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One thing that a LOT of homebound families have been doing these last few weeks is puzzles. I’ve seen so many pictures of happy families smiling over completed jigsaw puzzles I could burst! But, I know a lot of families out there might be getting frustrated! Some of those puzzles are tough.

Puzzles are a big deal in our family. My mom would ALWAYS have a puzzle on the dining room table if she didn’t need the surface for other things. She loves to build puzzles with her kids and grandkids so I thought to myself, “Who better to consult with than the master?”

So, without further delay, here are some tips from the puzzle master herself!

  • Place all pieces on the table face up
  • Sort for outside edges.
  • Figure out the main color themes of the puzzle
  • Sort the pieces by color (this is a great job for younger puzzlers!)
  • Fit all outside edges together to make a frame if you can
  • Work on large swaths of color or obvious shapes
  • Keep completing shapes until you feel like you have most of the obvious ones put together
  • Sort those shapes by size
  • Consult the picture on the box when you get stuck
  • Look for clues – letters, straight edges, faces
  • When you get stuck? Move on and try another area.
  • Share the experience and work as a team!
  • Don’t give up! All puzzles have a solution!

Did these tips make you want to grab a puzzle for yourself? Head to this Amazon link and grab one (or ten)!


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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They say necessity is the mother of invention. Well, if that is true then quarantine is the mother of creative solutions. Social distancing has made it so we cannot get together and play board games with extended family and friends. However, with the technology available, friends can still hang out together while maintaining social distancing. For school and work many of us have been getting acquainted with different video conferencing forums. While those of you in the business world have been using platforms such as Webex for years, it is new to many of us.

There are a few ways to approach gaming via video conferencing: where all players have a copy of the game, where one player has a copy, or if there are common components players can scavenge from other games.

With One Copy

DIY Tripod to display the game board. (4 cans used)

To make it so all players can “share” the game components there needs to be all open information. It generally is not possible for each player to have a private hand of cards. Whomever has the game needs to have a way to display a view of the game. One option is to use their phone while logged into the video conference. Then putting it on a tripod or holding it is place with a stack of books or cans. I found a buffer is needed between the metal can and the phone. The height needed depends on the size of the game.

Cooperative Games

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game for two to four players. It pits a team of adventurers against an ever-sinking island in a quest to obtain four ancient artifacts and escape before the island sinks.

In Stop Thief player take on the roll of investigators trying to catch several thieves. They collect the reward money so they can retire. This game incorporates an app that provides sound clues to the location of the thief, different levels of difficulty in play as well as a cooperative mode.

Castle Panic places up to 6 players in a realm where all sorts of fantasy creatures are attempting to breach their castle. Players then work together to defend the castle from being taken by an army of orcs and trolls and goblins and their leaders. See the review here.

Competative Games:

Blurble is a game all about racing and talking.  So many of us love to talk and this gives us the chance to put that talking to good use. In Blurble, players race to say a word first that starts with the same letter as the picture on the card.  See the review here.

Sushi Roll takes the popular game Sushi Go and instead of card drafting players draft dice. There is no hidden information in this game. So if there is only one copy as long as the other players can see their choices they could make their choices on their turn. See the review here.

Each Location With a Copy

When each location has a copy of a game it opens up more options. Players can each draw from a deck or they can set up a simple game so the board at each location is identical. Some publisher have also created special rules to make their game playable over video conference.

Exploding Kittens is a family favorite that is just plain ridiculous. The team at Exploding Kittens has come up with a special set of rules for playing over video chat, which they are calling Quarantined Kittens. See the rules here,and our review of Exploding Kittens here.

Zombie Dice is a push your luck dice game where you want to roll (eat) brains before getting your turn ending by the shotgun blasts. These are custom dice, so they wouldn’t be able to be substituted with plain dice. See then review here.

Roll For It!
Roll For It!

Roll For It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play. See the review here.

Apples to Apples and Apples to Apples Jr. are found on most family’s game shelf. This game has a rotating judge with silly words and phrases. With this each location can have their own draw decks.

Quixx is a roll and write where each roll also opens up an option to take a number for all players. In this game the color of the dice is significant, so if you have six sided dice of the appropriate color you could scavenge for dice if need be.

Dice Games using Standard Dice

Yatzee is a classic, and this may be the perfect time for an oldie but goodie. Most people have 6 sided dice around, even if they have to borrow from other games. If everyone can scrape together 5 dice, they can play! The score sheets can be found online and printed or just written on blank paper.

Farkle is a simple push your luck dice game that uses six standard six sided dice. Just like Yatzee if you can find six dice you can play. The score sheet can also be found online.


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

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Spending more time at home is the new normal at the moment. With schools being closed and parents now facilitating their child’s distance learning or home schooling there is a tremendous amount of stress, worry, and exhaustion. One positive we can take is many more of us are finding we have time to spend quality time around the table playing games. This creates a perfect time to unwind.

Face the Uncertainty

pandemic board

First we have the elephant in the room, Pandemic. When local governments began shutting down schools and not essential businesses, there were families that reached for this game, and shared pictures online. Playing Pandemic at this time may or may not be right for you. Some people felt it gave them a sense of control, in a way they do not right now. If this game is a favorite in your house it may be a good time to dust it off. See the review here.

Beautiful Games

Noctiluca

In a remote jungle there can be found Cerulean Pools beautiful luminescent Noctiluca. Players take on the roll of divers collecting these Noctiluca in jars. The neat twist to the game is to collect the dice (Noctiluca) you have to select a number shown on the dice, and collect all in a straight light from the edge of the pool to the center with that number. However, on the jar, the numbers are irrelevant, only the color matters.

Wingspan

Wingspan gets a lot of criticism for being “overhyped.” I guess that might be true? It did build a lot of hype before most of the people on Earth had taken a single turn, but a big part of that was the simple beauty of the art on the cards. Each card features a different bird and the art looks like it came from an ornithology textbook.

