A program of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association offers certification as a Play Expert. Training and testing for the certification is available online ($600) and in-person ($800) and consists of modules on child development, types of play, play advocacy, and more.
Certification as a Play Expert is open to all but ASTRA also has a program just for retailers, Certified Master Retailer, and is planning to launch soon programs for Certified Toy Manufacturer and Certified Toy Sales Representative.
Nissan is sending out free copies of its promotional game, Altimatums. The game is packed to fit in a cup holder and includes two decks of cards.
The driver draws a destination card, and the passengers draw Altimatum cards with interesting activities to do when you get there.
Nissan’s example: “Drive to the busiest spot in your neighborhood,” and, “Hug the next stranger you meet.”
At the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Chrysler’s press kit for the Pacifica minivan was built around a board game. It was a roll-and-move game called “Race to the Family Reunion” and featured a board with Detroit landmarks, a deck of event cards to draw on marked spaces, and minivan-shaped pawns.
Strat-O-Matic is adding a new option to the digital versions of its card game baseball simulator, one that will update player stats on a daily basis.
A different sort of baseball card game, Baseball Highlights 2045 by Eagle-Gryphon Games, is now available for iOS devices.
Duels, a new feature of digital Splendor, is a competitive version of Challenges, which are supposed to be more puzzle-like and up until now were single-player. Duels are played against the AI. Still no online multiplayer.
Exploding Kittens’ new iOS version is not just a simple port. Nope cards are gone, others are in their place, and there’s a probability meter that shows how likely the next card is to be TNT.
Pathfinder Adventures, the digital version of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, is due in March.
The last of the Sentinels of the Multiverse expansions, OblivAeon, will launch on Kickstarter on February 9th. The final installment of the popular superhero card game will include addons and lots of stretch goals., like the limited edition hero promo cards, previously only available as convention and Kickstarter exclusives. “We have been pretty public about the fact that the story we’re telling has a beginning, a middle, and an end,” said Christopher Badell. “And we’re finally nearing that end.”
Greater Than Games had announced that they were moving away from Kickstarter to a pre-order system for expansions for their games, only using the crowdfunding platform to launch new titles. With the announcement for OblivAeon, Badell says they are heading back to Kickstarter to help organize the launch of that product. Citing technical difficulties and issues with some international orders during last year’s self-hosted preorder for Villains of the Multiverse, he said past experiences with Kickstarter campaigns help to avoid those issues. “We wanted to include a number of products [with OblivAeon’s launch] that have been long-promised and long-anticipated, and we didn’t want them to get lost in the shuffle with a preorder,” he said.
Number 1 in this week’s Highlights isn’t a game. I’m not even sure the campaign is thinking about games rather than just toys. But it’s a cause worthy of our support. And that cause is #ToyLikeMe, an effort to have better representation of people with disabilities in children’s toys. The #ToyLikeMe campaign has already brought Playmobil around to the idea of producing figures with disabilities. And just today, Lego revealed a minifigure in a wheelchair. To help keep the campaign growing, though, its organizers are asking for £16,000 to develop a professional website and associated resources. Drop a little in the hat, will you?
Crowdfunding campaign number 2 this week is for a card game version of Manhattan Project, Minion Games’ title about developing and building nuclear weapons. I love the original and Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction looks to be a great translation. Of course all elements of the game—workers, resources, buildings, etc.—are now represented by cards. A more interesting difference, however, lies in the fact that at the end of each turn, a player has to discard every factory, every university, everything that’s not a resource or a bomb. This means that the industrial engines that players chain together will now constantly need to be refreshed.
Thief’s Market from Tasty Minstrel Games is about dividing and spending loot. The loot is represented by dice, which the players take turns either selecting from the center or grabbing from one of their fellow thieves. Then when the dice are all split up, they can be spent on finery, useful items, or henchmen, each of which confers some later benefit. At the end, the thief with the most notoriety wins. That is campaign number 3.
Number 4 is Fabulous Beasts. This one, at first, looks like a typical stacking game. Three-dimensional animal figures are placed on top of each other until something gives and everything falls. But that’s not actually the whole deal. Fabulous Beasts also integrates a sensor platform, such that as the animals are stacked a unique virtual world and story unfolds in a linked tablet app.
Finally, at number 5 is Olympus Inc, an urban fantasy setting book for the Savage Worlds roleplaying game. Olympus Inc is the story of a magical war between Titans and Olympians taking place in, but hidden from, modern society. With Olympians developing their power through corporate intrigue and the magical war hidden from the perception of ordinary people, Olympus Inc has a distinct cyberpunk element as well.
