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Reviews - family games (page 2)

We have reviewed a selection of games which have been sent to us. These will help you and your child to have fun - family games are great to enjoy and bring all ages together.

Penguins Pool Party from Smart Games

With 60 multi-level challenges, (starter, junior, expert and master) the Smart Penguins will keep puzzlers in the one player game busily engaged for quite some time. The challenge is to place the penguins in the water on the beautifully illustrated game board as shown in each challenge and then to fit the ice blocks around them. Ideal for travel, this game helps stimulate spatial insight, planning, problem solving, concentration and visual perception. It comes in a neat plastic box which holds all the pieces; they are attractive, well made and enjoyable to play with. I think children might struggle a little to open the box initially - it is quite tight-fitting. If you get stuck, all the solutions are in the instruction book, which is where you will find the 60 challenges laid out.

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Hide And Seek Jungle from SmartGames

As well as an enjoyable game that will develop thinking and reasoning skills, players will also discover a new world of Asian animals. Your challenge is to hide the animals not shown on your challenge and leave the others visible. With 80 challenges and a double-sided game board, Hide & Seek Jungle is like two games in one: the day side features a 4-grid game and the night side features more difficult challenges in one big grid; I love this dual aspect to the game which makes it great value with appeal to a wide audience - well worth its place in the holiday packing It is recommended for 7+ up to adult.There is a real sense of achievement as each challenge is completed. The game includes a double-sided game board which can be used as a storage case, 4 double-sided puzzle pieces and a booklet each for day and night, with a total of 80 challenges and solutions. It's really attractively made with lovely colourful playing pieces which are a joy to handle. Be warned - it is very addictive!

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North Pole Expedition from Smart Games

Keep the fish in the water and the polar bears on the ice with this single player game, for six years plus. This new brain game features two playing modes: one with the Eskimo in a canoe on the water and one with the Eskimo on the ice - use one at a time. Play the same challenge twice and discover a completely different solution, giving endless variety and ensuring the game stays fresh. North Pole Expedition includes 80 challenges for endless, brain-building fun. Includes a portable, self-contained game board, 7 puzzle pieces, 20 cards with 80 challenges and a booklet with game rules and solutions. It's definitely best to start at Card 1 and work through methodically to get the most enjoyment. The challenges are simple to start with but soon increase in difficulty. As with all Smart Games, this is a beautifully made puzzle, with lovely game pieces which are a joy to use. The cards all store in the box, along with the playing pieces and instruction booklet. Make use of the opportunity to talk about the North Pole environment too.

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Little Red Riding Hood Deluxe from Smart Games

It's brilliant to see that this game is aimed at pre-schoolers. They will, of course, love the fairy tale theme, and as they play, they will be developing key skills. Their task is to help Little Red Riding Hood find the right path to her grandma’s house. To play, place Little Red Riding Hood, the house and the trees on the game board and use the puzzle pieces to make a path to Grandma’s house. But don't forget the big, bad wolf! Will he get there quicker? Try to solve these challenges by making two paths to Grandma’s House, one for Little Red Riding Hood, and one for the Wolf. Little Red Riding Hood includes 48 challenges (24 with the Wolf and 24 without) also features a family friendly picture book with a modern twist on the original story; these reworked fairy tales are always popular; it's also a great idea to encourage your child's creative writing by asking them to put their own spin on a fairy tale - and this game may well inspire them. The playing pieces are charming, and children will love them. This is an excellent way to develop early reasoning, logic and thinking skills and the 48 challenges increase in complexity, giving a real sense of achievement as children progress through the game.

