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As parents we are familiar with the world of edutainment. We have endless choices of games and programs that are games with a focus on learning. A free site that gets used in my classroom is www.abcya.com  That said, how do we know what is the best choice for our children? Do these games and programs even work?

Learning Styles

Before we go into the actual games, we need to discuss learning styles. Your child’s learning style will determine the type of game they will be most likely to enjoy and get the most out of. The three primary learning styles that impact children in games are Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Kinesthetic Learners. Visual learners are going to enjoy games with lots of graphics, bright colors, fun artwork, and maybe charts. Auditory learners will enjoy games where they get to listen to snippets of stories and hear others have discussions about different aspects of the game. Kinesthetic learners enjoy games where they get to be hands-on that have lots of pieces to move and manipulate. It’s good to think of the people you are going to be playing with to come up with the best game for your group.

Eduplay Games

While this article focuses on mainstream family-style games that are available, we would be lax if we didn’t mention that there is a huge world of board games designed specifically for classroom learning. These games are designed to drill down and reinforce specific learning concepts like letter recognition, language acquisition, phonics, reading comprehension, storytelling mechanics and so forth.

Lakeshore Learning and Edupress are staples in the educational field. We’ve played a few games in this style, and they do not have the spark that we like to have in our games. Unless you were using your gaming time as a type of additional homework, we don’t find the replay value to be very high or the desire to play to be very high. But, there is no denying that this type of game is a useful learning tool. They at least add a skin of fun over traditional learning.

What is all the buzz about The Science of Reading?

In and around the instruction of reading there has been a paradigm shift in the education field. Without going deep into the weeds of educational theory and practice, the shift has been building up and really came to the foreground of the education field in the past few years. Educational practice has moved from a Balanced Literacy Approach where there is explicit phonics instruction, but the greater focus was comprehension and utilizing cues in the books/texts instead of first looking at the letters in the words.

Now there is a greater focus as an educational community on the data about how students best learn. What has been learned is explicit high quality phonics and phonemic awareness instruction. (Just as a quick definition, phonics are working with letters on the page, and phonemic awareness is manipulating just the sounds in words without any text.

Florida Center for Reading Research has free student activities Pre-k to 5th grade. Check it out here!

With this new knowledge working with letters and word building for beginning readers is even more critical to develop the bank of skill needed to fluently read. There are quite a few games that involve building words, and with a little background about the phonics of the English language it can be a huge asset when you play a word game with a beginning reader.

Here at Engaged Family Gaming, we have come up with a collection of games that are a lot of fun to play that teach some of these Literacy concepts as well.

Games with Literacy Concepts

Scrabble 8+ (Vocabulary Development and Letter Arrangement)

Scrabble, by Hasbro games, is a classic for a reason. It has retained its popularity through the years (think Words With Friends) because it is fun to play and challenging. In case you’ve never played Scrabble, it is a word game in which two to four players score points by placing tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a gameboard which is divided into a 15×15 grid of squares. The tile must be placed in a crossword pattern (words flow left to right in rows or downwards in columns). The words must be standard and acceptable words in an agreed upon dictionary. Players score points based on the numbers on their letter tiles and can add bonuses from cues on the gameboard.

Scrabble has many variations, including a Junior version designed to help younger kids with letter matching and recognition. This is a great game for kinesthetic learners because there are small pieces to manipulate which these learners LOVE to handle.

Bananagrams 7+ (Vocabulary Development, Letter Arrangement, Time Management)

Bananagrams, by Banagrams, is a similar game to Scrabble, but it doesn’t require a game board, pen, paper, etcetera. It is a letter tile game that comes in a fun banana shaped zip up pouch. It is easily portable and gives you more freedom than Scrabble because you play independently for speed while making your individual crossword board. There are no complications from trying to get the perfect spot on the board, or waiting for a slow player to make a decision, or from losing out on the triple letter space. This game moves quickly because you are working against a clock. There are some unique challenges and ways to manipulate game play which add some fun elements into the game and can allow you to put a crimp in your opponents’ play. In our playtests of this game, we found that this game can be more of a challenge for younger players because it lacks some of the structure built into Scrabble, but some of your outside the box players will enjoy this one much more.

