Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Arrivals 8/26/14 to 9/2/14

by Alexander "Floop the Pig" Smith

Travel around the astral realms slinging spells and grabbing ancient artifacts from the claws of the demons in Prophecy. Think that dice will move you around the board? Think again! Use spells and abilities to move around and fight monsters, but don't overexert yourself or you'll have to spend time recouping your energy while your opponents press on.

If you're a fan of the classic, Talisman, this fantasy game by the famed game designer Vlaada Chvatil might be right up your alley.

Battle-torn homelands are unsafe for the few species who have survived intergalactic war. For those who remain, the face of an alien is the face of death itself. Well...that was the case years ago, but now is the time to make peace and rebuild. In Among the Stars, various alien races have banded together to form the Alliance and build space stations together. Score points by creating an efficient station, but the station parts you don't draft will be passed along to the next player. The war might be over, but old rivalries die hard and you'll show these backplanet yokels the value of a good Galactic Resort as soon as you complete your Transport Platforms. A mix of tile-laying and drafting, Among the Stars is sure to offer endless hours of post-war reconstruction fun.

This one is not new, but new to us. Risk: Godstorm is the mythologically-charged grudge match that history never gave us - an all out battle royale between the Greeks, Egyptians, Celts, Babylonians, and the Norse. Each civilization will be able to enlist their gods in their struggle. This game is dripping with flavorful aspects from myths such as the territory of Atlantis which is astoundingly prosperous up until it sinks. If you're looking for a little extra spice to your regular game of Risk, Risk: Godstorm is a welcome variant of the classic game of global domination.

Gotta smack those evil wizards to get the sweetest of loot, and fortunately there are a lot of evil wizards and other assorted baddies in Adventure Time's land of Ooo. Munchkin Adventure Time brings your favorite surreal cartoon to your favorite dungeon-crawling back-stabbing card game with 168 cards depicting heroes, monsters and items from the show. Playable with itself as well as with other versions of Munchkin, this version brings eight reversible character cards that you can begin the game with and start off with bonuses right out of the gate. Each card features main characters from the show and their mirror world double on the other, allowing players to choose between Finn and Fiona or Marceline and Marshall Lee. A great game for fans of the show or for anyone who thought Munchkin couldn't get any crazier.

Also from Adventure Time's land of Ooo is the newest starter pack for the ultimate game of dweebs versus cool guys; Adventure Time: Card Wars - Princess Bubblegum vs. Lumpy Space Princess. Use NiceLands creatures to manipulate damage to find the 'sweet spot' for special bonuses or play with the synergies between Blue Plains and Useless Swamp creatures to lay on the pain to your opponents. A great way to get into the premier card game of the fictional land of Ooo, or a great way to mix it up and add new creatures to your existing decks, this two player starter set will have you saying, "Oh my glob."

Princess Bubblegum may rule a kingdom of candy people, but when it comes to games, the gingerbread crown goes to the classic...Candy Land! When I say classic, I do mean classic as this newly published, retro version of the game brings back the charming graphics from the game's early days. Move your gingerbread men through the Gumdrop Mountains and Molasses Swamp, but watch out for Cherry Pitfalls! This game is easy to learn and a family favorite, so now is a great time to sink your teeth into this sweet game (but don't forget to brush your teeth afterward)!

Did you think Monopoly was all about rolling the die juuuust right to narrowly avoid the gauntlet of hotels and dark blue properties? Terrible dice luck is a thing of the past with Monopoly Deal, the card game based on the classic game of property acquisition and development. Each card can be used as money, so its up to you if you want to use your card as a property, development or cold hard cash. You have to think before you use Marvin Gardens as cash to finance Park Place though, because collecting one set of properties might be more difficult than another at any given time. Plan out your empire and claim your Monopoly! 

These ARE the workbooks you are looking for. What better way to make learning fun than Star Wars Workbooks for your kids? Help younglings aged five to nine become padawans with the help of some of your favorite Star Wars characters. Aimed to help children from preschool to 2nd grade, these books cover topics from ABCs to Phonics to Reading, Writing and Math. Take a look at these fun learning workbooks to start your Jedi training, and may the Force be with you.

