Ultra PRO has completed its previously announced purchase of Playroom Entertainment. The game publisher joins other recent acquisitions of Ultra PRO: Jolly Roger, TableTopics, and the publishing rights to Stone Blade Entertainment’s titles.

Playroom will continue with a distinct brand and catalog, and Dan Rowen will remain at its head. The transaction, though, is allowing the company to move ahead with a number of projects, including the next release, Fake News or Not?. Hitting retail in just a few weeks at $20, Fake News or Not? (renamed from Fake News or Real News?) has players trying to guess which among a series of weird stories or historical events is actually true.

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If anything, the political climate is worse than when I first covered post-truth games in February, and apparently the game market has noticed.

Breaking Games’ Fake News ($25) is now available direct from the company. In it, players try to outdo each other writing outrageous headlines for a selection of image, phrase, and audience cards.

Available June 1st is Fake News/Real News ($14) from License-2-Play. This one takes politics on more directly. Included are cards with caricatures of people in the current administration and cards with 300 outrageous quotes, some of which are real and some of which are fake. Each round, players try to guess whether a selected quote is real and who said it.

Playroom Entertainment has in the works a similarly named Fake News or Real News? by Reinhard Staupe. Modeled on the designer’s True Stories, the game presents players with a series of weird but true news stories, each represented by a question and multiple-choice answers. The goal of the players, of course, it to correctly guess which of the strange answers correctly completes the story.

#AlternativeFacts ($10) from UltraPRO (not to be confused with Frog God Games’ Alternative Facts, which I mentioned last time) has players contributing noun, verb, and adjective cards to a jointly developed headline. When the second card with a Hot Button icon is added, the player who’s card had the highest Clickbait Strength wins the round.

One more, on Kickstarter, is also titled Fake News. Publisher Zag describes it as word Poker. That is, each round the current judge (dealer) puts out two word cards. Then the other players combine those cards with word cards from their own hands to produce, they hope, the best headline.


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At Toy Fair, we stopped by Set Enterprises (maker of Set, Five Crowns, and Quiddler) to look at their new game, WordSpiel. WordSpiel, like Quiddler, consists of a large deck of cards — 110 of them — with each card featuring a letter. Unlike Quiddler, the game also comes with a sixty-second timer.

Here’s how it goes: we start with one letter card face-up. Each player gets ten letter cards and on their sixty-second turn, they play a word starting with the last letter(s) shown. So if the ever-growing spiral of cards reads STEP, the next player could play R, I, E, S, T for the word “priest”, and the lineup now looks like STEPRIEST. Then the next player could play R, A, N, D for the word “strand” using the ST at the end the spiral, and we’ve got STEPRIESTRAND.

When it’s not your turn, you can discard up to three cards from your hand, drawing replacements. If the timer goes off — there’s a ten second warning beep — the player has to draw a card and either place it at the end of the spiral or add it to your hand. Get rid of your cards and you win, everyone else gets as many points as they have cards left in their hand.

We played a three-player game and either were able to play cards right away or we realized we had nothing to play, also right away. We never went below forty seconds on the timer — even the ten year old didn’t — and we did have to adjust our hands a bit to find those elusive letter combinations to make something fit. But we never really needed the timer.

Overall a fun, quick game. The rules say the winner is the player with the lowest total score after five rounds, but three rounds was enough for us. I would recommend playing as many rounds as there are people playing.

WordSpiel was released in the past few days, so your store should have it now or shortly. It retails for $13.

Now, it’s my thought that a game deck featuring letters instead of numbers or pips needed something aside from just the rules one uses with the deck to make a game. For instance, there were four other new or re-issued games at Toy Fair we saw that used the same basics: a deck with letter cards. And there was also Quiddler at the same booth.

Playroom Entertainment’s Unspeakable Words also comes with little Cthulhu pawns. It’s one of many “make words with these letter” games, but this game has scoring based on the number of angles in the letter instead of rarity, and allows you to make up words with random letters if you go insane. A re-issue of the game in slightly different box is expected in May at a $25 retail price. Unspeakable Words has 96 letter cards.

PDQ from Gamewright is another re-issue, having been out of print for five years. The game finds itself as part of the small box Port-A-Party line (all games in this line are $10 retail) as just a box of 78 letter cards. Throw three cards down and try to make a word out of them either left-to-right or right-to-left. The letters N K B come out. Did you shout out “unknowable” before someone else called out “broken”? Then you grab those three cards and keep them as points. PDQ will be available in March.

(We wound up playing PDQ with our WordSpiel deck. The girl took the deck to school for after-class game club on Monday and just wound up playing PDQ with it, over and over.)