Much like Scrabble, this game appeals to kinesthetic learners because of the tile manipulation. Also, since there is no game board, please make sure to play this one on a smooth surface. The tablecloth became way more of a hindrance during play than any of us anticipated.

Rory’s Story Cubes 8+ (Language Development, Vocabulary Development, Story Sequencing, Storytelling)

Rory’s Story Cubes, by Gamewright, is a pocket-sized creative story generator. The original game comes in a box with 9 cubes (dice) with different images on each side. Players simply roll the cubes and let the pictures spark their imagination and tell a story out loud based on the pictures on their cubes. There are several expansions to the base game with different themes (actions, voyages, clues, Batman, intergalactic, etc.). There are infinite ways to play with Rory’s Story Cubes. The rules suggest playing solitaire or with others. The 8+ age suggestion is misleading. This game can definitely be played with younger players.

We’ve used this game as a party game or ice-breaker and I’ve used it to work with my youngest on speaking & listening skills. My oldest finds a way to use these as story starters for creative inspiration in his writing activities. They can also help early learners with literacy development and problem-solving. Again, because this game involves dice rolling, it is great for kinesthetic learners. And, because the stories are told aloud, we’ve had great luck honing our children’s auditory learning skills with this game. Finally, because of the creative images on the cubes, this game works as a great inspiration for visual learners. All around, these are a terrific learning tool to add to your arsenal.

Buy the original Rory’s Story Cubes here on Amazon!

Last Letter 8+ (Vocabulary Development, Letter Recognition, Picture Cues, Time Management)

In Last Letter, by ThinkFun, each player gets five cards featuring intricate, fun, and brightly colored illustrations. Players must race to come up with and shout out a word from one of the picture cards in their hand. The word MUST begin with the last letter of the word previously called. The first player to get rid of all of their cards will win the round. This game is an awesome game for visual learners! The fast paced nature of this game might make it more challenging for younger players who are slower to process what they are seeing in front of them. If play around the table gets too excitable and loud, you may lose younger auditory learners as well. But, be prepared to be surprised by the creative words kids come up with from the images that adults would not normally think of.

Buy Last Letter here on Amazon!

Zingo 3+ (Letter Arrangement & Recognition, Vocabulary Development, Picture Cues, Time Management)

Zingo is a new classic with a few different variations of the game available. It’s like Bingo with a fun twist. The original Zingo is a matching game that encourages pre-readers and early readers to match pictures and words to their challenge cards. The Zingo! Zinger dispenses tiles as players race to be the first player with a full card and yell “ZINGO!” With two levels of play, this matching game builds language skills through fast-paced play. This game is designed to develop early literacy skills for very young players. Zingo Sight Words and Zingo Word Builder are also available and these games introduce more challenging literacy skills. Our children request these games regularly and LOVE to play them. While these are learning games at their core, they use fun and exciting game mechanics to keep young players engaged!

Buy Zingo here on Amazon

Dixit 8+ (Language Development, Story Sequencing, Storytelling, Picture Cues)

Using a deck of cards illustrated with dreamlike images, players select cards that match a title suggested by the “storyteller”, and attempt to guess which card the “storyteller” selected. Each player starts the game with six random cards. Players then take turns being the storyteller.

The player whose turn it is to be storyteller looks at the six images in his or her hand. From one of these, he or she makes up a sentence or phrase that might describe it and says it out loud (without showing the card to the other players). Each other player then selects from among their own six cards the one that best matches the sentence given by the storyteller. Then, each player gives their selected card to the storyteller, without showing it to the others. The storyteller shuffles his or her chosen card with the cards received from the other players, and all cards are then dealt face up. The players (except for the storyteller) then secretly guess which picture was the storyteller’s, using numbered voting chips. If nobody or everybody finds the correct picture, the storyteller scores 0, and each of the other players scores 2. Otherwise the storyteller and all players who found the correct answer score 3. Players other than the storyteller score 1 point for each vote their own pictures receive.

