It isn’t easy trying to get two kids who are separated by five or more years to find the same activities interesting, much less enjoy it together as a team.
This has been the case with many tabletop games recently in our house. With one young teenager and one who just turned six, each with their own separate learning curves, levels of competitiveness, and, most importantly, threshold for boredom, the search for a new game that appeals to both of them is quite the undertaking.
ThinkFun, Inc. has announced some of their new games for 2015, including Laser Maze Jr., a version of the award-winning Laser Maze with age-appropriate challenges for players as young as six.
Laser Maze was one of two of ThinkFun’s products nominated for the Toy Industry Association’s 15th Annual Toy of the Year Awards for 2015. The other nominee, the marble run and logic game Gravity Maze, won for Specialty Toy of the Year.
Laser Maze Jr. has also received its own share of awards, including a Parents’ Choice Gold Award from Children’s Media and Toy Reviews.
The goal of both Laser Maze and Laser Maze Jr. is to use both science and logic to guide a laser beam from its starting point to an end point (a rocket in the Junior edition), by the placement of mirrors, space blockers, and beam splitters. The junior level includes 40 challenge scenarios ranging from easy to difficult.
Although this in intended as a single player challenge, I found more effective as a way to get my children to work together on a singular goal.
It was a little difficult for my six-year-old to take on at first, since her lacking of impulse control made her just want to start lining up little rocks and mirrors in any which way she saw fit. This became frustrating for her.
When my 13-year-old worked alone, she immediately wanted to start at the most difficult challenge. This also became frustrating, but teens being teens, she refused assistance.
It was when they sat down together, to work on a challenge, that the entire dynamic of the game changed. The six-year-old, who had the full attention of the big sister she admired, became very intent on finding a solution. The teen, wanting to take on a role of responsibility and knowledge, became a worthy teacher. Together, the pair worked their way through some of the tougher challenges, and had someone with whom to share their victory.
As a result, our younger found it easier to sit down to this game on her own, and couldn’t wait to show off her successes (on some of the easier levels) to her sister.
I’ve always adhered to the theory that teaching a concept to another person helps you learn it better, and this was the case with our teen. After helping her little sister with a challenge, she was better able to figure out the harder challenges on her own.
This game didn’t just appeal to younger players, as having it out on a table, was a great way to fill in those lapses in conversations when family and friends visit. On a recent visit from a relative, all it took was for one person to pick up a challenge card, and everyone was working together, laughing and having fun debates about what piece goes where.
Both Laser Maze and Laser Maze Jr. retail for $29.99, and share a similar gameboard. There are 60 challenges for Laser Maze, with smaller-sized challenge cards and more game pieces.
I do recommend this game, but I would occasionally ignore the “single player,” designation from time to time. Through working together on this “single player” game, my girls were able to experience the joy of problem solving, the satisfaction of learning something new, the accomplishment of reaching a goal, and, most importantly for me, acting as a team.
You can’t ask more than that from any game.
GeekMom received a copy of this game for review purposes.
Dungeon Roll is an opposed-press-your-luck strategy game published by Tasty Minstrel Games. Players form an adventure party to delve into the dungeon. Each round gets more difficult, and if they bust, they are forced to fight the dragon.
The Voting Game, an interesting new party game by Tom Rohlf launched its Kickstarter today. The game is fairly straightforward. A player reads a question, and the players vote on which player is the answer to the question. The Voting Game is designed for 8-10 players, is for adults, and skirts a line close to Cards Against Humanity, without the “horrible people” goal. We still have had great fun with it, despite its slightly predictable premise.
My favorite questions include:
Who would have the hardest time talking their way out of an insane asylum?
Who has hired a professional to make their dating profile?
Whose Google search history would you like to see the most?
Who clogs the toilet at their friend’s house and says nothing?
Who would you want to bring home with you for Thanksgiving dinner?
The game is not perfect, yet. Taylor has been working hard to fine tune the play. For now, the game is perfectly functional, but is a little more awkward than I’d hoped. The game is playable for fewer than six players, but is best played with eight to ten.
Unfortunately, some of the questions are quite mean, and were just removed from play as they came up, by general consensus. It’s no fun for us to attack a fellow party member.
The least friendly questions include:
Who would disown their homosexual child?
Who has the most obnoxious food allergy?
Who secretly hates their significant other?
The initial goal is an easily managed $7,500. The backer rewards are appropriate to the levels, and include the options to get the three expansions: NSFW, Fill in the blank, and Create Your Own. I’m sure the game will fund quickly, and I’m excited to see the stretch goals as they appear.
The box is the right size for the game, which is a critical part of whether I’d buy a game. Too-big boxes take up valuable storage real estate. The cards are well made, and stand up to shuffling well. Unfortunately, 8-10 friends are not included, nor do they fit in the box.
The Voting Game is worth owning. The rules are simple enough for setting up quickly at a party. The questions are diverse and funny. I would suggest removing questions not appropriate to your group, play with 8+ people, and invest in the expansions to keep things funny instead of mean. Thankfully, the questions don’t tend to bias for or against any gender, orientation, race, ethnicity, or profession. Well, except for accountants. The Voting Game has a warning stating: This game is not intended for accountants and others without personality. As you can see, you have to be able to poke fun at yourself, and take it when your friends poke at you, too.
Martian Dice is a press your luck dice-based table top game from Tasty Minstrel Games. It begins simply enough, with 13 dice showing 5 different symbols. Each roll of the die has a 1-in-6 chance to roll either a Chicken, a Cow, a Human, or a Tank, and a 2-in-6 chance to roll a Laser. The goal is simple enough: Abduct 25 Earthlings before your competitors, without being forced to flee by Earthling military forces.
When I pulled Martian Dice out of the package, I was a little disappointed. It looked like a re-themed Zombie Dice, which had worn out its interest in our home some time ago. After playing the game, however, Jenny and I were both pleasantly surprised at the replay-ability and strategy choices available.
The mechanics are straight forward. Roll the dice, putting aside any red tanks. Choose one of the remaining four types to “keep”, and put those aside as well. You must “keep” all of a single type every turn, not including Tanks. You may only set aside groups of Humans, Chickens, and Cows once each. You may choose to set aside Lasers during more than one turn, however. If you are unable to collect anything on a roll, your turn ends immediately. The player scores one point for each Human, Chicken, or Cow they were able to keep without busting (see next paragraph).
The Lasers and the Tanks are the iffy bit each turn. You must have a number of Lasers more than or equal to the number of Tanks at the end of your turn to score any points. If at any time you roll a seventh Tank, you automatically bust, because you cannot roll enough Lasers to win the round. When you bust, you score zero points.
As a press your luck game with a low goal (25 Earthlings), it can be hard to know when to quit. We learned very well that caution wins, but adventure is fun. If you like to press your luck, you may be able to compete, but be prepared to bust just as often as you succeed. If you play safe, you have an advantage, but be prepared to only get a few points each turn. The larger the group is, we found, the easier it is to be adventurous, so if you prefer to really push, then invite a few more people over.
The ways Martian Dice is not similar to Zombie Dice:
All the dice are identical. Zombie dice has a “luck” factor based on which dice you happen to roll.
There are no brains. This makes things less gross for sensitive players.
The Shotgun is replaced by a Tank, which can be countered. Also, losers are forced to “retreat” instead of being “killed”, the latter of which might bother some players.
Instead of a mad-grab for brains, strategy is required to score points.
If a player gets at least one of each Earthling (Cow, Chicken, Human) they get a bonus three points!
Theme note: Due to a lack of brains and a more traditional sci-fi theme, our gamers feel more immersed in Martian Dice than they do in other similar games.
Extra materials needed: Pen and paper, or score-keeping app.
The manufacturer suggests ages 8+, but I am confident that kids can play as young as five. There’s no reading or higher math skills, but you will need to judge your kid’s ability for yourself. Bonus: As a dice game, Martian Dice is easy to clean, and hard to destroy. If someone forgets to wash their hands, no biggie. Just wipe the dice off with a bleach wipe or equivalent.
The manufacturer suggests 2-99 players, which is totally appropriate, technically. I suggest between 2 and 6 players. If you have too many players, gameplay dissolves into chatter, and people forget to keep track of the game. Distracted players (especially young ones) will feel cheated, because they didn’t know they were going to lose.
