Thursday, October 31, 2013

New Arrivals This Week 10/29/13 to 11/4/13

by Becky "Mermaid Warlord" Topol

At long last, Terra Mystica is here again! This game made a huge splash several months ago, and then promptly disappeared from the market. Terra Mystica is a complex, low-luck game where every action can have numerous long-lasting repercussions. Taking control of one of the 14 differently-powered races, players must attempt to rule over the landscape. Players also randomly place two scoring tiles which determine special ways for them to get points and bonuses. There are essentially infinite ways to play this game, and difficult choices must be made every turn. Do you want to build something that will give you money right now, or something that will benefit your race in the long term? How are your terraforming projects going? The mermaids and the mountain dwarves can’t go to war if they can’t reach each other, after all. And be sure to keep up good relations with all the cults! This game is best suited to more experienced players, but is easy enough to learn that even your first crack at the game will be fun and rewarding. Make sure to grab a copy of this long awaited re-release of Terra Mystica before it’s gone again!

Just in time for Halloween, The Witches: A Discworld Game is the second in a series of three games being designed by Martin Wallace set in Terry Pratchett's Discworld. The first game of the series, Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, is a huge favorite among staff and customers here at Labyrinth. We have all been anxiously awaiting this game.

This game is a lighter, more family friendly game than the first. You play as trainee witches and roll dice to try to overcome obstacles of various difficulty levels. There are some cards which bring in an added dimension of decision-making. It's nice that there are competitive, cooperative and solo variations. The art is fantastic, and thematically, the game is sure to be loved by Pratchett fans.

The Manhattan Project: Second Stage is a collection of four small expansions for the popular worker-placement game The Manhattan Project. Each of these expansions can be added to the base game on its own, or you can play with all of them at once! Nations 2, like Nations (available separately), adds countries for players to claim allegiance to, each with its own special powers. H-Bomb Technology gives you the incredible power of fission bombs, and Rocket Technology fits your warehouse with rocket-making abilities, adding more player interaction and offensive play into the game. Personalities adds in real people who were involved with the historical Manhattan Project, each with their own special abilities, and which must be traded out frequently. If you’re a fan of The Manhattan Project, Second Stage is an awesome way to introduce a little variation, or to change the game up entirely!

A Distant Plain is the latest in Volko Ruhnke’s COIN series, and places one to four players in the heart of the modern Afghan conflict. With the same easily-accessible gameplay system as Andean Abyss and Cuba Libre, A Distant Plain is the first game in the series to force two counterinsurgent groups to join together despite ideological differences in order to fight against the dangerous insurgency. With returning refugees, desertion by the government, and battles over ancestral land, A Distant Plain puts you in charge of the strategic challenges of the modern world!

King of Tokyo: Halloween brings two new monsters and other great Halloween goodies to King of Tokyo! The monsters Pumpkin Jack and Boogey Woogey each come with eight Evolution cards that allow them to get bigger and badder, and the set includes six orange-and-black engraved dice perfect for Halloween. The new expansion also includes new Power cards called Costumes, which give a powerful effect to the monster wearing them, but can also be ripped off and stolen! As a special treat, the set includes an exclusive promo card for the upcoming game King of New York. King of Tokyo: Halloween has been flying off our shelves already, so be sure to come in soon if you want to get your claws on a copy!

Carcassonne was originally released in 2000, and the classic base set has just gotten an amazing makeover! Carcassonne: Winter Edition features gorgeous new art, covering the fields and cities with a coat of glistening snow! Perfect for collectors, this full game features redesigned versions of all the buildings and tiles of Carcassone, as well as 12 new animal tiles. Each animal means something different for the surrounding area, meaning that the rules may change from one section of the board to another: boars destroy crops; wolves eat thieves; and crows signal death and danger. One tile even features the wolpertinger, a winged jackalope-like creature from Bavarian folklore. With its breathtaking and detailed art, Carcassonne: Winter Edition is a new twist on the popular classic!

On Friday, Magic: the Gathering’s Commander 2013 Edition decks will all be available! Each tri-color “shard” deck is a ready-to-play collection of 100 cards with three legendary commander options to choose from, and 15 brand-new cards in each deck. With new Tempting Offer cards, as well as Curses, Panoramas, Shardlands, and Guildgates, these pre-constructed Commander sets are a force to be reckoned with right out of the box!