Seikatsu

Seikatsu is, without question, one of the most beautiful games I have ever laid eyes on. The game board has three beautifully painted gardens around the outside edge and the tiles are covered with paintings of birds. The box is even prettier than it has any right to be. Sitting down in front of this game is breathtaking . It only gets better as players lay tiles and the board fills up.

There is even a version with pets!

Lanterns

Lanterns is a tile laying game which also incorporates color matching and set collecting.  Players are decorating the lake for the Harvest Festival in Imperial China. They collect cards based on the color lanterns that are oriented towards them on the lake cards.  Then players cash in sets of the lantern cards to make a dedication. These dedication cards each have a number, and the player with the highest number of dedication points at the end wins.  The game is beautiful as you expand the lake covered in lanterns as tiles are added.  Gameplay is very easy to learn, and the easy steps on each turn make this game great for the whole family.

Azul

An imagine of the board game box and components for Azul from Plan B Games

Azul is an award winning game designed by Michael Kiesling. It 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. 

Sagrada

There is something uniquely breathtaking about the sun beaming through a stained glass window. In Sagrada dice represent the glass pieces. Players draft to meet the color and share requirements of their window and public as well as private objectives. The game boards only look more and more stunning as the windows are build.

Comfort Food, Your Old Favorites

Ticket To Ride

I can’t think of “comfort food” board games without Ticket to Ride crashing right to the front of my brain. Ticket to Ride became the first “real” board game bought for the EFG board game library., when the decision was made to cover board games. I remember opening it and looking at the board in bewilderment. Initially I found the rules confusing by, but after two turns I felt like a pro. We have shared TtR with everyone possible and I cannot WAIT to get it to the table again. See the review here.

Sushi Go

Sushi Go!
Sushi Go!

In the fast-paced world of a sushi chef, you must be the most creative and the fastest of all to be the best! Will you serve Nigiri with Wasabi, or create Maki rolls in quantities never before imagined?  Did you remember to serve dessert?  Find out if you are cut out to be the best in Gamewright’s popular card game – Sushi-Go!

The strategy of the game lies in making the most of the cards passed to you, while trying to stop opponents from making the combinations they need to maximize points. See the review here.

Tsuro

Tsuro: The Game of the Path
Tsuro: The Game of the Path

If you are looking for an excellent and simple introduction to the genre of tile laying and path finding games, look no further than Tsuro: The Game of the Path. It is an Asian themed game with beautiful dragon tokens and a pretty box and board design. The object of the game is to keep your flying dragon token on the board longer than anyone else’s. As the board fills up this becomes a challenge because there are fewer empty spaces. Other player can purposefully change your path to an undesirable one. See the review here.

Kingdomino

Kingdomino , the 2017 winner of The Spiel Des Jahres (The Game of the Year), combines the universal simplicity of dominoes with kingdom building. Players draw domino shaped tiles and lay them out in their 5×5 block kingdom. The goal is to sort their kingdom to that they have large contiguous biomes (lakes, forests, etc) to earn points. The gameplay is quick, easy to teach, and the game ages down very nicely.

Splendor

Blending a  balance of easy to learn rules and deeper strategy, Splendor is a fantastic game for older children and grown-ups alike. Players acquire gems in order to buy mines, which in turn provide more gems (and ultimately points). While the gem-dealer theme may feel thin at times, the card drafting mechanic and  “engine-building” feel to the gameplay will quickly make this a family game night staple. See the review here.


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

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Families everywhere are adapting to the new normal. We are all practicing social distancing and staying inside for days at a time. This is stressful and frightening for a lot of families across the world. Sometimes, the only answer is a good laugh. Below is a list of relatively inexpensive games that are all fun to play.

Note: The links in the descriptions for these games are Amazon Affiliate links. if you click these links and buy the games, then EFG will get a small amount of revenue from your purchase.

Exploding Kittens

exploding kittens
exploding kittens

Exploding Kittens is one of the silliest games in my collection, and is a family favorite. You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple. The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out.  Check out the review here.

Not Parent Approved

If you are looking for something to get everyone laughing then check out Not Parent Approved. It is played in the same style as Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, with one player as the judge and the rest of the players trying to provide the best answer to the prompt card. The game has a large range of cards, and for younger players, parents may want to screen the cards for content.

Happy Salmon/Funky Chicken

Happy Salmon is really, really stupid. But, in the best ways. This is a great game for motivating your family to get up, laugh, and shout their way through a game. You can even buy two copies (there are two different color versions) so you can get up to 8 players. That is WILD.

funky chicken game

Funky Chicken, just like Happy Salmon above, is also really, really stupid. But, it is stupid in the best possible way. The game play is similar enough that if you like one of them, then you should definitely get the other.

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers is also a single player game with a hilarious theme from Think Fun. In this game players are collecting cows represented by colored disks, and the red bull must be collected last. There are fences of different heights that add challenges to each puzzle.

Shaky Manor

Shaky Manor is a game unlike any I have ever played before, where each player is given a tray containing eight square rooms each connected by doorways. Players place an meeple, a ghost, and three treasure chest cubes into the tray. They then shake the tray to try and get the meeple and the cubes into a designated room without the ghost. The first player to do it five times is the winner. The game is noisy, silly, and loads of fun!

Loopin’ Chewie

Loopin’ Chewie is the 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.

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. See the review here.

Hoagie

Hoagie is a sandwich building game where each player is trying to build the perfect sandwich without any part getting spoiled by three oogies. It has a level of gross that kids and adults will find entertaining.  Hoagie is a light game that can be played with multiple ages all together making it a great game for the whole family. See the review here.

Unstable Unicorns

Unstable Unicorns is a card combat game that features whacky unicorns as you build an army. The art is adorable and gameplay loop as you pass between turns feels very similar to Magic: The Gathering (and I mean that in a good way). We enjoy it every time we play.

