2013 Holiday Gift Guide—Gateway Games

Greetings! We're here again with our next selection of games for this special time of the year, when we show our love and affection for one another with the giving of gifts. Today's list of games are for those who want to say, "I know you really, really LOVE Monopoly, but you've got to open your eyes to a much bigger and better world of board games." So today we present our list of gateway games. These games will be sure to shake the very foundations of everything you thought you knew about board games, if you've done little more than passing "Go" and collecting $200.

ticketTicket To Ride—Yeah, this is a standard choice, but I (Firestone) still think this is the best gateway game out there. It's colorful. It has great production values. The rules are easy to explain. And there's just enough luck that the newcomers have a chance to win, too. Oh yeah, and it's fun! And if they like this, there are a number of expansions and maps you can slowly add in.

Cost: $40

(Find it online)

Ages: 8 and up


la bocaLa Boca—La Boca is hard to describe. People play in teams, but the teams rotate, so you'll be teamed with each other player twice. Each person stands on one side of the board, and a card is placed between you two, with complementary images of colorful wooden blocks. You start the timer and you each are trying to create the image on your side of the card, using those blocks. Once you've both moved the blocks so that the image is exactly as it is on the card, you stop the timer. If you're both right, you get VPs based on how long it took you to build it. The game comes with an "advanced" block that just makes the game even more challenging. My (Firestone) group played this for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and we've played it many times since then. It's the sort of game you could pull out with anyone of any gamer level—from newbie to seasoned vet. It just works.

Cost: $40

(Find it online)

Ages: 13 and up, though this seems high to me. I think a 10-year-old would do just fine with it.

kerflipcoverKerflip!—Tired of Scrabble? Yeah. We are too. Kerflip delves into the realm of word games that hasn’t seen innovation since Words with Friends came along… Which really wasn’t an innovation.

Anyway, in Kerflip players grab letter tiles from a bag, drop them on the board and shout out the first and/or best word they see. Players are awarded points for using letters first, and each subsequent player to use a letter gets half the points. This game also features one of the best board/box designs we’ve seen for a game… ever.

Cost: $25

(Find it online)

Ages: 8 and up

Preview: http://wp.me/p2hTk7-GB

FluxxFluxx: The Board Game—The board game iteration of Looney Labs classic card game Fluxx, Fluxx: The Board Game is the M.C. Esher of board games. Light gameplay with lots of fun for the casual gamer—oh and there’s still a healthy dose of chaos mixed in! Players familiar with Fluxx will see many cards and concepts that made Fluxx what it is today, but there are some great added twists with Fluxx: The Board Game's modular board and game-changing rules!

Cost: $30

(Find it online)

Ages: 8 and up

Review: http://wp.me/p2hTk7-Ve

bossmonstercoverBoss Monster—Brotherwise Games came out of nowhere on Kickstarter with their debut title Boss Monster: The Dungeon-Building Game. In this pixelated card game, players take on the roles of the antagonist "Boss." Using room and spell cards, your job is to create an enticing dungeon full of both bountiful treasure and unspeakable danger! Each round players add to their dungeon in hopes of killing off hapless adventurers before they prevail! Boss Monster is a fun, unique, and thematic card game for 2-4 players!

Cost:: $25

(Find it online)

Ages: 13 and up.

Review: Coming soon, we promise!!!

bonanzaBohnanza—Here's another classic choice. This card game sounds weird: You're bean farmers and you're trying to be a better bean farmer than your opponents. But you have to work with them to get your beans planted. I told you it sounds weird. But it's a fun card game that's cheap and portable.

Cost: $20

(Find it online)

Thanks for joining us once again for another installment in our 2013 Christmas Holiday Gift Guide!

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Kickstarter Weekly: Game Salute Special!

Well, like we said: Game Salute is busy powering a bunch of Kickstarter Campaigns, and bringing a bunch of games to market! So we thought we would dedicate an entire post to campaigns that wear the Game Salute brand, so here we go!

magnumopusMagnum Opus - Clever Mojo Games

We'll be reviewing this title here on TOG very soon. Magnum Opus is a deck-builder with a cool matrix of cards to research and select from! You can jump on board with this one for $35, which is a great value! But! If you go in for $200 you can also receive one of the 8 prototype copies that are being sent out to the reviewers. (Including the one sitting on Scott's shelf and the one sitting next to me (Jeremiah) right now!) How cool is that!? You can find the full details and lots of videos and such right here!

Chaos-alchemyChaos & Alchemy - Clay Crucible Games

There seems to be a lot of games delving into the realm of alchemy lately and we see another example of that here! The game is listed as a quick-playing card and dice game for 2-5 players, and seems to feature a fair amount of decisions on each players turn. You use dice to give the players actions (play cards, etc.). You can get in on this one for $25, and with plenty of time left they've already funded, so there should be some sweet stretch goals in the future for backers! You can check out the full campaign, right here!


Zoo FuZoo Fu - Closet Nerd Games

After a long day in the zoo, animals go full out in a samurai battle royal. This card battle game pits players against each other in an attempt to be zoo champion! When the deck runs out the player holding the most chi tokens is crowned Zoo Fu champion! A super inexpensive game to jump into at $15, and looks like a fun, light family game! They need a good boost to get to their funding goal on this one! You can check out the full campaign here!


kerflipKerFlip! 2nd Edition - Creative Foundry Games

KerFlip is a fun fast paced word game that we reviewed a few months ago. (Read that review here!) But wait...there's more, because with the help of Game Salute, Creative Foundry Games is upgrading KerFlip for a second edition! It's really quite simple: If you have the original version, for a $10 bill you can get a conversion pack, or if you back it for $25 you'll get the 2nd edition of the full game! The campaign is right here!