Martian Dice costs $14.99 on Amazon. I’m already planning on getting extra copies to give to friends and game groups. It’s an affordable gift, and is fairly indestructible.
Disclaimer: Tasty Minstrel Games provided a unit for review.
Lego Jurassic World was my first foray back to the Lego games franchise since Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7. Recent offerings have put me off of the games, but the lure of my favorite ever movie being given the Lego treatment was just too strong. I was incredibly hopeful I would enjoy it.
Tiny Epic Kingdoms is a Euro-style 4X game. Players eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate as they build the highest towers, claim their territory, and sometimes knock each other down a peg. This instant classic hit the shelves in 2014. And today Kickstarter launches a booster shot of awesome with the expansion: Heroes’ Call.
Heroes’ Call adds five new races, five updated territory cards, Hero meeples, and several upgrades to mechanics. The expansion is mostly stand-alone equipped, provided you have a the original rules. Oh, and did I mention? There are 15 new Hero Cards, allowing players to take on classes for the first time.
The basic mechanics remain the same. In each round, five of the following actions must occur:
Patrol: Move one meeple from to an adjacent region on the same territory card.
Quest: Move one meeple to another territory card.
Build: Build onto your tower.
Research: Level up your magic.
Expand: Increase the population of meeples on the board.
Trade: Exchange one resource for another.
The new races are Frost Giants, Draconian, Bird Folk, Lion Kin, and Polar Kin. Each of these races has a new unique set of Magic abilities.
Frost Giants are really good at moving around and knocking down their enemies, incapacitating them until they patrol.
On the flip side of that coin are the Draconians, who excel at patrolling, including the ability to move two meeples when patrolling, and getting resources when they arrive.
Bird Folk take advantage of the crags, a region normally impassable to meeples.
Lion Kin get a lot of food, and bonuses for having the highest meeple population.
The Polar Kin are just mean ole war mongers, and they are great at it.
The territories also got a makeover, now with snow-covered art, and zones of Tundra and Silver Peaks, the two new terrain types. Meeples in the Silver Peaks gain Silver, a new wild-card resource, with 0 value in war, but being useful in all other aspects. The Tundra is hotly contested, and a bit dangerous. Instead of the normal two meeples, the Tundra is only capable of hosting one meeple at a time. When a player gathers resources from a Tundra, they gather whichever resource they like. Alas, the cold is too harsh for long lasting residence. Every time a player quests or patrols, you must move the meeple, which means you won’t ever be there for long. It’s also a risk, because it can force your meeple into another player’s territory, leaving you vulnerable to war.
The Hero Cards feature 15 classes of Hero. These classes cover everything from Ranger to Queen. Each player starts with one class, and must retire their current class before starting another. Each retired class is worth 3 victory points at the end of the game. The Hero powers add abilities which enhance play, but require resources and time to level. The diversity of Hero powers ensure a unique game every time.
And just in case the normal rules of combat aren’t enough for you, any player can attack their opponents’ Towers. Each time a player builds a level of the tower, a new Tower meeple is placed on the field next to the player’s meeple. If these Towers are destroyed, you lose the progress you’ve made on your tower. Keep your strategies close on this one, because the first tower to level 6 finishes the game!
The key to success in Heroes’ Call is flexibility. Different races, classes, and goals will change your strategies in a fluid way throughout the game. The challenge is to keep up.
This expansion hits Kickstarter today, and a backing of $16 will secure you a copy of the base expansion. Check out the stretch goals and higher backing levels to find your place in what is sure to be a line in the history of pocket-sized games.
Elder Sign is a cooperative dice-rolling game based on the Cthulhu Mythos in which you and your fellow players work together as a team of researchers investigating a museum, attempting to prevent the rise of an Ancient One. Players must collect a number of Elder Signs before the Ancient One fills its Doom Track, kills the players, or drives them all mad. Sound good? Then find out more in our in-depth look at both the physical game and its digital alter-ego, Elder Sign: Omens.
How Do You Play?
The museum that forms the playable region of Elder Sign is composed of a number of large cards, each representing a room, while in the digital version you are faced with a map of the museum with a number of locations highlighted on it.
Players choose a room to enter (embarking upon an Adventure) and attempt to roll dice and match the symbols on the card—sometimes in a specific order. If the player successfully completes their Adventure by matching all the symbols, they can gain spells and weapons to help them win more Adventures; they can also gain the all-important Elder Signs needed to defeat the Ancient One. Failing the Adventure can result in a loss of the player’s health and sanity, the arrival of a monster who will increase the difficulty of future Adventures, or Doom being added to the Ancient One’s Doom Track. After each player’s turn, a clock is advanced and at midnight, the Ancient One reveals a card that can benefit them, so players are encouraged to win as fast as possible. Some rooms also have their own, usually negative, Midnight Effects.
How Do You Win and Lose?
To win at Elder Sign, players must collect a set number of Elder Sign tokens. The number is determined by the Ancient One they are fighting.
The tougher the Ancient One, the more Elder Signs will need to be collected to defeat it. Completing some Adventures will win you multiple Elder Signs, but the better the rewards, the harder the Adventure will be to complete. The team of players lose if they all are killed or driven insane by the Ancient One, or if the Ancient One fills its Doom Track.
Are There Any Expansions Available?
Yes. For the physical game two expansions, Unseen Forces and Gates of Arkham, are available. If you are playing digitally, there are currently three expansions: The Call of Cthulhu, The Trail of Ithaqua, and The Dark Pharaoh. All three unlock additional player characters and Ancient Ones to battle.
What Formats Is the Digital Game Available On? Elder Sign: Omens is available on iOS (for both iPad and iPhone), Android, Kindle, and Steam.
How Do the Costs Compare?
The base game currently retails for around $30 with the expansions costing $15 to $20 each, making this one of the cheaper games currently on the market. The digital base game retails for $6.99 (iPad), $3.99 (iPhone), $14.99 (Steam), or around $4.50 on Android. Expansions are $2.99 each.
What Age Is It Suitable For?
The game is recommended for age 12+, and having played it many times, that feels like the correct choice from the developer. While the game play is simple enough that a younger child could understand what’s going on, the artwork is obviously very intense (this is a game set in the realm of the Ancient Ones, after all) and some of the mechanics would likely go over their heads.
The digital version also contains occasional cut scenes that could scare young children. If your child is already acquainted with classic horror, they may enjoy the game, but for the majority, the recommended age will be accurate.
Is It Actually Any Good?
Whether or not you will enjoy Elder Sign, either digitally or physically, is more than likely going to boil down to how much you enjoy randomness as a factor in your gaming. Completing Adventures is entirely based on dice-rolling (occasional cards and characters can change die rolls, but these are frustratingly few and far between), which means that even the best-equipped Investigator can fail spectacularly over and over again if the dice just aren’t in the mood to behave.
This can be incredibly aggravating, and I would know. Despite countless attempts and intentionally hoarding as many helpful cards as possible, I am still yet to beat the final card of The Call of Cthulhu expansion, by nothing more than sheer bad luck.
The randomness effect does, however, level the playing field, meaning that any group of players can work well together from experienced Investigators to total newbies.
The cooperative element really shines during physical play, as players debate which rooms/Adventures they should attempt and which to avoid. We played as a group late on New Year’s Eve and, despite losing spectacularly, had a great time playing—and isn’t that the whole point?
Digital Vs. Physical Green = Pro, Red = Con, Black = Neutral
Game set up is as good as instantaneous.
The game keeps track of which cards can be used at any time, instantly deals out the correct rewards (or penalties) at the conclusion of an Adventure, and advances the clock as required.
The player has to play as multiple characters, remembering each individual’s special abilities and current inventory once their turn rolls around.
Designed for single player, so you don’t need to get a group together.
The single-player format means the game loses out on the cooperative nature of the physical version, arguably one of its best parts.
Both the base game and the expansions are cheap. The complete game with all expansions can be bought for as little as $13.
The base game is somewhat limited and quickly becomes repetitive, so the temptation to buy expansions is high.
Rooms with a Midnight Effect (a usually negative outcome every time the clock strikes midnight) are easily spotted on the map, as are those with Terror Effects.
Only one room can be seen at a time, so the player must either remember the requirements for each one or spend time looking at each one every time they choose a new room/Adventure.
