HABA Game Design Contest

HABA USA is hosting its 3rd Annual Game Design Contest, which is exciting news for all you aspiring board game designers out there!

HABA USA is the exclusive importer of HABA, a German toy and game company well known for it’s high quality children’s games (including Animal Upon Animal Orchard, and Rhino Hero) that feature wooden pieces. In 2015 HABA branched out into the family game market, producing delightful games such as Adventure LandKaruba, and Meduris.

The HABA USA Game Design Contest runs from May 5th, 2019 through to July 13th, 2019. To enter, participants from Canada, Mexico, and the USA can purchase a design kit for $5 USD (shipping to Canada and Mexico is extra). Only 200 kits will be sold. Each kit will contain a random assortment of pieces from HABA games. Contestants then use some of the pieces from their kit to create a brand new game. The games must be a children’s / family game for 2 – 4 players that lasts between 15 – 45 minutes. When your game prototype is ready you write up a rulebook and send your completed entry back to HABA USA. All contestants who submit a game will get a $5 coupon for HABAusa.com

A panel of judges will play all the submitted games, with the top 3 – 5 submissions earning their creators a HABA games bundle. In addition, the winning games will be shown to the Director of New Game Development at HABA Germany corporate office. Some may even be published by HABA.

Exciting stuff!

For full game rules click here.

Best of luck to all the entrants!


5-Minute Dungeon

Welcome to d20diaries!

5 Minute Dungeon

Today we’re taking a look at a board game my kids recently got for their birthday: 5-Minute Dungeon! This real-time card game tasks up to five players with working together to escape a dungeon in under five minutes. Each dungeon consists of a randomized deck of cards that features obstacles, monsters, people, and events to overcome. At the end of each dungeon is a powerful boss to defeat. To beat the game you’ll need to triumph over five separate dungeons.

This game is frantic, fast-paced, and more than a little chaotic! Communication and teamwork are essential to your success. Player’s win or lose as a team. 5-Minute Dungeon is intended for players ages eight and up. Although a single dungeon takes five minutes, playing through a whole game takes about thirty to forty-five minutes, depending how many times you fail to escape a dungeon.

Box Contents

Players take on the role of one of ten characters by selecting a character board. Each board is colour-coded and double-sided, with one male and one female character per board. Every character board makes use of one of five matching decks, and every character has their own unique ability which can be triggered by discarding three cards from your hand. That means that up to five people can play at a time.

Characters include the blue sorceress and wizard, green huntress and ranger, purple ninja and thief, red barbarian and gladiator, and yellow paladin and valkyrie. Most of the special abilities of these characters fall into two types: those that help get someone in your group extra cards and those that automatically defeat a certain category of card. There’s also the wizard’s unique ability to stop time. We found that it was very helpful to play with the wizard and a character who can help the group draw cards, with the rest of the players taking on abilities that can auto-defeat either monsters, obstacles, or people. Once you’ve got your character picked out you place the matching deck on their board.

Next you set up the dungeon. Start by selecting a boss. There are five to choose from and each is numbered 1 though 5. You simply start at Boss #1: Baby Barbarian and work your way up to Boss #5: Dungeon Master. Each boss also has a number of cards written on it. Baby Barbarian has 20, The Grime Reaper has 25, Zola the Gorgon has 30, and so on. This is the number of dungeon cards you’ll randomly select and place on the boss board. Then you’ll pick out two challenge cards per player and shuffle them into the deck of dungeon cards. This is the boss’s dungeon. You simply place the deck of cards into the space marked with the dotted line and you’re ready to begin.


Player’s begin by drawing a number of cards. This number is variable and determined by how many people are playing the game. Chances are you’ll start with three or four cards. Then you start the five minute timer, flip over the first card in the dungeon deck, and get adventuring!

Cactus wants a hug!
To reach ‘The Grime Reaper’ you’ll need to defeat the ‘A Cactus that wants a hug.’ Oh, no! I hope you’ve got some shields….

This game doesn’t come with a physical timer. Instead there’s a timer app you can download on your phone, tablet, and other handheld device. It’s a quick download and easy to use. You simply select a voice for the announcer (I love the ‘fearful’ voice, but my daughter’s a fan of ‘spiteful’) and click start. Sometimes you’ll need to pause the game (such as with the wizard’s ‘time stop’ ability) in which case you simply push pause. If you defeat the dungeon you click ‘We Won,’ if you lose you click ‘We Lost’ and if you run out of time you don’t need to click a thing. It’s an enjoyable, humorous little timer app and my kids really like it.

There are four major categories of dungeon cards: event, person, monster, and obstacle. Events are the simplest to resolve. They each have a sentence explaining what you need to do, you do it, then you move on to the next card. Examples of events are ‘Sudden Illness’ which forces every player to discard their hand, or ‘Trap Door’ which forces all players to discard three cards. The rest of the cards — monster, obstacle, and person — have circular symbols on them. These symbols match the cards that you must play to defeat them. These cards can be played in any order and by any player. There are no turns. As soon as all the needed cards are played you have defeated the card, it gets moved to the discard pile, and you flip over the next dungeon card. Once all of the dungeon cards are defeated you will see the symbols needed to defeat the Boss.

This makes gameplay fast and chaotic, with players slapping down cards, shouting out what they’re playing, and calling out what’s still needed to defeat the card. It’s the sort of game where everyone feels a sense of urgency and excitement, and get’s a thrill of triumph when a card is defeated.

