Author: kathryn

Congratulations to Sage Explorers in Lake Forest, IL for Winning December’s Store of the Month

Congratulations to Sage Explorers in Lake Forest, IL for Winning December’s Store of the Month

IMG_0001If you’re ever in the neighborhood of Lake Forest, Illinois be sure to make a stop at Sage Explorers toy shop. While its doors only just opened in September, this place is well on its way to becoming a town staple. With its quick acceleration to the top and a focus on educational learning, Sage Explorers is more than deserving of our December Store of the Month award.

Lake Forest has been a town without a toy and game store for many years, and Sage Explorers has brought the fun back into the community. With only a few months under their belts, the people of Lake Forest have quickly embraced this shop and all it has to offer. Those seeking a new game or toy no longer have to journey far to satisfy their wishes and as a result, you can expect to find the store busy with kids stopping by after school for a little fun, or grandparents picking up a treat for their grand kids. Being able to cater to such a diverse range of people is just what makes Sage Explorers so special!

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Demonstration tables throughout the store are one of the keys to their success!

While Sage Explorers offers toys and games that will keep the kids entertained for hours, they have so much more. The owner, Allison, has been a educator for the last 12 years, so you can be assured that she knows a thing or two about educational fun. She knows that games can help develop a young mind and that building strategic skills is something that parents, educators, and kids should all get excited about. As a store that values the learning process, many teachers within the community have found Sage Explorers to be a great resource for classroom materials. They also have tutoring available for children, which provides them with another chance to make a difference in their community.   Allison declared that one of her favorite educational games to recommend is the Super Genius line, since it’s so easy to integrate within any curriculum and keep students engaged.With everything you need to promote education, there is no question why the store has seen such great success.

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Sage Explorers accepting the Store of the Month award.

Of course we had to ask which Blue Orange game is Allison’s personal favorite. She’s a big fan of Flash, since it’s such a great way to get kids focuses on arithmetic while nurturing their motor skills. On the other hand, she’s noticed that customers go crazy for Go Go Gelato. It’s easy game play and flexibility to adjust to any age or skill level make it a favorite with her customers!

When asked what makes a great game, Allison stated that it’s all about how easy it is to teach. Customers, from young kids to grandparents, love a game that has simple rules and is quick for players to pick up on. At Sage Explorers, one of the secrets to their success is always keeping a great selection of easy to learn games out for demonstration. Having four display tables all packed with games enables everyone that strolls by to play a quick round as they shop. This has proven effective as letting their customers play a Blue Orange classic, Gobblet Gobblers, has been an easy way to keep the game flying off the shelves.

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Customers playing Gobblet Gobblers at a demo table in the store.

If you’re ever in Lake Forest, Sage Explorers is definitely worth the visit. From educators to parents to kids, everyone is bound to have a fun time! They’re located at 647 N. Bank Ln., and will soon be available online as well.

Congratulations!

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Written by: Whitney Green

A Game Fit for a….Queen?

A Game Fit for a….Queen?

Queendomino_PackagingIf you have been following board gaming news recently, you might have heard of a little tile-laying game called Kingdomino. It won the board game equivalent of an Oscar when it took home the Spiel des Jahres this past July, putting both its designer, Bruno Cathala, and publisher, Blue Orange Games, at the forefront of the gaming scene.

According to the Spiel des Jahres jury, Kingdomino was given the award because it “lifts the time-honored principle of dominoes to a new level – without losing any of the sleek elegance of its predecessor. On the contrary: the dual mechanics of planning the far-reaching lands surrounding the castle and the clever method of selecting tiles fit together extraordinarily well, they are expertly reduced to their essential components.”

For those unfamiliar with Kingdomino, first of all buy it – we promise you won’t regret it. Second of all, the jury’s praise of the game’s simple yet elegant mechanics is an opinion shared by many in the gaming world. During a turn in the game, you select a new tile and add a previously selected tile to your kingdom, making sure to match one side of the domino to a like terrain type already in play (just like how in dominoes two sides must match in order for you to place a domino). Each turn, players select a domino in an order determined by their previous selection. It is this mechanic, coupled with the planning and strategizing required to build a kingdom within the constraints of a 5×5 grid, which makes the game so clever.

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Queendomino for sale at Essen in October.

Less than a year after Kingdomino was released, Bruno Cathala announced the next in line to the throne: Queendomino. The announcement was understated in the US. It involved a little sly product placement at Blue Orange Games’ Gen Con Booth, and a quiet BoardGameGeek.com listing. Both piqued the interest of many in the gaming world ahead its release, which happened in October at the Internationale Spieltage in Essen, Germany.

Kingdomino was launched at that very same festival, in 2016, and according to the game designer himself Queendomino was thought of soon after that. “I started working on Queendomino right after coming back from Essen 2016, so just a few days after Kingdomino was released.” It was a game born from his desire for something more challenging, as he had been playing his crown jewel for over two years before it finally launched.

