Modern board games are games created after 1900 or so, including early games such as Monopoly and Scrabble, to the latest games from Europe and around the world.

Toy Fair 2014—Wonder Forge

Toy-Fair-2014-logo-150wideWith licenses for Disney, Dr. Suess, Marvel, DC, TMNT, and Star Wars, Wonder Forge had on display 13 new games for 2014.

Dr. Suess Charades ($14, July) takes the well-known game and makes it manageable for 3 year-olds. On one side of each display card are three choices for the one player to act out, and on the other side are six choices from which the other players can guess.

Meant to be played around the house, the Disney Sky Race Action Game ($24) mimics the air race of Disney’s Planes. Display signs representing waypoints in various countries are placed in different rooms. Then the players toss foam airplanes around the established circuit. During the course of the race, flight control cards set special conditions. For example, a wind card requires players to toss their planes with opposite hand. A turbulence card means the players have to toss their planes upside-down.

Jake and the Neverland Pirates Shipwreck Beach Treasure Hunt Game ($24, April) combines matching and action elements and includes components that will probably see just as much use as role-play toys. Looking through the included spyglass, children decode secret clues then run to grab matching treasures using a foam sword.

Another matching game with lots of role-play opportunities is the Doc McStuffins All Better Game ($24, April). It comes with a medical kit bag, spinner, cardboard medical instruments, and slap bracelet bandages.

Included in the Sofia the First Magical Tea Time Game ($25) are tea cup devices, which a player blows on (as if to cool the tea), spinning a piece that determines the color of treat that player is supposed to collect.

In the Disney Princess Palace Pets Pretty as a Picture Game ($13, fall), players try to complete basic puzzles of the princesses’ pets. Certain space on the spinner, though, allow them to switch puzzles with other players.

Pictopia ($24, fall) is a Disney roll-and-move trivia game that covers the whole range of Disney properties, including classic cartoons, modern animation, and even teen pop music. The game also incorporates a wagering element. Players can bet on the answers in order to move their tokens forward.

The Justice League Axis of Villains Strategy Game ($24, May) challenges players to defeat a range of villains before they blow up space mission control. This one is very card and dice driven. A six-sided die determines what type of card a player gets, while an eight-sided die is used for movement.

Marvel Avengers Slide Strike Battle Game ($13, fall) combines a Stratego-like game of hidden pieces with a sliding-block puzzle. Each piece, Marvel superheroes on one side and villains on the other, have different strength ratings for their front, left, and right edges. A die roll indicates how many slides a player may make to move pieces around the board. When a hero and villain come in contact, the winner of the battle is based on the strengths of those characters on the edges that touch. To show that the losing character is out of the game, its disc is removed from the sliding block.

In the Marvel Ultimate Spider-Man Trickshot Duel Action Game ($23, fall) players are supposed to take turns using these doohickeys to shoot plastic discs and try to knock top-like pieces from the opponents team out of a building-like pen. Supposed to take turns, I said.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Foot Clan Street Fight Game ($23, spring) has neat painted mini figures for each of the turtles and a board that varies with each game (the spaces are separate cardboard discs). In terms of play, though, it combines roll-and-move and matching.

Star Wars Spotcha! ($20, fall) is a grabbing game with small plastic pieces derived from the Star Wars universe: a speeder, C3PO’s head, Jabba the Hutt, and others. Someone drops all the pieces on the table and then the players rush to grab the ones that are lying in positions matching the players’ cards.

The Star Wars Rebel Missions Adventure Game is a cooperative, real-time, code-breaking game with an electronic device that acts as a timer and plays a soundtrack. The goal is to match the code and enter it on the device before time runs out. To collect pieces of the code, players visit Imperial installations on sabotage missions, using dice to collect the tools that will give them elements of the code.

Toy Fair 2014—Patch Products

Toy-Fair-2014-logo-150wideHaving taken over as of January the license for Stratego in North America, Patch Products had on display at Toy Fair four games tied to the classic title. Two, Stratego Original ($30, available May) and Stratego Sci-Fi ($20, available March), look and play the same as versions last published by Spin Master (I was told the artwork belongs to Royal Jumbo). One, Stratego Master’s Edition ($50, due in August), is just a deluxe version of Original. But one, Stratego Battle Cards ($10, available July), is a new game. Players lay out five cards as their front lines—there are cards for every traditional unit type—and then attack head-to-head.