Tactic Games USA is bringing out Word Rush in June for just $20. Draw one of the fifty topic cards and name a word in that topic that begins with one of the nine letter cards shown. (100 letter cards in Word Rush.) Flip a sand timer and put it on the letter used. Now the next player has to name something that fits the topic starting with one of the eight other letters before the sand timer runs out. If they do, they flip and move the sand timer. So there’s some strategy in how you use the time available in addition to just naming words.

Or maybe you’d like Wordsy from Formal Ferret Games? That’s a reimplementation of Prolix by the same developer, but now uses 60 letter cards instead of chips. In Wordsy, you lay out eight letter cards in two rows, with each column of two cards assigned a point value from 2 to 5. Everyone searches for a single word that uses a lot of the letters shown; the first one to commit a word flips the sand timer, gaining a point to do so. And then, scoring. For the letters in the above photo, the word LEARNING would earn 19 points while the word GARBAGE would earn just 10. Wordsy will be out in June for $20.

You know, that looks like fun. We might give that a play with our WordSpiel deck.

A copy of WordSpiel was provided free for review by Set Enterprises.

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Playroom Entertainment seems to be working its way out of some recent challenges. Production and distribution is getting back on track and several games should be heading out to retail over the next few months.

Joining an already successful line of geeky trivia games will be Geek Out! The Big Bang Theory (May, $20) with questions based mainly on the show. The Geek Out! games challenge players to see how many answers they can provide for each question.

Costume Party Assassins is a murder-mystery deduction game with meeples in disguise. Players roll dice to move those meeple characters around the board but the rules of movement are relative to a player’s own secret character.

Snorta (June, $20) is a reprint of a former Out of the Box party game that has players making animal noises and trying to remember who made which one.

New in Playroom’s series of Bright Idea Games for kids is the cooperative Bird Day Party (May, $10). In this one, the idea is to find a bird card whose back side matches either the color, or gift, or both of the next turned-over invitation card. If it doesn’t match at all, that bird leaves the party. As the field of bird cards narrows, though, it does become somewhat easier to remember the features of each, which is good, as the goal is to get through the invitations before all the birds duck out.

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Toy Fair New York 2016If nothing else came out of Toy Fair for Playroom Entertainment, it’d still be great news that production of Killer Bunnies has resumed and the whole line of murderous-rabbit card games should be back in-stock on store shelves soon.

But of course that wasn’t the only news from Playroom. The company is moving ahead with several new products in 2016.

Pass the Pandas (spring, $12) is a light, cute dice game with the simple goal of getting rid of all your dice. Everyone rolls. Pandas are passed. Water dice are out. Blanks you have to keep. And any that land bamboo go in to a kind-of roll-off to see with whom they end up.

Playroom’s Geek Out line of trivia games gets an edition, Geek Out Family (spring, $20), populated with questions that should be easier for kids.

Another trivia game coming from the company plays off the current obsessive concern with spoilers. In Spoiler Alert (June, $20), players attempt to get their partners to guess the names of movies, TV shows, books, and songs. Every one they can do within 60 seconds, not using a list of specific “spoiler” words, earns 10 points. Alternatively, they can go ahead and use one of those words, which will certainly make the guessing easier, but at a penalty of 1 or 5 points, depending on how good a clue it is (proper names are never allowed). For example, if the title is Star Wars, then “light saber” is a giveaway at -5 points.

Costume Party Assassins (spring, $30) has players trying to guess which character meeple belongs to which player based on how they move the other meeples around the board.

Three Little Birds (May, $20) is a cooperative game for young children. The goal is to get the birds back to the nest. But with every card offering two or more ways to move them, the players must discuss and come to agreement on which they choose together.

Sherlock Deluxe (May, $15) plays the same as Playroom’s previously published non-deluxe memory-and-move card game. This one, though, has a few additional cards and a cute Sherlock, dog detective, pawn.

Crowdfunding Highlights

The Siblings Trouble
Of note this week, The Siblings Trouble calls back to the halcyon days of summer vacation adventures. This card-driven storytelling game is part Goonies, part Hardy Boys, and part Studio Ghilbi. You and family and friends have a grand adventure featuring trolls, the Rat King, and Big Secrets before rushing back home in time for dinner. This game looks insanely cute and fun and I have a feeling I’ll be backing it before it’s over.

