I had never heard of Twizmo before Toy Fair this year, and now I’m glad I have. The only game they were showing off this year was tak•tak, and abstract strategy game for two players ages 8+. The game’s rules are fairly simple. You move your pieces forward either straight or diagonally. You can attack other player’s pieces by moving of of yours with the same number or color on top of the opposing piece. You now control that stack. Of course your opponent can stack on that, and so forth. The game ends when one player has no more pieces in the center section of the board. The winner is the one with the highest numeric score in the opposing player’s Safe Zone.
Every time I meet the fine folks at Smart Zone they’re always quick to pull me right into a game. This year that game was The Hidden Code, by Dave Cousins. Still wrapping up production, the game has pieces that look like a Chess Rook cut in half. Each half has either a color or a number, and the two halves can stick together magnetically. The goal of the game is to guess a player’s color and number. You do this by asking them questions like, “Do you have 4 Red.” If the player you asked has either Red or a 4, they must answer “Yes.” The last player standing wins.
It seemed simple at first, but being a novice at the game I was quickly overwhelmed by the two gentlemen I played with. I found out using dirty tactics, like asking for colors that didn’t exist to make finding a number easier, are perfectly OK and are extremely clever.
For adults—complete with “Parental Advisory” sticker—Buffalo Games will have later this year an officially licensed Urban Dictionary Game (August, $25). The box comes with challenge cards and definition cards. Most of the challenge cards are fill-in-the-blank but some require that turn’s judge to act out or draw something. Then the other players submit definition cards and the judge chooses a favorite.
For the kids, Buffalo has three-dimensional plans. Raptor Run (August, $18) is a dinosaur-themed board game with a single track running back-and-forth up the slope of a volcano. The volcano also works kind of like a dice tower. Through its top players on their turn drop a die, which serves two purposes. First, it simply tells them how many spaces up the track to move their dinosaur pieces. Second, as it drops, the die may knock some of those pieces off the track, forcing them to start the trek over.
Two more vertically oriented games are the Princess Adventure and DC Super Friends 3D Floor Puzzles ($15). As you might infer from the name, the boards are large and must be pieced together before play. After that, they’re pretty straightforward cooperative spin-and-move games—either collecting keys and racing a wizard to the top of the castle or racing against the Joker to rescue the baby octopus.
USAopoly surprised me at Toy Fair. I mostly know them for their licensed versions of Monopoly, Clue, Risk, Yahtzee, etc…, but a handful of original titles filled their booth this year. Before I get into those, I’m going to post a gallery of all the licensed products that are new.
OK! There’s a lot of material to cover above.
The Legend of Zelda version is new as of last year, and has been an excellent seller. New to the scene are Mass Effect, Pokemon, Jurassic World, Doctor Who: Villains, Firefly, and Penny Dreadful.
There’s Back to the Future (the Flux Capacitor case lights up!), Firefly, The Legend of Zelda, and new versions for The Avengers, Age of Ultron. These I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of, but the dice come in either an Iron Man or Ultron head.
Doctor Who. It rhymes.
It was really cool to see that there’s a Hereos of the Storm version, and a comic book Walking Dead version. Also, Halo.
A Walking Dead expansion for Munchkin Zombies was shown, as well as Adventure Time Munchkin. I actually took a copy of the latter home from a Steve Jackson party, and it’s pretty sweet. USAopoly did an excellent job of capturing the feeling of the show and fitting it in with the equally zany world of Munchkin.
Two beautiful Legend of Zelda puzzles. One is of the Hyrule Map, and the other is a colorful piece from The Wind Waker.
I wasn’t able to take pictures of either Risk title I saw, but they’re both very exciting. The first is an Avengers: Age of Ultron version that comes with little painted miniatures of the Avengers. The packaging said something about “collect them all,” but the rep showing me around didn’t know what that was about. It could be a pretty interesting mechanic if there were an element of randomness to the figures in the box.
