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

Components

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

Gameplay

Set up

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

Gameplay

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

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

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

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

Family Game Assessment

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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



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

Game Components

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

Gameplay

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

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

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

Family Game Assessment

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Brain Games

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

Components

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

Gameplay

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

Reveal Competitions

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

Build Team

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

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

Compete

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

Is this a Family Game?

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

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

Final Thoughts

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


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  • Plan B Games
  • Age Rating: 8+ 
  • Players: 2-4
  • Timeframe: 30-45 minutes
  • MSRP: $39.99
  • Style: Abstract Strategy/Drafting

Introduced by the Moors, “azulejos” (originally white and blue ceramic tiles) were fully embraced by the Portuguese, when their King Manuel I, on a visit to the Alhambra palace in Southern Spain, was mesmerized by the stunning beauty of the Moorish decorative tiles. The king, awestruck by the interior beauty of the Alhambra, immediately ordered that his own palace in Portugal be decorated with similar wall tiles.

– Plan B Game

Azul is an award winning game designed by Michael Kiesling that took the gaming world by storm in 2018.  This is an abstract strategy game where players compete as artisans hired to decorate the walls of the Royal Palace.  Players must plan ahead and carefully draft the correct quantity and style of tiles in order to achieve the highest score all while being careful not to create waste for the next round. 

Contents

  • Complete Rule Booklet
  • Linen Bag
  • 100 Multi-colored tiles 
  • 4 Player Boards
  • 9 Factory Display Boards
  • 4 Scoring Markers
  • 1 Starting Player Marker

Gameplay

Azul is played over a series of rounds, each round consisting of three steps.  During the round, players take turns drafting beautifully colored tiles from factory supply disks to their player board. Later in the round, players score points based on how they’ve placed their tiles on their player board to help decorate the palace walls. Extra points are scored for  completing specific patterns and completing sets. Any wasted supplies harm the player’s score. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Setting Up The Game

Players start by laying Factory Display disks in the center of the table.  Colored tiles are placed in the linen draw bag, and the starting player places four randomly drawn tiles on each disk.  Each player gets a player board and score token.

Play in Rounds

Each round consists of three steps. 

First is the “Factory Offer” – Players may either choose one set of tiles from a Factory disk in the center of the table or tiles that are already in the center.  If a player chooses a disk, they take all the tiles of one color from the disk and discard the rest in the center of the circle. If a player takes from the center, they must take all tiles of a single color/pattern.  The first one to take from the center becomes the starting player on the next round. After the player selects their tiles, they must place them on ONE pattern line on their player board. Players may only place tiles of the same color/pattern on a single line.  Once that line is full, it is complete, and extra tiles go on the floor line (which count against your score). After a player has chosen and placed their tiles on their player board, it’s the next player’s turn. Play continues like this until all tiles have been claimed from the Factory disks and center of the table.

Next up is “Wall-Tiling” – During this phase, players move tiles from their completed (full) pattern lines to the wall area on their player board. Players perform this simultaneously.  Starting at the top of their pattern lines, players move one tile from each complete line to the corresponding tile on the wall in that row. Players score each tile immediately.  All of the remaining tiles from that pattern line are placed in the game box. Any tiles left in incomplete rows remain until the next round. The scoring portion of this step is where all of your strategy and pre-planning pays off (or not). 

Lastly, players Prepare for Next Round – This step is fairly obvious.  Players follow the instructions for refilling factory disks and prepare for the next round.  Play continues in rounds until all one player completes a horizontal row on their tile wall. Here are additional points to be earned at the end of the game based on pattern completion choices.

Is it a Family Game?

This game is designed for players eight and up and has very simple rules that are easy to explain and understand.  The game pieces are sturdy, pretty, and easy to manipulate (the tiles are a LOT like Starburst candies). There is no reading involved which makes it great for young players.  However, we found the seeming simplicity to be deceptive. The strategy and choices you make have a huge impact on your overall score and make the game much more complex. There are so many different ways to play which ensures the game does not get stale.  You can play specifically to obstruct your opponents, you can play casually and only worry about your own player board, or you can play the long game to score high via combos in the end. Younger players often miss these options and may get frustrated by low scores. 

