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Board Game Remix

Even the best games become too familiar, at some point. The challenges are all familiar, and the rules have long since been mastered. Rather than let the game go dusty on your shelf, however, why not remix it?

If your family has its own set of house rules for Monopoly, then you're familiar with game remixing even if the term is new to you. In fact, remixing a game can be as simple as adding an extra level of chance to the game (by including an extra die, maybe) or by making each turn harder (by timing it, for example). Or, you can try what Amy Kraft, a freelance producer and game designer, did with her daughter's first grade classroom: Give your children a new game, sans rules. Let them create their own rules using the pieces, then challenge them to explain their new game to you.

While it's important to be able to read, understand, and use the instructions of a game as they are written, game designers acknowledge that games will be the most fun when they work for your family. In fact, many new games are mutations on old ones.

Games with remix potential:

Make-Your-Own Games Make-Your-Own Games
Ages: 5 & Up
Made By Hands, Inc., $18.95

Somehow we as parents have forgotten that toys don't have to beep, talk to us or do all the work. This inventive, uncomplicated and imaginative kit includes simple, durable elements: a game board with two blank sides, a blank spinner, a blank deck of cards, pop out shapes, three blank dice of different sizes and a glue stick - enough pieces and supplies to create two games; it even has a carrying case. A thought provoking and innovative way to play and learn.

Dreaming Dragon Dreaming Dragon
Ages: 6 & Up
SimplyFun, $36.00

The Dreaming Dragon game is a fun game for the whole family. The object of the game is to remove as many plastic lizards as you can without causing any dragon eggs to fall off the dragon. The lizards and dragon eggs sit on top of a large plastic sleeping dragon. Stacking all of the lizards and eggs on top of the dragon before playing is a fun challenge of its own. When play commences, each player uses their tweezers to try to remove the lizards. At the end, each player counts up the number of lizards they have (worth one point each) and subtracts the number of eggs they have disturbed. The player with the most points wins.

Morphology Junior Morphology Junior
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Morphology Games, $29.99

So many new games today borrow ideas and game play from previously successful games. Morphology Junior, the younger and simpler version of Morphology, is sort of like a cross between Password and Charades. You're on a team and start by trying to get your teammates to guess a secret word you've chosen by drawing a card. You can give one hint (provided by the card) plus any number of visual clues using the Morphology pieces, which include rectangular wood pieces, a black string, colored plastic blocks, wooden humanoid figures and fake gemstones.

Flash Point: Fire Rescue Flash Point: Fire Rescue
Ages: 8 & Up
Indie Boards and Cards, $39.95

Flash Point is a well-designed, incredibly-detailed cooperative game for 2 to 6 players. The game includes a two-sided game board, six firefighter playing pieces, and over 100 additional pieces to simulate various situations, people, and actions. There are two levels of play, family game and advanced game, but the objective is the same in both: save at least seven victims from a burning building. Everything happens at once, so players have to work together to deal with all the action.

Ages: 8 & Up
Gamewright, $7.99

A little bit Dominoes, a little bit Qwirkle, and a little bit Scrabble, IOTA is a fun strategy game played with tiny cards coded by color, shape, and number. Cards can be lined up in groups of two, three, or four that match (all the same) or mismatch (each one different) by feature. Players take turns adding cards into play, earning points based on the face value of the lines completed. Significant concentration is required to stick to the relatively simple rules, and as the board grows players are forced to think creatively and anticipate future moves in order to maximize points. Games can run long, but for players that have the time, it's worth the effort.

Mineshift Mineshift
Ages: 8 & Up
MindWare, $19.95

This fun strategy game adopts pieces and moves that make it feel like a more complex version of the African stone game Mancala. In the starting and easiest configuration, players lay down 10 tiles in a designated pattern, each getting a home tile on opposite sides. Each player gets four "jewels" that he needs to move across the tile configuration to the opponent's home tile. Each turn consists of three moves-either one move for each of the three different jewels, one jewel three times, or any combination. But there are obstacles. Not only do the tiles have different layouts of "rock walls" on them which the jewels can't cross, but players can use any or all of their moves to turn any tile a quarter turn, which can block the opponent's next moves with a rock wall. Like Mancala, despite being seemingly simple, this is an addictive game that tests strategic thinking. And the bonus: A typical game last only about 20 minutes.

Asara Asara
Ages: 9 & Up
Ravensburger, $39.99

Asara is a strategic board game for two to four players who each assume the role of an architect in a magical realm of "thousands of towers." Think Aladdin the Architect and you won't be far off in concept. The rules are extensive and complicated, at least at first, requiring several readings to get the drift. But don't let that intimidate you, because the actual game play is relatively simple going forward. Part of that learning curve relates to the number of pieces, which include many high-quality cardboard cards, and the multiple options a player has during each turn. But once players get the hang of it, the game flows well. Ultimately, this is a successful strategy game that requires players to focus hard on somewhat complex rules and options while glimpsing ahead to what future moves are needed to out-build their opponents' towers.

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