The second, and by far one of the most exciting licensed products, was the Game of Thrones version of Risk. This thing was huge. It comes with 2 giant boards depicting Westeros and Essos, and the game is played over both maps at once. The pieces were amazing in their detail, and the box was minimal and beautiful. This is one I’d go out of my way to purchase.
OK. That horizontal line above is where we break from the licensed copies of classic and well known board games and get into original titles USAopoly is putting out.
TacDex – $9.95
TacDex is a newer game to the USAopoly line, and is a War-style card game developed by Richard Borg. Already having a Pirates! deck, they’ve now added a Super Mario Brothers deck, Walking Dead deck, and Halo deck. I was told you can mix and match the decks, if so desired. Right off the bat I’m interested because of Richard Borg’s involvement.
Rollandia is a really cool looking game where you’re rolling dice to try and build your castle. You need to roll groups of numbers to build each piece, and there’s a component of using your already-claimed numbers to effect other players. The whole look and feel of the game caught be totally by surprise after seeing such a huge amount of licensed Monopoly, Clue, Yahtzee, etc… games. Nothing against those, but it’s always nice to see new and innovative titles hit the market.
Nefarious – $29.95 – Ages 13+
Rollandia was really cool looking, but one look at Nefarious and I had already moved on. In Nefarious you’re playing evil scientists trying to take over the world. You do this by inventing devices, performing espionage, and doing research. Visually stunning, designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, and slick looking game play make this one to keep an eye on.
Pass the Blame : The Party Game for Irresponsible and Telestrations 8: After Dark – $29.95 and $19.95 – Ages 17+
Two adult games following the new trend in the wake of Cards Against Humanity. Both party games involve compromising situations and foul thoughts. Pass the Blame has situations cards that players must write excuses for. Not as filthy as Telestrations After Dark, but it can get a bit dicey. Telestrations After Dark has you playing a game of Telephone, but with sketches. One player sketches a phrase, the next guesses what the phrase is and tries to draw it again, and so on. This one is a bit more intentionally dirty with terms like “doggie style”, “human centipede”, and more.
Wonky comes with a box of mostly-cube-like pieces and cards that tell you what color cubes to place and where. Players have to follow the directions on the cards and build a tower as high as they can without it falling. A quick, easy, family game.
A word game with an interesting twist. A card is drawn with a category, after which each player takes turns naming something in the category and tapping down the letter the word started with. Once a letter is tapped down it can’t be used again. Players who can’t think of a word are knocked out.
This one had a pretty cool hook to it (pun intended.) Lift It has you trying to build certain structures with the pieces provided, but you must do in within a time limit, and by only using your hook on a string to pick up and place pieces. Some challenges are even cooperative, where 2 players need to each hook pieces and work togehter to build something. I gave this a shot, but was met with an almost insurmountable challenge trying to get my shaky, carpal tunnel ridden hands and wrists to do as I asked.
Theology of Games is giving away Mars Needs Mechanics from Nevermore Games.
A lot of books being auctioned by Bonhams includes the 18th century title, A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist. The lot is estimated to go for $460-770.
Geek Nation Tours is giving away, via Facebook, a Zombie Core Paint Set from The Army Painter.
Z-Man Games, also for a Facebook like, is giving away one of everything Pandemic.
From Amazon, buy one Hasbro game, get another at 50% off.
Some individual game deals on Amazon:
Sign up for Educational Insights’ email newsletter and get a promo code for 10% off.
The Cardboard Republic is giving away Fallen from Watchtower Games.
Grey Gnome Games is giving away four of its titles.
But the company is also bringing to market Connect 4 Twist & Turn, which takes the slotted playing-field and wraps it around a cylinder. No right or left edges and rows that turn independently make for a game much more interesting than the original.
Winning Moves’ other new game for 2015 is Fish Fish Squish. It’s a matching game with a unique reward element. A player that finds a match in the grid of cards gets to squish the fish their opponent molded from dough.
Breaking games, a new publishing division of AdMagic, had a great booth packed with indie games. I spent a lot of time there checking out each game, talking to the developers, and having a real blast. It’s always great talking to folks from small press, as they’re always so full of enthusiasm and pride for their games.
