Friday, September 27, 2013

New Arrivals This Week 9/24/13 to 9/30/13

by Becky "Definitely Exists" Topol

After having a ton of customers recommend and ask about it, Stefan Feld’s Bora Bora has come finally been released in the U.S. and has arrived at Labyrinth. This set collection and worker placement game hinges on a dice-based strategy - the dice themselves can be placed on various locations to complete goals, and the number on the die determines the outcome! Smaller numbers can block your opponents, while larger numbers can get you the best possible version of an action. The men and women of your tribe must build huts, find fish, and curry favor with the gods who will allow them to break and change the very rules that govern Bora Bora! Many people are saying the is Feld's best game.

Theros, the first set in the Theros block for the collectible card game Magic: the Gathering, is releasing today, September 27, 2013. Theros is a large expansion and will be followed by Born of the Gods and Journey into Nyx. Theros has an ancient Greek theme, with lots of new Labyrinth cards. You know we are excited! We have booster packs, booster boxes (with a special 25% discount off MSRP), Fat Packs, Intro Packs, and even some remaining pre-release packs.

We’ve all heard Descartes’ famous statement, “Cogito ergo sum”, or “I think, therefore I am”. The card game Ergo challenges you to prove something a little different: “Ludo ergo sum.” I play, therefore I am. In Ergo, each player claims a logical variable to represent themselves, and uses cards in an attempt to build up a sound logical proof for their own existence. Using cards with basic logical statements like “And”, “Then”, and “Not”, as well as tricky cards such as Tabula Rasa, Revolution, and the all-powerful Ergo, players must construct consistent logical statements that negate or support the very existence of their opponents. Anyone who still exists at the end of the round gets as many points as there are in the proof! This game is perfect for those looking for a quick card game that provides a brainy challenge, and is popular among computer programmers, mathematicians, philosophers, and people who like proving that their enemies don’t exist. Sounds perfect for our customers, right?

It’s never too early to get into the Halloween mood, and what better way than with a creepy game? Zombie Dice 2: Double Feature is an expansion to the perennial favorite, Zombie Dice. With three new dice making up two distinct expansions, this set opens a whole world of possibilities while still easily fitting inside your original Zombie Dice tube. The first expansion, Big Summer Action Movie, introduces the super dangerous yet super brain-a-licios Hunk, and the speedy, gun-happy Hottie. Santa Claus Meets the Zombies introduces jolly old Saint Nick to the zombie apocalypse, and he’s brought his sleigh full of goodies! Some gifts, like the football helmet, help protect you on your hunt for brains, but of course, Santa’s also packing a shotgun. All three of these new Hero dice can be added into your base game, and can even rescue each other from your brain stockpile. Increasing both risk and potential reward, Zombie Dice 2: Double Feature allows for fresh new strategy in this push-your-luck hunt for brains.

Building a civilization is more than just battling your neighbors, and this comes through in Christian Marcussen’s Clash of Cultures. Played on a board of arrangeable hexes, Clash of Cultures is a highly intuitive, streamlined game that allows for a variety of play styles; establishing and expanding civilizations, technological advances, completing objectives, building wonders, and military success all contribute to a successful civilization, or you can just focus on one aspect to become completely dominant. Centered around highly flexible tech trees which advance the game from a hunt-and-gather survival game to a complex civilization game where the happiness of each city is crucial. With over 250 miniatures, Clash of Cultures is an easy-to-play and relatively quick civilization game that combines the best of battle, technology, and history-making!

1775: Rebellion is a continuation of Birth of America series, and in this new installation the American Continental Army and Patriots take on the British Army and Loyalists in the attempt to control various colonies and territories. The various factions can call on Native Americans, German Hessians, or the French Army to either quell or aid in the growing rebellion. Each faction has its own deck to control troop movements, custom dice to resolve battles, and when a faction manages to gain control over an entire territory, they raise a flag. (Because as Eddie Izzard taught us: No flag, no country. Those are the rules.) Whichever side has planted the most battle flags by the historic signing of the Treaty of Paris is the winner! This game runs on the same basic mechanics of 1812: The Invasion of Canada, but is quicker to play, and it comes with the advanced “The Siege of Quebec” scenario. 1775: Rebellion is a great choice for history buffs and war gamers alike!

