Does your family love board games as much as we do? My kids almost always seem to be introducing us to new ones that they put onto their wish lists. This Christmas was no different and we spent the holidays trying out these new favorites. Check out my family game review of The Search for Planet X, Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, The Crew, Cosmic Encounter, Two Rooms and a Boom, and Jamaica.
I’m not getting paid for my review of these games, but I love to share all good things with my readers.
This post does not contain affliate links.
The Search for Planet X
Think Clue for outer space here. There are no murders and no weapons, but there are different sectors of the sky for you to collect information about so that you can deduce the location of Planet X! Each sector contains one item such as a comet, asteroid, gas cloud or dwarf planet or it simply appears empty. Use the clues you learn about each celestial body to determine which of those apparently empty sectors actually contains the elusive Planet X.
Besides traveling around a physical board, and keeping records on your play sheet, you also download an app that randomly distributes the hidden items within sectors and feeds you the clues that you need. Decide how you will collect information on each turn. You can ask the app general information about topics, survey within sectors for particular items, or simply target a sector and find what it is hiding. Some information is more costly than others so play wisely and pay attention!
You can play this game by yourself or with up to four total players. You can also choose how many clues you are given to start, and whether to play within a 12 or 18 sector sky. The game is for ages 13 and up.
What I love: Winning of course! Haha, no. This game is fun, challenging and different every time. I can even the advantage that my son holds by simply requesting more starting clues than he does. So the play is adaptable to different skill levels.
Downside: Can be complicated to learn at first because there are a lot of clues to put together and a lot to remember. But that’s also what it makes it a fun game once you master it.
Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
This slapping card game, on the other hand, requires no mental strategy or record keeping. All you need is speed and your alert attention fixed on each card as it is overturned. It’s great for 3 to 8 players, ages 8 and up.
Oh, and you do need to be able to speak and turn your top card at the same time, adding your voice to the chant of “Taco- Cat- Goat- Cheese- Pizza”. If you turn over the same card that you have just spoken, then be ready to slap it before your opponents do! Beware the Gorilla, Narwhal and Groundhog cards! When those are revealed, you will also have an action to perform before the card is slapped.
What I love: I love anticipating the next card and rushing to slap it! Kids are sometimes even better at these reflex games than adults so it can be a fun one to let children win.
Downside: This game can hurt if you play it with vigorous slappers. Remove rings and cut fingernails before playing.
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
How do you create a cooperative trick-taking card game? Well they’ve done it here and I think that it’s a brilliant way, as my son pointed out to me, to teach the trick-taking skills required for classic card games like Hearts, Spades or Bridge.
As a team you have missions to accomplish together which consist of specific tasks for individual members to complete. The tasks are targeted cards that one player has to collect in a trick, and the missions sometimes assign the tasks to specific individuals or specify an order in which tricks must be taken. The 50 missions are laid out clearly and increase in difficulty so you and your crew members can pick up where you left off last time. So what if you fail the mission! You can just repeat it until it is successful.
As you can see, the game does not use a traditional card deck, but numbers 1-9 and includes four trump cards. You can have 3-5 five players, ages 10 and up, and there is a two person variation as well. The creators at Kosmos have a sequel game called The Crew: Mission Deep Sea.
What I love: Trick-taking can stress me out so it’s nice to be working as a team.
Downside: Think group project fails. If you’re too competitive, you might not enjoy when others accidently sabotage your mission.
This game was originally published in 1977, but it is new to me this year! This is truly a geek/nerd game about bizarre aliens with super powers taking over space colonies. That said, you don’t really have to be a geek to enjoy this game, but if you have a geek in the family, it will probably help.
At the beginning of the game, you will receive your alien identity which will give you special abilities in certain situations. You also begin with 5 planets with 4 space ships a piece. On your turn you use the cards in your hand and your space ships to attack others’ planets for the purpose of establishing foreign colonies. Once you have five foreign colonies, then you win. Unless, of course, your alien has a different method of winning, which can happen. There are rules, but then, there are always exceptions in this game.
The tricks and turns at every move is why it appeals to those who love to keep track of idiosyncrasies and surprise plays. There are over 50 alien species so you never play the same game twice! Okay, I suppose it’s possible that you would, but highly unlikely. And did I mention there are expansion packs. Of course there are, because this game is so popular among the fantasy game board enthusiasts! Expansion packs mean more aliens and more people can play. The suggested age is 14 years and up and the original game provides for 3 to 5 players.
What I love: Truly, I love how much my son loves this game! The aliens are funny and their abilities are clever.
Downside: The game is a little overwhelming for me. The steps of the attacks have to be played in a certain order, and I often realize, after the fact, how I could have won an attack by using an advantage that was only available in an earlier stage.
Two Rooms and a Boom
The larger your party, the more fun this is to play! This doesn’t appear to have a defined age. Everyone can be included because it really is “the more the merrier”.
In Two Rooms and a Boom you have a red team and a blue team. Your team membership and identity are based on the card you draw. There may be a few specifications on your card about what you can and can’t do during the game. The most important cards are “The President” and “The Bomber”. At the end of three rounds, the position of these players determines which team wins. If the Bomber and the President are together, then the Red Team (the Bomber’s team) wins, and if they are not in the same room, the Blue Team (the President’s Team) wins.
All the players are divided randomly between two rooms. A selected leader in each room decides who will be sent to the other room during a hostage exchange, and these take place after each round. The first round is three minutes long, the second, two minutes, and the third is one minute.
What I love: Everyone is involved! It’s fun to see people trying to figure out who the President and the Bomber are, and the various methods they use to support their guessing. This is another game with a high replay value.
Downside: This game doesn’t seem to work well unless you have at least 10 people. Otherwise it can be a little too easy to identify your President and Bomber.
Although you cannot currently purchase this game, you can sign up to be notified the next time it is printed and released. Evidently they sell this one in batch productions, and my son was able to stay up to date and buy it while it was available this December.
I think this one is my favorite of the six. This game is all about piracy, stealing others goods, finding hidden treasure and beating others around the board.
Choose your color and corresponding pirate name. Try to keep stocked up on gold, food and gunpowder, because although you get to choose the card you play on each turn, the captain’s choice may determine where you advance on the board and each stop will cost you something. You may have to pay to port, spend some food or use your gunpowder to battle another player on the same space. Lose the battle and you may lose some supplies. Or the winds may blow you over to pirate treasure that will add or subtract from your total gold score at the end. Because it’s not who finishes first, but who scores the highest gold total to win.
This game can be played with 2 to 6 players, ages 8 and up.
What I love: The game is somewhat chance and somewhat strategy. And the illustrations are charming.
Downside: Hhm…can’t of think of one for this game. Except maybe the price. The family strategist gets a little frustrated by his lack of control over all outputs, but he said it’s only a small downside to this game.
The holidays may be over, but I hope you will still find some cozy, winter evenings with family and friends. This would be the perfect opportunity to try a fun, new board game from my family game review.