Lots and lots of parts means the game takes a very long time to set up.
The game can be played by up to eight people, making it a great party game and a good choice at a games night with lots of guests, where other games might leave people out.
Midnight and Terror effects are written in small print on the cards, making them easy to overlook.
Although more expensive than the digital game, the physical edition is one of the cheaper games on the market (keep an eye out for frequent price reductions too).
Despite being cheaper than many games, the build quality is fantastic and the pieces are all well made and lovely to handle.
There are only two expansions. However, for those of us trying to limit our rapidly growing game collections, this may be a good thing!
The cards representing the rooms are laid out on the table and the requirements for each one can be seen all at once, making choosing your next room/Adventure easier.
Best played with a group, so not ideal if you don’t have a gaming group or local gamer friends nearby.
GeekMom received the base game ofElder Signs: Omens for review purposes.
Fans of the Animal Crossing series will be ecstatic to get their hands on Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. Instead of playing the role of Mayor in the latest game in the series, this time get ready for an entirely new experience as a home designer happily working at Nook’s Homes.
Lottie, a new character with the quirky personality you’d expect from Animal Crossing, is your guide to your new career as a home designer. You’re tasked with fulfilling your client’s decorating wishes, and thanks to the usability improvements to the game, it’s never been more fun to design a home in Animal Crossing.
You don’t only take control of the look of the inside of a villager’s house; you get to decorate the exterior as well. The UI has been streamlined by taking full advantage of the touchscreen. Use the stylus to place a house, trees, plants, and items outside, and then further customize the color and look of the walls, roof, and more with just a few taps.
Next, go inside to place furniture and decorate to your heart’s content. The leaf icons that made the items in your Animal Crossing inventory a mystery have been replaced with full-color icons, so it’s much easier to find the item you’re looking for. And there’s no need to stand in the exact right spot to place furniture: Just select it and drag it in place with the stylus. You can even rotate the object quickly with the stylus as well.
Add to that a search function that immediately finds all items related to your customer’s requested theme, and you’ll be decorating the house like a pro in no time.
As you take jobs requested by the same 300+ villagers who populated Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you’ll unlock facilities in your town. You can even give your favorite villagers their own jobs in town at the school, hospital, and more.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer also introduces new amiibo card functionality. (A New Nintendo 3DS is not required to use this feature; an accessory to use the cards is also planned for release soon.) Pick up the card for your favorite villagers and special characters, like Isabelle or K.K. Slider, hold it to the screen, and you can fulfill their design requests as well. Cards have unlimited use and are sure to be another hot collector’s item from Nintendo.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer features many exciting UI improvements and fun new ways to experience the eccentric, familiar characters of Animal Crossing. The game is planned for release September 25, 2015.
GeekMom attended a preview event courtesy of Nintendo.
Kids and grownups who have daydreamed of becoming a game designer can make that wish come true in Super Mario Maker, coming exclusively to Wii U. Turn the Gamepad into your level designer as you place pipes, power-ups, Koopas, Goombas, and more into your dream Super Mario level, and invite players worldwide to take on your one-of-a-kind challenge!
Players choose one of four styles for their custom levels: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U. The style can be changed on the fly at any time when designing, and whichever style you choose isn’t limited to items or enemies from that game only. In fact, there are few rules at all when it comes to designing your level.
Instead of tucking away a mushroom power-up in a question block, hide a Koopa Troopa inside! Forget Bullet Bill; why not have your Bill Blaster fire invincible stars? Kids can pick up the intuitive UI within minutes to drag and drop enemies, platforms, coins, blocks, and more. Your imagination can be unleashed on your level almost without limit.
One of the few rules is that your level must be beatable in order to be shared worldwide. You have to be able to reach the goal pole yourself before the level can be uploaded. Uploaded levels will be moderated, and inappropriate content can be reported and removed, so you don’t have to worry about your kids accidentally seeing something they shouldn’t (as in certain words spelled out in coins).
You’ll also get the chance to try out other levels that have been designed by fellow Super Mario Maker players around the world. Find a favorite designer whose levels you can’t get enough of? Subscribe to him or her and you’ll know when they share a new challenge. You can even see the top-rated levels and search by difficulty to find a new favorite easily.
Like many of Nintendo’s new games, Super Mario Maker will take advantage of the amiibo functionality to put those figures to good use. Tap your favorite amiibo to the GamePad, and take the reins of that character for an amusing run through your level.
Super Mario Maker accomplishes the difficult task of appealing to both the nostalgia of parents who grew up on Super Mario Bros. along with the Minecraft generation of kids who love to build as much as they do play. The game is currently slated for release September 11, 2015.
GeekMom attended a preview event courtesy of Nintendo.
Geek-of-many-trades Shanna Germain was kind enough to answer a few questions for GeekMom this week about games, geekhood, and more! Please help us welcome her.
GeekMom Mel: Welcome to GeekMom! Tell us a little about yourself.
Shanna Germain: Thanks so much! I’m a writer, editor, and game designer by both passion and trade. Right now, I’m the creative director and co-owner of Monte Cook Games, where I’m designing a storytelling game for families called No Thank You, Evil! I’m also a pretty big geek—I love books, games, TV shows and movies, and all things word-related. I even own a dog named Ampersand.
GMM: How did you get into gaming? Was it something you were interested in as a kid?
SG: My grandmother was a big gamer—she loved card and board games especially, so games have always been part of my life thanks to her. She taught me a lot about how to lose with dignity, win with grace, and play with style. I liked games when I was a kid because I was very shy and socially awkward, and having a way to interact with other people where I understood the rules really helped me overcome a lot of that.
GMM: What was the game that started it all for you, like your gateway drug into gaming?
SG: For storytelling games, it was definitely Bunnies & Burrows, which is a game based on the novel Watership Down. You could play a bunny in the game, which I thought was the most incredible thing ever, and you did martial arts moves called “bun fu.” My babysitter introduced me to it; I had no idea what a role-playing game was, but she told me I could pretend to be a bunny, and I was like, “Yes, please!”
GMM: What is your favorite game now?
SG: I don’t know that I could choose just one. I use different games for different needs. When I need a quick break, I’ll play an iPad game like Words with Friends. When I want to work out, I play a computer role-playing game like Elder Scrolls Online or Borderlands on my treadmill desk. When I want to immerse myself and spend time with friends, I play a role-playing game like OD&D and Numenera.
I tend to play a lot of games all the time, because they open my own way of thinking about games and game design.
GMM: I’d say it’s safe to say that the majority of our readers here have kids, and many of those kids have some geeky aspirations. If a kid came up to you and said they wanted to be a game designer when they grew up, what would you say to them?
SG: I would say that they should follow that dream by playing lots of games, thinking about games, and creating their own games. You’re never too young to start drawing maps, creating characters, and writing adventures. Get all of your friends to help you, and then play together.
GMM: Any other advice for young geeklings out there? How about for their parents?
SG: I think that it’s really easy for geeky kids to feel like their interests are weird or uncool. Thankfully, we live in a time where being a geek is cool. So to young geeklings, I’d say: Love what you love. You’ll be surprised how many other people love what you love too.
To parents, I’d say: If you’re already supporting your kids’ interests and want to find a way to do more, or if you’re unsure how to support the geeky things that your kids are into, consider looking into school programs and gaming clubs that support geeky interests, attending conventions that have a family focus, and finding geeky role models that your kids can look up to.
GMM: You are a writer, editor, gamer… how do you make time for all of your passions? Is there one role you identify with more than others?
SG: I feel like I could ask that same question about so many people I know, and I think we would all have a similar answer: I have no idea. It’s a tricky balance. If I don’t have enough going on, I lose that sense of pressure and am much less productive, but if I have too much going on, I get stressed about all I have to do and can’t seem to accomplish anything. Sometimes I think that there’s a perfect point of busyness—just busy enough to keep the pressure on, not so busy that you start to fall apart—and if you can walk that tightrope, you can accomplish everything. I have a hard time asking for help, and that is something I have to keep learning, because sometimes having someone else just take one thing off your plate can save you from falling off that tightrope.
Writing is my first passion, and has been since I was old enough to smash letters and words together. I’ve always wanted to tell stories. The medium doesn’t matter. I love writing fiction as much as I love writing games. It’s all about stringing words one after the other to tell a story that moves someone else in some way.