Go Nuts for Donuts

Go Nuts For Donuts is a card drafting and set collection game where players are trying to collect the best donuts to eat.  Really, what better topic for a game can you have beside collecting donuts! Player bid on the different donuts available in the donut row. Players bid in secret, and at the end of the bidding players may only collect those donuts where they are the sole bidder. Each kind of the 21 kinds donut ( and two beverages) has either points it gains you, an action you can take immediately upon retrieving the card, or both. The artwork and text on the cards are fun and adorable and sure to make you smile.

What Do You Meme: Family Edition

What Do You Meme is a hilarious game that invites players to create funny memes using a stack of funny pictures straight from the deepest corners of the internet and a huge deck of caption cards. The problem is that the original version of the game is a bit… grown-up for our tastes. The good news for all of us is that there is a bespoke Family edition of the game that replaces the sex and drugs with fart jokes (which just makes it all around better in my opinion). Just look at the box. It’ll all make sense. This is the definitive edition of the game!


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

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

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Hundreds of thousands of parents buy their families video game consoles as gifts every year. Many of those consoles are destined to be wrapped ahead of time and opened up by elated children only to require several hours of setup or, even worse, to be hindered by internet issues caused by rowdy internet trolls – the ultimate killjoy. 

The good news is that all of those potential problems are avoidable. Below is a list of all the things you can do to make sure that you and your family can avoid that fate. 

Open the Box

This is an unlikely problem, but it is not unheard of for consoles to be returned to retailers with missing components (and sometimes even missing consoles). Opening the box ahead of time gives you the chance to go back to the store and get a complete console ahead of time. You won’t be able to do that on Christmas morning.

Check Your TV

Modern consoles hook up to televisions using HDMI ports. Most TVs have multiple HDMI ports, but many of them might already be taken up by your family’s cable box or even your other consoles. It;s a great idea to check ahead of time whether or not you have a free HDMI port on the back of your TV. If you don’t, then you’ll likely want to invest in an HDMI switch. That will let you plug multiple devices into one HDMI port on your TV and switch between them using a remote or a button on the switch itself. 

Plug it In!

Modern consoles are more like computers than the Nintendos we opened on Christmas morning as kids. They have complex, powerful software running under the hood and they need to be hooked up to the internet in order to set them up. These downloads and installations can take a while so it is a good idea to hook the console up while the kids are away and complete everything.

Some of the things you’ll be able to get taken care of ahead of time are: downloading firmware updates, setting up user accounts for you and your kids, and setting up parental controls.

Don’t Forget About The Games

Many games need to be partially installed from the disk, and many of them need to download patches from the internet in order to play. These installations can take a lot of time and it will feel like an eternity with your kids breathing down your neck. Do yourself a favor and take at least one of the games you are giving out of the plastic and throw the disc into the console. The install process will be almost automatic and it will give your kids something to play right away once the console is hooked up!

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

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The Nintendo Switch is wildly popular, and Nintendo is pairing it with an online subscription service similar to both Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus. Their service, called Nintendo Switch Online, launched in the fall of 2018 and is a great value for families looking to get more out of their Switch experience. 

The Pitch

Nintendo Switch Online is an annual subscription service that is required into order to play Nintendo Switch games like Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate online. It also includes bonus features like access to cloud saves, and access to a suite of NES and SNES games. Subscribers also get access to exclusive sales offers and Switch online exclusive games like Tetris 99. 

Nintendo Switch Online is an annual subscription service that is required into order to play Nintendo Switch games like Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate online. It also includes bonus features like access to cloud saves, and access to a suite of NES and SNES games. Subscribers also get access to exclusive sales offers and Switch online exclusive games like Tetris 99. 

How Does it Work? 

Nintendo Switch Online is a subscription based service that can be purchased annually, or in smaller increments. The service needs to be maintained in order to continue the benefits and maintain access to the features. 

The service includes: 

Online Play – Online multiplayer gaming using the Nintendo Switch Online platform

NES and SNES – Nintendo Switch Online – Nintendo Switch Online members have access to curated library of more than 60 NES and Super NES classic games. The collection initially only includes NES games, but was updated a year later to include SNES titles. The curated library of games will grow over time. These games also include online competitive/cooperative play with friends. Certain games (like Super Mario Bros.) even include the ability to virtually pass the controller back and forth.

Save Data Cloud – Subscribers can back up their save game data to the cloud. This makes it easier to retrieve their save data if they lose their Switch or start to use a new one. It is worth mentioning that some games aren’t compatible with cloud saving. The most noteworthy examples are Pokemon Sword and Shield and the upcoming Animal Crossing: New Horizons. 

Smartphone App – Nintendo has released a smartphone app (available for iOS and Android). It syncs with the subscriber’s Nintendo account and includes some minor enhancements for different Switch games. You can also use it to use voice chat with your Nintendo friends as you play. (Certain games, like Fortnite, circumvent Nintendo’s app and allow voice chat through the game software itself. This isn’t universal though.)

Special Offers – Subscribers will have access to exclusive sales and product offerings. They have included controllers, discount game vouchers, and even an exclusive game (Tetris 99). 

How Much Does it Cost?

Nintendo Switch Online can be purchased annually, quarterly, or monthly. The service also has a 7 day free trial. 

Annual Subscription: $19.99

3 Month Subscription: $7.99

1 Month Subscription: $3.99

Nintendo Switch Online also has a Family Membership option where up to 8 Nintendo Accounts can share an online subscription for $34.99 annually. 

Advice

This service is a great value for families. The cost is relatively low at $20 a year and it includes a wide array of free games to play.

If your kids aren’t interested in the NES/SNES games and only play Fortnite, then this is a service you can likely avoid. Fortnite doesn’t require an active subscription to play.

