Rolling America: The Star-Spangled Dice Game

  • Rolling America
  • Publisher: Gamewright
  • Plays 1+
  • Ages 8+ (realistically, 5+)
  • Playing Time: 15 min
  • Initial Release: 2015
  • Elevator Pitch: dice + math + a wee bit of geography = a great “light” strategy game for kids
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Fancy dice? Fancy a bit of patriotism in your game? Looking for a quick game for the kids that’ll help them put their strategic brains to use this summer?

Rolling America is a fun, light dice game that uses a U.S. map as its base. It doesn’t really teach geography, and the map is a bit abstract, but that’s not really the point of the game. This is really a number game in disguise.

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You Gotta Be Kitten Me!

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  • You Gotta Be Kitten Me!
  • Publisher: Stoneblade Entertainment
  • Plays 2-10
  • Ages 10+ (realistically, 5+)
  • Playing Time: 30 min
  • Initial Release: 2016
  • Elevator Pitch: a variation on Liar’s Dice played with cards of adorable kittens (and puppies)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

If you’re familiar with Liar’s Dice, you already know how to play this game. And, full disclosure, I’ve played a lot of Liar’s Dice.

Strangely enough, when I lived in China, it was the default drinking game (which I realize is not the best way to begin a review of a kids game). But every bar had dozens of sets of dice, and almost everyone would play a few rounds at some point during the evening.

At its core, Liar’s Dice is a pure bluffing game. The strategy consists entirely of bluffing and knowing your opponent well enough to be successful. You Gotta Be Kitten Me! takes that premise, adds a layer or color matching on top, and then spruces everything up with adorable kittens.

It’s a win.

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Circuit Maze

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  • Circuit Maze: Electric Current Logic Game
  • Publisher: ThinkFun
  • Plays 1
  • Ages 8+ (realistically, 5+)
  • Playing Time: varies
  • Initial Release: 2016
  • Elevator Pitch: Solve puzzles by connecting a sequence of blocks to connect an electric current and turn on one or more lights.
  • Roar Score: 5/5

I’m on record with how great I think ThinkFun’s products are. When it comes to educational (yet still FUN) games, they set the bar pretty high. Circuit Maze is one of their newer offerings, and it’s basically a variation of Laser Maze, which is another of their logic puzzle games. (I reviewed the excellent Laser Maze Jr. here.)

This one is a single-player electricity puzzle game in which the player must build a circuit pathway across the board to light up one or more beacons (there are three). It’s a brainburner of a logic puzzle game that also subtly teaches kids how current flows through an electrical circuit.

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Mad Libs: The Game

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  • Mad Libs: The Game
  • Publisher: Looney Labs
  • Plays 3-8
  • Ages 10+ (realistically, 6+)
  • Playing Time: 20-40 minutes
  • Initial Release: 2016
  • Elevator Pitch: The Mad Libs you know and love crossed with Apples to Apples style gameplay.
  • Roar Score: 4/5

My kids recently discovered Mad Libs, and they instantly fell in love. I mean, can you blame them? The format is timeless and endlessly fun. Yes, they’re still making new Mad Libs (including some licensed ones, such as Star Wars), but we’ve found all of the original, classic ones from the 80s are still a lot of fun. Sure, some of the references are dated, but kids really just want an opportunity to make a story with poop and pee jokes. And Mad Libs always delivers on that front.

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Stratos Spheres

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  • Stratos Spheres
  • Publisher: ThinkFun
  • Plays 2
  • Ages 7+ (realistically, 4+)
  • Playing Time: 5-10 minutes
  • Initial Release: 2016
  • Elevator Pitch: Three-dimensional Connect Four that players take turns building.
  • Roar Score: 4/5

In terms of great educational games for kids, there aren’t many companies out there doing it better than ThinkFun. We’re big fans in this house, and games like Zingo!, Laser Maze, and Compose Yourself are all reliable standbys.

So it was with some excitement that I checked out ThinkFun’s new products at Toy Fair a few months ago. Stratos Spheres is one of the games that jumped out at me. So simple in its design, gameplay, and execution yet still a lot of fun to play.