A large part of the skill of the game comes from being able to offer a title which is neither too obscure nor too obvious. The game ends when a player reaches the end of the board (30 points). Much like Rory’s Story Cubes, this game helps children to learn storytelling skills, story sequencing, and helps broaden appreciation for art and gives players the ability to articulate thoughts concisely and to comprehend metaphor.

About the Authors:

This article in its initial format was created by Jenna Duetzmann.

The update for the article has been done by Linda Wrobel, who as a first grade teacher is on the ground learning the shifts in educational practice, and seeing the impact of beginning readers.

For Additional Games to Support Learning

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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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.


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


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.


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.

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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If you love games and books this is the best combination.  Bring Your Own Book by Gamewright is a hilarious combination of judging phrases and book quotes.  The game is for three to eight players and the larger the group the crazier and funnier it becomes.  Bring Your Own Book is recommended for ages 12 and up.

Game Components

  • 100 Prompt cards
  • 1 60 second timer


Each player needs to bring a book to the game.  It can be any book from an encyclopedia to a picture book, to a gardening book.  The gameplay is very straightforward and players take turn being the picker.  

At the beginning of a round the picker starts by drawing the top card off the Prompt Card deck.  There are two prompts on each card and the picker selects one to read to the group. Second, the other players seek through their book for a word, phrase, sentence(s) that satisfies the prompt.  Third, the first player to find their text calls out I’ve got it!”. This starts the 60 second sand timer for the rest of the players to finish finding their passage.

Once the 60 seconds ends players take turn reading their passage and the picker judges which one is their favorite and awards the card to the winner.  The first player to four cards in a 6-8 player game or the first to five in a 3-5 player game is the winner.

Family Game Assessment

For children 12 and up and adults this is a wonderful family game, especially for family gathering.  The rules and gameplay are so simple and easy to teach that even the occasional gamer can feel comfortable.

Due to inferencing, this is a difficult game to scale down well, but some depth is lost with younger players. With younger players the resulting book lines may not be as relevant or they may need extra time to find a text to read.  It is essential that all players be fluent readers and familiarity with the book is helpful.

Bring Your Own Book plays well with tweens or teens mixed with adults. This game is also a great way to include adults or older kids that want a simple game.


Bring Your Own Book is a fun light game that is great for a group or party setting.  The game can play up to eight, but that number could easily be expanded by playing teams.  It is a wonderful game for integrating reading and gaming.


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GameWright Games was at New York Toy Fair  this year, just like normal, and it was my pleasure to take a look at their 2018 games. Their full 2018 slate was there, with the sole exception of the cooperative game Forbidden Sky.

I was treated to brief demos of most of their games this year. All of them are cute and many of them will do very well, but my attention was drawn to two specific games that I think you need to hear about.

Trash Pandas

Trash Pandas - Gamewright Games

Trash Pandas is a push your luck card game where players take on the role of raccoons digging through a neighborhood’s trash.

The first part of the game involves rolling dice in order to collect tokens that determine what actions are available. There are six tokens representing possible actions that you can take on an turn. You roll a die and claim the token that matches the symbol that comes up. At that point you can either move to the next phase and spend your tokens to take those actions or roll again to try to earn more tokens. If you roll a symbol that has already come up, then you bust and your turn is over. Taking actions will allow you to draw cards, bank them for points, or mess with your opponents. The game ends when the deck runs out of cards.

This is a game that is firmly nestled in Internet meme culture. Trash pandas is a term for raccoons that showed up on Reddit. It has just been almost universally adopted by users across the Internet. Its funny, its vaguely descriptive, but most importantly, it gives you an idea of the sense of humor that this game is built around. It is juvenile, but not crass. This lighthearted fun is involved in every part of the game from the artwork all the way to the terminology used on them. It even influences the box art. Trash Pandas will be releasing sometime in early 2018 and we can’t wait to get our hands on it.