“Of course, after playing a game as simple as Kingdomino 200 times, I wanted something more challenging,” he said, continuing with, “ I wanted a game with the same mechanic of building a Kingdom through domino selection and placement, but with a little more complexity that required players to be more methodical in their gameplay.” Thus, the idea for Queendomino was born.

The largest difference that Kingdomino fans can expect to see between the two games is that in Queendomino there are many more options which make game play richer and more complex. The biggest addition is the inclusion of a 7th terrain, towns, on which players can construct buildings. Cathala highlights other differences saying, “Another one is money, because in order to build you need to pay. There are many different building you can put in your kingdom, each with their own way to score points, allowing many different strategies.  A fun twist is that in the towns there are no point-earning crowns, so to get points you need to build on them.” He continues with, “There are other fun additions like towers that help you host the queen, knights that help you collect tax, and a dragon who has the tendency to burn coveted buildings if bribed….” Needless to say, the additions definitely elevate the simplicity of the original game.

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Richer gameplay and heavier strategy require a few more game pieces than Kingdomino!

What is interesting is that during Queendomino’s development, Kingdomino’s Spiel des Jahres win was a nonfactor. Cathala elaborates on this saying, “At the time of the nomination, the prototype was already finished and validated. Then when the award was announced, Queendomino was already in production.”

While the development process for Kingdomino took over 2 years, Queendomino’s was much shorter, as details such as the basic rules, components, and illustrator were already set.  According to Cathala, “The main concern was making sure that all the additional elements made the game attractive and balanced, and not unpalatable or cluttered. In fact, the hardest part was to make it so that Kingdomino and Queendomino could be played both separately and together.”

Cathala’s work in making the game both an expansion and a standalone was well worth it, as it is this quality that intrigues a lot of Kingdomino fans. The game was designed so that you can combine a Queendomino with a Kingdomino in what is affectionately called “The Royal Wedding”. This allows for 4 players to play with more expansive 7×7 kingdoms, or for 6 players to play with the traditional 5×5 grid. Just like in the original game, Queendomino can be played by itself with 2, 3, or 4 player counts.

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Cathala states the reason behind this decision was because, “This type of game has rarely been done in the past, so the challenge of making a game that worked by itself but also in conjunction with another game was interesting to me. This also allows me to have a game on the market for the general public [Kingdomino], and another one completely independent for the more expert public [Queendomino], without the 2 games competing with each other for attention.” He continued with another motive saying, “A more personal reason was because I love playing the 2 player 7×7 variant in Kingdomino, and having both games allows for 4 players to play this way.”

Although Cathala himself, and reviewers who received advanced copies, praise the game for its complexities he still believes there is room in anyone’s game cabinet for both, as they serve different purposes.“I don’t prefer one over the other. It depends on who I am playing with and how much time I have in front of me, as Queendomino games are a little longer”.

When asked about his future plans for the Kingdomino universe Cathala teased an upcoming expansion saying, “I thought of Kingdomino fans playing with younger children, or not wanting too many more options during game play. This is the reason I am refining an expansion for Kingdomino. It will allow 5 players to play at once and will add a few elements, very simple but fun. All I can say right now is that it involves giants!”

Kingdomino and Queendomino are both currently available in stores and online.

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Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Meeple Monthly magazine.
2017 Holiday Gift Guide

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

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As the holidays approach, have you thought about giving the gift of play? Or maybe you have, but your not quite sure what to get the loved ones on your list. Lucky for you, we have put together a gift guide of 20 games from our catalog that would make excellent presents this holiday season. From old favorites to brand new releases, this list is a compilation of everything you would expect from us. We made sure to pack it full of high quality games that are easy to learn and engaging for all ages; we are certain you can find something for everyone. This year help us spread some joy by wrapping up a timeless present that can be enjoyed for many years to come.

Little Minds

These games were developed for little hands and growing brains.

Pengoloo_PackLowResPengoloo

Ages 4 & Up | 2-4 Players

Take a trip down to the South Pole with this colorful memory game. Each turn, players roll 2 dice. Then, they lift up 2 penguins to look for eggs that match the colors on the dice. Find the correct egg under a penguin and put both on your iceberg; the first to collect 6 wins!

We love it because…the wooden penguins, eggs, and icebergs are adorable and help kids work on both color recognition and memory.

 

GobbletGobbers_Pack_LowResGobblet Gobblers

Ages 5 & Up | 2-4 Players

This game plays like tic-tac-toe with a little twist. Each turn, you can place a new piece on the board, move an existing piece, or gobble up your opponent’s piece to claim the square as your own. Line up 3 in a row to win!

