chaos created by human time travel. However, there is a problem, some crew members are machines or cyborgs (half humans-half machines) who have their own agenda.

So What Exactly is a Social Deduction Game?

A social deduction game is a game where players have a hidden roll and/or objective. The other players try to deduce the roll of their opponents based in the choices and actions they take. These games often call for players to lie or be deceitful, which can be challenging for some, and especially for younger players.

Game Components

  • 1 pink die with the letters c, a, m, t, n, h
  • 66 Being Cards
  • 10 Identity Cards
  • 1 Score Tracker
  • Hex board (double sided)
  • Pilot tracker wrench
  • 1 score tracker nut

Gameplay

Goal/How to Win

During game set up, each player receives an Identity Card. They are either a Human, Cyborg, or Machine. A player’s goal and win condition depends on the role dealt.

Humans

Human’s objective is to correct the space-time continuum by getting all six eras correctly matched with the beings that belong there or 4 or more correct eras when the fuel runs out.

Cyborgs

Cyborgs’ object switches with split loyalties as half-human and half-machine. There are several win scenarios for the cyborgs.
1. For the first half of the game if there are zero correct eras at any point you win with the machines.
2. Cyborg Crisis: exactly three eras correct and three incorrect at the end of a round with five fuel tracker cards remaining.
3. When the fuel runs out if two eras are correct you share a win with the machines, three correct eras the cyborgs win, four correct eras share a win with the humans.

Machines

Machines’ objective is to deceived the humans and stop them from correcting the time-line. To win instantly have zero correct time-lines at the end of a round or two or fewer correct eras when fuel runs out.

Rounds

Human Era plays in a series of rounds, and contain six steps per round. Those steps include;

  • Malfunction (except in the first round)
  • Era selection
  • Discussion/Discard and Draw/Nomination
  • Vote/Card Placement
  • Paradoxes
  • Ending the Round

1. Malfunction

All rounds except the first round have a malfunction. One player rolls the die to determine the era affected. The top card from the deck is placed in that era. Any resulting paradoxes need to be resolved. Details on resolving paradoxes are below.

2. Era Selection

Human Era includes six eras you are trying to correct, or sabotage depending on your identity. The six eras with their coordinating beings are:

  • The Beginning of Time (Amoeba)
  • The Age of Dinosaurs (T-rex)
  • The Rise of Civilization (Neanderthal)
  • The Discovery of Time Travel (Human)
  • The Fall of Civilization (Cyborg)The End of Time (Machine)
  • In this phase of the round the time machine defaults to the earliest era with no cards. If cards are in all eras the die is rolled to determine the era being traveled to.

3. Discussion/Discard and Draw/Nomination

Two steps happen in this phase. First all players have the option to discard one card and draw a new card. Second, the player with the Pilot Wrench is the pilot for the current round. The pilot nominates the players that will time travel. Either two or three players nominated depending on the number of players. Players are allowed to talk about what is in their hand and strategies. Because players cannot reveal their cards, this point of play allows for deception for the non-humans.

4. Vote/Card Placement

The remaining players vote to approve the crew with a thumbs up or down. If the vote fails, instead players draw the top card from the deck and placed in the Era selected at the beginning of the round. If the vote passes the crew each give one card face down to the pilot and an additional card drawn from the deck.

5. Resolving Paradoxes and Chain Reactions

Once placement of the cards completes, players examine the top card on each era to see if a paradox occurred. A paradox occurs when two of the same cards are in two different eras. For example if there is a T-Rex in two different Eras. If there is a paradox the newest card places is removed and placed in the discard pile. The new top card is revealed in that era, and treated as the newest card should another paradox occur.

6. Ending the Round

First, players adjust the score to reflect the number of correct eras. The score is determined by looking at the top card (active card) in each era and seeing how many have the correct.
Players then:
1. Draw a card if one was used this round
2. Discard one fuel tracker
3. Check if any win conditions have been met.
4. Move the pilot wrench to the next player clockwise.

Family Game Assessment

Human Era is a social deduction game with a theme the whole family can enjoy. The hidden roll design incorporates a simple captivating story, and is easy to understand for those new to the genre. While the game is for ages 8 and up, the hidden role is a challenging mechanism for gamers at the lower end of the age range.

If you need a gateway game for new players to the genre of social deduction, Human Era can be a great fit. A new or young player would benefit from a “partner” to coach them so they don’t inadvertently give away their roll. There are lots of details in the rules to learn, and it can seem a little overwhelming. The mechanics of the game, while they are detailed, flow nicely within a round. With only a few rounds of play, the steps within a round become intuitive. There are many steps within a round, the rounds themselves don’t take very long.

Confession time, I have a hard time being deceitful and lying even in a game setting. I needed to come up with a strategy that would allow me to play without having a “tell” to the other players. I used the strategy to be honest with the cards I had in my hand during the Discussion/Discard and Draw/Nomination. My deception would be to use a different card that the one discussed. This kind of strategy might be useful for players that have a “tell” when they lie or are trying to deceive their fellow players.

Conclusion

Human Era is a great game from Lay Waste Games with interesting mechanics and theme. It is streamline enough to work as a gateway into the social deduction genre of games, and is an asset to any game collection.



FCC Disclosure: A copy of Human Era was provided for review.

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