It’s that time again – time for holiday shopping. Need something new for the gamers in your life? Here is the Family Gamers’ guide to games your family will love. » Read more
This past Monday (September 18), we joined Barnes & Noble Millbury for their monthly family game night. We got to play several brand-new games and meet more family gamers. We had a great time!
Anitra loved NMBR 9, an abstract game from Abacus Spiele and localized to the United States by Z-Man Games. Each player creates a multi-layered mosaic from pixelated number tiles. Numbers placed on higher levels must overlap at least 2 numbers beneath, but cannot overhang any empty space. The bottom layer is worth zero points, the next is worth the face value of the numbers, the next layer is worth twice the face value, and so on. The strategy is to build a large enough base and minimize holes so that numbers can be built as tall as possible.
Andrew started off the night with Magic Maze, a 2017 Spiel des Jahres nominee from Sit Down! Games, localized to the United States by Dude Games. Magic Maze is a co-operative game played in real time. Each player can move any of the 4 pawns whenever they want – but only with the specific action(s) assigned to that player. Players cannot directly communicate with each other once the game begins. However our groups were having so much fun, they couldn’t stay quiet!
The last game of the night was Downforce, from Restoration Games. Corey, who writes for The Family Gamers, was the most excited for this game (expect a review soon). In Downforce, players buy cars and bet on the race even as it they push cars ahead by playing speed cards and special powers. As with most games by Restoration Games, Downforce is a remake of a classic, in this case the Milton Bradley game Daytona 500, which itself was a remake of Top Race. If you liked the popular race bidding game Camel Up, but want a little less chance involved in your play, check it out!
We loved playing all of these games and we look forward to co-hosting the next game night. These game nights are wonderful ways to learn about brand new games just hitting shelves, without the pressure to buy. And if you get lucky, the staff at the Barnes and Noble café will bring you free samples! If you want to learn more, head over to the Millbury Barnes and Noble Facebook Page!
We also talk a bit about these games in Episode 64 of The Family Gamers Podcast.
Here’s a link to all of the games we played:
What have you played this week that everyone should know about? Tell us in the comments or in our Facebook community! We look forward to hearing from you!
We are looking forward to the Boston Festival of Indie Games coming up this Saturday. We can’t wait to talk to lots of game developers. Will we see you there? If not, are there any particular games you would like us to cover? Stay tuned for interviews, impressions, and lots of pictures!
This giveaway is now closed.
Silly Street is a wonderfully silly fun game for families. If you read our review and you’re excited about playing games with your young family, we have great news!
You will not believe who is going to be at PAX Unplugged this year. If you haven’t heard of PAX Unplugged, it’s the inaugural PAX convention focused solely on our favorite hobby – tabletop gaming! We’ve lamented the shrinking analog section of PAX East over the last few years, and now we see why it’s been happening! PAX Unplugged will feature some of the best board game publishers in the world. In fact, check out the incredible list below. I know! I’m exhausted just looking at it!
We’re not on the list because we’re not exhibitors, but we’ll be there! This is going to be such a blast!
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Sports Dice: Baseball is a 2-player game that pits a batter vs. a pitcher using dice to determine what happens in each at-bat.
Brew Dice is a 2-4 player game of speed rolling. Roll your 3 dice to be the first to match the shapes (coaster, snack, beer container) on the current card. Snatch the card before someone else can match it, too!
Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Where would you play these two dice games?
As we mentioned on our interview with Chris Nichols, we are giving away a Card Caddy (single decker) to six lucky winners! Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. What game would you keep in a Card Caddy?
We are kicking off a summer of fun with twice as many reviews! We normally do one review each week, but for the month of July, we are planning to release a review every Monday and Thursday. Stay tuned for more family fun!
As we mentioned in our interview with Rory O’Connor, we’re giving away a copy of the original Story Cubes. Enter below for your chance to win!
In partnership with CardLords, we are giving away a copy of the game BattleGoats! We reviewed BattleGoats a few months ago, and recently interviewed the creator, Tucker Smedes. We enjoy this game, and we think you would too. So why not enter the giveaway?