Other Guides

There are a ton of other premium video game services out there so we wrote guides for all of them.  Take a look below:

A Parent’s Guide to EA Origins Access

A Parent’s Guide to EA Access

A Parent’s Guide to the Xbox Game Pass

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Now

A Parent’s Guide to PlayStation Plus

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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Pokémon Sword and Shield are finally available to the public and they are incredibly popular. Lots of kids will be asking for them, and we suspect a lot of parents will need help. If you happen to be one of those parents, then this is our guide for you. Bookmark this page and refer to it if you need help with your kids’ newest favorite game.

What is the ESRB Rating?

Pokemon Sword and Shield are rated E for everyone by the ESRB.

The content descriptors are Comic Mischief and Mild Cartoon Violence.

The rating summary reads, “This is a role-playing game in which players assume the role of a Pokémon trainer trying to become champion. Players explore the fictional Galar Region and engage in turn-based combat with other trainers. Players select various attacks (e.g., fire, lightning/electricity) from a menu to defeat Pokémon. Melee-style attacks (e.g., rolling, scratching, bouncing) are also used, as impact sounds, light effects, and diminishing health bars indicate damage. One creature is seen with a large drop of mucous hanging from its nose.”

What are the differences between the two games?

The Pokémon Company and Game Freak always release two different versions of their Pokémon games. The biggest differences  between the two versions has always been in the available Pokemon, but this time around there are version exclusive gyms to battle in as well.

Pokémon Sword Exclusive Pokémon

Pokémon Shield Exclusive Pokémon

Version Exclusive Gyms

The fourth and sixth gym that you battle in during the game are different based on which version you play.

In Pokémon Sword the fourth gym features Bea and her party of fighting-type Pokémon. The sixth gym is run by Gordie and his squad of rock-type Pokémon.

In Pokémon Shield the fourth gym is run by Allister  who uses ghost-type Pokémon and the sixth gym is led by Melony and her ice-type Pokémon.

All of the other gyms are identical in both versions.

The differences in the gym lineups means that you’ll need different Pokémon in your party to help overcome the gym challenges and, ultimately, the gym leader.

Legendary Pokemon

Each game features a different legendary Pokémon that is pictured on the front cover of the game. You are able to capture them after you complete the main story arc of the game. 

Pokémon Sword has Zacian who is fairy type. When you find the rusted sword and give it to him he becomes fairy/steel type.

Pokémon Shield has Zamazenta who is fighting type. When you find the rusted shield and give it to him he becomes fighting/steel type.

Do you need Nintendo Switch Online?

Nintendo Switch Online isn’t mandatory, but it does a lot to enrich the experience. Nintendo Switch Online is required for online battling and trading. You also need it in order to participate in Max Raid Battles with other players. (The game will provide you with AI controlled teammates, but it just isn’t the same.)

How do you reset the game?

Sometimes you will just get stuck and feel the need to start over. The Pokémon Company, knowing that its target audience is largely made up of children, makes it relatively difficult to delete a save game so you can start over. They don’t want it to be something that can be done by accident.

In the case of Sword and Shield, you use the data management settings in the Switch menu. 

  • Turn on your Nintendo Switch
  • From the Nintendo Switch Home Screen, select System Settings
  • Find Data Management on the next screen
  • Navigate down to the Delete Save Data option
  • Choose Pokémon Sword & Shield to delete your file for your current profile.
    • Note: Make SURE that you are deleting the save file for the correct profile. 

You can then restart your Pokémon Sword or Shield game. 

What starter Pokémon should they pick?

Choosing your starter Pokémon is one of the biggest decisions your child will make while playing Pokémon Sword and Shield. They get to choose one of three Pokémon that each have two evolutions: Scorbunny, Grooky, and Sobble. Check out our guide to help you choose between them!


What is the difference between Dynamax and Gigantamax?

One of the key new features in Sword and Shield is the Dynamax mechanic. Pokémon have the ability, in specific situations, to grow to a massive size and power up each of their attacks. This is similar to the mega-evolution that was introduced in Pokémon X and Y (Generation 6), except that the dynamax has a maximum duration of three turns. The attacks your Pokémon uses while in dynamax form are called Max Movs and are very similar to Z-moves that were introduced during  Pokémon Sun and Moon (Generation 7). 

You might hear your kids using the term Gigantimax in relation to these battles. These terms are NOT interchangable. Any Pokémon can Dynamax, but there are only certain Pokémon that has a Gigantimax form. This means that they have a special form and access to super powerful G-Max Moves that are unique and powerful. 

The only way to find Gigantimax Pokémon is in Max Raid battles. These are special battles that you enter by finding circular rock formations in the wild area. 

Tips for catching Pokémon

  1. Make sure you are using the right Pokeballs. You start with access to regular Pokeballs. But, as you defeat gyms you’ll have access to Great Balls and Ultra balls in the PokeCenter shops. You’ll get the best results from using the higher levels Pokeballs. You get a single Master Ball After defeating all of the gyms and completing the story. That should be reserved for catching the game’s legendary Pokémon Zacian or Zamazenta.
  2. Reduce the opposing Pokémon’s HP as low as you can without making it feint. This can be tricky, but you can buy a move called False Swipe at the PokeCenter on the way to Route 3. (False Swipe will never reduce a Pokémon to 1 HP.)
  3. Use status effects! Pokémon who are under status effects are easier to catch. Ideally, you would use one of your Pokémon to put them to Sleep, but poison, paralysis, and frozen work as well.

Was this guide helpful? Leave your comments and questions below! We can add more to this document as time goes on!

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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The Holiday season is fast approaching! Games are coming out so fast that it can be very difficult to keep track. We take  time every year to list the very best family games of the year that came out on every console.

Take a look below for our list of the best video game gifts for Nintendo Switch owners!

(Full disclosure: These Amazon links are affiliate links. Purchases made using these links will help us earn revenue.)