We love it because…the irresistible cast of characters is a great way to teach simple strategy. (Fun fact: This is the junior version of the first Blue Orange game ever made, Gobblet!)

 

Tumble Tree TinTumble Tree

Ages 6 & Up | 2-4 Players

Build your own baobab tree in this card placement game. Each animal card has its own way to be added to the ever-growing canopy- make sure to place them carefully. Avoid penalties, but most importantly…don’t let the tree-top topple!

We love it because…all the cards fit in the tin, which acts as the trunk of the tree AND the base of the game.

 

EyeNSeek_3D_Pkg_FlatEye ‘N Seek

Ages 6 & Up | 2-6 Players

Spin to win! Flip a card and then rotate the wheel to find its matching icon in the windows. But hurry, it’s a race! Spot the match before your opponents to win the round and get a point. With 6 double-sided wheels, 100 icons, 3 levels, and 6 games to play the searching fun is endless!

We love it because…. you can ditch the cards for an easy on-the-go game and play with just riddles, rhymes, or clues.

 

STEM Games

Inspire and stimulate curious minds with our logic races.

GoGo-Gelato_Pkg_Left_FlatGo Go Gelato

Ages 6 & Up | 2-4 Players

Become a gelato mixing master in Go Go Gelato! In this delicious game of rearrangement, players fill their customer’s orders armed with 4 cones, 3 scoops, 2 hands, and 1 challenge card. Happy customers are the ones whose orders are filled quickly and efficiently, so speed and thinking ahead are a must.

We love it because…. rearranging the scoops and cones is the perfect way to learn the type of logic required to play any of our Dr. games.

DrEureka_Pkg_Left_Flat_HiResDr. Eureka

Ages 8 & Up | 2-4 Players

Grab a challenge, 3 test tubes, and 6 colorful balls, and then get ready to help Dr. Eureka solve his scientific formulas. Carefully move your materials from tube to tube without dropping them and position the balls exactly as picture on the challenge cards. Each round, the speediest scientist who correctly finds the formula wins!

We love it because…. the logic and dexterity required is challenging enough for both kids and adults without causing frustration. (Bonus: This is the game that started our entire Dr. collection!)

Dr-Microbe_Pkg_Left_FlatDr. Microbe

Ages 8 & Up | 2-4 Players

Dr. Microbe needs help! Players must race to grab the correct microbes with their tweezers, and then place them into their petri dishes as they try to solve an incomplete challenge card. Make sure to follow the research rules and finish first to impress Dr. Microbe and win!

We love it because…. the tweezers and squishy microbes help develop fine motor skills, and the game pieces promote familiarity with lab equipment.

DrBeaker_Pkg_3D_FlatDr. Beaker

Ages 8 & Up | 2-4 Players

In this logic race, players move molecules around the compartments of their beaker to try and match the solutions on the challenge cards. Players must think quickly, and work fast, as they rearrange the molecules at the bottom of the spinning beaker with their stirring rods.

We love it because….rearranging the molecules one-by-one works on fine motor skills and sequential thinking.

 

Fast Action Games

Who said games had to be quiet and calm? Not us!

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Fastrack

Ages 5 & Up | 2 Players

Ready, aim, score! In Fastrack, players use the elastic band to send their 5 discs through a tiny slot to the other side of the track. Players need to work fast and aim well as they simultaneously fire at each other! The player who sends all the discs to the other side wins.

We love it because….it might be the most addicting game in our catalog; it’s impossible to play just once. (We also have an NHL®  version and a mini version!)

FyingKiwis_Pkg_Left_FlatFlying Kiwis

Ages 6 & Up | 2-4 Players

The kiwis want to go on vacation, but they can’t fly! Help the kiwi birds sneak into a fruit crate, so they can make it to their destination, by launching them with ramps. The kiwis like to sit with their friends, so make sure to line up 4 of the same color in a row or a square to win!

We love it because….what is not to love about a game where you get to launch things?!

 

Family Game Night

The all-inclusive gift; games that everyone can join in on!

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Kingdomino

Ages 8 & Up | 2-4 Players

Explore the land and expand your kingdom! Each turn connect a new domino to your kingdom, making sure that at least one of its sides connects to a matching terrain type already in play. Build up your 5×5 grid as best you can, as the player with the richest lands takes it all. This game won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award in Germany (“Game of the Year”).

We love it because….it’s simple enough for kids, but the game mechanisms are interesting enough to keep adults engaged.

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Yamslam

Ages 8 & Up | 2-4 Players

In this game, calculated risk and smart strategy will place the odds in your favor. Roll the dice to get a combination that gives you the greatest advantage. Each combination has a different point value, but only 4 chips to let you score, so grab the best ones before they run out!

We love it because….it’s a fresh twist on a classic that everyone can play.

