Zoned Out: Play, Develop, Repeat. Then lose to your kids as they laugh at your poorly made developments.

Game: Zoned Out

  • Publisher: Grey Fox Games
  • Designed by: Keith Rentz
  • Illustrated by: Jake Blanchard
  • Ages 10+
  • 2-4 players
  • 30 to 60 minutes

“I’ve done it! I have found an area of land to develop on. It has some run down homes and a few parking lots, but there is so much potential. I think I will build some homes and a library here.”

“The houses are built, but I wasn’t able to build on the parking lots and tear down the creepy house in time, but I did work a little on a skyscraper. It’s looking good and I have built some commercial buildings… What!?! Why are they in my zone putting those industrial buildings there. Now they are adding to my skyscraper?!? This is inconceivable!”

Our small town waiting to be developed into a bustling metropolis.
About the Game

In Zoned Out, players build and develop their zones by playing square cards on top of others, covering at the most three blocks. When one plays their card, they would place their developer/architect onto one of the buildings: the residential homes and libraries, the commercial buildings and stadiums, and the industrial buildings and train stations. Each building group has different densities. Those densities are one to three buildings. The other buildings like the library are like wild densities and take on the density of nearby buildings. So if a train station is beside a commercial building with a density of 2, that train station is worth a density of 2. We’ll come back to density and its affects on scoring.

The player has claimed this library as part of their residential area. Currently this residential space would have a density of one.

When the architect leaves their development area, they will place their architect on a new building space related to their newly placed card. Then, they will develop the zone that they had originally worked on. Each space that has that specific building type grouped together will have their plastic building pieces stacked according to their density. Then one will score for their number of blocks and any surrounding museums, parks, parking lots and abandoned houses. The larger the grouping of houses, the more points. Once stacks of buildings have been made, the player who built will add to the downtown zone for their skyscraper.

The small area in the beginning has become our downtown area with skyscrapers being crafted in one of the four zones.

The end of the game is triggered when either a player has played all their pieces or there are no more cards to draw. Then the next set of scoring begins.

Each player is given a card at the beginning. This card is a secret objective that will be scored by all, but that specific player has the upper hand at knowing what is to come. They may play their cards and buildings so they may achieve more points.

Parking lots can hurt players while parks and museums help your score.

Each player will reveal their card and score for them together, one card at a time. Some will be related to density, some to the skyscraper and even to having a majority of groupings. Then there will be the community cards which are known and will score. Finally players will score for the 1st and 2nd most pieces on a skyscraper for each zone. Whoever has the most points wins.

These objectives could make the difference between victory and utter defeat. Play them to your advantage.
Components

The artwork has vibrant colors and designs. The downtown acts as the center and lays on top of four cards with their parking lots covered. The cards have a nice feel to them and are easy to shuffle from game to game.

Nothing gets muddled in the details.

The pieces that stand out the most though are the plastic stackable buildings. They are easy to pick up and it feels like the person who designed that had it in mind. Each piece curves nicely to fit between one’s fingers. As for stacking them, it is simple to place it and just as easy to take them off. Our kids even built different looking towns with the pieces as we were learning the game.

These pieces have the right amount of color to enhance the cards they are played on.
Our Family’s Thoughts

Abigail: It’s a good game. Simple and easy to learn, Fast-paced which makes it fun. It has a fun design to it. I say buy it. Recommendation: BUY IT!

Abigail’s Downtown with a Hall of Justice.

Beth: this was easy to explain to the kids and the colorful cards appealed to them. I appreciated that the turns went quickly so that we didn’t lose their interest. There is enough strategy to keep the adults interested, but sometimes it may not matter and the luck of the card draw advances someone more. The redraw option shouldn’t be feared once or twice because it could advance your points by much more. I had a difficult time understanding the written directions for this game even though that is my preferred learning method. I was left with a few unanswered questions, but playing the game helped some of it come together for me. Recommendation: BUY IT!

Beth deep in thought over her next move.

Chris: This game was easy to play. There were some hiccups in understanding at first, but as we played through the game, we quickly caught on and enjoyed our time playing this one. Those pieces and the ease of play make this a quick filler. I highly recommend this to be played by families. Kids have just as much a chance to win as the adults. Recommendation: BUY IT!

Our fully completed metropolis, dense with residential, commercial and industrial buildings throughout.

Daniel: I like how the building pieces stack and the art of the city block cards and how it looks when its all together. I like how its quick and easy and I say buy it. Recommendation: BUY IT!

Daniel’s little town of stacking.

Elijah: I like how I am actually allowed to stack the pieces in this game. They don’t usually let me. It doesn’t take much time. Recommendation: Try it.