Enemy Types
The four types of cards you’ll find in a dungeon.

So what the heck are all these symbols?

There are five major symbols in the game, which are colour coded. These same symbols are seen across all the boss cards and all character decks. Called ‘Resources’ they include the red sword, yellow shield, green arrow, blue scroll, and purple jumping person (which my family always calls ‘sprint’ or ‘dash’ but is probably called ‘leap’). Every deck will have cards of these five types, although they will have them in different combinations. The red barbarian/gladiator deck will have a lot of red swords, for example, while the blue sorceress/wizard deck will have a lot of blue scrolls. In addition to these single symbol cards there’s double symbol cards — cards that have two red swords, two blue scrolls, and so on. These are seen in much lower quantities than the single symbol cards, and not every deck will have them in every kind. While the sorceress/wizard deck may have a few double scroll cards, the huntress/ranger deck won’t. One of the decks — the red barbarian/gladiator has special double symbol cards which consist of a red sword and a second other symbol.

The rest of the cards found in the character decks are black bordered and have a special ability written on them. The most common are abilities that let you auto-defeat a certain category of dungeon card. ‘Fireball’ defeats a monster, ‘Backstab’ defeats a person, and ‘Mighty Leap’ defeats an obstacle. These are super useful cards which can be found throughout all of the different coloured decks in differing quantities. While the sorceress/wizard has a lot of ‘Fireballs’ the ninja/thief has more ‘Mighty Leap’ and ‘Backstab’ cards. Finally, every colour deck has some unique black bordered ability cards. ‘Enrage’ from the red barbarian/gladiator deck lets you choose two players who may draw three cards each. ‘Divine Shield’ from the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck pauses time until someone plays a card and lets every player draw one card. ‘Magic Bomb’ from the blue sorceress/wizard deck counts as one of each type of resource. My personal favourite card? ‘Heal’ which lets you select a player who can put their entire discard pile back on top of their draw pile. Awesome!

Card Types 2
The many card types found in 5-Minute Dungeon

As mentioned, every deck is different but equally useful. You’ll soon discover which play style you prefer and find a favourite, so I highly recommend trying each deck out. I love the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck best — particularly when played with the valkyrie character who can help her fellow players draw cards. The yellow deck has a lot of different healing cards, which I find can be incredibly helpful. My son, on the other hand, prefers the to play as the blue wizard. He’s a huge fan of the wizard’s ‘Time Stop’ ability — which is so helpful I’d go as far as to call it a necessity. He also loves the ‘Magic Bomb’ card which can only be found in the blue deck. Finally, my daughter prefers to play as the green huntress — solely because she loves the art. To each their own, I guess. Haha.

With all the decks in their places, cards in hand, and the timer started, play can begin. There’s a few other rules you need to know, but not many. Whenever you have less cards than your opening hand consisted of you can immediately draw cards to fill your hand back up to maximum. Discard piles do not get shuffled back into the draw pile once the draw pile is empty. This means that if your deck ever runs out you can no longer draw cards — unless someone plays a card that gives you cards from your discard pile or something similar.

Winning will take teamwork, speed, and luck. If you win you reshuffle your decks, select your character (you do not need to keep the same character throughout all the dungeons), set your boards back up, and build the dungeon for the next Boss. When everything’s ready you begin play again. If you defeat all five dungeons you win the game.

If you ever fail to defeat a dungeon you’re supposed to reset, going all the way back to the Baby Barbarian and his dungeon again, but my family didn’t like this rule. Instead we just replayed the dungeon we were on.

We’ve played this game quite a few times. Sometimes we finish it all the way through, and sometimes we only play a round or two. My kids and I really like it. They enjoy the teamwork aspect, and that they can always be playing. There’s no waiting for your turn or getting beat on by your friends. It’s fun and fast. It’s not a game for everyone, though. My husband doesn’t really like it. He’s a fan of strategic, complex games. Chances are whatever game we’re playing he’s going to be that player taking the longest turns. Unsurprisingly, the chaotic, real-time gameplay of 5-Minute Dungeon is not to his tastes. It’s also not the kind of game you can play anywhere. Players are going to get loud. Although you could bring to a party, family gathering, or friend’s house, it’s not the sort of thing you’re going to bring to play at the library, local coffee shop, laundromat, or airport. Finally, it’s not the sort of game you want to let the kids play late at night. Mine get antsy, excited, and leap and jump around. Not really a relaxing, winding-down sort of game.

All in all, we really liked 5-Minute Dungeon — especially my son. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and enjoyable. My only complaints? I wish the boss cards were double sided so you could choose which of the two to face off against and I wish there were more dungeon and challenge cards included in the game so the dungeons felt more varied. But, I suppose wanting more of a game isn’t much of a complaint. More like a wish list. Haha. 5-Minute Dungeon is a pretty easy game to find that currently retails for around $30 Canadian. Our copy belongs to my eight-year old son, and made an excellent gift. He loves it.

Happy gaming!


Dungeon Mayhem

My kids love games of all kinds. Not surprising, I know. Most kids love games of one kind or another. But mine REALLY love games. This year for their birthdays they decided that they have enough toys. What they wanted was some new board games.

“But, awesome board games, Mom. Really good ones.”