Battlesheep_Pkg_Left_Flat_LoResBattle Sheep

Ages 7 & Up | 2-4 Players

Flock to greener pastures! Each turn, players split their stack of sheep and then move a portion by placing it as far as it can go in a straight line. Plan your moves carefully to fence out your rivals and occupy the most pastures. With multiple game board configurations, it’s different every time you play!

We love it because….it’s another great game to teach strategy, and it has a pretty awesome theme.

Heavier Strategy Games

Gifts that are sure to please any gaming master.

Queendomino_PackagingQueendomino

Ages 8 & Up | 2-4 Players

Queendomino takes the base game of Kingdomino and kicks up the strategy with additional components and rules. Tax your lands wisely to fund the construction of your towns, pick the buildings you erect carefully, and try to win the Queen’s favor – all while making sure your plans aren’t foiled by the Dragon’s flame. Make sure to strategize and acquire carefully, as others are also competing for the same lands, a stake in the riches, and the heart of the Queen!

We love it because….it takes Kingdomino to the next level, and you can combine both games and either build 7×7 super kingdoms, or have two more friends join you for a 6 player game.

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Photosynthesis

Ages 8 & Up | 2-4 Players

Plant and shape the ever-changing forest as you cultivate your seeds and your strategy. Take your trees through their life-cycles, from seedling to full bloom to rebirth, and earn points as their leaves collect energy from the revolving sun’s rays. Carefully pick where you sow and when you grow, as trees in the shadows are blocked from light, and from points. High-quality components and beautiful artwork make this a must-have!

We love it because….it’s a strikingly beautiful game that surprises most people with the strategy it requires.

NY1901_Pkg_Flat_HiResNY1901

Ages 8 & Up | 2-4 Players

Discover the game of acquisition, demolition, and construction! Rise to new heights in the famous streets of New York City, as you try to build the tallest skyscrapers in the world. Satisfy your hunger for glory and prestige as you raise your real estate empire to staggering new heights.

 

We love it because….it’s our first “big box” strategy game, and we think it’s a great way for less experienced individuals to enjoy the gaming hobby.

 

Stocking Stuffers

Games that pack big fun into small packages!

dicestackDice Stack

Ages 7 & Up | 2-6 Players

Pile up your points with this colorful take-anywhere travel game. Roll the tilted dice and then carefully stack them up in numerical order. Stop at any time while  building the wobbly tower and win the sum of the values you have stacked. Carefully place the dice and don’t let them fall, or you’ll lose it all!

We love it because….the wacky colorful dice are fun to roll, stack, and touch!

RalllyRoll_Pkg_FlatRally Roll

Ages 8 & Up | 2-6 Players

Roll the dice and rack up your points! On your turn, roll all the dice and score points based on the color of the biggest die. Decide to bank the points you have won, or take a chance and roll again! If no dice match the big colored die, you must forfeit all points won in that round. Are you ready to roll?

We love it because….it’s a quick travel game that is perfect for large groups.

TellTale_TinOnly_LowResTell Tale

Ages 5 & Up | 1-8 Players

The pictures that are worth a thousand words! Players weave wacky and whimsical stories using cards that show a variety of settings, characters, and objects. Play cooperatively, create a storyboard, or twist up your bedtime stories- the possibilities are endless.

We love it because….there is no wrong way to play!

Uturn_3DPkg_Flat_HiResU-Turn

Ages 7 & Up | 2 Players

In this game, each player picks a color and then both players take turns adding to the growing figure, one piece at a time. Adjust your strategy as it grows in 3D, and remember that each added piece affects future game play. Make sure you are the first to surround a dot of your color on all 6 sides from a bird’s eye view.

We love it because….the 3D puzzle can fit in your pocket, and is the perfect brain break to play with a friend.

 

You can find all of the above games in stores and online. As a company that supports small business, we encourage you to stop by your local neighborhood toy or game store this holiday season. To find the store nearest you that carries Blue Orange Games, check out our handy store locator.

Check out the rest of our games on our website for more great gift ideas!

Congratulations to Shananigans in Baltimore, MD for winning our November Store of the Month

Congratulations to Shananigans in Baltimore, MD for winning our November Store of the Month

imagesWhether you’re a kid in age or at heart, Shananigans in has something fun for everyone. It’s rare to find a toy store that can excite and pique the interest of all who enter, which is why the citizens of Baltimore, Maryland are lucky to have such a wonderful place to pass the time!

While its doors have been open for 25 years, Shananigans gained its unique personality 12 years ago when the Stelzer family took ownership.  David Stelzer’s 6 years of experience in the toy store industry helped him make the store an extraordinary place with his parents, Flora and Barry . It is no longer just a novelty store, but rather an experience that can be customized for anyone. Shananigans is a haven where anyone can find eclectic gifts, from toys and games for infants to anti-dementia games for seniors. It’s a store that believes there is no age limit to having fun! Blue Orange Games got the chance to interview Flora to find out just what drives this amazing store. Flora’s homemade caramels are a favorite among our Blue Orange sales team, and they are only one part of the gracious hospitality she shows whenever we visit the store.

