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Tabletop Game Review: Tacocat Spelled Backwards is Tacocat

Whether you have board games that you circulate or have them in your teen area for teens to sit down and play, I’m here to share real tween and teen thoughts on board games that we play and share here. There are so many ways you can use table top games in your library. Today we’re talking on TacoCat Spelled Backwards. It’s by the makers of Throw Throw Burrito, which we previously reviewed here.

For the purpose of this review, I’m going to refer to this game as TacoCat, which is a palindrome. A palindrome spelled backwards is still the same word and it informs the structure of this game. Who wins each hand determines which direction the tacocat piece moves. The board is like a giant palindrome and the goal is to get the tacocat into your winning space.

The first thing you need to know about this game is that it is only a 2 player game. But it’s quick, so you could definitly use it with multiple players if you rotate new contestants in.

When you open TacoCat, it looks like this:

The box is the board. It’s kind of a board game/card game combo. You start in the middle of the board and you play each hand. The winner of the hand moves the tacocat piece towards their end. If it’s a tie you move the tacocat piece in the direction of the arrow. Your goal is to get the tacocat down into your winning zone.

The number on the space indicates how many cards will be in the hand. You will deal the cards and you start each round with a duel. You want to try and win the round so that you can set the tone for the next challenge. The highest card wins initial rounds, think War. The winner of the initial duel will then lay down a card and try and force their opponent to sacrifice their lowest cards.

Your ultimate goal is to try and hold on to the lowest card possible because the lowest card wins the final round. So there is strategy at play here.

So you do the first hand as a duel. Say Player 1(P1) lays down a 12 and Player 2 (P2) lays down a 2. P1 has won this duel and gets to lay down first the next round.

In the next rounds, you want to lay down your highest cards and try and force the other player to sacrifice their lowest card. If P1 lays down an 11 and P2 can’t beat that 11, then they have to sacrifice their lowest card. You are trying to maintain control of the game and get the other player to sacrifice all of their lowest cards.

In the last card, both players lay down and the lowest card wins. Up until this moment, the highest card wins. But at the end, the lowest card wins. You want to hold onto your lowest cards as much as possible.

If both players lay down, say a 6, then it’s a tie and you follow the direction of the arrow on the board. There are little tiles to place on each space as you play it. The game lasts anywhere from 4 to 8 hands.

This game is quick, easy and FUN! I highly recommend it. At regular price the game costs about $15.00. If you can, buy multiple copies of the game and host a bracket tournament. I think the quick play of it really makes it a great addition to libraries.

MakerSpace: DIY Games

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We host a monthly teen videogaming program at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County and we recently bought a Nintendo Switch to add to our array of video gaming equipment. I’ll talk more about the Switch soon, but as a new system it isn’t cheap and the games that you can buy for it aren’t cheap either. But we now have 3 video game systems and even with this number of systems and controllers, some teens still find themselves waiting for their turn to play and as you can imagine, waiting is boring. The fundamental drawback to teen videogaming in the library is the cost of the equipment and the wait in between times you get to play.

Our teens have asked for board games to play while waiting, but a large number of the games they have requested are expensive and they often don’t accommodate a lot of players, which would mean we would be spending a couple hundred dollars on board games. I know that lots of public libraries have board games and use them in their programming, but this hasn’t been something that our administration has wanted to invest in because of the cost and issues of lost pieces, etc. Plus, we are currently investing a lot of money into our Teen MakerSpace. But we have an excellent Teen MakerSpace so I thought, let’s address this teen request and get teens involved in making. My grand idea: we could combine the two and help teens create their own games to play. Thus, we started working with teens on DIY Games.diygames8Here are five ways that you can encourage teens to create and make their own games.

1. Coding

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Code Your Own Games!: 20 Games to Create with Scratch

Whether you are using a PC, a laptop or a tablet, a lot of coding apps use the idea of game creation as a learning basis. Scratch is a free program from MIT that encourages game coding. And as you can imagine, there are lots of coding and gaming books out there to help teens to get started and thinking about game creation. This is, of course, the most difficult and challenging level of gaming. It’s not just thinking about the game design and play, but you have to learn the fundamentals of coding to get your game created. You can also use popular games like Crossy Road, Roblox and Minecraft that your teens are already playing to learn more about coding and game creation.

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2. Bloxels

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Bloxels – Build Your Own Video Games

Bloxels is a kit you can purchase that is designed specifically to be used with a tablet to create your own video games. You use little blocks  to create characters and layouts on a grid base and then upload them to create a gameboard. It’s similar to the idea of making a stop motion animation video by capturing a lot of pictures.

