Team3: A Polyomino Building Good Time

Game: Team3 (Pink/Green)

  • Publisher: Brain Games
  • Designer: Alex Cutler, Matt Fantastic
  • Illustrated by: Reinis Petersons
  • 3-6 players, 3-12 players if combined
  • Ages 14+
  • 30 minutes
This can be done…

“Like This.”

“What do you mean ‘Like This’? I’m blind”

“Grab the blue one.”

“I’m blind. How am I supposed to find anything blue if I can’t see?”

Team3 Pink and Green are games that challenge you, having to use different means of communicating to each other. In the game you are one of three monkeys: the monkey who can’t speak, the monkey interpreting that monkey and the monkey who is blind. This is an interesting take on sensory deprivation and turning it on its head.

There are three difficulties. Are you up to the challenge?

The mute monkey must convey the pattern of shapes on the table to the deaf monkey without pointing at the shapes. The deaf monkey must then tell the blind what to build within the 3 minutes they have. This can be nerve-wracking as everyone the blind person is having to rely on the words of someone who is relying on the hand gestures of a mute person. I feel like watching See No Evil, Hear No Evil after playing this game. There is always an abundance of laughter anytime I have seen this played. One could play this for points, or play as teams against each other when putting the Pink and Green together. Each correct pattern would equal a point. The ultimate goal for this game is to have fun!

The patterns could use multiple shapes and the only person who can see the pattern cannot speak.

Each box comes with ten shapes, two per shape matching. The quality of the shapes are easy to play with and dropping them has not done any damage thus far. The cards are a a square with rounded edges, some with 1-star to 3-star difficulty. Included in each box is a mini expansion to test your skills further.

The joy comes from being able to work as a team and complete the pattern within the allotted time.
Our Family’s Thoughts on Team3

Abigail: It’s kind of hard because you can’t see anything, hear anything or say anything. It’s stressful because everybody’s yelling at you, but it’s also fun like you don’t know what you are doing but sometimes you find a way to build a shape. You get better at it after a few rounds. Recommendation: Try it.

Beth: It was a good learning experience on how to find creative ways to describe to someone who can’t see. Since I played with someone who actually had sensory deprivation, we tried using sign language and it was good practice. After a while you learn what works and what doesn’t so you can get faster. It was a fun kind of stress to build it before the timer goes off. It was a lot of fun and made for a lot of laughs. I love how everyone can celebrate when you build it right. Recommendation: Buy It!

Relying on two other people is not easy, especially when you cannot see.

Chris: I love this game. I first experienced this at Origins 2019 in the lounge area of the Hotel, and I was blind. We almost completed a 3-star difficulty using all the shapes. Sadly my speed just didn’t make it. Recommendation: Buy It!

Daniel: I like how there are different roles, some can’t talk see and hear, so its really fun and I like how you can build different shapes with the blocks. Its really fun and easy to learn how to play and teach. Recommendation: Buy It!

It feels so good when everyone gels together.

Elijah: I like building and making the hand motions. Recommendation: Try it.

At around $20, this game is a no-brainer. Buy It! You will not regret the fun and enjoyment it brings to the table.

Swordcrafters: My Sword is Bigger than Your Sword…

Game: Swordcrafters

  • Publisher: Adam’s Apple Games
  • Designer: Ryan Lambert, Chris Neuman, Adam Rehberg
  • Illustrated by: Rodrigo Camilo Alves De Almeida
  • 1-5 players
  • Ages 6+
  • 20-30 minutes
The gems are filled with the blood of my enemies, soaked into the cardboard.

As I forge my blade, I look over to see a masterpiece, each side of blade made from the gods. Reds, blues and purples to be seen on different sides, rows of four gems each. It was at this moment that I knew this battle would be fierce to win.

Playing with a pre-teen is hard, especially when she has inherited your competitive nature when it comes to board games.

Divide and conquer one slice at a time.

Swordcrafters is a one to five player game that follows the I slice you choose nature of games like New York Slice. The difference is that everyone gets a chance to slice. In Swordcrafters, you are trying to build the best sword and score the most victory points. Points are scored based on longest sword, gem quality and meeting the sword card requirements for extra points.

On the table will be different gems or non-gems as well as a first player anvil. On each players turn, they will divide up the gems by slicing along rows or columns. With each slice the amount to forge with becomes less. Then starting with the first player token, each player collects their choice of divided gems or non-gems. If someone collects the first player anvil, they will go first in the next round. After collecting, the player must immediately assemble their sword. How they assemble will affect scoring, so strategy and proper forging are very important. After six rounds, the players will compare sword sizes for points, gem quality for points and receive points for meeting the card conditions. The player with the most points wins!

Three cards will be out for all to see. Your goal is to try to meet some of these requirements in hopes to get the most points.

The hilts and guards are well made. The cards are similar to a smaller version of playing card stock. One thing I noted was when we opened our copy, one sleeve of non-gem pieces were not cut correctly, causing them to not be playable. This was quickly rectified by Adam and his team and I received the non-gem pieces within a matter of days. Excellent customer service!

