2 Quick, Vibrant Family Games

We played a couple good family games tonight that are enjoyable by both kids & adults.

First, a sweet speed game called Fast Flip, where you turn over a card and then grab the proper token as fast as you can. Great for flexing your visual perception & processing, and just hectically fun. If you flip a fruit, then you have to grab the NUMBER token that matches how many times that fruit appears on the card. If u flip a number, then you have to grab the FRUIT token that appears on the card that many times. The cards are designed so that there is only ever 1 correct answer.

Next, a dice game called A Fistful of Penguins that is excellent at teaching math! The animals on the dice either score or cancel each other out in various ways, but you can use your penguins to maintain at least some control to reroll your dice & push your luck.

For kids, you can’t go wrong with the vibrant design and the animal & fruit themes.

Fast Flip on Amazon:

https://amzn.to/3dhlQZv

A Fistful of Dollars on Amazon:

https://amzn.to/3dgzXOy

#7 – Dead of Winter

Dead

At a Glance: Dead of Winter is a superb survival horror game. If an intense, story-driven adventure set in a zombie apocalypse blizzard sounds amazing, it is!

Dead of Winter is a semi-cooperative survival horror game for 2-5 players set in a zombie apocalypse blizzard. The game is set up with a main board that is the “Colony” and 6 external locations. Each person starts with a couple survivors at the colony and 3 dice. You may perform one action per dice result, like Attacking, Searching, or Placing a Barricade. Some actions do not require a die in order to perform them, but the main actions do. Each survivor has stats for their Attacking and Searching. If a survivor has an Attack stat of 3+, that means that you may use a die result of 3+ to do that action. Each game has a different scenario and main goal to complete. Everyone also has a secret private objective that they must also fulfill in order to win. However, there might be a traitor in your midst! If someone drew a Betrayal card at the beginning of the game, then they win if the main objective is failed and they meet their private objective. There is a Round Track that counts down and a Morale Track. Each round goes like this: first, you must deal with a crisis. You flip over a crisis card and throughout the round, players will be secretly contributing the requisite types of cards to the crisis. Nothing happens if you fulfill the requirements, but if the group fails, there are consequences. Everyone rolls the action dice simultaneously and take their turns. At the beginning of your turn, the player to your right draws one of the Crossroads cards. Crossroads cards have some sort of trigger at the top, and if at any point, the active player triggers it, Play is stopped and the Crossroads card is resolved. You can move to external locations and attack zombies, but every time you do, you must roll the dreaded Exposure Die. The Exposure Die may give you nothing (hopefully), wounds, frostbite, or (God forbid) a bite which means your survivor dies! That means every major action may have dire consequences. You may search locations for much-needed supply, barricade an entrance to protect against zombies, clean waste at the colony, attract zombies, play a card, contribute to the crisis, spend food to improve your dice result, give or take items, vote to exile someone, or a special action listed on your survivor card. Whenever the group votes to exile someone they think is a traitor, the accused is kicked out of the colony and moved to an outside location and their secret objective changes a bit. After the player turns, you feed the people at the colony, make sure there is not too much waste at the colony, and resolve the crisis. But then, more zombies show up! Then a new round begins, but you only have a limited amount of time to complete the objective. If the Morale or Round Track reach 0, or the main objective is completed, the game ends and if you have completed your objectives, you win.

Dead of Winter is an excellent semi-cooperative game (can be cooperative, and always is with 2-players). It may seem like a lot to take in, as there are a lot of factors in play, but once you get the hang of it, it is such an immersive experience. Always intense, it is challenging to balance the problems at hand…try not to get overrun by the zombie horde, try to feed your people, try to search for desperately-needed supplies, and don’t forget the dreaded RED DIE that you have to roll every time you attack a zombie or move to a location. I like the way searching works, as you can “make noise” to search more, but you risk attracting more zombies. So even if we stop right there, we have a great game on our hands. But what really pushes this game to the next level for me is the Crossroads deck, where events can trigger depending on what you do on your turn. It really adds a depth of narrative and decision-making that is truly innovative, and just plain cool. And in a market full of zombified things that are just mediocre, this game stands out.

