Eh. After watching three episodes of The Toy Box, the toy-focused, Shark Tank like television show on ABC, I’m not impressed. Though, perhaps I’m jaded from 9 years attending Toy Fair… Actually, some of the toys in the first three episodes of The Toy Box weren’t bad. But not bad just doesn’t cut it. I mean, Mattel, who promises to produce the winning toy, doesn’t need a televised national competition to come up with dolls that have ballet costumes and a couple of extra degrees of articulation.
Not that a decently made new doll, or nested foam sports balls, couldn’t find some room in the marketplace. These ideas, though, do nothing for a large established toy company like Mattel, which has many designers on staff, as well as existing relationships with experienced outside inventors. Frankly, I don’t think the average viewer either is going to be much impressed.
The concept, I believe, has a lot of potential but the first three episodes so far haven’t realized it. The mentors representing the first on-screen evaluation stage are far too calm and gentle. Here’s a guy who sold his house and moved back in with his mother to finance production of a kind of plush he didn’t realize was already in the market from a different company. Another contestant’s brilliant idea is to make a stiff curved swing-set seat specifically for kids to stand on. Does that really require $130 specialized equipment? Definitely not. But throughout, the panel of expert mentors is calm and polite and barely challenges the inventors other than to express “concerns”. Liven it up guys!
By the way, let me say from personal experience, with an emergency room visit and stitches to the head, that standing on a swing-set seat is not a safe activity for children!
The second evaluation stage in each episode—before a panel of four children judges—you’d think would be a lot more fun to watch. Unfortunately, it just isn’t. Eleven year-old actors paid to look young and recite adult lines are lacking in chemistry and spontaneity.
Now maybe you think differently. Maybe you have more confidence in what will come out of this series. If so, you should know that the final chosen toy—whatever that will turn out to be—is already in production and will be sold exclusively at Toys “R” Us beginning May 20th. Toys “R” Us is also running a sweepstakes, where the grand prize includes travel for four to Los Angeles, a tour of Mattel headquarters, $1,500 in gift cards, and a meeting with the show’s winning inventor.
Also, if you think you have the perfect toy or game for Mattel, MysticArt Pictures is already casting inventors for a second season. And a U.K. version of the show has been licensed to Electus International. Maybe that one will be better. I hope so.
Currently on Kickstarter: two review(ish) boardgame shows looking to do awesome stuff in their sixth year. Rahdo Runs Through is looking for funding for a sixth year of production, with most of his $30,000 goal reached. Rahdo’s funding comes through yearly campaigns like this: no YouTube ads are on his channel of gameplay videos. The Secret Cabal, a gaming podcast, looks to expand their offerings to video, additional programming, and more by making co-host Jamie Keagy a full-time media producer for the group. They’ve already hit this goal and offer several promo packs for a variety of games at a $45 pledge level.
I’ve always liked the games with transparent cards (see Gloom and Ren Faire from Atlas Games and Gamewright’s Imagine). XYbird is a monster-makin’ game that uses these cool components. Following your diabolical secret agenda (well, secret “breakthrough” cards), you build monsters from the lab with a combination of the 116 transparent cards to become the most infamous mad… no, genius scientist extraordinaire! The world will be yours! Or at least this cool game will be yours in November, for a $29 pledge.
Now I like the design of the ships in Star Eagles, a miniature spaceship combat game, and at $60 for a physical starter set good for two players, I don’t think the pricing of the game is off. But the lore or setting of the game is an original IP and isn’t spelled out on the campaign page apart from “here are some humans” and “here are the aliens” and “they fight”. The sculpts look great and the game system is said to adapt most small-ship fighting battles, so if you have some Cylon Raiders and Colonial Vipers handy… The pdf of the rules will be available in July along with files for your 3d printer, physical copies are to be available in September.