The gem quality alone on the one side of the blade will get me 8 points.

The pieces are a thicker cardboard that make it easier to assemble with less chance of wear and tear, but I have noticed some wear on some of the guards. The cards have two sides, so there are plenty of choices to add to replay-ability.

our family’s thoughts on swordcrafters

Abigail: I like how you get to build your own sword and I like how there’s different ways to get points and it can be a really cool sword. I also overall just like the game. Recommendation: Try it.

Beth: It’s a neat element that you can actually hold the sword in your hand. I think I need to focus more on messing up the first player, or you can get stuck in a pattern where the same person goes first every time. Recommendation: Try it.

Chris: This is an enjoyable experience. I think that this would be a good family game worthy of your money. The only concern with a game like this is that these cardboard pieces will see some wear and tear. Fortunately, Adam’s customer service has been more than satisfactory. Recommendation: Try it.

Daniel received 6 points for his green and 0 for his orange on the one side. The larger group scores for each side.

Daniel: I like how you can build swords and its really fun that theres more than one round. I like that there are gems and I like how you can compare your sword and see if you have the tallest. Theres some cards that say least green or more reds. I think its extremely fun and that’s that. Recommendation: Buy It!

Behold the winner of the longest sword!

Elijah: I like building swords. I like being able to hold the sword in my hand. I like trying to make the patterns and the longest sword. Recommendation: Try it.

This was a fun and engaging game. It is definitely worth trying for yourself. Also, the customer service was top notch!

Interview with Ruel Gaviola

Ruel Gaviola (Right) playing a game of Twilight Imperium with friends.

“It’s our way of giving back to the community and it’s also a way for us to stay in touch with our cultural heritage.”

-Ruel Gaviola

Ruel Gaviola and I spoke on September 9th, 2019 about the hobby and about SIPA, an organization that helps Pilipino Americans.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Ruel, thank you so much for meeting with me today. Tell us about yourself and what brought you into the board game hobby.

Ruel Gaviola: Hi Chris, happy to be here. I’m Ruel Gaviola, a writer and content creator based in Southern California. Many moons ago I was an English major at UC Santa Barbara (Go Gauchos!) and after graduating I worked in various wordsmith-related jobs, from the publications department at an aerospace company to technical writer for a few software companies. I’ve been involved in writing, editing, and teaching for many years.

Ruel with his wife, Michelle, playing Spell Smashers at GameSchoolCon

Ruel: Five years ago I stumbled upon Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop series on YouTube. I devoured the episodes and started poking around BGG. I was blown away by how many board games there were. As a birthday gift to myself, I bought Pandemic. I quickly taught myself how to play and introduced it to my wife. She wasn’t really into it, so I just continued to solo the heck out of it. About a month later I bought Ticket to Ride. THAT was the game that she loved and it really solidified my entry into the hobby. We played TTR every night for a week straight. 

TheCharityBoardGamer: Who won the most?

Ruel: She did! We both still remember her amazing seven-game winning streak. It was so much fun.

Playing Wreck Raiders with the Brothers Murph and friends at Dice Tower West 2019

Ruel: So I started buying games from Amazon every now and then. In September of that year (2015) I went to my first gaming meetup at my local comic book store. This was also around the time I started curating board game news for

I was getting deeper and deeper into the hobby. While my wife was, and still is, a casual gamer, we’ve had a blast playing games. We used to play the occasional game of Scrabble or backgammon. Modern board games were much more fun.I started going to more game nights in the area and the big gaming convention in LA, Strategicon. It’s actually three cons every years.

Lauren, Ruel’s daughter, prepping lunches at the SIPA event

Ruel: As I became more involved in the hobby, I had an opportunity to write for Geek & Sundry. I submitted a few pieces and I was given some articles to write and they accepted them. I was beyond excited! I love writing for G&S. I was a huge fan, thanks to Tabletop. To be involved was a thrill. As a regular contributor to G&S I’ve had some incredible opportunities. Mike from The Five By podcast reached out to me and I was excited to join his team. I was a fan of the podcast since they launched and becoming a contributor was another awesome moment. Being a guest on Game the Game with Becca Scott was absolutely amazing! It felt like I’d come full circle, watching board game videos on YouTube to actually being on an episode, playing a game. Becca and the entire Game the Game staff are incredibly talented people. 

TheCharityBoardGamer: What is your favorite game currently?

Ruel: Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition. One of my goals this year is to play it 10 times. I just played it for the 8th time last weekend.

TheCharityBoardGamer: What has been the longest play of TI4? I hear it can go for a long time.

Ruel: The longest one during this challenge has been eight hours, but most games are between 4.5 to 5.5 hours. Obviously, it’s not something I play every game night, but I do love its epic theme and gameplay. 

At SIPA prepping bag lunches for the local community

TheCharityBoardGamer: So tell me about SIPA. What does it stand for, and what does it mean to you?