So they did some research, made lists, did some more research, discovered a love of Dice Tower, and revised their lists until they each had a (much too long) list of board games they wanted. Although our birthday celebrations aren’t over yet, they’ve both had a few parties with family and were thrilled to find they got some new games. Most of what they asked for are large, complex games. But a few are short, easy to learn card games. You can expect to see a lot of board game reviews in the coming weeks, but today we’re starting short and sweet, with Dungeon Mayhem!

Dungeon Mayhem

Dungeon Mayhem is a Dungeons & Dragons card game for 2 to 4 players. Games are short and fast-paced, with a round averaging about five minutes. It’s a small, portable game, with the rectangular box about the size of my hand. It’s the perfect size to bring with you on the go or play in compact spaces. We bring it to the laundromat, for example. Intended for ages eight and up Dungeon Mayhem lets players take on the role of an iconic hero and battle it out.

The game is super easy to learn and surprisingly fun to play. First, you choose a character. Each comes with their own unique deck of cards, hit point card and tracker, and a reference card. Youngest player goes first and play continues clockwise. You start with three cards in your hand. On your turn you draw a card and play a card. You start with 10 hp and when you reach 0 hp you’re out of the game. Last adventurer standing wins.

Contents 2
Box contents!

There are four heroes to choose from: Sutha the Skullcrusher (a female half-orc barbarian), Azzan the mystic (a male human wizard), Lia the Radiant (a female elf paladin), and Oriax the Clever (a male tiefling rogue). Each adventurer has their own deck that plays differently, but with the same basic mechanics so it’s easy to pick up any one and just play. Each card features illustrations by Kyle Ferrin showcasing the different characters in a fun-loving, cartoony style. Many cards have clever, entertaining, or familiar names. The cards each have a variety of symbols on them which tell you what each card does. The symbols are all easy to understand and, if you ever forget what they do, each character has their own unique reference card to remind you.

There are five symbols that appear in every character’s deck. A swords deals one damage to an opponent, a shield blocks one damage dealt to you, a heart heals one hp, a card lets you draw one card, and a lightning bolt lets you play one extra card. Although some cards in the decks contain a single symbol on them, most have a combination or two or three symbols. These symbols appear in different combinations and quantities throughout the decks, making each one different. The paladin’s deck has a lot of healing, for example, while the rogue’s lets you play a lot of cards, and the barbarian is the only character who can do four damage at once to a single enemy. In addition, each deck has a few unique symbols and cards. Sutha the Skullcrusher can deal one damage to each enemy and then gain that much hp with her Whirling Frenzy while the wizard Azzan can swap life totals with another player by playing Vampiric Touch.


There’s a few other rules to the game, but not many. Typically when you play a card it gets discarded, but if you play a shield card it instead is placed on the table in front of you. For each damage it prevents it gets a damage counter, and when it’s been completely destroyed the shield card is removed from play and placed in the discard pile. If you happen to use up all the cards in your hand (you’ll need lightning bolt cards to do this, which let you play an extra card on your turn) you can draw two additional cards. And if your deck ever runs out you simply reshuffle it and keep playing.

Pretty simple!

While playing we found that this game was super simple to learn, teach, and understand. You get the hang of it quick, and games are fast and exciting. Since you’re battling each other there’s definitely a ‘take that’ feel to this game. Some rounds you’ll feel picked on if you get defeated quick, but others are more balanced. It just depends on the strategies of your opponents at the time. My kids often decided the best strategy was to kill me and then duke it out themselves, so I was brutally ganged up on a lot. Haha. They quickly realized this was a poor strategy when my husband also joined play, as he often teamed up with me so that he didn’t have to combat a pair of allied kids on his own. (How the tables have turned!) My daughter is an expert at the old ‘kick them when they’re down’ strategy, very often dealing ruthless finishing blows against whoever happens to be doing the worst. …Even if it might be against her brother who she was supposedly allied with. Clever girl. Haha.

The decks are fun, varied, and balanced. No one deck it better than the other, they’re just different. Although it’s not immediately apparent what the differences are between the decks it becomes clear pretty quick. Lia, the paladin, deals a lot of damage and heals a lot of her own wounds. Her special abilities include Divine Inspiration, which lets her put any card from her discard pile into her hand and then heal two hp and Banishing Smite which destroys all shield cards in play and then lets her play an additional card. This was my daughter’s favourite deck, and my second favourite deck. While my daughter prefers Divine Smite and her beloved steed Fluffy, I’m a big fan of the Finger-wag of Judgement and Divine Inspiration. This deck is tough to take down and enjoyable to play.

Some of the paladin’s cards.

While my daughter and I loved the paladin, my son and I both decided the rogue, Oriax, was out favourite deck. Packed full of cards that let you take extra actions, this deck often lets you play more cards than your opponents. It’s also got some enjoyable tricks, particularly with Clever Disguise, a card that prevents you from being targeted by any cards until the start of your next turn. It’s particularly great for forcing your allies to duke it out at the start of the game, which is likely to result in them retaliating against each other in subsequent rounds. A nice little start! We also really like using Pick Pocket to play a card from someone else’s deck. Need healing? Grab a card from the paladin. Want to wreck your opponent? Snag a card from the barbarian. Want to get a nice full hand or play something tricky? Take a card from the wizard. Sure, it won’t always be what you were hoping for, but I’ve never seen it not be useful. One downside to the rogue is that he only has one way to heal himself: Stolen Potion. Although it lets you heal one hp and play another card (which is great) it does mean that when you’re low on health it’s hard to save yourself. One hp once in a while doesn’t do much. I also love Sneak Attack. It’s art and theme bring a smile to my face every time. Haha.