Added to our Game Demo Library this Week: Ghost Stories, Timeline: Historical Events

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Learning Through Games: Early Math

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

This is the third article in our series on learning through non-electronic games. Our first article covered cooperative games, and our second article focused on games that promote fine motor skills. 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.

At Labyrinth we love to encourage the use of games to support classroom lessons, whether they are played during class to introduce or reinforce a concept, or played at home for more practice. Our Teacher Wish List program has made games available to hundreds of students in D.C., and we have even held professional development sessions to show local teachers how they can use games in their lesson plans. To make sure that we match teachers and parents with appropriate educational games, we use the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by forty-five states as well as the District of Columbia as the standard for academic success.

For kindergarten math instruction, the Common Core focuses mainly on “representing and comparing whole numbers, initially with sets of objects” and “describing shapes and space.” In further detail, kindergarten lessons include learning to count from 1 to 100; understanding the connection between number names, digits, and groups of objects; identifying numbers as larger or smaller than other numbers; naming simple shapes; using prepositions to describe spatial relations; and combining shapes to form new shapes.

Zingo 1-2-3 is a great game for kids who are just learning to count objects. The Zingo family of games are bingo variants that focus on different areas of elementary education; Zingo 1-2-3 is the math version. The boards for this game have two sides; one side shows groups of symbols and the matching spelled out number, the other side has simple addition equations using symbols. Players match chips with digits printed on them to the correct square. Presenting the numbers in so many ways help children become familiar with the connection between numbers' representations and practical meaning.

Inchimals is another useful tool for recognizing numbers in different forms. This math puzzle consists of a dozen different animals painted on wooden blocks ranging in length from 1 to 12 inches. Each block has marks showing inches along the side, a matching number digit on one end, and a dice-like arrangement of dots on the other end. The set also comes with a book of simple equations where animal pictures are used instead of numbers. Addition becomes easy to understand when children see that a one-inch ladybug and a two-inch frog stack as tall as a three-inch mouse.

Learning prepositions may sound like a lesson more suited to language than math, but geometry, graphing, and more advanced math rely on a solid understanding of direction and description. Hello Sunshine! teaches prepositions within a game of hide and seek. The game comes with an amazingly soft stuffed toy and a deck of cards depicting places to hide it. This game is designed for children as young as 18 months, and includes adaptations to play with children at different levels of development.

Another geometry skill kindergartners work on is composing shapes, for example, combining two triangles to form a rectangle. A great tool to teach this skill is tangrams; a set of flat wooden or plastic shapes along with cards depicting silhouettes of more complex shapes to be formed using the simple pieces. Tangoes Jr. is a tangram set specifically designed for younger children. It has large pieces that are easier to pick up, and simple puzzles to ease beginners into understanding how the pieces can be combined.

Other early math games that we love include:

  • Too Many Monkeys
  • Number Chase
  • Spot It! Numbers & Shapes
  • Imaginets
  • Smart Car
  • Bunny Peek-a-Boo
  • Trucky 3 
  • Uno
  • Go Fish
  • Cheese Louise
  • Zip Zap
  • Fish to Fish
  • Cheese Louise


Friday, October 25, 2013

New Arrivals This Week 10/22/13 to 10/28/13

by Becky "Horrifying Wereduck" Topol

Bang! has consistently been one of the most popular games at our weekly Game Night, and now there’s a whole new way to take on the Wild West! Bang! The Dice Game allows you to take on the role of a frontier gunslinger, secretly driving towards the death of your opponents: the Sheriff and deputies won’t rest ‘til the outlaws are dead; the outlaws are out for lawmen’s blood; and the renegades just need to survive it all. Each with their own special powers, players roll special dice up to three times, with the results determining whether the player can attack their neighbors, heal their own wounds, suddenly find themselves in charge of a Gatling gun, or be the victim of an attack by arrow-wielding Indians! Beer and bullets will fly in the new Western adventure Bang! The Dice Game!

The newest release from Looney Labs, Choose One! is a party game where knowing your friends will net you points! On each turn, the active player chooses one card from their hand, each with two options, like “Hammock or Waterbed”, “Trip Around the World or Trip to the Moon”, or “Candles or Lava Lamp”. The other players must then try to guess which one the active player would pick. If you’re right, you move your scoring token along the track, and the first person to 11 points wins! This game is fun and simple, and the ten scoring tokens are all funny little trinkets of different shape and size, including a rocket ship, a brain, and a hot dog! An instant classic that’s great for big groups of friends, Choose One! is the perfect thing for your next party or family gathering.
Ascension: Apprentice Edition is a 110-card pack perfect for introducing two players to the game of Ascension. The card borders and frames are specially color-coded, so it’s easy for new players to tell card types apart. Specifically built for two-person play, the Apprentice Edition is a great way for novices to summon Heroes, defeat Monsters, and gain Honor!