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Outfoxed Board Game from Gamewright Games

Mrs. Plumpert's prized pot pie has gone missing and it's now a chicken chase to crack the case... and it's up to you (and the other players) to catch the culprit.It's a great game for cooperative play, because instead of working separately, as in Cluedo, for example, players work together to solve the mystery before crafty Fox escapes; it's a good way for younger and older players to work together and older siblings will respond well to the opportunity to help younger ones. The set-up and rules are clearly set out on an illustrated sheet which is good for younger ones to follow; it's easy to set up and start playing and the average playing time is around 20 minutes - just right for younger players. What do you have to do? You must stop the hungry hooligan before it flies the coop... but will he get the better of you? Players will need all their deduction, visual discrimination and cooperation skills to outfox Fox. As players work together to try and nab the guilty fox, they’ll learn some valuable skills such as estimating probability and paying attention to details, as well as the important role that collaboration plays towards problem-solving. It is suitable for 2-4 players aged 5 and above. It's a well made game that is a pleasure to play with; the sturdy heavy card board is nicely illustrated and folds into four to fit the box. All the playing pieces and cards are equally well made. We really enjoyed the strategy element of this game - it makes the players think but without being too challenging; it's the ideal introduction to strategy games, highly enjoyable to play and refreshingly different from the average game. A new family favourite.


 Llamas in Pyjamas

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llamas in pyjamas from orchard toys

I love these mini games from Orchard Toys - they are perfect to take when out and about, for holidays, travelling and visiting, or just to keep in the car for those times when you are waiting around. Llamas in Pyjamas is ideal for children aged 3-6. It is an exciting race against time as players must build as many llamas as possible before the sleeping llama picture is completed. The llama characters are really cute and children will love them. It is basically a matching game, as players have to match the top and bottom halves of the llamas, with bedtime scenes and clock faces to add variety. The winner is the one who has the largest number of complete llamas once the bedtime scene is complete. The colourful cards are well made, on strong card which will last through many games. Playing games is an excellent way to learn key skills, including taking turns and cooperation; this particular game develops memory and matching skills and observation. Buy Llamas in Pyjamas from Orchard Games. Price £4.99 April 2017.

 Little Bug Bingo

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Little Bug Bingo from orchard toys

This is a colourful mini beast bingo game for ages 3-6. Children of this age will often be learning about mini beasts at school so they will love to show off their new-found knowledge as they name the bugs; the game will also be fun to use in the classroom and all the mini games are such good value that teachers will love them. This fun matching game features a variety of familiar and less familiar bugs and insects for children to identify, from ladybirds to water boatmen. The first player to fill their board with leaves and shout 'Bingo' is the winner. Playing games is excellent for developing social skills, for learning to take turns - and learning to lose! Perfect for travel, at home or on holiday, the mini games are Orchard Toys' smallest games in a compact and portable size. The mini games also make the perfect under £5 pocket money toys, birthday gifts and Christmas stocking fillers. They are excellent value at £4.99 each, so you can build up a good stock of different games, meaning children always have a good selection from which to choose. Buy Little Bug Bingo from Orchard Games.

Gamewright Cardventures Stowaway

52 Card Game Rather like the books which allow you to make decisions along the way that affect the final outcome, Cardventures are interactive stories that put you in control of the outcome. The difference is that the challenge of the game is to score the maximum points available. In this exciting game, you have stowed away on board an alien ship that's about to attack Earth - and it's up to you to stop it. Choose any card at random, read the short extract of story then choose one of two ways to progress the story. The aim is to use up as many cards as possible before reaching a dead end/the end of the story. As you go, you will also collect Items cards; the value of these is added to your story cards and the highest scorer wins. Just like the books, it is an excellent way to encourage children's reading in a fun and interactive way, helping to develop language and vocabulary development skills. The game is suitable for ages 8 and above, for solo play or with friends, with a duration of around 15 minutes.

Gamewright CARD_02 "Cardventures Jump Ship" Card Game

As the captain of the Black Bounty, it's up to you to chart your own course through this pirate Cardventure. It's decisions all the way - should you defend your boat from enemy pirates, or do you go and plunder another ship? Do you duel your fearsome nemesis Captain Peg, or do you jump into the squid-infested waters? Choose wisely - your fate depends on the choices you make. The cards fit neatly into a sliding drawer in the pack; this neat package with its well designed cards is perfect to take out and about, perhaps to enliven long journeys or to play on holiday. The game only takes around 15 minutes, although as players get wise to the options, they will learn to take the course which lengthens the game and the eventual score - this is a good way to enhance memory and strategy skills. It is also a very good way to encourage creative writing skills (the cards would make great classroom writing prompts). I would love to see more titles in this series, which I think is an excellent concept - fun to play and great for developing a whole range of key learning skills..