Squirmish - Gamewright Games

Squirmish is a a card combat game that we reviewed before it was launched on Kickstarter several years ago. The highlights of the game at that point was its square cards, the quirky art design, and interesting combat. This is a new track for GameWright to take because normally they don’t focus on games that involve combat. Instead, they favor games that focus on either cooperation or gentle competition.With that said, this game fits perfectly with GameWright’s other offerings by being lighthearted, silly, and fun.

Combat in Squirmish involves playing square-shaped cards onto the table creating a spiraling battlefield that is referred to as a Squirmish (shocker. I know.).We had our issues with the game initially before the game went to Kickstarter, but most of them were about game balance. GameWright has come through and smoothed out the design. They redesigned the game to make it faster and more aggressive.

Squirmish will be released sometime in 2018 and we cannot wait to get our hands on this new and improved game. Keep your eye on EFG for more information.

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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Gamewright announced their 2018 lineup of games today. This year their releases range from a preschool game about collecting ice  and a colorful cooperative card game that rewards smart communication. The games will be on display at this year’s New York Toy Fair which will take place from Feb. 17-20th. Take a look at their lineup below and let us know in the comments if you see anything that catches your eye.


Chill Out!

A “refreshing” new pre-school game, with dice that look like ice.

Chill Out - Gamewright Games

“Fun on the rocks! A bevy of freshly-squeezed drinks waits to be served – all they need is ice!  Roll the color die, choose a matching tray, and scoop up the ice cubes. Then drop them one at a time around the board, hoping to land some in your cup. Snag a blueberry for extra points, but watch out for slippery hands trying to snag your cubes! Fill up the frostiest float and you’re the coolest!”

  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 5+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $16.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018

Trash Pandas

A raucous raccoon-themed card game, the latest in our signature card game line.

Trash Pandas - Gamewright Games

“Trash is treasure! In this raucous card game, paw through the deck to find sets of day-old pizza, half-eaten candy, and other luscious leftovers. Roll the die to tip over the garbage or raid a rival’s rubbish, if there’s no Doggos standing guard. The more you roll, the more actions you can take – but get too greedy and your turn is scrapped! Stash the most trash and you’re pick of the litter!”

  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $12.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018

Long Cow

A hilarious new card game, packaged in a milk carton that actually “mooos!”

Long Cow - Gamewright Games


“It’s the moo-mentous card game of competitive cattle construction! Build cows by collecting heads, tails, and middles from the deck. The longer the cow, the more points you score. Bolster your barn with holy cows, robot cows, and even a cross-bred Franken-cow. But make hay before your herd is hit by a tornado, or worse- an alien abduction! Round up the biggest bovines and party like the cows came home!”

  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $16.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018


An “all or nothing” dice game, packaged in our popular “Qwixx” box.

Zoinx - Gamewright Games

“It’s high-rolling hijinx with this game of dicey decisions! First, all players secretly predict how many dots they think you will roll. Then shake the dice and keep rolling as long as you meet your target. But push your luck too far and Zoinx! – you lose everything and the points go to the players who bet against you!”

  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $11.00
  • Availability: Now Shipping


A humorous “card battling” game, featuring a cartoonish cast of odd-ball brawlers.

Squirmish - Gamewright Games

“Enter The Squirmish, a ridiculous rumble where creatures clash and only the strangest survive! Draft an odd-squad of warriors with names like Kittyclops, Pompaduck, and Killgore the Conqueror. Then position them into the melee and roll to attack. Each of seventy scrappers has its own preposterous powers, so you’ll need strategy – and a bit of luck – to survive! Knock out the competition and become the beastie boss!”

We actually previewed Squirmish while it was on Kickstarter before Gamewright picked it up!

  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $16.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018


A colorful new cooperative game where communication is key.

Cahoots - Gamewright Games

“In this colorful card game, cooperation is key! Play cards to one of four piles by matching color or number. Work together as a team  to complete a series of goals – without communicating what’s in your hand. Can you make all piles purple or green? Every card lower than four? All cards add up to 10? There’s only one way to win before time runs out: play in cahoots!”