Ruel: SIPA is Search to Involve Pilipino Americans. It’s an organization based in Los Angeles. I’m gonna quote from their Facebook page: “SIPA’s mission is to enhance the quality of life of Pilipino Americans and other ethnic communities through youth development, health, economic, and social services. SIPA also develops affordable family housing and other projects that promote cultural identity, economic stability, self-sufficiency, and civic participation. All of these programs and services are facilitated through community-based, collaborative relationships.” My wife and I support SIPA and a few other Filipino-focused non-profits and charities. 

TheCharityBoardGamer: What got you involved with SIPA?

Ruel: It’s our way of giving back to the community, and it’s also a way for us to stay in touch with our cultural heritage. We’d been to a few events at their center and other events/festivals where they had a presence. We were always impressed with the volunteers and their mission. We’re actually an hour away from LA so we don’t get to be as involved as we’d like to be, so we try to donate whenever we can. Our daughter is also involved with Filipino-based non-profits and charities, which is nice to see. 

Ruel and his family volunteering at the SIPA event in December

Ruel: As a family, we participated in SIPA’s annual food drive. We helped the center put together bagged lunches for the needy in the local community. It was awesome to see so many people at that event. I was really inspired by everyone at SIPA. Not just the organizers, but all of the young people who showed up to help.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Ruel, where can we learn more about SIPA?

Ruel: You can go to their Facebook page for more info:

TheCharityBoardGamer: Thank you, Ruel, for talking with us today about yourself and about SIPA.

Ruel: Thanks, Chris! And kudos to you for all you do for the charities you support!

5-Minute Marvel: Squirrel Girl for the Win!

Game: 5-Minute Marvel

  • Publisher: Spinmaster Games
  • Designer: Connor Reid
  • Illustrated by: Alex Diochan
  • 2-5 players
  • Ages 8+
  • 5 minutes

“Does anyone have Tech? We need 3 tech… Tech, People”

“Two Minutes Remaining”

“Is there a squirrel on the card?”


“Now let’s beat Thanos!”

5-Minute Marvel is a real-time cooperative game. There is no time to quarterback. As each enemy is revealed you and your team must play cards that match the symbols on the enemy to defeat the card. Some heroes have special abilities that will defeat the baddies along the way.

Each player picks a hero of their choice for the battle ahead. You will find a great variety in choices.

The game consists of 6 villains, each with their own symbols to defeat. On top of their play mat you will put cards face down with different villains, goons and other bad guys. Even Bob from Hydra and J. Jonah Jameson make an appearance, but don’t stare at the card too long. Each character is keeping you from your end goal of defeating the main villain before the 5-Minute timer runs out. You will have to work together, yelling out cards, resources and watching out for Crisis cards along the way.

Crisis Cards are exactly that. When one comes up it may pause you from acting while the timer keeps moving. It may weaken your hero and it may cause you to lose your hand.

There will be a lot of shuffling after each boss, but it is worth the chaos!

This is where abilities and characters shine. Spider-Gwen, Medusa, Black Widow, Captain America and more (Yes! Squirrel Girl) have cards that match their character. Cards for Spider-Man may help take cards from another player, where Black Widow may be able to defeat certain bad guys quicker. With each card played, a new one is drawn from either the normal deck or the hero deck. Each hero also has their own special player board. These boards may have the ability to immediately defeat a Goon or any villain with a squirrel in the picture.

If you manage to beat the timer and defeat the villain, you win! Then you can add to the difficulty and prepare to battle the next villain. Reset that timer, Jarvis! We’re coming for you next, M.O.D.O.K.!

As you play cards, you will constantly be adding back to your hand to defeat the next baddie.

I like when board games are made with the game in mind. Each area of the box plays like an organizer. I can put my heroes and their special cards in slots. Then, I can take the other cards and Crisis Cards and put them in recessed areas that go under the villain boards.

Each Hero has their own special ability and deck of cards they can draw from.

The boards for the villains are well made. Each one has an opposite side and is easy to set up for the next game. The cards will easily go through some wear and tear after many plays, but that is expected when you are quickly rushing through fighting bad guys every five minutes. I recommend sleeving at some point. I have had this game for almost a year so it is about time to do that.

The hero boards warp a little, but this is a minor thing. The thing that stands out in this game is the artwork. It’s cartoony and that is good for a cooperative game like this. There are little bits of humor in each card and the companion app with Jarvis’ voice goes perfectly.

Each Boss comes with their own board and baddie requirements.
Our Family’s Thoughts on 5-Minute Marvel

Abigail, 12: It’s stressful, but it’s really fun. Because everyone’s yelling throwing cards out there and there is only 5 minutes. It keeps getting harder, so you are not just playing the same thing. I like how the different characters have different abilities and ability cards. Recommendation: Try it.