There are definitely a ton of standees, one for every survivor character and a lot of zombies. The dice are small, but good, and the red Exposure Die is especially cool. There are a bunch of cards that you will never see in just one game, and with the different objectives and outcomes, the replayability factor is high. The box is high quality and the cover art is well done (kudos to Fernanda Suarez). The production, theme and gameplay come together for an excellent experience. Turn down the lights and immerse yourself in the survival horror of Dead of Winter.

See if you can survive: https://amzn.to/2AdBZhW


#23 – King of Tokyo

King

At a Glance: On fun factor alone, King of Tokyo is the undisputed king. It is a raucous good time.

King of Tokyo is a dice game for 2-6 players where everyone controls a giant monster trying to destroy Tokyo and the other monsters. The main game mechanic is a Yahtzee-like roll of the dice where you are allowed 2 rerolls after your initial roll. First, what is the object? The goal is to either be the last monster standing or the first to 20 points. The dice have 6 different faces on them. For each Claw symbol you roll, that is one attack and the other monster(s) must take 1 damage. Each monster starts with 10 health, shown as hearts and they will gain and lose as the game goes on. For each Heart symbol, you gain one health. There are also numbers on the dice from 1-3 and when you roll a set of three, that is how many points you get. So if you roll three 2’s you get 2 points. Any additional numbers in the set score extra points. So five 2’s would be 4 points. Lastly, if you roll the lightning bolt symbol, you get an Energy cube. Energy can be used to purchase cool upgrade cards for your monster. Concerning attacks, they work in an interesting way. All monsters start outside the city and there are spaces inside Tokyo for 1 monster in a 4-player game and 2 spaces for monsters in a 5 or 6-player game. Whenever you attack , it affects the monsters in the other area. So attacks from outside the city only affect the monsters inside the city and attacks from inside the city affect ALL monsters outside. You gain points the longer you are able to stay inside the city, but the catch is that you cannot heal yourself while inside the city. If your health drops too low, you can yield the city to the attacking monster who replaces you. If your health ever drops to 0, you’re out. Whoever is the last monster standing or first to 20 points is the winner.

Just strictly going by fun factor, this game is king. It is a raucous dice chucker of a game and the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. It gets crazy when you have 5 or 6 monsters all vying for control of the city and attacking. Then, sometimes there might be a more pacifist monster who is quietly, sneakily accumulating points and trying to win that way. Then, you have the great upgrade cards. There are a lot of them, and they’re thematically appropriate and all of them are exciting and interesting. For example, if you are able to get the Extra Head for your monster, that gives you an extra die to roll for the rest of the game! I like how you can win in two very different ways and you have to be aware of where people are in points, because 20 points can really sneak up on you. For having so much luck of the dice, there are a good deal of interesting choices available to players throughout the game. And the cool thing is, no matter what you choose, it feels like you’re doing something awesome. Gameplay is quick, rules are pretty simple, and instead of bogging down with a higher player count, it gets better! Because the dice rolling is so similar to how Yahtzee works, I find it makes it really easy to teach to pretty much anyone in a wide age range.

The black & green dice are SUPER great quality, and they’re actually some of my favorite dice from any game I’ve played. This is great, since the gameplay all revolves around the dice. The monsters are also pretty sweet, and the boards that come with them have two dials for health and points, and they work exceptionally well. Usually the main game board is crucial, but this is one game where the board itself is barely necessary. It only shows who is in the city of Tokyo. The green Energy cubes are simple but effective. They enhance the sci-fi feel a bit. Overall, this is a top-notch game. As far as light family fun, I’m not sure this game can be beat. Excellent!

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2QK1KzY


#28 – Sagrada

Sagrada

At a Glance: Sagrada is a beautifully presented puzzle game of placing colorful dice in a stained glass window.