Fantasy Flight Games "Hey That's My Fish!" Game

The aim of the game is for players to catch as many fish as possible with their waddle of penguins. Each turn, a player moves one penguin in a straight line over hex-shaped ice tiles with 1, 2 or 3 fish on them. The player then collects the hex from where the penguin started its movement from the table, thereby creating a gap which penguins can't cross on future turns. When a penguin can't move, it's removed from play with its owner claiming the tile on which it stands. So players need to bring strategy to bear as they work out where is the best way to move, not just for their benefit but to stymie their opponent.This is a fairly small version of the game, so some dexterity is needed to pick out the hexagons when the time comes to remove them. It's an excellent introduction to strategy games, and children will quickly learn how to do better game by game. It's quick to set up and play (15 to 20 minutes); suitable for 2 - 4 players and the recommended age is 8+ although I think children of 5+ will soon pick it up. Fun and apparently simple, but a surprising amount of strategy comes into play. Buy from your local friendly game shop:

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orchard ambassador

Orchard Toys Alphabet Flashcards

Like all Orchard toys and games, these flashcards are well made, with sturdy shiny card, rounded edges and bright colourful illustrations. These combine to make Alphabet Flashcards an ideal way to make the introduction of letters of the alphabet and first words fun and enjoyable for children. The cards are double-sided with ai picture of the word on one side and the letter of the alphabet on the other. The range of words on the flashcards is good, with a wide range of simple and complex words, ranging from ‘ant’ to ‘umbrella’. It is recommended that the cards can be used with children from the age of three to seven, but I think they could be used effectively with younger children to start word recognition and to encourage conversation. Alphabet Flashcards are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of different ways to develop children's literacy skills, from teaching children the letters of the alphabet to whole words; parents will, no doubt, find their own ways to make really good use of this set. The cards also feature a handy visual alphabet guide. Depending how you use them, and the versatility is a good feature, the cards will promote language and literacy skills, develop letter and word recognition and encourage conversational skills. Buy from Orchard Toys.

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orchard ambassador

Orchard Toys Cheeky Monkeys

The whole family will enjoy Cheeky Monkeys. It's a fast-paced game with no hanging around as players battle to see who can collect the most bananas – but watch out for other players trying to steal them! Designed for children aged 4-8, this game of chance encourages children to think strategically and make decisions; this is a valuable skill and children will be having so much fun, they won't realise they are learning. in at every turn, as players must choose whether to play it safe after their first turn or spin the spinner to either collect or risk losing more bananas! The innovative design of the 3D tree and hanging monkeys adds another fun dimension to the game! It's easy to set up and play, and children will learn to think quickly, learn counting skills and develop hand-eye coordination." In January 2017, Cheeky Monkeys joined the ranks of Orchard Toys' award-winning games, winning a Best New Toy award at the London Toy Fair in the 'Games' category." This is well deserved, as the game offers lots of fun as well as educational value; we like the fact that children are just as likely to win as the adults. Buy your game from Orchard Toys.

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orchard ambassador

Orchard Toys Match and Spell Next Steps

This is the perfect progression from Orchard Toys’ bestselling, award-winning Match and Spell. It is suitable for children aged 5 and over, and the game helps to develop more advanced reading and spelling skills using both sounds and blends. The game is played by building a variety from 18 familiar and more advanced words, which include flower, moth, balloon and queen - each illustrated with an appropriate colour picture to help identify words. Parents can use the sound and blend cards to encourage children to make the individual sounds as well as saying the entire word aloud; it's useful for parents to have this guidance with blending so they can be sure they are doing this correctly. The game develops progressively as once children become more confident, they can turn over the boards to use the blank side for a more challenging game. Spelling can be seen as something of a chore, especially the regular spelling from school, but this is a fun way to make developing an essential skill really enjoyable and well as making the spellings easy to remember. As children play the game, they will also be developing their memory and observation skills and parents can make the most of the opportunities offered for discussion. A fun game that builds excellently on the earlier game. Buy from Orchard Toys.

