Mole Rats in Space

Card games are any types of games played primarily with cards, excluding collectible card games, but including Poker, Rummy, Bridge, and games with specialized card decks.

Toy Fair 2017—Looney Labs

You couldn’t walk by Looney Labs’ booth without getting a copy of Math Fluxx thrown at you. I kid, ’cause the crew at Looney are fantastic. We picked up a copy of Math Fluxx (releases tomorrow for $16!) which is a math-themed version of Fluxx. They said it’s a gift for us to check out, but what the heck, a mini-review:

It’s good.

Personally, I don’t like Fluxx — it’s not fun unless there’s a theme involved, and the theme of “math” simply isn’t exciting as “Zombies”, “Batman”, or “Monty Python”. So I wasn’t expecting to like this one, but it was a lot more fun than anticipated! The keepers in this game are numbers, 0 through 10 with lots of the low numbers, thinning out until you get to the 10. Goals are things like combining digits to get numbers, but there are extra rules (including two meta rules) that allow you to use actual math to reach the number on the goal card. It was crazy fun and we’ve broken it out a few times to play. Yeah, Fluxx just has to have a theme to get the family interested in it!

Math Fluxx: It’s Good™

Chemistry Fluxx is coming at the end of May. Use elements and laboratory equipment to match the current goal. Like Math Fluxx, Chemistry Fluxx has some basic educational components, and lots of puns.

Non-Fluxx news: Just Desserts has been out for a while, where you make treats for customers. And you probably know about Better with Bacon, a 10-card expansion that was released in late January featuring Maple Bacon Donuts, Bacon Ice Cream, and Kevin. But at GAMA this year, they will be offering Just Coffee, a retailer exclusive expansion that’s meant to be a giveaway. Go bug your local game store and tell ’em you want one!

Oh, and there’s an exciting announcement coming soon that they told me about that’s going to knock your socks off. (Available this fall.)

Also in the works: Time Breaker, a competitive game where you are attempting to stop the Time Breaker. Not much is public about it except it’s still in playtest and Looney Labs is shooting for a 2018 release.

Meanwhile, over at Fully Baked Ideas, the “more adult” imprint from Looney Labs — this is where Stoner Fluxx now lives — they have three new games on the horizon.

Stoner Loonacy (May, $14) is the game Loonacy with art from Stoner Fluxx. Players race to be the first to empty their hand of seven cards by matching them to the cards on the table.

Adult Mad Libs: The Game (June, $20) has all the madcap wordplay from Mad Libs, but with much more innuendo, “full of tasteful, sexy fun without any politics or put-downs”.

Fluxx turns 21 this year, and Fully Baked Ideas celebrates with Drinking Fluxx (July, $25). Complete with plastic cards in case anything spills, this version of Fluxx just might require liquid refreshments to play.

A copy of Math Fluxx was given to us free by Looney Labs but they didn’t know we were going to do a quick review of it, ha ha.

Attending PAX East and want to know who is exhibiting at what tables? We’ve been given the list of exhibitors in the tabletop hall, which currently do not show up in the Guidebook app, the only version of the program and show’s floorplan available.

The tabletop booths will be along the right (north) edge of the space, near the skybridge. From the main Queue Room entrance on up to the Lenovo Legion PC Room, the following companies will have a presence in the tabletop hall:

  • Gamewright, Q-Workshop, Asmodee NA
  • Compleat Strategist (local game store), Steve Jackson Games
  • Battleground Games & Hobbies (local game store), Level Up Dice, Fun to 11, Tectonic Craft Studios
  • CMON, Wyrmwood Gaming
  • Burning Wheel, Japanime/Global Games Distribution, Greenbriar Games
  • Modern Myths NY (“local” game store), Armor Class 10 Shirts
  • Pandemonium Games (local game store), Crit Success, Dragoon/Lay Waste Games
  • Atlas Games, United States Professional Mahjong League
  • Drinking Quest, Aviary Games, SFR
  • AdMagic
  • Greater Than Games
  • Foam Brain Games (“local” game store)

Although the PAX 2017 program book that appears in the Guidebook app doesn’t break down the tabletop hall, PAX’s Tabletop Manager has said that this year a detailed map of the tabletop area will appear in the program.

While there may not be much game to it, I had a lot of fun playing with Educational Insight’s upcoming Smash Pong ($22). It’s got an air-pressure canon, ping pong balls, challenge cards, and a bucket that doubles as target and storage. The canon (excuse me, it’s officially called a launcher) is powered by smashing your fist down on an air bladder. Of course, it’s really meant for much younger kids but that didn’t stop me from having a great time blasting balls across the aisles in to neighboring booths.

