wicked to the core

Disney Villainous: Wicked to the Core Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 10+
Players: 2-3
Game Length: 40-60 minutes
MSRP: $24.99

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.

Mirror, Mirror

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.

wicked to the core

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.

wicked to the core

The Rating

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.

The Takeaway

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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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.