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Nintendo Switch

Fans of our podcast will know that this is one of our most hyped games of the year. We haven’t been able to play this game a great deal so far, but everything that we have seen points to Ultimate being a great Smash experience. If your family has enjoyed Smash Bros on other platforms and owns a Switch, then this should be under your tree.

 

 

Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee

Nintendo Switch

The next Generation of Pokemon games won’t be out until next year. But, younger players and players who have come to the Pokemon fandom will have their own game this year. Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee! Are coming out just in time for the holidays. They are different versions of the same story, but they each feature a different partner Pokemon for your trainer. 

 

 

Dragon Ball  FighterZ

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Dragon Ball FighterZ is one of the best fighting games and the best Dragon Ball game of the year. It is a three on three tag team brawl with a character roster than pulls from the deepest corners of Dragon Ball lore. It was developed by Arc System Works, a company known for high quality animation and flashy combat. Dragon Ball FighterZ is a beautiful game to watch thanks to its tag and assist system, but the real fun starts when you take the controls yourself. This is a very accessible fighting game that is great for tweens.

 

 

Kirby Star Allies

Nintendo Switch

Kirby games have always been great for kids, but Kirby Star Allies is just as great for families to play together. It features up to four player co-op so whole family can get in on the action (most of the time). My favorite part of Star Allies is the theme. It’s all about love, cooperation, and friendship. Your family is in for a lot of fun together if you pick this one up.

 

 

Nintendo LABO

Nintendo Switch

Who doesn’t want a cool activity to do with your family on a Holiday morning? The advantage to Nintendo LABO kits is that they are both a game AND a STEM construction activity. There are three kits available right now. The Variety Kit includes several smaller kits including a fishing rod, a piano, and a house. The Robot Kit includes a massive backpack powered device that lets you control a giant transforming robot. The Vehicle Kit includes materials for three steering devices; one for a car, one for a plane, and one for a submarine.

 

 

Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 and 2

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Mega Man is a well loved character and Mega Man 1 through 10 are the reason why. These two collections include 10 devilishly challenging platformers that have inspired a generation of gamers. This is a must own for families that have an interest in gaming history.

 

 

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 and 2

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Mega Man X is one of the best platformers on the Super Nintendo and it spawned a series of sequels that kept ramping up the action. Capcom released two Mega Man X collections this year. The second collection falls flat, but collection 1 included Mega Man X through X4 and is a great value.

 

 

 

Mario Tennis Aces

Nintendo Switch

Mario Tennis was a huge disappointment on the Wii U. I was super nervous about whether or not Mario Tennis Aces on the Switch would be a repeat. Fortunately, it wasn’t. Aces is gorgeous, mechanically sound, and full of multiplayer fun. This one should definitely be on your radar if your family has (or will have) a Switch.

 

 

 

Sonic Mania Plus

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Sonic Mania was a big deal when it came out initially. Many critics lauded it as the best Sonic the Hedgehog game in decades. (Some went so far as to say it was the best Sonic game of all time). Sonic Mania Plus is a re-release that also includes two new characters: Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel. They both move differently from Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles and have different powers.

 

 

Valkyria Chronicles 4

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch

Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the spiritual successor to the popular PS3 title after two offshoot titles launched for the PS Vita. The game is a tactical strategy game set in an alternate, and more fantastical, version of Europe during the Second World War. The game unfolds in a series of journal entries placing the battles in context of a series of well told cut scenes and storyboards. Game play alternates between battles where you control each character in a unit as you advance and fight your way to an objective, and coordinating and upgrading your ever increasing squad in an offstage headquarters. This is a family friendly title that bridges the gap between the popular title XCOM (and XCOM 2) and [Mario and Rabbid’s Tactics battle?] and also has a playable demo with a save that can be rolled over to the full title. A strong title for strategy or warfare fans.

 

 

Mega Man 11

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

It’s been eight years since the release of a new official Mega Man game and we have been long overdue. Mega Man is one of the essential franchises that gave birth to the platforming genre, and this newcomer to the Mega Man family is a most welcome addition. It promises new mechanics and challenges that will push the series to new heights. If you are a fan of the series or a fan of retro platforming games, then Mega Man 11 is a no brainer.

 

 

Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch

Starlink: Battle for Atlas was my game of the show at E3 this year. I was stunned to see a toys to life game (not called Skylanders) in 2018 and I loved it.

This is releasing this holiday season on all three major consoles and on PC, but the best place to play Starlink is going to be on Switch where it will feature exclusive content based on the legendary Star Fox franchise.

 

 

Just Dance 2019

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

What is there to say about Just Dance that hasn’t been said before? This is becoming one of the most venerable franchises in gaming. Just Dance is released every year with new dance routines and new songs to very little coverage from gaming sites. Just Dance 2019 has a large audience and you’ll know if your family falls into it. Do you love music? Do you love dancing? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then this should be on your radar.


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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The holiday season is fast approaching and that means it’s time to start finding gifts for the gamers in your family! The EFG staff has ranked the video game consoles available today. Take a look below!

(Full disclosure: These Amazon links are affiliate links. Purchases made using these links will help us earn revenue.)

Nintendo Switch


We are all in on the Nintendo Switch this year. It is the console to own for families.

We have had a Switch in our house since (almost) launch day and it has been well loved ever since. It has seen use in both of its hybrid forms throughout its life. It feels like every member of our family uses it differently. I use it almost exclusively docked, for example, whereas our middle son Jake almost never plays with it that way unless he is playing multiplayer.

I can’t understate how valuable that versatility has been in our house. We have multiple consoles, five people, and only one real gaming space. Being able to play console games on the Switch in handheld mode has been a godsend. This is especially true because of Fortnite. I don’t even want to think about how stressful our life would be if Fortnite was competing for our main television time as well.

The biggest strike against the Switch last year was the lack of Fortnite. That issue was resolved over the summer when it was announced during E3. It joins Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey to form the best library of family friendly titles out there.