Some of the rogue’s cards.

It should come as no surprise that the barbarian’s deck deals a lot of damage. In fact, they have the only card in the game that can do four damage against one enemy (Rage). They also have the awesome Whirling Axes, which we mentioned earlier. What might be surprising is how balanced it is. It’s got some solid shield cards (my daughter loves the dogs Riff and Raff), ways to draw cards (Open the Armory and Snack Time), ways to heal (Snack Time and Whirling Axes) and ways to destroy a shield with one card (Mighty Toss). Although none of us named this deck as our favourites, it also turned out to be the most played deck and both my son and husband’s second favourite decks. Sutha is a fearsome foe!

Some of the barbarian’s cards.

Which leaves us with the wizard. At first glance, Azzan’s deck is the most balanced. He can do everything well, but doesn’t have the most of anything either. Burning Hands and Lightning Bolt are some of his most reliable damage dealing cards. Magic Missile is my favourite, as it lets you deal one damage and play an extra card. Stoneskin and Mirror Image are great shield cards. Knowledge is Power gets him a lot of extra cards while Speed of Thought helps him play those cards fast. His one downside is a lack of healing cards. Eventually we came to realize he does have the most of something very important: TRICKS. His three unique cards include Vampiric Touch, which we already mentioned. This card lets him swap hp totals with another player — which can be game changing. Charm lets him take someone else’s shield card that’s on the table and use as his own — also awesome. And Fireball deals three damage to every player (including himself). My daughter’s prone to hoarding fireballs, using Charm to steal someone else’s defences, and then blasting a bunch of fireballs to kill everyone at once while she hits behind her stolen shields. Cheeky thing. Haha. Although Azzan’s deck is just as easy to use as everyone else’s, it’s also the deck that is most rewarding when played with some forethought.

Some of the wizard’s cards.

We really enjoyed Dungeon Mayhem. It’s not a complex, tactical game like some of our others, but it’s a fun, quick, romp you can bring with you anywhere. We hope they come out with an expansion that contains another two or four decks. It’d be great to have more deck choices and play with more than four players. Happily, this deck was quite affordable. Our copy was only $18 Canadian. Well worth the money.


Dungeon Mayhem Contents
Some of our favourite cards for each deck.


Family Day 2019

It’s been a busy week around here lately, with both Valentine’s Day, and then Family Day long weekend. My kids had a blast handing out their Valentines earlier this week. My daughter handed out rabbit Valentines to her classmates, surprising no one. My son’s were animals with cartoony sunglasses and fake moustaches. They were adorable. My kids have spent the days since reading and rereading their Valentine’s and nibbling away at their chocolatey treats.

For Valentine’s we gave my daughter a comfy Totoro scarf. It was a bit pricey for my liking, but my daughter hates scarves. A problem that needs remedying, since it’s way too cold where I live to go outside without a scarf in the winter. Thankfully, she adores the film ‘My Neighbor Totoro‘ and my husband happened to find a Totoro scarf earlier in the month at Little Star Gifts. She’s thrilled to have it, and has grown so attached to it she refuses to take it off — even during class time. Uh-oh! She informed me that she tried wearing it lots of different ways during class. Around her neck, around her waist, and even on her head. Luckily, I haven’t had any complaints from her teachers yet, but we’ll see how long that lasts. Haha.

My son got a Rubik’s cube — he fiddles with everything, and enjoys hands-on puzzles. We also gave him the D&D Starter Set. He’s thrilled with it, and we’ve already started making custom characters to play through the adventure it comes with. (More on that later this week).

I got my print copy of Realms of Atrothia: Legacy Races Revisited, which was exciting. My husband also gave me a gift card for Indigo, so I got to head online and pick out a few books for myself. I can’t wait for Wilderness Origins and Heroes from the Fringe to arrive!

We’ve been playing a lot of board games lately. Bang, and Boss Monster earlier this week, along with Adventure Time Munchkin. My husband slaughtered us in Godstorm Risk. I taught my niece and nephew how to play Bad Bunnies, since my daughter wanted to play it with them. They caught on quick actually. Well, not the youngest, but she had fun just playing whatever card she felt like and commanding ‘higher’ or ‘lower.’ She was thrilled to be included with the ‘big kids.’

This Family Day long weekend my kids wanted to squish in as many games as they could. My daughter insisted on Dinosaur Island, which my husband won, beating me by ONE victory point. So close! My son chose Bunny Kingdom, which my daughter won (for once). She was very proud. My son made a huge Heroscapes set-up for us to tackle, and also picked out Magic: The Gathering Arena of the Planeswalkers for us to play as a family. He’s a big fan of tactical miniatures games. Finally, I played my daughter one-on-one in Lord Of The Rings Monopoly and got my ass kicked. Absolutely trounced. Frodo for the win! Haha. She had so much fun. It was adorable.

Both of my kids birthdays are coming up in another few weeks, and they’re already plotting what games they want most, and where they want to have their birthday party. They’ll be seven and eight soon, which leaves me wondering where the time has gone. It passes so fast.