  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $15.00
  • Availability: Spring 2018

Say It!

Our latest Port-a-Party game, where crazy combos lead to hilarious answers.

Say It - Gamewright Games


“It’s the frantic party game where crazy combinations lead to laugh-out-loud answers. Draw a pair of prompt cards, and then compete to shout out the most entertaining response. What’s “something sticky”… “that you find in the couch cushions?” Or “something shocking”… “you know too much about?”  Don’t delay it,  just Say It!”

  • Players: 3-8
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • S.R.P.: $10.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018

Sneaky Cards 2

A second wave of missions for this best-selling “play it forward” game.

Sneaky Cards 2 - Gamewright Games

“54 brand new missions! Become a secret agent of joy, spreading creativity and kindness to an unsuspecting public. Give a stranger flowers, challenge someone to a dance-off, throw an impromptu surprise party. Complete each objective and then pass along the card to an unwitting accomplice, who now becomes part of the game. The fun is ever-expanding, but it all starts with you – Play it forward!”

  • Players: 1+
  • Ages: 12+
  • S.R.P.: $10.00
  • Availability: Summer 2018

Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think! Which of these games are you looking to pick up?

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Flashlights and Fireflies is a board game version of flashlight freeze tag for 2-5 players.  The game is recommended for ages 6 and up, and is published by Gamewright.  In Flashlights and Fireflies, you play the role of children playing flashlight freeze tag in the woods.

The game plays in three quick phases per round, and the game ends when one player reaches home.  The board includes three sections; the woods, the firefly field, and the path home.

Game Contents

  • 36 Woods tiles
  • 6 player pawns
  • 6 player tiles
  • 20 firefly tokens
  • 6 flashlight cards
  • 1 game board
  • 1 wooden die


Flashlights and Fireflies plays in rounds, and each round include four phases: hide, catch, shine, and sneak.  In the hide phase of the round, you draw woods tiles and hide your player tile, then the tiles (four to start) are laid out face down in front of you.  The woods tiles may have woods on them, or a pest that you might find in the woods.  

In the catch phase, each player takes turns rolling the die to determine how many firefly tokens they can draw.  The firefly tokens have between one and three fireflies on them, or they can have a mosquito.  A mosquito token drawn during the catch phase ends the phase for that player.

In the shine phase players take their firefly tokens and place them in front of the other players to find them.  For each firefly, the player can turn over one opponent’s tile, then if a player token is found the found player is frozen for the round.  If they find trees nothing happens, and if they find a pest the seekers turn immediately ends.

 The final phase of the round is sneak, and in this phase, each unfrozen player moves their pawn up the path one step closer to home.

Family Gaming Assessment

Flashlights and Fireflies is a great game for the whole family.  The game moves quickly through each round and takes about 20 to 30 minutes to play.  The age recommended is 6 and up, but since there is no reading in the game it does scale down nicely to slightly younger players.  The artwork is cute, and the tokens and tiles are made of high-quality, thick cardboard.   

The game is fairly easy to learn and players are typically very comfortable after one or two rounds. However, it might be worthwhile to do a few rounds of practice with the youngest gamers to help build familiarity.  One additional point of note is that the directions are a little wordy and can be confusing initially.  Once we played it through once and worked through the phases it was much easier.


For any family with younger gamers, Flashlights and Fireflies is a great addition to their collection.  It has simple game play, and does a great job introducing the gaming element of rounds to younger players. The directions can be slightly confusing, but it is worth taking the time to understand the game for a quick and easy game for younger kids.  Flashlights and Fireflies is a fun simple game that the whole family can enjoy playing together.

Make sure you check out our other board game reviews!

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By: Kelly Allard
2-8 Players
20+ Minutes

As the dark clouds masked the azure sky belying the intention of  brewing a powerful storm.  A greater threat looms for a fleet of merchant vessels than the choppy seas and swirling winds.  In the distance, a sail appears emblazoned with the most terrifying of sights as the menacing, eyeless face of the Jolly Roger materializes into view.  The ship attempts to outrun the a feared buccaneers, only to see another from the west, and yet another from the east, escape is no longer an option.  As the pirates close in, which captain will take the ship for their own, and who will get the Loot.