Castle Dice is a dice-drafting adventure for one to four players, taking on the roles of Princes and Princesses of the realm. According to the king, whoever can build the most magnificent castle will become heir to the throne, so you must set out for the borders, roll for resources, hire workers, and improve your castles. Lighter than popular dice-drafting game Seasons, Castle Dice game gives each player a certain number of dice which are then rolled into a central pool and drafted by all the players in an attempt to complete challenge cards. Your royal brothers and sisters aren’t the only ones who can steal resources from you; Barbarians will often attack and raid your stockpiles! Workers can be hired to improve your castles and protect your goods, while (adorable) farm animals give you special, powerful bonuses. With colorful, cartoony art, Castle Dice is a fun and fast new challenge!

Expanding play from Rise of Vigil, Darkness Unleashed is the newest expansion for the deckbuilding game Ascension, and can also stand alone as a two-player game. This set contains 196 brand new cards, including new Dark Energy Shard Treasure cards, and Energize cards that elevate your Heroes, Monsters, and Constructs to even more powerful forms!

On top of all that, the new chapter packs for Android: Netrunner, Star Wars LCG, and Game of Thrones have arrived, and Hanabi and Lickety Quick are back. Whoo! Another exciting week at Labyrinth!

Added to our Game Demo Library This Week: Ascension: Rise of Vigil, Puerto Rico, Battlestar Galactica, Colossal Arena, Chicken Caesar, and Grandma’s Trunk. Join us for Thursday Game Night, 6pm to 10pm, to try one!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Learning Through Games: Fine Motor Skills

by Lea Sidoti, co-coordinator of Labyrinth's Educational Outreach Programs

This is the second article in our series on learning through non-electronic games. Our first article covered cooperative games. The idea behind this series of articles is to explain some of the concepts that we address during our educational outreach efforts, like after-school game clubs, as well as provide our readers with the names of some great games and puzzles.

Whether you're shuffling cards, moving player pawns, or piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, games and puzzles require the use of your hands. That probably sounds like a pretty obvious statement; using your hands to manipulate objects isn't much of a challenge to most adults, so it isn't something we usually think about. But for young children, as well as individuals with disabilities, games can provide important opportunities to practice fine motor skills and develop abilities to help them gain independence and essential life skills.

Motor skills, the controlled ability to move your body, are generally divided into two groups: fine and gross. Gross motor skills involve full body movements, such as running and jumping, while fine motor skills specifically focus on the hands. Fine motor abilities include tying shoelaces, stacking blocks, and holding a pencil or paintbrush. The development of these and other physical skills is connected to the development of cognitive skills: Tying their own shoes allows a child to feel independent and self-confident. Building a tower teaches a child to think about balance, size, and shape. Learning to write or create artwork gives a person a new method of communication.

One of the first skills that babies learn is how to open and close their fingers to form a fist. Grasping toys are great tools to encourage this motion, and supporting the weight of the toy also improves a baby’s strength. We carry a variety of animal shaped grasping toys from Melissa and Doug and a classic toy called Skwish from Manhattan Toys. All of these toys are designed for small hands, and have some freedom of movement so babies can stretch and squash them, leading to further muscle development.

After mastering the ability to hold and move objects, a good new challenge to tackle is balancing objects. A few games provide this practice at varying levels of difficulty. One of the simplest is Stack Up!, where players work together to build a tower of large square blocks. The game comes with two batons, which children may use to hold the blocks indirectly, adding to the challenge as they advance in skill. A more complex option is Animal Upon Animal, where players stack wooden animal figures instead of blocks. The irregular shapes are harder to fit together, so stacking them requires more thought.

Pick-up sticks and Jenga are great examples of advanced fine motor skill games. They also illustrate how physical skills are closely tied to mental abilities. In these games, it is just as important to look closely at the pieces and make predictions about how they are dependent upon each other as it is to control your movements very precisely. If you are already familiar with these games and would like a new challenge, Suspend is a great game to check out. In Suspend, players hang pieces off of a base, trying to build up a suspended structure without upsetting the balance.

Many other games require fine motor skills without focusing on them exclusively. General skills that can be found in many games include rolling dice, shuffling and dealing cards, holding a hand of cards, and placing pieces or tiles on a board. Although fine motor skills are essential to the total development of a person’s body and brain, it is easy as adults to take our own abilities for granted and forget that these games and other activities provide babies and children much needed practice to gain basic coordination of their hands and minds.

