Donovan Eberling and Jeff James are the founders of Iron Hippo Games and co-creators (or maybe “architects”) of Tournament of Towers, a dexterity game now on Kickstarter. » Read more
Welcome to episode 50! We’ve been doing The Family Gamers Podcast for quite a while, and thought we would take an opportunity to look back, especially at a few of our early episodes.
Oh no! All the animals have escaped the barn and are hiding out. Can you fill your pen with the most valuable animals and avoid the sneaky crows?
Barnyard Roundup is a simple bluffing game for 2-6 players designed by James Hudson and published by Druid City Games.
Test tubes clank as their contents are poured back and forth. “Eureka!” a voice shouts. “I’ve got it!” Dr. Eureka promises fast-paced, family-friendly gameplay. But does this dexterity-puzzle game master the formula for fun?
In 1982, a few newspaper editors came together to eventually create a game that became a household phenomenon. Using a non-linear board that facilitated stumping friends with trivia questions across various disciplines, Trivial Pursuit became firmly entrenched in the cultural zeitgeist of the United States. But for Gen-Xers and Millennials, it existed as a game with impossibly difficult questions and nebulous goals. What was the point of the game? Although the game mechanics were approachable and understandable for all ages, the needed knowledge made Trivial Pursuit difficult to play for all but the most knowledgeable adults.
Griddly Games seized on this mechanic with the release of their family trivia game, Wise Alec. With a similarly styled board and a wealth of trivia questions to bear, does Wise Alec capture the charm that created a household name? Let’s look and see. » Read more
I love playing games with my kids that have either a simple setup, a simple cleanup, or simple rules. Battle Sheep, designed by Francesco Rotta and published by Blue Orange Games, has all three. With just a handful of quality components and a very limited set of choices to make each turn, games are breezy fun with your little lambs, but there’s surprising strategic depth when playing with older ones.
Let’s take a look at the game, and I promise to not use too many baa-d puns.
Digit’y Do is a simple pen-and-paper game that combines Bingo, counting, probability, and guesswork. It keeps kids and adults engaged and entertained. It takes less than five minutes to explain, so you’ll be playing in no time. Best of all, proceeds from this game go to a good cause: the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF), which provides medical grants for children across the U.S. So you can have fun and help kids at the same time!
Before the partnership with UHCCF, Digit’y Do was also known as Streams or 20 Express. It won a Parent’s Choice award in 2013, and we think it deserves more attention!
We were inspired by our recent experiences playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild to talk about playing games collaboratively or cooperatively. We often talk about cooperative board games, but did you know there are many options for playing together with video games, too? » Read more
Cube Quest promises fast-paced fun that is easy to learn. Are you ready to mobilize your fingers to defeat your opponent’s king and defend your own?
Sushi Dice is a fun, fast-paced dice-matching game for 2 to 6 players, designed by Henri Kermarrec. For this review, we heavily “kid-tested” the game, with good results. I’m a parent who approves, so it’s got to be good. » Read more
Dragonwood is a dice and card based game designed by Darren Kisgen and published by GameWright Games. A “game of dice and daring” with a medieval fantasy theme, it is designed for two to four players age 8+, but any child who can read can play. With some minor rule shifting, Dragonwood was playable by our four-year-old. » Read more
Petting Zoo is a card drafting game by Little Flower Games. In Petting Zoo you are expanding your own zoo, earning coins, and buying victory point cards to demonstrate your supremacy in the petting zoo business! Are you cut out to build your own petting zoo? Read more to find out!
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!
Crazier Eights: Camelot is the sequel to Crazier Eights from creator James Gray, this time with a King Arthur theme. The basis of the game is Crazy Eights, but getting rid of your cards isn’t the only way to win; and anyone can lose if they aren’t paying attention. Between discarding to reduce your hand or playing action cards for power-ups and attacks like Dominion, each turn is full of variety and unexpected developments. » Read more
This cute little card game attacks with quick fun, variety, and strategy for all ages!
We recently got the chance to work with Junk Spirit Games to check out their new game, JunKing, a game where you play as an imp avatar picking through a massive junk pile to collect the most impressive trash heap ever! Does it make the cut or is it junk? Read more to find out!
Thanksgiving weekend allowed a lot of time for gaming! We talk about what makes a good game to play with “non-gamers”, or at least to family members who think they only like traditional big-name games. » Read more
Despite the name, Santa’s Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam is not a rap group that only does Christmas songs. No! It’s a cute, holiday-themed game, appropriate for all ages. You are an elf, one of “Santa’s Little Helpers”. You are collecting sets of blue, green, and clear “ice cubes” that Santa uses to make jam. The first player to deliver 3 complete sets (2 sets for 5-6 players), wins!
Ice Cube Jam is billed as a short, quick-to-learn game that is fun and engaging for everyone. The point may be to deliver supplies for jam, but does Ice Cube Jam deliver on fun? Let’s take a look! » Read more
We have returned! After missing a week, the Family Gamers are back, and talking about types of play. » Read more
Step back in time to Chicago in 1893. The World’s Fair is coming to your city. But you’re not merely attending the fair – you’re helping to design and organize it! Such is the premise behind World’s Fair 1893, a new area-control game by Foxtrot Games, currently on Kickstarter. » Read more