Flora outside of the store.
Flora outside of the store.

Flora understands that it is all about the customer; some people want strategy games where you use your brain, while others want a “ha ha” game that lets them relax with a group of friends. Flora also knows that a great game can’t be too daunting, as people want to be able to learn it quickly! She personally enjoys a good game of Yamslam, but if a grandparent is looking to find something for their grandchild she might show them KeeKee: The Rocking Monkey (a Blue Orange Classic). Finding the right fit is easy when there are so many good games to choose from. With some journeying up to an hour to look around the shelves, a trip to Shenanigan’s is always worthwhile.

Two of Flora’s favorite games to play while growing up were Jacks and Pick-up Sticks. She loves that the store is able to offer both of these classics as well as other versions with a twist that keep the games fresh! Now that she is a grandparent, Flora jumps at the opportunity to play those games, as well as newer games, with her grandchildren. She remembers when the power used to go out, creating the chance to spend quality time with her family in the candlelight bonding over activities like games.

When asked about her favorite Blue Orange game, Flora had more than a few.  After 12 years in the toy industry she has become an expert in recommending something for everyone! She loves Fastrack, saying that it’s “really nice for a lot of kids that don’t have the longest attention span” because it moves so fast and has rules that are easy to follow. Another treasured game on her must-get list is anything from our Doctor Series! Whether it’s Dr. Eureka, Dr. Microbe, or Dr. Beaker, she knows that people are going to love any our exciting logic games.

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The inside of Shananigans, where all the magic happens!

Another key to Shananigans success is their customers’ feedback. Flora loves hearing from customers about their experience, as well as their favorite items. She recalled having recommended New York 1901 to a customer, and then being so overjoyed to hear back that he had been playing it nonstop. Having a fantastic management and staff that goes out of their way for good service is just one of the many reasons Shananigans is our store of the month. When locals come in looking for fun to take home, Shananigans always takes their customers’ hints and offers just what they need. A trend Flora has noticed in her customers is the resurgence of game nights being integrated into a lot of families’ busy weeks. She thinks it’s important to offer games that the whole family can get involved in, like Tell Tale or Tricky Trunks.

We chose Shananigans as November’s Store of the Month because of their wholehearted energy for fun and games. With such care taken in their recommendations, and the fact that they go above and beyond as retailers, we thank Shananigans for the splendid work they do. Make sure to visit the store at 5004-B Lawndale Ave. Baltimore, MD 21210 if you find yourself in the area!

Congratulations!

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Written by: Whitney Green

Kingdomino Cookie Recipe (A Blog Re-post from Sugar High Score)

Kingdomino Cookie Recipe (A Blog Re-post from Sugar High Score)

Note: This post originally appeared on http://www.sugarhighscore.com and was re-posted with permission. Find the exact posting here.

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Here at Blue Orange we are no strangers to our fans creating projects in honor of their favorite board game. However, when someone goes above and beyond in celebrating one of our games, we must share it with the world! Below you will find a video and corresponding recipe to make some pretty awesome Kingdomino cookies, courtesy of the talented duo known as Sugar High Score. On their blog and Youtube channel they show people how to re-create awesome baked creations that are all inspired by their favorite games. We thank them for setting the Kingdomino fan bar so high!

Chocolate Cookies

The perfect chocolate cookie recipe for roll-out cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

  2. Using a mixer, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until smooth.

  3. Add the eggs one at a time. Then mix in the vanilla. Continue mixing until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  4. Add the baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.

  5. Add flour 1 cup at a time.

  6. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

  7. Cut the cookies into the desired shapes and bake at 375 F for 7-10 minutes.

     

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Royal Icing

Ingredients

  • lbs confectioner’s sugar
  • 5 tbsp meringue powder
  • tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup water

Instructions

  1. Mix the flavoring into half the water.

  2. Using a mixer, combine the meringue powder and powdered sugar.

  3. Slowly add the water and flavoring into the dry ingredients. The icing will then become very thick.

  4. Next add the remaining water and mix on medium speed and whip until thick and fluffy. Stop mixing when the icing forms a soft peak.

  5. You can add more water as needed to reach the desired piping consistency.

Some of my favorite tools and supplies used in this video:

Tip #2 and Coupler

Joseph Joseph Rolling Pin

X-Acto Knife

Meringue Powder

Sheet Pan

Piping Bags

Gel Food Colors

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Make sure to give Sugar High Score some love on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@sugarhighscore), and subscribe to their Youtube channel so you can see which game they are inspired by next!