RetroCon is coming up in a few weeks near my house. We’ve already bought our tickets and tried to sign up for some games. It will be the first time we try to play PFS scenarios in public as a family. Fingers crossed my kids behave! Haha. And if not? Well, sorry future GM. We really wanted to give it a shot. Unfortunately, there’s not too many sessions we can play. We’re only able to attend one day of the three days of gaming, and on that one day there’s only one game we can play in. Evening games don’t work for us since they run too late, the only low-tier game in the morning is Core, which we don’t play, and the afternoon game I did manage to sign my husband and kids up for is one I can’t play (since I’ve already played it). Still, we signed up for the waiting list for that morning, and I’ll sit with my kids and help keep them focused while they play through a game in the afternoon. It’ll be fun. We’re excited.

Sign ups for the second online OutPost play-by-post convention is happening on Paizo’s messageboards right now. There’s plenty of openings in games of all tiers for both PFS and SFS, so if you have any interest in trying out play-by-post gaming, now’s a great time to give it a whirl. Sign-ups are here, and information on play-by-post gaming can be found on Paizo’s messageboards in the Flaxseed Lodge, and Castamir’s Flaxseed Station. OutPost II runs from March 11th to May 6th.

With the end of the long weekend comes a return to school for my kids, work for my husband, and a different kind of work for me. Plenty to do!

We’ll talk again soon,



Adventures in Board Games!

My kids love games. Board games, d20 games, video games. All kinds. So, it should come as no surprise that this Christmas my tree was packed full of games. My kids were lucky enough to get a Nintendo Switch from their uncle this year, so both my son and daughter spent the first few days trying out their new video games. Let’s Go Eevee is a huge hit, as is Super Mario Odyssey. But, when we had some free time together as a family, my kids gravitated right to the new board games. My daughter got quite a few. The Hatchimals Eggventure GameBananagrams, and Bunny Kingdom (plus a new d20 game we’ll talk about another time!). And my son got two: Jumanji  and Dinosaur Island.

We spent a few days this week opening up the new games, learning how to play them — which is technically me learning how to play them and then teaching them to everyone else — and taking each one for a whirl.

Hatchimals Eggventure Game was quick to learn, which should come as no surprise. I assumed it was another one of those generic board games where you just move around the track that happens to be plastered with pictures of the latest popular kids show. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the exactly case. It was a simple kids game plastered with pictures of Hatchimals, the popular kids toy. But it was also a little more complex than just moving around the board. It involved hatching eggs, which you did by matching cards in your hand to eggs on the board. Cards and eggs were colour coded by which ‘nest’ they could hatch at, and when you landed on the proper nest you revealed one of the appropriate eggs to everyone. If it matched yours you hatched it, and if it didn’t you put it back. First to hatch their eggs wins. It was sort of like a mix between go fish, memory, and a generic kids board game. Not exactly a thrilling gameplay experience, but my daughter adored it and it only cost me a few dollars at the local Giant Tiger (which is a Canadian discount store). It’s simple enough that we can teach it to her cousins and they can play it together. Well worth the money. My son had the worst luck, though! Every single time he had a chance to blindly choose an egg, and had a fifty-fifty chance to get the right one, he got the wrong egg, The entire game. Haha. Poor kid.

Bananagrams was much more fun for everyone. For those of you who’ve never played this delightful little word game, it’s essentially a bunch of letter tiles that you put in the middle of the table. You get a bunch of them, and it’s your job to make words out of the tiles. You have to connect the words to one another by shared letters, either horizontally or vertically. It’s like each player at the table plays their own personal game of scrabble. You race to see who uses up their tiles first, then shout ‘Banana’ when you’ve done so. Everyone checks it for spelling errors, and then you start over for another round. You can also swap letters you’ve got with ones on the table if you want to, which is pretty much what my son did the whole time. Haha. Anyway, it’s a fun little game that’s great for kids of all ages. Mine are quite young, so they had no hope of beating me, but they had fun trying to make their own words and came up with some pretty good ones in the end. As an added bonus its one of those small, compact games that’s great for bringing out to family gatherings, a friend’s house, a road trip, or (in our case) the laundromat. It’s pricier than I expected it to be, though, but I was lucky enough to pick it up on sale.

Kids Games.JPG

Jumanji  was hell! Don’t get me wrong, I love the game. I was the perfect age for the original Jumanji when it came out, and owned the board game as well as the movie on VHS. I remember my brother and I got a kick out of using the decoder to read the rhyming cards from the movie. I can still rattle some off of the top of my head, actually. “At night they fly, you’d better run, these winged things are not much fun.” There’s a few more, now that I think about it. In fact, I probably remember more of them than I should…

My son isn’t partial to the original Jumanji  movie, but when he watched the reboot with Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black in it this past year (Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle ) he LOVED it. Obsessively loved it. He even started writing his own Jumanji stories. Never finished any, of course. He’s both impatient and lazy, which isn’t exactly conducive to finishing the things he starts, but he enjoyed it. So, he was absurdly excited to get a copy of the board game for Christmas. It’s got a nifty little wooden case/board (just like in the original movie), plenty of dice, and is fast paced. Unfortunately, the first time we played it was when my niece and nephew were over. Now, I’m not sure if any of you have had the joy of teaching a new board game to four antsy and overly excited children between the ages of two and seven before, but wow! It was brutal! Haha. As an added complication there were multiple sets of dice — one for each player — and the game pieces were slightly too big for the spaces on the board, so I spent the entire game guiding play, stopping children from consuming game pieces, looking for missing dice, reminding toddlers not to move pieces that aren’t theirs, reading cards, referencing rules, and trying to figure out which of the children happened to have stolen the toy rhino that was supposed to be on the board. It was absolute chaos! Luckily I have the standard Mom superpowers: eyes in the back of my head, extra invisible arms, and limitless patience. In the end we got through it and the kids all had a ton of fun. Definitely not a game to play with all of them again, though. I’ll reach for the generic ‘race around the board’ game plastered with popular cartoon characters next time. But, when it’s just me and my kids, we’re more than happy to enter the jungles of Jumanji. Although, my son insists it would be much more fun as a virtual reality video game. Haha.