Hogger Logger - $15 – Ages 7+
I previously previewed Hogger Logger while it was running on Kickstarter. Finally getting to see the finished product was great, as the game has real polish that I didn’t get to see in my prototype version. What really impressed me is how their Kickstarter finished in September and they’re already shipping backers their copies. It was also kinda nice to see a quote from my preview on their table. Currently taking on Pre-Order.
Mobscenity – $15 – Ages 17+
Hot on the tail of games like Cards Against Humanity, Mobscenity is an adult-themed party game with horrible, horrible potential. Not outwardly as crass, the game’s cards are pretty mild. It’s when you combine them with the right group of people that morality takes a nose-dive into the ground. Every round the current Master plays two cards, each with one word on them. Then the rest of the players must come up with a definition. The best definition wins the round. Some combos I quickly saw at the booth were Donkey Crack, Chocolate Spank, and Cream Dragon. Available now.
Funemployed – Ages 13+
Another party game, Funemployed has players using a hand of 3 cards to come up with a resume for a job posting. Cards can be swapped out with face-up cards on the table to help come up with a better story. We played a quick round and the results were pretty amusing. If I recall I had come up with a french-speaking male consort who was currently trying to get a job as a school nurse. The game is currently up for pre-order.
What the Food – Ages 8+
What the Food is a card game about a high-school food fight. Players take the role of different characters, each with their own special ability, in a huge food fight where you’re trying to get out with the least mess on you. The more you’re hit, the more humiliation points you gather. The person with the least humiliation wins. The game has a programming element to it where you’re stacking your moves ahead of time, and seeing how everything plays out. There’s also special cards in the deck that can have positive or negative effects depending on your current standing in the game. Currently available for pre-order.
Letter Tycoon – Ages 10+
A word game with an economy. Building words earns you money. Money you can use to buy letter patents that earn you more money each time other players use those letters. Fast paced, and a really cool idea overall. Players must work get to patents, stocks, and money to come out victorious.
Billionaire Banshee – Ages 18+ (though certain cards can be removed for younger play)
A game about dating with 8-bit art and a sick sense of humor. Combinations of traits are put together, and you need to guess if the other players would actually date the character with that set of traits or not. There’s some strange stuff in there, and most of it is pretty hilarious…and filthy. Available for pre-order.
Poop – $10 – Ages 6+
Ah, Poop. A game about…poop. Developed by the designer and his son, Poop has you doing your business while trying not to clog the toilet. Players play numbered cards under the current toilet card, trying not to go over the number listed. If 3 cards of the same color are played then a courtesy flush is performed, clearing out the current toilet. There’s also cards that have you perform certain actions, like making fart noises. Simple, quick, and a sure-fire hit for any children players. Available now.
49 – $25 – Ages 10+
49 is a game that takes a bit of brain. You start off the game with $49 and some chips. Players need to bid for numbers on the board to try and get 4 of their chips in a row. Of course it’s not as easy as it seems with Payoff cards and other actions to mix things up. Available now.
Twirk – Ages 7+
Twirk, aka The Game I Am Most Bad At, is a word game where you need to quickly spell words using the cards in your hand and a dice rolled on the table. The tricky part is there’s a letter limit, and a time limit. I swear I sat there looking at a hand of cards for like 5 minutes trying to figure out a word while the designer pumped out words and tried to convince me I really wasn’t an idiot. I blame my performance on the heat of the show floow, dehydration, and anything else I can get away blaming it on. This is a game I could see my 9-year-old utterly crushing me at. Available for pre-order.
The Appalachian Trail Game – $25 – Ages 8+
And educational game about hiking the Appalachian Trail. Players learn to identify plants along the trail, low-impact camping skills, and the 10 most important things to have on a hike. The first player to hike the entire trail wins. One of the coolest parts of the game is the board is printed on the same material as trail guides, so it’s super rugged and almost impossible to rip. This is one I’d love to play with my Cub Scout Pack. Available now.
