Friday, February 28, 2014

Spot It! is Spot On...

Imagine this--you walk into a room to see a family of all ages staring intently at a table.  It is so quiet you can hear the refrigerator running  or possibly, the sound of heavy concentration.  Beads of sweat drip from your 4 year old's brow as she narrows her eyes in fierce anticipation! ALL the kids are quiet (and NOT because they are in trouble). Then all of a sudden 3 arms fly out and yell out nonsense like "Dinosaur, Cat, Question Mark."  You see a pile of hands gathered in the middle of the table--no one willing to give up their spot. It is like two football teams trying to retrieve the ball after a fumble.  After some tugging and pulling,  you untwist the hands, to find whose is on the bottom.  Everyone smiles and congratulates the winner (for the most part) and gears up for the next round.  That is what a game of Spot It! looks like and everyone in your family will enjoy it.   It says that it is made for Ages 7 and up but my 4 year old had no problem learning to play it . In fact, she can even beat me! My nine year old daughter describes this game as “INTENSE I-spy."  I asked my 7 year old boy if he like this game and he responded, "I don't like it, I LOVE it!"  Also, up to 8 people can play at a time.  So let's teach you how to play it so you can have an evening of intense fun!!!

Spot It! comes in a small circular tin about 3 inches in diameter.  I love this because it means it can be stored easily and taken places (think car trips, waiting rooms, and family vacations). Hooray for any activity that keeps troublemakers, I mean,  impatient hands busy! The tin contains 55 cards and an instruction booklet. 

The goal of this game is to “spot” the matching symbols on two different cards.  Every card has 8 symbols on it.  Each card shares one symbol with one other card.  The matching symbols are the same shape and same color but the size may differ.   On the two cards below, you will find a green question mark.  These cards have a match.  If the cards both had green questions marks but one is large and one is small, they are still considered a match.  That is what makes it tricky to spot a match!

The Spot It! Instruction booklet contains 5 mini-games that you can play.  Try them all and choose what you like.  Our family has even been known to create our own. The best part of each of these games is that they only take 1-2 minutes to play!  This fast paced game keeps everyone’s attention! Today, I will tell you about my family's three favorite mini games and a version we imagined up ourselves. I have set each of these games up to be played for 4 people but remember, up to 8 can play!

Mini game 1: The Tower
Deal one face down card to each player and place the remaining pile of cards on face-up in the the center of the table.  These remaining cards are the draw pile.   

The object of this mini game is to collect the most cards.  Every player should flip their card over at the same time.  We do this by saying, “Ready, Set, FLIP!”  Of course, the kids love to yell this as loud as possible! Once the card is flipped, it becomes the first card in each players personal pile.  Each player tries to find a match between the top card of his or her personal pile and the one in the draw pile. Remember, shape and color will be the same but the size may differ. If a match is found, the player must call out the name of the matched item. 

For example, if the player found an igloo on his/her card AND the card in the center, the player would say “Igloo.”     Here is the close-up so you can see the matching igloos.

The player would then take the top card of the draw pile and add it to his or her personal pile.  The only time a card is removed from the draw pile is when it matches the top card of a personal pile.  When that player takes the card on the draw pile, a new card is revealed. The game continues as each player tries to match the card on the top of his or her personal pile with the one in the draw pile. The person with the most cards wins! 
Younger children may have trouble calling out a few of the symbols because some are words like ART or STOP. Art is always green so my 4 year old calls it  “the green word” and we accept that.  

Mini Game 2: The Well

This is like the Tower in reverse.  Put one card face-up in the center of the table.  Deal the rest of the cards facing down to the other players. This is each player's personal pile.   Depending on the amount of players, this can result in an uneven amount of cards being dealt to the players.  To make it fair, I just make sure everyone receives the same amount because the object of this game is to get rid of all your cards first. 

