Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2018 Part 5: Toys and Other Gifts for Kids (Part 2)

Kid-Friendly Board Games and Technology

Dec 10, 2018 By Mark Redfern and Austin Trunick Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Web Exclusive
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Welcome to part 5 of our Holiday Gift Guide 2018, in which we highlight toys and other gifts for kids and their parents, including books, DVDs, board games, technology, and more. We were sent so many cool things to write about that we had to split the post into two parts, our website couldn't handle one post as long as our Toy Gift Guide. So here's part 2, which features kid-friendly board games and technology. Then click here for part 1, which covers kid-friendly toys, DVDs/Blu-rays, and books.

I've been a parent for going on six years now and many of our writers, including Austin Trunick who contributed to this guide, are parents now too. When my future wife and I started Under the Radar way back in 2001 we were in our 20s and weren't really thinking about kids yet. But I imagine that as some of our readers have gotten older they've had kids too. Thus last year I had the thought to expand our annual Holiday Gift Guide to do a segment for toys and other gifts for kids and their parents. It was a success and so we're at it again this year. Even if you're not a parent, you might have a niece, nephew, younger sibling, or godchild to buy a gift for this season.

Obviously you know your children and their tastes better than we do, and no doubt kids have written lists to Santa or otherwise given you some ideas. In the guide below we have included some branded gifts that are likely to be on some of those lists, as well as some more outside of the box ideas we're really excited about. Some of the gifts aim to educate and prepare kids for the future, others are just plain fun.

We have previously posted part 1 of our 2018 gift guide (for video games), as well as part 2 (for board games), part 3 (for technology), and part 4 (for collectibles). And in the next week or so we will still also be posting more gift guides centering on DVDs/Blu-rays, music box sets and reissues, apparel and household items, and books and comic books. And don't forget that Under the Radar subscriptions also make a great gift. Plus donating to the charity of your choice in the name of the gift receiver is also a good way to go.

Board Games:

 

Big Money (Wonder Forge)

RRP: $19.97

Big Money is billed as "The Game of Risky Rolls & Fabulous Fortunes." It's kind of a game for a future investment banker or property tycoon. You "earn dough with every roll" and then you buy various businesses, ranging from a rock music festival to a movie studio to a monster truck show to a candy factory. You decide how much money to risk and the one with the most money at the end wins. It's for 2-5 players aged 8 and up and should take 30 minutes to play. Before playing, just remind the young ones that in real life greed actually isn't good. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here. 

 

Disney Villainous (Wonder Forge)

SRP: $39.99

One of the reasons for Disney's long-lasting success has to be how often their movies' villains are every bit as memorable as the heroes. In Disney Villainous, you get to step into the shoes of one of six famous bad guys, including Ursula, Captain Hook, Jafar, Prince John, the Queen of Hearts, and Maleficent. (We'll guess that future expansions will add other iconic characters like Gaston and Scar.) Each baddie has their own, specific goal to win-and a unique deck of cards to play with, ensuring that each player stays within the universe of the film they're playing. This is a game with some meat on its bone, where planning your next step is a necessity and it's best to keep your attention on more than one opponent. Because of that, it's perfect for the more grown-up Disney fan. (In short, it's not overly kiddie-fied like so many Disney-themed games.) On top of that, the production value is fantastic-the card art, in particular, does a wonderful job of conjuring the atmosphere of each movie. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

 

Five Little Fish (Ravensburger)

RRP: $19.99

Five Little Fishes is a good one for younger kids. It's recommended for ages 3 and up. It's essentially a memory game. Kids turn over a lily pad card and then have to use their fishing poles to catch the fish that matches the card. When they pull up the fish the retractable tail comes out to reveal if it's the matching fish. If it is, then you keep it, if it's not then you put it back and try to remember which fish is which for next time. The player with the most fish at the end wins. It can be played by 2-5 players, should take 15-20 minutes, and is a lot less messy and smelly than real fishing! By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Home Alone Game (Big G Creative)

