New (to us) Games in 2016

Our family receives many games as gifts throughout a year as well as buys gifts for date nights and special activities.  While we may review these games more fully another time, we thought we would try to list this year’s games in one location.  This post will be worked on by the whole family, and yet, we may still forget games that are new in this past year.

Co-operative Games: Games where you play as a team are a great way to build friendships

Pandemic.  This co-op game is about trying to cure diseases before they spread all over the world.  We really enjoy this and still play in on the beginner level (only winning sometimes).  This game is going to last a long time for us since we can continue to make it more difficult if we do start to beat the game more frequently.  Each player takes on a different role with its own special ability.  I love games where you can play again as a different character.

Shadows Over Camelot.  This co-op game has an amazing theme with each person taking on a role of a knight from the court of King Arthur. An interesting twist to this cooperative game is that there may (or may not) be a traitor in the midst. You can’t always trust what your teammates tell you because of this, so it makes each player need to carry their own weight in the game.  No one can “take control” of what everyone else should be doing because that person could be the traitor. During the game, you try to complete many thematic missions, like defeat the black night, find the Holy Grail, fight the Picts and Saxons, and more.  Each mission brings you closer to victory, or defeat.

Outfoxed – This is a great kids co-op game that even our little ones can play without a grownup. You role dice to try to reveal suspects (which are foxes dressed like people), or discover clues.  As the clues are revealed, you can eliminate suspects and narrow down the possibilities.  You must guess the correct fox before they escape the board.  I love watching the kids work through the logic of the game, and there is more strategy there than I first realized.

Party (or Large Group) Games:

Dixit Odyssey.  This game is reminiscent of Apples to Apples in that each player puts out a card based on a clue given by one player.  Instead of words, the cards contain surreal artwork.  On your turn, you want to give a clue that will allow some, but not all, players to guess your card.  Too good (or too bad) of a clue results in everyone else scoring points.  Your clue can be anything from one word to a sentence.  I gave the clue “The Silver Chair” on one turn based on my picture, and there were 3 other pictures that also fit my clue (surprisingly to me).  We played this game with 9 people and had tons of fun (Dixit Odyssey plays up to 12 people).

Code Names.  This game has 2 teams.  There are 25 words laid out on the board, with 8 or 9 words that each team must guess. One person on each team gives a one-word clue to their teammates.  The teammates have to try to guess the code names based on the clue.  While this game is for large groups, it is more of a “thinking” game than a laugh-out-loud party game (like Telestrations).  Kids can play this game, but it is best to have an adult be the clue-giver.

Sushi Go! Party.  This card game can be played with 2-8 players.  The original version of this game was always played with the same cards, but this version allows for many variations. We love the drafting (passing hands of cards to other players) mechanism used in the game as well as all the different ways to score points.  It’s a pretty quick game with only 3 rounds and plays well with a variety of numbers.  I love 7 Wonders, which also has a drafting mechanic, but Sushi Go is a simpler, faster game.

Speed Games

Tenzi.  Gideon received this game for his birthday along with the 77 variation cards.  The kids love to play all the variations of this – especially when neighbor kids or friends stop by.  Basically, each person rolls ten dice until they are all the same number.  My kids love Piratezi and Stealzi as two of their favorite variations so far.

Q-Bitz is a pattern recreation game where everyone races to complete the same pattern.  I like the 3 rounds of the game.  The first round, everyone just completes the pattern with their 16 dice.  The second round, everyone rolls their dice and then uses only the sides that are up toward the pattern completion.  On the third round, you have to memorize the pattern and then complete from memory.  We’ve enjoyed having those who aren’t as good at the game doing round 1 while the faster players do round 2 at the same time (or even one fast child takes a lap around the table before starting) just to make the game a little slower in competition.  We added in the two different solo Q-bitz sets so that the whole family could play.

Dr. Eureka is a pattern recreation game where you are trying to make your pattern out of colored balls in test tubes.  You can pour the balls back and forth between test tubes but can’t drop the balls or touch them with your hands.  Some of us are much faster at this than others, but you never know when someone in the lead might drop a ball or use their hands and be disqualified.  Of course, it is always fun to yell, “Eureka!” when you finish a pattern too.

Two-Player Games

7 Wonders Duel.  This is our favorite two-player “date night” game after the kids are in bed.  We’ve played it over 50 times so far this year and still love it.  This game is reminiscent of the original 7 Wonders but is definitely its own game. We love the different ways to win and how certain ways end the game before the end of the 3 rounds.

Memoir 44 – This 2 player war game lets you simulate different battles from WWII.  One player plays the Axis and one plays the Allies.  Then they switch sides and play again.  This way, if the battle is not even (because it was not in real life), it is still fair.