Looking for some Switch games to give? Here’s our list of Switch games for this holiday!


PlayStation 4


The PlayStation 4 is our second choice this year. It doesn’t have the strongest lineup of exclusive games, with the exception of Spider-Man, but it is home to all of the major third party games like Destiny 2. You shouldn’t have any problems finding games to play with your family here. The catalog is full of great games.

The biggest decision that new PlayStation owners will have to make when shopping for a PS4 is whether to purchase a base model or to spend a little bit extra for a PS4 Pro. The main difference between those two systems is going to be the graphics performance. Both of them will play the same games, but the PS4 Pro will make them look better if your family owns a 4k television.

Looking for some PS4 games to give? Here’s our list of PS4 games for this holiday!


Xbox One


The Xbox One is a great console on its own, but it is hard for us to recommend it this year when compared to the Switch or the PS4.

2018 has been a challenging year for Xbox fans. The exclusives have been in short supply. There is, however, hope on the horizon. Microsoft announced that they have purchased five new studios to help produce exclusive games.

There is a ray of hope though. The Xbox One X has been announced and it looks like a great console for families looking for a powerful console to help show off their new 4k television.

Looking for some Xbox One games to give? Here’s our list of Xbox One games for this holiday!

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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The “8 and up” game category opens up a whole new realm of gaming options. Game become less “kid games” and more “kid-friendly”.  At this age, reading cards is no longer a concern and the kids can handle more strategy and steps per turn.  The number of games at this age level absolutely explodes and there is no way to include everything.  This list includes some of our favorites, but there is so much more to play! 

Asmodee

Timeline 

Timeline is a competitive game for two to eight players that takes about 15 minutes to play. Player begin with at least four cards to start, and a single card is revealed. Each card is two-sided, with a matching picture on each side, however; one side has a caption describing the picture like “The invention of the Electric Iron” and the other has the year “1882”.  In order to play the game players must find the correct place on the timeline for their card without seeing the year printed on the back.

If you place your card correctly, it is revealed and becomes part of the timeline. If not, it is discarded and you draw a new card.  A round ends when a player places their final card correctly.  If any other players also place their final cards correctly that same round, a new round is played.  Rounds are continued until only one player finishes a round with no cards.

See our review here.

Dixit 

Dixit, a storytelling game for three to six players.  It requires that you come up with a description of your own surreal card that also leaves your opponents guessing. First, each player is dealt six incredibly beautiful cards. The storyteller (active player) chooses a card and describes it with a word or phrase. Your opponents then select one of their cards that matches your description, trying to trick the other players into voting for their card. The Storytellers and the other player cards are shuffled and displayed face up.

Players secretly vote for the card they think is the Storytellers using color-coded chips. If everyone guesses your card, all your opponents gain 2 points and you gain none. However, if no one chooses yours, your opponents all gain 2 points and you still get 0!  Should one or more person guesses my image I get 3 points and they get 3 points, plus a bonus for anyone choosing their card.

See our review here.

Blue Orange Games

Kingdomino

Kingdomino , the 2017 winner of The Spiel Des Jahres (The Game of the Year), combines the universal simplicity of dominoes with kingdom building. It is a tile drafting and placement game for two to four players.  The game is played in short rounds. First, tiles are laid out in a field and players take turns drafting tiles based on the order of the previous round.

Players draw domino shaped tiles and lay them out in their 5×5 block kingdom. only one side of their domino needs to match the land the connect to, but it can gain them more points if both sides match. The goal is to sort their kingdom so that they have large contiguous terrain (lakes, forests, etc) to earn points. Points are calculated by taking the number of continuous terrain times the number of crown icons found on any domino in that terrain. The gameplay is quick, easy to teach, and the game ages down very nicely.

See our Spiel Des Jahres 2017 article here.

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a beautiful science-themed game that features the tree life cycle and a rotating sun to collect light points. The game plays two to four players and takes 45 minutes to an hour to play. In Photosynthesis the sun moves around the board three times and players plant and progress trees through their life cycle to collect points.  The trees are three dimensional and provide a beautiful visual as the forest “grows”.

Photosynthesis plays in rounds. Standard play is three rounds. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase.   Each tree that is not in the shadow of another tree earns Light Point  You then earn a scoring token based upon their location on the board, which represents the richness of the soil.

The game ends after the sun makes three complete revolutions around the board.  Points are then calculated based on scoring tokens and unused light points.

See our review here.

Breaking games

4 the Birds

4 The Birds is a family board game for two to six player that is a wonderfully designed classic lineup game (think Connect4 but allowing squares as well). This game is easy to learn and fun to play and has unique elements like a ‘pecking order’ among birds, non-player crows and hawks that scatter the flock, and 6 action cards that allow players to manipulate gameplay.

Each player rolls two dice on their turn to determine where they will place their bird on the tree.  If a player rolls a 4 and a 2, they get to choose if they place their bird on the 24 spot or the 42 spot.

When placing birds, territorial disputes are resolved via a mechanic called a “Pecking Order” and there is slide mechanic that goes into effect when birds vie for the same spot on the board.  If a player chooses not to place a bird they can play one of their 6 action cards instead.

See our review here.

Calliope Games

Tsuro

Tsuro is a tile laying game for two to eight players with a beautiful Asian aesthetic. In this game you are a flying dragon. Your dragon is represented by a colored carved token. Tsuro consists of tiles with twisting lines on them, a 6×6 grid on which to lay these tiles and a token for each player.

Each player has a hand of tiles. On your turn you do two things: place a tile from your hand onto the board next to your token and move your token as far as it can go along the line it is currently on. You continue to move it until it is stopped by an empty space with no tile in (yet), the edge of the board, or if you collide with player’s token. If your dragon reaches the edge of the board or collides with another player’s token, you are out of the game.