Players in Loot are the pirates battling to pad their coffers with the largest share of  ill-gotten gains acquired from unsuspecting merchant ships. The deck of 78 cards is brandished with a treasure map on the back and caricatures of ships and their over zealous captains on the back. As each player begins with their hand of 6 cards, they play in turns choosing between actions, such as drawing cards, playing merchant ships, attacking merchant ships or playing a captain or an admiral.

Play is interesting as it involves some unique mechanics.  First, if a player uses their action to play a merchant ship, it has a value attached varying from 2-8 gold.  If a ship is captured the pirate gains that much gold towards their final total. A player places his merchant ship in front of him, and if the next player opts to attack it, they choose any color pirate ship from their hand.

Pirate ships come in four colors, purple, yellow, green and blue, and vary in strength from 1-4. So, a player may choose a ship from their hand in an attempt to attack the vessel, if they do, it must pass an entire round (all players have had their turn and it is back to that initial players turn) before they can claim the vessel.

Were another player to challenge against that pirate, they may only play a ship that is a different color than one already played on that ship.  So two players could not play a green pirate ship, even if their strengths differed.  As play passes between players, they can opt to strengthen their attack by playing additional ships of the same color to add to their overall power.  The player with the highest strength against a merchant ship for an entire round, takes that ship’s loot.

If no one threatens a merchant ship then the player who put it out gets it’s loot!  Now, if a player really wants to take a merchant ship, they can play a captain in the color that matches the ship they already played on it, there are only 4 captains in the deck, so they should be used wisely. The last captain played on the merchant vessel wins it.  If a player wants to protect the ship they played, they can play the one Admiral in the deck and collect the booty from their capture.

At the end of the game, players count up their gold, and the player who managed to plunder the most, wins!

Loot is a pretty easy game to start up, but it does require some strategic thinking and decision making.  Players must sometimes sacrifice a vessel they played or are attacking for a better bounty, and will sometimes have to let other players collect on vessels with no resistance.  The game play challenges children to think of how to get the most “bang for their buck” by reserving scarce resources and sometimes taunting opponents into attacking a vessel to distract from a bigger play.

Loot also comes with a variant play allowing for teams to interact in capturing vessels (for 4, 6 or 8 players) so even large groups could have some fun in the plunder.


Overall, Loot is a well thought out and very fun game.  It’s possible to play it well with younger children, but it will take patience as they develop their skills and start to find strategy beyond playing anything they are able to.  The game suggests ages 10+, but the game is very suitable for children who have developed skills in Uno or Zombie Dice.  There is simple math involved with adding up power totals and recognizing merchant ship values, there is no reading.  Children can also practice grouping, multiplication and addition at the end game as they come up with total gold values.  All in all this is a fun game that is a bit of a twist on normal strategy.  Definitely recommended for those who are looking for a little privateering in their game closet.

Wondering about other Gamewright games? Check our our reviews here!

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We spent some time talking about why co-op games are a great idea for your game collection and pointed out a whole host of learning opportunities that they present. Below is a list of some of our favorite Co-op games as a team. Take a look and make sure to let us know if you have any other games you think we missed in the comments.


Flash Point Fire Rescue

Sound the alarm and ready the hoses. In Flash Point Fire Rescue, players take the roles of firefighters entering a burning building. Random die rolls determine where smoke appears, and where there’s smoke, fire (and explosions!) quickly follow. Gameplay is tense and well balanced, and gives players the true feeling of fighting an organic and ever-growing fire. Easy to follow family rules coupled with more advanced and complicated add ons that can be incorporated ala-carte or all together give this game plenty of life for all ages of gamers.

Note: You can read our review here!