Some of our other favorite games that focus on fine motor skills include:
  • Strong Stuff!
  • Perplexus
  • Jacks
  • Puzzles
  • Wobble Around Beads
  • Chickyboom
  • Rhino Hero
  • Treasure, Ready, Go!
  • Kee Kee the Rocking Monkey
  • Coo Coo the Clown
  • Zimbbos!
  • My Very First Games: Feeling and Touching
  • Latches Board
  • Basic Skills Board


Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Arrivals This Week 9/17/13 to 9/23/13

by Becky "My Ka is a Wombat" Topol

Ia! Ia! The Obligatory Cthulhu Set ftaghn! That’s right, the most obligatory of all gaming themes has now come to Smash Up! This expansion contains four new factions: Minions of Cthulhu, Elder Things, Innsmouth, and Miskatonic University. It also introduces a deck of Madness cards, which can grant you great power at a terrible price: negative victory points. Plus they can seriously gum up your deck if the Elder Things attack you with their Madness-inducing powers. All these new options promise exciting and terrifying combinations with factions from the base game and first expansion, with massive Elder Things, seemingly limitless throngs of Innsmouth Locals, and the Scooby-Doo antics of the Miskatonic faculty. Some cards can even force your opponents to shuffle their discard pile into their deck, which might really pull the rug out from under anyone playing Zombies. If you think you can handle the squamous, mind-numbing horror of it all, The Obligatory Cthulhu Set will add powerful new cards and game-changing strategy to your Smash Up decks.

Merchants and Marauders is finally back! This game drops you into the world of seafaring trade and adventure in the Caribbean’s Golden Age of Piracy, allowing you to choose a seafaring career and search for glory. Will you be a Merchant and rely on clever trades, or a marauding Pirate out for blood and gold? The role you choose seriously affects the strategy you need in order to win. Upgrade your ships (with great miniatures), sniff out rumors, place or collect bounties, and engage in battle at sea!

The newest Yu-Gi-Oh! structure deck is here! Saga of Blue-Eyes White Dragon centers around the iconic monster and its support cards, including Kaibaman and The White Stone of Legend. Seto Kaiba's signature card and the Ka of Kisara, Blue-Eyes White Dragon is more powerful than the Egyptian gods, and the most famous and feared monster in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! This deck comes with a game mat and dueling guide, and contains the fearsome Azure-Eyes Silver Dragon. With two Ultra Rares and two Super Rares, you'll definitely want this deck on hand when it's time to duel!

Some of our other favorite things have also come back in, after being unavailable for far too long! Ticket to Ride's map collection India & Switzerland, combines two great expansions in one package. India offers two to four players new ways to earn bonus points, and the two-to-three-player Switzerland map challenges rail barons to connect whole countries! Expansions for Small World have also returned. Cursed!, Grand Dames of Small World, and Be Not Afraid... all add new races and special powers that you can mix and match in your quest to take over the (small) world! Be Not Afraid... also comes with a token tray that can hold the components for the previous expansions. The ever-popular Pandemic is back in stock, alongside both of its expansions: On the Brink and In the Lab. If you've been dying to try this challenging cooperative game, now's a great time to pick up the whole Pandemic family! And finally, The Resistance: Avalon is back! This Medieval-themed version of The Resistance adds new powers and roles in the quest to discover who is truly good, and who is secretly an agent of the forces of evil! Can you survive the magic and intrigue of Avalon?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

New Arrivals This Week 9/10/13 to 9/16/13

by Becky "Shiny, Cap'n!" Topol
The reprint of Parade brings gorgeous art and beloved characters to a card collection, hand-management game. The denizens of Wonderland are organizing a parade, and you have to decide what order they will march in. Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and other famous faces from the land beyond the looking glass appear on cards of different colors and numerical values. Depending on the card you place, you must collect other cards which give you points. But since everything is topsy-turvy in Wonderland, points are a bad thing. Whoever can manage their hand and place their cards most cleverly will collect the fewest points and be declared the winner!

Spot-It Party puts a whole new spin on the incredibly popular game of Spot-It. The 55-card deck has all-new pictures to match, with each card still having exactly one match to any other card in the deck. Play the basic game and race to match your card to the top of the central stack first, or try out one of the six new variants! Mini-games like “The Race”, “Dynamite”, and “Double Frenzy” incorporate the new card stands and Spot-It logo totem. Spot the matches and grab the totem for bonus points! This new variation on the excellent Spot-It formula adds a new level of difficulty and interactivity to the already addictive game.