GMM: Tell us a little about your involvement with the new game on Kickstarter, No Thank You, Evil!.
SG:No Thank You, Evil! is a game of creative storytelling for families. I’m designing it, along with Monte Cook. Designing a game for families is really different than designing a game for adults, and it’s wonderfully challenging. Kids are so creative and so smart, and they intuitively understand how to pretend to be someone else. So the game doesn’t need to teach them how to role-play—it needs to give them the space to let their creativity shine, while also providing them with solid boundaries and guidance.
It’s also really important to me that all kids and families can play games, so one of the things that we’ve been working hard on is making sure that No Thank You, Evil! is accessible to and inclusive of children with cognitive and physical concerns like autism, dyslexia, and color blindness. We’re using fonts and colors that are easy to read and discern, creating art that depicts a wide variety of characters, and making sure there is no one right way to “succeed” in the game. Creative solutions are encouraged, so a player who’s nonverbal can draw or act out their character’s actions, while a more verbal player can do a robot voice, repeat a favorite phrase, or sing a song instead.
GMM: What project are you most proud of? What do you hope to be remembered for, and what is your dream project?
SG: Right now, I have to say that No Thank You, Evil! is my dream project. We’re right in the middle of play-testing, so I get to watch all of these amazing kids interact with something that I’m creating, and they just keep blowing me away with their creativity. When you write a book, the reader goes away to read it and you may never know what they thought of it. When you write a game for adults, you might hear afterward how much they liked it. But watching these kids at the table, when they get excited about their character or they get a really good dice roll or do something that saves the day—there’s something incredibly special about that energy and enthusiasm. It’s like you’re getting to watch their minds expanding right in front of you.
GMM: Anything exciting coming up for you?
SG: I’m still working on No Thank You, Evil! for a little while longer, and then I’ll start working on two new books for Numenera, which is the first game that we created at Monte Cook Games. One is a sourcebook and the other is a novel, so I get to do a little of each of the things that I love at the same time.
GMM: Thanks again for taking the time to chat! Best of luck to you with your Kickstarter and all your future projects.
SG: Thank you so much!
Shanna has worked as a writer and editor for nearly 20 years, and has six books, hundreds of short stories, and a myriad other works to her name. Over the years, she’s won numerous awards for her work, including a Pushcart nomination, the C. Hamilton Bailey Poetry Fellowship, the Utne Reader award for Best New Publication, and 7 ENnie Awards.
The creative director and co-owner of Monte Cook Games, LLC, she is currently designing a creative storytelling game for families called No Thank You, Evil!
I live in the Pacific Northwest. I live in a land of microbrews (yum), hipsters, and gourmet donuts (super yum). It is also the land of board game creation. So many great board games have hailed from the minds of Pacific Northwesterners that game stores are becoming as common as Starbucks (not a bad thing).
Two more games from the land of moss and rain are available to check out on Kickstarter now. Both games were made with families in mind.
The artwork on the cards will give this game a 13+ rating, but if your younger child is used to the artwork on Magic: The Gathering cards, this is at about the same level. My kids (5 and 9 years old) have both seen the cards, and it was fine.
Bane will be lurking on Kickstarter until June 10. If you back at the $28 level, you will receive a copy of the game if the project is successfully funded.
4 the Birds is a dice-rolling, sneakily educational game. I previously wrote about this game after play-testing it at GameStorm in 2012. Roll the dice to find the point on the board and place one of six of your birds. Get four of your birds in a row or square shape and you win. It’s deceptively simple. But, when you add crows, a hawk, and cards with special powers, it is either the start of a bad bar joke or the gateway to adding quite a bit of strategy to a fun—and pun heavy—game.
This game can be played by any player old enough to roll dice and recognize numbers. The game can be just that simple or much more complex, depending on how much planning you put into the hawk and crows who join the flock (and how the ability cards are used.
4 the Birds will be nesting on Kickstarter until June 18. Backing at the $29 (+$5 shipping) level will pre-order the game for you, since the game has funded. Even with shipping, it is a deal. Retail price for the game will be $40.
Every Monday night, we have family night. It’s a time that is designated for family interaction that doesn’t include electronics. More often than not, we put in a movie and sit down to play a game. And while Monopoly is fine and Uno is great, playing them every Monday night was getting boring. I decided it was time to dish up something new. It was time for a little sushi.
Sushi Go!by Gamewright was recommended to me by a friend over at The Read Pile. Knowing my 9-year-old son like he does, my friend told me it would be a good intro card game before hitting up harder titles, like Munchkin.
Looking over Gamewright’s website, they say that the game is for ages 8 and up and reinforces the ideas of probability, strategic thinking, and visual discrimination.
As the name implies, each card has a type of sushi drawn in an overly adorable fashion and a designated point value.
In terms of setup, Sushi Go! is as simple as Uno and consists of three rounds.
To start the game, the dealer gives everyone their first set of cards (the number of cards is determined by how many people are playing). Once everyone has their hand, they look it over, take the card they feel is the most valuable, and put it face down in front of them. Next, everyone passes their hand off to the player to their right and you pull another card. This happens only as many times as there are players in the game, so that everyone has a chance at everyone’s first hand.
Once the cards have made a full round, you turn them over, reveal your choices, and the scorekeeper marks down everyone’s points (and in case you’re wondering, yes, there is an app for this).
This is where the strategy comes into play.
After you see the other players’ picks, you keep that in mind when the fresh set of cards is dealt out. Since some cards are only worth points if you collect two or more, you can choose your card based on either stopping someone from getting a combo or adding points to your own set.
Each round there are fewer cards given to each player. After three rounds, the idea is that everyone will be stuck with two or three cards (and those will more than likely be the not-so-great ones).
My husband and I played a few rounds before letting our son in on the fun because we wanted to make sure the game was what my friend cracked it up to be. We were surprised at how much fun we were having with just the two of us. When our son finally jumped in, he got the hang of it very quickly and did pretty well his first few games.
He liked how the three rounds go quick enough to keep his attention and fun enough that he was hungry for more.
My husband and I agree that it’s a nice “strategy intro” game that isn’t overbearing (like Dice Masters), but still involves a little bit of luck (like Uno). It’s also enjoyable to have a game in our arsenal that’s fun and only takes 15 minutes to play a full game of three rounds.
Much like Munchkin though, you lose something when playing with just two players.
To spice things up, my husband and I made a few house rules:
• Maki rolls get zero points (with two players, it can be far too easy to win the game on just Maki rolls).
• The person with the most pudding gets six points and the second player gets nothing (instead of the -6 points that the rules call for).
• The standard three rounds goes by fast for two players, so sometimes we go with as many as seven rounds.
• At the start of each round, each player picks their card to keep and then picks a second card to discard so that their opponent can’t use it to their advantage.
We designed these house rules to work with two players, but feel free to modify them to work with more.
For those wondering what the replay value is, it’s really good. It’s similar to Uno and as long as you shuffle the deck well, you will have a unique game every time. If you feel like it’s getting too easy or going too fast, get creative and make up your own house rules.
Even though Gamewright suggests this game for between two and five players, if you get inventive, you could buy a second game and I’m sure you could make it work for more people.
Gamewright recommends this game for ages 8 and up because it might be a simple and quick game to play, but the strategy element could frustrate some younger kids. Of course, you know your child best, so feel free to give it a shot if you think they can handle it.
It’s an all-out, all-ages turf war in Splatoon, exclusively on the Wii U! Every member of your family will love taking control of an Inkling to spray, splat, and roll their paint to claim their territory and battle it out with players worldwide. Splatoon is a completely family-friendly shooter that parents can feel good about while kids have a blast.
The goal of each Splatoon online battle is to cover as much of the ground with your paint color as possible. Players can also take aim at each other, but the objective of online play is to cover ground, not earn kills. Choose from a variety of weapons, including paint guns and rollers, and you’re on your way to earning points for your team of four players.
There’s no voice chat, which some veteran FPS might find dismaying, but it is a relief that your kids won’t be in danger of hearing words you rather they didn’t.
As Inklings play in turf wars and earn levels and money, they can visit the quirky shops in Inkopolis to customize their characters. Clothes, shoes, headgear, and weapons not only give your Inkling just the right look you want, but also add to your stats and grant abilities to give you the edge in your next paint-filled battle.