One lucky winner gets a copy of BattleGoats – this is the Kickstarter version, so it has a few extra cards than the one currently available.
We met up with Adric Polkinghorne of Jammed Up Studios who was showing off their soon-to-be-released game Think of the Children! – a cooperative parenting simulator. Think of the Children is a hilarious, and perhaps a little too-close-to-home look at the zany life of parenting multiple children. Check it out!
We finally get the chance to meet up with Andrew Innes to talk about one of our favorite games, Anomia! Listen as he talks about his Duple re-release and the two new Anomia branded games coming this year!
We stumbled across Flipping Death from Zoink Games, a wonderful video game for Switch and PC that reminded us of a very colorful Nightmare Before Christmas! Listen to the interview to hear when this adorable looking indie game will be coming out!
We caught up with Nora Meiners of Gamewright Games at PAX East 2017 and talked about some of their big games at the show.
Check it out!
Andrew will be representing us at PAX East, mostly in the board game area. (He may or may not be cos-playing as a dinosaur…) If you are there, say hi!
The giveaway is now closed.
We’re excited to be able to work with Bellwether Games on a new giveaway! As readers who love fantasy stories, we were captivated by the world crafted by George MacDonald. This giveaway is a chance for you to experience it, too. Enter now for a chance to win the classic fantasy novel The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald and the game of the same name from Bellwether Games!
We have talked about the game The Princess and the Goblin on past episodes of the podcast (episodes 23, 24, and 34). We think most families would enjoy playing this game that puts a twist on “Memory” and combines it with path-finding.
Increase your chances of winning by visiting Facebook, following us on Twitter, and especially by leaving a review for our podcast on iTunes. If you just can’t wait, you can buy the game from Bellwether Games right now!
Thinking about buying games to give this holiday season? Check out The Family Gamers list of our favorite gift ideas this holiday! We’ve featured gifts for all ages, party games, and two player games! We’ve featured some great stocking stuffer options as well! Check out the list below with links for your convenience!
Games for toddlers (3 and under)
The primary goal of playing a board game with a toddler is learning turn-taking. Board games a toddler can play won’t be the most interesting for an adult, but we can still do better than Chutes & Ladders or Candyland!
- Hisss – a great introductory game, this uses simple color-matching, and can be played either competitively or co-operatively.
- Don’t Break the Ice – A little bit of a pain because it needs an adult to set-up, but kids as young as 1 year old love this game, because they can hit stuff with hammers!
- HABA “Keep It Steady” (AKA Zitternix) – if your toddler is ready for smaller pieces, this simple dexterity game will be fun for years. We’ve played it with a group of adults and still had a blast.
- Thinkfun Roll & Play – If your toddler is NOT ready for small pieces or even turn-taking, this might be your best bet. A giant puffy cube that they can roll, and action cards (roar like a lion) matching the color of each side.
Do you have an iPad? Touch sensitive games are great for young children. Our favorites are:
- DinoTrucks – DinoTrucks is a sandbox game. Literally! You control an excavator driving around in a sandbox unearthing all sorts of interesting things. Including dinosaur fossils!
- LEGO Duplo – There are a number of LEGO Duplo themed games, which guide a child through a series of themed activities (In DUPLO Train, you build a train, fill the cars, then drive it). There’s no end goal and no “wrong” way to play.
- Toca Kitchen – Our favorite game from Toca Boca. Choose a customer, choose a food, then cook it. Will the boy like fried fish? Only one way to find out! There’s no penalty for picking a bad match, your customer will eat it anyway, making funny faces as they do. There’s also a free version (Toca Kitchen Monsters).
- Osmo – The Osmo system is a fantastic way for tactile learning for little children that will grow with them. Osmo is a custom mirror and stand that allow your children to play with physical items on the floor or table that Osmo will recognize with companion apps. Starting with Osmo Tangrams, then continuing to Osmo Words, Osmo Coding, Osmo Creative, and even Osmo Pizza Co, Osmo is a terrific system that has a lot of longevity.
