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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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Slap Down! is a light card collecting game where you are rolling dice to determine to pair to collect, but watch out, all the players are going for the same cards! This game can be played with two to eight players, the only limitation with a larger group is having a surface that allows all the players to reach the cards.

Components

  • 50 cards: 25 pairs of cards with 5 different colors and 5 different shapes in unique combinations
  • 2 Dice: One with the 5 shapes and a “wild” side, One with the 5 colors and a “wild” side.

Gameplay

Set up

To begin, shuffle and randomly spread out the 50 cards face up on the playing area in a grid pattern so they do not overlap. This area is the Slapping Field.

A Turn

The first player is the roller and they begin a turn by trolling the two dice to determine the color and shape. All players then scan the Slapping Field and try to find the matching pair that matches the dice. To claim the cards a player must be the first one to slap, or touch, both cards simultaneously. The player earning the card and places it in front of themself to create their collection. However, the cards collected must remain face up and visible, because they are still in play.

The Theft

As the game progresses a color and shape combination may come up which is no longer in the Slapping Field. When this occurs you can steal from an opponent. To steal, you need to slap the pair in front of your opponent which matches the dice. A player can protect their cards by slapping them first. A Theft cannot occur if there is an option in the Slapping Field.

The Penalty

Near the end of the game as things become more frantic it can be harder to protect your collection. Players may only protect the cards that match the die rolls. If they inadvertently slapped the wrong cards and another player catches them, they have to forfeit those cards to the player that caught them.

Ending the Game

The game ends once all pairs have been captured out of the Slapping Field. Should the game in a tie, 5 pairs placed back in the Slapping Field for a SlapOff. The first player to capture a pair wins the game.

One alternative to the win condition is to have the first player to capture five pairs wins the game.

Family Game Assessment

Slap Down can be a great family game for the right family. The rules are very straightforward, easy to understand , and the game can be learned in just a matter of minutes. That said, the game is very competitive and care must be taken to avoid injury. In the games that we played, even with extra care being taken there were a few scratched fingers as we both dove for the same cards. With the right group dynamic, this game involves lots of laughter and frantic silliness to make their pairs

Conclusion

If you are looking for a easy to learn fast and light family game Slap Down is a perfect fit for anyone looking for a frantic and fast game.

FCC disclosure: a copy of Slap Down! was provided for review.

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Journey through story local games to three regions of Africa in South of the Sahara by MathMinds Games. This is a cross-curricular game that weaves Math, Literacy, and Social Studies into the fabric of the game. The design for South of the Sahara has applications with students in a classroom, homeschooling, or families. There are three games within South of the Sahara with additional variants for each game. The games are for players ages seven and up. All the games combined supports two to eight players, and games are 10- 30 minutes. Gamplay is taught in a storybooks format. Chapter one and two teach a game play variants each, increasing in difficulty. The second chapter also introduces the math connection, while chapter three delves deeper into the math, and add some history or social studies connections too.

Achi:

Achi is a two player game that originated in Ghana. The game storybook connects the game to tic-tac-toe. Connections are made in the storybook to a turtle shell and the magic square originating in China.

Game Components

  • Double sided board
    • one side is a 9 dot grid
    • other side lines shift and there are numbers on all the spots
  • 4 red triangles
  • 4 blue squares

Gameplay

Chapter1: Players take turns placing their pieces with the objective to get three in a row. The game is basically tic-tac-toe, but there is one major difference, the game cannot end in a draw. Players only have 4 pieces each, so there is always a vacant space. If there is not three in a row, players then slide one piece on each move until there is a winner.

Chapter 2: On the game board side with numbers, there are still nine spaces numbered one to nine. The objective this time is to have three of your numbers add to 15. Once all pieces are on the board players may use their turn to slide a piece to try and reach the 15 total with three of their pieces.

Gulugufe

Gulugufe connects a discovery of butterflies in Mozambique and links it to pancakes to explain the mathematical concept of negation.

Game Components

  • Double sided game board, one side is for two player the reverse if for four player
  • Wooden cylinders with 1/-1 on each flat face
    • 9 each of four different colors ( Yellow, Green, Blue, Red)

Gameplay

Chapter1: This game is playable with two or four players by using the game board side with the side that matches the number of player Players are trying to remove the caterpillars of their opponents (represented by wooden cylinders). To remove a caterpillar you “crawl over” a piece that is next to yours. The piece must be in s straight line and have a vacant space on the opposite side. Players can knock off as many pieces as possible on their turn, and must make a move even if it leaves their piece in a vulnerable position.

Chapter 2: Opposite Sides of the Branch incorporates the idea of negative and positive numbers . Negative represents the caterpillar bring under the branch and positive 1 represents being on top of the branch and -1 under the branch. Players can only know off a caterpillar that is on the same side of the branch as they are. Players can also take their turn to flip over one of there pieces or one of their opponents pieces.

Fanorona

Fanorona takes place on the island of Madagascar and incorporates the national animal; the lemur. In this game the lemurs are pushing or tripping their opponents. The last player with a piece on the board wins.

Components

  • Two sets of 22 hexagonal wooden pieces with the numbered 1-22, one yellow set and one purple set
  • Double sided board (square grid and rectangular grid)

Gameplay

Chapter One: Falling Lemurs, uses the blank side of the game pieces General game play takes on the idea that lemurs are unstable when they stand on two feet. So, players “push” or “trip” their opponents to remove them from the board. To push move forward into an empty space in front of your opponent. All opposing pieces in a straight line are removed from the board. This represents the lemurs falling over. The falling lemurs line stops when there is a space or the other players token in the way.

To trip, players can envision a tail sweep. To execute this move in the game, players begin directly in front of their opponent’s piece, and move backwards on space. Just like with the push any opposing pieces in a straight line are removed.

Chapter 2: Lemur Ages adds in the numbers on the game tokens. To knock over Lemurs the player must decide what group of lemurs they are knocking over. Players need to decide if they want to make younger, older or same age fall over compared to their piece. This gameplay decision incorporates the mathematical concept of greater than, less than, and equal to.

Family Game Assessment

South of the Sahara is a cute series of mini games, and a good fit for families with early elementary children. The games are quick and easy to learn. Most are two player and are simple enough that two children can play independently together. When playing some of these games, it surprised me how engaging the gameplay was. While simple there was more strategy than I first anticipated.

Educational Assessment

In an early elementary classroom or homeschool setting, specifically in first and second grade, these games are a great way to reinforce mathematical skills as well as turn taking and good sportsmanship. Per the MathMinds website, the game stories are a 3rd grade reading level and are available in English and Spanish. The Achi skills of the magic square and adding to 15 hits multiple stands of the Operations and Algebraic Thinking (OA) in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Negation, introduced in Gulugufe, does not typically get introduced formally until the upper elementary grade. However it is easily understandable by primary students especially with the below the branch visual. The skills of greater than, less than, equal introduced in Fanorona align with first grade skills (CCSS NBT B3).

These games are well suited for small group at a teacher station to learn and then to be available as center. The stories engaging children and remain simple enough for whole or small group read alouds. The cross curricular nature of South of the Sahara optimizes the instructional time in already packed school schedule.

Final Thoughts

The game play and math skills infused in South of the Sahara make it a useful tool in both a home and school environment. The gameplay is engaging that it can be played multi age. For gamification of some primary math skills infused with story and multicultural learning, this is cute and entertaining.

FCC Disclosure: A copy of South of the Sahara was provided for review.

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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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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 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.


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