Hey gang! It’s Andy Larson here! As previously reported here on GotS, I’m a big consumer of board games. With two precocious kids and a wife that wants nothing more that peace and quiet around the old house, we’ve taken to playing tons and tons of board games in other to fill up those hours with some good old fashioned family fun.
As such, it probably comes to no surprise that for Christmas this year, we got tons of new board games to help us whittle away the hours over the course of 2020 and beyond. And luckily we recently had a very snowy day while visiting Nicole’s parents which was perfect for spending the entire day finally playing some of these new games. Call it field testing for all those anxious game players that have come to enjoy the GotS reviews to help them make those important decisions on which board games should populate their dwellings as well.
So with that said, I’ve got 5 new table top games to share with you on today’s blog to help you spend some of the excess gift cards you might still have stashed from the holidays. I will say not ever game on the list is specifically for children, but those that are I’ll include my “world famous” educational tip to help give additional “justification” for those parents that want to feel good about the games they are buying for their young ones in terms of enriching their lives.
As an aside, there were two other games that we got for Christmas this year that we will not be reviewing. One of which was the excellent “Throw Throw Burrito” from , the mastermind that brought us both Exploding Kittens and Bears vs. Babies. If you want to read a review of that, check out my fellow GotS partner in crime, Chad Smith, who wrote a wonderful write up of that game following GenCon last year.
The second game is the sequel of sorts to Z Man Games “House of Danger” Choose Your Own Adventure game which was released in 2018. This time around they adapted the science fiction themed classic CYOA book “War with the Evil Power Master”. This game has a definite Star Wars feel to it so it might be great for any parents who have kids knee deep in the Star Wars mania right now. I’m not covering it though on this blog, because it’s pretty much the same game as House of Danger only with a different story. So if you want to know about the game play, go check out my previous game review here.
I feel like every kid at some point has made up a game in which the floor is lava and you have to jump from couch to couch without touching the floor, much the chagrin of nearly all of their parents who are worried someone is going to knock over a lamp or worse. I mean growing up, my living room carpet was a dark brown, and I found myself often times pretending it was the steaming hot black molten lava that bubbling up from many a volcano I would see on some educational show or other on PBS.
However, never in my wildest dreams did I think someone would actually attempt to legitimize the game by giving it a rule book and floor tokens. But Endless Games did just that, making a game that is half Twister, half Gymnastics, and all fun for folks from 5 to 105 as the box points out.
After laying out the multi colored tiles, a non playing judge spins a color selector and players must then make their way to a corresponding space without touching the floor surrounding it. As the last player reaches a space the judge removes the last tile belonging to that player, shortening the available tiles in future.
This becomes quite a hilarious problem later in the game especially with large groups as players are forced to come up creative ways of sharing spaces including group hugs and throwing kids on shoulders. Plus some spaces have question marks forcing the players to act out things while not falling off their square, such as jumping like a rabbit or twirling like a ballerina. The last player not to be eliminated by the judge for touching the floor wins, but trust me everyone wins from the excitement and constant activity of this fun group party game. This especially if you play across generations getting the little ones interacting with the grandparents.
Educational tip: Put down the devices, people, and get up on your feet! This game teaches cooperation, communication skills, and gets people talking and laughing! It’s a win/win!
The most surprise hit of our Christmas haul of board games was this building blocks style marble maze game from Thinkfun entitled Gravity Maze.
More like a series of logic puzzles that you can solve by yourself or with friends than a traditional board game, Gravity Maze provides you with certain configurations in terms of placement of the start and end points for your marble adventurer as well a predetermined list of the additional components you need to move the marble on its journey.
In order to correctly solve the puzzle and move on to the next challenge you have to place all the pieces in proper order, without skipping any or using other pieces from the box. In fact, the game is so precise with each of it’s puzzles, that the correct answer is printed on the back of each card which you can use to double check your work.
With 60 challenge boards ranging from beginner difficulty to expert, this game provides excellent scalability of play and can be extremely fun for adults as well. Trust this dad when I say the moment I sat down to help my kids with a more difficult puzzle, I was instantly hooked. That satisfaction of a job well done in coming up with the correct solution is highly addictive, and it’s no wonder this game was voted Toy of the Year back in 2015.
Educational Tip: Of all the games on this list, this is definitely the STEM entry. Teaching problem solving, strategy, and complex engineering skills, this is a slam dunk for parents who want to promote brain growth while occupying their kids for hours!
Originally developed by a 7 year old named Alex for a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, this gross out food variation of classic card games like “Crazy 8s” and “Uno” by Hot Taco will definitely have both you and your kids laughing over some of the insanely bizarre combinations of ingredients you can stuff with your taco or burrito card hand.
Plus, since game sessions only run about 10-15 minutes per hand, this is a great game to have around for those quick game “moments” before bed or in the rotation like we did in between other games during an all night board game binge!