Sagrada is a game for 1-4 players that was released in 2017, so it is still pretty fresh. In Sagrada, each player is trying to fill their stained glass window with well-placed colored dice. The game comes with 90 of these dice and all of them are placed in the bag to start the game. On your turn, you pull a number of dice out of the bag and that becomes the dice pool for everyone. Then, starting with you, everyone takes one die and places it in their window grid. Each stained glass card is unique and varies in difficulty, and there are placement rules for the dice. Some spaces have a specific color and only that color may be placed there. Likewise, some spaces have a specific number and only that number may be placed. Aside from that though, there is a rule that no dice of the same color of number may be placed side-to-side adjacent (diagonal is ok). The turn order snakes around and the starting player will choose from the last 2 dice. The game takes place over 10 rounds and whoever has the most points is the winner. You get points from fulfilling different Objectives. There are 3 Public Objectives that anyone can complete, and 1 Private Objective for each player. The Objectives are also repeatable, so if one Objective is to have a row of one of each color, you can accomplish that in more than one row and reap the points for it. There are also Tools that players may spend Favor Tokens to use. Depending on the difficulty of their window, players receive a certain number of Favor Tokens at the start of the game. If they have any unused tokens left at the end, they get extra points. Lastly, as players score at the end, they lose 1 point for every empty space on their window.

There is something really satisfying about filling your stained glass window board with the dice, and the game tickles that nerve that likes puzzles and organization. The whole idea of pulling dice out of a bag and everyone picking them from the same pool is something neat that you don’t see often, and I love it. The variability of the window cards is nice because you can risk attempting a more difficult one, which will give you more Favor Tokens to use tools, or points if you are able to retain them as unused. Specific Objectives are different each time, so scoring will always be a bit different. Ultimately, though, you want to fill as many spots in your window as possible. As you fill them up, it gets tougher and more enticing to use the tools that are laid out. Though I suppose you could, the game does not provide much temptation to be mean. I find I am generally more concerned with my own window than scanning the table seeing if I can block someone from getting the dice they need.

The theme is really fascinating and as you might hope, the components look great and match the aesthetic quality that you would expect from a game about stained glass. Floodgate Games did not skimp on anything here. Now, the game box suggested 14+ years, and frankly I’m confused. Obviously there is no mature content and though it is certainly not a good game for young children, 14 is too high I think. This is a pretty accessible and attractive game that I highly recommend. Well of course I do…it’s in my Top 30 games of all time!

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2QaYBK7


#34 – Dice Forge

Dice Forge

At a Glance: Dice Forge accelerates down a slope to a fun conclusion that is over too soon. So just play again and actually craft your own dice!

Dice Forge is a dice-crafting game for 2-4 players where you will actually be changing the sides of your dice as you play to make them more and more powerful. Each player starts the game with a light and dark die, and a personal inventory board that tracks Gold, Sun Shards, Moon Shards, and Glory. At the start of each turn, all players roll both dice for a Divine Blessing, and add those to their inventory. Then the active player may either Make an Offering to the gods in return for a new dice face to forge onto their dice, or they may perform a Heroic Feat by turning in Sun or Moon Shards to gain a card and its ability. After the set number of rounds, whoever has the most Glory Points is the champion of champions.

First of all, the main draw of this game is the fact that the die faces are interchangeable and that you will be upgrading them as the game goes on by replacing the starting sides with beefier options. You can use the new plastic die face to pop the other side off, which is just cool. As far as gameplay, there is an interesting mix of randomness and methodical engine-building strategy. Even if you purchase new sides for your dice, there is always a chance you will be really unlucky and just not roll them. But the idea is that if you upgrade your dice enough, they will inevitably provide great benefits. There are also a broad array of options on a turn, which I also like. There are plenty of potential avenues to victory, cool new sides to forge onto your dice, and 15 different Heroic Feats to attempt. There are even 9 advanced Heroic Feats that you can use to replace any of the basic ones! No matter what you do, it always feels like you’re doing something awesome.

Dice Forge is published by Libellud, who really knows how to produce a great-looking game. The presentation is outstanding, despite just being cardboard & plastic, it feels so much more deluxe than that. This also has one of the best box inserts out there, and you even use the box bottom to place the upper pools of the high Temple on. Take a look at the dice pictured above, and you can see the removable squares…really an innovative idea. I definitely recommend this unique game.