Elijah’s creation from stacking the pieces.
This is an easy recommendation. The illustrations and ease of play make for an enjoyable game. We hope you like this one as much as we have.

Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome: Speaking with Nathan Olsen

This is such a rare syndrome.  The more that we vocalize about it, the more people become aware of it.  We are always looking for ways to spread awareness.

Nathan Olsen, speaking about TTTS.

The Charity Boardgamer: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the gaming hobby?

Nate: Hey Chris,  Thanks for taking the time to interview me.  I am 34 year old Father of 4 kids (Cynthia, Ezekiel, Ezra and Elloise).  I have been married to my wonderful wife for 9, going on 10 years. I currently manage a local gym that has recently just opened.  I get the opportunity to personal train and teach classes to our local community.
I got into gaming through a couple of friends.  We would do game night every couple weeks.  We started with Catan, then I proceeded to purchase Lords Of Waterdeep.  After that we moved back to my home state where gaming took a bit of a back seat. Summer of 2018 we took the plunge in the hobby.  
Around March we started Sons Of Thunder Games as an outlet to take photos of various kinds.  We take thematic, in game, and also sometimes do reviews.  We love it.  We love being able to interact with the community.

The Charity Boardgamer: What has been a go-to game you have been playing a lot lately?

Nate: There have been a couple of games.  Gloomhaven- We have finally formed a solid enough group to meet once a week.  The card management is so intense.  We love it.  Underwater Cities-  This one has been one of the best games we have played this year.  It’s simple in mechanics yet tough with decision making.  Cannot recommend enough. Res Arcana- My favorite game from 2019.  Such a tight engine building game.

The Charity Boardgamer: Any designer that you have great respect for or a publisher that you have enjoyed?

Nate: Stonemaier Games.  They produce beautiful games, but also games that are super accessible to new gamers.

The Charity Boardgamer: Tell me about TTTS. What does it stand for?

Nate: “Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) is the result of an intrauterine blood transfusion from one twin (donor) to another twin (recipient). TTTS only occurs in monozygotic (identical) twins with a monochorionic placenta. The donor twin is often smaller with a birth weight 20% less than the recipient’s birth weight”

TTTS affects 5-15 percent of identical twin pregnancies. So it’s a pretty rare complication to have/hear about.

The Charity Boardgamer: Why is this TTTS Team important to you?

Nate: TTTS team is important to me in many ways.  In 2013 we found out we had Identical Twins.  Around 16 weeks they were diagnosed with TTTS.  The boys were in stage 3. We then went to the University of Michigan where they mapped the placenta and did laser ablation on the blood vessels connecting the boys.  The recipient baby (Hezekiah) passed away from Heart Failure. 
This is such a rare syndrome.  The more that we vocalize about it, the more people become aware of it.  We are always looking for ways to spread awareness.

The Charity Boardgamer: What is a way that we can help with the organization?

Nate: Well, I think supporting this organization will also help to support the parents who have been affected by this.  It’s a pretty hard thing to deal with.  The anniversary of Hezekiah passing is March 7th, so around this time of the year we always reflect on Ezekiel & Hezekiah. Because of TTTS Ezekiel has Sensory Processing Disorder.  So it’s always going to be something that we deal with. 

The Charity Boardgamer: Where can we go to find more information about TTTS?


Nate: Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) | UCSF Fetal Treatment Center

Volcanic Isle: The Wife just used Fissures to Destroy My Village

Game: Volcanic Isle

  • Publisher: Arcane Wonders, Pendragon Game Studio
  • Designed by: Andrea Mainini, Luciano Sopranzetti
  • Graphic Design by: Davide Corsi, Kris Aubin, Stephen S Gibson
  • Ages 13+
  • 2-4 players
  • 45 minutes
Journal Entry: Day 1

“We have arrived at the island. We have decided to go our separate ways and find places to call home. This land is surrounded by volcanos and have left behind signs of great eruptions of long ago. We shall build our homes on top of the ashes as we seek to please our gods.”

Journal Entry: Day 257

“Our village prospers. We have begun to raise Moai to praise the gods we worship. May they be pleased in what we do. There have been some fissures along the land, but we are not fearful. The gods will protect us.”

Journal Entry: Day 382

“The volcanos are erupting and our villages are lost. The lava comes closer to us. Perhaps we must pray harder to our gods and build more Moai…”

Journal Entry: Day 401

“Our people have sunk to the bottom along with part of the island. My life was spared thanks to the prayers to our ancestors, but the volcanos of our land were our doom and destruction… I must rebuild a new civilization and more Moai in hopes to bring bounty to our people.”

