card games

The Fox in the Forest and Sundae Split: Two Light Card Games for Families

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The Fox in the Forest and Sundae Split are two small box card games from Foxtrot Games and Renegade Game Studios. Both games retail for around $15 and make for engaging alternatives to breaking out that old deck of Uno cards.

Sundae Split

Sundae Split is for 2-5 players with a suggested age of 10+, though my seven year old was able to quickly grasp the concept with a little help. Sundae Split is a set collection game where each player is trying to make the best ice cream sundae, which is a very easy sell for kids.

Cards appear as ice cream flavors, sprinkles, whipped cream, , bananas, cherries, or the dreaded vegetables. Collecting certain cards will affect your score. Ice cream cards score the points listed on the card, as well as a bonus for each set of three flavors. Sprinkles and whipped cream cards score five points for every pair, while bananas will score a beefy 10 points, but only to whomever has the most bananas. Vegetables, however, score minus points if they find their way into your sundae.

 

card games

How do you accidentally put broccoli in your ice cream? Every round one player plays the splitter. The splitter draws and creates multiple piles of cards, one for each player, with the number of cards scaling for the number of players. Players then select a pile of cards to add to their sundae, with the splitter choosing last. The catch is that some of these cards can be face down.

Most of the light strategy involves fun little mind games with your fellow players. Do you hide a banana underneath some undesirable celery? Do you leave an entire pile facedown to tempt someone with a mystery draw? The splitter rotates each round giving every player a chance to be deliciously devious.

With a little set up time Sundae Split scales well for multiple players, though if you only have two, I would highly recommend The Fox in the Forest.

The Fox in the Forest

The Fox in the Forest is a trick-taking card game for two players. It’s basically a more advanced version of the classic game of War, but with a lot more interesting strategy rather than just flipping cards to see who wins each set.

The card game includes 11 cards in each of the three suits. Each odd-numbered card has a special ability. The seven card is a treasure, and it’s worth an extra point to whoever wins it, the witch can act as a wild card, while the woodcutter lets you draw a card from the deck.

card games

What makes The Fox in the Forest especially interesting is that winning the most amount of tricks will paint you as a greedy villain, and awards no points. Instead your goal each game is to find the perfect sweet spot – winning 7-9 of the 13 total rounds, to achieve the most points. If your opponent is performing well, you can work on playing lower cards to force them to win even more sets, thereby ensuring your own point advantage. A full match lasts until someone reaches 21 points, which normally takes about three or four games.

The Fox in the Forest also features a fun, classic fairy tale theme, with evil monarchs, mysterious witches, and friendly lumberjacks (or lumberjanes!). The painterly artwork is lovely and evocative, and the box includes cardboard number counters to keep track of points between games.

I would recommend both games if you’re looking for light, easy card games that are a bit more advanced than Uno but still very easy to teach. Sundae Split is great with kids while The Fox in the Forest is perfect for couples.

clank in space

Clank in Space + Apocalypse Review

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Publisher: Renegade Game Studios, Dire Wolf Digital
Age: 12+
Players: 2-4
Game Length: 45-90 minutes
MSRP: $60.00 (Clank in Space), $25 (Apocalypse expansion)

In space no one can hear you scream, but Lord Eradikus will surely hear all that noise you’ve been making while snooping around his ship. All that clanking will summon his wrath, and your only hope is to run faster than your friends.

Clank in Space is a brilliantly fun board game that combines the strategy of a deckbuilding card game with a space-themed dungeon crawl. The recently released Apocalypse expansion adds new villainous schemes to thwart your heist plans even more, creating an always exciting and memorable race through the mother ship.

Space Heist

The original concept for Clank: A Deck-building Adventure in 2016 resulted in a traditional fantasy-themed dungeon crawler. Clank in Space launched as a sequel a year later, infusing a sci-fi theme filled with hilariously on-the-nose references to every science fiction movie and show you can think of. It also features a modular board of multiple double-sided sectors, adding a welcoming amount of variety to every game.

clank in spaceAs a deckbuilder each player starts with the same starter deck of 10 cards, which can generate either Skill, Swords, Boots, or Clank. Skill lets you acquire more and better cards. Swords allows you to defeat villain cards for rewards. Boots let you move around the map, while Clank forces you to add your colored tokens to the bag. When certain cards arrive at the marketplace, Lord Eradikus will attack, forcing players to draw cubes from the bag to see who gets attacked.

Players take turns playing cards, moving around the board, collecting secrets, and hacking modules to gain access to the final area. The goal is to steal an artifact, then high tail it back to the entrance to count their victory points. Lord Eradikus’ rage builds over the course of the game, represented by drawing additional clank cubes from his bag.