Funny Mix – $16 – Ages 4+
One of my favorite games of the show, Funny Mix is game that helps children read. The game is full of super heroes who’s names are real words, and also describe the power that hero has. Using cards that have a printed piece and transparent sections, kids put together their heroes while sounding out the letters and forming words. There’s a bunch of ways to play, and heroes with both 3 and 4 letter words to use. I’ve got a 4-year-old who’s currently learning to read, and this would be absolutely perfect for him! Available now.
JUNURI was a booth I almost missed while walking through the game isles at Toy Fair this year. It was Nuricube that caught my eye, and I’m glad it did. Brian and Sue are wonderful people, and you can tell they have a real passion for games! My pictures from the show came out pretty awful, so I’m just including the promotional images provided in the press kit.
Nuricube – Ages 6+
This is what attracted me to the JUNURI booth. A visually pleasing game where you’re trying to create the longest line of your color by rolling and placing cubes on the board. Simple, yet a lot of fun.
Nuricube The Little Shape Book – Ages 3+
This is a cute little set of solo puzzles for little ones using Nuricubes. There are cards with shapes to be made by using the cubes. Make the shape, then place the colorful overlay on top of the cubes when you’re done!
Spy Wars – Ages 6+
A cool little family game that uses strange Dice Sticks. The goal is to get all your spys back home. To do this you toss the Dice Sticks into the air to “roll” them. If they land on green spys, you can move. Red spys are bad guys, so provide no movement. It’s quirky, but I can see kids having a blast chucking the stick around.
Besides the Marvel, Jurassic World, and Magic: The Gathering games we’ve covered in separate articles, Hasbro’s Toy Fair reveals included news of Monopoly, Scrabble, The Game of Life, Minions, Star Wars, Disney Princess, My Little Pony, and preschool games.
For Monopoly’s birthday, Hasbro has already released a Monopoly 80th Anniversary Edition with wood houses, as well as licensed Coach to produce a high-end, New York-themed edition in leather. Through March 4th in partnership with BuzzFeed, the company is collecting votes to select cities for the next Monopoly Here & Now U.S. and World editions.
Scrabble will see two new versions in 2015, Scrabble Junior (spring, $15) and Scrabble Twist (fall, $20). The former has a two-sided board. On one side, children ages 2-4 match letter tiles to words that are already filled in. The latter is a handheld electronic game where the goal is to quickly find the word among five mixed-up letters, and then press the buttons in the right order.
A new version of The Game of Life just out replaces some of the careers with video game designer, singer, and secret agent, among others. The Game of Life Junior (spring, $15) is about collecting stars while having adventures, like at the beach or zoo.
In May, ahead of the upcoming Despicable Me Minions movie, Hasbro is launching the Minions Challenge Card Game. It’ll be sold in $3 blind bags containing one Minion figure and five battle cards.
Deploy your battle cards against your opponent and keep playing until your Minion reaches the top of this score card to win!
Sounds vaguely War-like.
For Star Wars there was only one game, Loopin’ Chewie (fall, $25), but it’s one that’s generating a fair amount of excitement. Though we already wrote about it, at Toy Fair we got some pictures.
A Disney Princess Candyland isn’t new but an update this year (fall, $15) adds Princess Frog.
In the fall, Hasbro will release My Little Pony Poppin’ Pinkie Pie ($20), an inverse hot-potato type game. Players attach balloons to a birthday cake and when Pinkie Pie pops out, that player is the winner.
For the preschool crowd, Mashin’ Max (March, $10) has kids moving pawns around the board to collect berries. Max in the middle, though, spins around and smashes his fist down to capture the players’ pawns.
March 7-8 in Toronto is a board game jam open to the public.
We provide the materials, you provide the imagination.
That’s the basic concept of this fifth annual event. On Saturday morning, people will gather at George Brown College for an introductory pep talk on game design. Then teams will break out with the goal of producing a playable prototype by 6:00 PM Sunday. Beginners are especially welcome.
Money from the $25 ticket charge goes towards the materials provided.