Beth: Throwing cards, yelling for resources, mass confusion of how many we have, but overall a ton of fun. It’s the fast pace stress that actually gives its appeal, even when it’s the lowest of the bad guys and you know you are going to beat them the pressure is still on. I like that all of the bad guys before you get to the set main villain changes each time so it isn’t completely predictable. Everyone is going from sacrificing themselves to searching for squirrels in the bad guy backgrounds to get an advantage. If you like Marvel I would say Buy It! Recommendation: Buy It!

I am GROOT!!!!

Chris: I love this game. I bought it with my birthday money last year and had it at my party. I remember losing to the first villain and laughing. Then we went on to defeat almost every villain because we figured out how to communicate amidst the counting down of the clock. I also love that there are lesser known heroes in this game. How often can you say you beat Thanos with Squirrel Girl? Recommendation: Buy It!

Daniel: I like how there are different villains. I like how it looks like comic style and you can be Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen and different characters. I like that there is an app that can time you and the voice sounds like Jarvis. It may be stressful to some people, but fun if you are used to it. Recommendation: Try it.


Elijah: It’s fast. There’s captain America and other characters. It’s like 30 minutes. Recommendation: Try it.

5-Minute Marvel is a great choice for any Marvel fan. It has the right amount of heroes and a good balance of villains. There is no time for quarterbacking here. Also, there is Squirrel Girl. She defeated Thanos in the comics. Seriously.

The Grimm Masquerade: Why Does Everyone Point the Finger at Me?

Game: The Grimm Masquerade

  • Publisher: Skybound Games, Druid City Games
  • Designers: Tim Eisner, Ben Eisner, James Hudson
  • Illustrated by: Mr. Cuddington
  • 2-5 players
  • Ages 8+
  • 20-40 Minutes
The top left of the card shows the Boon. The bottom right shows the Bane.

There I was. I knew she was Red Riding Hood, and I had just drawn a disguise. This was my moment. She had one disguise already in front of her. I passed it over. She smiled. She then put the evidence marker on Red Riding Hood. What?!? Was she really the Big Bad Wolf all along? I drew my next card, the card I would keep. It was a spindle. I was unmasked and removed from the Beast’s Ball.

Playing with a pre-teen is killer, especially when she learned her competitive nature from you.

Actions give players chances to accuse a player or try to unmask them.

The Grimm Masquerade is a fun-filled deduction game that pits you against others trying to unmask each other at Beast’s Ball. Each player is a character straight out of Grimm’s Fairytales. You play as one of eight characters and each character is working to collect Boons (Good) and avoid Banes (Bad). Each turn a player will draw a card and either a)keep it face up in front of them or b)pass it to another player. Then they draw a card and do the opposite action. If someone collects three of their special Boon, they end the round and get the rose marker for that specific round. Roses act as Victory Points. This is Beast’s Ball after all. If you collect or acquire two of your Bane, you are unmasked.

Roses are the victory points of the game. Whoever has the most wins!

Unmasking does not mean elimination. You still have the chance to mess with your fellow players and unmask them. When unmasked, you collect your cards. Then on your turn you will draw a card and give one of your artifacts (cards) to another player in hopes to kick them out of the Ball.

So what was pointing the finger about in the beginning title? It is about actions that players can do. When a player has two of an artifact, they have a chance to discard them and take one of three actions. These actions may cause players to place evidence markers on a character they are not, look at the guests who did not attend the ball or point the finger. Pointing the finger is accusing another player of being a character. If right, the accuser receives two roses and the accused turns over their character card. Then the broken mirror is placed over that player. If the accuser is wrong, the accused gets a rose and then places an evidence marker on that character. After three rounds, the player with the most roses wins!

One benefit to the board is that each character is on the board showing their Bane and Boon. This makes it easier for the player to not have to remind their self who they are and what can hurt them.

The artwork is stunning and beautiful. Each character has their own personal look that does not fit the Disney norm, and that is a good thing. The cards are solid and even the board is well done. There are additional components for advanced play and also to make it easier for a first time action.

Pay two cards of one type to play an action. Actions can be vital to your success.
Our Family’s Thoughts on the Grimm Masquerade

Abigail, 12: I like everything about it. I don’t like the putting the mirror on after you have been unmasked instead of before. It confuses me. I like how you have to try to unmask the other players before you get unmasked. I get excited when I know who someone is then I get to point a finger at someone. It has pretty good artwork too! Recommendation: Buy It!

Beth: I haven’t quite perfected the art of throwing people off my trail, but I still like to try. I like forcing people to identify who they are not, so I can narrow it down more. And there’s always the chance that I unmask them anyway. I do not like that the winners of the third round get so many more roses than anyone else, because it makes it harder to beat, but overall it’s an enjoyable family game and even when someone is out they are not fully out. So everyone still gets to play. Recommendation: Try it.

Unmasked? It’s okay. You still can play in hopes to unmask other players.

