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Pixelkin 2019 Holiday Gift Guide: Board Games

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Despite (or perhaps because of) video gaming’s incredible popularity, board and card games continue to ride a golden wave of success. Like their digital counterparts, tabletop games come in all shapes, sizes, genres, and age groups.

Below you’ll find our list of some of the hottest new games of 2019 divided by Kids (~8-13) and Teens (14+). Note that “Kids” doesn’t mean Teens and Adults won’t love them too!

Kids

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers

invasion of the cow snatchers

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers is more a series of puzzles than a board game. Fences and disc-cows are assembled in a small grid, and players must carefully navigate their magnetic UFO to pick up cows and avoid getting stuck behind fences. The box includes 60 puzzles divided into five difficulty levels, making it a brain-teasing winner for kids and adults.

The Mind

The Mind is a simple card game with a hilariously devious premise. Players need to play their randomly dealt number cards (1-100) to the center of the table, in ascending order. Play the wrong card, and you lose a precious life. The catch is that no one can talk to each other, forcing lots of furtive looks and telling grunts. The Mind features 12 levels of increasing difficulty, as each player must calculate a larger hand size.

Funkoverse Strategy Games

Fans of the bobblehead-like Funko pop figures can throw down the gauntlet in this new series of tactical Funkoverse Strategy Games. At launch you can find DC, Harry Potter, and Rick and Morty packs in 2-character and 4-character sets, and each come with exclusive Funkopop figures.

Wayfinders

In Wayfinders, players place their workers on hangars to gain resources, then use them to move their plan among a randomly generated set of islands, building airstrips and gaining victory points. It’s an easy-to-teach gateway game to the wonderful worker placement genre.

 

Teens

The Blockbuster Party Game

The Blockbuster Party Game is the ultimate movie trivia game, featuring multiple party game trivia modes, including head-to-head categories, quotes, and even silently acting out movie scenes, and it’s all wrapped up in a nostalgic VHS tape package.

Clank Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated

We love the Clank games for combing dungeon crawling with deck building. Clank Legacy combines two more of our favorites: the overarching campaign RPG structure of a legacy game, and the hilariously fun machinations of the Penny Arcade D&D group, Acq Inq!

Disney Villainous: Wicked to the Core and Evil Comes Prepared 

If you followed our advice and got the excellent asymmetrical game Disney Villainous last year, you’re more than due to check out the two new expansions, each adding three new villains that feature their own unique and thematically appropriate paths to victory.

Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker

oathbreaker

Game of Thrones finally ended earlier this year, but you and your friends can carry on the backstabbing and subterfuge with Oathbreaker, which takes the hidden role system of many a party game and divides players into two teams of loyalists and conspirators, and a paranoid king who must determine which is which.

Jaws Board Game

Who would’ve guessed a board game based on the seminal 1975 film would be so darn good? The Jaws Board Game is two games in one, with the first act featuring the human players scrambling to find the shark before it eats too many swimmers. The second act takes place entirely on the boat, as the shark destroys it (and the humans) while the humans try to guess where it will surface and attack. For a game where one player plays a man-eating shark on a team of their own, it’s surprisingly well-balanced and wonderfully tense.

Wingspan

One of the best reviewed board games of the year is about bird-watching, and collecting birds for your personal wildlife preserve. Wingspan features over 150 bird species, gorgeous artwork, colorful egg tokens, large player mats, and an awesome bird-feeder dice tower.

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Sponsored Post: A Basic Guide to Backgammon

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The game of backgammon is over 5,000 years old, which makes it one of the oldest board games in history. It was first created by people living in the Middle East at the time, but today it’s played all over the world.

If you ever saw what a backgammon game looks like, you might have been confused as to what the rules are. In fact, it’s hard to tell what the rules are just by looking at how the game’s played. But don’t worry—you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. Nevertheless, you will need some sort of a tutorial to understand the basics of backgammon, and that’s where we come in.