New demos added to our game library this week include: Dreaming Spires

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How Board Games Help People Learn

by Jesse Broderick-Sokol

The following report is part of a school project completed by one of our young customers. We are proud to have a hand in inspiring the next generation of gamers, and are sharing his work (with his permission) to spread the message of the value of games in education. Great job on this report, Jesse!

“I’ve only seen positive effects with non-electronic board games” (Kathleen Donahue, Interview, 3/29/14). Kathleen is a game shop owner who observes and works with kids. She has first-hand experience with and can observe the skills that board games teach. Board games teach a wide variety of necessary skills. The skills taught are both cognitive skills and social skills. For example, board games teach skills that are needed for decision-making and skills that are necessary for negotiation. Board games also teach people how to apply the skills they learned, which allows them to use the skills to their full benefit. In class, board games are engaging and fun learning tools. Board games help their players learn in numerous ways and help them improve upon a wide variety of skills.

There are many definitions of board games. One definition is a game that focuses mainly on a physical board, and there is also a broader definition that fits all non-electronic games. The second definition also excludes games like tag and dodge ball that are basically sports. For example, card games, dice games, and games that are similar to Jenga, are included in the second definition, while tag and sardines are not. In order to include many games that have the same benefits, but don’t use an actual board, the second definition will be used. A few sources used activities that focused around the building blocks of games, however those are the things that cause the benefits.

Board games teach complicated mental skills such as accurately making decisions, brainstorming, planning how to solve a problem, and assessing when to take risks (Laura A. Sharp, Journal of Instructional Research, Unexpected Learning Opportunities Through Games). Many games can teach reasoning, re-evaluating old information to accommodate new information, making observations, the consequences of making mistakes, and predicting results. “They [players] learn strategic thinking, and are better problem solvers” (Kathleen Donahue, Interview, 3/29/14). For example, predicting the result of a certain dice roll in a game teaches players how to use probability mathematics. Realizing that someone has a certain object that you thought someone else had, and then changing what you were going to do based on that knowledge, is an example of re-evaluating old information to accommodate new information. In one study, kids who played games based on reasoning for 16 hours over eight weeks, at least twice a week, scored 30% higher on quizzes about reasoning (Ingrid Wickelgreen, Scientific American, Brain Games Aim to Make Kids Smarter). Board games teach planning and accurately making decisions, both of which are very important skills.

Linear number games can help kids learn numbers and build numerical skills. Some of the skills the games improve and build upon are mathematical thinking, counting with one to one correspondence, and subitizing, which is recognizing small numbers without having to count them out (Judy Ballweg, Math At Play, The Benefits of Board Games). In linear number games such as Chutes and Ladders, the players can simply see and observe that some numbers are larger than others and have those numbers imprinted in their memory. Linear games also help with acquiring a spatial understanding of numbers, estimating, and performing simple operations like splitting cards or moving tokens (Judy Ballweg, Math At Play, The Benefits of Board Games). By playing games, players practice simple operations and estimate values to make the games easier on themselves. In one study, playing linear number board games reduced the numbers of errors the players had in number line estimation, and also increased the amount of numbers they were able to correctly identify (Robert S. Siegler and Geetha B. Ramani, Developmental Psychology Learning From Number Board Games: You Learn What You Encode). Being able to understand and manipulate numbers is a vital skill for performing well in school. Since playing linear number games helps learn numbers, adding linear number games to classrooms would help kids learn numbers.

Board games do not just teach numerical information. The games can be reconfigured to teach any kind of specific information. Board games are also a good place to practice and develop (Laura A. Sharp, Journal of Instructional Research, Unexpected Learning Opportunities through Games). The rules of the games are flexible and can be changed to fit the needs of the players, as long as everyone is fine with that (Laura A. Sharp, Journal of Instructional Research, Unexpected Learning Opportunities through Games). On their own people learn skills best by practicing them, and board games are a good place to practice. For example, in many games an action will occur many times, so players can hone their skills. Board games are an open-ended way of teaching. Knowing how to use and apply skills is vital for accessing the full potential of the skills.