Providing more of an intellectually-focused experience but still for younger children, the company has Kanoodle Jr. ($15). It’s a challenge puzzle that like its senior counterpart involves fitting a variety of colored pieces in to a tray-base while matching the partial patterns on hint cards. What makes it more suitable for the junior crowd is its square tray and squared-off pieces.

For the very younger children (ages 2+), there’s Peekaboo Barn ($25). As you can imagine for that age, game play is quite simple. Press the chimney to spin the animals around, grab the closest animal, make its sound, and put it in the barn. If instead of a cow or sheep, it’s a rooster that comes up, the rooster’s cock-a-doodle-doo will wake up the last animal and draw it back out of the barn.

Sunrise Safari ($22) is, like the company’s Even Steven’s Odd, a fast-play dice-matching game. To make it suitable for players as young as 4, though, the matching process is slightly simplified and done with images of animals instead of typical dice with pips.

An introductory strategy game for ages 5+, Royal Roundup ($20) features a board with a bunch of mixed-up interconnecting paths. Each turn, players cross one path and collect a treasure. The idea is to think ahead, selecting the optimal paths for collecting the most high-valued treasures.

Another strategy title, Wiggle Waggle Whiskers ($22) pits cat player versus dog player, with each adding a new fence section every turn, and the first to surround all their cats or dogs being the winner.

Word on the Street ($20), formerly an Out of the Box Publishing game, plays kind of like tug-of-war with letters. Every time a letter shows up in a word used to respond to a question, that letter is pulled toward the answering team’s side of the street. There’s no right or wrong answers, only answers that pull more or better letters. Word on the Street Junior ($20) is exactly the same. It just comes with questions more appropriate for children.

Finally, another word game added to Education Insights’ catalog this year is After Words ($22). It’s one of those where players try to come up with words that begin with a specific letter. When they do, they can toss a matching letter card from their hand—getting rid of all seven is a win. The twist is they also have to match the final letter to the last letter marked on the board.

Retail Games

Pi Social, a cafe in Karachi, Pakistan, has opened a board game section with a daily cover charge of 329 Rupees (about $3). Customers can also get a free drink for beating the bartender at Connect-4.

At Sanctuary Games, which opened this month in Hutchinson, Minnesota, the owner was going to use a back room for a computer repair business but demand for games has been so strong that he’s keeping it as play space.

After a hiatus of a couple of months, Dragon Tears Gaming is reopening under new management at a new location at the East Pointe Village Shopping Center in Dunn, North Carolina.

Satellite Comics & Games is moving from Chatham, New Jersey to Madison and is dropping comics in the process.

In the barroom of the newly opened The Wooly Public in the Woolworth Building in New York City, the tables are painted with game boards.

Coffee & Dice, a game cafe opening next month in Boscombe, UK, will have custom-built game tables, which feature space underneath to stash game boxes while playing.

The Toy & Miniature Museum of Kansas City has started hosting adult game nights.

Kathleen Miller is raising funds on Kickstarter to open the House Rules Cafe in Hudson, New York.

In what the company’s PR people at Toy Fair said was a recognition of the growing strategy game market, Spin Master is making a bigger push in to hobby and specialty retail. To feed that push, Spin Master has acquired rights to Santorini from Roxley Games and 5-Minute Dungeon from Wiggles 3D.

Santorini is a three-dimensional abstract-strategy game patterned on the architecture of the cliff-side villages on Santorini Island, Greece. Each turn, players build out or up homes on Santorini island and also may move one of their builder pawns one space over, one level up, or any levels down. Whoever is first able to get a builder to the top of a third-level home, not capped with a dome, is the winner.

Besides the simple but engaging game-play, rocketing Santorini up the BoardGameGeek rankings are its beautiful components. Spin Master promises to keep the game and components the same, and sell it for $30.

5-Minute Dungeon ($20) is a fast-play cooperative card game. The idea is to throw down the matching symbols required to defeat each monster card in-order and go through the whole deck before time runs out.

Both games will be launched by Spin Master at Gen Con, where the company is planning a larger presence this year.

Not Parent Approved ($25) is a kid-friendly version of Cards Against Humanity for teens and tweens—in other words, irreverent and possibly gross but not crude or explicit. It comes with 105 question cards and 351 answer cards.




Game Blotter - A roundup of crimes, legal cases, and when "the law" gets involved with gamesPolice in New Delhi, India arrested a man for replacing cash in an ATM with fake 2,000 Rupee notes he got out of a board game that he had purchased for his nephew. The police were alerted by bank customers who were given currency guaranteed by the “Children’s Bank of India”.

Hasbro has applied for a U.S. trademark on the smell of Play-Doh.

Already banned by FIDE for misfeasance at the Bulgarian Chess Federation and improperly diverting money from Chess tournaments, Silvio Danailov and Vladimir Sakotic have allegedly used illegal means to take over the Serbian Chess Federation and have sent threatening and blackmailing emails to the president and board of the European Chess Union.