Chris: I loved teaching this at stores and at local game nights. This is a fun social deduction game that plays within a reasonable amount of time. I also appreciate that when someone is eliminated, they still have a chance to play. I know that feeling of being killed off, watching others play as I sit in my chair. Waiting for the rest to be done can be irritating and not enjoyable. I think with this player count and difference in style, this can be a great game for families who are wanting to not cause anyone to feel left out. Recommendation: Buy It!

Daniel, 11: It’s really fun how you can be different fairy tale characters. I like that you can give stuff to people to see if they really are that person. I like that if you are unmasked that you can still give stuff to other people. I like how there’s different actions you can do if you pay two cards. Buy It!

Elijah, 8: There’s different characters. It’s okay. I might like it. I like giving people cards that mess them up. I had guessed someone, and it was Daddy. I wasn’t certain and didn’t call it out. Recommendation: Try it.

The Grimm Masquerade is a game worth a look, and if you are a social deduction nut, this is the game for you!

Teaching Games: Taking the Competitive out of Me.

Enjoying a game of Too Many Bones

I’m a competitive player by nature. I enjoy winning. I love the feeling of accomplishment. When I would lose, I would take it hard and get upset. I didn’t like losing. I liked winning. That changed when I was introduced into teaching games and furthering my hobby.

Teaching Tiny Towns at a local game store

Last year I was invited to a game night. I had not been heavily into board games since high school except for the occasional Monopoly game. I had ruined friendships because of that game. I had never played team games or cooperative before until that game night. The games I was introduced to that night were One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Pandemic. It changed the way I played games, and I saw that competition wasn’t everything.

Kids enjoying Super Kitty Bug Slap

Then came a few more board game nights and the chance to try Thanos Rising. (This is my favorite game as I write this.) I loved working together to defeat a big baddie. This event introduced me into the Herald program through Envoy. Envoy is a part of Double Exposure. Double Exposure helps publishers get their games known in stores and events, working hand in hand. I interviewed with them later and officially became a demonstrator for them. I loved the idea of teaching others games. They would ask us to do different splashes and demos to show games at local stores and conventions, including cons like GenCon and Origins. The opportunities I have had in gaming are partly thanks to them.

A mother and daughter learning Rhino Hero Super Battle

With each game I learned, I would be tested on it. I had to teach it to one of my peers and be certified in the game. I would learn the mechanics, theme and the rulebook like it was a second language. I even would reach out to my peers and publishers requesting further understanding as questions arose. This especially would occur when playing in preparation with my family. Anytime a new game would come in the mail, they were my players 2-5. This led to questions about, “Am I able to perform this action?” or “Why do we score on this round and not the other?” They helped me sharpen my skills.

A strategic game of Shobu

So how did the change happen with me and my competitive nature? It came from teaching kids. I had been helping a homeschool co-op the previous year dealing with seven to nine year olds. It changed how I addressed children and taught them. I learned to get on the level of the people playing the games. Giving high fives and encouraging them makes the game more enjoyable. Suggesting ways to address a situation and then letting them decide made a difference. I remember one night I was teaching Thanos Rising with five boys sitting around the table. We would roll the Thanos dice making the “DUH DUH DUH!!!” sound. There would be gasps as a hero died and screams of excitement with each villain removed from battle. Watching them enjoy the game made playing more meaningful to me.

Playing Team3

The fun no longer revolved about the winning. It revolved around teaching and helping pass that love for games to others. Now, I’m still competitive, but I have come to love games more when someone asks, “Can you teach us that?” The reward comes from helping others and having others at the table to play with.

Stacked: A Preview

Game: Stacked

  • Publisher: Mr B Games
  • Designed by: Tim Phillips, LeAnn Phillips, Sean Brown
  • 1-5 players
You can place your shapes in odd and wild ways. So long as you can play it, it’s fair game.

From the Publisher: Stacked is a family game from 1-5 players, that is part card game, and part dexterity. The goal is to place blocks on top of a pre-set base to form a teetering tower. Without knocking this tower over, the person to bank the most points in their play pile wins! After much debate on the “proper” way to play Stacked, the designers decided to include their 3 most popular modes of play. Try them all and enjoy 3 games in one!

Tim Phillips, one of the Masterminds behind STACKED

Tim Phillips came by the house and showed me and some friends Stacked, a unique game that he had worked on and is now live on Kickstarter. Since he was kind enough to come and teach us the game, I thought it only fitting to talk about it.

Build on your base. Continue and wait for someone to knock it all down. Score points. Most points win!

In Stacked, you have fifty-six shapes and fifty-six cards to play with. Set-up is simple. Take the cards out and dump the shapes out of the box. It’s that easy. Then, shuffle the cards and prepare to play.

Game One: Draw and Play

So Tim taught us first the Draw and Play style of the game. First we created a base. A base consists of 1-3 cards, 1 being hard and 3 being easy. Then you place the blocks on the table to construct the base. As you draw a card you must place the block on the base in any way possible. The next player will draw a card and make it a point for the shape to not touch the color of the previous player. Each card related to its shape has an amount of points in the bottom right corner. The only to move other blocks is with your own block. When someone knocks over the blocks, everyone scores their points. The one who knocks it over will get only half of his points.