Great Games that we didn’t put into a category:

For Sale – This game has 2 phases.  In the first phase, you are using your money to purchase properties as they come up.  In the second phase, you are trying to sell your properties to get the most money.  There is an auction mechanic that I have never seen.  You flip up as many property cards as there are people playing.  Each player bids and the bid keeps going around the table.  When someone passes, they receive the lowest value property.  Bidding continues in this way with each person who drops out taking the next lowest property.  In the second phase, 4 payments are shown and each player plays a property card that they bought earlier.  The best property gets the most money.  This game is often more about guessing what your opponent with do than it is about deep strategy.

Snow Tails.  This racing game involves sled dogs.  Your sled is controlled by the 2 teams of dogs pulling the sled and a brake.  You can play cards (numbered 1 to 5) to control any of these 3.   You add the numbers on the dogs and subtract the brake to see how many spaces you move forward.  You must also subtract the 2 numbers on the dogs to see how far you move to the side.  It is simple math, but as you try to calculate the possibilities you could play to move down the track, avoid crashing, and stay under the speed limits, you end up doing a lot of mental math.  The turns in the track and the fact that you can set up different boards makes this game very interesting.

Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis and Clark.  We mistakenly were thinking this dice game was for only 2 players.  How exciting when we got it to find out it was 2-4 players.  While this game is related to Lewis and Clark Expedition, it is a completely different game.  I like the faster pace of this game (than Expedition), the different ways to score points, the artwork on the cards, and the dice mechanisms in the game.

Battle Sheep – A simple abstract strategy game with a variable board set up.  The rules are simple, but the strategy is complex.  You have a stack of pieces on the board to start the game.  You can move any number of pieces in a straight line to make a second stack.  Then you can move pieces from either of those stacks.  The game continues until no one has any legal moves.  The player whose pieces cover the most area wins.

Bounce-Off -The goal is to bounce your balls (like colored ping-pong balls) onto the board to create a pattern on a card.  You can take turns, or play a speed version where you bounce them as fast as you can.  A simple game, but it is fun.


We have been blessed with many games and have been able to use them to build friendships and strengthen family bonds. This year we also started a Bibles and Board Games series with the 10 and older boys at our church.  This is basically a youth group where we have a Bible Study and play games after.   This large game selection has helped make this Bible study a great success and we are going to move from having it once a month to twice a month (due to request from the kids and parents).


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Animal Upon Animal Game Review

Animal Upon Animal is a dexterity game aimed at kids, but is fun for adults too.

stacking animals

I have really enjoyed this little game that the kids got for Christmas.  Animal Upon Animal has chunky wooden animals that are cute and fun to play with.  The rules for this 2-4 player game are very simple.

isaiah stacking

The game starts with an alligator on the table.  You stack your animals on top and try to get rid of all of your pieces.  If you knock over any animals, you keep 2 of them and discard any others that fell off.  At the start of your turn, you roll a die that tells you what you will do on your turn.  You might add 1 piece, add 2 pieces, place a piece next to the alligator to extend the base of the stack, or even make someone else add a piece for you.

animal upon animal

There is a nice variety of animals in the game. Each player starts with a set of 7 animals.  They are nice shapes, but don’t really fit together well, which makes them interesting to stack.

animals fell

When the kids play, they tend to stack the pieces safely.  When I play with Becki, we stack them very precariously in hopes that the other player will knock it over.  We also play that you don’t extend the base, which makes the game more difficult.  So the game is fun for kids and adults.

If you have little kids, this is a must-have game (okay, so you don’t really need any games, but this one is high on my list for kids and adults).

There is also an alternate version with different animals called Animal Upon Animal: Crest Climbers.  This one looks fun too (I am thinking we should buy it and then combine the two games).


Becki has also used this game for a review game at CC with her class of 10 year olds.  Here are a few ideas she has done:

  • Have the whole class add pieces 1 at a time to try to beat the class record before it falls over – with students answering memory work before each piece is placed.  The class record was 15 pieces.
  • Work in teams competing against each other with each team having 1/2 of the pieces and playing the game with the regular rules.  The team with the least number of pieces at the end wins.  Each team has to answer a question before getting to roll the die.
  • Work as individuals.  This worked best when some classmates were absent.  Each student had 3-4 pieces, took turns answering questions and placing pieces.  Once they ran out, they “won” the game.

Elijah’s Favorite Games

Below are Elijah’s top 10 favorite board games.  Keep in mind that although he is only 10, all of these games are great for adults – he did not list any “kid games”.

