Available On: Switch
With the arrival of touch screen technology in the early 2000s, the ability to pet our furry friends wasn’t far behind. Nintendogs was a big success on the Nintendo DS, eventually spawning a sequel on Nintendo 3DS.
The Switch’s touchscreen controls and Joy-Con seem like an obvious pick for a new version, but thus far the series lies dormant. Here to fill in the gap is Little Friends: Dogs & Cats, a Nintendogs sequel in all but name. It brings the pet playing and petting to the big (and handheld) screen, though doesn’t evolve much beyond the original pet simulator formula from over a decade ago.
Game Length: 40-60 minutes
Disney Villainous (now referred to as Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes All) released last year as a devilishly clever card game where players take on the role of infamous Disney Villains, like Ursula and Maleficent. Its asymmetrical gameplay, intuitive action system, and classic Disney artwork made it one of our favorite tabletop games of last year.
This month Ravensburger released Disney Villainous: Wicked to the Core, a stand-alone expansion that adds three new Disney Villains: Hades, Dr. Facilier (Shadow Man), and the Evil Queen. The three can be played against each other for up to three players, or mixed in with the The Worst Takes All to add even more sinister machinations.
Each of the three new villains are given the same detailed treatment as the base game, with a folding player board for locations based on their movies, a deck of villain cards and hero cards, a molded player token, and some power tokens. Each villain is also given their own little paper guide to help explain how they achieve their unique player goals, whether it’s defeating Snow White or Ruling New Orleans. The components are just as fantastic as before, though all three villain tokens look a bit too similar to each other, each a slightly differently shaped and colored obelisk.
Hades is the most straight-forward of the bunch. As the god of the Underworld with his eyes set on Olympus, his goal is to move four of his unique Titan allies from one side of his board to the other. Titans have special powers but are quite expensive, and using them to defeat heroes will greatly slow down his progress – unless you can play a Hydra or Mortality Potion first. Hades’ Fate deck feels especially powerful and cruel, however, with strong heroes who trap or teleport Titans backwards.
Dr. Facilier and the Evil Queen are much more complex than the heroes from The Worst Takes All. Dr. Facilier, better known as the Shadow Man from The Princess and the Frog, has a unique sidebar called the Fortune Deck. His goal is to control the Talisman, play The Cards Will Tell, and draw the Rule New Orleans card out of his Fortune Deck. It takes a lot of careful set up to pull off.
Meanwhile your opponent can use heroes to steal the talisman and stuff your Fortune Deck full of unwanted cards, to make drawing the one you need all the trickier. Being able to fan out the cards and let players draw the winner is a fun twist, and a wonderful translation of his tarot cards from the movie.
The Evil Queen from Snow White is one of the most classic Disney Villains of all time. In Wicked to the Core she functions a bit like Ursula in that she can’t directly attack heroes. Her prowess isn’t based on raw strength or power, but manipulation. Instead she needs to brew poison by converting poison tokens into power using a special unique action at her laboratory, while playing ingredient cards to unlock the dwarf’s cottage and summon Snow White herself.
The Evil Queen has to use poison along with the Take a Bite cards to defeat pesky heroes, such as the dwarfs who add to Snow White’s strength. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get actual poison tokens; it’s up to the Evil Queen player to keep up with both identical but separate piles of tokens.
Disney Villainous: Wicked to the Core has a recommended age of 10+. Like The Worst Takes All, it’s aimed at an older crowd of animated Disney lovers, as it requires careful planning and hand management – and every villain plays differently. Dr. Facilier and Evil Queen are both more complex than any villain from the base game, making the expansion a better option for those who already know how to play, and are looking for more villains.
Wicked to the Core benefits from the solid components and gameplay of Villainous, as well as the deep roster of fantastically themed villains from the Disney animated universe. All three villains play differently than the original six, and we appreciated that Wicked to the Core draws from multiple eras of Disney animation. We recommend getting the base game first as these new villains are a bit more advanced, but no less enjoyable, and should make the villainous competition that much fiercer.
Find Disney Villainous: Wicked to the Core at Target.
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
As online multiplayer become the norm, an increasing number of indie games are exploring the local party game genre. Bombfest takes a cue from Mario Party-style quick and silly mini-games with a party game about throwing bombs at your fellow wooden block people.
With easy to pick up two-button controls, quick gameplay, and a whimsical style, Bombfest is a delightfully explosive romp with friends.
Publisher: Red Raven Games
Game Length: 20 minutes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Available On: PC, Switch
Sleep Tight presents the classic monster-in-the-closet tale and transforms it into a kid-themed tower defense game, married with the gun-play of a twin-stick shooter. Both aspects are decently executed if a bit shallow, and the theme of defending your bedroom against an onslaught of Pixar-friendly monsters is a fun one.
Yet Sleep Tight lacks the mechanical depth of other tower defense games, and surviving against the hordes is more of an exercise in quantity over quality.