The Base can be 1,2 or 3 blocks based on difficulty.
Game Two: Follow The Leader

The second game Tim taught us involved building a base like before. This time we were all dealt 7 cards. Play a card and its specific shape, then the other player plays either the same shape or color card and then the corresponding shape. If one doesn’t have a card that meets the design, they draw a card. Moving the blocks already on the base does not require another block. When blocks are knocked down, everyone counts their points and subtracts the ones in their hand.

Points are earned when a piece is played. They are then totalled when it all comes crashing down.
I love that the placement of the shapes doesn’t have to fit the norm.
Game Three: Trick-Taking

The final game Tim taught was a trick taking approach. The base is built. Everyone draws 7 cards. Then the first player calls out a color. Each player picks a card and places it face down. Then everyone flips the card face up and compares the number on each card. The highest card winner wins the trick. If a tie of the highest, then the player with the next highest wins. Then the player to the trick winner places the shape matching their card on the base. When it comes to the winner of the trick, they decide who is going to place their shape for them. When the blocks fall, scoring is done with the victory points on the played cards-half for the one who knocked them down.

The game is setup and ready to go.

The blocks I played with were 3D printed. They had a nice weight to them. When the official copy comes out they will be made from a plastic based mold. What is interesting is that the shapes are thin and wide. This makes placement to be uneven where you place the blocks creating an interesting challenge. The cards will be similar in look from the art design and have shapes (circle, square, triangle and to meet the colors on the cards. The shapes on the cards are to help with color blindness. It is possible that they may come out with something to help differentiate the colors on the physical shapes after production. This was something that we discussed as we played. As for the card quality, previous iterations looked like basic card style stock. I think that would be great for sleeving with your basic sleeves or possibly dragon shields as we played with over the paper versions.

The higher the card, the lower the points.
My Thoughts

I enjoyed this game. For a dexterity game, the stacking was enjoyable and I could see this as a family game. It also can make for a fun filler game for adults. I like that there are three modes of playing. There also are plenty of pieces. It creates a level of replayability that works.

This is the crazy creation we made when playing the follow the leader game.

If this is something you want to back, go to the STACKED Kickstarter page by clicking HERE. As of right now it is 33% Funded with 17 days to go.

Interview with Sarah Trager

Sarah and Nic Trager at Tantrum Con 2019

“I am humbled and convicted when I consider my extreme blessings, especially in the face of such poverty.” 

Sarah Trager, Tournament Director at Double Exposure

Sarah Trager and I spoke with each other about the hobby and Compassion International on September 3rd, 2019.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Sarah, thank you so much for meeting with me today. Tell us about yourself and what brought you into the board game hobby.

Sarah: Hi, Chris! Thanks for having me. I love board and card games and have since childhood. Growing up we played the classics – Monopoly, Sorry, Trouble and Clue. One of my favorite parts of my board games origin story is this: my dad was in the military until I was sixteen. He was away a lot but sent lots of letters and little gifts while he was gone. He used to record himself reading my favorite books, or just talking to us, and send us the tapes to listen to. He once sent me a game of Trouble, and promised we’d play when he got home. So my love of games started as a kid, and it grew as I did. My first semester of college a friend taught me how to play Settlers of Catan and I was instantly in love. It’s still my all-time favorite game.

TheCharityBoardGamer: How long have you been in the hobby?

Sarah: The hobby – about twelve years I guess. I’ve been in the industry for about four.

Sarah teaching members of a Sunday night game group.

TheCharityBoardGamer: What do you do in the industry?

Sarah: I am the Tournament Director at Double Exposure, which is a North American-wide company which helps game designers and publishers create, market, and support their games.

TheCharityBoardGamer: What is your favorite game currently?

Sarah: Settlers of Catan is my always, all-time favorite. Recently, I’ve been enjoying Clank!, Space Park, and Raccoon Tycoon.

Enjoying an afternoon playing Splendor.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Any particular designer or publisher that you enjoy the most?

Sarah: John Clair (Mystic Vale, Space Base…) puts out consistently solid work that I enjoy. Gil Hova is brilliant. My husband has started to design games and I am not only immensely proud of him, but also genuinely enjoying his creations.

TheCharityBoardGamer: So tell me about Compassion International. What is it and what do they do?

Sarah: Compassion is an international program that helps kids around the world who suffer from extreme poverty. They help by providing food, clothing, medical care, schooling, professional training, emergency/disaster relief and much more. I’ve been a part of it for the last thirteen years.

Rehma, age four. Sponsored by Sarah through Compassion International

Sarah: I “adopted” a kid – Isaac. I found out about the program in college. A representative came and shared pictures and stories of the children and families and communities that the program touched. I didn’t have a lot of money but knew that I wanted to be Jesus’s hands and feet to one of those kids. I signed up and never looked back. Isaac grew up and moved outside of the range of the program in his country, so I was assigned another child. I have been blessed to know four different kids throughout my time in the program so far.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Have you done any special activities or helped the charity in a certain way?