Elijah's favorite games

Heroscape – This game is unfortunately out of print.  If you ever have the chance to buy it at a yardsale, you should get it.  You set up a board with 3D terrain and battle with armies.  The armies have characters from all over history and fantasy, each with its own special abilities. 2 or more players

Settlers of Catan (now just called Catan)- this is the game that introduced Becki and I to “designer board games”, and it still a favorite. (We always play with the Seafarers Expansion)  2-4 players (5 or 6 with an expansion)

Roll for The Galaxy – This is one of our newest games. You get to roll lots of dice, development technologies that give you special abilities, and settle worlds that give you more dice. So as the game progresses, your pace accelerates. 2-5 players

San Juan– This card game has a couple of very cool features. You select a role on your turn. That role lets you take an action, and everyone else gets to take the action too. However you get a bonus associated with the action. The other cool feature is that cards are used as buildings and money, and resources. So to pay for one building you might have to discard other buildings you liked in order to pay for it. 2-4 players

King of Tokyo – Fun and light-hearted. In this game, you take on the role of a monster attacking Tokyo.  You roll dice to try to earn points, get energy to upgrade your monster, or attack the other monsters. You can win by getting 20 points, or destroying all the other monsters. 2-6 players

Carcassonne– A tile placement game where you score points as you create a scene of the French countryside. You can chose to place a meeple on the tile you place, and score points for the cities, roads, or fields that you create. You can even join your city with another players city and try to steal their points. 2- 6 players Review

The Castles Of Burgundy– This game is a heavier weight game (involves more rules and in-depth strategies). Each player has their own board. They try to score points by getting buildings from a central board and building them on their player board. You roll 2 dice and take an action for each one. So turns are short, but you can use special abilities of buildings to get a few extra actions. 2-4 players

Lewis and Clark The Expedition– Another heavy weight game. You control a party of explorers traveling on the Lewis and Clark expedition. You can add more characters to your party throughout the game, and get Indians to help you. One of the really great things about the game is that all of the characters are historical people from Lewis and Clark’s adventure. The rule book even has a short write-up on each character.  2-5 players Review

Survive Escape From Atlantis– Get your meeples to safety before the island sinks. And don’t forget to send whales, sharks, and sea-monsters after your competitors. Don’t play this game with your kids if they will be upset when you make a sea-monster eat their meeples. 2-4 players (up to 6 with an expansion)

Ticket To Ride – One of the best games to introduce people to designer games. Collect train cards in order to place your trains on the board. The goal is to connect cities that are on your ticket cards. You get points for completing tickets and for playing trains on the board. 2-5 players Review

Agricola All Creatures Big and Small – This is a 2 player version of Agricola. It keeps all the fun of raising animals from the original game, but removes the need to feed your family and raise crops. This is one of my favorite worker placement games, and the little wooden animals are so much fun.

Zooloretto – This is one of my favorite games to play with my younger guys. Create your own zoo with animals, vendor carts, and zoo expansions. If you can manage to get the right animals, you could even end up with a baby animal (they are adorable). 2-5 players Review

Splendor– Collect gems and buy gem cards. This game is one of the simplest games we own as far as rules, but is still lots of fun and has a surprising amount of strategy. 2-4 players Review


I hope that you enjoy some of these games that Elijah likes.

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Top 10 Games For Non-Readers (that adults like to play too)

Kids in our family start playing games long before they are proficient readers, so it is important to have games that do not require reading, or at least don’t require all players to read.  Below is a list of some of our favorite games for non-readers.  While this list was make with kids in mind, I like playing all of the games on this list whether there are kids playing, or it is a room full of adults.  This list may also be helpful if you play games with adults who don’t speak English well.

top 10 games for nonreaders

Big Picture Apples To Apples: This is one of Gideon’s favorite games.  This game plays very similar to Apples to Apples, but the cards in the players’ hands have pictures instead of words.  Someone has to read a card to start each round, but the rest of the players just have to look at pictures to decide what to play.

Indigo: There are no words in this game at all (except for the directions).  Players take turns placing hexagonal tiles with paths drawn on them.  As the paths are played, gems slide along toward the edge of the board.  The goal is to make the gems exit the board on sections that are marked with your color.  One interesting aspect is that (in a 3 or 4 player game) you share exits with other players, so there is a bit of cooperation, but you are trying to win for yourself.