Board games make learning much more fun and engaging. They create competitive and/or collaborative situations, which makes the game engaging and possibly less stressful (Laura A. Sharp, Journal of Instructional Research, Unexpected Learning Opportunities through Games). For example, when one player can rely on another for help and feel that they have support, the game is less pressured. Since the board games are interactive, they are engaging because the game responds to the players choices and allows them to have a sense that their decisions cause change and control of their own experience (Laura A. Sharp, Journal of Instructional Research, Unexpected Learning Opportunities through Games). Games are active learning, which makes players curious about board games and interested in them, which promotes competition and enthusiasm for the game. “When people are having fun, they are more open to learning.” (Kathleen Donahue, Interview, 3/29/14).

Playing board games even has some minor, though still meaningful, health benefits. For example, playing bridge increases amounts of white blood cells, which fight off diseases (Siski Green, Saga, Playing Games for Health). Some specific games improve attention and can help people deal with ADHD, dyscalculia, and dementia (Ingrid Wickelgreen, Scientific American, Brain Games Aim to Make Kids Smarter). Having a good state of health is necessary for learning.

Board games teach social skills as well as cognitive ones. Some of the social skills board games teach are compromising, dealing with disappointment and frustration, following rules, and letting others take turns (Karen Belsley Pratt, Charles River School, All I Really Need To Know I Learned Playing Board Games; Laura A. Sharp, Journal of Instructional Research, Unexpected Learning Opportunities through Games; Judy Ballweg, Math at Play The Benefits of Board Games). Board games also teach patience, using what is given and not complaining, making decisions on moral problems, exhibiting appropriate behaviors, and persistence (Judy Ballweg, Math At Play, The Benefits of Board Games; Laura A. Sharp, Journal of Instructional Research, Unexpected Learning Opportunities through Games). Some games promote organization by making the game easier for players who keep their stuff neat. It is likely people will talk to others about the game, which promotes reflection. All of these skills are mainly taught through interactions with other players (Laura A. Sharp, Journal of Instructional Research, Unexpected Learning Opportunities through Games). Because many of these skills are part of working with others, playing games allows you to practice those skills. Those skills are needed to promote your own self-advocacy, which helps people address their problems with learning.

Board games can be a motivating and engaging addition to regular curriculum. Engagement drives students to solve the challenges in the games, which is something they may not attempt in schoolwork. Students complain about homework and in-class assignments and might much rather play a seemingly leisurely game, which promotes beneficial effects and social interactions. Games are easy learning tools because the students feel that they are getting a break and not being stuck in class (Laura A. Sharp, Journal of Instructional Research, Unexpected Learning Opportunities through Games). Making learning engaging prompts students to devote their time and attention to understanding the material.

In conclusion, playing games teaches mental skills, numerical knowledge, and social skills. Games also adapt to people’s learning style and provide hands on experience which teaches the user how to apply their skills. Playing the games increases health in minor, though still credible ways. Some people say that playing board games in class takes too much time and may not teach specific knowledge (Laura A. Sharp, Journal of Instructional Research, Unexpected Learning Opportunities through Games). That is true, but board games can actually teach that specific knowledge, and if not the skills they teach are far more important. Board games can also be shortened to fit the available time in the classroom. So adding board games to learning curriculum in moderation is helpful and should be considered as a viable option.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Arrivals 8/19/14 to 8/25/14

by Alexander "All of the Treasure" Smith

Plink-plink-plink-thunk. Ah yes, the sweet sound of marbles navigating the winding maze of translucent towers in Gravity Maze. With an untold number of possible combinations, creating a path for your marble is anything but simple. Logic, reasoning and visual perception are all essential for solving the sixty puzzles ranging from beginner to expert. Show your marble puzzle mastery with this fantastic maze building game! Kathleen votes this one as pretty much the "BEST THING EVER"!

Hungry for more Eight-Minute Empire? Think that conquest is more interesting on the backs of dragons? Eight-Minute Empire Legends is a high fantasy territorial control game that plays in less than the time it takes to suit up in your suit of armor. Players will constantly be making tough decisions between buying sets of cards that boost each other, advancing their board position or quashing the plans of others. This has been a much anticipated game, and we're glad it is finally here.