Also, if you don’t own a backgammon board, you can play the best free backgammon game online instead. But first, you should read the following guidelines carefully and learn how to play backgammon with your friends. Let’s start!

The Setup

Backgammon is a two-player game played on a board containing 24 narrow triangles called “points”. The points are separated into four quadrants of six, with a bar in the middle.

Each player starts with 15 checkers. Checkers come in two different colors–usually, one player has white and the other one has black. One player moves his or her pieces in a clockwise direction while the other player starting on the opposite side of the board moves counterclockwise.

The quadrant that you will be moving towards is called your home board (bottom right or bottom left depending on your position), and the board adjacent to it is your outer board.

In order to start, each player will need to put all of his or her checkers on the board. Start by putting five checkers on your 6th point, three checkers on your 8th point, five checkers on your 13th point, and then put your last two checkers on your 24th point. The opponent will put their checkers in an exact mirror image of yours.

To learn more about how the points are numbered, take a look at this awesome beginner backgammon tutorial.

Moving the Checkers

Each player receives two regular dice with six sides that he or she throws to indicate the moving of the pieces. So, for example, if you roll a four and a two, you will get to move any of your checkers for a total of six times. You can move one checker six times, or you can move one checker four times and another one twice. Remember that you can only move the checkers in one previously determined direction towards your home board. The goal is to reach the end of your home board with all 15 pieces.

To indicate who starts first, both players will throw dice at the same time. Whichever player gets the higher number, he or she moves first by a total number of two dice combined. For example, if you get a three and your opponent rolls only a one, you will get to move your pieces three times and then once more. If both players roll the same number, the throwing of the dice repeats.

You can land a checker on any point that is empty or that has only one of the opponent’s pieces. You can’t land your piece onto a point that has two or more opponent’s checkers.

If you land a double, let’s say double twos, the total number of your moves will double as well, so you will get eight moves instead of four in this case.

Hitting Opponents and Bearing Off

If you land on a point where the opponent only has one checker, you will send that checker to the bar. The opponent will then have to roll the dice to put his piece on the bar back into the game, beginning from his starting point. The opponent cannot re-enter the game unless he or she rolls the number that puts them on a point where they can actually land —they cannot land on points where you have two or more pieces at a given time.

As we mentioned before, the goal of a backgammon game is to finish the board with all of your pieces. Once you get near the end, you will hope to roll a number that exceeds the last point. You can only finish with one piece at a time and only if all of your pieces are in your home board. That is called bearing off.

Whichever player removes all of his or her checkers first wins the game.

dire wolf digital

Dire Wolf Digital Bringing Six Hit Board Games to Digital

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Dire Wolf Digital announced an exciting lineup of board game digital adaptations from some of the hottest tabletop games of the last several years. The digital versions will include PC and mobile versions, starting with Raiders of the North Sea (Renegade Game Studios) in the next few months.

Dire Wolf Digital are the developers of digital collectible card game Eternal and co-developers (with Renegade Game Studios) of the Clank! board game series. They’ve previously adapted board games Lanterns: The Harvest Festival and Lotus to PC and mobile.

“Bringing some of the hottest fan-favorite tabletop games to digital platforms is an exciting opportunity, and doing it in partnership with some of the industry’s best and brightest is an honor and pleasure,” said Scott Martins, President and founder of Dire Wolf Digital. “These are the games we’re playing ourselves, so making sure they come to life in digital form in a way that’s as great as they are on the table is our focus and an absolute must for us.”

At this time only Raiders of the North Sea was given a tentative release window. Other announced adaptions include: Mage Knight (WizKids), Root (Leder Games), Sagrada (Floodgate Games), Yellow & Yangtze (Grail Games), and Wings of Glory (Ares Games).