Part of the island has sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

Arcane Wonders was kind enough to provide us with a copy of Volcanic Isle. This game brings your villager to an island covered with volcanos. As you journey across the board you will remove ash and build up villages, create villagers, and then create Moai in hopes to praise the gods and ancestors before you.

There is one catch. With each Moai raised, fissures are created and may cause the land to be spilt and sunk to the bottom of the oceans below. Also, there are chances that one of the eight volcanos may erupt, causing lava to flow into your village, bringing death and destruction. As you build, you will receive points. Once there are two or less volcanos remaining, the game ends and scoring will be added from what remains on the island.

Components

The plastic pieces are well made. Each village, settler and Moai have a great attention to detail. The boat, prayer and lava tokens have artwork fitting of the design and made of thick cardboard.

The scoreboard’s pieces stack on each other which is a nice touch.

Then there is the board. This is what is so special. The board is modular. The game has an initial setup of where you will put all the board pieces and volcanos, but there are special setups with smaller amount of land and also larger islands.

Our Family’s Thoughts

Abigail: the board and character pieces are cool. I like being able to sabatoge other people and get rid of their villages and moui. I dont like how if you use the lava up in on place it doesn’t refill right away so its useless. Recommendation: Try it.

My red players were no match for my wife.

Beth: this one keeps me on my toes and I like it. I plan ahead when I play, but I havent quite figured out the best strategy, whether it is to set up more Moai or just spread out and set up villages. I look forward to trying different ways. It is frustrating to set so much up just to have it sink into the ocean, but hey, thats island life, right? Recommendation: Try it.

Chris: This game has a nice feel of take-that. The wife and I had a serious raising of Moai, resulting in a split right down the middle of the island. Sadly, the side that survives is the side that has the most volcanos. All that work to sink her to the bottom of the ocean led to my own destruction. Recommendation: BUY IT!

Game ends when the island is down to two volcanos. Elijah’s endgame scoring got him the win!

Daniel: the first things I like is that you can sink other players and build your own villages. I hate it when other people sink my villages, but it is fun. You can spread people all over the place. Recommendation: BUY IT!

Elijah: I like to play pretend with the people and Moai. I make them them talk to each other. I like making the volcanoes erupt. Recommendation: BUY IT!

We think this would be a fun game to enjoy with the family. The changing nature of the board makes for replay-ability and the risk for building your Moai can be your victory as much as it is your destruction.

Reflecting on Extra Life with Brian Moats

In 2011, I lost my mother, and as I approached the first anniversary of her passing, I discovered Extra Life. Extra Life is a charity that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the nation. I joined Extra Life as a way of remembering my mother and doing some good in her name.

-Brian Moats, speaking of why he joined Extra Life

I have enjoyed getting to know Brian and the work he is doing for Extra Life. We recently corresponded on Extra Life via Email. Enjoy!

TheCharityBoardgamer: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the gaming hobby?

Brian: I have been involved in gaming since about 1990 when I first played a Nintendo Entertainment System. I was always drawn to their stories, visuals, and the different mechanics they used. I was particularly drawn to platformers and roleplay games. This passion led me to pursue degrees in computer science, mathematics, and business with the hope of one day starting my own game development company. Currently, I am a software engineer working on a NASA contract.

In 2011, I lost my mother, and as I approached the first anniversary of her passing, I discovered Extra Life. Extra Life is a charity that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the nation. I joined Extra Life as a way of remembering my mother and doing some good in her name. I created my team WVGamers along with a number of close friends who knew her. Every year we get together, play games, and do good for our community.

Around 2016, I discovered modern board games at a new friendly local game shop (FLGS) opened nearby; I had played a few such as Dungeon and Arkham Horror prior to this. This FLGS has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people who have taught me about so many wonderful games and have joined me on this Extra Life journey to help children and their families in need.

Someone has been playing too much Mega Man 2.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What has been a go-to game you have been playing a lot lately?

Brian: Honestly, I play 10-15 different games a month, but if I were to pick a couple games that are constant go-to games, I would say Ticket to Ride, Mystic Vale, and Splendor.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Any designer that you have great respect for or a publisher that you have enjoyed?

Brian: That is a tough question; I have great respect for all of those designers who have breathed life into these games we all love. The ideas for these games started as spark in their imagination, and they had the burning passion to take a risk and give these games form.