Think Fun Yoga Spinner Game

We all know how important it is for children to have the opportunity for plenty of physical activities, and this enjoyable game is a great way to get the whole family to become more active, as well as encouraging them to work together. The first thing you will notice is the neat packaging; the spinner is part of a plastic box which neatly holds the cards and rule book. It is really simple to play - just spin the spinner, pick a Yoga Pose Card (there are 54 in all) that matches the colour it lands on and then hold the position for 10 seconds (it would be good if a timer was included in the game). The first to collect a card of each colour is the winner. Yoga Spinner is very reminiscent of the classic game of Twister, but it takes it a step further with players exercising both mind and body. There are so many benefits to be gained from this game - it will help to improve balance, posture, flexibility and coordination. The practice of yoga can calm and clear the mind to prepare it for optimal learning and this is a fun way to introduce yoga at a young age to nurture children's in a fun activity which can have lifelong benefits. The game is enormous fun to play and will give children a really positive view of yoga. Suitable for everyone aged 5 and up, there really are no benefits coming through age - children are just as likely to do as well as adults.

Carcassonne: New Edition Board Game from Z-Man Games

Carcassonne is a tile-based board game for two to five players. It is named after the medieval fortified town of Carcassonne in southern France, which is well known for its city walls and fortifications. In Carcassonne, players build the area surrounding the city, tile by tile; the standard tiles feature roads, cities, cloisters, grassland, or a combination of these, and they are laid to match. Players then place a follower (called a meeple) on fields, cities, roads or monasteries in order to score as many points as possible. These followers will become knights, monks, farmers and thieves, depending on where they are placed. The gameplay is easily explained but involves a high level of strategic thinking - the player who deploys his followers the best will win the game. There's plenty of tension as the players eagerly look out to find the tiles and followers that will further their game plan. One thing that we liked is the fact that you haven't won (or lost!) until the last tile is played; this keeps everyone fully engaged with the game. Carcassonne has been a hugely popular board game for many years, with many spin-offs attesting to its popularity. Now it has a completely new look to keep interest high, which includes two expansions: The River and the Abbot. The game is suitable for 2 to 5 players of 7+ and the average playing time is 35 - 45 minutes - the game is fast-paced and attention-grabbing throughout. The game box includes 72  Land tiles, 12 River tiles, a scoreboard 40 followers in 5 colours, 5 abbots in 5 colours plus a rulebook and supplementary sheet. Also available from your local friendly game shop. An excellent game, which is different every time you play; it's great fun as a family and also really enjoyable for just two players. We also like the fact you can play the game more simply for younger players, or just to get used to the rules

Peppa Pig Giant Snakes and Ladders Game from Jumbo Games

It's easy to take Snakes and Ladders for granted but this popular childhood game is an excellent way to develop numeracy skills as well as teaching children about taking turns and accepting that things don't always go right. This giant-sized floor version has a plastic mat which gives a playing area of 80 x 80cm; this super-size makes a really visually attractive game as there is lots of space for pictures of Peppa, her friends and family. The durability of the playing surface even allows children to play the game outside. There are four colourful playing counters, which are a good size and stay in position well - choose your favourite from Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig, George or Peppa Pig. I won't describe the rules, they are far too well known but just to say that the first player to reach Peppa Pig’s House is the winner; there are just 50 squares on the mat which makes for a reasonably quick game for young children - it saves it dragging on too long. A great way to introduce a classic game.
Snakes and Ladders