Teen siblings, Dorsa and Borna Derakhshan, have been banned by Iran Chess Federation from playing in domestic tournaments and representing the country at international events. Dorsa played at the recent Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival without wearing a hijab. Borna played a game against an Israeli.

A 23 year-old mother in Hong Kong was arrested by police for abandoning her baby (only 18 days old) unattended at her mother’s house so she could go play Mahjong. In consideration of the weeks she already spent in police custody and the support of her family, a magistrate sentenced the mother to just 12 months probation.

The Ningdu County Committee of the Communist Party of China has banned local officials from playing Mahjong. The goal of the order is to combat gambling, though it applies to any occasion, on-duty or off.

Between the two separate Mahjong games police raided in Davao City, Philippines, they arrested 11 people and confiscated gambling money totaling 320 Pesos (no more than $6.50).

A Denver-area high school principal was found guilty of 3rd degree assault for kicking his wife between the legs and punching her in the ribs. The incident occurred after he called her a “cheater” during a game of Backgammon. It’s unclear whether by cheating he was referring to the game or their marriage.

A man and woman were captured on video surveillance shoplifting $400 worth of Magic: The Gathering cards from a Walmart in Potsdam, New York. State police eventually caught the pair when they tried to sell the cards.

The makers of Secret Hitler, a Mafia-like game about the rise of fascism, sent a copy of the game to every member of the United States Senate, thinking maybe the education would do them good.

Sophisticated Games, which owns the rights to the original board game version of Ingenious (also known as Einfach Genial), registered a U.S. trademark for “Ingenious” and began demanding that the game’s designer, Reiner Knizia, pay a royalty for using that name on related game designs. Rather than acquiesce, Knizia has come up with a new name for games in that series—at least the ones for which he has the rights. So for example, there’s AXIO Hexagonal and AXIO Octagonal now available to play online. Under license from Sophisticated Games, though, Thames & Kosmos will be publishing the original in board game form as Ingenious later this year.

For the second month in a row, a car crashed in to a game shop. This time, the incident occurred at the Spielbound board game cafe in Omaha.

Portal Games has had its PayPal accounts frozen pending delivery of First Martians. The bulk of funds in those accounts were for preorders of the game. However, Portal assures customers that the move by PayPal will not interfere with delivery.

First in Parliament, then on Facebook, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar criticized the Leader of the Opposition for skipping a session of Parliament to officiate at a dog show in Brussels. Another MP responded by pointing out that a Government Minister had also missed a session to take part in a Backgammon tournament.

The immediate past president of the Northern Region Chess League in Malawi asserts irregularities in the latest election of officers. He claims that the president of the Chess Association of Malawi, who presided over the balloting, refused to let all local Chess players vote (as required by the organization’s constitution) and instead only accepted the votes of players who had participated in the last tournament.

The resignation of the president of the Japan Shogi Association wasn’t enough for members upset that the group’s leadership had banned a prominent player on suspicion of cheating but without evidence. A no-confidence vote has resulted in the ouster of three more board members.

As with Bridge and Chess, supporters are trying to get Sport England to declare Scrabble a sport.

A New York City police officer visiting the Virtual Crime Information Center for some training recognized the man on a wanted poster as a regular at the Chess tables in Washington Square Park. And so police went to the park and arrested him.

Two of four men in an SUV, who robbed and shot up a Dominoes game taking place in the parking lot of a Houston convenience store, were captured by police following a second incident later the same night.

An argument broke out between two people playing Dominoes in Dolores Park, San Francisco. One slashed the other’s arm with a pocket knife and escaped on-foot.

Toy Fair 2017—US Playing Card Company

The United States Playing Card Company is rolling out a new series of card games for children under the Hoyle brand name. Targeted at preschoolers, the card games play in fifteen minutes or less, and focus on sequence building, counting, and basic math. Each of the three card games in the line will retail for $5.99 and be available in July.

Piggy Bank is all about counting by fives and tens with simple adding and subtracting. Sharks Are Wild is a simple card game about sequence building and numerical identification, featuring cartoony sea images. Catch ‘N Fish also has cartoony fish images, but comes with a spinner from 1 to 10, with larger spaces near the tens. Play cards to add up to the number spun. Flip over the spinner and the larger spaces are near the low end of the number range for subtraction games. All three have cute little hangtags.

Toy Fair 2017—Playmonster

My favorite game for kids at Toy Fair was Ultra Dash (June, $25), Playmonster’s version of an earlier game, Hyper Dash. It has a set of targets in different colors and a wand (which they call a “tagger”) that flashes the same colors in varying patterns. Kids, or energetic adults, are supposed to run from room to room, plugging the wand in to the matching targets. Settings allow for most targets in a fixed time, quickest time for a fixed number of targets, or for play as a team relay game.