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Dimension: Spherical, Stackable Fun

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  • Dimension
  • Designer: Lauge Luchau
  • Publisher: Kosmos
  • Plays 1–4
  • Ages 8+
  • Playing Time: 30 minutes
  • Initial Release: 2014
  • Elevator Pitch: An abstract game in which each player independently stacks spheres according to a rotating set of conditions.
  • Roar Score: 4/5

I have a soft spot in my heart for abstract games. It doesn’t hurt that they’re my wife’s favorite genre, so I (usually) have a reliable opponent in the house. It therefore should come as no surprise that we have a sizable collection of abstract games . . . but we’re always looking for more.

Dimension is billed as a “spherical, stackable, fast-paced puzzle game,” and that’s a fairly accurate description. It’s also a fantastically fun game that gets the hamsters running upstairs. It plays with 1–4 people (a solo option is always an excellent selling point), and everyone plays at the same time, stacking their colored spheres in three dimensions and following the conditions established by a series of task cards.

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Dragonwood: A Game of Dice and Daring

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  • Dragonwood
  • Designer: Darren Kisgen
  • Publisher: Gamewright
  • Plays 2–4
  • Ages 8+
  • Playing Time: 20 minutes
  • Initial Release: 2015
  • Elevator Pitch: A card-and-dice game that mimics a basic RPG and recalls a simplified Magic: The Gathering for a younger audience.
  • Roar Score: 4/5

If you’ve read any of our game reviews here on The Roarbots, you know that we’re kind of in love with Gamewright. Their games are mostly perfect for all ages, the production quality is fantastic, and they’re super affordable.

Dragonwood is one of their latest titles, and it targets a slightly older player than something like Super Tooth or Feed the Kitty.

You play an adventurer on a journey through the enchanted forest of Dragonwood. During the game, you play cards to determine the number of dice you can roll. The more dice you can roll, the higher the potential result, which means you can defeat more powerful enemies or capture more powerful items to aid your journey.

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Super Tooth

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  • Super Tooth
  • Designer: Neil J. Opitz
  • Publisher: Gamewright
  • Plays 2–4
  • Ages 6+
  • Playing Time: 10–15 minutes
  • Initial Release: 2015
  • Elevator Pitch: Race to collect matching dinosaur cards to earn tooth tokens, all the while avoiding natural disasters that mess with your hand.
  • Roar Score: 5/5

There’s no point in denying it: we’re unashamed Gamewright fanatics in this house. Especially their card games. So easy to teach and learn. So much fun to play. Perfect for almost all ages. I don’t think we’ve found a bad one.

Super Tooth is the latest in their “small box” line of card games. Gameplay is relatively simple (my 3-year-old son can absolutely hold his own), and the dino theme obviously appeals to the target audience (and me…gotta be honest).

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Bugs in the Kitchen

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  • Bugs in the Kitchen
  • Designer: Peter-Paul Joopen
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Plays 2–4
  • Ages 5+
  • Playing Time: 10–15 minutes
  • Initial Release: 2013
  • Elevator Pitch: Rotate plastic utensils to force the robotic Hexbug into or away from your trap.
  • Roar Score: 4/5

I love it when simple games are both surprisingly fun and a big hit with the kids. All too often, simple = boring. Not so with Bugs in the Kitchen. And most of that is thanks to the inclusion of a Hexbug Nano as an integral component of the game.

The concept of the game is very simple. The board is composed of rotating plastic utensils, which form the walls of a maze. The Hexbug is let loose in the middle, and then players take turn rolling a die and rotating one of the utensils in an effort to either lure the Hexbug into (or away from) your corner, collecting tokens as you go. (There are a few different ways to play.)

The first person to collect a certain number of tokens wins.

That’s all there is. The Hexbug moves by itself, and you simply need to stay ahead of it by rotating the right utensils. It’s fast and frenetic, and it’s a total blast with kids.

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Holiday Fluxx

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  • Holiday Fluxx
  • Designer: Andrew Looney
  • Publisher: Looney Labs
  • Plays 2–6
  • Ages 8+
  • Playing Time: 10–40 minutes
  • Initial Release: 2014
  • Elevator Pitch: It’s Fluxx with a holiday theme.
  • Roar Score: 3/5

Let’s get this out of the way from the start: I’d only played Fluxx once before trying out this new Holiday Fluxx. And I didn’t really like it. I think there are two kinds of people in this world: those who really like Fluxx and those who…don’t. There is no middle. No one’s ambivalent about Fluxx. At least no one I’ve ever met.

