124 – PAX Unplugged 2018 Part 2 – The Family Gamers Podcast

PAX Unplugged

We’re here with another hour of interviews from PAX Unplugged. But we’ll also talk about our highlights in gaming from the last few weeks, and a little bit of Backtalk!

What We’ve Been Playing

We’re only giving you the highlights because there’s a TON of games we’ve played in the past month, and we don’t have time to cover them all. Here’s our favorites:

Drop It from KOSMOS – it’s a fantastic spectator game, a lot like Maze Racers (it seems like forever ago that we interviewed Andy Geremia about his “brand new” game). Drop your tangram-style pieces into the vertical board. When your piece lands, try to avoid touching pieces of the same color and shape. Incredibly easy to learn, but with a fair bit of strategy. On top of everything else, it’s a game that can be setup, played, and torn down, without losing our four-year-old’s interest!

Palm Island from Portal Dragon Games – Nick previously interviewed the creator at GenCon. This is a solo resource-management game, played with 17 cards, all held in the palm of your hand. There are also 2 player competitive & cooperative modes, that we haven’t tried yet. Warning: not a great game for kids because their hands aren’t big enough to hold on to the deck while also manipulating the cards.

We celebrate Hanukkah, so we did play quite a bit of the dreidel game (with gelt, of course). Our kids are really drawn by the lure of cheap chocolate coins. Playing reminds us why we advocate family gaming.

Andrew’s favorite game from the past month is Spell Smashers from Renegade Games. A word game with a fantasy, monster-slaying theme – who knew? The fact that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously actually makes it a little easier to suspend disbelief and really get into the theme.

Pikoko from Brain Games proves that Andrew and Anitra are still awful at trick-taking games, even when we’re not responsible for our own cards. You can see everyone else’s cards (but not your own) and place bets on how many tricks each person will take in a round. We loved the cute peacock theme.


A few people have been asking us for gift recommendations – have you checked out our gift guide? There’s still a few days to buy and get games shipped to you before Christmas! Check out last year’s list as well.

Our picture of HABA’s Dragon’s Breath garnered several comments. We think the 5+ age range they list is about right, because it involves drafting a “bet” each round on which color gems will fall out of the stack as a ring is lifted off.

Is there a HABA game you really want to know more about? Tell us!

Giveaway Winners

The Mansky Caper: We strongly recommend you look up @manskycaper on Twitter and see the wonderful replies from Big Al Mansky himself.

The winner is Vicky McKinley! Her response to Big Al proves she’s a regular Robin Hood.

Home Alone Game: Our winner is Dexter Vorce!

PAX Unplugged Interviews

Labeled with timestamp for your reference.

(0:18:35) Thunderworks Games – with Keith Matejka

Andrew loves Roll Player, and asks Keith about playing it with kids. Playtesting with kids is an important part of the process. What’s the appropriate age range? What decisions make it too complex for certain kids?

Keith tells us how he layers the rule introduction to help kids understand basic play before they need to grasp the more complex actions.

Bullfrogs – Keith’s first game. A light area-control game; play cards to the center of the table and place little frog meeples, which will jump away from full lilypads to adjacent ones. If adjacent lilypads are also full, it can start a cascade of jumping frogs! For 2-4 players, ages 8 and up. It was licensed to Renegade Games, but has since returned to Thunderworks.

Keith also designed single player modes for Herbaceous and Sunset over Water (from Dr. Finn’s Games).

Blend Off is Keith’s second game, a colorful dice-rolling game about making smoothies.

Dual Powers: Revolution 1917 – was Kickstarted, coming to retail in January.

Another expansion for Roll Player is on its way! This one is Fiends and Familiars.

LockUp: A Roll Player Tale is a game set in the Roll Player universe. Coming in the summer.

Cartographers – a “flip and write” game about making fantasy maps, coming soon.

Roll Player Adventures – import your character from Roll Player and go through an adventure; part reading, part rolling & manipulating dice. Still in progress.

(0:30:35) Bananagrams – Fluff

Anthony tells us about this new take on the classic game of Liar’s Dice. Each set of dice is unique, with a matching dice cup specially tailored to allow you to “peek” at your dice without revealing them to the other players.


(0:32:40) Calliope Games – with Ray Wehrs

Calliope has a new Titans series, with well-known game designers contributing brand new designs. The games are fun, easy to play, and priced at $30 or less.

ShipShape (by Rob Daviau) – a 3D puzzle game with a bidding aspect. One of the standouts of the show for us.

Everyone Loves a Parade (by Mike Mulvihill) – a dice-manipulation game to decorate the float(s) that the crowd will cheer for the most. Special powers will allow you to not only manipulate dice for your own good, but also to slow down your opponents. We love the graphic design and the strategy.

