2013 Holiday Gift Guide—Family Games

9 12 2013

Family Games is kind of a hard category. I mean, if you’re playing a kids game, is that a family game, too? What about families with young kids, or older kids, or no kids? Basically, these are games that we play with our families, but that aren’t designed specifically as kids games. And our kids are between the ages of 5 and 9, so the games will skew that way.

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Kickstarter Weekly—Nov. 22, 2013

22 11 2013

Wow, it’s been a crazy week for us here at TOG, and things have gotten away from us!

So, without further ado we’re going to jump into this week’s Kickstarter Weekly!

Most likely these games won’t be making it under your Christmas tree this year, (seeing as how a lot of these campaigns don’t even end until after Christmas), but it ever hurts to plan ahead for… ya know… Valentines Day, Arbor Day, Memorial Day…. Or, well, you get what we’re saying…

So let’s jump in!

Featured Campaign

Hold your breathHold Your Breath – Mayday Games

In this, the third and final installment in the Get Bit trilogy, players are once again playing as some less than intelligent pirates who have just gone overboard in “Walk the Plank!”. This campaign is going gangbusters and there are a few stretch goals unlocked with more on the way! 

You can get in on this one for $18 to get a copy shipped to your door. The campaign ends Dec. 21 and you can check it out here!

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Kickstarter Weekly—October, 18, 2013

18 10 2013

Hey gang, it’s been an exciting week around here, we just recorded our third episode of the podcast, and it should be showing up in your feed sometime really soon!

Meanwhile, Kickstarter is doing its thing, so let’s take a look at what’s going!

Featured Campaign!

RarrRarr —Ape Games

Our featured campaign this week is a fun-looking family game in which players create their own monster with a unique set of powers, and then pit them against other players’ monsters in a battle royale!

The campaign ends Nov. 25,  and it costs $20 for a copy of the game. You can check out the campaign here!

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Why, You ‘Cheeky Monkey’—A Double Take Review

19 02 2013

IMG_0867 We know how much you all love to hear the thoughts we both have on games, so here we go with another Double-Take Review!

This week’s lucky contestant is Reiner Knizia’s Cheeky Monkey, from Eagle and Gryphon Games.


  • 1 very adorable and VERY soft plush monkey (who is a double leg amputee and has had his abdominal cavity hollowed out in some sort of freak accident). This acts as the bag, from which you’ll be drawing chips.
  • 52 white plastic poker chip tokens
  • 1 sheet of animal stickers, which you’ll place on those poker chips.
  • 7 bonus tiles, which are large cardboard disks with animals (and the number of bonus VPs they’re worth) on one side, and facts about the animal and its habitat on the other.

IMG_0864Gameplay—Players simply take turns pulling tokens out of the abdominal cavity of the plush monkey, and placing the tokens in front of them. If a player draws a token that matches the top animal of any player’s stack, they get to capture that token as well and place it in front of them. If they draw a duplicate to one they’ve already pulled that turn, they lose everything they’ve gained that turn. If they decide to stop after drawing any number of tokens, they keep those tokens and place them in a single stack in any order they choose. Then play continues to the next player.

Going Cheeky—If a player draws a Monkey token, they can choose to “go cheeky” and take the topmost token of any player’s stack—exchanging the Monkey token for the chosen one.

The game is over when the last token has been drawn and stacked. The tokens are sorted by type, and each bonus token is awarded to the player with the most tokens of that type. Each regular token is worth 1 point, and the bonus tokens are worth their face value. The scores are totaled up and the highest score wins.

The exuberant 5-year-old shakes the monkey...

The exuberant 5-year-old shakes the monkey…

The rules have several scaled-down variations to help younger players learn and play the game—such as using no bonus tokens, or not being able to go cheeky. This is a nice way to get younger kids into the game, and then gradually introduce a new rule or two in subsequent games. (And there will be subsequent games…)

Jeremiah—When the package containing this game arrived and I pulled it out, my boys immediately wanted to play! The monkey “container” is cute and soft and looks great sitting on the shelf in my nerd room.

Firestone—That’s exactly what happened here, too. “Dad! Dad! What is that? It’s a GAME?! Can we play?”

Jeremiah—The downside of the components is the stickers! I was totally okay with having to put the animal stickers on the tokens; the problem was they didn’t come off of the paper cleanly or easily. So it took forever trying to peel the perfect circle of paper off of the back of the stickers.

Firestone—I have never felt as uncoordinated as when I tried getting those stickers off the sheet. It was like Andre the Giant trying to thread a needle while wearing mittens… But once I got the stickers off, they went on great, and I haven’t had any problems with them peeling.

Jeremiah—The game is pretty fun and has lots of teachable moments for younger kids. My youngest often gets very upset when someone takes his favorite animal from the top of his stack (which is often whatever animal is on the top of his stack!). So there are lots of “being gracious” and “good sport” talks that happen around that aspect of the game. Despite that, my boys both LOVE the game and think it’s really fun.

