When I think of Blue Orange, I think of the big wooden kids games like Chickyboom or Pengoloo or Gobblet Gobblers. However, they surprised me at Toy Fair with the a larger variety of games in their catalog.
Of course, there are always the expected new variations on Spot It, like Spot It Splash, a summer themed version on plastic waterproof cards that you can toss into the mesh bag (similar to the Gobblet on the Go bag) and take down to the beach or into the pool ($14.99, boxed version). Also, Spot It Freeze, an version with hot and cold themed icons will be available in a much larger box with an electronic timer. Spot It Freeze ($25) has multiple game modes, such as racing against a random timer (10, 20, or 40 seconds) or freezing other players to get rid of your stack.
But that’s what I expected to find at Blue Orange. Certainly not a lovely little game called Niya. Here, you play on a four-by-four grid in a Japanese garden, trying to get four pieces in a row or square. However, you force your opponent’s next move by the tile you select. Each tile in the garden has two symbols: play on the a tile with reeds and a cloud and your opponent must choose a tile with one of those two symbols. It is a clever little game that retails for $12.99 and will be available in May.
I didn’t expect to find a cute micro-card game with role selection, either. BraveRats, a $10 game, has players choosing rats from their Scottish clan to duel. The rank of the card determines the winner, but the ability of each rat may change the course of the game: You play the Princess (1) and I play the Prince (7), I would win with the higher card. However, the Princess’ ability automatically has her win the game if played against the Prince. BraveRats comes in a small tin.
Battle Sheep is an area control game. Place stacks of sheep tokens on a field, send a portion of your stack as far as it can go in a direction to block your opponents and graze as much territory as possible. It feels a bit like an inverted Hey! That’s My Fish. Battle Sheep scales nicely between two, three, and four players. This game will retail for $29.99.
Normally when I’m at shows like the NY Toy Fair, I don’t participate in full demos. I try to see just enough to inform our readers about the game. Battle Sheep — that I played through. Also Aztack, a domino stacking game where you build upwards, matching color or symbol to lay a new tile. The only other rule is the orientation of new tiles: they must cover one square on two different tiles. We played using a prototype version shown below. The final version will have darker blues and oranges. Aztack will retail for $24.99.
The last game we looked at was Doodle Quest, which is a bit of a puzzle game hybrid. You (and the other players) have transparent overlays; everyone attempts to solve the puzzle on the sheet in the middle of the table. It might be a maze to solve, you may have to draw lines from a mermaid to her similarly-colored dolphin, or something where you’re circling some stars but not planets… Which sounds easy, except you’re drawing on your transparent overlay over here and the maze is in the center of the table way over there. When everyone is done, they place their transparencies on top of the puzzle and see how well they did. It’s a silly little game for 1-4 players, 6 and up. Doodle Quest will retail for $24.99
When it comes to children’s games, one of my favorite publishers is Haba. Unlike most game companies that may start at games for six year olds or eight and up, the Germany-based company’s game products start as young as two, yet they have a deep line of games to appeal to older children and adults playing with kids. All games will be available in English or French for the North American market. Everything listed below is either currently available or will be available before summer 2014.
First up, Fire Dragon: roll dice, move your dragons around the board and drop rubies into the volcano. Eventually the volcano “erupts”: a player lifts the tin top off the volcano center piece off, spilling gems across the board. Your dragon flies around the countryside swooping up gems as she goes. Fire Dragon is rated 5+ and will retail for $40.
Possibly my favorite game from Haba this year is Orinoco Gold. You’ll need a lot of table space for this one — the board is nearly 40 inches long! Your team of explorers races across logs that are being swept downriver to grab gold on the far bank and return to their camp. It is a simple dice game that has players deciding who to move and which logs to send downstream and help/hinder their opponents. Orinoco Gold is rated for 7+ and retails for $36.