On the silly end of things, Playmonster had Belching Mikey (June, $10), a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles version of its hot-potato game, Stinky Pig.

This year, Playmonster is also bringing back two fast-play card games previously with other publishers, 7 Ate 9 and Qwitch (available shortly, $10 each). A player’s goal in both is to get rid of their cards by discarding in series. In 7 Ate 9, the next card follows the numbers on the previous one. So for example, the 4 ± 3 card can be followed by either 1 or 7. In Qwitch, cards have numbers and letters, and the direction for the following card is set by a separate deck with + and – symbols.

For adults, Playmonster is launching two party games. Accentuate (June, $25) has players reading movie quotes in various accents. Teammates able to guess the accent or movie earn points. Go Bleep Yourself (June, $25) is about filling in the blank (or bleep) with either something funny or something that turn’s reader would likely have said.

At Toy Fair, we stopped by Set Enterprises (maker of Set, Five Crowns, and Quiddler) to look at their new game, WordSpiel. WordSpiel, like Quiddler, consists of a large deck of cards — 110 of them — with each card featuring a letter. Unlike Quiddler, the game also comes with a sixty-second timer.

Here’s how it goes: we start with one letter card face-up. Each player gets ten letter cards and on their sixty-second turn, they play a word starting with the last letter(s) shown. So if the ever-growing spiral of cards reads STEP, the next player could play R, I, E, S, T for the word “priest”, and the lineup now looks like STEPRIEST. Then the next player could play R, A, N, D for the word “strand” using the ST at the end the spiral, and we’ve got STEPRIESTRAND.

When it’s not your turn, you can discard up to three cards from your hand, drawing replacements. If the timer goes off — there’s a ten second warning beep — the player has to draw a card and either place it at the end of the spiral or add it to your hand. Get rid of your cards and you win, everyone else gets as many points as they have cards left in their hand.

We played a three-player game and either were able to play cards right away or we realized we had nothing to play, also right away. We never went below forty seconds on the timer — even the ten year old didn’t — and we did have to adjust our hands a bit to find those elusive letter combinations to make something fit. But we never really needed the timer.

Overall a fun, quick game. The rules say the winner is the player with the lowest total score after five rounds, but three rounds was enough for us. I would recommend playing as many rounds as there are people playing.

WordSpiel was released in the past few days, so your store should have it now or shortly. It retails for $13.

Now, it’s my thought that a game deck featuring letters instead of numbers or pips needed something aside from just the rules one uses with the deck to make a game. For instance, there were four other new or re-issued games at Toy Fair we saw that used the same basics: a deck with letter cards. And there was also Quiddler at the same booth.

Playroom Entertainment’s Unspeakable Words also comes with little Cthulhu pawns. It’s one of many “make words with these letter” games, but this game has scoring based on the number of angles in the letter instead of rarity, and allows you to make up words with random letters if you go insane. A re-issue of the game in slightly different box is expected in May at a $25 retail price. Unspeakable Words has 96 letter cards.

PDQ from Gamewright is another re-issue, having been out of print for five years. The game finds itself as part of the small box Port-A-Party line (all games in this line are $10 retail) as just a box of 78 letter cards. Throw three cards down and try to make a word out of them either left-to-right or right-to-left. The letters N K B come out. Did you shout out “unknowable” before someone else called out “broken”? Then you grab those three cards and keep them as points. PDQ will be available in March.

(We wound up playing PDQ with our WordSpiel deck. The girl took the deck to school for after-class game club on Monday and just wound up playing PDQ with it, over and over.)

Tactic Games USA is bringing out Word Rush in June for just $20. Draw one of the fifty topic cards and name a word in that topic that begins with one of the nine letter cards shown. (100 letter cards in Word Rush.) Flip a sand timer and put it on the letter used. Now the next player has to name something that fits the topic starting with one of the eight other letters before the sand timer runs out. If they do, they flip and move the sand timer. So there’s some strategy in how you use the time available in addition to just naming words.

Or maybe you’d like Wordsy from Formal Ferret Games? That’s a reimplementation of Prolix by the same developer, but now uses 60 letter cards instead of chips. In Wordsy, you lay out eight letter cards in two rows, with each column of two cards assigned a point value from 2 to 5. Everyone searches for a single word that uses a lot of the letters shown; the first one to commit a word flips the sand timer, gaining a point to do so. And then, scoring. For the letters in the above photo, the word LEARNING would earn 19 points while the word GARBAGE would earn just 10. Wordsy will be out in June for $20.

You know, that looks like fun. We might give that a play with our WordSpiel deck.

A copy of WordSpiel was provided free for review by Set Enterprises.

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