Forbidden Island/Desert


Our love for Gamewright games is well documented so there really wasn’t any way we could create this list without including The Forbidden games. Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are both amazing cooperative experiences that are quick to play and easy to teach. Both of these games present their players with dangerous worlds to explore that each seem to have a mind of their own.

Where each of them succeed the most is in the delivery of their themes. Forbidden Island is about the exploration of an island that is slowly sinking into the ocean. Each turn is filled with tension as players flip over cards that indicate which tile will sink (and thus shrink the board). As the game progresses it really feels like the world is sinking.

Note: Our Forbidden Island review is here. Our Forbidden Desert review is here.

Mice and Mystics

Adventure awaits as you and three other players control brave Prince Colin and his loyal court in a battle against the treacherous sorceress-queen Vanestra in this magical tale. The catch? The court magician Maginos has turned your band of heroes into mice! Mice and Mystics blends Role Playing Game elements with an engaging story in this highly thematic dungeon crawler. Each game builds on the last as players play through chapters in the ongoing story. Battle against rats and roaches, collect mice-sized equipment, like a button shield or needle rapier, and try to save the kingdom from the evil queen.



Diseases of epic proportions run rampant through the world, and only a team of CDC specialists can eradicate them before they eradicate us. Pandemic is a 2-4 player game that pits players against rapidly spreading diseases with more chances at failing the world, than of saving it.  Each player can perform the same actions, as one unique action based on their randomly selected role at the CDC. This plus the ability to control difficulty makes each game of Pandemic a unique challenge.  Expansions (In the Lab, On the Brink and State of Emergency) add players and new situations to overcome, so it never gets old!

Note: You can read our review here!

Sentinels of The Multiverse

The Earth is in peril an evil genius is attempting to pull the moon into our home planet, and only a team of superheroes can stop him from completing his diabolical plan! Sentinels of The Multiverse is a 2-5 player card game that lets you choose from pre-constructed hero decks to face an array of villains with a variety of evil plans in a slew of comic-inspired settings. In case the original set of heroes, villains and environment decks aren’t enough to keep you busy, Sentinels has quite a few expansions that change mechanics and elements of the game to keep it interesting. The sheer number of combinations makes this game incredibly unique each time you play — Even if you only ever play your favorite character.

Note: You can read our review here!


To a pyrotechnician, there is nothing more important than a beautiful show of fireworks for their audience, but what do you do when there is a mix-up and you’re too honorable to admit the problem? Well, the show must go on! Hanabi is a small deck card game consisting of 60 cards, in the game players work together to put on the most impressive show they can muster, without insulting the honor of their fellow experts. Hanabi is unique in that you can’t see your own hand and other players must give you limited clues for you to identify what to play! It’s a challenging and small game that keeps you wondering and guessing and hoping that you aren’t booed off the field! The game comes with a 6th suit and a few additional variations for advanced play!

Note: You can read our review here!

Castle Panic


Goblins and Orcs and Trolls, oh my!!! Castle Panic is a game where 1-6 players must defend a central castle from an onslaught of monsters. Each turn new monsters appear in the forests around the edges of the board and existing monsters advance towards the castle. Different cards allow players to attack monsters at varying distances from the castle, and players can trade cards, slay monsters, and defend the castle walls. If all the walls fall, the monsters win! Players work together to keep the castle secure, but the player with the most victory points gets declared the Master Slayer!


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Publisher: Gamewright
Genre: Card Game
Players: 2-6
Ages: 6 & Up
Time: 20 minutes
MSRP: $10.99

Too Many Monkeys: A Totally Bananas Card Game consists of 55 cards, a rules pamphlet, and a sturdy cardboard box. This playful, lively game is designed to appeal to young gamers and parents alike. It is a fast paced, simple game that subtly reinforces math concepts such as number sequencing and probability while still allowing kids to be silly and have fun.

The premise of the game is that Primo, the Monkey is trying to get a good night’s sleep but his friends keep knocking on his bedroom door in an attempt to have a noisy slumber party. Your goal is to get Primo back to sleep by flipping and swapping cards over a number of rounds to end up with just one face up card. Of course, there are some troublesome critters who cause ridiculous problems along the way.