Patch handles distribution of Perplexus (to specialty stores) and so was also showing Perplexus Warp, which introduces two new features to the 3D maze series. Number one, its shape is something the company is calling a “spherical octahedron”—still roughly round but now with eight somewhat flattened sides—designed to be easier to hold and less likely to roll off the table. Number two, there’s an external slider for manipulating the ball inside. This piece is given the name “warp drive”.

For 2014, Patch is also planning a The Game of Things 10th Anniversary Limited Edition, which at $40 will include a full new set of cards.

In Yowza ($8), players take turns flipping cards and chanting “Zap”, “Zoom”, “Boom”, “Bam”, “Wham”, and “Yowza”. Should the card a player flipped match the word that player chanted, then the whole discard stack becomes theirs. But of course the goal is to get rid of cards, not collect them.

And saving the best for last… Stinky Pig ($10, June) is a Hot Potato game. A die-roll tells players which way to pass the pig. They know time is up when the pig farts.

Second Look—Hegemonic

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.Wow. Hegemonic.

Lots and lots of plastic bits. Lots of cards, but not too overwhelming. Try to take over a galaxy built out of hexes in a big meaty game that isn’t Eclipse, but that’s probably what most people (like me, for instance) are going to compare this to.

Let’s back up.


Minion Games’ Hegemonic is a 4X boardgame, which comes from the computer game world: players explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate their way to victory. (Hegemonic rebrands these to “Explore, Build, Fight, and Plot”.) Each player is part of a faction that is expanding its influence across the galaxy: building industrial, political, and military bases in different sectors of the galaxy. Your strong level three military outpost can have its presence felt up to two sectors away, while your opponent’s industrial base can only influence neighboring tiles.

The important part about Hegemonic is how conflicts between players work out. And you’re going to come into conflict. (Remember Eclipse? You can have a nice, friendly, non-conflicty game of Eclipse, and everything is good and fun. Here I suppose you could, but a game of Hegemonic Competitive Solo Fun is not as interesting as a game of Who’s More Efficient at Eclipse?) Conflict: determining the victor in any attack is based on the influence that your forces can muster. Send your secret agent in to sabotage a military base? Add 007’s power to that of all the alien embassies you have set up with Generic Green Alien Race. Does that beat the military outpost’s power and the power of any other military base that could reach it in time? You’ll need to leverage and grow your stellar empire, manipulating various bases to make your attacks on the others more powerful and defend yourself against theirs.

More good stuff: The player boards provide a ton of information and have a clever way of revealing different aspects of managing your galactic empire. Hegemonic scales nicely from two players on up (and the two-player game seems more satisfying than Eclipse’s). The leader cards add flavor to your growing empire, distinguishing them and adding replayability. Deep strategy in getting that balance right in your empire. You could kill someone by dropping the box on their head (arguably “not good”).

Rules for a learning game are included, and you really should play through a learning game to grasp the concepts of Hegemonic.


The plastic Martial Outposts are difficult to pick up in a way that is so annoying that it is worth mentioning to prospective players. The board is ugly, which is strange because the layout of the book, player boards, and cards are really well done. The conflict system as written in the book is more complex than it is in practice. Additionally, it felt like the conflict system tried to be different based on what was attacking what, but it all still felt like the same thing wearing different clothes.

Because of that last issue, I’m having a difficult time recommending Hegemonic over Eclipse. Don’t get me wrong: Hegemonic is a good game that packs in different paths to victory, but the paths feel too alike when compared to Eclipse. (Plus, I love dice and Eclipse’s tech tree/fleet building aspect more than Hegemonic’s technology system.) While meaty, heavy, and well done, Hegemonic won’t hit my table as often as it wants to.

A copy of Hegemonic was provided free for review by Minion Games.

Toy Fair 2014—Griddly Games

Toy-Fair-2014-logo-150wideFor its newest product, Griddly Games is going old-school, very old. In April, the company plans to release 5 Stones, a version of Knucklebones (also known as Fivestones or Jackstones and similar to Jacks, Kugelach, and Gonggi) with five hematite stones and a bag for $9.