Sarah: Not directly. Sponsors can go on trips to meet their kids, but they are expensive and I’ve always felt the money could be better used in a different way. One of the things that I hope had a big impact (I won’t actually know this side of heaven) is that, when working for AEG (the publisher behind games like Point Salad, Mystic Vale, and Space Base), I was asked about my favorite charity because AEG makes monthly donations to different charities – and I recommended Compassion International. They went ahead and chose to support Compassion and I hope that made a huge impact. 

A more direct way I have been able to be impactful is in the individual lives of the children I have sponsored and continue to sponsor. Compassion encourages sponsors to develop relationships with their kids by exchanging letters, cards and photos. I have been so blessed by these relationships over the years and am so thankful for the different perspectives on life and faith the kids have shared with me.     

This is Raul, age ten from Brazil, also sponsored through Compassion International

Sarah: Sponsors can choose to send additional money for their child’s birthday and/or Christmas. This money goes directly to the child and their family…I have received photos of my kids surrounded by all the clothing, food and special gifts. It makes me cry every time. At first I was sad that the money wasn’t used to support my American-style idea of Christmas or birthday – cake and toys. The kids and their families use the money to buy food, clothing and shoes. I am humbled and convicted when I consider my extreme blessings, especially in the face of such poverty.  Sponsors can also send extra support for specific needs of a community. Compassion offers a catalog of items that people, sponsors or not, can purchase for communities all over the world. The items range from soccer balls and Bibles to livestock, lifesaving medical equipment, and wells which provide clean water to whole villages.

TheCharityBoardGamer: Sarah, If someone wanted to hear more or find out more information about Compassion International, where could they go?


TheCharityBoardGamer: Sarah, thank you for sharing your time with us today. I appreciate you as a friend and as part of the board game family.

Sarah: Likewise. Thanks for highlighting Compassion International!

Echidna Shuffle: Stress-Induced Fun

A six-player game of Echidna Shuffle led to some wild fun.

Game: Echidna Shuffle

  • Publisher: Wattsalpoag Games
  • Designer: Kris Gould
  • Illustrated by: Damon Brown
  • Game Pieces: Mike Raabe
  • 2-6 players
  • 10-20 minutes
  • Ages 6+

One move. Only one move to reach victory, but it was not to be. I was near my trunk, my last beetle on my back in hopes to have that sweet end. The leaves were scattered everywhere as I had changed paths thanks to another player. There would be no victory today.

Roll one way and on the next turn you move the opposite roll. If you rolled a six on the first roll, you may move three spaces on the next turn.

Echidna Shuffle is a game where you are trying to bring bugs back home in the form of bees, ladybugs, beetles and others related to the color you choose. On your turn you roll the Echidna dice and get to move on the board any of the twelve Echidnas. As you move them, you may pick up bugs from pick-up zones. Then if you are lucky enough, you can reach them to one of your three colored stumps to be closer to a win.

Why are you blocking my ladybug-loving Echidnas? I just want to take them home.

The key to this is that you can move ANY Echidnas on your turn. This leads to hilarity, stress and laughter. See that player’s Echidna is too close to their stump? Move them onto a different path. You could potentially set your opponent’s Echidnas on a never ending loop.

When the game starts, everyone places a bug pickup spot on an empty leaf. Then you pass your stumps to the opponent on your left. They get to place your stumps anywhere on the board. Echidnas cannot jump or move through other Echindas, so movement is important. You will have to move the Echidnas of other players and if you pass over their pickup spot, you will put a bug of theirs on the Echidna. If you move an Echidna with their bug onto a spot with their stump, they will be closer to victory. When you have placed all three bugs on your stumps, you win!

Each player gets their special stumps matching the color of their bugs.

This is a beautifully made game. The Echidnas are adorable and the bugs are well made. Each component, from the dice to the board, were well though out. The opposite side of the board has a snow-themed board where winning can be even more complex, yet still enjoyable.

These components are gorgeous. Mike Raabe did an amazing job!
Our Family’s Thoughts on Echidna Shuffle

Abigail: I like how you can majorly screw people over, but it is chaotic because it’s all over the board and hard to see what you are trying to do. I like how cute the Echidna playing pieces are. I find it weird that the Echida are taking the bugs home and not just eating them, I don’t understand that part. But try it because it can become fun. Recommendation: Try it.

Beth: I liked the orderly circles of the one side, but could not figure out what was going where on the snowy side. On the flower side I had a great time, moving other people’s Echidna out of the way and putting them on other loops. It is appealing and fun to look at. Try it though because the chaos stressed a couple of my kids out. Looks like for kids, but better for adults. Recommendation: Try it.