Gameplay is played in a series of rounds. Players are dealt out 6 cards face down. Players draw from the discard pile or the draw pile and swap it face up with a card in the position that matches the number on the card you drew. The winner of the first round gets dealt one less card at the start of the next round. All other players get dealt the same number as the previous round. Play continues as above with players’ hands getting smaller each round. You continue in rounds until one player is down to just one card and draws the number 1 card (with Primo asleep). When that happens, Primo is back to sleep and the game is over!

We purchased this game for our monkey-obsessed six year old son expecting it to be cute but a bit of a drag. We were pleasantly surprised after our first play-through. The artwork is funny, the special cards add an interesting dynamic, and the fast pace makes it bearable. We have played through this game numerous times with kids alone and mixes of kids and adults. The first challenge we encountered was that while the game pace is fairly quick, playing through the rounds can sometimes drag on. Your littlest players may lose interest before they get to the single face up card. We found a way to modify this by removing all of the 6 and 5 cards and dealing each players 4 cards instead of 6 to shorten the game. The game is designed for ages 6 and up, but as long as your child can count and understand number order, they should be able to play fairly well. Older players (8 and up) found the concept simplistic, but thought the special cards added to the fun of the game. Younger players enjoyed the game as is. Our favorite feature is that this game can be played unsupervised by children with no parental assistance, but parents can join in to have some fun, too.

Overall, if your kid likes monkeys, likes being silly, and could you some subtle reinforcement of math skills, then this is a great addition to your family’s game collection. We think this is a logical step up from the early childhood classics such as Candy LandHi Ho Cherry-O, and Chutes and Ladders.


Wondering about other Gamewright games? Check our our reviews here!

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Publisher: Gamewright
Genre: Dice Game
Players: 2-6
Ages: 8 & Up
Time: 15 minutes
MSRP: $10.99


Dodge Dice consists of 10 dice (1 penalty, 1 action, 8 dodge), 18 purple skip chips, and a rules

pamphlet. This fast moving, highly competitive, push your luck dice game is a great ice breaker

or starter game for your family game night. Dodge Dice teaches probability, the principles of

risk, and basic math concepts in an exciting dice rolling format.


The goal of the game is to dodge penalty points and end up with the lowest score at the end of

a series of rounds.


Gameplay is played in a series of rounds. The player who last played dodge ball goes first.

After the first roll, the penalty die is found placed to the side. This shows the penalty for the

round. The action die is then found and determines what happens next in the game. The active

player looks at all of the dodge dice and places any whose face up side matches the penalty die

to the side. Any remaining dice get passed to the left along with the action die. The number of

dice decreases as the round is played. Play continues in each round until a player rolls a stop

on the action die or all of the dice match the penalty die. These end the round and the active

player collects the points on the penalty die. Players complete rounds until one person reaches

100 points. The game ends and the person with the lowest score wins. To make the game

more strategic, the rules include skip chips. Skip chips allow the player to skip their turn or

ignore the result of a roll to avoid collecting points. Skip chips are limited, so it is important to

use them wisely.


We have played through this game numerous times with players 12 and older and mixes of

younger kids and adults. The recommended age for the game seems to be spot on. At first

glance, it seems that younger players might be able to play because there is no reading and

only fairly simplistic math involved. This assumption, however, would be incorrect. Much of the

strategy was lost when we attempted this game with younger players. Skip chips were spent

too quickly and the escalating probability of gaining points as the round went on was completely



While there’s nothing epic about this game, it’s an enjoyable, quick game that can be used in a

variety of ways. We’ve used it as a spark to get people organized around the table to play a

more advanced game. We’ve used it as a study break for our children to keep their minds

active while giving them a bit of kinesthetic relief. Dodge Dice‘s compact size makes it a great

portable game that can be brought along on outings to restaurants and other places where you

might need an activity while you sit and wait.

Wondering about other Gamewright games? Check our our reviews here!


Disclosure: A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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