COMMENTARY: Toys to Brave the Chilly Weather

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year, but it can also start to get very chilly. I know that in New York City, I’m layering my clothes and bundling up, preparing for (an always windy) winter. Fall for kids means back to school and less outdoor play, which can lead to a bummed out little one. Outdoor play is fun because it’s physical—you run faster, the toys fly higher, and of course there’s always the option of shooting water out of most of those toys. But just because the play is moving inside and becoming a little less physical, doesn’t mean it has to be less fun.

The holidays mean gift-giving, and while guides like our Toy Insider 2013 Holiday Gift Guide are packed with a ton of options, including scooters and flying toys, I’ve also got some suggestions of toys to give that kids can enjoy right away—without having to play in the cold weather.

drawsomethingThe Draw Something Party game, from Hasbro, is a great game for the whole family. Based on the popular app, Draw Something Party allows players to draw on the double-sided, glowing drawing screen with their finger or the stylus included. The person drawing selects one of the three words on the card, holds the glowing screen between him or herself and the guesser, and places the card with the scrambled letter facing the guesser. As the screen glows and the drawer draws, the guesser tries to figure out what is being drawn using the scrambled letters as a guide. And just like in the app, the difficulty of the word yields a different amount of coins when guessed correctly. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: And You Thought Your Family Was Awkward?

Anisha.Oct15

Family game night is a big hit among a lot of families. It’s their time to bond through games everyone enjoys. I love game night, spending time with my family, and engaging in fun games. Now I have a new addition to the occasional event. Family game night calls for family-friendly games and Awkward Family Photos, from All Things Equal, has definitely struck gold.

I had the opportunity to take Awkward Family Photos home with me and just from the photos on the outside of the box, I knew it would be an interesting game. I mean, how awkward is a baby in a wagon making a funny face? Well, you would be surprised. When I took the contents out of the box and saw it consisted of answer sheets, pencils, and a booklet with 20 questions alongside the deck of cards, I was wondering what this game could possibly be about. It was much more than what I expecting—in a good way! [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Skylanders Swap Force Takes Over Times Square

Fans get in on the video game action.

Fans get in on the video game action.

On October 10, Skylanders fanatics united in New York City for the Skylanders SWAPtoberfest! A life-size world of Skylands was created right in the middle of Times Square. I joined hundreds of kids as they checked out all-things-new at Skylanders and prepared for the highly anticipated release of the new Skylanders Swap Force video game. Kiosks were set up, alongside a Skylands ship, for fans to play the new game in advance of its official launch. Skylanders Swap Force game footage was also featured on the Times Square jumbotron, so fans and passersby were able to watch the action! Kids, parents, and bloggers participated in Swaptober-themed events: Eating candy corn and cupcakes; greeting the costumed characters of the SWAP Force; and learning to play the new video games, which released in North America on October 13. I don’t want to brag, but after about 40 minutes of hogging the video game kiosk (stealing the time from actual children with no shame), I am pretty much a Skylanders boss!

I love that the Skylanders brand is so extensive, offering something for kids of all ages and interests.

SWAP Force takes over Times Square

SWAP Force takes over Times Square

Even better is the fact that all you really need to get started in the Skylanders realm is a Swap Force Starter Pack. This set includes a video game, a portal of power, a collector’s poster, three trading cards, three character sticker sheets with secret codes, and three Skylanders figures. There is also a starter pack available in the Dark edition; it includes a video game, a portal of power, a mega character collector poster, five sticker sheets with secret codes, five trading cards, and five Skylanders figures.  These starter packs also come in Giants and Syro’s Adventures editions. The technology and inspiration behind the new Skylanders video game make it an absolutely unstoppable force. I was able to speak with several of the video game designers who shared with me that the evolution of the game is only beginning—Skylanders is just getting started! All of the designers that I spoke with are parents, and one mommy/designer shared with me that this is the first game that she’s been a part of that she is happy to share with her children. [Read more...]

Get in the Game with Landing Mr. Right

mrrightLanding Mr. Right, from Alys & Victoria, is a grown-up version of Mystery Date, all about girlfriends sharing stories and inspiring each other to get in the game to land their Mr. Right.

Landing Mr. Right is a journey of self discovery. You have the opportunity to date outside your comfort zone and explore relationships with different types of men. You can take chances in the board game you might not in life.  And, when you share your dating stories with your girlfriends, a journey of new possibilities begins. While technically the first player to land on Mr. Right (a space on the board) is the winner, all girlfriends who play the game win as they learn more about the guys they could be dating as well as themselves.

You roll the die, pick your guy, and share your story. The game revolves around dating six types of men: Blue Blood, CEO, Regular Guy, Rock Star, Triathlete, and Techno-Geek. When you choose a Date card, you are free to select whomever you’d like to date—just like in life. The guys take you on exciting dates to ten destinations around the board. But, whether your date gets you closer to or further away from Landing Mr. Right is all in the cards. After your date, you pick a Your Story card with a question that prompts you to share dating experiences with your girlfriends. From, “who was the first boy you kissed and is he now a friend on Facebook?” to whether your last relationship was sealed with a kiss or the great kiss-off– your answers get you thinking, laughing, and discovering new things about yourself, your dating choices, and the best kept secrets of your closest girlfriends.

Launching now on Kickstarter, Landing Mr. Right will be available in time for the holidays.  The creators, Alys Daly & Victoria Brewer are seasoned marketing professionals and dating experts who seek to inspire confidence in women through their humor and experience in everything from dating to personal styling.