I have to recommend Lizard People: Lords of the Media for an interesting party game. I’m having a difficult time deciding if I should put it next to the “It’s just like Cards Against Humanity, except _____” graphic, because while it plays like Apples to Apples combined with Texas Hold ‘Em, somehow it looks… good? Like there’s an actual game here and not just like a fresh coat of paint on an already-acclaimed game design?
Here’s the deal: we’re all lizard people and we’re manipulating the media by pitching headlines for articles in the hopes of gaining favor with the editor so he’ll give us a human meat-suit disguise so we can walk among the humans and be One of Them. The editor plays three word cards from their hand (Horse, CEO, Uncovers) then the other players use at least two of those words in combination with their cards to create an article headline (Human CEO Discovers Teen Were- Horse). Editor picks the best, awarding a human body part covering to the winner. A $16 pledge will get you a copy of the game in December.
A team from Slovenia won the Red Bull Mind Gamers’ first Escape Room World Championship, which featured some really high-end set design (including a rotating tunnel) and challenges themed around quantum computing. The escape-rooms were designed by Prof. Scott Nicholson and his students at Wilfrid Laurier University. Held this past week in Budapest, the event ran more than 20 international teams through a series of timed challenges, with the top two teams, Slovenia and Ukraine, moving to the finals. There, the teams’ performance on a series of additional challenges—including one that surprised the competitors by needing to be solved cooperatively—determined the difficulty level assigned to them in a final puzzle.
The inaugural season of the PRO Chess League has concluded with the St. Louis Arch Bishops taking the championship title. St. Louis, led by the world’s number 2-ranked player Wesley So, faced in the final match the Norway Gnomes, led by number 1, World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. So also captured the medal for MVP.
Also hailing from St. Louis, the Webster University Chess team won its fifth consecutive President’s Cup Collegiate Chess Tournament in New York City (fondly known as the Chess Final Four). Coach Susan Polgar was quoted as saying, “This was an incredibly hard victory, and the students gave everything they had. The competition on Saturday lasted nearly 13 hours, underscoring the importance of both physical and mental toughness.”
At the Cubing Classic in Melbourne, Australia, Feliks Zemdegs solved a 7×7 Rubik’s Cube in a world record 2 minutes, 18.13 seconds.
A Michigan team by the name of Incredible Science Machine has broken the world record for number of dominoes (76,017) toppled from the center in a circle field. The circle was the final display in a longer domino-toppling series that started with a Rube Goldberg-type trigger and included separate sections dedicated to each of Earth’s continents.
IELLO just shot out a teaser for their new combat game, Arena: For the Gods. The game, premiering at Origins 2017 in June, is an arena combat game with a bidding mechanic that uses life points to purchase better equipment. There’s not a whole lot of information about the game right now, but it will come with a sweet looking King of Tokyo card, too!
Kess Games is releasing an updated edition of their super-hero deckbuilding game, Emergents Genesis ($30), this August. Effectively, you’re a new hero at superhero high school, learning your powers and battling each other to be the last hero standing.
Dance Clash ($30), a party game featuring short YouTube videos of Allison Holker and Stephen “Twitch” Boss from So You Think You Can Dance? and YouTube sensation WilldaBeast Adams. The celebrities do dance moves the players have to replicate. Succeed in dance challenges and ascend to the center of the dance floor.
Super Party Battle ($30) is a drinking game-themed game featuring student cards to fight with that include silly challenges (“Jock: You must refer to all players and cards as ‘Bro'”), take that mechanics, and other abilities that affect the game. Waterproof cards and shotglass-like point markers are included.
And of course, there’s a zombie game. But no! Wait! Come back! This isn’t your standard humans vs. zombies game, this is a 1950’s Housewives vs Zombies game. In fact, it’s actually called Housewives vs. Zombies ($50). So you’re all in the suburbs, the menfolk are out at work, and wouldn’t you know it? Your cul-de-sac is being overrun by zombies. Fight ’em off! Survive! Also there’s a squishy foam brain for use as a first player marker.