Blue Orange Fast Flip Game

I do loves games that come attractively packaged and this game, in its triangular bright red metal tin, is very appealing. Inside the tin are rule books in several languages, and a set of cards along with tokens. It's perfect for travel, with its compact tin. The aim is to match the fruits to a number, or numbers to a fruit; you won’t know what match you’ll have to find until the next card is flipped! Whether you play with the tokens or with the cards alone, players need to think and act quickly to make a match; the game offers three different modes of play in all. The magic distribution of fruits on the cards guaranties that there is always one correct answer. Playing games is a great way to develop a range of key skills and this fast-moving game enhances visual perception (recognising shape, size and colour) and processing speed, and demands total concentration. The game is suitable for two to eight players aged 7 and above with a playing time of around 15 minutes, making it perfect for when you want an enjoyable way to happily occupy a short period of time. It's eco-friendly too - Blue Orange plant two trees for every one used in the making of their games.
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Drumond Park Stoopido Game

This is a real ice-breaker - I defy anyone to keep a straight face when playing this hilariously silly game. Everyone will have tremendous fun with this game and there's no use being shy - just forget any worries and get into the spirit of the game. The game includes four pairs of glasses and play starts by donning a pair each.Then the dice is rolled and whatever comes up - nose, eyes, ears or hat - players race to be the first to the appropriate card. They get to choose one of the appropriate colourful cardboard appendages - but they don't put it on themselves. Oh no - the fun is that they hang it on the glasses of whichever opponent they choose! There are two sides to each card, so there are lots of combinations that can be made. Stoopitoot brings even more fun to the game.  As play proceeds, players get to look more and more ridiculous, much o everyone's amusement. Children will be especially gleeful as they see their elders (and betters?) looking more and more silly.  The game ends when there is only one player left with an incomplete silly face. The game is simple to set up and play, so children can happily play on their own. It's all good family fun and is great for bonding. You can get some great pictures for the family photo album too!

Drumond Park "Dig In" Game

This is a fast-paced game of frantic finding fun which children and adults can play on equal terms. Players have to be the first to find their six pieces in the bowl full of different brightly coloured plastic pieces (128 in all) which include teddy bears, frogs, rockets, houses, ice creams and many more. It's quite a challenge, with 32 different items in all, as you have to match object and colour according to your cards. The wide range of pieces is very appealing and I think other games could be made up using them, too. There are two ways to play - the cards are grey one side, so you just have to match object, not colour; the other side has coloured objects to match - you decide at the start which way to play and it's good to have the variety. When the neat push-down timer is pressed, players have 15 seconds each to search. Once the time is up they make way for the next player. The good thing is that, even when your turn is over, you need to keep watching, looking for that elusive final piece or two, so there's no sitting out feeling bored. When the final bell goes it's a frantic free-for-all as you jostle for space and grab for your items before they are stirred into the mix again. Fast and frenetic, it's great fun for all the family and guaranteed to bring out the competitive streak in everyone. It's a good way to encourage memory and observation skills, too, as you need to keep an eye on the bowl while others are delving, to see if you can spot your missing pieces.
Dig InDig InDig In 