The new X-Wing Minatures Game expansions are in, and they're as gorgeous and detailed as we've all come to expect. The large Lambda-class shuttle is my personal favorite at the moment, though that’s mostly because its wings actually move. In terms of gameplay, the Lambda is the only ship so far that has the option to stay still on its turn, which is a huge new strategic element. Also available are the transport ship HWK-290 “Hawk”, the heavy-hitting TIE bomber, and the precision-targeting B-Wing. Bring your Rebel and Imperial fleets up to full force, and see who truly has the power to rule the galaxy!

So your family farm is doing well! Congratulations! Now it’s time to expand with More Buildings Big and Small. This expansion to the two-player Agricola variant All Creatures Big and Small adds 27 new buildings to your game, as well as a fifth Stall tile and a farm expansion. Use new and innovative strategies to give your animals more room to grow, breed, run free, and give you more victory points than ever before!

Browncoats everywhere have dreamed of exploring the ‘Verse for years, and now that dream is a role-playing reality; the Firefly Role-Playing Game: Gaming in the 'Verse has arrived! This book, which is a special preview release of the game that is due to be published by Margaret Weis Productions, includes everything you need to build your own ship and create characters to crew it! There are also pre-made playable character sheets for all nine members of the crew from the cult classic TV show, and of course, you can take to the skies in the beloved rustbucket Serenity herself. Basic rules will guide you through the creation, running, and play of your own scenarios or any of several pre-made adventures (ever wanted to take part in “The Train Job”? Done.). The book also contains helpful world-building info like an interplanetary atlas, glossary, and, most excellent of all, a Chinese translation guide that will have you talking - and swearing - like a real tǔ fěi (bandit) in no time!

And that’s only a few of the great new things that have arrived this week! The Kanai Factory Limited Edition of Love Letter is here, with its elegant sumi-e style art, altered roles, and tweaked rules so you can find new ways to win the Princess’ heart. This set also includes two exclusive promo cards! Specialty dice for Fate-based RPGs are now available in color-themed sets so you can coordinate your (shiny and awesome) dice to the ambiance of your world, like chrome and electric blue for Atomic Robo and brassy metallics for Spirit of the Century. New books on chess and bridge strategy are on our shelves for fans of the classics - one even promises that you’ll be able to play bridge in just 10 minutes! A perfect choice for anyone looking to break into the complex bidding game. And for those who yearn for adventure, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords base set and character add-on deck are both back! This card-and-dice game challenges you to build a deck of magic and weapons that will help you survive the rising evil in Varisia. Pick it up and set out on your quest if you dare!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Learning Through Games: Cooperation

by Lea Sidoti, co-coordinator of Labyrinth's Educational Outreach programs

NOTE: One of Labyrinth's main focuses is on learning through non-electronic games. In this endeavor, we have developed a rather extensive educational outreach program over the last couple of years. We currently run aftercare enrichment game clubs at 12 local schools, teaching over 300 children aged 3 to 13 new games each week; we teach professional development classes for DCPS teachers; and we work with local schools to host family game nights, and to develop game lending libraries. As part of these efforts, we are working hard to identify the best board and card games to support learning. We will be writing a series of blog posts describing some of the games we use in these programs. Hope you all enjoy the series. Here's the first...

Learning to play a game for the first time can be difficult, especially for younger children. Besides just learning the written rules for a game, young players work to master the unwritten rules: wait patiently for your turn, pay attention to other players’ actions, be a good sport. Cooperative games help children by easing them into the experience of winning or losing a game.

In a competitive game players are pitted against each other, and at the end of the game they are divided as winners or losers. In a cooperative game, players work together toward a common goal. As a result, all players share the joy of a win or the disappointment of a defeat. Also, because each player wants the other players to do well, cooperative games encourage children to communicate with each other and suggest the best strategy. This is helpful when players are not evenly matched. For example, siblings separated by a few years may become frustrated with competitive games if the oldest usually wins, but if they must work together to win, the older child will want to help the younger.

Here are a few examples of cooperative games and how they teach players to work together.

In this game players race to get their characters to Picnic Park before pigs eat their picnic. All players must reach the park before the game ends, but each person moves only a single character. A spinner determines actions and can trigger a mini game where all players must look for as many copies as they can of a particular object before the timer runs out. Players then each move a number of spaces equal to the number of objects found. To be successful, players need to communicate about their strategy so they can be sure to find as many unique hidden objects as they can.