Games for young children (3-6)
At this age, kids still need practice taking turns, but can begin to use some strategy as well. These games use pattern-matching, counting, and simple strategy; no reading required.
- Skunk Bingo (Gamewright) – spin the spinner, then put animal cards into the “log”. If any pop out the other end, add them to your bingo board. There’s a bit of memory and strategy involved (what you put into the log will probably “pop” out for another player), without being overly competitive.
- Maze Racers – build a marble maze on a magnetic whiteboard. Then swap mazes with your partner and race: who can get the marble from start to finish fastest? This head-to-head game teaches some strategy and the two-part play (build then race) helps it stay fresh even after many plays. Best of all, you can come up with your own challenges to help the game grow with your children.
- Mmm! – a co-operative or single player game. Players are mice trying to steal food from the pantry before the cat catches you. Roll the dice, place them on the board to cover up food items. If you don’t cover a whole piece of food (2, 3, or 4 spaces), the cat moves one space forward. There are harder variants for older children or adults. This game was a runner up for the 2016 Kinderspiel des Jahre, the most prestigious award for children’s games.
- Press Here the Game – Based on the award winning picture book, this game has boards with 3 or 6 empty circles. On each player’s turn, they draw a token and decide where to place it on the board. The catch? Once a token has been placed, that creates a pattern for that board that all other players must follow. This game sparks discussions of pattern-matching and rules with our preschoolers.
- (Stocking Stuffer Option!) Story Cubes – roll the dice and make up a story with the pictures. Not a competitive game, but great for stretching your child’s creativity as well as your own. This is the base game, but there are so many varieties to choose from (even Batman cubes)!
Games for older children (6-12)
At this age, children are ready for more challenge. Here are a few games we love playing with children in elementary school. Some reading is required here, but most games can still be played with only one player who reads well.
- Castle Panic – Castle Panic is a cooperative game in a medieval setting where the players are working together to protect the castle walls and towers from invading monsters. Cooperative play allows parents and older children to teach strategy to younger children without sacrificing their ability to win!
- Machi Koro – Machi Koro is a die rolling game that relies heavily on luck (rolling dice) to obtain currency to continue in the game. Use the currency to purchase cards that help you on other die rolls and eventually pay to unlock all of your win conditions! Machi Koro is a great game that involves math and simple probability.
- Mastermind – A Classic from Pressman, Mastermind helps teach logical deduction with no words or numbers involved!
- Dragonwood – A dice and card based game with poker like elements that help players work on pattern recognition, counting, probability, and strategy. Play straights, flushes, or of-a-kind sets to defeat monsters and save the day!
- (Stocking Stuffer Option!) Santa’s Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam – A simple strategy game where you play as Santa’s elves gathering supplies for Santa to make jam. With some simple choices and straightforward gameplay, it is an easy game to learn and play and is lots of fun for all.
Games for teens and adults (12+)
- Pandemic Legacy – Another cooperative game, Pandemic sets the players up as a CDC team ridding the world of some terrible infectious diseases. The “Legacy” series are games that permanently change as you play. The board game has a plot, with different events happening every month. This adds heightened tension to an already tense game in Pandemic, with every choice having potentially permanent effects. Pandemic Legacy is a little more complicated than an entry level game, but for your gaming family and friends, this is a home run. Season 1 is out now, and Season 2 will be released next year.
- Codenames – Winner of the 2016 Spiel des Jahres, Codenames is a fantastic group game where one person for each team is the codename clue giver and the rest of the team has to identify secret agents that are being described by the clue. This is a game that stretches the imagination and is tons of fun for everyone involved.
- Ticket to Ride – Many people view Catan as the “gateway game” to the modern world of board gaming, but we think Ticket to Ride fits the bill better. Gather route goals and build train routes across the United States for victory points! Ticket to Ride involves a little bit of luck and a lot of strategy managing the train car resources you have available. It’s definitely more fun than Monopoly but not an overbearing strategy game. There’s even a kid’s version!