But what if you like volcanoes and gold? You might want to pick up Plucky Pilots, a game that “is played a lot” at the Haba offices. The game is a press-your-luck dice rolling game, with a pilot flying towards a volcanic island where shipwrecked gold coins litter the shoreline! Roll rectangular dice to show which pathways your pilot can fly. Early in the game, you have lots of choices, but as you get closer to the final island, there are fewer routes to take. Stop and bank your gold or continue and possibly lose everything? This game is for 6 and up, and retails for $21.
Sherlock Kids is an observation and memory game, with players trying to catch an art thief. Contained in a large, thematic envelope, there are twenty complex paintings. After all players look at the painting (printed on a durable fabric about the size of an A3 sheet of paper), one player covers it and asks a question about it: “How many balloons were there in the upper-left corner?” Using cardboard discs, the others dial in their answers. Those that are right get closer to catching the thief. Like many Haba large box boardgames, the box becomes part of the game board. Sherlock Kids is rated for 5+ will retail for $28. This game is currently in stock.
For the younger crowd, Haba debuted several games in the My Very First Games line, all suitable for two year olds and higher. Teddy’s Colors and Shapes ($15) is a shape recognition and matching game. Counting Fun ($29) is a counting game with double-sided farm animal tiles and big, clunky wooden shamrocks. One, Two Hoparoo! ($29) is a simple roll and move game with frogs hopping towards a pond. All of these games come with big wooden dice and alternative levels of play to grow with your child’s counting abilities.
Also debuting in the My Very First Games line is Lilli’s Favorite Clothes, one of the first games that isn’t in the familiar Haba yellow box packaging. Lilli’s Favorite Clothes (and forthcoming Unicorn in the Clouds, to be released in the fall) will be in pink packaging, which has worked well for marketing in Europe. Lilli’s Favorite Clothes has players creating outfits for Lilli and her friends by drawing tiles in a memory game and placing them on the correct friend. Like the other games in the line, this can be staged up for slightly older children: players can roll dice which dictate which clothing items must be found next. This game will retail for $21.
Stepping away from the yellow box packaging is Who’s Who at the Zoo? This is the first game packaged in the Terra Kids branding, Haba’s outdoor activity line. One player selects an animal and the others try to guess it by asking questions about relative speed, size, and weight to another animal. If you aren’t sure if a polar bear is faster than a giraffe, the game book has tables and educational animal facts to help out. This is rated for 6 and up, 3-5 players, and will retail for $15.
Maus van Klecks (aka Mouse Van Klecks) is a like minded matching game of colors. One player chooses a subject and everyone secretly decides which three colors would be used to paint that thing. Reveal your painter’s palette and gain points for matching others. What colors did you choose for butterfly? Blue, red, and orange? Maus van Klecks is rated for 5+ and retails for $21.
Pick a Patch seems to be a slightly older (ages 3-12 ) version of My Very First Games: Touching and Feeling: a tactile game where players draw matching tiles from a bag based on texture. Where Touching and Feeling (ages 2+) uses wooden shapes, Pick a Patch uses textured squares and players get to shove them into a monster’s mouth when they are right. Pick a Patch will retail for $36.
Our last game is Brandon the Brave, where a brave knight completes tasks by placing triangularly shaped tiles to create the countryside. Place tiles in the right order to complete four tasks to win. A game for 5+, retailing for $14.
One of the busiest booths at NY Toy Fair’s first floor boardgame section was Asmodée’s. Several bright yellow tables were full of games–some demos, others simply set up to showcase the game. While there were dozens of games available for buyers to examine, there were a large number of items debuting.
Two games in embossed metal tins the size of the Timeline series where demoed first: Continental Express and The Builders: Middle Ages.
Continental Express is a game about completing train deliveries. Three cards are shown, each showing the three different train cars that are needed to complete a delivery. Underneath the three delivery cards is a matrix of train cards and workers. Draft a card into your hand from the left and all cards that row shift over. You’re seeing what train cars are coming up and may be maneuvering good cards to a position where your opponent can grab them easier. Add in a secret victory condition for each player, and there’s your fast-playing set collection train game in a tin. Continental Express is due in mid-March and retails for $18.