Check it out! https://amzn.to/2SkJM4c


#44 – CV

cv

At a Glance: CV takes The Game of Life to the next level. It’s a great dice game.

CV is a game for 2-4 players where each person makes their way through a hypothetical life, rolling dice to acquire cards. The cards up for grabs constantly cycle across the board and on each turn, players roll dice to acquire one or more cards on the board. The cards are separated into Early, Middle, and Old age. The game has a Yahtzee mechanic where players may reroll dice twice after the initial roll, but if you roll Bad Luck, then it locks the dice and prevents you from rerolling it. Cards are also separated into different categories like Knowledge, Jobs, Social, Health, and Possessions, all of which will score Victory Points depending on how many you have by the end. Many cards provide symbols that you may use to then purchase additional cards as the game goes on. These symbols on the cards and dice represent things like Money, Relationships, Health, Knowledge, Good Luck and the aforementioned, dreaded Bad Luck. 3 Bad Luck symbols, and you have to get rid of one of your cards. 3 Good Luck symbols let you take an extra card for free. Also, each player has a private personal life goal that provides Victory Points if completed by the end of the game, and a few common public life goals that anyone can complete. Whoever has the most points at the end is the winner.

As you may have surmised, this game is like The Game of Life, but with dice and much more decision-making. The Yahtzee mechanic also feels familiar and is an easy idea to teach and learn. Of course, depending on the luck of the dice, your options may be limited, but ultimately it just feels cool to add cards and achievements to your life, no matter what they are. It is funny how thematic the cards are as well. Having twins is nice, but in addition to the benefits it provides, it also costs money. Being a successful manager is great, but your relationships suffer. The life goals also provide an overarching agenda that you need to keep in mind, and it is a welcome element I think. There is not much direct player interaction, but you can see what kinds of cards the other players are going for and can choose to interfere if you wish.

Components are good, dice are well made, and the artwork is humorous on the cards. It’s interesting because it is certainly a mix between The Game of Life and Yahtzee, but does not feel too derivative. If you like either of those games and want something deeper and more thematically interesting, I recommend this one.

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2ORmZus


#57 – Escape: The Curse of the Temple

Escape

At a Glance: Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a chaotic Indiana Jones-like exploration game set to an intense 10-minute soundtrack!

Escape: The Curse of the Temple is an intense real-time cooperative game for 1-5 players who are exploring a lost temple that could collapse at any moment. Each player starts the game with 5 dice and the temple begins with only three tiles. New tiles are placed as players explore the rooms, so the temple will look different each time. All players roll dice, explore new rooms, and perform actions SIMULTANEOUSLY. The game comes with a CD with a 10-minute soundtrack, which doesn’t just provide an optional atmosphere. There are a couple of moments in the soundtrack where players will have to race back to the starting tile before the gong sounds or they may lose a die. Players must roll the necessary symbols to explore new rooms or activate green gems. But if they roll a black cursed symbol, that die is locked and cannot be rolled unless they roll a golden mask that restores up to 2 cursed dice. It is in all the players’ interest to activate as many gems as possible, because the more gems are activated and moved out of the gem depot, the easier it will be to escape. Once the Exit tile is found, ALL players must exit before the final gong sounds and the temple collapses. Even if only one explorer is left behind and crushed, everyone fails.

Wow, this might be the most stressful game I’ve ever played, but it is so fun. It can certainly be very chaotic, especially with 4 or 5 players, as everyone is rolling and communicating. At least they should be communicating some because there are certain tiles where players can combine their dice rolls in order to activate the highest number of gems. Amidst all this excitement, you may hear a panicked explorer yell out “oh no! I have 4 cursed dice!” or something like that. All of a sudden, you may have to change your focus and rush to save someone. AND as you’re exploring, you start hearing the music pick up and you realize you must ditch what you’re doing and race back to the starting tile. There is so much tension in this game, it feels much longer than 10 minutes. Because of the speed element though, once you learn the game, this can be a quick game to bring out when you don’t have much time.