For those Planeswalkers who love to battle amongst the monsters and gods of Theros, the Inspiring Heroics Event Deck has arrived! More complex and layered than Intro Packs, Event Decks are competitive and ready to play right out of the box. With a 60-card deck and 15-card sideboard, which includes 10 rares and a shockland, this blue/white deck is the perfect thing to pick up if you want to dive right into our Friday Night Magic standard tournaments!

Unquiet Dead is the newest expansion to the darkly humorous card game Gloom. This set adds more of the classic Modifiers, Events, and Untimely Deaths, and introduces all-new Stories, Undead, and Timing Symbols. The Stories give a special benefit to whichever family can claim them, but with misfortune plaguing you from every side, there’s no telling how long your family may be able to hold on to it. ‘Undead’ cards allow characters to become supernatural creatures, from a hideous, rotting mummy to a gruesome and terrifying wereduck. Spin a tale of horror and tragic death with Gloom and its newest expansion: Unquiet Dead!

Everyone’s favorite dungeon-delving parody game has a new variation! Munchkin: Pathfinder is the newest addition to the Munchkin family, and like all the others in the line it can be played on its own or combined with other sets. The Pathfinder set includes new classes like the Alchemist and Witch, and introduces brand-new Faction cards that let you join ancient orders like the Eagle Knights or Red Mantis Assassins. Gear up in your Armor of Skulls, strap on a T-Bone Stake, and set out to kill monsters like Goblins, the Ghoul Friday, and the Mother of Monsters! A great card game for RPG fans and novices alike, Munchkin: Pathfinder is the newest way to stab the monsters (and your buddies!), take their stuff, and make it to Level 10!
For Manhattan Project fans (the game, not the actual research project), the newest expansion, Second Stage, is here! This expansion consists of four mini-expansions including a second Nations expansion and the ability to have Rocket Technology. I said: ROCKET Technology!  

And from Geotoys, we got a whole gaggle of great history games! We now have traditional card-flipping memory games with the themes of American History, Ancient History, and Medieval History! Lay out the tiles face-down and try to find matching pairs of people, places, and things from the era. Whoever has the most tiles at the end of the game, is the winner! We also got Go Fish games (which include the rules for several variants) from each of those historical periods. Perfect for classrooms or home, and history buffs young and old, all of these memory and guessing games are sure to get brains buzzing!

Added to our Game Demo Library this Week: American History Memory Game, Ancient History Memory Game, Medieval History Memory Game, American History Go Fish, Ancient History Go Fish, Medieval Go Fish, Mascarade, Blurble, Choose One

Friday, October 18, 2013

New Arrivals This Week 10/15/13 to 10/21/13

by Becky "Pixel Viking" Topol

From the creator of Citadels comes a new game of gold and hidden roles. Bruno Faidutti’s Mascarade gives out randomized roles to up to 13 players, who are all vying to be the first to collect 13 coins. Identities are frequently swapped around the table, meaning that the game is brimming with possibilities for confusion and deceit. Each character card has special abilities that the player holding it can use, but since you’re never really sure what cards other players have, or even what card you might have, players can lie and claim the ability of other characters. You’ll have to call their bluff to stop them, but that comes with its own risks. With gorgeous art and easy-to-learn rules, Mascarade is a brain-bending game of lies, bluffing, memorization, and trickery.

With all the Firefly stuff coming out lately, Browncoats are getting spoiled! The newest game to come out of the ‘Verse is Firefly: the Game. A complex, vastly replayable pick-up-and-deliver game, Firefly: the Game makes you the captain of your very own Firefly-class transport spaceship. Like any captain trying to make a living, you have to find a crew, find a job, and keep flying. Each player has a specific goal they’re trying to achieve, and whoever can get it done first will win, so handpick your mechanics, fighters, mercenaries, and travelers and fly from planet to planet getting work done. Talk to Badger, Niska, and Patience, among tons of other characters from the show, who may have leads on work that will keep you in the sky. Legal jobs are easier but pay less, so you may need to misbehave occasionally. Don’t forget the risks of the job though - the Alliance is looking for criminals just like you, your crew may mutiny at any moment, and the Reavers are literally out for blood. Complete with a little cardboard stegosaurus, Firefly: the Game is a sprawling sandbox for one to four adventurous Browncoats!
In Asgard’s Chosen you are a Teutonic lord at the end of the Bronze Age. With the discovery of iron ore in the peat bogs, you and the other competing lords have new and exciting ways to destroy each other’s armies, so you’ll need the gods on your side if you want any hope for the survival of your family and the expansion of your lands. Combining deckbuilding and area control, this game forces you to make some very tough choices; while land control is very useful, the favor of the gods determines the winner, and the gods demand sacrifice. Rally the most powerful deities of the Æsir to support you, fight creatures, take over towns, and master the elements to truly become Asgard’s Chosen.