The Builders: Middle Ages is a card game about creating buildings in the Middle Ages. Pretty simple description, no? Square cards featuring buildings, like The Mill or The Aqueduct, are up for grabs, as are the labor force. Each building requires a certain amount of work effort in four different categories while each builder provides a few levels in each. Combine workers to complete and score buildings, redistribute your workers to various projects, and become the grand architect. The Builders is available now for $18.
Moving to larger boxes, Splendor is a game of bidding on gem stone cards to create works of jewelry for wealthy clients. This game retails for $40 and will be available before summer.
The classic game Hotel Tycoon will be making a move to North American markets “soon”. Travel around the board, invest in buildings, and try to be the last tycoon standing.
Concept is an interesting party game, where players try to guess a key word based on icons that represent different elements of the item. You know what? It’s better to go with an example for this one. Jean draws a card and selects a word on it, then starts placing markers on a board covered with icons. Feminine, art. We start calling out “Mona Lisa”, “The Statue of Liberty”, but Jean places a concept marker on face. Markers in the color used on art go on red, orange, yellow… all the color spaces. Female, art, face, multiple colors… lipstick? “Makeup!” This loud, abstract party game retails for $40 and should be available on February 28th.
Lewis & Clark: The Expedition, available near the end of March, is a game of exploration geared towards the hobby gamer. Players take on the roles of an expedition force, finding passage across western North America to the Pacific. Lewis & Clark is a resource management racing game retailing for $45.
Formula D will have a new race circuit board, New Jersey on one side, Sochi on the other. This will be available in March. While no price was mentioned at Toy Fair, past expansions retail for $30.
For a relatively new company in the American market, Iello’s presence at Toy Fair was pretty impressive (a large end-cap booth upstairs). In terms of Iello’s new games, ones that we haven’t reported on before were a small but diverse set.
Piña Pirata ($20), from designer Donald X. Vaccarino, is a card game of anthropomorphic pirates and, at least at the beginning, simple rules. In turn, players attempt to lay down cards with matching pirates but draw cards if they can’t. The first to empty his hand of cards wins the round. The winner of the round then draws two treasure map tiles. One is retained for scoring—four tiles, forming an “x”, marks the game winner—and one is selected for the rule on its reverse, which is added to and changes the game going forward.
Think Again ($16), by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc, is a party trivia game with very easy questions. The trick is that the proper answer is sometimes the correct one and sometimes an incorrect one, depending on which of various symbols is displayed on the back of the next card.
The Night of the Giant Octopus (rough translation from the French prototype) is a satirical take on a Lovecraft game (but unlicensed, so it includes no specific Cthulhu references). In addition to some beautiful art, the game has going for it a focus on deception and negotiation reminiscent of Cosmic Encounter. Each player moves one cult figure and one monster figure around the board (representing a university for young sorcerers) trying to collect a set of items necessary for a summoning. Whenever two or more players’ cultists end up in the same room, those players must agree on which one gets to collect the item. They can make any sort of deal but if they can’t agree, both of their cults lose a strength point. A player who’s cult loses all five points is out of the game.
Ares Games is giving away some of its just released WWI Wings of Glory Airplane Packs in a quiz contest.
In honor of the Winter Olympics, Caveman Curling is 50% off from Eagle Games.
Minion Games is selling off some copies of Hegemonic without the box for $25.
To celebrate the launch of his corporate Facebook page, Chevee Dodd is giving away Tuesday Night Tanks and an expansion.
This Mama Knows is giving away Scrabble from Hasbro.
Gamer Chris is challenging people to identify the games for 43 meeples. The one who gets the most correct will win Eurphoria from Stonemaier Games and a randomly chosen entrant will win Nanuk from Steve Jackson Games.
Save 25% on aviation titles from Osprey Publishing.