We begin the game by shouting, "Ready, Set, Flip" and all players flip their entire personal pile over so all cards are facing up.  The first player to spot the same symbol on the top card of his or her personal pile AND the card in the middle, calls out that symbol's name.  Then the player removes the card from his or her  personal pile and places it in the middle on top of the previous card.  Now all the players try to match the new top card with the one on top of their personal pile.  The first player to use all his or her cards is the winner.  We usually go until only one person has cards left so we can award 2nd or 3rd place as well.  My 4 year old does pretty well at this game but is always beat by her 9 year old sister.  When we play for 2nd or 3rd, the 4 year old loves it  because she gets to be a winner too.  The best part of this mini-game is the smile it puts on my spunky 4 year old's face! 

In this version of Spot It!, you could institute a handicap to level the playing field when you are playing with multiple age groups.  If older children and adults are playing, they could start with more cards than children 5 and under.
Mini Game 3:  Hot Potato
First, deal one face-down card to each player.  Place the remaining cards off to the side for later.  This version is played in rounds.  The object of the game is to have the least amount of cards after all the rounds have been played.  Everybody flips over their one card and holds it face-up in the palm of their hands.  Since I have a 4 year old with little hands, we just set one card in front of each player.

Each player tries to find a match for his card in another player's hand.  If a match is found, the player calls out the match's name and places the card on top of the matching player's card.  For example in game of 4, player 1 finds a matching ladybug in player 3's hand.  He yells, "Ladybug" and places the card on top of player 3.  Player 1 waits for the round to finish.

Now let's say player 2 finds a match for his top card in the hand of player 4.   He then places both his cards on top of that match.  Player 4 now has to use whatever card is on top to find a match on the remaining player's card.

This continues until only one person has ALL the cards. The person with all the cards saves them in his personal pile and sets them aside.  Repeat with 5 or more rounds.  Tally up each persons' cards and the person with the least cards in his personal pile wins.  I like this version of the game because it plays to different player's strengths.  My 7 year old is usually the best at this one and he loves the chance to beat his older sister. 
There are two more mini-games included in the instruction booklet.  Try them out and tell me how you like them.  They are tons of fun too. There is one last version I'd like to tell you about.
Smack Down!
One of the best parts of Spot It! is that you can also make up your own games.  You won't find Smack Down!  in the instruction booklet because my family made it up.  It is similar to Slapjack. The oldest person plays the dealer first.  The dealer draws one card and chooses any symbol on that card.  

For this example, let's say he chooses the Dragon.  The dealer will continue to draw cards, placing them on top of the first.  When another players sees a card with the Dragon, he or she smacks it and yells "Dragon Smack Down."  He or she then takes all of the cards and places them in his or her personal pile and is the winner of that round.  This may or may not be accompanied by a victory dance and some gloating.  The winner of each round becomes the dealer;  the dealer does not try to smack the symbol and only deals out the cards.   This continues until all the cards in the draw pile are gone. The person with most cards is the winner.  

If you haven't noticed, I really love this game because it is so full of possibilities.  Here are a few more ideas I have on how to use this versatile game:
  • Give a child a card and ask him to write a story and draw a picture using EVERY picture on the card.  (Say hello to creativity and laughter!)
  •  Give each child several cards and a piece of graph paper.  Ask them to create a bar graph on the graph paper representing some of the symbols.  
  • Have a group of 4 or more sit in a circle.  Draw one card and choose a symbol.  Start a story using that symbol. Pass the card to the next person and he or she must choose a different symbol on the same card and add to the first person's story.  Continue around the circle until everyone has had a turn and ALL the symbols have become part of the story. 
I could go on for hours about all the wonderful possibilities found in a tin of Spot It!  If you like this game, keep in mind there are lots of versions available (Alphabet, Numbers, Shapes, Major League Baseball, Splash).  To find out about these versions, go to Blueorange Games.  Now that I have played the original, I can't wait to try the other versions as well. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Krosmaster Arena Review

    Let the Battle Begin!!