Zooloretto:  This game is pure fun!  You have a board that represents your zoo, and your goal is to fill it with animals.  Players draw animal tiles that are placed on trucks.  Then players pick these trucks and unload them in their zoo.  You can even get baby animals, which are adorable.  All of the kids love this game. Review

Carcassonne: New Edition  We have the old edition of Carcassonne, but the new edition is the same (plus some free expansions).  This is another game with no words – just tiles with pictures and meeples.  On your turn, you place a tile and maybe a meeple.  It is simple to play, so any kid can join in, but the strategy is complex. Review

Splendor:  There is not much theme in this game, but it is still a great game.  You are using gems to buy cards, which give you points.  On your turn, you can either pick 3 more gems, or buy a card.  The cards also give you discounts on future purchases.  So if you buy 2 red gem cards, you can pay 2 less reds on all future cards.  As you buy more cards, it is easier to afford more cards.  The rules for this game are very simple, but like all the games on this list, it is fun for adults too.  Review

Rise of Augustus:  Isaiah loves this game.  One person pulls tiles with symbols out of a bag.  All of the players can then mark that symbol on one of the cards in front of them.  Once all of the symbols on a card are marked, the card is finished.  All of the cards give you points, and most of them give you a special ability or a one time action.  When someone completes their 7th card, the player with the most points wins.  Some people have described this game as glorified bingo, but it is a lot more strategic, and a lot more fun than Bingo. Review

No Thanks:  A numbered card is flipped up.  You either take the card (and all of the chips on it), or place a chip on it.  At the end of the game you add up you cards and subtract the number of chips that you have – low score wins.  If you have any cards with consecutive numbers, you only count the lowest one.  Simple, but has a surprising amount of strategy, and a little bit of a push your luck aspect. Review

Survive Escape From Atlantis  We just got the 5 and 6 player expansion for this so that the whole family can play.  The board has an island made up of land tiles, and all of your meeples are on the island.  Your goal is to get them off the island and to safety before the whole island sinks.  Be careful because there are whales, sharks, and sea-monsters that your opponents will try to send your way.  Most of your meeples will get eaten, but your score points for any that make it to safety.

Tumbling Dice:  I made my own version of this since it was out of print, but it is supposed to be reprinted soon.  Basically you roll dice down a staircase and score points for any of them that stay on for the whole game.  For each die, multiply the number that is rolled by 1, 2, 3, or 4 based on which step it is on.  We like to play with some 4, 8, 10, 12, and 20 sided dice to make it more exciting (and so the kids have to practice more math). Review

Fauna – The best trivia game I ever played!  What makes this animal trivia game great is that you don’t have to know the answers.  You place cubes on a map trying to guess where animals live (most live in more than 1 region on the board).  You also can place cubes on numbered tracks to guess stats like the animals weight, length, or tail length.  You score points for correct answers, and for guessing close to the right answer.  There is strategy in this game too, because you get your cubes back if they scored points, and lose cubes for incorrect answers (you get one incorrect one back each round).  Review

I hope that you have fun playing these games with your non-readers so you aren’t restricted to Candy Land and Uno for the next few years.

Fauna Game Review

A trivia game where you don’t have to know the answer!

Most trivia games require you know the exact answers and can be quite frustrating if you play with people who know a lot more than you.  Because of this, they don’t make good family games.  I remember playing Trivial Pursuit with my parents, and I had some fun, but I had no chance of winning.

Fauna is different!  In this animal trivia game, you get points for being close to the right answer.  This means that an educated guess could score you points, or you could just play next to someone else if you think they know the answer.

Fauna Cover

Each round the top of a card is revealed.  It tells you an animal, how many regions of the board it lives in, and its scientific name.  The card will also tell you if you are supposed to guess the weight, length, height, and tail length (you will guess at least 2 of these for each animal).

Fauna Card

On your turn you will use one of your 6 cubes to guess an answer.  You can place it in an area of the board to guess where it lives or on one of the numbered tracks at the bottom to guess one of the stats of the animal.  After each player places one cube, you have the option of placing another or passing.  Your cubes score points if they are correct guesses or if they are next to a correct guess.

Fauna Board with Cubes  Fauna Stats Cubes

Once all of the players have passed, you look at the bottom of the cards and see the correct answers.  All of your cubes that score points are returned to you, and the cubes that did not score are discarded.  Then each player is allowed to retrieve one of their discarded cubes.  If you have less than 3 cubes, you draw more so that you have 3 to start the next round.

The fact that you can lose cubes for incorrect guesses adds strategy to the game.  Sometimes you might only place a couple cubes so that you make sure you have some for a later card where you might know more info.

What I like about Fauna:

  • This game truly teaches you about the animals.
  • It plays up to 6 players.
  • It is fun (even though it is educational).
  • Our animal-loving kids actually have an advantage over us.
  • Even when you don’t have a clue, you can guess based on other people’s answers.
  • There are 360 different animal cards, and we only use about 6 per game.
  • Elijah likes the anticipation as he wait to see if he is right, and debating whether it is worth risking playing more cubes.
  • Ruth likes that we all guess on the same animal, not one person per animal.
  • Isaiah enjoys the fact that you get points for being close because it is hard to guess exactly.

Whether you enjoy animals or trivia, I think you will like Fauna.