Which brings me to the actual point of this blog. Two of the games we picked up weren’t geared at young kids at all. They were aimed at an older audience. And honestly? Both were awesome!

First up? Bunny Kingdom.

Bunny Kingdom is a pricey game that we picked up for my daughter months ago when we found it in the local game store, Game Knight Games and Cool Stuff. Yes, that’s the store’s actual name. It was far out of our budget for an impulse purchase, but my daughter REALLY LOVES RABBITS. Seriously. I’m not sure I can actually emphasize that enough. But, just know: she really loves rabbits. She’s got quite a few rabbit board games already, but none that are games that my husband will sit and play with her. So, when we saw it at the store we figured, why not? I suppose I could have gotten it cheaper off of Amazon, but when we have the chance we always prefer to shop locally. Anyway, we figured that even if my husband hated the game, it was covered in adorable images of rabbitfolk making farms and kingdoms so my daughter would love it.

Luckily, our hunch was right and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

Bunny Kingdom is a board game for 2-4 players. It’s intended for players ages 12 and up, but my kids are only seven and eight and they didn’t have any trouble getting the hang of the game. It’s published by IELLO, features bright and colourful art by Paul Mafayon, and was designed by Richard Garfield (the creator of Magic: The Gathering, King of Tokyo, and Keyforge: Call of The Archons , to name a few). Bunny Kingdom was a nominee for 2018 Origins Awards Best Family Game, and 2017 Cardboard Republic Striker Laurel awards. The box is nice looking and solid, and the board inside looks great. It’s essentially a large map with a 10×10 grid overtop, and a scoreboard on the side. Many of the Bunny Kingdom Boxspaces on the map feature settlements and resources that players can claim. Settlements contain castles, while resources allow you to collect wood, carrots, and fish. Unfortunately, our board had suffered damage in two places despite having a seemingly undamaged box. Not what you want to see when you’ve paid a good chunk of change for a new board game!

Each player has a pile of tiny rabbit tokens they can use to claim their territory on the board, and act as their token on the scoreboard. In addition to the player tokens and board, this game comes with three different sized castles (level 1, 2, and 3), corner markers to denote special upgrades and camps that you can add onto spaces, and a massive deck of cards. Seriously massive! You’ll have to split it into a few piles just to shuffle it. The art throughout the board, cards, and box is consistently wonderful. It’s bright, colourful, and cartoony in all the best ways. My daughter repeatedly shrieked in glee, exclaimed “AUW! CUTIES!”, and hugged cards to her chest, so it’s clearly a winner in her opinion! Haha.

The premise of the game is simple. Your great Bunny King has ordered you to lead your clan of rabbits in gathering resources, claiming some land, and establishing new settlements. The rabbit with the most prosperous fief — determined by having the most golden carrots — wins.

So how do you play? For starters, you select your rabbit colour, place one of them on the 0 on the scoreboard, and deal out ten cards to each player. You draft cards from the hand, selecting two you want to keep for yourself, then pass the rest on to the next player. You play some of the card types and set the others aside for later. Then you proceed with the draft. This continues until there are no more cards in hand. Cards can do a few things, but the most important ones are labelled with a letter and a number — coordinates referring to a space on the board. If you select a card like this you get to place a rabbit token there and claim the space as your own. Other cards include camps (which let you claim any unclaimed space until someone claims it with the proper card), settlements (which let you build castles of various levels on your claimed territory), sky towers (which let you connect two distant parts of your fief), resources (which let you collect resources like wood, mushrooms, and iron from your land), treasures (which give you golden carrots), and missions (which give you bonus golden carrots at the end of the game as long as you meet the requirements stated on the card). After the cards are drafted you enter the ‘Build Phase.’ This is when you play all of the castle cards, camps, sky towers, and resources you’ve drafted. After this you earn points (golden carrots) for how prosperous your fiefs are, which is based on number of ‘towers’ on the castles within your connected territories, and the different types of resources they can create. Once points are tallied you’ve reach an end of a round. Then you deal out another ten cards to each player and begin another draft. The game ends after four rounds of gameplay. Then you reveal the treasures and missions you’ve acquired, gaining extra golden carrots for them as appropriate. The winner is the rabbit with the most golden carrots (the highest score).

Our first game took us about an hour to play, but all the other games took up around 40 minutes, which is about how long the game is expected to run. Because the game always lasts four rounds, you can expect this to be a pretty consistent time. Which is really nice!