   Krosmaster Arena is a 2-4 player game ages 14+. I would have to say that there's a good chance that this age group is pretty close to right. I don't have older kids, so we haven't tried it on them yet. In this review, I will be talking as if it is a two player game. This is the only way I have played it. There is a lot of strategy in this game. There is so much to learn, that there is a tutorial in the rule book. Once you get everything down, it's not too hard to play. (Says the lady that always looses)

   Here's what inside of the box looks like. There are these awesome little figures that you get to use as your pieces. The art on this game is amazing! It's one of my favorite parts of the game.

   Lets take a look at what is inside. First there is a two sided board

   There are some trees that are used as obstacles. They make great hiding places if you need to get away.

   There are little bushes that can keep a person further away, but they can be shot over.

   There are little boxes you can stand on and also shoot over. We have found these like to fall apart at times. Nothing a bit of glue can't fix if you don't like putting them back together.

   These are your Gallons of Glory tokens. Each player starts with 6. One of the ways you can win is to take away all of your opponents GG tokens. When you win the GG you take from the wild pile first, once those are gone you take them from your opponent.

   There are 8 dice. Each player gets 4. At the beginning of your turn, you roll two of the dice. If you get doubles, the tension rises which means all players put a GG token into the wild pile on the side of the board. Your other two dice you roll to get powers you can add to your players cards. The boot with the burst means you can choose it to be either a critical hit or a dodge, the burst is a critical hit, the S is a wild, you can choose which power it is. The boot is a dodge, the shield is Armour and the magnet is a lock. After you roll your two dice, you can choose to put them on a character to use as a power. If you choose not to use them in this manner, you can take some Kama instead. If you only use 1 die as a special power, you get 1 Kama token. If you don't use either one you can take 3 Kama tokens.

   These are Kama tokens. They are the money in the game. You can pick these up off the board by using one action point per coin. You must be on the cell to pick them up.

   These are Demonic awards. You can buy these with the Kama. There are 3 different levels of awards. Granite, Jade and Gold. The granite ones cost 3 Kama's. Jade are 6 and Gold are 12. We have found that these are a pretty important part of the game. They can give you a much needed boost.

   You have some +/- MP and AP markers

   Hit point markers. There are blank ones that are for 1 hit, 2 hit and 5 hit markers.

   Then there are the figures. These are probably my favorite part of the game. They are so neat to look at. They are very detailed for how small they are. Both players get to pick 4 of these to play during the game. Take your figures and the cards that go with them. Line up your cards from left to right in descending order of Initiative. This is the order you will play your characters for each turn.

   Each figure comes with its own card. This shows you any special powers, how many movement points, health points, and action points you have for each figure.

   Here's a close up of one of the cards.  The lightning bolt in the upper left corner has an 8 in it. This shows how fast a character is. The green diamond shows how many movement points they have. The red heart is their health points. The blue star is the action points. The 3 in the upper right corner is what level the character is. The circle with the 1 shows how much spell damage is done to the opposing character. Some spells don't cause any damage. The blue stars next to the spell damage shows how many action points it takes to do that action. On this card since she has 6 total action points and each action is only 3, she can either do both once or do one twice. Each card has a little history for the character. At the bottom of the card it shows the special power(s) they have. The green eye looking things means they have to see their opponent and they can be 1-3 cells away to be hit. The red fist means they have to be in an adjacent square to do that damage. In this case, it's to use their summons token.

   Some of the cards have little Summons tokens. Each token has its information on the back. Each different summons token has it's own ability. When these are summoned, they are placed in a cell adjacent to the figure, because the spell has the fist icon. Then they are able to move. These guys have 5 movement points, 1 health and 4 action points. They can attack someone next to them but they don't cause damage unless they roll a critical hit and the one being attacked does not roll a shield.

   Next we will talk about the rule book. It has 32 pages full of help.


   There are a lot of pages, but there is more awesome art throughout the whole book.