Spin Master Corp. of Canada is acquiring the entire game portfolio of Italian company Editrice Giochi. The latter’s most popular titles are Risiko, a variant of Risk, and Scarabeo, which is strikingly similar to but not officially a version of Scrabble. The purchase also includes the Editrice Giochi brand.
Spin Master did not reveal a price for the transaction but did state that it continues to be in the market additional acquisitions.
All of Dog Might Games’ inventory—every wood deck box and dice tower—is 30% off.
Atlas Games is clearing out copies of Once Upon a Time second edition for $15 (shipping included in the U.S.).
Mayday Games is giving away a copy of Captain Carcass.
Boards Alive is giving away a copy of Dead Drop from Crash Games. Listen to their podcast episode for the details.
For $10 off purchases of $50 or more from HasbroToyShop, use coupon code “SAVE10”.
This past Thursday, I attended the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Climate Change Game Night. The event in Washington, D.C. combined game demonstrations and short lectures, was entertaining and educational.
One of the games demonstrated at the Smithsonian was developed by students from the University of Oklahoma for the recent National Climate Game Jam sponsored by the White House. Their entry, Climate Conquerors, has players struggling to balance development and sustainability. While building cities and supplying their energy needs brings a player closer to winning, certain sources of energy (coal-fired power plants, for example) present a strategic risk. These contribute to global carbon emissions and subject their owner to increasingly destructive natural disasters.
Another game jam project there on Thursday was AdaptNation. This one, from students at the University of Washington, is a cooperative game that challenges players to meet the current resource needs of their individual cities while also preparing for future climate change impacts. If the resource needs are not met, a player must go in to debt, putting the whole nation at risk of bankruptcy.
A project of Smithsonian staff, Arctic Race is a game inspired by Forbidden Island. The players, as field scientists, must complete their research goals before the areas of arctic ice they’re studying melt. Each turn, players move their pawns based on their choice of transportation (which can’t be used again until every transportation method has been selected) and then take the action indicated by the space they land on.
Among the other games demonstrated at the game night were the card games, EcoChains, about building Arctic marine food chains, and Thirst for Power, about the interrelationships of energy, water, and climate change, as well as several computer-based games.
The night’s lectures included talks on a variety of climate issues. Professor Deborah Solomon of Montgomery College’s Gaming and Simulation program, also provided an introduction to resources that attendees might use for their own game design efforts.
The idiosyncrasies of international toy licensing means that some of the latest Star Wars games are not available (at least not officially) to us here in the North American market. Though new and packaged for The Force Awakens, some of these are also actually based on events and characters of the earlier movies.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ubongo is a fast-play puzzle game where the players race to fill in mission cards with a set of polyominoes. There are 50 different mission cards and each turn the players roll a die to determine whether to use First Order or Resistance pieces filling them in.
Star Wars Galaxy Rebellion is a push-your-luck dice game representing a competition between Han, Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca to see who will blow up the Death Star.
In Star Wars Labyrinth the goal is to find the various Star Wars characters at the center of a shifting maze.
A variant of the classic tile-laying game, Star Wars Carcassonne incorporates new rules for taking over other players’ planets and for dice-based combat over other features.
Star Wars: Secret Invasion is a Star Wars-themed version of Love Letter. Exclusive to the Russian market, the game is about rescuing Princess Leia with each round seeing one player closer to success.
Just released by Ravensburger, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rebel Forces is a Reiner Knizia design that requires “concentration and a quick response”, so fast-play memory?
According to retail data compiled by The NPD Group, the games and puzzles category scored top growth statistics among toys for 2015. U.S. sales of games and puzzles grew 10.8 percent, compared to 6.7 percent for toys overall. Following games were vehicles at 9.7 percent and building sets at 9.4 percent. The youth electronics category came in last, shrinking at a rate of 4.9 percent.
Content was a key driver behind the growth of the toy industry in 2015. Whether it be a movie (Star Wars, Jurassic World, Minions, and Avengers), television show (Paw Patrol), app (Minecraft), or a strong YouTube following (Shopkins), all of these properties with ties to content were top contributors to the growth. “Movies” in total outperformed the market in 2015, growing by 9.4 percent. With the early release of Star Wars toys on Force Friday, Star Wars managed to become the number-one property for the year, with over $700 million in sales. It also brought in more sales and contributed more growth than Jurassic World, Minions, and Avengers combined.