The group that played this game had one person who is firmly in the “dislike” camp, but there were three others who had never played the game before. Blank slates, if you will.

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Loonacy

  • Designer: Andrew Looney
  • Publisher: Looney Labs
  • Plays 25
  • Ages 8+ (in reality, more like 4+)
  • Playing Time: 510 minutes
  • Initial Release: 2014
  • Elevator Pitch: simple, high-speed game of matching pictures
  • Roar Score: 5/5

From the folks who brought your Fluxx and its many variations. Loonacy is a new, fast-paced, quick-playing card game that’s aimed at the younger set but is great fun for everyone. Games take 5–10 minutes, and the rules can be learned in about 30 seconds. This is my kind of game to explain!

From the publisher: “Loonacy is a rapid fire game where players race to be the first to empty their hand of 7 cards by matching one of two images with the images on the open piles in front of them. Speed of the hand and luck of the draw determine the winner in this frenzied free-for-all!”

In layman’s terms, it’s a spin on Uno but much more frenetic.

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Beastie Bash! Kickstarter

I don’t contribute to a lot of Kickstarter campaigns. At least, historically, I haven’t. But this one looks like a solid bet. Beastie Bash! is a kids card game that encourages imaginative and creative play.

The object of the game is to combine character cards for the most points possible. This will result in silly mashups, such as a Singing Robot and a Mechanical Mermaid. If you have kids, you know that such mashups are surefire comedy gold! It’s also a quick play at 15-20 minutes, which is nice for little ones.

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Gulo Gulo

  • Designer: Wolfgang Kramer, Jurgen Grunau, Hans Raggan
  • Publisher: Rio Grande Games
  • Plays 2–6
  • Ages: 5+ (in reality, more like 3+)
  • Playing Time: 15–20 minutes
  • Initial Release: 2003
  • Elevator Pitch: Kids dexterity game in which you have to pull a colorful egg from a bowl without knocking over a precariously placed stick.
  • Roar Score: 4/5

It almost doesn’t seem fair to review this game. It’s long out of print and incredibly hard to find. But, if you somehow find a copy for a reasonable price, GRAB IT. Wolfgang Kramer is one of my favorite board game designers, and this one is a real gem.

It’s a simple enough dexterity game. You set up a series of tiles leading toward a smallish wooden bowl filled with colorful jellybeans. Those jellybeans are actually wooden eggs of various colors and sizes.

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Catan Junior

  • Designer: Klaus Teuber
  • Publisher: Mayfair Games
  • Plays 2–4
  • Ages: 5+
  • Playing Time: ~30 minutes (2-player game); slightly more with more players
  • Initial Release: 2012
  • Elevator Pitch: Theoretically a modified version of Settlers of Catan for kids. Place pirate hideouts and pirate ships to gather resources. First to 7 hideouts wins.
  • Roar Score: 4/5

This was the first game with any sort of real strategy that Zoey took to. It’s ostensibly a scaled-down kids version of Settlers of Catan, but it shares little with that game, except for the inclusion of various resources. I understand how it’s considered to be in the “Catan world,” but calling this Catan Junior is a little misleading. We also have The Kids of Catan, which is an entirely different game (and one which we’ll post about in the near future).

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Feed the Kitty

  • Designer: Bob Bushnell
  • Artist: Russell Benfanti
  • Publisher: Gamewright
  • Plays: 2–5
  • Ages: 4+ (according to the game); more like 2–4 in reality
  • Initial Release: 2003
  • Elevator Pitch: It’s an extremely simple roll-and-move game in which you pass wooden mice back and forth. The last player with mice wins!

Feed the Kitty is an unbelievably simple game to play. Gameplay is essentially as follows:

  1. Roll the dice.
  2. Depending on what you rolled, you either (1) throw a mouse into the kitty’s food bowl, (2) give a mouse to another player, or (3) take a mouse out of the food bowl.
  3. The last person with mice wins.

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