I ripped the CD so I could have the mp3s, which makes it easier to play the soundtrack wherever. They do have 2 soundtracks to choose from, though I think the overall timing is the same, just a different style. The game also comes with 2 expansions, “Treasures” and “Curses” which adds even more variability to the gameplay. Unfortunately, the game is out of print right now, so the best bet would be to find a good used copy, however, they have now released an Escape: Zombie City version that would be much cheaper, if that interests you as well.

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2Do0yMf

Great Components

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Real-time or speed games are pretty polarizing. Love them or hate them, stress is usually a by-product. The excitement either makes it fun or frustrating depending on who you are. Here are a few good speed games that did not make my Top 100:

UNO Madness – I would rather play this one than regular UNO. You place nice UNO tiles in a row on a raised board that “pops” up (a la Perfection) and throws the tiles everywhere. Fast-paced and tense.

Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game – This one is more of a novelty. It was published in 1996 and comes with a VHS where Darth Vader talks to you and you must act quickly to blow up the Death Star. They could re-release and update this one and it would probably be successful.

Channel Surfing – This game from 1994 involves flipping through channels trying to find a set of random items. I no longer own this one because it is hard to make it work when you don’t have cable.

Dutch Blitz – “A Vonderful Goot Game”. This card game from Pennsylvania Dutch heritage is played intensely in families everywhere. Chaotic, simple, and fun. Watch those fingernails though.

Linking – Decent card game of quick word association

#58 – Squirmish

Squirmish

At a Glance: Squirmish is a crazy card battle game with some humor and fun illustrations.

Society of Slime members

Squirmish is a game for 2-4 players that has a fairly simple idea. Battle your opponents’ creatures and be the first to knock out 3 of them. You start with a hand of cards with “beasties” on them, and you play them down on the board oriented toward yourself and adjacent to other cards. All creatures on the table are in the same big melee (aka Squirmish). Each creature card lists different types of attacks or actions depending on what you get on a single die roll. On your turn you pick one of your creatures to attack with and choose a target. Then roll the die and attack and depending on the roll, you generally deal damage (in the form of little googly eyes) to an opposing beastie. Many times, if you roll a very high number, this unlocks an ultra special move that can result in a lot of damage dealt or some other cool action. Each creature also has an extra special action or two that they can trigger, and some also belong to groups/clubs and if there are more than one of their group in the fight, a special ability is unlocked. Also, and I would be remiss to not mention this, but each creature has a goofy Battle Cry shown in quotes on the card. If you say the battle cry aloud the first time you use it to attack, you deal 1 extra damage. In summary, there are a lot of abilities, dice rolls, movement, and damage going around. If a creature’s damage equals its hit points, that creature is knocked out and claimed by the opponent who attacked. First person to knock out 3 beasties is the winner.

This is a fun, crazy, card battle game that exceeded my expectations. There are so many abilities on the various beasts on the board, especially in a 3-4 player game, it can get really crazy. I usually am not a big fan of games making you say things aloud, but I actually like the added flair of the battle cry bonus, only because I feel it fits the tone of this game 100%. You know, it is kinda funny and hard to explain, because there are aspects of the game that are normally potential detractions for me: cards are text-heavy, gameplay is luck-heavy, and saying a phrase or word aloud as an actual mechanic. However, for what it sets out to be, the formula comes together in an appealing way to equal FUN.

The Kitty Kat Club

Components are good, and there are 70 great, linen-finish cards. A BIG kudos goes out to the game designer Steven Stwalley, who also did all of the funny little illustrations of each creature. You hardly ever see that kind of care and involvement from start to finish. You won’t hear about this game much elsewhere, and it may never sell very much, but I love that I came across it and decided to try this goofy-looking game with googly eyes and silly battle cries. It’s just a really good time. If it looks like it’s up your alley, give it a chance!

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2RxA1zd

Some of my favorites

#59 – The Settlers of Catan

Catan

At a Glance: The Settlers of Catan changed the board game scene for good and is a modern classic. At its heart, it is a down-to-earth gateway to a larger world.