   The beginning of the rule book is full of tutorials. It walks you through each part of the game step by step. It starts off by showing you how to move and hit. To move you must move to a cell that is adjacent (not diagonal) to your figure. You can move as many cells as you have movement points. You can not pass through a cell containing a bush, tree or a figure. This means you can end up being trapped if you aren't careful. To attack someone you have to be within however many spaces it indicates on the card. Some say you have to be able to punch, some you have to be able to see in a straight line but you may have to be 2-3 cells away to hit if you have a long range character. When you attack someone you roll a die. If you have a special power of critical hit, you will roll 2 dice while attacking. If you have the Armour power, you can roll two dice to try and avoid getting hit. If you don't have them, you always get to roll one to hit or use your Armour. If you are adjacent to an opponents figure, you have to roll to try and get away. You must roll a boot to run. If your opponent rolls a magnet you are stuck.

   When casting a spell you have to check the line of sight. You can see over boxes and bushes. You can not go through trees or figures. You must be able to draw a straight line from the middle of your cell to the cell your opponent is on in order to be able to hit them. In this picture, you wouldn't be able to hit from corner to corner because there will be trees in the way. (The brown stumps represent trees) You can see on the upper right of the left hand page, it shows how to determine the line of sight. If a character is standing on a box, it increases their long range abilities by 1 cell.

   Here's an example of a character standing on the crate to increase their long range one cell. There is also someone hiding behind a tree and another one looking over a bush.

   Some figures come with bombs to summon. When summoning these, they are able to be thrown while ignoring the line of sight rules, meaning they can be thrown over trees and figures. They can not land on a cell that is already occupied. When bombs explode, they hit every square around it causing extra damage and causing a -1 AP on each character that is hit, even if they don't receive any hit points.

   There is also a list of all of the demonic awards.

   And even a little FAQ section.

   It comes with some advanced rules and shows you how you can play with 4 players.

   Setting up the board. We have found it is easier to put the Kama tokens down first. There are little pictures of the tokens on the board. You put as many tokens on each cell as the picture shows. You also put one on each Demon Cell. (Which I forgot to do so that's not pictured)

   Next add the crates, bushes and trees. The trees go on the stumps. The bushes go on the green circles that look like flat bushes and the crates go on the piles of wood.


   Now your board is all set up and ready to go.

   Next pick your characters and set out all of the pieces. You are now ready to play! The player with the highest total Initiative goes first. Roll for tension and then it's time to move your figures.

   This game has a few expansions out. We have only bought one. We also got an extra character from the game store when we got the game. The expansions come in sets of 4.

   If you like strategy games with a bit of luck, this game is a great one. It is very visually stimulating. It's fun trying to attack your opponent and then get away before they can get you back. I haven't found a strategy yet that gives you an advantage at this game. You can be winning one minute and loosing the next. Its a great two player game. Each character has its own personality with their own special powers. There is a lot of replayability with the number of characters you can choose from to make different teams. 

   We are getting Krosmaster Frigost from Kickstarter and I cant wait to see it and give it a try.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's Taco Time!!!

My family loves tacos!  Over the last few years, I have developed a recipe for taco meat that EVERYONE in my family loves.  My recipe is a little unusual.  I use lean ground turkey instead of ground beef because I can’t eat beef due to an allergy (Insert happy cow sound here!).  Not only is it tasty, but it is also much lower in fat that your typical recipe made with ground beef. 
Here are the ingredients:
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1 packet taco seasoning of your choice
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 can of nonfat refried beans
  • 1 cup chunky mild salsa
First, brown the ground turkey, drain, and return it to the pan. Then, stir the taco seasoning into the hot water and let it dissolve.  Pour the liquid into the ground turkey and stir.  Simmer until the water is gone (about 15 minutes).  Add the refried beans and salsa.  Stir and heat until bubbling.  THAT’S IT!  It is so quick and easy.  The refried beans are a yummy addition and make the increase recipe quantity.  It is like you are doubling the recipe without doubling the cost!!!! 
Since this is such an easy recipe, I often double it so we can have lunch leftovers throughout the week.  A great aspect of this recipe is that it can be used for more than just tacos! Of course, you can serve it with hard shell tacos or soft tortillas and all the toppings.  Add this recipe to a large tortilla with cheese and it makes a delicious burrito.  This also makes the best taco salad topping (my personal favorite).  It can even be used as just a tasty dip for tortilla chips!  I think the versatility of this recipe is why it is my family’s favorite.   The kids love that they can make their lunch or dinner however they want. 
Give this recipe a try when you get a chance!  If you are running short on time, this is a great option.  Just a note—it freezes well too.  You can freeze your extra batch for another quick dinner later on.  It only takes a few minutes to defrost.  Try freezing it in individual portions to be reheated as needed for weekend lunches or snacks. 
Here is my favorite way to enjoy this recipe.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hive Review