WordARound is a fast and furious word game perfect for any group of two or more. Each card has three differently-colored rings. Within each ring a word is written as a continuous circle, and your goal is to be the first to recognize and call out the word in the appropriate ring. When you find the word, you take the card, and the first player with ten cards is the winner! This may sound too easy to be any fun but trust me, it’s harder and more addictive than it sounds. When we got our demo in, we found ourselves playing it over and over and over again - the challenge and speed of the game were too much to pass up! With 100 cards and 300 words to discover, WordARound is a great party game that you can learn in an instant and play for hours!

A good, fair drawing game is tough to find because some people are just better at drawing than others. That’s where PIX comes in. Based on the concept that everyone has just about as much experience drawing with pixels (that is to say, none), the game puts everyone on an equal footing. In each round, players are secretly given a word, which they must then draw out by placing square pixels on a magnetic board. All artists for the round have the same amount of time to create their pixelated image, but once time is up the player who used the fewest pixels gets to show their image to the judges first. Of course, the fewer pixels you use, the harder the image will be to recognize, so you must weigh your options carefully for each picture. Think you can turn ten pixels into an elephant? How about five? Try PIX and discover who really is an 8-bit wizard!

Dungeon Roll is a light, quick twist on traditional dungeon-crawling games. Players choose one of the various hero cards, each with its own special set of powers and a special Ultimate Ability that can be used only once per turn. Each turn is a mini dungeon-delve, beginning with the active player rolling dice to makeup a random part of adventurers to go on the quest with them. Another player acts as Dungeon Lord, and rolls the dice to determine the monsters and treasures that the heroes may encounter on that floor of the dungeon. Players must use the right tools and adventurers to defeat the terrible creatures, and hope they don’t arouse the wrath of the boss dragon! Dungeon Roll is a fun little game for fans of classic fantasy theming, or anyone just looking for a quick, easy-to-learn adventure to pass the time.

With our last shipment from Indie Press Revolution, the store has become an RPG lover’s paradise. Hobomancer and Bulldogs! are new, while favorites such as Durance, Hollowpoint, The Shab-al-Hiri Roach, Diaspora, Microscope, Dread, and Call of Cthulhu are back on the shelves at last! Any of these could be the perfect basis for a creepy Halloween game of your very own - what’s better than setting out some candy, waiting ‘til dark, and getting all your friends together to run amok in a scary world you get to create? If you’re new to role-playing games or just want to try one out in a no-pressure high-fun atmosphere, sign up for the spooky RPG portion of our annual A Taste of Horror celebration on October 26 by clicking here! Spaces are limited, but the event is free, and prizes will be awarded for the best costumes!

We're so excited to finally have Hit or Myth in stock! We got a demo of this game a while back, and have had more fun with it than just about anything in recent memory. A mythology trivia game, Hit or Myth is divided into four categories - Egyptian, Norse, Greco-Roman, and Western mythology. Each card has a trivia question about its regional mythology, as well as a bonus question and a conversation starter. The silly, conversational tone of the writing in this game is incredibly engaging and funny, and the cards are still very informative. Some of the biggest surprises came from the Western mythology cards. Did you know Davy Crockett's wife was named Sally-Ann Thunder-Ann Whirlwind? Neither did I, but I laughed about it for about an hour. Each card also has a conversation starter, one of which drove us to make puns about Valhalla for about a week and drive Kathleen totally insane. Hit or Myth is educational, fun, and silly - perfect for any party or gathering!