Conclusion

This game is visually stunning, easy to set up and clean up, easy to understand, and is quite challenging.  The different choices and options accommodate differing playing styles and it is clear that the design of the game was well thought out.  While the game does have a theme, it does not carry through the game or effect gameplay. It is very similar to abstract strategy game along the lines of Indigo, Tak, Seikatsu, etc.  We do feel that there is plenty of replay value to this game and can clearly see why it won so many awards.


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Coder Mindz is the latest programming game from the maker of Coder Bunnyz, nine year old Samaira Mehta along with her brother Aadit.  In Coder Mindz, you are a programmer of a bot in the year 2045.  Players create code and train their robot to “identify” images and collect data, using tokens represent the images and date.

Game Components

  • Code Cards
    • Basic Code Cards
      • Move  Forward, Move Right, Move Left, Move Any, Move Any 2
      • Zap
    • Advanced Code Cards
      • Conditional
      • Loop
      • Function
  • Tokens
  • Game Board
  • 6 Sided die with numbers 1-3
  • 4 Wooden Bots

 

Levels of Play

Coder Mindz has multiple levels of play which increase in complexity as you move through the levels.  Each level adds additional coding skills and strategies.

  1. Training
    • 1.1 Basic
    • 1.2 Advanced
  2. Image Recognition
    • 2.1 Inference
    • 2.2 Adaptive Learning
  3. Autonomous
    • 3.1 Basic
    • 3.2 Advanced

Gameplay

Overview

Like its predecessor, Coder Mindz has you using cards to program the motion of your Bot to land of their end point. There are multiple variants which increase in difficulty as you gain skills in the game.  Zap cards are also incorporated in multiple variants.  Zap cards send an opponent back to their starting space.

To play

  1. Players start their turn by rolling a sisix-sidedie which has the numbers one, two, and three on it. Then they draw the number of cards indicated by their roll.
  2. The active player determines the order they wish to use their cards, discarding any that are unplayable. A player may also play a Zap card during their turn at any point their Bot in a position allowing the use of a Zap.  However, a Zap card may only be used once per player per game.
  3. The player moves their Bot based on their program cards.
  4. The first player to get to their end point wins. The remaining players can continue playing to determine the second, third and fourth place.

Levels of Play Variations

In the Training mode, players start by becoming familiar with the Code Cards and how they can plan bot movement with basic Code Cards.  Advanced Code Cards are introduced only one per turn in Advanced Training.

Image Recognition incorporates one image token which is split into two pieces.  Players place the two pieces strategically on the board.  Before the bot reaches their endpoint they need to collect both image pieces. Players can scale the level of difficulty by adding or omitting advance function cards as well as Zap cards.

Autonomous mode of play has players plan their whole code before moving their Bot. Players then execute the code they developed correctly.  Players place the image tokens on the board.  They take turns rolling the die to determine how many cards to draw each turn.  Once determining the next steps of their code the cards are placed face down, so the players have to remember where it would put them on the board. Once a player thinks they have “programmed” their bot to collect the image tokens and arrive at their endpoint they announce that their code is complete.  The player then flips their cards over an follows the code to move their Bot.  If the code is successful the player wins, if not they have a chance to debug their code, but can not win the game.

Family Game Assessment

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

I introduced Coder Mindz to two 6-year-olds at a family gathering, and both kids picked up the basic game within minutes.  They were so engaged and excited by the game they wanted to play again as soon as our robots got to their endpoints.

Of the coding games I have had the opportunity to play, Coder Mindz is the most streamlined and easy to learn.  The limited number of variants keep it from being overwhelming, and the components are easy to manage for younger players.

Educational Applications

This is a great tool for teaching code at any age.  The Bots are adorable and engaging for players of all ages.  The Autonomous Mode is challenging and demonstrates the accuracy and precision needed in writing code.

Conclusion

Coder Mindz is a great introduction to coding by using cards to program motion.  Of the coding games in my library this is my favorite.

FCC Disclosure: A copy of Coder Mindz was provided for review.

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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. North Star Games published Blurble, which takes about 15 minutes to play, is recommended for ages 8 and up and plays 4-8 players

Game Components

Blurble contains 348 colorful cards with a wide range of pictures. An Exercises booklet included gives many ideas for other ways to use the cards beyond the game.