The goal of the game is to be the last player left with a dragon on the board. The strategy, therefore, consists of trying to drive your opponents either into each other or off of the board while trying to extend your own route in directions that will make it difficult for your opponents to hinder your path.

See our review here.

Roll For It!

Roll for It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play. The game players two to four, however by purchasing both the red and purple sets, you can increase the number of players to eight.

Game play is quite easy and takes mere minutes to explain to new players. On their turn the player completes three actions.

  1. Roll for it! The player rolls dice once per turn
  2. Match it! The player then matches the results of their roll with the dice images shown on the three face-up Roll For It! cards, ignoring results that don’t match any images.
  3. Score it! Players score a Roll For It! card as soon as they’ve matched all of its die images with dice of their own color. A card is worth points equal to the number printed at the bottom.

See our review here.

Days Of Wonder

Ticket to Ride

Ticket To Ride is a two to five player game with a nicely designed heavy cardboard map of North American train routes. During gameplay, players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout the United States. Each player is working on completing their own secret routes. If another player claims a path they need, the player needs to try and find another path to complete their route, if possible. This also adds a potential “take that” element to the game.

On each turn you can only take one of 3 actions: draw Train Car Cards, claim a Route between two cities on the board, draw additional Destination Tickets. The object of the game is to score the highest number of total points. Points are earned from completing routes, and lost for incomplete route cards. Each round allows for players to plan, think strategically, and make tactical decisions.

See our review here.

Gamewright

Dragonwood

In Dragonwood players take on the roll of adventures traveling and defeating creatures, collecting items to help on your adventure.  This all occurs while players deal with events cards as they come up and ultimately earning the most victory points.  Dragonwood incorporates set collection and hand management and is for two to four players.

At the beginning of the game five cards from the Dragonwood deck are laid out in a landscape.  These cards include the magical creatures, enhancements, and events.  On their turn players may draw an adventurer card or  try to capture a card from the landscape by striking, stomping, or screaming.  Players collect sets of adventurer cards and can play them to earn the number of dice equal to the number of adventurer cards they use. Players then roll to see if they can roll a total number equal or greater to the number on the card for the attack they selected.The game ends once the adventure deck has been played through twice or the two dragons in the deck are captured.  The player with the most victory points wins.

Go Nuts For Donuts 

Go Nuts For Donuts is a card drafting and set collection game for two to six players where players are trying to collect the best donuts to eat.  Since there is no sharing in this game, player are bidding on the different donuts available in the donut row. Players bid in secret and at the end of the bidding only those donuts with a single bidder are collected.  This brings in an element of  strategy with bidding.  The most desired cards often receive multiple bids and can not be collected.

Each kind of the 21 kinds donut ( and two beverages) has either points it gains you, an action you can take immediately upon retrieving the card, or both. The kinds of donut cards available to players increases with the player count. The game ends when there are not enough cards to complete another round of bidding and the player with the most points wins.

Sushi Go

 Sushi-Go takes place in the fast-paced world of a sushi chef, you must be the most creative and the fastest of all to be the best! The game comes in a cute tin and plays two to five players.

Players start with cards in their hand based on the number of players, and select one card to play before passing the rest of their cards to the next player to choose from!  The game plays in 3 hands, where all but dessert cards are cleared from the table and scored at the end.  The strategy of the game lies in making the most of the cards passed to you, while trying to stop opponents from making the combinations they need to maximize points.

The most interesting dynamic of this game is the chopsticks.  They are played in one round, and used on a subsequent turn to play two cards at once from the current hand.  The chopsticks get passed on to be used by someone else.

As is, Sushi Go! is a fun game to play with your children or even with your adult friends, even if you don’t like sushi!

See our review here.

Sushi Go Party

Sushi Go Party takes the best of  Sushi Go and adds more. It plays two to eight players,and comes in a bigger tin that shows off more cute sushi rolls. The main gameplay difference is that players spend the first bit of the game choosing which cards to include in the deck that everyone drafts. There is no established rule in the book for determining which cards are selected either. The rule book includes eight deck suggestions, and players can come up with their own interesting combinations.

Hasbro

Monopoly Gamer

Monopoly Gamer is a must see for any Nintendo fan.  Nintendo elements infuse through the game, and the gameplay is vastly different.  Power-ups give players the ability to collect coins, force opponents to drop coins, and move forward. Coins replace the paper dollars, and are used for everything. Passing Go now has player activating Boss Battles, and these Boss Battles will reward the victor with additional coins for the end of the game, as well as some fun treats like a free property, or stolen goods from an opponent.

With all of these added features and a significantly faster pace, Monopoly Gamer feels like a game Nintendo and Parker Brothers can be proud to have their names on. The ability to add additional player characters is also a great way to add replayability to this one.

See our review here.

Horrible Games

Potion Explosion

Potion Explosion is a game that will fit right into any household dominated by Harry Potter fans. Two to four players take on the role of wizards who are trying to make potions. They take turns pulling marbles out of an (ingenious) game board to collect resources. If marbles of the same color are touching when they pull out their first marble, then they get those as well. Both the look of game board and the matching color component is very reminiscent of mobile matching games.  The concept is straight forward and the puzzle-like mechanics will keep everyone engaged.

Players work to complete two potions at a time on their “work station” , and earn points for each complete token. Once players complete the potion components they have the option  to “drink” them potion.  Drinking the potion give the player a single use ability. Using up all the skill tokens or the potion cards ends the game. Points earned from completing potions determines the winner.

Iello

King of Tokyo

Attacking Aliens, Rampaging Lizards, Giant Robots, Mutant Bugs, and Ferocious Gorillas: this game has them all! King of Tokyo is a game for two to six players that combines a board game, a dice game and a card game. You play as one monster whose main goals are to destroy Tokyo and battle other monsters in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo!