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Blue Orange Games is giving away Vikings on Board.
Brilliant PR is giving away a $333-value package of toys and games, which includes Word on the Street Junior and Kanoodle Jr. from Educational Insights.
OffWorld Designs is giving away five pairs of passes to Gen Con, with five pairs of Gen Con t-shirts.
Two deals are currently running at Bundle of Holding. One is for the 2014 edition of Space: 1889 and starts at just $6.95. The other, Designers, Dragons, and More, includes a variety of books about games, as well as a comprehensive series on the history of roleplaying games.
Osprey Publishings’s March Sale is 20% off Men at Arms, Elite, and Warrior series.
The Cardboard Republic is giving away Captain Sonar from Asmodee.
The Board Game Vault is giving away the winner’s choice of Santorini or Attack of the Giants.
Devetos Gaming is giving away a Star Wars Destiny Booster Box (36 booster packs) from Fantasy Flight Games.
Blue Peg, Pink Peg is giving away Gloomhaven from Cephalofair Games.
Passport Games is giving away a copy of They Who Were 8 before it’s available in stores.
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.
Recently resurrected under the Winning Moves label are original versions of Game of the States (a 1940 Milton Bradley title) and Cranium Cadoo (2001, last of Hasbro). Game of the States ($20) has players moving their truck pieces around a U.S. map, buying local products in one state, and selling them in another. Cranium Cadoo ($25) poses a variety of different challenges—acting, sculpting, solving puzzles, and more—with winning recorded by getting four-in-a-row across the game board.
For new titles, Winning Moves has two. In Sunk! ($15), players roll a die, dribble drops of water in to a floating bottle cap, and hope it doesn’t sink. They may also have to complete certain challenges, such as dripping the water with their opposite hand. Nibbled ($15) is for children ages 4+ and features a bunch of cute clip-on yellow fish. Players start the game with four fish clipped to their clothes or body and each turn they try to guess the color of the fish on the next card. If they guess correctly, they get to remove the number of fish showing.
Winning Moves also sells Rubik’s Cubes. New for this year are Rubik’s Build It Solve It ($24), a standard 3×3 cube that the customer assembles from parts, and Rubik’s Triamid ($18), which is a puzzle with non-moving parts but still has the goal of making every side a single color.
Beirut, Lebanon has two escape room locations, Exit Beirut and Escape the Room Lebanon, each with two individual rooms to escape. Also recently opened in Beirut is the game, pop-culture, and comic shop, Multiverse.
On Kickstarter, Keiran Franklin is raising money for a game cafe in Brighton City Centre, UK. At 8BitBoards, customers will be able to play both board games and retro console games.
Game Kingdom Games & Hobbies in Bullhead City, Arizona does sell some board games but is primarily a public play space for tabletop and video games.
Milwaukee-area retailer, Board Game Barrister, is opening its fourth location March 1st in the Mayfair mall. It’ll be a relatively small location for the chain but will still have play space.
Opening soon in Rochester, Minnesota with 1,900 square feet of retail and play space is D6 Games.
BlackWater Roasters and Gaming Cafe opened on the east side of Cleveland last week. It serves pastries, sandwiches, fresh roasted coffee, and of course, board games.
After running pop-up shops, convention booths, and special events, B&E Games recently opened a retail location in San Jose, California.
Play Fair, which began as an open-to-consumers auxiliary event at New York Toy Fair 2016, is moving to a fall show and will take place this year on the weekend of November 4th and 5th. It will remain, though, at the Javits Center in Manhattan.
At the inaugural event last year, 20,000 people attended Play Fair. Among the exhibitors already signed on for this year’s Play Fair are LEGO, ALEX Brands, K’Nex, Snazaroo, SCS Direct, VTech, Mattel, Hasbro, and Safari.
Play Fair is hosted by the Toy Industry Association and LeftField Media.