Bunny KingdomBunny Kingdom is a relatively fast paced game that involves some strategy, but doesn’t take up an entire afternoon or a whole day just to play it. Selecting the proper territory is important. You want to grow the size of your fiefs and ensure they connect, but you also want to establish cities and ensure there’s a variety of resources within it’s borders. Knowing which to go for at which times is both a matter of chance, and practise. After playing a round you’ll figure out what’s most important to you. Claiming any territory that already has a castle on it is sound, as is claiming any cards that let you establish resources — or luxury resources — in territories of your choosing. In the first two rounds you won’t earn many golden carrots from your fiefs, but if you build it properly you’ll make a lot in the last two rounds. Treasures are nice, but they offer a small one time payout. Not always worth it. Missions offer a bigger payout, but are sometimes difficult to achieve. They require you invest time in accomplishing them. For example, a mission that promises you one golden carrot per territory you own that can produce wood is nice. But, if you focus on that too much you won’t have a variety of resources available in your fiefs. And it’s variety that earns you golden carrots.

My daughter caught onto the game right away, and had great fun building her kingdoms. She, myself, and my husband all did pretty well. Some games she lagged behind the adults, but others she did just as well or better. Luck played a bit of a factor. So did my daughter’s habit of occasionally selecting cards just because they’re cute. Haha. My son, however, decided that building fiefs takes too much work. Instead he spent the entire first game only taking treasures and missions. We all thought he was crazy! Turns out in the end he went from 0 golden carrots all the way to 147 golden carrots. More than enough to score him a win against my husband’s 116. We were shocked, to say the least. Apparently, taking all the treasures and not bothering with that whole kingdom thing is a decent strategy — as long as you’re the only one who tries it. If too many players go this route it won’t lead to victory.

So, when we played our follow up games, we worked on our kingdoms, took some snazzy treasures and missions, and my son — once again — took every treasure and mission he could get his hands on. This time we thought we had him on the ropes! …And he won again.

*face palm*

I guess we should have taken even more of those treasures… Haha.

Aside from this flaw it was a great game. Of course, it was a rather large flaw. Why should the one person who didn’t bother to even try building a kingdom win a kingdom building game?!? But, we had a lot of fun anyway. Overall, we all thought it was a blast! It’s definitely going to see regular play.

But, our favourite game of the holidays had nothing to do with cute fluffy rabbits. Instead, it featured people-eating dinosaurs! Yes!

Dinosaur Island is a game we picked up for my son because he LOVES Jurassic Park and Jurassic World (and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ). And this game? Pretty much that. You research the genetic code of dinosaurs, create them, and put them in your very own dinosaur theme park. If you don’t have enough security they escape and eat some of your patrons. Which is bad for business, obviously! Haha. In the end, the player with the most successful park wins. The game is designed by Jonathan Gilmour and Brian Lewis, and released by Pandasaurus Games.

Dinosaur Island BoxWe found it on the shelf at another local game shop, Fusion Gaming, and nearly gagged at the price tag. And then we read the box. My husband traded in some Magic cards for the game, and we brought it home for my son for Christmas. It’s a heavy square box packed full of stuff. There’s lots of boards, pieces, dice, cards, and pop-outs of all kinds in this game, which is frankly a little bewildering at first. But, once you’ve got everything popped out and sorted into the many little storage baggies the game comes with (thank goodness!) you can open up the rulebook and try to figure out what the heck you’re supposed to do. Which is hard! Haha. I had to flip back and forth between the first few pages of the rulebook to set everything up — some pages were telling me how to set up the game, and others were telling me the names of types of pieces. All very important! Once I had everything properly set up — which took me around twenty minutes — I finally flipped the page on the rulebook and started to actually read how to play. It didn’t take too long to read, and there were some very useful gameplay examples for each step that helped me figure things out. But, it was still quite complicated. I had to read and reread each step and its example a few times while referencing the board and the list of piece names. Once I figured out a step I moved on, and then by the time I hit the end of a phase description I went back and read that whole phase over again. Anyway, by the time I finished making sense of the rulebook I was confident I understood how the game worked and could teach it to my family, but that I would still need to reference the rulebook for details on most of the gameplay choices the first time we played through. And I was right! I referenced that rulebook constantly during the first game and still made quite a few mistakes. I used it a lot during the second game (so that we find and correct our mistakes from the first play through), and then in the third and fourth game I only had to reference it a few times to double check a rule or a cost for something we hadn’t come across much yet.

In summary, it was hard to learn. This is a bit of a problem since the game is listed as ages eight and up. Eight! In my opinion, this game is too complex for eight year olds. They can play if they’re joining in with the grown ups or teenagers — like mine did — but its not the kind of game you could give to some eight year olds and expect them to be able to learn and play properly. Twelve and up would be more accurate.

That said, the game was awesome.

Everyone had a blast and, surprisingly, my daughter and husband loved it most of all. In fact, they were both the driving factor in us playing it so many times over the last few days. Which is huge! My daughter is always ready to play a board game, but my husband? Not so much. This is particularly surprising when you take into account how long this game takes to play. It says it takes an hour and a half to two hours to play through, but it took us over three on our first run through (and we played the ‘short game’). Further run throughs also took around three hours each, although the second time we played a ‘medium game’ and the third we played a ‘long game’ with three people instead of four. Definitely a time investment!

Dinosaur Island Game Set Up

So what is Dinosaur Island, and how do you play?

The point of Dinosaur Island is to create the most successful park. Your park’s success is measured in Victory Points, which are most often earned by having guests survive their trip to your park. You can also earn Victory Points by creating dinosaurs and by building some attractions. A number of guests visit your park each turn based on your parks Excitement level, which is also influenced by the number and grandeur of the dinosaurs you have created, and by some attractions. But, getting people to your park isn’t all that matters. You also have to have attractions for them to visit. They’ll visit your dinosaurs, of course, but only so many visitors can view a paddock at a time, so you’ll also want to create other attractions. Things like restaurants and rides for the guests to visit. Another factor you need to take into account is danger. You can have a lot of dinosaurs and a huge excitement level, but if you haven’t invested enough in security then your guests will get eaten by dinosaurs. And dead guests don’t earn you Victory Points!