- Lords of Waterdeep – This is a resource management game that relies heavily on the Dungeons and Dragons theme turned on its head. Instead of getting quests from lords to complete for experience, like the role playing game, in Lords of Waterdeep you are the one giving the quests! The resources you acquire are party members, and you’re working to complete the most quests for the most points as efficiently as possible. Lords is very well balanced and lots of fun, especially if you like the theme. If you like this, there’s more! You can also check out its excellent expansion.
- (Stocking Stuffer Option!) Hanabi – One of our favorite games to play when it’s time to “Think Different”. In Hanabi you are working with everyone else at the table to put on the best fireworks show possible. The catch? You cannot see your cards! The brilliance of Hanabi is in managing the “clue” tokens to give other players enough clues to make decisions about their cards without forcing anyone to discard cards needed to make better fireworks explosions. Hanabi is a great game in a small package that really changes up the card game dynamic and expectations.
Two Player Games
Do you find yourself with only one partner to play with, but still want to try some board games? here are our top picks for two player games:
- Patchwork – A quilting themed game about putting the best quilt together on your board. An adorable theme matched with excellently balanced game play make for a surefire hit.
- Star Realms – Star Realms is a spaceship combat deckbuilding game. The game is styled like a traditional trading card game (Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon) but combined with deckbuilding. You can play ships, destroy enemy resources, or attack your opponent directly to win. Star Realms is an award winning game with a great pedigree. If you prefer fantasy to sci-fi, check out Epic by the same team. Both of these are excellent stocking stuffers as well!
- Jaipur – You are a merchant seeking to impress the emperor with your wares. In Jaipur you must balance selling resources or taking resource cards to get the highest value chips for each resource. As the game goes on the resources are worth less, so it’s important to get in early! Jaipur plays quickly and a wonderful two player game that isn’t too vindictive.
- Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – This is a two player variant of the award winning Agricola. You start with a 3×2 board that you need to build fences around and then acquire animals. Animals will breed when coupled and the game is a race to see who can build the biggest farm with the most valuable animals. ACBaS is a lovely worker placement game that will leave you wanting to play again.
Do you ever end up with more than the 4-6 players a game usually can handle? Here are some great party games we love:
- Bring Your Own Book – Do you like the idea behind Apples to Apples but are sick of the derivative style? Bring Your Own Book offers a twist. Instead of having stock noun cards you use to describe the adjective being judged, each player brings one of their own books to the table, and chooses a phrase out of that book to match the topic. Bring Your Own Book is never-ending fun because the books are always different. A perfect game for the book lover in your family.
- Duple / Anomia – These are two very similar games that involve quick wit and fast thinking. Each player draws from the deck and places their card face up in front of them. If the symbol on their card matches the symbol on someone else’s card, it is a race to provide an appropriate answer! In Duple, this answer is a word that matches the category and contains the letters on both player’s cards. In Anomia, each card also has a subject, and the players must name something that matches their opponent’s subject. The games are very similar but Anomia is a little harder since some of the subjects can be a little more difficult than simple words. Both are fun!
- ClusterFight – Another game that taps into the Apples to Apples style of gameplay, ClusterFight seeks to answer the question “Who would win in a fight?”. Players play a fighter card face up around the circle, then, everyone votes (in secret) who they think will win the fight. Finally, in reverse order, each player plays an effect card that can dramatically alter the fight (Love Potion Number 9, The Fight is Actually a Spelling Bee, etc). The judge is the final arbiter of who wins. Whoever played the fighter and whoever voted for that fighter win points, and the player with the most points after everyone is done playing wins.
The best thing about buying new and different games for your children is that you can enjoy them too! Happy Holidays, and Play Games with your Kids!
In case you missed it from the podcast, The Family Gamers is now published!
If you are in central Massachusetts, you can now find our column in the monthly community paper The Yankee Xpress.
4 year-old Asher helps Andrew check out a Koala Crate. Lots of cool art stuff making cityscapes! Use promo codes SUB50 and SHOP 50 to save at Kiwi Crate!