COMMENTARY: Fandooble is Fun for Players Young and Old

Christine.July29

During a recent game-testing session here at The Toy Book, I had the opportunity to play Fandooble, from Mindtwister USA. This game took a few rounds to get the hang of, but once I did, I really liked it—so much so that I called dibs and took it home. Last weekend, I hosted my two teenage male cousins from Sweden. Needless to say, it could be a challenge at times to find activities that we all enjoyed; after all, a 13-year-old boy and a 28-year old woman don’t have a lot of common ground. Fandooble was a great solution, and we played several times during their visit. I even purchased another copy to send home with them as a reminder of our time together.

The game includes four dice and a bag of gold coins. The dice bear images of green dragons, red dragons, knights, wizards, treasure chests, and Fandooble—the money-snatcher. Each player begins the game with five coins in their “stash.” The rest of the coins are kept in the middle. [Read more...]

WBCP, Cryptozoic Entertainment Announce New Lord of the Rings Deck-building Game

logo_CryptozoicWarner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) and Cryptozoic Entertainment, a developer of licensed trading cards and board games, will launch The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Deck-building Game, the first expansion to the The Lord of the Rings Deck-building Game line-up. This expansion adds all-new cards and gameplay mechanics to the Cerberus: Middle-earth game engine. 

In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Deck-building Game, players pick a hero and fight to protect the wall of Helm’s Deep from Saruman’s forces. Players start with only basic combat maneuvers in their deck, but as the game progresses, they can add new and more powerful cards to their deck. The Wall of Helm’s Deep Deck adds a new level of strategy to the game, representing new perils if players cannot defend the wall from Saruman’s forces. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Deck-building Game can be played on its own, or it can be combined with other expansions from The Lord of the Rings trilogy to create an epic experience. 

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Deck-building Game will be available in hobby and mass retail stores in this summer.

10 Board Games You Shouldn’t Miss Before Stepping to Adulthood

by Pam Johnson

The great journey of adulthood will happen to us all. However, before you get there, it’s time to enjoy these fun and amusing board games.

Candy Land

Don’t even try to get to adulthood without playing Candy Land! This amusing game has been entertaining children of all ages for decades and decades, and you simply cannot miss it.

Monopoly Jr.

While one of the games can still take hours to complete, Monopoly Jr. is more suitable for a younger crowd than the standard version. Youngsters can certainly learn some basic counting skills while having a lot of fun.

Real Monopoly

Before making that final leap into the world of adults, it’s time to get out the board and play some real Monopoly. You’ll get a chance to see what it’s like to own some real estate and handle some seriously large amounts of money in your own hands! [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Fun in a Flash: Quick Games for Families

Flash_Pack_3DOn rainy days, classic favorites such as Scrabble and Monopoly are perfect to entertain kids. But some busy families might not have hours to devote to board games. There are great new games on the market that take only a few minutes to play, but will keep kids entertained when they are in the mood for a game or two.

In Flash!, from Blue Orange Games, players race to complete eight challenges of dice combinations as they try to rack up the most points. Combinations include six of a kind, a straight, all odd numbers, all even numbers, and two sets of three. The first player to complete the challenge picks up the chip worth the most points. Players continue rolling until all players earn a chip. Straight-forward and easy to learn, game play only takes about 10 minutes. There are enough sets of brightly-colored dice for up to six players ages 7 and up. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Help! Kids Should Know the Beatles Too

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The Fab Four: George, Ringo, Paul, and John

I was commuting to work yesterday, minding my own business, when I heard a teenager telling her friend that her strawberry-themed bracelet symbolized her favorite song “Strawberry Fields” by Twintapes. Now as a rule of thumb, I normally tune out every single thing that I hear on the subway, but this particular statement stopped me in my tracks. To say that I am an avid Beatles fan is like saying that the band was “a little popular.” I have obsessed over their music for as long as I can remember, and I will stop there because I could go on and on for days on the topic. The band changed my life and made me fall in love with rock ‘n roll at a very young age, and it breaks my heart to know that teenagers and kids are being robbed of the tunes that made me love music.

The Beatles Yellow Submarine, released in 1999

The Beatles Yellow Submarine, released in 1999

This Beatles-oblivious teenager could not possibly go on thinking that one of the greatest songs of all time was written and recorded by the Twintapes, and this problem should be addressed in the future—for all our sakes. Presently, I have seven girlfriends expecting babies and a brand-new nephew—I know, there is something in that Alabama water—so I feel that it’s my duty to make sure that they are brought up listening to “Come Together,” “Revolution,” “Hey Jude,” and “She Loves You.” I want them to recognize the phrase, “We all live in a yellow submarine,” and I want them to know who wrote “Strawberry Fields Forever.” I took it upon myself to find kid-appropriate methods of Beatles introduction. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Moby Dick, or, The Card Game Brings an American Classic to Life

MobyDickBox

Moby Dick is considered one of the greatest American novels ever written. But more than just a classic tale, Herman Melville’s masterpiece leaves quite an impression on its readers, examining existentialism and obsession in a truly captivating way. Literary lovers of the classic tale can venture on the high seas in search of the White Whale in a new way.

King Post has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Moby Dick, or, The Card Game, a dynamic, action-packed adventure for two to four players ages 12 and up. The game is adapted from Melville’s classic novel, and is brought to life with three decks of unique cards featuring original compositions, period portraits, and classic illustrations.

The strategy-based game lets players live out the voyage of the Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. The Sea Deck contains adventures, creatures, and chapters adapted directly from the novel, including whales, giant squid, foreign ports-of-call, and pirate attacks. The Sailor Deck features characters including Ishmael, Starbuck, Queequeg, and Captain Ahab. The Whale Deck contains actions, defenses, and attacks of the hunted whales. In addition to the iconic imagery featured on each card, a quote from the novel ties the action of the game directly to the classic tale. The game also includes two dice and 40 oil markers. [Read more...]