The beginning stages feel calm. But by the end you’ve drawn most of the black cubes (misses) from the bag, players are wounded, and you’re running out of options to heal and time to escape. If you die before returning to the starting module, you’re eliminated.

Player elimination can be harsh but they often get their revenge; on future turns they become additional boss attacks. I’ve played at least one hilarious game in which all three players died early thanks to a string of risky choices and bad luck, and we all ended up laughing about it.

Apocalypse Now

The new Apocalypse expansion adds 35 adventure cards, two new module map pieces, and eight schemes. The cards and modules help add even more variety and flavor to a game already rich with replayablity, while the schemes are an all-new gameplay addition.

clank in space apocalypse

Instead of adding new mechanics and complications, schemes smartly use a resource already in the base game, the black boss cubes. When these starter cubes are drawn from the bag they represent misses from Lord Eradikus. They’re important for making the early game sting less, while the late game gets excitingly challenging as the ratio between player cubes and black cubes has shifted.

When playing with one of the schemes, drawing these black cubes adds to an ongoing counter. Each scheme includes three different stages, with each stage activating a global effect. The Microbot Army Scheme, for example, deals 1 damage each to all players upon reaching stages one and two. But after the third stage, players take one damage every turn if they fail to generate any Swords.

To combat these threats, each scheme allows players to purchase the black cubes before they fill up a stage, with the purchase cost thematically tied to the scheme (Microbot Army requires Swords). Many of the new cards and both of the modules then add new abilities that can be activated using these black cubes.

It’s a clever way to use a resource that was already included in the base game, though the schemes were rarely as impactful as I was hoping. It’s not too difficult to stay on top of most of the schemes. The final stage usually activates so late in the game that it rarely creates much of a disruption to the already exciting end-game.

clank in spaceThe Rating

As a deckbuilder, Clank requires comprehension of card text, though synergy between cards is less important than other card games. The simple iconography of Boots, Skill, and Swords is easy to grasp.

With the emphasis on working toward the same goal with a few Take That mechanics, Clank makes for a great family game with older kids and teens.

The Takeaway

The best part of Clank in Space is how perfectly balanced it feels. Every game consistently ramps up into an exciting, nail-biting conclusion. No matter how many players I was playing with it always became a tense, tight race. The Apocalypse expansion integrates perfectly, adding more variety without making anything too complicated, though some schemes are far more interesting and enjoyable than others.

Find Clank! In! Space! and the Apocalypse! expansion at Amazon, the Renegade Games Store, and your local gaming retailers.

megaland

Megaland Review

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Publisher: Red Raven Games
Age: 8+
Players: 2-5
Game Length: 20 minutes
MSRP: $24.99

In Megaland players explore video game levels fraught with enemies but filled with treasure. If they survive they can use that treasure to purchase buildings and earn victory points.

Megaland plays quickly and easily and features beautiful artwork by Red Raven Games designer and illustrator Ryan Laukat. The gameplay provides a solid, family-friendly introduction into more advanced board game concepts such as set collection, resource management, and risk assessment.

Ready Player One

In Megaland each player starts with four hearts. Each round everyone jumps into a level, which is represented by a deck of 10 oversized cards. Players earn one treasure card from the treasure deck as each of the level cards are flipped over.

Level cards can contain enemies with 1-3 skulls, a blank, or a treasure chest. Encountering an enemy causes everyone who’s in the level to take damage equal to the number of skulls. If anyone would lose all their hearts, they’re knocked out and lose all their accumulated treasure. However, any time before the next level card is revealed, a player can choose to leave the level to keep all of their earned treasures.

megaland

The goal is to risk staying in the level long enough to earn as many treasure cards as possible. Treasure cards are more like resources or materials, such as carrots, gears, and eggs. These cards are then traded in to purchase buildings as each player builds up their own city.

Building cards are randomly selected from the box, so each marketplace layout plays a bit differently. Sets of unique treasure cards purchase buildings, while sets of the same treasure cards can be used to purchase additional hearts, allowing for longer (and more lucrative) runs.

We Built this City

Since everyone journeys on a level together, taking damage and earning treasure cards simultaneously, the game runs very quickly.

Purchasing buildings works similarly to a lot of deckbuilders, especially Dominion. But you’re not building a deck in Megaland; building cards are placed in front of the player, making it easy for kids to keep track of any possible ongoing effects.

These buildings often earn coins (victory points), either directly or through various triggers. The Hospital, for example, earns that player two coins for every player to their left or right who falls in a level, while the Fishing Pond simply awards two coins at the end of each round. The first player to reach 20 coins wins.

megaland

The risk of staying in a level to earn more treasure is a lot of fun, though it’s a shame the level deck is so thin. At only 10 cards it’s much more about calculating the odds each round rather than being surprised and shocked at the deck’s reveal.