The Settlers of Catan (now simply known as Catan) is a Euro-style German game for 3-4 players that was first released in 1995. On each turn, dice are rolled that correspond to resource spaces on the board, and all players who have settlements adjacent to what was rolled collect those resources. Players then use those resources to build features like roads, settlements, and cities. However, during all this, a roaming thief steals valuable resources from players. After gathering resources, players may trade with each other. Trading can be crucial, because it is likely that you will not automatically have all the resources you need just based on where your settlements are. If you do not wish to trade with the other players, you may also use Maritime Trade by turning in sets of identical resources. All this comes together and acts as a sort of race. The first settler to get to 10 Victory Points is the winner. Several things provide VP’s like settlements (1), cities (2), having the Longest Road or Largest Army (2), and finally there are Development Cards that sometimes provide single VP’s as well. If at ANY point during your turn you have 10 VP’s , the game immediately ends and you win.

Catan is a fickle but fun island. The luck of the dice can really sway the game in a certain direction, but the tactical choices amidst all that are significant nonetheless. Avid strategic gamers can find enjoyment here because you are building an engine so to speak, in order to get to 10 points, but the dice and player interaction is attractive to those who may never have delved into this style of game before. I think part of Catan’s success lies in the many flavors it provides. Aside from the tactics and interaction, you also have some fun luck in the dice rolls, and a little nastiness too when the robber gets moved around.

This game has become a legend at this point, and for good reason. Simply put, it is a solid game, and I also appreciate it for opening up the board game market a bit. Nowadays there are so many great Board Games, including Euro-style games that have been wholeheartedly embraced in the USA. Components are OK, and honestly the game doesn’t LOOK exciting, but it is like a cheese that looks unassuming on the outside but contains some great complex flavors once you bite into it. And now, there are so many expansions and variations that further spice up the Catan-iverse. Catan is a great gateway game into the larger world of hobby board gaming.

Check it out: https://amzn.to/2F1kF4q


#60 – Rolling America

Rolling

At a Glance: Rolling America provides a sudoku-like challenge, spiced up with some unpredictability and spatial judgment.

Rolling America is a roll-and-write dice game for 1+ players where you write numbers in a group of boxes shaped like the United States. The map on the scoresheet is separated into 6 colored regions. On each turn, 2 random dice are pulled out of the bag and rolled, and players place those numbers in the corresponding colored regions. The one rule on placement is that no 2 adjacent numbers can have a difference of more than 1 (i.e, a 4 cannot be placed next to a 2). A clear wild die is included that can be used for any of the regions. 6 total dice are pulled out each round and the game ends after 8 rounds. If at any point you cannot legally place a number you must put an “X” in a box. The winner is the player with the least amount of X’s.

To combat some of the luck factor, there are 3 types of special actions you can perform, and you get 3 each of these: Guard, Dupe, and Color Change. Guarding a number lets you place a number anywhere that would normally be illegal. To signify this you circle that number. Duping lets you write a particular number in 2 different boxes instead of 1. This is especially useful when using the wild die. Then a Color Change means that you can change the color of a number rolled so you can place it in a different region. These actions balance out the game just enough, while retaining the challenge. Knowing when to use them is crucial, because any that you don’t use in a game is simply lost at the end. Since there are 7 total dice but only 6 drawn each round, you are never quite sure that a certain color is going to be rolled. I like this added uncertainty. All this adds up so well. I like the spatial aspect, the puzzly nature that feels sorta like sudoku, and the fact that the unpredictable & lucky part of it is balanced out with the margin of control that you have.

This game was actually based on a Japanese game called Rolling Japan, but that version is much harder to find in the USA for a good price. However, I would actually recommend the America version anyway because they added those special actions. The production quality is identical to Qwixx, which is another Gamewright-published dice game. These dice are very well-made and look great. There are plenty of scoring sheets, double-sided, and it comes with a little bag. This is such a good dice game and really, you can play with as many people as you want, since there is no player interaction needed—almost like Bingo in that regard. I highly recommend this one!

Cheap! Great stocking stuffer: https://amzn.to/2DiDNcv