An Interview with Bruno Cathala: How Kingdomino became his Crown Jewel

An Interview with Bruno Cathala: How Kingdomino became his Crown Jewel

Portions of this article were originally published in The Casual Game Insider Issue #21 and Meeple Monthly’s September 2017 Issue

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Cathala receiving the award.

Bruno Cathala: Passionate gamer, celebrated game designer, and as of recent, Spiel des Jahres 2017 recipient*. For a designer like Cathala, whose ludography includes popular games like 5 Tribes, 7 Wonders Duel, and Abyss, this award is a long time coming.

With the announcement of its win on July 17th, 2017, Kingdomino instantly joined the ranks of popular past award winners like The Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Codenames. According the Spiel jury, Kingdomino was chosen because it, “lifts the time-honoured principle of dominoes to a new level – without losing any of the sleek elegance of its predecessor. On the contrary: the dual mechanics of planning the far-reaching lands surrounding the castle and the clever method of selecting tiles fit together extraordinarily well, they are expertly reduced to their essential components.”

Kingdomino plays like dominos with a kingdom-building twist. Each turn, players select and then add a new tile to their existing kingdom, matching one of the terrain types on the tile to another already in play. However, in this domino spinoff, the gameplay is elevated by the tile bidding mechanism. Players must decide how much they value certain tiles, as the selection of tiles during a round determines the draft order for the next round. The game ends when each player has attempted to complete a 5×5 grid, and then points are counted based on the number of connecting tiles and point-earning crowns.

While the finished product has impressed the public since its debut at Essen 2016, the story behind how a humble game of dominos turned into a crown jewel shows that much like building an entire kingdom, the creation of a board game is no easy feat. Amidst his busy schedule, Bruno Cathala was kind enough to answer a few questions about his game design process, the gaming world, and his crown jewel Kingdomino.

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Interviewer’s note: Answers were translated from Cathala’s native French and edited for the sake of clarity and length.

 

Kathryn Hill: To start off, what is the biggest challenge when it comes to inventing a game?
Bruno Cathala: When I have an idea, and I start developing it to create the game of my dreams, there is excitement, feelings of urgency, and a lot of hope about the playful experience I am hoping to generate among players. The biggest challenge is to keep this excitement up along the way, test after test, even when the prototype is completely done.

 

KH: During this process do you find inspiration in other people, or other games? 

BC: True creation without any external influence is completely impossible. This is true in literature, in painting, and in music. It’s also true for games. The author is influenced by his own life experience: the games he has played, the films he has watched, the books he has read, the conversations he has had. However, in my case, if all those influences do exist, they are not conscious. I never work on a project thinking ‘’Oh, I could do it as in this game… or I could do as this person did…’’ But even if the ideas coming to my mind seem very personal, I bet they are the result of a long and complex process that digests all the various influences I have experienced.

 

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Cathala signing games for fans at Gen Con 50 in Indianapolis.

KH: From your experience as a French game designer, what are the main differences between the European market and American Market? 

BC: My experience of the US market and how it works is too limited to give a straight-out opinion about the differences between both markets. However, in the last few years I have been going to Gen Con in Indianapolis. And I have to say I am delighted by the welcome gamers are giving me. I have met playful, cheerful, curious people, with whom I have become friend with, and this summer event has become a real pleasure. Thank you all for this welcome!

 

KH: Do you take the market or previous experience into account when designing games?
BC: Actually, my creative process is quite selfish. I only work on the games I want to play myself; I am my first client. Then, once my creative job is done, I start a second phase trying to convince first the editors, then the players, that they need to follow me! I never think about the market when I create my games, and that’s better. To format a game to a specific market from the beginning of its creation is the best way to create a game that will surely be functional, but probably with no soul. It is my passion for games that I try to convey (probably clumsily) game after game.

 

KH: It seems you have spent a lot of time creating games…do you play a lot of games yourself as part of the designing process?

BC: Not often enough! Indeed, I know it does sound surprising, but my close ones I don’t really like to play. I only have one evening a week dedicated to playing games, and I mainly play my own prototypes. I try to play other inventors games as often as possible, when I get an opportunity to do so. However, I do stay connected to game industry news by reading websites (Tric-Trac, boardgamegeek, Dice Tower…), watching how-to-play videos, and reading rules on the internet.

 

KH: Currently, what are your favorite games on the market?

BC: Over the past few months I have fallen in love with a few games. Captain Sonar is amazing because it gives an incredible, different and unique gaming experience to players. I like Flamme Rouge, because it’s easy, clever, end so elegant. I love Santorini, because for a fan of pure and beautiful abstract games like me, it’s a must have. I also really like Jaipur. You absolutely have to download the app, it’s one of the best ever!

 

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KH: Now moving on to your pièce de résistance; where did you get your inspiration for Kingdomino? What is the story behind it?