The video game theme is also a bit thin. Other than a single jump ability provided by certain building cards, nothing inherently screams ‘video game.’ And most video games require you to finish the level, not quit early to get ahead. In Megaland the levels also never get more difficult; the level deck simply changes the order of which enemies (or blanks) you encounter with each shuffle.

On the plus side, the game moves very quickly and scales nicely as players earn more hearts, thus more treasure, more buildings, and finally more coins.

The Rating

Megaland is a great pick for kids who have graduated beyond the low age (4+) starter games but aren’t quite ready to tackle the big stuff (13+). Weighing the odds of when to jump out is a great teaching tool with stats and percentages, as is choosing which building cards to purchase. Although it’s competitive, players aren’t attacking each other, making Megaland a good game if you’re looking to avoid direct confrontation.

The Takeaway

Megaland is the perfect example of a board game publisher successfully applying advanced tabletop systems and mechanics to a wider, younger audience. Despite the small level deck the large number of possible building cards in any given game creates a solid amount of replayability, and risking it all for just one more treasure creates a lot of anguished yet enjoyable laughter.

Find Megaland at Target.

tomb raider legends

Be the Best Lara Croft in Tomb Raider Legends: The Board Game

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Square Enix has announced a cardboard version of their hit Tomb Raider franchise. It’s called Tomb Raider Legends: The Board Game, and it’s developed in partnership with Crystal Dynamics and Hobby Japan Co. It has a suggested retail price of $59.99, and should arrive February 2019.

The board game is designed for 3-4 players with a run time of about 40 minutes. It has a suggested age of 13+.

Judging by the artwork it looks to encompass the full arc of the series, rather than just the rebooted trilogy. Each player plays a different version of Lara Croft as they race around a modular board. Use skills, wits, and tools to explore ruins, fend off enemies, and search for hidden treasures. This biggest threat is Lara herself – the other players.

tomb raider legends

Tomb Raider Legends is designed by the makers of the Final Fantasy Trading Card Game. While actual gameplay has only been teased, the full component list has been released as follows.

  • Instruction Manual
  • Start tile: x1
  • Goal tile: x1
  • Area tiles: x10
  • Climax tiles: x3
  • Lara markers: x4
  • Player sheets: x4
  • Action cards: x28 (6 types, 7 cards per player x 4)
  • Raid cards: x41
  • Artifact: x1
  • Artifact Replica: x2
  • Starting Player marker: x1
  • Threat/Experience marker: x7
  • Injury marker: x4

Pre-orders are available now on the Square Enix store. Tomb Raider Legends: The Board Game should arrive February 2019.

disney card game villainous

Disney Villainous Review

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Publisher: Wonder Forge
Age: 10+
Players: 2-6
Game Length: 45-60 minutes
MSRP: $34.99

A good villain usually makes for a good story, and one of Disney’s strengths throughout every era was its memorable cast of villains. Some, like Maleficent, have even become more popular than their heroic rivals. Yet we’ve never seen a tabletop game that focuses solely on the darker side of the Disney universe, until now.

Disney Villainous is an elegantly constructed, asymmetrical card game where you play as one of six classic Disney villains. Each villain has their own deck of cards, player board, and goals, all of which reflect their sinister machinations in each film. Being bad never felt so good.

Off With Their Head

Players begin by selecting one of six infamous villains: Captain Hook, Maleficent, Jafar, Ursula, Prince John and Queen of Hearts.

disney villainousEvery villain is tasked with completing their own objective, ripped straight from the films. Jafar has to unlock the Cave of Wonders, hypnotize the genie, and bring both he and the lamp to the Palace, while Captain Hook needs to defeat Peter Pan at the Jolly Roger.

Each turn you move your player marker onto one of four locations on your player board. Each space has several different actions available, from playing cards to gathering power and vanquishing heroes. Choosing where to go and how to utilize both your cards and your limited actions each turn is a delightful puzzle.

At the same time, you’ll need to draw from the fate deck of your opponent’s heroes to foil their plans, while they do the same to you.

Choose Your Fate

While the villains are trying to get their various objectives done, those pesky heroes are always in the way. One of the actions allows you to draw from your opponent’s fate deck of heroes, select one of two cards, and play them on the top portion of their player board. Heroes cover up half the actions, weakening that villain’s options, as well as including debilitating effects specifically designed to undermine that villain – such as discarding Maleficent’s curses or stealing power from Prince John.