I’ve already backed Cucu Dice, a set of a dozen (as of this moment) 16mm dice that are designed to work well with Fantasy Flight Games’ various Lovecraft-themed games. With one red face, two green, and three blue, these dice are designed to easily read successes in these types of games where a six-sided die is used for binary success/fail resolution. A full dozen dice is about $13 shipped to the US. (Honestly, I’ll be using them for my Shadowrun game.)

The Titans SeriesCalliope Games’ Titan Series is a subscription-based casual game series featuring well-established game designers such as Richard Garfield, Mike Selinker, Rob Daviau, James Ernest, and eight other prominent game designers. With a minimum of nine gateway games (plus three more as stretch goals), backers can subscribe to the entire series or pick and choose the games they want to pick up. Games will run from 2-8 players (various player counts on different games) and have a play time of 60 minutes or less. This campaign continues for another month and a half and is nearly funded as of this writing.

Playroom Entertainment’s Sitting Ducks Gallery Deluxe funded within a day of launch. The game is an update to the award-winning (Games 100, Golden Geek, and more) 2005 version. The theme echoes shooting duck galleries on a carnival midway, with players taking out their opponent’s ducks with humorous action cards and trying to be the last duck in the pond. It looks to be goofy fun.

car wars card game It’s a Car Wars Kickstarter, but not the all new version of Car Wars Kickstarter I’ve been waiting for. If you already have Steve Jackson Games’ recent Car Wars Classic (or your set from the ‘80s), you’ll want to pick up Car Wars Arenas, collecting five different arenas from early in the product line now published for the first time at Classic scale. But what excites me about this campaign is they just announced an updated version of Car Wars: The Card Game to be released this summer. Pledging at the $65 Pro Duellist level will get you CW Arenas, CW Classic, and the card game. The updated 150-card game will retail for about $25.

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Playroom Entertainment continues to expand the Geek Out! trivia party game line in 2015 with Geek Out! Family and Geek Out! TableTop Limited Edition. The former will feature less geeky general knowledge questions and should be available in May for $20. The latter is scheduled to release on TableTop day in April, also at $20, and adds to the original new geeky cards developed by the producers of the video series. If you want my opinion, this is the one you should get. I’m told that one of its questions is:

Can you name two games that include purple pawns?

After a highly successful Kickstarter project, Playroom will also be releasing a special Unspeakable Words Deluxe version later this year (summer, $35), though it won’t have the purple Cthulhu pawns we love.

Two new games coming from Playroom are based—or at least themed—on internet culture. w00t (May, $12) is a card-passing game where the goal is to collect the letters W-0-0-T in one color. You Got Pwned! (May, $20) has players collecting sets of pawns, either from the center or by stealing them from each other.

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Toy-Fair-2014-logo-150wideAn 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).

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Geek Out

Geek OutGeek Out is a trivia game from Playroom Entertainment with geek-friendly categories. Cards ask the current player to name a set number of items in one of five subject areas: games, comic books, science fiction, fantasy, and miscellaneous. Other players, however, can attempt to out-geek the one who’s turn it is by bidding up the number of items they will name (sort of like Name That Tune).

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Toy Fair 2013 Logo

Playroom Entertainment recently delivered the super-sized, all-inclusive Killer Bunnies Deluxe Edition. Next up for the company’s perennial best-selling line is Killer Bunnies: Heroes vs. Villains, a comic book superhero themed set. In comparison to previous Killer Bunnies games, the victory conditions for Heroes vs. Villains will be significantly less random. No more collecting carrots. The winner is the first player to collect four bunnies in the Bunny Circle and four cities in the City Circle.

Killer Bunnies Heroes vs. Villains

But of course there will be more to Playroom in 2013 than just Killer Bunnies. Shipping in the second quarter will be two games based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books. And later in the year, we’ll see three games celebrating the 50th anniversary of Puff the Magic Dragon.

Previously published by Fantasy Flight Games, The Hobbit Board Game is a family adventure and activity board game. As players move around the board, they must answer riddles and recite poetry to collect jewels, which are needed to defeat the dragon.

A new Lord of the Rings Card Game requires players to assemble groups of characters (i.e., collect their cards) in order to attack enemies with matching colors. Victory points are earned for each bad guy defeated.

Puff the Magic Dragon Board Game is for ages 3+ and cooperative—everyone plays Jackie Paper. The players’ goal is to collect a set number of gifts and deliver them to Puff before he’s moved through the eight verses of his song. On their turns, players can move either forwards or backwards the number they’ve spun on the spinner.

The Puff the Magic Dragon Sing Along Memory Game and Puff the Magic Dragon Land of Honalee Card Game are both matching games. The first involves matching song lyrics in order. The second is a cooperative game with pictures.

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