Determine the fate of Oxford college as you follow the college's history from medieval times to the modern day in Dreaming Spires. Players will lay tiles to complete symbols and create their own version of the college. By completing symbols, you'll be able to attract brilliant minds such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Oscar Wilde to their campus. Bolster the reputation of your college and compete against rival versions of Oxford in historical challenges to gain prestige for your school!

Golem Arcana might easily be one of the most impressive miniature games out there today. With a massive amount of possible customization, players are able to field Golem Knights, Blood Knights, and Ancient Ones and keep track of their stats electronically. The free Golem Arcana app takes care of all the bookkeeping and allows players to use passive abilities and special relics without tipping your hand to the opponent. If you love customizable miniature war gaming with a touch of technomagic, Golem Arcana is for you.

Do you find that a bottle cap doesn't evoke the terror of a dragon? Dungeons & Dragons Icons of the Realms: Tyranny of Dragons  breathes life (or charred fiery death) into your roleplaying experience with 44 models ranging from dragon-worshiping cultists to half-dragon fighters guessed it, dragons. Add new monsters and heroes to your adventure with the Dungeons & Dragons Icons of the Realms: Tyranny of Dragons Booster Box.

Back in stock this week is the popular deckbuilding game, Star Realms.  If you haven't picked up this space-age card game designed by Magic: the Gathering Hall of Famers Darwin Kastle and Rob Dougherty, now is the perfect opportunity to do so!

New demos added to our game library this week include:  
Gravity Maze, Enigma, Caverna

Monday, August 4, 2014

New Arrivals 7/29/14 to 8/4/14

by Alexander "Wizard Plants" Smith

Explore a mysterious puzzle-temple and show off your puzzle-archaeology skills with your friends in Enigma. Solve one of four different types of puzzles as other explorers do the same to expand the temple and deploy your archaeologists. Once you've plumbed the depths of the temple, recover the archaeologists from the chain of rooms and score points. If solving a puzzle made up of smaller puzzles and outmaneuvering your fellow explorers sounds like your kind of adventure, Enigma and its mysteries is sure to be a hit!

Jump into the world of book collecting in a medieval monastery with Biblios. Create and run a scriptorium with the limited funds donated to the church to create enlightened folios and win favor for your church. Keep the bishop on your side and amass the greatest collection of varied texts. This has been an eagerly awaited reprint of a great game! We finally have it in stock!

One of our favorite games is also back! Drive five hundred kilometers and then drive five hundred kilometers more just to be the one who wins at this new version of Mille Bornes. But watch out, speed limits, flat tires, and running out of fuel will hinder your progress and you'll have to find remedies before you can rack up those one thousand miles in Mille Bornes.

Gather your clan in the Japanese Imperial Garden to gain the favor of the Emperor in Niya. But watch out, a rival clan is trying to do so as well and it is up to you to be the first to arrange your clan in a group of four or else leave no places for your rivals to go. This two-player game is an excellent strategy game where you are constantly trying to back your opponent into a corner while still advancing your own plans. It's been a favorite in Game Club so far. One of the children described it as a peaceful, pretty version of tic-tac-toe. There is quite a bit more strategy involved than normal tic-tac-toe, but it definitely is beautiful.

Connect as many sides as you can in this exciting matching game. If you've ever felt that Continuo cards had two sides too few, Hexago Continuo solves that issue with hexagonal cards that can connect and score points for you when you match colors or numbers. If you can connect the most hexagons and connect them well, you'll be the master of the kaleidoscopesque game of Hexago Continuo

Have you ever enjoyed a story so much you wish you could be a part of it? Now you can side with the characters of the classic fable when you play The Hare & the Tortoise. Players will make wagers on which of the four racers will be the first to cross the finish line and help them on their way in this lighthearted racing game. Each character moves differently though. Are you going to assist the duck who will move spaces equal to the number of cards played, or the hare who will move four spaces unless they're already in the lead? Add cards to help your chosen racer, or disrupt others in this unique racing game.

Local game designers, Looney Labs, have added a new version for the hit game Fluxx! If you're a fan of the Cartoon Network show, Regular Show, Regular Show Fluxx is sure to be a laugh riot!

New demos added to our game library this week include:  
Niya, Mille Bornes, Sultaniya