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Kerflip!—A Double-Take Review

kerflipcoverOne of our favorite things in the world happened a few weeks ago. We were sent two, count them TWO, copies of a game (one for each of us) to review. And better yet, it turns out it was a pretty fun one. Kerflip! dares to walk into the realm of games dominated by the likes of Scrabble (the old cardboard-and-wood version of Words with Friends) and Boggle. That's like someone trying to make a trading and expansion game that's better than Settlers... Okay, maybe it's not that daring a course of action. Anyway, the rules and gameplay of Kerflip! are pretty simple, and as follows.

The game comes with a bunch of letter tiles in a bag, a small deck of bonus cards, a nifty playing board, and one hourglass timer. The tiles have two sides, one that is orange, and another that is white.

There are no "player turns"; everyone plays a round at the same time. And a round looks like this.

Depending on how many players are in the game (2-4), players remove—without looking—a certain amount of letter tiles from the bag, and on the count of three drop them on the board. Once dropped, players quickly flip the orange tiles over to the white side and then shout out a word that the letters make. Being quick here is a big advantage, as you'll see in a minute. If someone is taking way too long to blurt out a word, any player can flip the timer over and put the pressure on them. If they don't say something, then they pay the ultimate penalty: not scoring anything that round.

Once players have all shouted, or at least spoken a word (shouting isn't always required) each player in shouting order arranges the tiles to spell their word, and then scores it. Once it has been used, it is flipped from white to orange. Then the next player spells their word, scores it, and flips any white tiles to orange. (Orange tiles don't get flipped again.) And so on.

IMAG0530It's important to be so quick because when you score a word, you get 10 points for using tiles that are still white-side-up. Once they've been flipped to the orange side they are only worth 5 points. Also printed on the white side of specific tiles is a number. If you are the first to use that letter, you will be handed a number of bonus cards equal to the number on that tile—these cards range in value from 0 to 20 points. Once that tile is flipped the number goes away and subsequent users of that letter do not receive the bonus cards. These bonus cards, which aren't allowed to be seen (even by the recipient), give extra points for final scoring.

Once everyone has spelled, scored, and flipped their letters, the board is cleared by simply brushing used tiles to pits on either side of the board next to where the bonus cards are held, where they drop below the playing surface. Play continues in these rounds until any player can no longer pull their allotted amount of tiles to begin a round.

There is also one super awesome tile that gives your either 25 or 50 points for being the first person to shout a word on the round that it is thrown on the board. You get the amount of points that is shown when it drops. (One side is worth 25, the other 50; it's that simple.)

See those two pits? Those lead to a clever little cup. Cleanup is super easy.

After the game ends, players add their points to the bonuses on the cards they gathered during the game and whomever has the most points wins. Once you're done, you lift the board (which stays inside the bottom half of the box) up and shake all the tiles into the unseen collection cup, which then pours them neatly back into the bag.

Jeremiah—Games like this SHOULD be fun, light-hearted, party game experiences. And for the most part they are—although I have some friends you just don't want to play word games with. You will be destroyed. But I will proceed as if I was not going to play with "those people."

Firestone—I stopped playing word games a long time ago—especially play-by-email ones like Words With Friends. "Hmmm...Steve can barely keep his shoes tied, but somehow he knows the word 'fuliginous.' I smell a cheater..." This is one I'll definitely play, though; the speed factor levels the playing field a bit.

Jeremiah—I thought the components were thought out, and well done. It's the small things, like the tiles actually flip without turning the letters upside down so you don't have to flip and spin to be able to read them. And let's be honest: The board/cleanup mechanism is pretty ingenious! The worst part about games that have tiles is cleaning up the tiles. Well done!

Firestone—Yeah, this gains a full point for thinking through the pain-in-the-butt aspect of tile games: cleaning up. They just said, "What if we made it not awful?" and then made it super easy.

Jeremiah—There's so much FLIPPING. The down side to this game is that I felt like we did more housekeeping than actual playing. Counting tiles without looking, dropping, flipping, shouting, spelling, flipping, flipping again, flipping some more, score keeping, handing out cards, sweeping away tiles. Thankfully, there's a fun game in the midst of all that busy work.

Firestone—To be fair, Jeremiah, the word flip is right there in the title... ;) I didn't mind the flipping so much. The "gamer" in me isn't too fond of the bonus cards, since they are of varying points, but I totally understand why they help in a casual game like this—especially if you're playing with people of varying abilities.

Jeremiah—Like I said earlier, I really thought the components were well done. I did however think the timer was a bit too much. We have much more effective means and steeper penalties to get someone's butt in gear (which may or may not include the threat of dismemberment—just sayin'...). On one occasion I didn't even remove the timer from the box.

Firestone—We haven't used the timer at all. I prefer tasers...

Jeremiah—It's an awesome casual family game. It literally will take about 5 minutes to learn and/or teach everyone, from the veteran gamer, to folks who are just realizing there's a game called "Risk."

Firestone—It's not the sort of game I'm going to play with my regular game group. But this is perfect for my wife and I to play with our oldest—who's 8. He's already a terrific reader, but this helps him work on speed and spelling and accuracy. He just wants to play round after round after round of it. And if that's not a great endorsement, I don't know what is.

Final Thoughts and Rating:

Jeremiah—Overall I've enjoyed the times I've played the game. It's a really quick filler and it can be fun to watch folks get flustered trying to make words with letters that haven't been used already. My overall rating is 7.5. My mad-scientist-like-components rating is a perfect 10!

Firestone—Anything that creatively challenges my kids gets a good score from me. And the fact that he asks to get creatively challenged in this way is even better. This is a solid 8 from me—with a Thanks-For-Thinking-Through-Common-Problems rating of 10.

We'd like to thank Creative Foundry Games for providing a review copy of Kerflip! and you for reading.