This brand new game, based on the phenomenally successful Bananagrams, is designed to help increase young children's vocabulary and letter recognition. Suitable for ages 4+, this version differs from the original in having lower-case letters (these are what children will initially learn at school) and coloured tiles, designed to make it easier for mini-wordsmiths to race to complete their word grid. The tiles are variously coloured, with all the vowels light orange; letters commonly reversed by children have distinct identities through the letter shape and the tile colour - a very useful feature. What really sets the game apart from other word games from the age are the double letter tiles which feature common digraphs such as ai, th and wh. Almost all children will learn to read and spell using phonics so this ties in perfectly with the curriculum - my 5 year old tester immediately spotted these. The basic game involves players (1 to 4) taking 15 single tiles and trying to use them all in a grid; tiles can be swapped. The advanced game includes the double-letter tiles; it's really good to see that a wide range of abilities is catered for (the two levels can be played together). amongst siblings and pals, Before children are ready for this, though, they will love the collection of 10 curriculum-based mini games which are designed to become more challenging, as confidence and vocabulary grows. I promise you that children will just think they are having fun, while in fact they are really reinforcing key skills; it's a brilliant way to learn and as the games progress from pre-schooler, through early reader and onto reader children will really gain knowledge of letters, words and spelling. It's extremely enjoyable to play and children love the challenge of making sure other players have got their spelling correct. I was impressed with the 10 games, which really do tie in with the curriculum and with the way children are taught. The game comes in, of course, its own banana-shaped pouch, which smoothly zips up to keep the tiles safe - it's ideal for travelling and visiting. It's well made, too, with the letters clearly standing out above the plastic and there's no paper to rub off so the tiles are really durable. The emphasis is on fun and My First Bananagrams will give hours of enjoyable learning; perfect for home and classroom. It's been really well thought out and excellently presented.
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Who can resist a game packaged like a banana? The bright yellow zip-up bag has immediate appeal and it is perfectly portable, making this a game for any time, any where. It would make a great stand-by for the car  - keep a set in the car and unscheduled stops or planned visits will have an extra element of fun. There are 144 lettered tiles and these are placed face down on the table to start. Each player takes a certain number of tiles (the number depends on the number playing) and the objective is for each player to create their own interlocking grid of words using all their letters. When a player has used all of their tiles, they call out "Peel!," and each player must draw a new tile from those remaining. This is where the game really gets challenging as you might have to rearrange all your letters into new words.If you get really stuck, you can swap a tile... but you have to take three in exchange. Play continues until all the letters are used up, and the winner is the one to use all their tiles up first. It's great because there's none of the frustrating waiting around that you get with games like Scrabble - every player is working out his or her own words at the same time. Great fun for all the family - but I really like My First BANANAGRAMS for younger ones for the way it teaches word sounds as well as letters. It's so simple to set up and really easy to play; it will increase vocabulary, especially if you allow the use of a dictionary which may slow down the individual (but that's a matter of choice) but does wonders for the vocabulary and spelling. The pack also suggests some alternate games and BANANAGRAMS can also be played by one person - a great way to hone your skills ready for competition! A simple but amazingly effective game which is fun for everyone.
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 Orchard Toys

What's the Time, Mr Wolf? from Orchard Toys

As adults, we can forget how challenging it can be to learn to tell the time, especially as we use two totally different types of clock. This board game from the excellent Orchard Toys will help children develop both analogue and digital time telling skills, whilst enjoying a fun game. There are two game levels, which is good to see, and this makes the game suitable for children between the ages of 5 and 9. It's simple to set up - join together the jigsaw-type playing board and players' cards, and attach the hands to the clock face. The clock is a good size and the times are clearly marked. Now players must race their character around the board matching the times to the central clock – but watch out For Mr Wolf; it's ALWAYS dinner time for him! The second game requires players to match the digital or written times to the clock faces on each player's collection board. I really like the way this game addresses the different methods we use to tell the time, helping children to relate them to one another. The illustrations are a really good point about the game - they show a range of cute woodland animals enjoying all sorts of activities; the playing pieces are animals too. It's well made, on thick card and with pieces that easily pop out before first use. The game really does help to consolidate the learning of the different ways of telling the time, and if adults play along with children, there's plenty of opportunity to extend this key learning. Like all games, it encourages interaction, taking turns and concentration; it also encourages visual recognition and matching. All this, and children are thoroughly enjoying a fun time! An excellent game to help with an essential skill. Buy from Orchard Toys - and look at all their other super games too!
 Orchard Toys

Follow That Car! from Orchard Toys

The objective of the game is to be the first one to place all your playing cards onto the roadway. Each player starts off with five cards, and one is placed on the table to start building a road by matching either the colour or the vehicle - but watch out for roadblocks! Other players may put down a police, roadworks or flood card to block the road. It's a fun game which is very easy to set up and simple to play - children of 3+ (Orchard Toys say 4+, but I found a 3 year old played it very well) will happily play together, but they always enjoy an adult playing along too. Playing games offers many educational benefits - but children just think they are having fun! This game helps matching skills, both colour and (slightly more difficult) the shape of the vehicle (each of the vehicles types is driven by an appealing animal character). Observation skills are developed too. There's an element of planning ahead with the game, which helps develop strategic thinking. As with all games, children are learning to take turns, play with others and develop conversational skills. The playing pieces are all very colourful and well-made in strong card. A fun game for children. Buy from Orchard Toys.
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