An arrangement with Russian game company, Zvezda, will see Playroom Entertainment this year distributing models based on Disney Pixar Cars and Planes. The models are simple snap-together kits designed for children ages 7+. Most will be sold individually for $10. However, there will also be larger sets, Cool Twists and High Pilotage, which will include two models and a basic racing game each for $25. The individually-sold models will come with stat cards so they too can be played with the games.
In 2014 Playroom Entertainment launches Geek Out Pop Culture Party ($20), similar to the company’s Geek Out trivia game but more mainstream. The categories are TV, movies, music, and literature.
Qwitch ($10), a fast-play card game that Playroom is taking over from Mattel, involves playing letter and number cards in a sequence set by + and – cards.
Fusion ($12) is another fast-play card game, but one that combines three of the usual mechanisms in to one game. There’s one pile to play cards that match color or symbol, on pile to play cards sequentially, and one pile to play cards that neither match color or symbol and are also not in sequential order.
Shuffle Dice is a tabletop shuffleboard game that uses 12 and 20-sided dice instead of pucks. In the basic game, the die-result doesn’t matter but in the advanced game, players earn bonus points for higher rolls.
And finally, Penalty Pong is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s beer pong but when a player misses a cup, instead of taking a drink, that player draws a penalty card, which are of two types. A card either adds to the difficulty of the game (such as dictating use of the non-dominant hand) or requires performance of an embarrassing action (such as giving another player a back rub).
Hapsburg Eclipse from Victory Point Games is a light solitaire war game about the difficult position facing the Austro-Hungarian monarchy during the First World War. The game is driven by 50 historically-based event cards and challenges the player to progress on five combat fronts (Italian, Blakan, Romanian, Carpathian, and Polish) while maintaining loyalty among the disparate nationalities of the empire.
Hapsburg Eclipse can also be combined with an earlier release, Ottoman Sunset, as either a larger solitaire game or a two-player coop.
As with other titles from Victory Point Games, Hapsburg Eclipse is available either bagged (for $17) or boxed with a mounted mapboard (for $26).
The New Zealand Festival of MindSports runs Friday through Sunday, February 28th-March 2nd, in Thames. The event features Bridge, pub trivia, Chess, miniature war games, Draughts, Scrabble, Mahjong, Backgammon, Magic: The Gathering, Sudoku, Dungeons & Dragons, Poker, Snooker, and Blackjack. A registration fee of $15 covers entry in to all events.
Medals will be awarded in a MiniPentamind tournament for players that accumulate points playing Backgammon, Chess, Draughts, Mahjong, Scrabble, and Bridge.
Mayday Games had a mock up of Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000 available at Toy Fair. This game, reminiscent of the “You are free to eat. Have a dumpling” scene from Kung Fu Panda, has players trying to get the same colored pieces out of a central bowl using chopsticks at the same time. Use your chopsticks to block, grab, and steal the pieces you need!
(Photo above has place holder components.)
Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000 will be appearing on Kickstarter within 2-3 weeks.
The two new offerings from Mayfair Games are Mad City and Karnickel, both available before summer 2014.
Mad City is a speed tile-laying game where players try to match up different colored districts to form large contiguous blocks in just one minute. While frantically grabbing and arranging tiles, players can grab special tokens to bet that they have completed certain mini-goals, such as having the longest street in their city, the most parks, or more of one type of area. As fast-paced as the game is, Mad City comes with an expert mode where players complete certain levels of construction (like a four-block residential section) before unlocking additional point bonuses. Mad City retails for $35.
Karnickel is a quick light strategy roll and move game for players 6 and up. In Karnickel, the players use the colored results on dice to move bunnies out of, and often into, the path of an oncoming train as they scramble for the carrots growing on a railway track. But fear not for our furry friends! If the train passes through a rabbit’s space, the bunny just hops out of the way, scattering carrots as it flees for it’s adorable little bunny life. Karnickel retails for $20.