Hoot Owl Hoot 

Hoot Owl Hoot is one of many great cooperative games produced by Peaceable Kingdom. The players' goal is to get all of the owls home to their nest before the sun comes up. Players choose from a hand of three cards to move any of the owls closer to the nest, but if anyone draws a sun card the sun advances one space toward daylight. Players succeed by planning their moves together to maximize the distance traveled in each turn.

Forbidden Desert

This is a sequel to the extremely popular cooperative game, Forbidden Island. More complex and much harder to win than its predecessor, it is fun for adults as well as older children. In Forbidden Desert players are stranded until they can find the pieces to build an ancient airship. Players move independently, but can share water and cards, and are encouraged to plan their actions together.

The ability to win and lose gracefully is important, but cooperative games can provide a lower-stress setting for kids to learn important social skills, as well as the gaming skills they need in order to progress with competitive games. Pus, they're more fun for the whole family; even simple games are more enjoyable for adults when they get to work out a strategy together with their kids!

Some of our other favorite cooperative games include:

For younger kids:
  • Orchard, The Little Orchard, and First Orchard
  • Feed the Woozle
  • Snug as a Bug in a Rug
  • Stack Up!
  • The Great Cheese Chase
  • Lost Puppies
  • Buzz
  • Race to the Treasure
For older kids and adults
  • Forbidden Island
  • Castle Panic
  • Escape: The Curse of the Temple
  • Red November
  • Hanabi (Sometimes kids don't like this one as much. We think it's because the unknown information element can be frustrating for children.)
  • Pandemic
  • Mice and Mystics
  • D&D board games: Wrath of Ashardalon, Castle Ravenloft, and Legend of Drizzt
  • Legends of Andor (This year's winner of the prestigious Kennerspiel des Jahres award)
  • Arkham Horror, and the much lighter Elder Sign

Saturday, September 7, 2013

New/Back This Week 9/3/13 to 9/9/13

by Becky "I <3 Leon" Topol

Let it be known throughout the land: the Android: Netrunner core set is finally back in stock! If you’ve been looking to get into this immensely popular living card game, or if you're already an avid player looking to supplement your deck, now's the time to come by and pick up the cards that started it all!

Paving the way for the upcoming release of the Theros set, Magic: the Gathering’s Heroes vs. Monsters Duel Decks have landed on our shelves. This set of two 60-card decks is your very first chance to get your hands on Theros cards, so if you’re excited about the possibilities of this Greek mythology-themed set, pick up the duel decks and try out the new additions before the rest of the Theros set is released! Each duel deck set contains ten rare cards and two mythic rares: a foil Polukranos and a foil Sun Titan, which was extremely popular in Magic 2012. It also comes with two deck boxes, two new creature tokens, a strategy insert, and a “learn to play" guide, making this a great buy for beginner or intermediate players looking to hone their skills!

For our younger gamers, a bunch of great skill-building games from Eeboo have come back into stock. Spinner games like Tea Party and Paper Doll Dress-Up focus on basic gaming skills and set collection, and Make a Pie! introduces kids to fractions in a fun, non-intimidating way. At some of our favorite teachers' requests, we also now have a great Learning to Tell Time game. If you want to lay the groundwork for important skills with the kids in your life, the adorably-illustrated high-quality games from Eeboo are a perfect choice!

We are super excited to now be carrying lots of gorgeous puzzles from French toymaker Djeco. Puzzles of all shapes and sizes are here, illustrating classic stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. Aladdin, Pinocchio, knights, fairies, and castles are all displayed in soft pastel styles. Judy is in love with the 500-piece Unicorn Garden puzzle, with its artistic and elegant portrayal of maidens and unicorns cavorting in a garden. My personal favorite is probably Leon the Dragon, a huge floor puzzle with odd-shaped pieces that seem to combine a thousand different textures. Leon is extremely awesome, and Lea just put him together in our window display!

The Creacubes are also a super-cool twist on our traditional block puzzles. Like its predecessors, the Creacubes are puzzles made of blocks with each side showing a different picture. However, the Creacubes introduce a new twist in that some of the puzzles are different shapes, meaning that you can’t just assume that the result will be a square. With winding snakes and strutting roosters, the Creacubes are a whole new challenge!