Solo play is also an option. In Octo Valley, players must take on the dastardly Octarian army to save the Zapfish. Solo play is a great way to hone aiming and weapon skills, and take on some serious boss battles. You can also pick up the Splatoon amiibo figures for extra solo challenges to earn unique gear.
If it’s a family feud you’re in the mood for, head to the Battle Dojo for a one-on-one local battle. As one player focuses on the GamePad and the other on the TV, the goal of the Battle Dojo is to burst as many balloons as you can find. Tally up the total and one member of the family has bragging rights for the day.
Quick Game Tips
You may be immediately tempted to turn off the motion controls, but leave them on! The game is much more responsive in aiming with motion controls on.
Even the littlest of players can take part in online play and help the team. All they have to shoot is the ground, which most young players can handle. I can enjoy watching my kindergartner play and help the team, even if she isn’t the best at aiming yet. And then I demand my turn.
Shooting the walls helps get you where you’re going faster, but won’t count toward your point total.
If you’re not comfortable with your kids playing first-person shooters yet, this third-person shooter is a game you can rest easy about. With a goal to splatter paint on the pavement, not other people, it has a shooter feel without any worries of violence.
Pick up Splatoon now for another family-friendly multiplayer hit from Nintendo at a retail price of $59.99. Nintendo even plans to offer frequent game updates and events, giving you a lot of paint for your buck.
GeekMom received a promotional copy of the game and amiibo figure for review purposes.
If you loved Sierra Games as a kid, or burned the midnight oil reading Nancy Drew, indie game studio Mografi has just the game for you! Jenny LeClue, currently slated for 2016, is a mystery adventure game for gamers who love to follow the clues and solve puzzles. A new playable demo is now available, and after just a quick playthrough, suddenly 2016 can’t get here fast enough.
The adventure game follows the title character as she finds herself in an investigation she never could have imagined:
You play as Jenny, a brilliant young detective, living in the idyllic college town of Arthurton. Jenny is a sharp-eyed, relentless pursuer of the truth. But nothing exciting happens in Arthurton, and Jenny longs for real adventure.
Jenny gets more than she bargains for when her mother is accused of murder, and begins an unexpected journey to find the truth.
After playing the demo, I discovered that Jenny LeClue is brimming with atmosphere, from a stormy night to surprises lurking in the shadows. The (literally) heart-pounding sound effects add to the suspense, making this an enjoyably intense game experience without being too scary for younger players.
Fine details like creaking floors, characters with personality, and an abundance of clues to discover make this a compelling game that any fan of adventure games would love.
Just like when I was younger—we’re talking back in the days before GameFAQs—I found myself busting out the notepad and pen to write down the clues and solve a good ol’ fashioned game puzzle. And after just the quick look at the game, I absolutely want more.
If you thought the Nintendo Wii U was unpopular or that Disney Infinity and Skylanders characters ruled the cute little video game figures market… wrong! Nintendo released Wave 4 of their amiibo figures today, and people were waiting in line to get them. I was at the Toys”R”Us in Cary, North Carolina, and there were at least 40 people in line. I got in line at 9:15 a.m. for the 10:00 a.m. opening, but some people had been waiting in line for hours!
My experience was very orderly. Toys”R”Us handed out purchase tickets for the desired figures. This store had 38 Greninja figures, and I got ticket 33. Woohoo! I was doing that estimate-how-many-people-are-in-front-of-me thingand was worried.
As we stood in line, we discussed which figures we wanted, what our game plan was for hitting all the stores with exclusives, and the heat. Although the shopping experience was similar to Black Friday, it felt more like Red Friday as we melted in the heat and worried about getting sunburned.
One mother even had a special sheet that her son prepared for her to make sure she went to the right stores in the right order and secured the correct amiibos. Wow!
Let’s be clear: My 12-year-old son, Joey, is the reason I was in line. He started talking my head off about the Wave 4 amiibo release a week ago and asked me to, “Please, please, please go get them.” I did my best.
So what did I get?
At Toys”R”Us, I got Silver Mario and Greninja.
At Best Buy, I got Inkling Girl, Inkling Boy, and Charizard.
And at Target, I got Jigglypuff.
Joey will be pleased, although he is still hoping for Meta Knight and Rosalina/Luma, which came out in Wave 3 back in February. They are going for $50 or more now on Amazon and eBay. Gulp!
If you missed out on the amiibos you wanted today at your local store, you can try Amazon, but make sure to follow their ordering instructions and time intervals. Also, I previously ordered a Japanese marked Pac-Man from Amazon, and I can report that it works just fine with our United States Wii U.
I’ve had a Nintendo 3DS for a long time, but never realized that there were games hiding on the handheld console just waiting for me to discover. After hearing about a StreetPass Mii Plaza update last month, my first reaction was, “What is Mii Plaza? It’s already on my 3DS?”
My reaction now is to carry my 3DS everywhere I go in the small hope that StreetPass will encounter a new Mii.
Your little Mii that resides on the 3DS has access to costumes, mini-games, and more in this recently updated game that comes with the system. As you encounter other Miis while your 3DS is out and about, those characters will join up with you in the Mii Plaza to give you puzzle pieces, go on a quest, and more.
The mini-games that it comes with are free, with “premium” games offered for the price of a smartphone app. If you enjoy quiet games like Animal Crossing and Fantasy Life, chances are you’ll love the premium games offered in StreetPass Mii Plaza.
Ultimate Angler, one of the new premium games that also debuted last month, is an amusing way to spend some time with the characters you’ve met over StreetPass. The Mii characters give you bait and you head out together to fish the deep sea. If there’s a large catch on your hook, your new friends will team up to help you reel it in. Put the fish in a custom aquarium, or let it go free. Along the way you’ll earn points and coins to upgrade your aquarium and fishing rod to catch an even bigger fish.
Flower Town is my other current pastime on StreetPass Mii Plaza. Visitors to your garden will help your flowers grow into beautiful blooms and unique new breeds. Grown plants can be sold or used for jobs offered by the florist in town. You’ll while away the hours upgrading your garden, harvesting seeds, and buying flower pots to get your garden just right.
If you’re discouraged by the use of the StreetPass feature to invite guests to your plaza because there aren’t many 3DS players in your area, you can visit your local Best Buy to take advantage of the Nintendo Zone. Airports and conventions are other fantastic spots for meeting other Miis. Or, if all else fails, you can spend Play Coins to call NPC Miis to help you fish, garden, fight, and more.
With just the free features, StreetPass Mii Plaza is a fantastic way to get even more bang for your buck for the New Nintendo 3DS. I hope our Miis cross paths one day!
GeekMom received promotional copies for review purposes.
I was the kid that had to stay in at recess in second grade. Was I bad? No, I needed extra help in subtraction. Sister Brendan, a very nice old lady (who gave me snacks too) sat patiently with me each day to get my wee brain to learn the tools of taking away in an equation. I was a smart kid, and I could memorize how to do it, but I didn’t understand why and that made me second guess myself and screw up on tests. Eventually I got the concept, but I also learned another lesson: Math isn’t fun.
But it can be! My teen son loves to play board and card games with his young cousin. They both homeschool, so I suggested he come up with a math curriculum for her that incorporated games we already owned to teach the concepts she was supposed to learn in second grade (according to Common Core for a reference). Her parents thought that was great, and when she took a simple test at the end of the year, she aced it. No boring textbooks and worksheets!
Unlike most math curricula that teach one concept at a time, games utilize several skills at once in a fun atmosphere that keeps the challenges from getting overwhelming. Basically, instead of learning to do math on its own, the student is using math to play the game.
Granny Apples is a good example of multiple math skills at once. It is a simple game of tossing wooden apples on the ground and counting the different types to find a total score. However, it involves fractions, addition, subtraction, sets, and is all mental math in a visual setting. There is no writing involved, which is perfect for learning concepts without tripping over the writing/reading challenges. It is a fast game with tactile satisfaction with smooth wooden objects.
Bakugan is perfect for those writing/reading challenges, and so fun that kids will not care. Each sphere is tossed into a ring and pops open to reveal a monster. Each monster has a number printed on it for its “battle score.” But these scores are up to triple digits. The student must keep track of all the digits, keep their columns neat, and continually add and subtract to figure out if they win the battles.