Mage Knight is sprawling, dense, but rewarding RPG simulator by renowned board game designer Vlaada Chvatil. Players take on the role of the titular mage knights and explore new territory, battling monsters, leveling up, and building their deck of spells and abilities. Dire Wolf’s partnership includes all of WizKids’ properties, such as Dice Masters and HeroClix.

Root is a war game featuring four asymmetrical woodland forces vying for domination. Sagrada is a dice-drafting game where players build their own stained glass window using colorful dice to fill out their own unique puzzle. Yellow & Yangtze is a tile-placement strategy game from legendary designer Reiner Knizia, a modern evolution of his own 1990s strategy game Tigris & Euphrates. Wings of Glory is a miniatures war game featuring biplane dogfighting in World War 2.

Dire Wolf Digital also recently announced a partnership with Penny Arcade to produce a new physical Clank! board game based on Acquisitions Incorporated. The new version, Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated, will feature an ongoing campaign.

Pixelkin 2018 Holiday Gift Guide for Gaming Families

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When the most popular game on the planet is free to play on every available platform, including phones, what’s a parent or relative shopping for games to do?

Despite its popularity, Fortnite isn’t the end all of video games. This year saw huge new franchise releases in a variety of genres, such as Assassin Creed Odyssey, God of War, Dragon Quest 11, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Digital gift cards such as the Nintendo eShop gift card make easy and effective gifts (and fine stocking stuffers) as indie games continue to fill the in-between gaps, including Dead Cells, Celeste, Two Point Hospital, Moonlighter, and Octopath Traveler.

And 2018 marked our first full year with the Switch, adding dozens of high quality indie games as well as first party releases such as Super Mario Party and Pokémon Let’s Go. Nintendo is also the only major game company truly thinking outside the box with the release of the Nintendo Labo kits.

Below you’ll find links to our 2018 gaming gift recommendations, organized by system and age rating: Young Kids (under 10), Kids and Teens (10-16), and Mature Teens (17+).

For the first time this year we’re also adding a board game category, recognizing the rising popularity of tabletop games for kids and adults of all ages. In an age of increasing reliance on digital distribution, opening a physical board game for the holidays would make for a very satisfying gift.

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disney villainous

Pixelkin 2018 Holiday Gift Guide: Board Games

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Board games aren’t exactly new, but they are a new addition to our Holiday Gift Guide. In an age of increasing reliance on digital screens, we recognize the value of getting friends and family together around a table for quality game time. From deckbuilders to miniature wargames, Disney card games, and RPG dungeon crawls, there’s a game for every kind of family.

Board games also make fantastic gifts. Since this is our first year doing board games, we’ve listed some of the hottest new games of 2017 and 2018 by age, Kids (~8-13) and Teens (14+). Note that “Kids” doesn’t mean Teens and Adults won’t love them too!

 

Kids

Dice Throne

Combining Yahtzee with a dueling RPG is just crazy enough to work. Each player chooses a hero with their own unique deck of cards and player board. The board lists all the abilities you can unleash, provided you roll the right facings. Dice Throne (Age: 8+) is incredibly easy to jump into, and features gorgeous art work and a quick but exciting play time.

Hardback

Hardback (Age: 10+) is the follow-up to 2014’s Paperback, a deckbuilding word game. Players work on finishing their novels by stringing together a word every turn from the letters they’ve purchased. It’s much more forgiving than Scrabble since you can turn any letter into a wild, and there’s fun synergy for staying within your genre.

Magic Maze

Magic Maze (Age: 8+) transforms a traditional dungeon crawler into a kid-friendly cooperative heist mission. Instead of everyone controlling a different hero, each player has a very specific ability and movement action they can perform. It’ll take everyone working together and coordinating their actions to successfully escape.

Megaland

In Megaland (Age: 8+) players run through video game levels represented by cards. The longer they stay in the more treasures they can accumulate, but they risk losing it all if they draw the wrong card. It plays fast and quick and is a great introduction into bigger board game concepts like managing resources and navigating risk versus reward (read our review).