Firestone—My teachable moments involve learning when to press your luck, and when not to. “Son, you have all but one of the animals already on this turn. The chances of you drawing an elephant are slim…” He, of course, draws an elephant and I realize they haven’t learned A THING!

Jeremiah—The length of the game makes it the perfect kids filler game. Or the “we don’t have time to setup/play anything else right now” game, but they’re not getting cheated out of playing a great game. It just happens to be shorter, for those nights when bedtime is eminent.

Firestone—We (try to) have Family Game Night every Monday, but sometimes the evening gets away from us and we realize it’s nearly bedtime. Cheeky Monkey is the perfect length for a quick game—though if the kids are really pressing their luck, sometimes the game can get “stuck” for a little while.

This game gets a solid 7 from me—a great game that the kids love to play. The monkey bag gets a perfect 10, though. Overproduced, unnecessary, and completely wonderful.

Jeremiah – It may be hard to think that a game this simple has even simpler rules, but those scaled down rules made it super easy to teach my 4-year old the game. I told them when we started that there were other rules and when we finished the first game they immediately wanted to know the rest of the rules. When I explained the “Going Cheeky” rule, they both grinned ear-to-ear and my 4-year old exclaimed, “If I get a monkey, I’m going to go cheeky!”

I’m giving it a bump up to a 7.5—my boys really like this one…a lot. It’s totally a kids game that will never see the light of day with my gaming friends. And in the category of inexplicably disfigured but amazingly cute and cuddly plush animal containers, it scores an 11!

We’d like to thank Gryphon Games for providing a review copy of Cheeky Monkey, and you for reading! We would LOVE it if you liked us on FaceBook, and followed us on Twitter!

Panic! At the Castle

31 07 2012

“Don’t panic.” It’s a phrase made famous by British science fiction writer Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Fellow writer Arthur C. Clarke said that advice is perhaps the best that could be given to humanity.

Apparently Douglas Adams never had a Troll ready to take out the last piece of his castle, because that’s a perfect time to panic!

Castle Panic is a cooperative game for 1-6 players. Your castle is being attacked from all sides by hordes of evil monsters. If they destroy all of the pieces of your castle, you lose; if you defeat all the monsters, you win.


  • 1 Gameboard—The board consists of a big circle that has a castle in the center and a forest all around, divided into six pie-shaped sections. One-third of the sections are blue, one-third green, and one-third red. And the whole “pie” is divided again into concentric circles with names such as Archer, Knight, and Swordsman. We’ll get into what that means later.
  • 1 Rulebook—It’s full-color and well organized. It helps that at its core the game is fairly simple.
  • 49 Castle Cards—The cards aren’t the best quality; you might want to sleeve them to prolong their life.
  • 49 Monster Tokens—Simple, sturdy, and functional.
  • 6 Walls
  • 6 Towers
  • 1 Tar Token
  • 2 Fortify Tokens
  • 6 Order of Play Cards
  • 12 Plastic Stands—Unlike some games, these stands are pretty tight; we’ve had no problems with them not holding the pieces.
  • 1 6-Sided Die


The board starts with a six monsters—one in the Archer ring of each of the six sections. Depending on the monster, they have 1-3 hit points (HPs). They always start at full strength, and if a monster takes a hit, you simply rotate it so the next lowest HP is facing toward the center. If it’s on its last HP, it’s dead! Yay! In the center of the board you build your castle—which means you put one Castle piece in each of the six pie sections. Just outside of that you place a Wall piece in front of each castle piece.

A turn consists of:

  1. Drawing up to your hand limit (this limit varies depending on the number of players).
  2. Discarding one card and drawing another to replace it (optional).
  3. Trading one card with one other player (also optional).
  4. Playing cards to kick some monster butt (hopefully).
  5. Moving all monsters on the board. (Each monster moves one concentric circle closer to the castle.)
  6. Drawing two more monster tokens. (This is where you draw a monster. Cry. Roll the die, and put the monster in the Forest circle of the numbered section that matches what you rolled. Cry again. Repeat.)

The card deck includes cards such as Green Knight, or Blue Swordsman. So if you play that card, you can hit one monster for one point if it’s in the Swordsman circle of the board. This is where trading becomes important, because your Red Archer card might not be useful to you on this turn, but when the monsters move at the end of your turn it’ll be really useful to the player on your left during her turn. So you can trade a card she’ll need next turn for a card you need this turn. You always have to look ahead in this game.

Most of the tiles in the Monster Pool are actual monsters, but there are a few other tiles, such as one where all monsters in a certain-colored section move forward one space (and since they’ve just done that already, this can really mess things up). Or one that reads, “All Monsters Move Clockwise,” which will totally screw up your best-laid plans, since that might cause a monster to be in a different-colored section now. Aaargh! Or one that tells you to draw three or four MORE monsters! Or a boulder that will roll through a section, helpfully killing monsters in its path—and unhelpfully destroying Walls and Castles, too.