On top of all that, we got a bunch of new geography games and puzzles, King's Table (aka Hnefatafl, Tafl, or Tablut) is back, and three gorgeous new chess sets have arrived. My personal favorites are the Medieval-style set with its pudgy pieces, and the Isle of Lewis set, which is based on the design of a 12th-century chess set discovered in Scotland in 1831.
Added to our Game Demo Library this Week: Asgard’s Chosen, Rivers, Roads, and Rails, Flag Frenzy!, Flag Frenzy! USA, GeoCards World, GeoCards USA, GeoDice, Smarticulation: Language Edition I, Word Frolic: Village Idiom I, Time After Time, Count Me In!, Right Turn, Left Turn, Number Chase

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Horror Games for Halloween

by Becky Topol

‘Tis the season once again! That’s right, Halloween is upon us. Sure, the actual day isn’t for a few weeks yet, but the spirit of Halloween extends all month as far as I’m concerned. The signs are starting to crop up everywhere: ghosties and ghoulies are suddenly crucial to interior design; you can get ANYTHING in a pumpkin flavor; and the year’s most fantastical fashions are hitting the shelves. With the trappings of the year’s best holiday beginning to infuse every facet of life, it seemed like the perfect time to talk about some of our favorite scary games. My personal favorite in the Spooky Stuff genre is Betrayal at House on the Hill. Often described as the movie Cabin in the Woods in board game form, Betrayal begins with each player deciding which pre-made character to play as, based on their ratings in various traits that may help them survive. Players then set out on an adventure to explore an extremely weird and creepy haunted house. This house builds itself from random face-down tiles as you explore it, so the house is never going to be the same twice. Each room may reveal creepy omens of doom to come, or useful (and also creepy) items which can help or harm you along the way. Eventually, based on a dice roll and the number of omens that you’ve found, the Haunt begins.
This is when things get really good. At the beginning of the Haunt, it is revealed that one of your fellow
explorers is a traitor in league with the forces of evil and out for blood. Depending on where, when, and how the Haunt is revealed, you will be assigned one of 50 unique scenarios. The traitor may become a flesh-eating blob monster driven to consume all who cross its path, or die and be replaced by a zombie lord at the head of a growing army, or be possessed by a demon and try to collapse the whole house down a portal into Hell. The traitor and heroes each have their own secret rule book and win condition, suddenly changing the game from a fairly cooperative game of exploration to a one-against-many struggle for survival. It's the kind of game where you can win by having your pet dog drop an accursed book down a bottomless chasm or lose because someone loaded an elevator full of fire bats and opened the door right in front of you. Betrayal at House on the Hill puts you in the quintessential horror situation and really makes you feel like it's a matter of life and death.
Judy's favorite scary game is an RPG: Call of Cthulhu. The game is based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, American master of horror writing whose prolific mythos made him one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Most famously, he is the creator of Cthulhu - one of the ancient Elder Gods who live beyond the stars and will one day come back to reclaim the earth and suck the sanity out of its inhabitants. Packed full of horrifying monsters and dark secrets, Lovecraft's world makes the perfect setting for role playing if you're brave enough to take it on. It's an easy game to pick up as it is based on a skill system that uses only two dice. The game's
Basic Role Play engine doesn't have many restrictive rules, so a skilled Game Master with a good understanding of Lovecraft's lore and mythos is free to spin a truly creepy and creative tale. Players often take the role of investigators tempted by a glimpse of the dark, horrifying secrets that exist just below the surface of society. Since the Elder Gods are ageless, there are game settings available from the ancient Rome, to the Victorian Era, to the 1920s in America, and everything in between. Each published setting provides copious detail about the era, allowing players and Game Masters to build complex and detailed scenarios. As characters follow clues, they are often faced with horrifying and dangerous scenarios that are more than the human mind is meant to bear. As such, your Sanity stat is a precious commodity and will be threatened by everything from simple scenes of human gore to the horrifying true forms of inter-dimensional monsters too hideous and powerful to withstand. This is a horror game. You will die a lot. You will go insane. It will be great. If you're getting friends together and want to celebrate Halloween, you can do so much more than just watch a scary movie. Horror games like these present wonderful opportunities to interact with your friends and have a fun, creepy time. And there are tons of other great horror-themed games you can try! Dungeon-crawlers rife with deadly monsters, games where you can sic zombies on your friends or work together to fight your way through the horde, cooperative games with ghosts rising from the underworld to reclaim their bodies, and the infinitely variable world of role playing are all fun, creative ways to bring the spirit of Halloween horror to your gaming table. And if you're interested in trying some spooky games, come join us on October 26 for our annual scary game festival, A Taste of Horror. Check out our event page for more details!