The fate deck is a lot of fun and helps alleviate the multiplayer-solitaire problem that frequently crops up in these kinds of games. It provides a high level of interactivity between players, and leads to some fun table talk as players see who’s doing well and work to thwart them.

disney villainous

The card art, player board, and player pieces are absolutely lovely. Disney fans will be satisfied to find classic art depictions of movie scenes and characters on each card. The foldout player board looks fantastic and the pieces are gorgeous 3D color-coded symbols of each villain. As great as the components are, the modeled plastic cauldron that holds the power is cheap by comparison.

With each villain having unique rules and cards, some of them play far more complex than others. Prince John and Maleficent are very straight-forward, while Ursula’s need to apply Binding Contracts to defeat heroes and only ever having access to three locations at a time creates a much more difficult scenario.

The balance between villains seems fine – almost every game I played was very close. Though Maleficent won every game she was played in, regardless of who played her. A complexity rating for each villain would have been very welcome, though the guide pamphlets do a decent job explaining their unique play styles.

The Rating

Villainous has a recommended age of 10+. Despite being a Disney game it’s complex enough to make it suitable only for older kids, teens, and adults. The fact that the most recent villain is from 1992 is a big clue that it skews to an older crowd than most Disney games. The game is easy enough to teach, but each villain has its own rules to learn and strategies to employ, and you have to pay close attention to what your opponents are doing.

disney villainous

The Takeaway

Villainous is a fantastic and cleverly designed card game. Each villain’s deck and strategy is richly thematic and expertly tied to their respective films, and the fate deck is an effective way of adding deliciously diabolical player interactivity. Hugely recommended for Disney fans looking for their next favorite card game.

Find Disney Villainous at Amazon, Target, and other retailers. 

shadows in the forest

Shadows in the Forest Review

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Ever play a board game in the dark? The 1980s kids game from Germany called Waldschattenspiel was designed for night-time playing. It featured an open-flame candle moving around a 3-dimensional board, while other players tried to hide in the shadows. Thinkfun’s recent remake, Shadows in the Forest, officially brings the game to the US with a richer theme and a more kid-friendly LED lantern.

Shadows in the Forest is an unusual and unique board game where players must tactically remain in darkness, while giggling at avoiding the dreaded light.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Shadows in the Forest can technically support any number of players, with one player playing as the lantern-controlling Seeker, and everyone else playing as the Shadowlings on a team. Every round the Seeker rolls a dice and move the lantern that number of spaces through different routes on the board.

The Shadowlings aren’t beholden to any such movement restrictions – but they have to remain in the shadows. A number of cardboard trees and rocks have to be assembled each time you open the box. They provide proper hiding places for the Shadowlings. If all the Shadowlings can reach one Hiding Place together, those players win.

shadows in the forest

At the same time, the Seeker player is trying to bathe each one in light. Hitting a Shadowling freezes it, and the Shadowling loses its little plastic mask, unable to move until another Shadowling can safely reach it. The Seekers job is to collect all the masks and freeze all the Shadowlings.

It’s basically an elaborate game of freeze tag. Despite the simplicity it’s a lot of fun, causing a raucous amount of laughing and giggling, even with adults.

Playing with lights and shadows is a novel concept, and easy enough that anyone can jump in and play within seconds.

Blinded by the Light

The original Waldschattenspiel featured dwarves. Shadows in the Forest re-themes the figures, replacing them with cute shadowy blobs called Shadowlings. With their masks on they look like something from a Miyazaki film. They’re all plastic, including the removable white masks, but high quality.

As a nice touch the dice is glow in the dark and rechargeable if you stick it next to a light source. The LED lantern does the job perfectly without worrying about your kids literally playing with fire.

The game comes with six Shadowlings, and it’s up to the players how many they want to play with. It’s a nice way to create a range of difficulty challenges, with three being the easiest and six being very difficult.

Darkness isn’t just a feature, it’s pretty much a requirement, and the darker the better. Playing in an dimly lit area or not-yet dark time of day is less than ideal, resulting in arguments over whether nor not a Shadowling passed through the light. The board isn’t large but it can be tricky to see exactly where the light ends and the shadows begin at the edge of the lantern’s light.

shadows in the forest

The Rating

The box recommends Ages 8+ though younger kids can quickly grasp the simple rules and join in, particularly as the Seeker.

The Takeaway

By using light and shadows as a fun form of freeze tag, Shadows in the Forest is both simplistic and clever. As a rules-lite game with no firm timer it feels casual and light-hearted, though this can cause problems among kids as Shadowling movement mostly requires the honor system to stay in shadow. The game is uniquely limited by its surroundings; perfect for sleep-overs and basements, and provides a fun experience that’s guaranteed to be different than any family game you’ve played before.

Shadows in the Forest is available at Amazon now, and in Target stores in August.