Polyhedron Origami is not a game, but the best way to teach geometry of three dimensional shapes—by building them with paper. It is not difficult, but requires attention to detail, with a satisfying ending of something beautiful with math. Using this method, even the youngest students can make truncated octohedrons, and know what that means!
Could there be a more entertaining way to learn graphing skills than Battleship?
The top half of the Yahtzee sheet is a fun introduction to multiplication. Rolling dice, counting, and writing. Over time, students will count the dice faster and faster based on the visual sets of dots on each die. This is learning sets and geometric reasoning for multiplication skills. Sounds complicated, but in this game, it’s just fun.
Games like CathedralChess, Tangoes, Mancala, and Connect 4 are ways to teach spatial reasoning, patterns, shapes, strategy, structure, reasoning, and mental acuity. They range in complexity, but are able to be played by children as young as five in simple formats.
Gather your family at the table with paper, pencils, and dice.
First tell them to draw a quick picture of themselves—stick figures are fine. On the same paper, they should draw their shadow: the person, monster, or alter-ego that is longing to get them in trouble, to do whatever they want regardless of the consequences. Then assign one die (different colors) to each of these drawings. Finally, say to your family, “You are asleep in the house. Suddenly you wake up to a strange sound.” And so the Shadows game begins.
This is one of the simplest role-playing games around, which makes it great for kids. And perfect for adults who are interested in RPGs, but don’t know where to begin. Shadows, by Zak Arntson, is a group storytelling game with a fun twist. Whenever the leader of the group asks about a move, the player has to answer twice—what they want to do in a situation, and what their shadow wants to do. The decision is made by dice.
My children and I have played the Shadows game many times, and this was the game I chose when I did an “Intro to RPG” event at my local homeschooling group. I wanted a game with a short prep time, so we could jump right into the action. Experienced gamers really, really enjoy character creation, spending weeks on stats and backstories. But with kids, they just want to play.
There are many systems out there (feel free to comment below with your favorite) that are quick on the start-up. Risusby S. John Ross is one I like. It has enough structure to satisfy kids who want more than Shadows, but with a twenty second character creation, there’s no waiting. My favorite part of Risus is how characters are defined by cliches. You can make up your own or be inspired by their example list:
Gambler: Betting, cheating, winning, running very fast.
Computer Geek: Hacking, programming, fumbling over introductions.
My kids enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, so one afternoon I took out Risus, a list of Greek gods, and a list of Greek monsters. I told the kids they were demi-gods, and monsters were ravaging our downtown. They grabbed their dice, picked whom their powerful parent was, wrote down a cliché or two, and we were off on an exciting adventure.
Now perhaps you are an experienced gamer and want to bring your geeklings into the fold of serious RPGs. There are also many systems that allow for expansive character creation and detailed worlds (again, list your favorites below.) Anything with the PDQ# system by Chad Underkoffler is creative and easy to run. I once ran a long campaign with my kids and their friends in the Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies world with great success.
My husband did a few one-shot Dungeons and Dragons games with the kids when they were younger. But he made their simple character stats for them, “I want to be a really cool warrior with a big sword!” I had asked if he ever wanted to run a family game, but he remembers the amount of time it took to create a satisfying game week after week for his friends way back when. So that was a “no.”
My personal introduction into RPGs is a system called GURPS (generic universal role playing system). However, I will never read all those books for the GM (game master). Luckily, there’s this handy-dandy version called GURPS LITE. It’s perfect for playing with kids, and I used it for a short series with my own kids a few years back. The character sheets were still too unwieldy, so I wrote up my own called BURPS (beginner universal role playing system). Please feel free to grab it for your own game.
Not enough suggestions? Go here. Spend an afternoon on an adventure with your children using your collective imagination and the clattering of dice.
Did you know you can be a real Pokémon Professor (if you are 18 or older)? Take the test to see if you have what it takes! (I was a professor for two years and believe me when I say you earn the title.)
Shake up your next family game night with Mario Party 10, available March 20 for the first time on the Wii U! Up to five players can join in the fun, with someone even taking control of Bowser in the entertaining new Bowser Party mode.
Party On, Mario Mario Party veterans will find plenty of familiar elements in the latest installment. You and your family and friends choose characters (up to four in the classic Mario Party mode) and roll dice to move around the board. Along the way, you’ll earn stars with lucky rolls and by winning the clever mini-games hidden around the board.
Many of the mini-games rely on luck rather than skill to win (it is Mario Party, after all), which works well for younger wielders of the Wiimote and occasionally frustrates older ones.
Note that players can only use the Wiimotes in Mario Party mode, so the GamePad isn’t a controller option for anyone playing. Neither are the Pro Controller or GameCube Adapter. So plan your Wiimote situation ahead of time, so no one is left out!
Party On, Bowser
A player can use the GamePad as a controller during the new Bowser Party mode.
Bowser chases Mario and friends around the board, as players race to capture the star waiting at the end. One person can play as Bowser in the mini-games, roaring and stomping and generally trying to ruin Mario’s day, or all players can play against Bowser in this amusing game mode.
Oh, No, amiibo!
We were dismayed to find out that the Rosalina amiibo we’d leveled up previously in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U couldn’t be used in Mario Party 10 unless we erased the Smash data. As Rosalina isn’t a figure you can easily find in the store, buying a second amiibo for our daughter’s favorite character wasn’t an option, so erasing it was.
My daughter wasn’t terribly heartbroken, but it is unfortunate that only a single game’s data can be saved on the figure at a time.
Once that was taken care of, it was time to try out the new amiibo Party mode, which isn’t a bad option when there’s no one else around to play against. Play even more mini-games to customize your amiibo in game.
‘Cuz an Amiibo Party Don’t Stop
With over 70 minigames, several game modes that take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, and even bonus content you can buy with tokens you earn in game, Mario Party 10 is another family-friendly home run from Nintendo that offers hours and hours of play.
Mario Party 10 is out March 20, 2015, at a suggested retail price of $49.99 (or $59.99 with Mario amiibo bundle).
Thank goodness for Wil Wheaton. Without Tabletop, I would still be in the barren wasteland that is life without Tokaido. Season three of Tabletop continues to move along at a reliable clip. While I am mostly watching and realizing there are games I don’t want to play (I’m looking at you Forbidden Desert), I am pleased with the amount of new games we are experiencing. More than ever, this season has given us a chance to play more games with our family. The episode in which Wil played Catan Juniorwas interesting certainly, but it was the more recent episode featuring Tales and Games: The Hare and The Tortoise that we chose to share with the rest of our family and friends. So gathered around a table late one Friday night, four parents and four children played a team version of our new favorite game.
The Hare and The Tortoise is a card-driven betting game for 2-5 players aged 8 and up. We played with four teams of two. Our youngest participant was three; he mostly just revealed my hand to everybody else. The five-year-olds present handled the game very well, and have played several times since then, without adults present. The company suggests that an average game takes 15 minutes. Ours took 45, but team play does make it a little more involved.
The point of the game is to bet on animals, loosely based on Aesop’s Fable of the same name, and race those animals down a track. The first three animals to cross the finishing line receive points, and the winner is the player with the highest number of points based on the animals they placed bets on.
At the beginning of the game, or race, each player receives an animal card chosen at random. There are five animals to pick from: turtle, hare, lamb, wolf, and fox. Each player then receives seven cards. From this seven, they choose another random animal. Both of these cards are placed face down and not revealed to the other players. These are the animals on which the player has bet. It is possible to bet on the same animal twice; you do not re-draw.
Players will then take turns laying down between one and four cards of the same animal. You refill your hand to six cards before the next player lays down. The turn is over when four cards of any one animal have been played, or when there are eight cards played on the table at once. Yes this does have to be eight. If at seven cards down, someone decided to play two more and so nine cards are in play, you keep going until four are the same animal. Then, it is time for the animals to move or not.
The race track consists of 11 road cards, two of which contain water; configuration is at the player’s discretion upon setup. Each of the animals in play have distinct characteristics that determines how they move down the board. Kids and adults alike had fun getting into the mood of their characters. The animals always move in the same order.
The Turtle: Always moves one space, even if no turtle cards have been played. May move two spaces if four of its cards were played.