Gameplay

To begin a round, players select one player as the Blurber.  This person puts the deck between them and the player to their left.  First, the top card is flipped over, and then two players then go head to head racing to first shout out a legal word starting with the same letter as the picture. The other players act as referees. They determine who said their word first and if it meets the criteria to be a legal word. The card goes to the winner, and the card scores a point. The Blurber then moves to next player clockwise around the table until that Burbler has raced every player.

The next round begins by moving the roll of Blurber to the left.  Play continues until all players have been the Blurber twice in a 4-6 player game or once in a 7 and 8 player game. The player with the most points wins.  The rules also state that in the case of a tie the youngest player wins.

The criteria that qualifies what is a legal word in this game is very straight forward.  First the word must start with the same letter as the picture. Secondly, the word must be in English. Finally, each word is only playable once per game.  Additionally for the restrictions the word cannot be; a proper noun, a number, an acronym, or have any part of the name or the card or answer overlap (for example rain and rainbow).

Rule Variants

The rules also offer multiple rules variants. There are two  variants for playing with younger children against an older player.  The first suggestions are that the younger player does not have the same restrictions on their words, just that it begins with the same letter.  The second variant has the younger player following the standard word rules, but the older player has additional restrictions, such as it must be a noun.

Game play variants can add some different flavor to the game.  The variants include; King of the Hill, The Thief, and The Brainiac. 

  • King of the Hill: Each race winner becomes the Blurber. The game plays to 10 points.  
  • The Thief:  All players may jump in when an illegal word is used and try and steal the card by providing a legal.
  • The Brainiac: Players further limit the criteria on what makes a legal word for all players.

Family Gaming Assessment

Blurble allows play with multiple ages and skills by adjusting the criteria of a legal word, and the recommended ages 8 and up and without any changes that age works well.  In playing with a kindergartener (age 5), he could not come up with a word quickly so for children who are pre-readers or beginning readers this may require some customization of the rule to best use the game. Blurble takes minutes to teach and can play up to 8 players making it great for a gathering of family or friends.  Scaling criteria of a legal word accommodate multiple skill levels within the same game.

I think it is an asset of the game that the rules can be so adapted and flexible.  The one rule I encountered, which I questioned is the rule in the event of a tie. The rules state that in that instance the youngest player would win.  In this case I disagree with that default. I would much prefer a final head to head between the two players to determine a winner. Choosing the youngest player to win is arbitrary. The rule could just as easily said the player with the longest hair wins in the event of a tie.   

Educational Exercises

Blurble contains a booklet labeled Educational Exercises. Within it explains other uses of the cards in Blurble as an educational tool for parents and teachers.  Activities are categorized by type, and then further broken down by age.  As a primary teacher, I found these great ideas to utilize the cards in a range of other activities. The activities include Object Identification/Vocabulary, Spelling, Storytelling, Identifying Characteristics, Information Retrieval, and Group games. These activities range for ages 2 (with object identification) to age 11 with storytelling. The activities suggested could be helpful for Home School lessons, centers in a classroom, or skill reinforcement at home.

The educational opportunities are quite extensive with the range of quality pictures on the cards.  There are additional possibilities for educational activities using the Blurble cards beyond the Educational Exercise suggestions.  Some possibilities include sorts, phonic feature identifications, and story starters.

Conclusion

Blurble tailors to accommodate multiple skills and ages within the same game and provides a great deal of flexibility on how to play. This is a good party game with the ease of learning, and the player count up to 8.  The additional educational activities available utilizing the game cards exponentially adds the opportunities to interact with the components of the game.

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Coder Bunnyz is a coding game created by Samaira Mehta when she was a second grader.  Her goal was to combine her love of bunnies and coding into a board game so that children of all ages could also learn to code. Coder Bunnyz is designed for 1-4 players ages 4 and older, and the difficulty scales up as players master game skills.

