Steam Park has been a favorite of my children and mine for a few years. The theme of the game is that robots have decided to run an amusement park. You are trying to make your robot amusement park the most popular one around and in so doing earn the most money. Unfortunately, you make a lot of mess while you build and your visitors aren't the cleanest either. So you're constantly having to clean up messes while you're desperately trying to expand. What a wonderfully original theme! It reminds me of the old sim games I played on the computer when growing up. The game has a frantic speed element and a regular paced thoughtful period within each round. Its art work and physical components are awesome. This is just an all around modern classic. But read on to get a detailed look at the game!
Plaid Hat Games is probably my favorite board and card game company. They have created several games that have been favorites of myself and my children. The first game of theirs that I bought was Mice and Mystics, several years ago. It was our family’s first dungeon crawl board game. It immediately became our favorite game. That game led to me deciding to experiment with full blown role-playing games with my children once I saw how much my children loved the aspects of role-playing games that were in Mice and Mystics. It was also the first game that I painted the miniatures for. Plaid Hat put out a PDF giving instructions on how to paint the game and I decided to give it a go. Fast forward years later and I and my children are loving the hobby of miniatures gaming and painting. Right now, my children are painting the miniatures for Stuffed Fables, the spiritual successor to Mice and Mystics. Both of those game, Stuffed Fables and Mice and Mystics, are my recommendations for the two best tabletop games for parents to play with their elementary school children.
But before Plaid Hat Games put out games with miniatures in them, they put out a card game where the cards stood in for miniatures. The game was Summoner Wars. Summoner Wars happens to be a favorite with the students in my after-school game club. The game is one of the miniatures games that wears its evolutionary descent from chess on its sleeve. Thus, it’s a good game to introduce to a school club that centers around chess. Of course, once the students played Summoner Wars they didn’t want to do chess anymore… But Summoner Wars is now out of print and getting harder and harder to find for purchase.
So, enter Crystal Clans! Crystal Clans is the newest 2-player card game from Plaid Hat Games. Once again, cards are standing in for miniatures. But this game is not simply Summoner Wars 2.0. It’s definitely its own game as much as any two miniatures games are their own games. Obviously, you will see some similarities to Summoner Wars, based on their mutual chess/ miniatures lineage, but those similarities do not define the game by any means. So, let’s take a look at the game…... and……. compare it to Summoner Wars along the way!
Monsterpocalypse has arrived! I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this game since I saw it announced. I love the Kaiju monster battle theme and liked the pre-released images I saw of the game. King of Tokyo and King of New York have been favorite board games of myself and my children for years now. The idea of transforming the board game experience into a miniatures game was very exciting for us. I even ordered the special GenCon exclusive Cthugrosh monster miniature off Privateer Press's website. But I have now gotten the two starter sets and built the models. My children have played their first game against each other (with me cheering both of them on) this evening. The first game took about 2 hours for my children to complete (subsequent games should be much faster). It was a down-to-the-wire finish with both of their monsters down to one health point a piece. They were holding their breaths on the final dice roll my son made. If he didn't make the roll and win, his sister was sure to make her roll on the next turn and win with her fully powered up monster... He happened to be ganging up all four of his small units with weapons on her monster, because his own monster was out of power (dice)... Units are extremely weak compared to monsters... It was anything but a sure thing...
So here are my detailed thoughts on the game.
This book, written by the the late Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy, is a wonderful way to promote a love and appreciation for real science. Each of the five books in this series focus on a particular subject within the overarching Science branch of Physics.
The premise of book one is that an elementary school aged boy, George, has a scientist and his family move in next door. The scientist, Eric (an obvious fictional avatar for Stephen Hawking himself), has a daughter, Annie, who is a little younger than George, and a wife, Susan who is a music teacher. George has parents that are ecoactivists and have taught George to distrust Science and Technology. They use candles rather than electric lights, grow their own vegetables, are vegetarians who cook all their food from scratch (like broccoli and spinach muffins), don't use computers at all, and go on protest marches. At the beginning of the story George is embarrassed somewhat by his parents because he is made different from the other children at school because of them. Then George meets Annie and her father next door. Eric shows George that Science is amazing and not something to fear. He also teaches George that Scientists are concerned about the state of the planet (and working to help the situation) and that he admires George's parents for taking a stand. So George learns to be proud of his parents' foresight and comes to realize that he wants to grow up and be a scientist. George's parents eventually learn to accept Science and it's possible benefit to the planet and humanity. And of course everyone becomes friends in the end.
In order to accomplish all of these realizations on the part of all the characters in the story, the authors weave an amusing sci-fi plot complete with the world's most powerful computer (a quantum one), named Cosmos (able to create doorways into just about anywhere in the Universe), a comet ride around the solar system, an evil (or maybe not) scientist teacher, a black hole (which of course relies on Hawking radiation as a plot device), school bullies, and a grape-soda-loving escaped pig.
The book is interspersed with science essays that could be a bit over the head of younger elementary students and even sometimes older ones. They will be interesting for more advanced students however. It also includes many full color glossy photos from the Hubble. Science facts about the solar system and other cosmic objects are woven into the plot. Also incorporated into the plot is an understanding of how real science actually works and how scientists work together to accomplish it.
I've read this series to 5th grade classes and 2nd grade classes. Both ages of students loved the book and the following ones. My own children at ages 5 and 8 loved this series as well. I highly recommend the series to parents and teachers. Every elementary school library should have a copy of these. Also, the audiobook versions of these are very well done, although they take out all the science essays. They are dramatized with fun sound effects and voice acting.
This looks like it is going to be such an awesome miniatures game. You basically have Godzilla, Power Rangers, and Robotech forces versus Wellsian Martians, Cthlulu, and Alien Planet Eaters. What a great theme. In the game your monsters will be taking control of buildings to power themselves up. The terrain of buildlings is an essential part of the game beyond just providing cover, as in normal miniatures games. This terrain is destructible because giant monsters like to throw each other into buildings. Everybody knows that's what they do. If all the Kaiju movies throughout history and the Pacific Rim movies more recently have taught us anything, it's that. Thankfully, after watching all those movies the human race is prepared for when it happens. We all know to start running for the countryside when the monsters arrive. And knowing is half the battle! Thank goodness!
I'm glad Privateer Press are the ones doing this game, because they know how to make smart miniatures games with quality miniatures. And Privateer Press is probably the second biggest miniatures company out there in terms of market share right now. They are doing the launch right by releasing 4 factions right from the get go. So you'll see a nice variety of forces fielded by players right away. I have learned that's very important in making a miniatures game successful. (I'm looking at you, Fantasy Flight...)
I really hope this lives up to the hype!
The public radio program 1A had an interesting episode recently on the World Health Organization categorizing video game addiction as an official mental health disorder. This new classification is quite interesting to me as a Generation X geek who grew up as video games were just beginning. My brothers and I did not have one of the early consoles when we were young (or cable TV when it came out either), but we did have a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A computer. We loved that system. It had a few games and you could program it. Later we graduated to an Apple IIe as a family. I grew up playing text adventure games (good old Infocom) and role-playing games on those computers. A family down the street had an Atari that we would play on from time to time. Later on another family in the neighborhood got a Nintendo when they came out and we used to play that as well. Much later, our family got a Nintendo. We also, of course, played board games. And we spent a lot of time playing outside with the neighborhood kids.
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