BC: Kingdomino’s story is different from my other games. Indeed, at the very beginning, it was a game specifically developed for a ski resort! On top of my job as a game designer for the conventional board game industry, I create games for private clients, following their specifications, for them to use for internal or external communications purposes, or as a training tool. I had already created tile, dice, and card games for this ski resort to give to people who bought week long family passes, and so when 2015 arrived I wanted another playful object that I could possibly use, and twist, to make a very simple game. Almost right away I thought of dominos. This is what led me to K’dominoz! The size of the box only allowed each player to play with 8 dominos, small in size and thickness. I had so much pleasure in playing and playing again, that I told myself it would be a shame to not try to enrich it a bit and give it a chance in the board game world.

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The inspiration for Kingdomino, K-domino’z.

I created Kingdomino on that basis and incorporated a theme, hesitating a long time between the building of a Kingdom as you know it, or some kind of farm with fields containing different animals in place of crowns. I also increased the number of tiles, added domino types, and introduced the system of numbers underneath each domino to bring an interesting dilemma for savvy players. Then came the different game play variations, of which the 2 player 7×7 is my favorite. In regards to the timing…the first little game was wrapped up within one afternoon. However, for this draft to become Kingdomino, there was about 6 months of work and dozens of tests to validate a final distribution that met my satisfaction.

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The game tiles, which center around the “kingdom” theme, featuring different terrain types and unique details.

 

KH: After the initial development period you just mentioned, are there any interesting changes or improvements that were made before production?

BC: The path from a prototype to an edited version is not always easy. One essential element to the success of this operation is the artistic direction. With good artistic direction, a complex game can seem easy, and a simple game can seem complicated.

When it comes to Kingdomino, the work started with an illustrator, who was told to draw everything from a top point of view, in contrary to my prototype which was based on buildings seen from the side in an isometric view.  At the end, to my biggest disappointment, the final result was difficult to play and the aesthetic was questionable and not very attractive. The work was completely done, the illustrator had been paid, and the game was ready for production. However, I shared my doubts and sadness with Blue Orange and they were incredibly responsive to my disappointment. They changed the illustrator and paid for the cost of the re-done illustrations. This is when Cyril Bouquet became the illustrator, drawing the buildings from the side, and adding crowns, just like my prototype, to visualize important squares.

Today I am entirely satisfied with the final result. I am sure that without this last minute change, Kingdomino wouldn’t know the success it is having today. I want to thank my editor for making this decision, I do not know too many people able to say ‘’I was wrong’’ and double the costs to correct a problem.

 

KH: It seems you and Blue Orange Games have a good relationship, how did you start working with them?

BC: The story is kind of surprising actually. Before becoming a designer I was a gamer for a very long time, mostly passionate about 2 player abstract games. In the mid-80s I completely fell in love with a game that was produced one at a time by its author, Claude Leroy, called Gyges. In 2002 I discovered that Claude Leroy, whom I admired, lived a few miles from my parents in South of France. I took advantage of a Christmas visit to my parents and contacted Claude Leroy to simply tell him all the good I thought about his work, and he invited me to his home. There I met his son Timothee Leroy.

A few years later Timothee, who had just finished his business studies, decided to create a publishing company called Jactalea with the main goal of highlighting his father’s work, and abstract 2-player games. In brief, we had met before and we have a common passion for abstract games and Claude Leroy’s work. Naturally, I immediately connected to Jactalea and a year or two later I offered them a 2-player game, Kamon. It was then our partnership was born. (Interviewer’s note: Jactalea and Blue Orange Games combined in 2013 to create Blue Orange Europe, connecting Cathala with the Blue Orange brand).

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Bruno Cathala and the Blue Orange Europe team at the Spiel des Jahres ceremony, post announcement.

 

KH: How did it feel when you found out about the Spiel des Jahres nomination?

BC: When one of my games is nominated for a prize, and even better, is awarded the final prize, it’s always for me a surprise, a joy, and a big honor. But this is more than that. In our little world of board games, I think it is the equivalent to winning an Oscar. Being part of the 3 finalists is just huge, especially because it is my first nomination after 15 years of designing games, and maybe my last.  I was happy, honored, and also a little stressed.

 

Cathala post-announcement.
KH: What was your reaction and thought process when Kingdomino was announced the winner? What does this win mean for you today?

BC: When I heard the announcement I was paralyzed. I couldn’t breathe. My heart was beating at 180 beats per minute, and the tears were not far. I sat there speechless, while everybody was jumping and crying around me, shaking me in all directions. It took me a good 30 seconds to get my thoughts back together. This is because it is the greatest recognition that exists for a game author. The holy grail. An Everest.  It is an absolutely fantastic reward, and the biggest gift the gaming world could offer to me.

 

KH: Do you have any advice for someone who has ideas about games or would like to start inventing games?