3. Build Your Own Pinball Machine

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There are a lot of ways that you can build your own pinball machine. I have a kit at home that we purchased for our girls and we have had a lot of fun with it. We also worked some on building a pinball machine from scratch using random materials. It was a teen who initially came to us and wanted to build a pinball machine and got us onto the idea, but that teen eventually lost interest in the project because building one from scratch is a longer, time consuming process.

How to Build an Arduino Pinball Machine: 15 Steps (with Pictures)

MAKERBALL – The DIY Pinball Machine Kit by MAKE & PLAY

Raspberry Pi-Powered Pinball Machine | Make: – Make Magazine

PinBox 3000: Unbox Your Imagination! | DIY Cardboard Pinball Machine

How to make a Pinball Machine with Cardboard at Home – YouTube

4. Dry Erase Game Board and Cards

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You can buy a dry erase game board and playing cards off of Amazon and let teens create their own board games. We used Sculpey clay to make dice and you could use the same medium to make playing pieces if you found that you needed them. Dry erase is a great medium because if you find something isn’t working out, you can just erase it and start over again.

5. Legos

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You can build a variety of games using Legos. Chess and checkerboards are the easiest and most popular. Also, Lego minifigs make excellent game pieces if you are making your own games. Trying to build your own Lego mazes is also a fun challenge.

Make Your Own LEGO© Board Game – What Do We Do All Day

10 Fun Lego Game Ideas Lego Fans of All Ages Will Love

Easy DIY Checkers Homemade LEGO Checker Board Game

If you look online, there are no shortage of ways that you can get teens thinking about creating their own games and they can be high or low tech, or some combination of the two. For example, have an empty Altoid tin laying around, you can modify it to make a travel game. You can turn popular board games into live action versions like Candy Land, Hungry Hungry Hippo or Monopoly. TLTs own Heather Booth taught me how to host a live Angry Birds game, which I have done multiple times to great success. Mental Floss has an article which shares 26 life size versions of popular board games. If you have technology on hand, like LittleBits, Arduino or Raspberry Pi, you can have teens use those tools to make their own games. And if you and your teens needing even more guidance, you can purchase one of many kits easily online.

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CARNIVAL GAMES littleBits Design Challenge

Years ago as I majored in Youth Ministry, I had to take an entire class on games. That’s right, I took an entire class devoted to learning about, playing and designing games as part of my youth ministry major. If you have ever been to a Christian youth group in the 90s, you would know that there was a lot of emphasis put on games and ice breakers as part of the youth group experience. If you were born after the nineties, congratulations you’re not as old as I am. Group games are a huge area of focus in youth ministry, or at least it was in the 90s. Christian publishers publish entire books on great games for tweens and teens, and these were in fact some of my text books. For the record, these books are also good for game ideas in general, they don’t all have a distinctly Christian focus, they’re often just games for the sake of playing games. One of our assignments for this class was to create our own game from scratch. For the sake of this assigment, our game had to have an underlying purpose – what message were we trying to teach with the game? – but the actual assignment was to create a game. At the time, I thought it was an absurd assignment because they had made me purchase books and books of games and icebreakers. Why did I need to create my own games when there are books of them available? Little did I know at the time, but a lot of my professional career would be about trying to design or adapt games to make engaging teen programs. I do it for the library and not a church, but it turns out I would use that class a lot in life. And now not only am I designing them, but I’m giving teens the tools and resources and am asking them to make their own.

DIY games are a fun and entertaining ways to get teens making and in the end, they have a game designed by them to play with their friends. All in all, it doesn’t suck.

Book Review: The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

Publisher’s description

gauntletA trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Bangladeshi Farah Mirza plays lots of board games with her family, which is good, because she’s about to play the game of her life. On her twelfth birthday, The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand, a mysterious board game, appears. It’s wrapped up like a gift, which she thinks is from her aunt, but she quickly learns that that the game seems to have a mind of its own and has somehow found its way to her. Farah figures she’ll play the game quickly with Essie and Alex, her best friends, then return to her birthday party (though she’s in no real hurry—the party is mostly populated with people from her new school, where she feels out of place as the only girl in a hijab). But before she knows it, her little brother, 7-year-old Ahmad, disappears into the game. Farah and her friends will need to win the game to destroy it and rescue Ahmad. If they lose a challenge, they’ll have to stay in Paheli, the game’s city, forever. They’re warned that there are time limits, to watch out for surprises, and also cautioned that the game cheats. The three kids must work together, plan, play games within the game, and outsmart others. Just when it seems like they are making progress, obstacles crop up, making it feel like they may never get out of the game and back to their real lives.

 

This middle grade fantasy will appeal easily to younger readers. It’s fast-paced, the stakes are high, and the innovative world-building within the game will keep readers guessing what may happen next. A solid debut and a very welcome addition to the growing field of books starring Muslim main characters. 

 

ISBN-13: 9781481486965

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 03/28/2017