Tsuro: Phoenix Rising will be coming out in 2019 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Calliope Games and the 15th anniversary of the original Tsuro. Still a tile-laying game that runs less than an hour. Involves item collecting. Tiles are now double-sided. You might end your turn on a dead-end, in which case you flip over the tile on your next turn! Unlike the other Tsuro variations, there are even occasions when you’ll want to get your piece off the board.

(0:44:40) Certifiable Studios – Stuffed

Stuffed is an entry-level engine-building game. Roll dice, use those dice to purchase cards. Cards give you abilities based on your die rolls. Cascade your combos to amass money and resources and win the game.

(0:47:50) Czech Games Edition

Trapwords – we mentioned this on our Essen coverage. CGE sold out of it every day at PAX Unplugged.

Pictomania – simultaneous drawing and guessing game. Draw the word you’ve been assigned. The faster you can draw and start guessing others’ words, the more points you’ll get. The words get harder each round, but you can customize it depending on your group.

Bunny Bunny Moose Moose – everyone has a rabbit and a moose; you’re trying to be the first one to get to the end of the forest. Players take turns reading a poem and turning over cards. Everyone else is trying to mimic the cards that come out.

Adrenaline expansion – adds a 6th character and team play.

(0:54:48) Deep Water Games

Shadows in Kyoto – 2 player strategy inspired by Stratego. You control spies – capture your opponent’s spies, escape the city with secrets, or trick your opponent into capturing your spies that don’t have secrets! Can add on asymmetric powers as well.

Mystery of the Temples – light strategy for 2-4 players. Plays in under 45 minutes, no matter the player count. Rondel movement and action selection: travel the wilderness and  break curses on mysterious temples – giving you special abilities for the rest of the game.

Herbalism – logic and deduction for 3-4 players. You are trying to cure an epidemic; trade cards and solve the mystery of which ingredients were set aside at the beginning of the game.

(1:00:00) Indie Board Games & Cards / Stronghold Games – with Stephen Buonocore

The Uwe Rosenberg puzzle trilogy – Cottage Garden, then Indian Summer, then Spring Meadow. Each one uses polyomino pieces, but in a different way. Cottage Garden is the simplest and most family-friendly to play, followed by Spring Meadow.

Look for another Uwe Rosenberg polyomino game coming soon… “maybe with some drawing involved”!

Terraforming Mars and its expansions Colonies and Prelude have been extremely popular.

Paper Tales – a card-drafting game. The new expansion lets you play solo or with up to 7 players.

Fast Forward series from Friedemann Friese – Fear, Fortress, and Flee. Each game plays very differently, but all are small-box games with a single deck of cards; no rulebook to read. Don’t shuffle the deck, just turn over the first card and start playing! Over time, new rules will be introduced. Newest one is Fortune – themed like a slot machine.

Fist of Dragonstones – Stronghold is reprinting this closed-fist bidding game, originally from Days of Wonder. Up to 6 players, now with many more cards and a few new mechanics.

(1:08:40) Bananagrams – Spiky Dastards

A speed-matching game. Place your five spiky guys in the middle of the table. Flip two cards and grab the right dastards – if only two colors are present, grab those; but if three or more colors are shown, grab the dastards in the colors that are NOT present on the cards. For additional difficulty, ignore the “nubby dastards” that appear on some cards.

(1:11:58) Alderac Entertainment Group – with Mara

Cat Lady – a game about collecting cats. Feed them, give them treats, and score the most points!

War Chest – abstract strategic bag-building war game for 2 or 4 players (2 teams). Heavy poker chips to gain control of points on the board. Marries chess and wargaming together.

Tiny Towns – only takes a minute to learn, but full of strategy. Tiny Towns appeals to all ages, too! Place pieces on your town grid and collapse them down in certain patterns to build buildings. This was another one of our favorites from the show.

(1:18:05) Sensible Objects – with Anna

Sensible Objects already has a huge hit with their augmented reality deterity stacking game, Beasts of Balance – but that’s not what we talk about this time.

When in Rome – the world’s first Alexa-connected boardgame. Race around the board and answer trivia questions to earn points; your smart device will teach you the rules, read the questions, and keep track of the points. Already available on Amazon.com, but you can also try out the free skill by asking “Alexa, open When in Rome”. Each set of questions is delivered by a person local to that area!

That’s it! Find us online:

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Twitter: @familygamersaa
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Community: thefamilygamers.com/community

The Family Gamers Podcast is sponsored by Wild East Games. Find Wild East Games online at WildEastGames.com, or @WildEastGames on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.