If I had to pick a couple publishers I constantly follow, that would probably be AEG, Smirk and Laughter/Dagger, and Stronghold Games. That said, there are so many smaller publishers make amazing games that may be easy to overlook. Swordcrafters by Adam’s Apple Games is one game I found so unique and led me to really enjoying their other titles. Kobold’s Ate My Babies introduced me to 9th Level Games and all of the other amazing games they have released and continue to release. Ambyria by Paw Warrior Games, Aetherium/Front Lines No Komrades by Anvil 8 Games, Fire in the Library by Weird Giraffe Games…ok…As I said, it is really hard to actually settle on a few because there are so many amazing gems hidden away in the ocean of games.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Tell me about Extra Life.

Brian: Extra Life, as I mentioned earlier, is a charity that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. It does so in a marathon style where gamers will spend typically 24 hours straight gaming for the cause while asking for donation support from family and friends. There is no “right” way to handle these. Some Extra Lifers do 24 hour twitch streams, where people will tune in to see what games they are playing; others host centralized events to the public, where they have a schedule of games people can come and play as they wish during the 24 hour period. 24 hours may seem like too much to some; you are free to split the event across weekends or even event months. It is all about the spirit of the cause.

When you sign up, you have the opportunity to select which hospital you will be supporting, which means your donations stay local and support families you may know.

Our Extra Life team, WVGamers, host various events throughout the year to keep Extra Life in the mind of those in the community with the hopes that more people will get involved. We offer free gaming opportunities, raffles, bake sales, and other creative fundraising tactics.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Why is Extra Life important to you?

Brian: I wish I had a deep touching story of how the Children’s Hospital helped me personal or someone I knew. In all honesty, it started as a positive distraction to help with a hard time in my life after losing my mother and as a way to send positive karma into the universe. Over the years as I got to know the hospital representatives and others passionate about the charity, I really grew attached to it and wanted to do more each year. Each year, over 3 million children find themselves needing the aid of children’s hospital and many spend a lot of time there. I love the idea that the donations I raise goes to helping a local child. The donations are used to help make the child’s time spent at the hospital enjoyable through movie/game stations, cameras for families to check in on their children in the NICU after they have to return to work, and even to educate the children and families about whatever illness the child may be battling.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What is a way that we can help with the Extra Life?

Brian: There are a lot of ways individuals can help. Those with a gaming passion can sign up and seek donations from their community; there is always a need for more people with fresh ideas to get involved.

Those who don’t wish to sign up themselves, tell your friends and family about Extra Life; the more people who know about this wonderful charity, the more opportunities we have to help our community.

Finally, donate. Every dollar helps. You can do one-time payments or even setup re-occurring payments of whatever value; I hear a lot of people like to setup re-occurring donations for a few dollars a month because that adds up over the year and easily money they won’t even notice is gone.

Brian and Amanda rocking the game demos.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Where can we go to find more information about Extra Life?

Brian: The best place to learn more about Extra Life is their website: https://www.extra-life.org/. You can get information about the charity, how to join, and search for people you may know who are supporting the cause.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What were some things from 2019 that you enjoyed? What did you learn?

Brian: Our team is amazing. When I started, I had 1 person signed up for WVGamers and 10 fellow gamers. In 2019, I had over 30 people on the WVGamers team and most of them contributed in some way. Our core planning team consisted of about 6-9 people. They had wonderful ideas on how to get more people signed up across the state, new fundraising ideas (geek penny wars, t-shirt sales, local geek celebrities), and were typically self-driven. It was great knowing there was a supportive team that was always there helping out and took the pressure off my girlfriend and my shoulders.

I think there is a balance that we are trying to find between how many events we can successfully host. We hosted three major events, a couple dozen smaller events, and were all over the state throughout the year for various conventions. While it was great, it also put a strain on a few members of the team; so, I need to be more sensitive to these situations in future years.

Brian has gone mad, and I think he likes it…

TheCharityBoardgamer: What do you hope to accomplish this year?

Brian: On a team level, I want to surpass $9,000 raised again (partly because I want to use the OVER 9,000 meme from Dragonball Z), and I would love to draw in 3-5 more active members of the team to help attend a few of the events around the state that are just a little out of most of our teams’ range. I want to keep driving the fact that we are a team…no, a family, and everyone is equally important. I want to spend a little more time, as a captain, focusing on individual’s strengths and interests to help them find new ways to better themselves and push forward with their own ideas for the betterment of our teams ideals and the amazing cause we support.

If you would like to donate towards Brian and his campaign for Extra Life, click here.

Funkoverse: As the Kool-Aid Man would say “OH YEAH!!!”

Game: Funkoverse Strategy Game (Batman, Harry Potter, Rick and Morty and Golden Girls)

  • Publisher: Funko Games
  • Designed by: Prospero Hall
  • Ages 10+
  • 2-4 players (though it is possible to do with 6, and is a fun experience)
  • 20-60 minutes

Remember that time in the 80’s where the Kool-Aid Man and Rose from the Golden Girls battled to the death?