Queendomino

Kingdomino (2015) is the original, easier game, but Queendomino (Age: 8+) expands the brilliant dominoes + builder combination by adding the ability to construct buildings on certain spaces. It’s just enough complexity to add more long-term gameplay without losing sight of the easy-to-learn concept of  carving out your own little empire out of matching dominoes.

Shadows in the Forest

shadows in the forest

Based on a classic 1980s game from from Germany, Shadows in the Forest (Age: 8+) can only be played in a dark room, or at night, as it relies entirely on light and shadow. The unique game is sure to delight a group of giggling kids as the cute Shadowlings try to avoid the light caused by the Seeker’s lantern (read our review).

 

Older Kids & Teens

Clank! In! Space! Apocalypse!

Clank in Space (Age: 13+) smartly expands on 2016’s deckbuilding dungeon crawler Clank by adding a modular board and greater card depth without making it unwieldy. This year’s Apocalypse expansion adds more modules and cards as well as Schemes, creating new deliciously debilitating effects if the players linger in Lord Eradikus’ spaceship too long.

Disney Villainous

Disney games are typically aimed at kids, but Villainous (Age: 10+) includes six asymmetrical Disney villains vying to complete their own objectives in a surprisingly tactical and advanced card game. Each player gets their own unique villain – and hero decks, as well as villain boards that reflect their setting, goals, and adversaries. You’ll have to juggle your own needs while hindering your opponents. Bonus points for cackling gleefully. Read our review.

Sagrada

Stained glass window design isn’t a super common theme in board games, but it does provide Sagrada (Age: 14+) with a lovely rainbow display of dice. Sagrada is sort of like Sudoku with dice as players take turns drafting the colors and numbers they need to fill out their display window while maximizing combo points.

Star Wars: Legion

Fantasy Flight Games released the Star Wars minatures game of your dreams with Star Wars: Legion (Age: 14+). With Legion you can simulate iconic battles from the movies while mobilizing AT-ATs or cutting down Storm Troopers with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. As is the case with any minis game, there are expansion packs you can buy to bolster your forces.

pax unplugged

PAX Unplugged Officially Returns With a New Date

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When PAX Unplugged was announced last year, some where skeptical that it was a one-off event. Put those fears to rest, as Penny Arcade and ReedPOP have officially announced PAX Unplugged 2018. Badges will go on sale May 17.

“I know we’re biased, but we really did have a blast at Unplugged last year and we’re really excited to come back,” states the official announcement. “Not just come back, but we’re growing the scope of the show considerably. Don’t worry, it’ll still be focused on tabletop gaming, but parts of the building will be opening up to us this year and we should have a bit more room to stretch our legs and smooth out some of the wrinkles.

PAX Unplugged 2018 will take place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, PA. Last year it took place the weekend before Thanksgiving, but this year the dates have been shifted two weeks later, taking place Nov 30 – Dec 2. That should hopefully ease the chaos of traveling around the holidays. Not to mention another big board gaming convention, BGG Con, that took place at the same time last year.

Like other PAX shows, PAX Unplugged features an exhibit hall stuffed with vendors, develoeprs, and publishers, discussion panels, musical performances, and tournaments. All other PAX events focus on video games and the gaming industry, with a light sprinkling of tabletop. Unplugged focuses exclusively on tabletop games, board games, and RPGs, from a massive freeplay area with lending library to a dedicated area for painting minatures.

PAX Unplugged also includes a special family room area with kid-friendly games. The final day of the expo, Sunday, is designated Kids Day. Kids Day will provide an extra emphasis on family-friendly games, as well as offering reduced single-day Kids Day Badges for the Under 12 crowd. The Kids Day Badge still provides full access to the event.

PAX Unplugged 2018 badges will go on sale at 12 pm Pacific/3 pm Eastern on May 17. You can sign up for Twitter notifications when registration opens.