BC: First, I would say that having a game idea doesn’t make you a game designer. Having an idea is just the beginning… it’s the visible part of the iceberg. Transforming this part into a real game requires a lot of work, and the first thing you have to learn is patience. You will need to build your prototype, playtest it, modify it, playtest it, modify it again, again, and again with a lot of different people (not your family or friends who always think that what you do is incredible). You will feel excited, disappointed, excited, and disappointed, again and again…and at the end, you will have to really work a lot to write an understandable and clear rules booklet. Only then it will be time to try to contact a publisher.

 

KH: Looking towards the future, do you have any upcoming projects you are excited about?

BC: Yes, always! Regarding projects with Blue Orange, I am right now working on different avenues to develop the universe and concept of Kingdomino. And for the end of next year, I also have lots of hopes for a cool game that can be played solo, or one on one. It’s a common project with Ludovic Maublanc and I believe in it. I am quite excited about it actually!

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Bruno Cathala’s latest release with Blue Orange Games, Queendomino.

 

Check out our website to learn more about Kingdomino and Queendomino.

 

To learn more about the Spiel des Jahres, check out their website.

 

* The Spiel des Jahres is internationally acclaimed as the reigning authority on deciding the best and most accessible family board game of the year, although its contenders are games that are new only to the German market. It evaluates three finalists looking for the best design, rules, layout, and overall gaming concept. More complex games fall under the Kennerspiel des Jahres category, and children’s games fall under the Kinderspiel des Jahres category.

Congratulations to Lazy Frog in Oak Bluffs, MA for Winning October’s Store of the Month

Congratulations to Lazy Frog in Oak Bluffs, MA for Winning October’s Store of the Month

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If you’re headed to Martha’s Vineyard, you already know there’s leisure awaiting you. Nestled in this beautiful area sits the picturesque town of Oak Bluffs, which is home to our October Store of the Month winner, The Lazy Frog. If the name doesn’t paint a clear picture, then as soon as you enter the premises you will realize that this shop is your destination for all things fun and entertaining. Whether you’re heading to the beach for some sandcastle action or love a good early morning brain teaser, they have something for you! Raphael from the Blue Orange team got the chance to visit the The Lazy Frog, and was enamored by the island lifestyle and natural familiarity of this toy shop.

oak-bluffs-town-beach-oak-bluffs-marthas-vineyardWith many coming to spend the day at the scenic beaches that wrap around its coast, Oak Bluffs is ideal for lounging. As the Lazy Frog has half of their store specializing in outdoor fun and the other half dedicated to indoor fun, a quick visit is sure to be the perfect way to start any day. Stop by to pick up a Blue Orange Game, or grab a Djubi set and get ready for some time in the sunshine.

 

Much like the town, The Lazy Frog has interesting roots. Sarah and Jake, occasionally referred to as Mrs. and Mr. Frog, have always been dedicated to leisure. It was back in 2003, when the pair was visiting Martha’s Vineyard, that they noticed the quirky shape of the island; Jake compared it to a lazy Frog, and thus the vision was born! Fast forward to BI9U9MhCEAANgSV2005 and they opened their shop in Martha’s Vineyard with relaxation on the mind. Following the spirit of the town, The Lazy Frog welcomes all looking to have a good time with friends and family, similar to Blue Orange’s goal of enjoying the love and warmth that comes from spending genuine time with one another. With the beautiful coastline engulfing Oak Bluffs, tourists and locals can immerse themselves in the easy flow of slow days filled with good memories- with a stop at The Lazy Frog being a must.

 

Fastrack_GameOpenOne of Jake’s Favorite Blue Orange games is Fastrack. Having a copy that customers can play in store really allows it to sell itself, and since it’s so easy to learn anyone can become a pro with just a few matches. However, it must be warned that Jake is the “King of Fastrack”, and will not go easy on first timers. He says that “when people lose they always want to play again; then they’re hooked!” Another Lazy Frog favorite is Tricky Trunks since it so colorful and bright, it has an knack for drawing everyone in!

With thirteen seasons under their belt, the Lazy Frog is no stranger to the game. They have a perfect formula for success that starts with open doors and open arms; they know that having a welcoming environment with friendly staff and intriguing games makes all the difference. During our interview with Jake we could hear the hustle and bustle of toys and kids exploring all the shop had to offer. He even mentioned that today was a special day since they had a new greeter at the door who just happen to be a three legged dog! Whatever the case, The Lazy Frog is sure to leave a lasting impression on those lucky enough to go.

Make sure to hop to their store at 42 Circuit Ave Oakbluffs, MA 02557, or visit their website for frog puns galore. We thank Jake, Sarah, and The Lazy Frog team for having such great enthusiasm and passion for fun.

Congratulations!

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By: Whitney Green