You don’t? Would you like to?

Funko has created a line of POP! culture references to movies, comics, television and more. It brought back memories of nostalgia as one could see their favorite characters in a smaller cute collectible form. Now picture mashing up those characters into a battle of epic proportions. This is Funkoverse.

He who shall not be named finally gets another chance to kill the boy who lived.

In Funkoverse, you have the chance to take some of your beloved characters and place them on the board competing in one of four modes. There is control, territory, capture the flag and leaders. Players will pick their favorite POP! figures and put them on the field. As they accomplish tasks, they will collect points. Once a player has reached a certain limit (depending on player count) they win.

What makes the game unique is the individual characters and abilities. The Boy Who Lived easily gets up from being knocked down. Joker leaves traps for Bats and his friends, and Kool-Aid Man busts through walls.

Two best friends finally teaming up.

The game starts when a scenario is chosen by the players. There is Control, where you try to control areas of the board. There is Territory which is all about being in the scoring area at the end of the round. Having the most in the Scoring Area will get you bonus points. Leaders is all about taking down the leader and getting more points for it. Then there is the Capture the Flag scenario. If your team’s player is on or adjacent to the flag of your opponent, you can bring it home to score points as well. Out of these scenarios, we found that Territory was one of our favorite scenarios that we enjoyed playing. It really challenges the players to meet in a main area to fight for dominance on the battlefield.

Harley Quinn uses her hammer to get an advantage on the Bats.
Components

These Pop! Figures are well made. When looking at them, there is no real difference other than size from their larger counterparts. I could take these out and display them like any other Pop! figure and no one would know the difference. The bases also make it possible to mix and match good guys and villains on some interesting teams. My all-time dream team: Rick, Rose and Kool-Aid Man.

Target Exclusive and goes great with Black Cherry and some sugar.

The boards are double-sided and go well with the scenarios, each having a special set-up. The tokens and player cards have a nice feel.

Each character card has cute images of the characters and their own special interactions that they can use. Some thing also that adds a nice touch are the points. Rather than having a simple score card or markers on a board, you get these plastic gems that add to the experience. The dice look great and you can tell that great thought and detail went into this game. A perfect example are the points in the Jurassic Park standalone expansion. Inside each gem is what looks like a mosquito cased in amber.

These cards add a nice flair and show the different abilities of each character.
Our Family’s Thoughts

Abigail: I like the characters and how they have items that they had in their different movies and shows. I like the replay-ability,  how you can play different modes to make it different each time and you can also mix and match the different sets. The boards have different places on it from the movies and shows too. My favorite set are the Harry potter ones. Recommendation: BUY IT.

Beth: The idea of mixing characters on the wrong sets with way different powers and tools sounds too chaotic and stressful for my taste…Harry Potter and the golden girls should not interact. However, the reality of it was a fun game that can be played differently each time, however you feel at the moment. Maybe its a Joker type of day or you are in a Hermoine Granger mood. Maybe you want to control a team yourself or you want to cooperate. It takes time to learn each character and what they are capable of. You need to play points and with items in order to have an exciting game, don’t be discouraged by the basic first game play which was lacking a bit. Also be careful not to get yourself stuck in a knockdown pattern where everyturn is spent on standing up becuse that loses some fun. Try it, but maybe buy your favorite set just because its Funko. Recommendation: Try it.

Bellatrix was no match for Rick and Rose.

Chris: When playing the initial intro, I was not excited. What drew me in was that moment where were playing a scenario and Daniel and I were having a roll off for damage. It kept going back and forth and there was laughter and exhilaration as we battled. This game is a great choice for families. The art is cute and those figures are amazing. If I were to play a game with kids and their families, this one would be a great introduction to the hobby as it links some memorable characters from yesterday and today. Recommendation: BUY IT!

Daniel: I love it. I like how the characters are designed and have weapons they hold, but I dont like how some don’t have them so people often fight about the characters. Some of the boards are double sided and I like that. I like to play in territory mode because it results in more battles with the people trying to be in the same place. It’s a fun family game. My favorite set is the Harry Potter one with Draco and Ron. Recommendation: BUY IT!

Elijah: It was a little confusing about their powers and the tokens and when I could use them again. It was a little exciting because I wanted to KO people and kick their butts basically, but I didn’t because I didnt know how to use the powers. The characters are fun and weird. Ron and Malfoy are my favorite to look at even though I havent played with them yet. Recommendation: Try it.

This is a game worth getting to the table and it has a great deal of variety with the Pop! line.