It’s a complex game that involves multiple phases, each of which allows you to make decisions regarding how you choose to run your park. We didn’t find a single obvious method for best increasing your Victory Points. Which is great! You have a lot of choices to make, and all of them are helpful in different ways. Usually you’ll need to change your priorities from round to round to do well in this game. There was a lot of fun strategy and planning involved, which even got my daughter taking the time to sit, think, plan, count, and envision a few stages and turns ahead. Fun planning, too. Not boring. We all really enjoyed this games layered complexity.

So what are these phases?

Dinosaur Island 2Phase One is the Research Phase, which will utilize a shared board that will be in the middle of the table. On it you’ll find dice (which usually show DNA in various types, amounts, and a threat level), dinosaur cards, and some other open spaces. During this phase each player will take turns selecting how you want your three scientists to prioritize their research. They can select one of the dinosaur cards in order to learn the DNA recipe for that dinosaur, they can select a DNA dice in order to collect that kind of DNA, they can work to increase your cold storage (which is the maximum levels of each type of DNA you can hold), or they can refrain from doing research and instead become an extra worker for the third phase. All of these options are really important. Dinosaurs raise excitement levels which in turn draw in guests, but they each cost different kinds of DNA. Collecting DNA to create them is important. Of course, your cold storage starts off small, so you’ll want to increase it as you play.

Phase Two is the Market Phase, which will utilize a shared board that will be in the middle of the table. On it you’ll find a variety of DNA, lab upgrades and park attractions you can purchase, and specialist workers you can hire. During this phase each player takes a turn selecting what they want to purchase, until each player has bought two things.

Phase Three is the Worker Phase, which will utilize a personal board which will be in front of you. On it you’ll find your DNA Cold Storage and your current levels of DNA, your current threat level, your current security level, as well as your current lab facilities and upgrades. During this phase you place your workers (typically you have four) on your board to accomplish certain tasks. Tasks can include refining DNA from one type to another advanced type, creating dinosaurs, increasing security measures, increasing paddock capacity, and raising capital. In addition, some lab upgrades will give you more options, or allow you to perform tasks with less workers invested in them, or at a financial discount. Once everyone has placed their personal workers (which happens all at the same time) you tell your fellow players what your workers are doing and apply it.

Dinosaur IslandPhase Four is the Park Phase, which will utilize a personal board which will be in front of you. On it you’ll find you park, your current dinosaurs and paddock capacities, your attractions, and the number of guests which can visit each location. During the Park Phase you count up your Excitement which determines how many guests visit your park, receive income from entry fees (except for those pesky hooligans who sneak inside!), place guests at attractions, calculate threat against your security, see if any dinosaurs escape, have dinosaurs devour guests, and finally count up how many surviving guests you retain, which will grant you Victory Points.

Phase Five is the Cleanup Phase, which is when you tidy up the boards and prepare them for the next round. It’s also when you determine the next round’s turn order. Whoever has the most Victory Points goes last, while the least goes first. And then its onto the next round, with Phase One.

There’s a lot more to this game than we’ve mentioned. Plot Twist Cards help make every game different, and objective cards determine the goals you need to accomplish in order to end the game. These goals are sorted by game length, so if you want a short game you select objectives at random from the short game deck, while a long game will require cards drawn from the long game deck.

We absolutely loved this game. So much, in fact, that my husband is considering buying my son the expansion for his birthday gift. The expansion, called Dinosaur Island: Totally Liquid, allows for a fifth player to join in the fun, features water dinosaurs, more DNA dice, new attractions, and more. Super cool!

All in all, we’re thrilled with our new games.

Think you know of a game we’ll love? Let us know in the comments! I’d love to hear it!




Our Favourite Things of 2018

To celebrate the New Year we’re taking one last look back at our favourite things of 2018! So what made the cut? Read on and see!

Favourite d20 Bestiary: Alien Archive
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite Dungeons and Dragons Book: Dungeons and Dragons: Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica
(Dungeons and Dragons meets Magic: The Gathering!!)

Favourite Pathfinder Book: Ultimate Wilderness
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite Starfinder Book: Pact Worlds
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite d20 Book (Other): Realms of Atrothia: Legacy Races Revisited
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite d20 Adventure: Skitter Shot
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite d20 Campaign: Return of the Runelords Adventure Path
(for more information check out this blog post and be on the look out for another blog post early this year)

Favourite Pathfinder Society Scenario: #9-10: Signs in Senghor
(for more information check out this blog post as well as this one)

Favourite Starfinder Society Scenario: #1-14: Star Sugar Heartlove!!!
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite Kid’s Game: Tails of Equestria: The Storytelling Game
(for more information be on the lookout for a new blog post later this month!)

Favourite Board Game: Dinosaur Island
(for more information check out this blog post)

Favourite Family Movie: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
(now playing in a theatre near you!)

Favourite Movie: Ready Player One
(if you haven’t seen this movie or read this book yet, you REALLY SHOULD!)

Favourite Upcoming Kickstarter: Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion
(Kickstarter coming in February 2019!)

I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!


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