Big things can, as the old saying goes, come in small packages. And with the Holidays almost upon us, here are some new games that fit neatly into small boxes but provide nearly endless opportunities for big fun.
Dead or Alive (Laurence King Publishing)
This easy-to-play card game is like Fantasy Football, but for crime aficionados. Each of the 32 cards features one or more gangsters (including classics like Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde, and lesser-known villains like Belle Star and Mishka Yaponchik), along with a bit of history and scores for body count, charisma, finances, rap sheet, firepower, and legacy. Play your card, and may the baddest baddie win. For ages 7+. Under $10. http://www.laurenceking.com
With so many fascinating, amazing, gorgeous, and marvelous creatures as there already are in the world, one might reasonably wonder why anyone could want even more. The answer is simple: Because it’s fun! Here are some of our current favorite Holiday creature comforts.
Beat Bugs Singing Jay (Blip Toys)
Jay and the other Beat Bugs sing along with songs from season one of their hit Netflix streaming show. If you’re a Beatles purist, you may have some trouble with the Fab Four’s music being sung by adorable insects, but if you want to introduce your little ones to some of the best rock music ever created—including “Help,” “Blackbird,” Good Day Sunshine,” “Penny Land,” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” you can’t go wrong here. Picture books and activity books (with stickers and word searches) sold separately. Figures come with batteries. For ages 3+ https://bliptoys.com/
With Thanksgiving just around the corner and the Holidays around the corner after that, ‘tis the season for travel. With that in mind, we’re launching this year’s gift guides with a look at activities that will take you away, whether that’s just down the street to the barber, into the jungles of South America, inside an ancient pyramid, or even further back to the days of the dinosaurs. Ready to hit the road?
The Quest for El Dorado (Ravensburger)
Ah, El Dorado, the mythical, treasure-filled city in the jungles of South America. Players all start with identical cards in their deck, which they use to assemble an expedition team of experts, buy equipment, and plot out their journey. That sounds pretty easy, but since there are literally 100,000 ways to get from A to El Dorado, you’ll need to plan carefully. You win the game by finishing the quest—none of the items you acquire along the way count. It’s for 2-4 players, ages 10+, and will take about an hour to play. https://www.ravensburger.us
Got gamers? We do, too. Here are a few of the latest titles that will be keeping our kids (OK, and maybe us as well) occupied during the coming rainy days and cold nights.
You can play this unique game using just the app or with what the company calls “connected play,” which “fuses augmented reality, physical trading cards, digital action figures, and more.” The figures are especially cool and can be used as actual game controllers, something we’ve never seen before. There’s no portal—all you need is your tablet, the app, and Bluetooth to link everything together, and you’re good to go. The interactive trading cards bring features into play and into (virtual) reality as you use them. Starter packs are about $40 at your favorite retailer. https://www.lightseekers.com
Kids have tons of energy—that’s one of the many things we love about them. Sometimes, though, as we all know, they don’t have enough outlets for that energy. As a result, they can do things that we don’t love quite so much. But properly channeled, those idle hands can play, do, create, build, investigate, and get involved in all sorts of wonderful, productive things. Here are some of our favorites.
Dr. Panda Plus Home Designer (Dr. Panda)
Perfect for kids who love to draw and design, Dr. Panda combines a physical toy with easy-to-use AR technology to bring your child’s creations to life. Use more than 50 flashcards to place generic items (furniture, clothes, art, plants, and more) into whichever room you want to design. Or, flip the card over and customize each item. Then, using your smartphone or other Android, Fire OS, or iOS device, scan your images into the app and, wow! Comes with flashcards, erasable markers, and a code to unlock the free app. Pre-readers can also learn to spell and pronounce the names of the objects on each flashcard. For ages 3-8. Under $40. https://drpanda.com
Five fun family board games to keep you laughing and learning.
Awkward Family Photos (Loaded Questions)
One player deals eight cards to all the other players. Each card has a line—some you know, others will leave you scratching your head—from movies (some you’ve heard of, others not so much). The dealer then pulls an Awkward Family Photo card from the deck and turns it over for all to see. Players decide which of their eight movie line cards would make the best caption for the picture. The dealer picks the winner and awards points accordingly. If you run out of pictures, you can download more from awkwardfamilyphotos.com. Movie knowledge might help a little, but it’s by no means necessary. A good sense of humor, however, is essential. About $18. For 4-8 players, ages 12+. http://loadedquestions.com
No matter where your travels take you this season, we have some great options to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable.
Dare2b Women’s Loveline II Core Stretch
Now that it’s Autumn (and it’s finally cooled off), you’ll want to make sure you have some layers available. One of our current go-to items has been this Stretch, a pull-over-the-head, half-zip sweatshirt. This is definitely not your mom’s sweatshirt, however. It’s got a soft, warm lining on the inside, a quick-drying/water-repelling outside, and is tough and functional to boot. The Core Stretch comes in several color options, which makes it easy to pair with your running gear, jeans, or anything else you feel like wearing outside (or inside, if you haven’t turned on your central heating just yet). Hey, the more options, the better, right? It’s just the right weight for the fall season or to layer under your clothing as it gets colder. Care is easy, and at $22, it’s perfectly priced. http://en.dare2b.com
Looking for classic games from when you were a kid? New games to make you laugh while you’re learning (or learn while you’re laughing)? Fast games? Slow games? We’ve got you covered.
Atari Plug & Play Joystick
Remember those iconic Atari games you used to play (or that your parents or grandparents told you about)? Well, now you can enjoy them on your TV—and without all those pesky cartridges. The joystick comes preloaded with 10 games, including Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Missile Command, Warloards, and more. To make your return to the 80s complete, each game features retro graphics, sounds, and all the original gameplay. 4 AA batteries required but not included. For ages 8+. About $20. http://thebridgedirect.com
Okay, so the days are getting a little shorter, but that doesn’t mean the end of entertaining, outdoor play. With these great new toys, you and your kids can have open-air fun ‘til the sun goes down—and long after.
This is one of those games that will get you and the family up, outside, and sweating. It’s honestly a great workout. As you can tell from the “minton” part of the name, it’s kind of like badminton, but you don’t need a net. And the “bash” part tells you that you’ll be whaling away, smacking the 4.5-inch “birdie” ball as hard as you can with one of the 21-inch mesh rackets. The rackets and ball are washable and float, meaning you can take your game into the pool. Includes two rackets and one ball. For ages 5+. Under $20. https://www.toysmith.com
As summer winds down and we start gearing up for Fall and, gulp, the Holidays, here are a few great toys and games that don’t fit neatly into any particular category.
Crozzit (Identity Games)
The folks at Crozzit bill it as “the game you always almost win.” You may want to read that line again. The goal of this two-person game is pretty simple: Player 1 needs to lay out his her or her blue tiles to connect the two blue sides of the board. Player 2 does the same, using yellow tiles to connect the yellow sides. Oh, did we say simple? Ha! There are only three rules that are extremely easy to follow, and since there are only two players, your odds of winning are 50/50. But to succeed, you’ll need to use logic, reasoning, and strategic planning. Crozzit comes with a board, 64 tiles, and instructions, and takes about 20 minutes to play—but it’s hard to stop after one game—you’ll soon find yourself playing best of 3, then 5, then 7, and so on. It’s for ages 8+. Under $20. www.identitygames.com