There are other types of cards to help you in the fight. For instance, Hero cards in each of the colors that let you hit a monster at any level in that particular color. Or one that lets you put a Tar token on a monster to keep it from moving forward for one turn. Or one that lets you look through the discard pile and find the card you really need right now.

So what happens if a monster is on the innermost circle and it’s time to move him? More crying, that’s what! If there’s a wall there, the monster destroys the wall, stops moving, and takes one point of damage. (Yes, that might kill it.) If there’s no Wall there, it instead destroys a Castle section, stops moving, and takes one point of damage. If a monster is already in the very center section—where the castle is…er, was—and it’s time to move, it moves clockwise and destroys the next castle section, stops, and takes damage. This is bad because, while you can play one Brick and one Mortar card together to rebuild a Wall, you can never rebuild Castle pieces.

And there you have it. Each player runs through the above Turn Order until either all of the pieces of your Castle are destroyed, or all of the monsters on the board and in the Monster Pool are dead. The game suggests keeping track of which monsters each player defeats, and then declaring the person who clobbered the most monsters the Master Slayer and ultimate winner—assuming you win, of course. We always ignore that rule, though, and just all win or all lose.


As cooperative games go, this one’s on the lighter end, strategically—the choices are a little more obvious than other co-op games. As such, I’ve never broken this out with my game group, but I do play it ALL THE TIME with my wife and kids. My oldest is 7 and he does just fine with it (even though the game suggests it’s for 10 and older). The 4-year-old is the designated monster draw-er and dice roller. I think this would work well with a youth group, too; co-op games are a great way to build camaraderie as you work toward a single goal…

It’s a game about monsters, and killing monsters. The killing is, of course, abstracted (you just remove the tile from the board), but if you’re sensitive to that, you’ll want to pass. There is an expansion out now (expect a review soon!), that features a Wizard’s Tower. So the use of magic is something to consider, too.

My kids adore this game, and it’s made for some super-exciting finishes—once we were down to a single Castle piece left on the board when we were able to pull out a win. If you’re looking for some non-competitive gaming fun, I highly recommend you start panicking as soon as possible. But don’t forget your towel…

Castle Panic on Amazon

Carcassonne – We’re Not Tiling the Bathroom!

1 07 2012

We’re certainly not delusional enough to think that we’re the first to come along and review Carcassonne, Rio Grande Games’ tile-placing, city-building, meeple-playing, game released in 2000. But since this game consistently resides in my personal top 3 list, for a number of reasons I thought we should give it a look here at TOG.

The mechanics of the game are simple: Draw a tile, place that tile, and choose whether or not to place a “meeple” or follower on it. Each tile features one or more different features—a portion of a city, a road, a cloister, or farm land. Not every tile has every feature, though. Each feature represents a different way to score, and presents multiple strategies to employ throughout the game.

Who Might Like This Game? If you’re a person who likes to plan 4-5 moves in advance, this may not be the game for you…or is it? Most times you’ll find yourself thinking about 4-5 moves in the future for 3 different strategies that could come into play, depending on what tile gets pulled and where it gets played. With the randomness of the tile pulls it’s best to not put your eggs in a single basket.

There’s plenty of discussion going on around the Internet about strategies, and when to place a follower or not, when and how many farmers you should commit, and so forth. Personally, I think the game is won and lost at the farmer scoring, but the tricky part about that is that they don’t score until the game is over, so playing too many farmers too soon will leave you with no way to score points during the game.

What Makes This Game Stand Out? The ingenious mechanic that really makes the farm wars (and city wars, for that matter) so competitive is the creative gyrations one must go through in order to overthrow another player and take control of a city or a farm. Once a player has control of a city or a farm, you can’t simply place a tile adding on to that city or farm and then add one of your followers. Once it’s claimed, it’s claimed; the only way to overtake it is to perform a maneuver my friends and I have affectionately termed “cracking in.” That means placing a tile nearby with one of your meeples on it and hoping that you pull the right tile to connect your follower into the feature before your opponent pulls one that locks you out!

I know, I’m making this game sound like a thrill a minute, but once you get a few turns in you’ll start to see the competition for control of cities and farmland heat up—and witness the painstaking agony of watching someone else pull “that one tile” that you REALLY needed!

Who Can Play This Game? This game is really about as family friendly as it gets; I’ve played it with my 6-year-old several times (the game is suggested for players ages 8 & up; I like to believe that my kid is a genius). There’s no violence, or malevolent nature behind the game; you’re taking on the role of builders creating cities, farms, and so forth. You aren’t building brothels or dungeons or anything off-kilter; it’s just a solid, fun game that will make you think and strategize, a lot!

We’ll be taking a closer look at some of the many expansions available for Carcassonne in the upcoming weeks. Make sure you check back—or subscribe using that handy button on the right there…

If you’d like us to review a title please let us know and we’ll do what we can to get our stinkin’ paws on it, and let you know what we think of it!

Thanks for reading!

You can get the Carcassonne: 10 Year Special Edition on Amazon right here!

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