Toy Fair 2014—Think Fun

Toy-Fair-2014-logo-150wideDrawing the most attention at ThinkFun’s booth was Robot Turtles ($25, available June), a game originally launched on Kickstarter and designed to teach kids the principles of computer programing. Really more of a cooperative activity, Robot Turtles challenges kids to put together a sequence of program cards that will navigate the turtles around various obstacles. The challenges are presented at different levels of difficulty. As the kids succeed, not only do the challenges become more difficult, but the programing tools available to them become more sophisticated as well. For example, eventually program cards can be used to represent distinct subroutines.

Following on ThinkFun’s highly successful Laser Maze, the company is releasing this year Gravity Maze ($30, available June). Though less high-tech, Gravity Maze is a challenge puzzle that asks players to think in three dimensions. It’s like a marble run toy with a set goal.

For toddlers ThinkFun was showing Move & Groove ($20), an activity game with a large plush die and 48 move cards. Play is just about finding inspiration to move and dance. The color on the rolled die indicates from which stack the player draws a card.


Expanding the Zingo line are Zingo Word Builder ($20) and Zingo Time-Telling ($20). In the former, the sliding Zingo device dispenses letter tiles that are used to complete words. In the latter, the device dispenses hour and minute tiles to match against pictures of analog clocks.

The Shell Game ($20, available June) is a challenge puzzle with a memory component. Colored crab pieces are put under uniform shells and must be rearranged to match a new pattern using limited moves. The difficulty for the person trying to figure it out is remembering halfway through which shell holds which color crab.

Last Letter ($13) is based on that common word-association game where the last letter of the current word determines the first letter of the next word, except in this version all the words must be drawn from the artwork on one of the game’s many beautifully illustrated cards.

The Dysphagia Game

The Dysphagia Game“Dysphagia” means difficulty swallowing and The Dysphagia Game is a board game sponsored and designed by NHS England to teach healthcare workers about the condition. Meant to be played by two teams for 30-60 minutes, The Dysphagia Game includes 41 scenario cards and from the illustration is obviously based on Snakes & Ladders.

[via Nursing Times]

Twin Tin Bots on the Web

twintinbotsFlatlined Games, with help from Boite à Jeux and Board Game Arena, has just announced the release of Twin Tin Bots as a free to play online web game on both platforms.

Twin Tin Bots is a robot programming game by Philippe Keyaerts, who is well known for his work on the SmallWorld series.

In Twin Tin Bots, each player programs two robots to harvest crystals. The available orders are simple (forward, turn, harvest, unload, …) but there are two robots to control with three program slots each, and only one order can be changed each turn. Furthermore, the other player’s robots are after the same crystals, and will push your robots, or might even rob crystals from them.

ScrabbleAfter 9 years without change, the The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary will be getting a revision this summer, with Hasbro seeking fan input on the update. The company, working with Merriam-Webster, is inviting the public to nominate new words via the Hasbro Game Night Facebook page. Sixteen of those will be open to public vote in a bracket-style competition on April 2nd and the final selected word will be announced on April 10th.

This Scrabble Word Showdown follows on Hasbro’s recent program to involve fans in selecting a new Monopoly token. And while I think we’ve all experienced that moment playing Scrabble when we wished “zysqot” was a legitimate word, I honestly wonder whether a public vote on words will contribute one that wouldn’t have been added anyway.

BriarpatchUniversity Games and Briarpatch are merging with the former acquiring the latter. The companies did not announce the purchase price but did reveal that the addition will increase University Games’ domestic revenue by 20 percent.

Briarpatch specializes in preschool games and the licensing of children’s literature like I Spy and Fancy Nancy.

After the merger, John Donofrio, co-founder of Briarpatch, will join University Games as a consultant.

Osprey Publishing

Just 6 months after announcing expansion of its nascent miniature war game efforts, Osprey Publishing has revealed plans to develop a board and card game business. Osprey’s accessible military history books have been popular with gamers for a long time and are sold in many specialty game shops, so expansion in this field is not so much of a stretch.

To support the board and card game endeavor, Osprey is recruiting for a game developer to work out of the company’s Oxford office.

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