The Hare: Always moves two spaces, but only if a hare card is in play. If four hare cards are played and the hare is currently in the lead, then the hare takes a nap and does not move.
The Fox: Always moves as many spaces as the number of fox cards played.
The Lamb: Always moves one more space than the number of lamb cards played. If the lamb reaches water mid-move, it must stop and take a drink, regardless of how many moves are left. The lamb cannot move again until it’s next turn.
The Wolf: Moves one space if 1-2 cards are played, and moves one less space than the number of cards if three or more are played. The game also includes three howling wolf cards. If a howler is played, no one but the wolf moves. The wolf moves one space if one to two cards are played, and one less space than the number of cards if more are played. The wolf also has three cards with a howl; if one of these is played, no one but the wolf moves. (The track consists of 11 road cards, two covered with water.) If playing with kids, prepare for a lot of howling around the game table.
Once all animals have moved, or not, a new round begins. The game ends when three of the five animals reach the finish line. Players receive points based on the ranking of the animals they bet on. The player with the most points wins.
The kids loved racing the animals down the track by choosing which cards to play, though it took a few turns for them to understand that we were betting on animals and weren’t actually the animals themselves. But this isn’t just a kids’ game. The dynamic and gameplay certainly lends itself to a family game, but it is thoroughly enjoyable without the kids around too.
The links in this post are to Amazon, but I would encourage you to seek out your local board game store. We purchased our copy from Weekend Anime. We love giving them our business and being part of a larger gaming community through the people we meet there.
The Tabletop episode shows the game off really well, but do not watch with the kids. The language isn’t as age-appropriate as the game.
One of my favorite things about the Game Developers Conference the last two years has been the exhibit from the Videogame History Museum. You may also have seen their displays at other conferences, including PAX East, E3, and SXSW.
It was founded by the creators of the Classic Gaming Expo to document and preserve video game history. Growing out of the touring Classic Gaming Expo museum exhibit, the Videogame History Museum is approaching having a permanent home in Frisco, Texas, where the city has voted to finish 10,400 square feet with room for expansion.
This year’s GDC exhibit focused on the history of Atari. The Atari 2600 was my own first game system. My kids have played it, and I most recently bought a game for it last April.
The Museum’s Atari exhibit includes not just that 2600 system, but many example systems from the company, including systems like the Touch Me, a handheld game system that was the inspiration for Ralph Baer to create Simon. Other systems and games on display were never publicly released, such as Game Brain, a cartridge-based prototype system for which only five cartridges were ever made, and Atari Cosmos, the result of Atari buying many holography patents to create a hologram-based game system.
You could also have a seat on the sofa and play a few rounds on the 2600, or in another area, you could play a modified version of Adventure, the game that introduced many people to the concept of Easter eggs in video games. Because game designers weren’t getting a lot of credit for their work, Adventure designer Warren Robinett buried his name in a secret, difficult-to-reach room within the game. The version of Adventure on display simplified finding the Easter egg so that more people could have the experience firsthand.
Finally the exhibit featured cases of Atari memorabilia, including t-shirts, golf balls, stickers, Frisbees, and more.
If you weren’t able to see it in person, have a click through our gallery, and later this summer, you can visit the National Videogame Museum 1.0 when it opens in Frisco, Texas.
Last night, Piper launched a Kickstarter to fund their new product: A Minecraft Toolbox for Budding Engineers. Now, I am a big fan of Minecraft, and so are my kids. We even went to the first MineCon in Las Vegas with handmade red creeper capes and a 6-foot-tall robotic creeper. In fact, I wrote a poem a few years ago to express my gratitude:
Oh Minecraft ! Thou art magnificent in your design! You thrust your pick-axe into the depths of my children’s minds And collect the fragments of literacy and mathematics buried in their genetic code With your own code of multidimensional strategy and awesomeness! Through chat window they build their empires, Through mining they stretch and exercise their mathematical prowess, They are cubic kings! Destined to conquer and lead all mankind towards Self-reliance and cooked pork!
Poet laureate I am not, but you get my drift. So when I saw this new project, I was cautiously excited. I loved the idea of combining Minecraft with physical electronics, but I am also adverse to buying anything we could make ourselves or that delivers far less than what it promises. A recent article on GeekMom illustrates my feelings perfectly on this subject.
Recently, I got the chance to actually play with Piper at one of the programs I run, as well as observe groups of kids exploring the Toolbox. I have to say, this may just be the next new thing in gaming. Basically, Piper has created a Minecraft Mod with five levels (and more to come), based on a story. There are astronauts stuck on a planet and a robot is sent on a rescue mission, but it gets damaged and in each level, there are repairs to be made. Every time a crafting table is found, there is a challenge that requires a physical build on the components provided, including motion detectors, a proximity sensor with an LED strip, switches to control bridges and hidden doors, and more.
Kits come unassembled, so kids can build the entire toolbox and personalize them. Within the game, they can build whatever they want, design and upload their own mods, and go at their own pace. Since the Toolbox uses Raspberry Pi, they will also release design and code as open source for community collaboration and experimentation. I found the Toolbox to be extremely flexible and open-ended, while providing enough challenges for the kids who want them. I also had the pleasure of meeting two of the founders today as well, and found them to be thoughtful, enthusiastic, and determined to make this an amazing product.
The Kickstarter just launched, but there is a limited number of Toolboxes available for an early-bird price, which is why I am not waiting to include this one in my next Fund This round-up of campaigns. Check it out if your family hails from the Minecraft Guild!
Animated. Clay-ful. Play-D’awwwww. There is no shortage of puns to describe Nintendo’s cute and whimsical release, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Another standout title for the Wii U, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse makes excellent use of the GamePad for a unique gaming experience in a colorful and memorable world—it’s just a shame that you spend so much time staring at the GamePad that you never really get to fully enjoy those colors in glorious HD.
A mysterious villain has stolen all of the colors from Dream Land, and with the help of Elline and Waddle Dee, Kirby must navigate through Pop Star and defeat monsters to save his home. With a swipe of the stylus on the GamePad screen, you can get Kirby started on his journey, drawing a rainbow path to scale tall walls, make a way through and around obstacles, and even attack (adorable) enemies.
It’s a unique way to play that was introduced in Kirby’s DS adventure, Canvas Curse, and drawing the rainbow rope adds a bit of a learning curve for players of all ages. Or, if you’ll forgive one more pun, it takes a while to learn the ropes. Kirby is controlled only with a tap or swipe of the stylus, not with the D-pad, so your brain may take a little bit of time to adjust. But it won’t take long, and you’ll appreciate the change of pace from your standard platformer.
Since you have to stare at the GamePad to plan the next move of the rainbow rope, the person controlling Kirby rarely looks at the big screen to appreciate the vibrant world of Dream Land. The clay effect is done so well that it’s a shame to see it only on the GamePad’s small screen.
Your partner, however, gets to enjoy it as they use the Wii controller to join in the fun. As Waddle Dee, the second player uses standard controls to help Kirby along the way. If your kids have trouble getting Kirby where he needs to go, controlling Waddle Dee instead can lead to much less irritation and a fun gaming experience for you and your kids together. (Up to three other players can join in.) There are no time limits, and Waddle Dee is instantly transported to Kirby’s side without penalty if he falls behind, making it ideal to play with younger kids.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a great break from the Skylanders and Lego games that you may typically play co-op as a family. It’s an adventure game that will get you thinking in new ways as you play with your kids, and it’s sure to provoke a few “awws!” along the way.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is available now for the Wii U for a suggested retail price of $39.99.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has always been a unique game in the Zelda series. It’s a direct sequel to its predecessor, Ocarina of Time, and the game mechanic of getting tasks done in just three days is simultaneously compelling and maddening. The original release is the only Zelda game I gave up on midway through. So when The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3DS was announced for the New Nintendo 3DS with a remastered look and improved gameplay, I decided it was time to redeem myself.
Majora’s Mask 3D looks fantastic on the handheld system, and while the gameplay changes don’t make for an easy experience—it is a Zelda game, after all—the improvements all make this game more than worthy of a second chance.
