The Tooth Fairy Game Review

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Publisher: Larva Games
Age: 6+
Players: 2-5
Game Length: 15-30  minutes
MSRP: $29.99

Even hardcore “gamer’s game” tabletop publishers like Petersen Games see the value in exploring the lucrative market of kid-friendly games. The Tooth Fairy Game is their first release under their new Larva Games imprint. It packs four different kid-focused games into one box, along with over 100 colorful plastic teeth.

The teeth and bag components are delightful, and the four games increase in complexity to allow for a wider range of age and skill, though we found them all underwhelming.

The Tooth Hurts

The first game, That’s My Tooth, simply asks each player to pull teeth from their bag in the hopes of getting five of their color first. There’s zero strategy (like the card game War) but easy to play with much younger kids. Pulling Teeth is almost the same game but with multiple bags to choose from, and a die roll for the number. These games provide the barest of introductions to set collection, but younger kids will get a kick out of collecting small plastic teeth.

Lie Through Your Teeth is when things get a bit more interesting. It’s basically Liar’s Dice but using numbers and colors of teeth. Players start with a random assortment of teeth in their bag, then bluff on how many and what kind of teeth everyone has collectively.

Unlike Liar’s Dice, winners gain teeth when they win (rather than losers losing dice), giving the winners of each round more and more information. This makes it harder for other players to catch up and can quickly become frustrating. Bluffing is a hard enough concept for children to grasp without piling on the challenge of a runaway leader.

Finally there’s Treasure Teeth, which is a secret bidding game using teeth as currency. A roll of a dice determines the max bid, up to double the roll. Everyone divides their teeth into two hands in the hope of getting their biggest bid randomly selected in a winner-take-all. There’s a bit of strategy with how much to bid, and the risk and reward in dividing the teeth.

Treasure Teeth is a noble attempt to simplify poker-style treasure pots and antes into a game for younger kids, but, like the Liar’s Dice-inspired Treasure Teeth, is also not a genre that lends itself to being kid-friendly in the first place.

The Rating

The Tooth Fairy Game has an age recommendation of 6+. The four included games gradually scale in complexity, allowing for even younger kids to play the easier games, which amount to little more than pulling colorful teeth from bags.

The Takeaway

While I love the the huge amount of colorful teeth and cloth bags, none of the four games do anything meaningful with the theme. The teeth could just as easily be anything else, like buttons, cubes, or coins.

Including four games of increasing complexity is a brilliant method of producing a kids game, allowing one game box to grow along with the kids. But introducing two very kid-unfriendly genres, bluffing and betting, results in dissatisfying half-measures.

Find The Tooth Fairy Game at Petersen Games Website.

Jaws Board Game Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 12+
Players: 2-4
Game Length: 60 minutes
MSRP: $29.99

Brody: I used to hate the water…

Hooper: I can’t imagine why.

Building upon the success of last year’s Jurassic Park Danger board game, Ravensburger returns with another movie license in the Jaws board game (available exclusively at Target). Released in 1975, Jaws is often considered the original summer blockbuster, as a trio of men on the vacation destination of Amity Island try to keep a man-eating shark from, well, man-eating, first by trying to close the beaches, then by getting on a boat and hunting the shark themselves.

The Jaws game brilliantly captures both halves of the film in a unique two act structure, culminating in an exciting finale where the shark player rips apart a sinking boat while other players desperately try to fend it off.

A Bigger Boat

As in Jurassic Park Danger, players are divided up into two teams, the humans and the shark. The three human characters of Brody, Hooper, and Quint are always present, making the 2 and 3-player game a little more challenging for the human player but also maintaining a proper balance when playing with fewer than four.

In act one the human team controls the three characters on Amity Island. Each turn they have a set number of actions with which to rescue swimmers (spawned from event cards drawn each round), gather motion sensing barrels, close beaches, and try to locate the shark. The shark player, meanwhile uses a hidden notepad to track their movement and eating habits.

Act one results in an excellent game of cat and mouse as the humans try to locate the shark player using their various abilities, like Brody’s binoculars and Hooper’s fish finder, while minimizing losses.

The first act ends when the shark has eaten nine swimmers, or if Quint manages to tag the shark with two of his barrels. Depending on how many swimmers the shark ate, act two swings in favor of either the shark (more ability cards) or the humans (more gear cards). The board is flipped and boat tiles are added to represent Quint’s boat from the film, the Orca.

If act one is a subtle detective game with some light strategy, act two is a full-on tactical strategy warfare with hit points and dice rolls. The shark resurfaces by choosing from several different Resurface cards, and the humans have to predict where it’ll appear, targeting the space with spears, flares, and pistols. The shark player rips apart chunks of the boat, flipping tiles or eliminating them entirely, and possibly dumping humans into the water where it can start whittling down their hit points.

I’ve played both extremes of act one, with the shark player eating the maximum number of swimmers (and thus gaining the biggest hand advantage going into act two) and the humans tagging the shark almost immediately, with the opposite swing in momentum. However, the card advantage from act one doesn’t grant an automatic win. In both instances the final turn of act two came down to a nail-biting thriller, with a 1 hit point shark nimbly trying to avoid becoming sushi while the surviving humans cling to the last shreds of a sinking boat.

We ran into a few rules questions when it came to act two’s constantly changing battlefield and adjacency conundrums. And it’s a bummer that the movie license doesn’t appear to include the actors’ likenesses, but that doesn’t take away from the fantastic gameplay.

The Rating

The Jaws Board Game has an age recommendation of 12+. Both acts require tactical planning and strategy, and in the case of the human players, coordination of their actions and attacks. The shark player needs to keep careful, honest track of what they do each round throughout act one.

The subject matter is another factor, as the shark player is eating people in act one, and both sides are trying to kill one another in act two. Humorously the original film is rated PG, but would garner at least a strong PG-13 rating (which wasn’t invented until 1984) if not an R rating today.

The Takeaway

I was very impressed to find the solution to whether or not to adapt a Jaws game from the ship or the island was “Why not both?” The two act gameplay structure creates a memorable mini campaign as both sides earn their powers from how well they handle act one. Alternatively you can play each act as a separate game mode if you’re short on time. Both sides play completely differently and the action is fun and tense throughout both acts. Even more than Jurassic Park Danger, the Jaws board game is a triumphant of great game design and an excellent use of the source material.

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.