At the beginning of the turn, each player rolls six dice. The dice show the following symbols: numbers 1, 2, or 3 (representing Victory Points that can be earned), a lightning bolt (representing Energy that can be earned), a heart (representing Healing), and a claw (representing Attack). The player with the most Attack dice goes first (the fiercest). Each turn consists of 4 steps: rolling and re-rolling the dice, resolving the dice, buying cards and using their effects, and the end of turn decision.

The fiercest player will occupy Tokyo, and earn extra victory points, but that player can’t heal and must face all the other monsters alone! When you add in cards that can have a permanent or temporary effect, like growing a second head, body armor, nova death ray, etc., you get a VERY exciting game. In order to win the game, one must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 victory points, or be the only surviving monster once the fighting has ended.

See our review here

Kids Table Board Gaming

Food Fighters

Food Fighters is a 2 player game. This game is a player elimination style of game with some fun dice rolling mechanics as well as a bit of card drafting and component collecting opportunities. The rule booklet is fun and well laid out. The game mechanics are clear and well balanced(though the power cards initially felt uneven, further game play changed our opinion).

On their turn, each player completes three actions- a) Roll for Beans or Swap fighter tiles or Attack b) Spend Beans to buy a tool from the pantry c) Allow opponent to repair their formation. After these actions are complete, play passes to the opponent. The ultimate goal is to be the first player to knock out three matching enemy fighters. This is great strategy battle game that plays quickly and is easy to learn and explain to other players.

See our review here.

Plan B Games

Azul

Azul is an abstract game for two to four players, and won the 2018 Speil De Jahar. Players are working to replicate the design on their board.

At the beginning of each round players select tiles from a factory display represented by  circles with four tiles on each or the center discard pile. Players each take one design and discards the rest to the center pile. The selected tiles are placed in pattern lines. There are one to five spaces for tiles in each pattern line. Extra tiles are placed on the floor line and score negative points at the end of that round.  Players score points as  they place their tiles.  Adjacent tile or completing a column or row on their “wall” earn additional points.  The game ends when one or  more players have completed a row by the scoring phase of a round.

Privateer Press

Zombies Keep Out

Zombies Keep Out is a cooperative games for one to six players. Like all cooperative games there are MANY ways to lose and only one way to win. Players must collect parts and build 3 contraptions while facing nearly insurmountable odds as each player’s turn increases the urgency of the situation! The interesting dynamic that Zombies Keep Out has that sets it apart, is that the player who draws the aptly named “Terrible Things” card must choose between 3 options of many possible occurrences that do their title justice.  As the game progresses. “Terrible Things” become “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” Things.

The pool of zombies (it is actually a literal swimming pool full of zombies) depletes, and the option of being bitten becomes more and more probable.  Biting adds a very kid-friendly scale of terribleness. The bitten player looses the ability to speak normally and their decision making is increasingly hindered with additional bites. Any bite past the third will turn you into a full fledged Zombie, groaning continuously.

This game is immensely enjoyable and the cartoonish characters will be a quick favorite of most children. Zombies Keep Out is basically the answer to the question on all of our minds: what happens after Pandemic?

See our review here.

R&R Games

Hanabi

The game is simple.  Hanabi is the Japanese word for Fireworks, and you are pyrotechnicians who have accidentally mixed up all of the parts of your fireworks display and now — THE SHOW MUST GO ON!  You have to work together to create the best display you possibly can despite your myriad of mistakes! The kicker is, you can’t look at your own hand!

Your teammates can give you limited information about your hand as their turn, but if you misunderstand and play the wrong firework, it can be disastrous!

The game is immensely challenging, and really makes you consider every move!  While the recommended age is 8+, this game mechanic seems to lend itself to older players.  It requires patience, reading your team-mates and figuring out how best to convey half (or less) of the picture to your fellow “fireworkers”.  Hanabi teaches simple strategy and teamwork in a somewhat high pressure environment where you don’t have access to all of the variables at play.

See our review here

 

Spin Master Games

Santorini

In Santorini players take on  the roll of builders to create beautiful towers with two to four players.  On each turn, players move one of their two builders to an adjacent space. Players are then required to build on a neighboring space. Players are trying to complete a three level building and have a worker standing on top of it.  The first player to accomplish this wins the game.  Buildings may be complete it with a dome, and that blocks players from placing their worker on it.  

Santorini also incorporates god and hero powers into the game in the form of Greek gods and heros.  These god card allow for special actions or a change in win conditions. The god cards add a unique variability to the game.

Z-Man Games

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is a medieval France themed tile laying and area control game for two to five players. Players are trying to build features and have their followers (meeples) on features to score points.

Players take turns taking a tile and placing it against a matching feature, such as city, road, and fields. There are also monasteries, which sit in the middle of fields. Players score points for: completed roads, completed cities, surrounded monasteries, and completed fields.  When players run out of tiles the game ends and players get partial points for incomplete features.

Carcassonne is well know for its many expansions and versions.  The current base game now include two mini expansions: the River and the Abbott. At the time of this writing the Z-Man Games website had 8 expansions for sale.  There also is a big box versions which contains the base game and 11 expansions. Additionally, there are three stand alone games with different settings and themes.

Pandemic

In Pandemic, two to four players take on one of several roles, such as Medic, Dispatcher, or Researcher, in their quest to cure 4 diseases before time runs out and humanity is wiped out.

Game play follows a standard turn-based approach. Each player starts their turn by drawing from an event deck to determine where the newest infections are.  Then, they use location cards to move around the globe, treating diseases to prevent outbreaks.  Finally, they draw more location cards to restock their hand.  If a player can get three location cards of a single color and can get to a lab, they can create a cure.  The cure that won’t immediately eradicate the disease. Rather, it will make the disease easier to treat.

There is one way to win (working together to cure all 4 diseases), and multiple ways to lose (running out of time, being overwhelmed by diseases, etc.)  Players can change the difficult by increasing the starting number of infections.

See our review 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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