   As some of you may know, hubby and I enjoy making things out of Perler beads. We've made a Settlers of Catan game and had so much fun we decided to do another one. This time we did Hive. I've heard this game mentioned quite a bit from other gamers. It's a fun little two player strategy game where you are trying to protect the queen bee. Before we get into how to play, lets make it!

   First you need your supplies. The game pieces are done in a hexagon shape so you will need some of these plates (the stars have a hexagon in the middle). The more you have, the less you have to walk back and forth to the iron. You will also need some beads. you can use whatever colors you would like. The game has black and white pieces with different colored bugs on them. So that's what we went with. We decided to use glow in the dark beads for the bugs. You won't be able to play it in the dark since you can't really tell which color the background color is, but it looks pretty awesome.

   Start by laying out the shape of your game pieces

   Next you add the design of your bug. You don't have much room to get too elaborate, so think small.

   Fill in the rest of the shape

   I'm not sure what happened to my pictures of the ironing process. If you buy a kit, it comes with directions. Basically you take the paper that comes with the kit, or you can buy them separate, lay it over the top and take your iron and evenly iron it so that the beads melt slightly and stick together. Once the first side is done, you can take it off of the plate and flip it over and do the other side. If you only have one paper, wait for it to cool before you take it off of the paper. Be careful, they get hot!

   Once you have ironed both sides, wait for it to cool a bit and peel it off of the paper. You now have a game piece.

   You will need: 3 grasshoppers, 3 ants, 2 beetles, 2 spiders and a bee in each color.

   Now, how to play. You take turns laying out your pieces. You must play your bee by the 4th turn. You can add pieces on any of your turns. Except for the first turn, they can only be touching your pieces when they first go into play. After they have been played, you can move them around the hive according to what each bug's move is.

   When moving your bugs around the hive, they have to be able to slide into any space. If they can't slide in, they can't get in there unless it's a bug that can jump or go over the top.

   You are trying to keep your queen bee from getting surrounded without breaking the hive. That means that the whole hive has to be connected at some point. As soon as a bee is completely surrounded, the other player wins. Be careful, if it's surrounded with your pieces, you will still loose. In this picture, white wins!

   Now, what each bug does. There are 3 grasshoppers. These pieces can jump in a straight line over any number of pieces.

   There are 3 ants, these can move around the outside of the hive any number of spaces.

   There are 2 beetles. These ones can move one space at a time, but can go over the top of bugs which makes the bug under it stuck. If it's on a bug, that piece is now considered to be whatever color the beetle piece is. This is helpful when trying to add your pieces on the other person's side.

   There are 2 spiders. These move 3 spaces around the outside. No more, no less.

   There is 1 Queen Bee. This piece can move one space around the outside of the hive.

   This is a fun little game to play. It takes a lot of planning and strategy. Game play doesn't take very long, maybe half an hour or so. This is a great game if you like putting a little more thought into a game but don't want to pull out a huge game. This game is also a great one to take around with you. It's easy enough to carry around that you could even play it while waiting at a restaurant. This one might be a little harder for younger kids. We haven't tried teaching ours how to play yet, so I'm not sure how my oldest would do. If your kid is good at strategies and thinking things through, I don't see why they wouldn't be able to learn it. It's not a hard concept to understand, it just takes quite a bit of thought.