Game Components

  • Game Board
  • Die: with numbers 1-1-2-2-3-3
  • Code Cards in four colors
    • Move  Forward
    • Turn Left
    • Turn Right
    • Jump
    • Repeat 2, Repeat 3, Repeat 4
    • Function
  • Bunnyz tokens
    • Bunnies (in each color)
    • Bug-Fixit!
    • Carrots
    • Destination (Park, Carnival, School, Zoo)
    • Fence
    • Puddle

Gameplay

The objective of the game is to navigate your bunny to their carrot and then to your destination first.   There are thirteen variants in the game, and as the player skills increase the gameplay can advance with their skills. 

There are four basic levels of play with sub skills introduced separately:

  • Level 1: Basic Coding
    • Teaches Sequence
    • Introduces jump
    • Introduces conditionals
    • Teaches Code-it!
  • Level 2: Advanced Coding (recommended for players 8 and up)
    • Repeat
    • Introduces Function
  • Level 3: Strategic and Code-it!
    • Single color
    • Mix-N-Match
  • Level 4: Pro Coding
    • Introducing Inheritance
    • Parallel Play (introducing Parallelism)
    • Getting List-Y
    • Queue-Y (Introducing Queue)
    • Stack Y (Introducing Stack)

The basic gameplay has a few consistent elements across all levels.  These include selecting cards and programming the movement your rabbit takes to first get their carrot and then go to their destination.  At some levels, the number of cards you draw is determined by rolling the die. The pool of Code Cards increases as you advance through the levels of play, and the cards become more complicated in what they represent.  

Family Game Assessment

Coder Bunnyz is a great accessible game to introduce young children to the basics of coding and to develop coding skills in older children.  I introduced it to my 6-year-old and he picked right up on the concept of planning the movement of his bunny. As a beginning player, he did benefit from some coaching, as well as the Bug-Fixit! Token to undo a move that would not have worked.  We played through level 1.1 and 1.2 which is the most simplistic and introduces the sequence cards and the jump card.

Having thirteen variants of play included within the four basic levels allows the game to scale with the age and skill level of the players.  This makes it challenging and engaging for players of all levels.

One thing we noticed while playing Coder Bunnyz was game board was bumped frequently causing the tiles to shift. This happened more while playing with younger players, though we were able to fix the board easily.  Players who struggle with fine or gross motor skills may find the tiles shifting frustrating if the game board is bumped.

Educational Application

Coder Bunnyz also has a strong educational benefit.  It introduces the basics of coding in a friendly and accessible format. Younger beginning players benefit from coaching and direct instruction on the best way to program the motion of their bunny.  Older and more experienced players can create greater challenges with the board layout to refine their strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

Conclusion

For any family or teacher looking to introduce the fundamentals of coding, Coder Bunnyz provides a wonderful tool.  With the focus in education on problem-solving and STEM it is critical to support children in developing reasoning and planning skills. Coder Bunnyz is a tool that can help children develop skills that will be an asset to them in school and beyond.   

FCC Disclosure: A copy of Coder Bunnyz was provided for review.

 

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Amaze is a single player maze game from ThinkFun, and recommended for players ages 8 to adult. The maze board is changeable with 16 different mazes, and puts an interesting spin on maze games.

Game Contents

  • Maze board and an attached stylus
  • 16 challenge settings available on the back (with three difficulty levels)
  • Instructions included in the box provide further directions and also proved the solutions to all the mazes

Game Play

Amaze is extremely easy to set up.  There are red indicators on the left side of the board, and those indicators program to one of 16 mazes.  These settings make the maze progressively harder.  Once the player set the maze, you trace your path through the maze without lifting the stylus from start to finish.  During play, the player pushes the red bars left or right to open up a new path, or potentially trap you.  

Family Gaming Assessment

Amaze is a perfect travel game for families.  Amaze has the ideal design feature, attaching the stylus so it can not be lost.  Additionally, the maze itself is small enough to fit in a purse or backpack. For as simple as the design is the mazes are challenging and don’t present obvious solutions.  Being a single player game kids or adults can work on the maze for a while and put it away easily when they need a break.  Another advantage of Amaze is this is a battery free quiet game.  Amaze is perfect for a waiting room, since play is quiet.

Conclusion


Since this game has come into my house is has been played by children as young as five and up to adults.  The appeal is in the simplicity of the game, yet challenging nature of the mazes.  This is a great addition to a game collection for travel or quiet play and will appeal to anyone who enjoys mazes.

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