Chris: I like this game, but there is a deep feeling of “take that” that it is in the game that makes it possibly stressful for kids. Watching my kids get stressed out over one’s moves brought to light that this can become cutthroat. This game is great, but I am going to recommend to try it first. See if this is good for you and your family. I love the cutthroat nature of the game, but it may not be for everyone. One suggestion for playing with kids is to encourage helping each other when moving one another’s Echidnas. Recommendation: Try it.

Placing the stumps of your opponents can really mess with their strategy. Moving the Echidnas away from them messes them up even more.

Daniel: It is chaotic and stressful. The Echidna are cute and so are the bugs. Just don’t try the snowy side. It is long and exhausting. I like putting the bugs on the logs, and I like how if you go 7 on one turn you go 2 on the next, it’s fair. I’d say try it. Recommendation: Try it.

Elijah: The Echidna are cute and some of the bugs maybe. I might like it, I might not like it, but I don’t know why. Recommendation: Try it.

This game is fun for all ages, but the cutthroat nature of moving other player’s Echidnas can sour the game for others. Try it out and see for yourself.

Coup: I’m the Duke. No Really. I am…

Who is she looking at? Probably the Duke.

Game: Coup

  • Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
  • Designed by: Rikki Tahta, La Mame Games
  • Illustrated by: Jarek Nocon
  • 2-6 players
  • 15 minutes
  • Ages 14+

I look at our youngest as he pushes seven coins forward. I plead for my life. “Please, Elijah. Not me. Why not go after your mother or Abigial?” A slight grin comes across his face as he states, “I Coup you, Daddy.” I slowly turn my final card over in defeat as the laughing deafens the tears of my death.

I’m the Duke…do you believe me?

Coup is set in a dystopian world where your influence (cards) are used as a way to gather money. This money can be used to assassinate your fellow player, or you can use it to Coup another person (seven coins), causing them to reveal one of their cards.

Each player has two cards and two coins. They can take one coin at a time with no one stopping them. They also can take foreign aid (two coins), but there is a chance a Duke may stop them.

The Captain and Assassin. Stealing and Killing, just your typical day in a dystopian world.

Each card has a significant value:

  • Duke: Take 3 coins, block foreign aid
  • Captain: Steal two coins from a player, block stealing
  • Ambassador: Draw two cards and look at them, keep two that you want and return the rest to the draw pile, block stealing
  • Assassin: Pay Three Coins to Assassinate one player’s influence
  • Contessa: Block an Assassination
Revealing your influence causes you to turn a card face up. This gives other players an advantage to figure and use the odds against each other.

Once you have lost influence, you are out. The thing that matters in this game is bluffing. No one knows what your two cards are. When you think someone is lying, you can challenge them. If you are correct that player must reveal one of their influence. If you are not, then you would reveal your card. When one player is left standing, the game ends.


The artwork is beautiful on the cards and the game is simple. Included in the game are guides for new players. Another part of the game are the tokens. There isn’t much more to this game, but what it brings is a fun experience.

Seven coins and you can Coup. Ten or more and you must Coup on your turn.
Our Family’s Thoughts on Coup

Abigail, 12: Coup is fun. I like that you get to kill people and I like the different roles that make it hard for people to kill you or easier to kill others. I wish there were more roles to make it more fun. It’s fun to play with more people because it makes for a longer game. My favorite role combination is Duke and Assassin, or Captain and Assassin, or Contessa and Assassin. Recommendation: Buy It!

I’m the Duke???

Beth: I have a harder time lying in Coup than with other social games, I don’t know why. So if I have bad cards I’m a little stuck. But other than that, I like the game because you have to assess and weigh out how much you want to risk on challenging someone. I enjoy playing it with my kids because they have so much fun with it. When someone questions me I like to make them hesitate and make them doubt themselves. Recommendation: Buy It!

Chris: This game is enjoyable, especially when you have two of a particular card and you challenge someone else because you think they are lying between their teeth. What is crazy is when you play that Assassin card and someone challenges you. There is nothing better than taking a player out with one challenge. Also, the price of the game is around ten dollars. Recommendation: Buy It!

Contessa and Assassin: A deadly combination.

Daniel: Coup is a really fun game. I like how you get to decide to challenge people, and if the person was wrong, I like that you get a new card so no one knows who you are. I would like if there were more roles. I like how you can coup someone with 7 coins and they don’t get an option, they have to die. I think the best combination is Assassin and Duke because you get enough coins to assassinate or Assassin and Contessa because you can assassinate people but they can’t you. Recommendation: Buy It!

Elijah: I like Coup. I like to be an Assassin and a Duke because you can take 3 coins and boom, eliminate someone. I like to be Captain and steal coins. I tell the truth unless one time I had two Contessas and I couldn’t deal with that, and my Dad is fine with it if I say Ambassador and want cards so I just said that to try to get the Assassin. I like the game. Some people may not like it, but I’d say buy it for me. Recommendation: Buy It!

Coup is a great game. Its Simple, affordable and worth your purchase.