Vivid greens and purples seem to leap off the screen thanks to the improved 3D of the New 3DS. This isn’t Hyrule; this is the darker world of Termina, where disaster from the sky must be averted within three days to complete your quest. The three day gameplay mechanic adds a sense of urgency to every task you undertake, and in the Nintendo 64 iteration, the repetitive cycle and limited ability to save is what ultimately caused me to give up.
In Majora’s Mask 3D, you can now save the game in the middle of the cycle, and gain the ability to travel between save points much earlier. (You can also jump to a specific time rather than standing around waiting.) This eliminates most of the frustration I felt the first time around, and updates the game for today’s players.
Majora’s Mask 3D also includes an upgraded Bomber’s Notebook to help you keep track of tasks you need to complete and townspeople to assist during your three days. It will even alert you to important events during the cycle so you don’t miss a necessary task. Add to that a new map and inventory system thanks to the touch screen, and you’ve got game improvements all around.
With all these changes, will I finally finish the game? Time will tell. Becoming a parent changed my gaming habits: I’ve gotten used to games I can pick up and turn off at any time, because I never know when that little voice will call for me. Majora’s Mask 3D can now be one of those games, but with so much to wrangle, it’s better played in long bouts. The New 3DS game might not be one of my Four in February, but I’m definitely impressed enough to keep at it.
On February 16, the New Nintendo 3DS XL hits store shelves for an updated take on the portable system. The New Nintendo 3DS XL (quite the mouthful) boasts improved processing power, better 3D than its predecessor, design improvements on the system itself, support for new technology like amiibo, and more.
With yet another take on the 3DS, you might be wondering to yourself if it’s worth it to pick up yet another portable gaming system from Nintendo. Whether you’re considering an upgrade to your existing DS or just curious about the features of the new one, here are 6 things you should know about the New Nintendo 3DS.
There are a lot of design improvements.
The buttons and more have been shifted around from the 3DS XL, but it’s a welcome change. With the volume up on the top screen, and the wireless slider moved entirely, you won’t find yourself fumbling and accidentally changing the volume on the system.
You also won’t accidentally remove the game cartridge when grabbing the DS, which I have done many times (when the game wasn’t saved, no less)—the game now slides in the front instead of on the hinge.
I’m also happy to see the start and select buttons back where I’d expect them to be, instead of in the middle, leaving the Home button much easier to find when your eyes are glued to the screen.
My only complaint? The stylus isn’t where I’m used to, either, so I find myself still fiddling with the right of the system to find it, only to remember it’s now moved to the front.
Overall, I’m a big fan of these changes. There are also new buttons with the system, the C stick (most likely used for camera control) and the ZL and ZR buttons.
And, in case you’re wondering, screen size and system size haven’t changed from the 3DS XL.
A power cord isn’t included in the box.
The New Nintendo 3DS does not come with a power charging cord (AC adapter). This was done as a cost-cutting strategy, as most gamers who buy the New 3DS already have a compatible 2DS/3DS adapter, but it leaves people who never owned a system in the lurch. Pick up the official AC adapter when you buy the system if you’re a newcomer to Nintendo.
It’s not a simple process to transfer games and data.
If you’re not new to the DS and you upgrade to the New 3DS, you’ll find that it’s not a simple process to transfer games you’ve purchased in the Nintendo eShop. It’s not like the iPhone App Store, for example; you can’t just re-download the games from the eShop. Follow the instructions on the Support site and on screen to make sure you don’t miss an important step when moving over your games and save data.
The 3D really does look better.
I was never a big fan of the 3D technology on the 3DS XL, but I have to admit that I’m impressed with the improvements on the New 3DS. “Face-tracking,” one of the touted new features, actually does a remarkable job of keeping the top screen in stable 3D. Majora’s Mask 3D looks gorgeous, and even older games like Animal Crossing: New Leaf look good. If 3D gaming is your thing, the New 3DS delivers.
Other notable new features include amiibo compatibility.
Along with the new controls and 3D face-tracking, the New Nintendo 3DS also includes new amiibo functionality for compatible games like Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. Improved processing and a better camera round out the list of notable new features for Nintendo’s latest handheld system.
It’s coming out this month.
The New Nintendo 3DS XL is available for $199.99. Launching in the U.S. on February 13 alongside The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, there are enough improvements to make the upgrade a consideration for casual and serious gamers alike.
Stay tuned to GeekMom for a closer look at Majora’s Mask 3D!
GeekMom received a promotional item for review purposes.
At our house, Minecraft is the most popular video game with my boys who are ages 10 and 12. Sure, they like Disney Infinity on the xBox 360 and various apps on the iPad, but Minecraft leads the pack. Dinner conversations often focus on “Minecraft this” and “Minecraft that.” I’m always trying to change the subject to something else. Although I admit that I’ve never played Minecraft, I am well versed on what a “Creeper” is and what “spawning” means. I even helped build a Creeper head as a Halloween costume. The game seems rather harmless if not graphically inferior; didn’t we do bitmaps back in the 70s? Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to survive my child’s Minecraft addiction.
It all seemed so innocent when my boys asked to buy Minecraft on the PC several years ago. I paid, and we downloaded, and then the work began.
“Mom, I need help installing a mod.”
“Everything you need to know is in this YouTube.”
Sure, installing some of those mods required every bit of computer programming skill I have. I was so frustrated. Then came the Minecraft Launcher along with the boys getting a bit older, and now they are more self sufficient installing mods and updates. I love that Launcher!
Over Christmas I got the latest request. I was innocently reading my book half paying attention to the football game that was on when they hit me. “Mom, can we have our own Minecraft servers?” Huh? They had asked me this before, and we even tried to configure our own server—another hair pulling intensive computer skill fiasco. I had tried to explain that servers were a lot of work and that their computers probably weren’t powerful enough to support a server with multiple users playing the game. I thought we had put the whole server issue to bed. Apparently not!
Introduce GForce Servers. The boys explained that you can now buy a server running on someone else’s computer but still manage it yourself. One of their Minecraft friends already had one running and configured, and he was volunteering to get them started. It sounded to good to be true.
GForce offers several Minecraft server options, and we chose the Iron option at $5 a month which comes with 1GB of memory, a dedicated IP, and all the options any Minecraft enthusiast could want. They used their allowance, I paid, and I hoped I wouldn’t regret it. Of course they each wanted their own server, and I couldn’t see a reason why not as I hoped this would be a good computer programming learning opportunity.
The boys have been up on their new servers for a couple of weeks now, and everything is running smoothly. They each have a log-on to a GForce control panel, the Force Panel, which allows them to manage and configure their servers.
They can manage mods and plugins for their server.
They can set-up their Minecraft world just how they like it.
They can even get the thrill of entering console style commands.
I haven’t heard one complaint, and I haven’t been roped in to help. Happy kids and a happy mom.
I’d like to point out that one benefit of having a personal server is that you can control who your kids play with. With a dedicated IP, only kids that they share the IP with will be able to log onto their server. So, if you want to have more control over who your kid plays Minecraft with, this might be the right solution for you.
GForce has game servers for several other games including Grand Theft Auto and Garry’s Mod. They also offer a free trial.
There are other hosted Minecraft server options too. Do a Google search on hosted Minecraft server and review the links.
Innovation, experimentation, collaboration. That’s Global Game Jam. For 48 hours teams around the world will be given a theme to create video, board, and card games. For what? For fun!
It’s not a competition, and teams are formed by on-site participants (not beforehand). It’s a way to meet people who like to game, design, create, and enjoy using their imaginations. In 2014 there were 488 locations, and 72 countries that created over 4000 games! Many of these quick weekend game developments have continued to become fully realized versions afterwards.
Here are groups around the world saying hello:
Want to participate? Go here to find a location. Kids and adults are welcome to join in the fun, but you have to register; go for it!
Today’s Nintendo Direct released a slew of information about upcoming games and the New Nintendo 3DS XL coming to stores this spring. The new system, available in U.S. stores February 13 at a retail price of $199.99, comes in red, black, and two designs based on The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate(GameStop exclusive).
What sets the New 3DS above the rest? From a press release from Nintendo this morning, features include:
New Nintendo 3DS XL offers a number of new enhancements designed to offer the smoothest and most engrossing portable gaming possible. New Nintendo 3DS XL features a wider range of controls with the addition of a C Stick and ZL/ZR buttons, super-stable 3D via face-tracking technology and built-in NFC functionality that allows for communication with amiibo figures.