The object of the game is pretty simple as you attempt to fill your taco or burrito with items that give the most points, while staying clear of the dreaded tummy ache cards that can deduct points. There’s also a Health Inspector card that can make you throw out your entire hand if picked up randomly, as well as a Hot Sauce Boss that can double your points.
With ways to steal ingredients as well using the Craft Crow and Trash Panda cards, there’s terrific fun to be had trying to collect the chocolate covered shrimp, used mustache clippings, and the human burger to make your taco the grossest!
*Be warned. Do not play this with people that lack a sense of humor. They might complain about finding a loose eyeball in their burrito!*
Educational Tip: Although Math is the primary educational skill used in this game as you have to keep track of the amount of points in your Mexican food dish, I have to say that my kids and I did have some pretty interesting conversations about how sick you might get if you really did eat taco made up of moldy bread, blood salsa, and a bowl full of lice!
So I guess teaching proper food hygiene and basic survival skills could also be counted here! 🙂
I gotta say that this has been one game that I’ve been equally wanting to play for a while, but also dreading. Mainly because I thought it was similar to Magic or Pokémon with the constant need to buy more and more packs of cards in some insane pyramid scheme to outdo opponents.
Turns out this game is more like Smash Up, in that all the cards you need are included in the box, and the game comes from “purchasing” all these communal cards turn by turn to build the best deck you can to win you that particular play session. After starting with a particular DC superhero such as Supes, Batman, and Cyborg as you core character, you then branch out adding other cards which vary from famous DC supporting superheroes, equipment cards, superpowers, and even minor villains, all in hopes of amassing more points than your competitors.
However, as part of the game is the defeat of a supervillain deck prior to tallying up the points for victory, this game is also at times cooperative, as you might have to wheel and deal to ensure the group defeats all those dastardly foes before the available deck of cards runs out.
Although it could a more than a bit daunting at first for a casual game player, I can assure you that if real gamers of all ages should be able to pick up the rules fairly quickly. In fact, both my son and I both played our first games ever against my brother in law, Chris, a seasoned pro at this game, and we both won our matches, showing the accessibility of the game to those that are willing to learn the rules is unmatched.
Plus, with an absolute ton of expansion packs that Cryptozoic has put out over the years including Teen Titans, options to play as the villains, and the insanely difficult “Crisis” series which truly ratchets up the co op game play if that’s what your into, I feel like this game series has the most long term potential for continued play over the years.
Besides, who doesn’t want to to see Gorilla Grood and Red Tornado duke it out!?! I’m sure the fellas on the Ghosts of the Stratosphere podcast would be interested in seeing that.
…Hmmm…possible podcast segment in future…we shall see!
Educational Tip: Like all card games of this variety, this teaches strategy at a pretty high level as well as the ability to read and predict opponents. However the notion of purchasing additional cards from the communal pot, adds a component of asset management which will serve them well with real money later on.
Closing out our marathon of board game playing for the day was one I actually received as Christmas gift that I had been eyeing for a while since I first saw it on the shelves at Barnes & Noble. For those of you that might recall from our podcast, I’m a pretty big fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and so anytime I can snag a game based on his works, I will. In fact, this is actually the second board game I have that features his creations, with the first being the incredibly challenging but insanely fun Pandemic variant, Call of Chlthlu.
Mountains of Madness created by Rob Daviau and Miguel Coimbra and published by Iello Games, is in fact very similar to the Pandemic game I just mentioned in 2 important aspects other than just having that Lovecraftian influence. First off, it’s a co op game in which everyone works as a team to scale the Mountain of Madness, searching for ancient relics and forbidden knowledge while overcoming challenges by pooling resources necessary to escape. However, the second similarity of dealing with the actual insanity that comes from daring to penetrate the unknown forces of darkness is where this game really stands apart from the pack.
After failing to complete challenges, players are assigned madness cards that force them to interact with other players in very strange ways. One card I got deal said that my character was ashamed of his teeth and as such had to either cover them to look away when speaking. My wife pulled a card where she was forbidden to say numbers, and my brother in law spent a good chunk of the first half forced to shake people’s hands constantly.
I feel like although this isn’t one I would play with my kids given the subject matter and the high degree of abstract thinking in terms of remembering to act out the various forms of madness, it was a really fun game to play with the adults especially after a couple of drinks. Something about the combination of teamwork, threatening circumstances, and just the right amount of silliness made up for just the perfect nightcap to a great day of table top gaming!
Educational Tip: This is definitely not a game for the real young ones given it deals with insanity, unholy forces of evil, and unmitigated violence. However, if you have teenage kids or older, this game is a great gateway to introducing them to the rich literary world of H.P. Lovecraft.
One of the greatest horror writers of all time, Lovecraft has influenced everyone single with his bone chilling tales, including a pretty famous guy named Stephen King! 🙂