RRP: $19.99

Home Alone may be 28 years old (for those of you like me who saw the film in theaters when it first came out, I bet that makes you feel old), but it has endured as a holiday classic, even if its sequels (only one of which featured the original cast) have not. It holds the title as both the highest grossing live-action comedy of all time at the U.S. box office, as well as the highest grossing Christmas film of all time at the U.S. box office (when adjusted for inflation). You can relive the movie with this game. In the two-player version you play as either 9-year-old Kevin McCallister, whose parents have mistakenly left him home alone when they travel to Paris for the holidays, or the Wet Bandits, a pair of burglars who are trying to break into his house. If you're playing with 3-4 players, then one player is Kevin and the other players team up as the Wet Bandits. Using various cards, as Kevin your goal is to stop the burglars via several traps, as the Wet Bandits your goal is to disarm Kevin's traps and collect enough loot. If the Wet Bandits collect $2000 in loot cards then they win, but if Kevin stops them from reaching that sum when the loot cards get all used up (or the Bandits player runs out of cards) then Kevin wins. The look of the game is in the style of Christmas sweaters. Home Alone Game was designed by Prospero Hall, is for 2-4 players aged 8 and up, and should take 15-20 minutes to play. Keep the change, ya filthy animal! By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

The Incredibles: Save the Day Game (Wonder Forge)

RRP: $19.99

The Incredibles made a triumphant return to the big screen this summer with The Incredibles 2, arriving 16 years after the original Pixar/Disney film. Not only did the sequel receive glowing reviews, it has made more than 1.2 billion dollars worldwide. While the film is on Blu-ray/DVD now (see above), families can also experience the world of Incredibles 2 via Wonder Forge's Save the Day Game. You can play as one of the four main members of everyone's favorite super family (sorry, you can't play as baby Jack-Jack, but he is featured in the game via a die and various Jack-Jack Cards). The board is laid out like the city of Metroville and it's a collaborative game where you work together to fix problems across the city and rescue Jack-Jack each time he teleports away. It's truly a family game, where you play as a family and team up, rather than competing with each other. Let's hope we don't have to wait another decade and a half for The Incredibles 3, but in the meantime Save the Day should help tide you over. It's for 1-4 players aged 6 and up and is expected to take 30 minutes to play. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Jurassic Park: Danger! (Ravensburger)

SRP: $24.9

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Jurassic Park has captured the hearts and minds of many of us going all the way back to childhood. (What kid didn't become obsessed with dinosaurs back in 1993?) Jurassic Park: Danger! goes oldschool, being an adaptation of the original movie and not based on the recent entries like most of the toys now sold on shelves. In the game, one player will take control of three dinosaurs, while three opponents will play as the human characters and work together to complete objectives and escape the island while avoiding becoming dino dinner. It's a fun use of the Jurassic Park theme, and you can read our full PLAYlist review of the game for our more detailed thoughts on it. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

 

The Storymatic Kids! Game (Storymatic Studios/Uncommon Goods)

RRP: $30.00

These days kids are encouraged, or allowed, to watch other people's stories more than ever, be it via TV shows, movies, video games, YouTube clips, what have you. But how can we get them to still be creative and tell their own stories. The excellent Storymatic Kids! Game has a solution. In its yellow and blue box is a collection of cards: 340 of them have prompts that can help kids make up their own stories and 20 of them are blank so that kids and parents can make up their own prompts. The cards can simply be used to fuel a creative writing exercise. Or you can turn it into a game. Or parents can use them to make up their own bedtime stories. The yellow cards come with character traits. The idea is to pick two yellow cards at random and combine them to form the basis of a character. Some examples: "someone learning to train unicorns," "someone who has lost something every important," "person who is turning into an animal," "jump rope champion," "vampire hunter," "the queen's food taster," "time traveler," "someone about to get married," and "person who can talk to cows." Then you draw one or two blue cards at random, to help get the story started. Some examples of blue cards: "knock on the door at two in the morning," "oops... shouldn't have touched that," "what's that sound," "open window," "much loved toy," "book of spells," "it won't turn off," and "worst haircut ever."

Storymatic Kids! would be useful on long car trips with restless kids when you don't want them watching movies and playing video games the whole way. You could use it as a birthday party game. It could used to inspire aspiring artists to draw something interesting. Teachers could use it in the classroom. There are all sorts of applications. It includes a booklet with instructions and creative ideas on how to use the cards. It's recommended for ages five and up. Who knows, perhaps a future successful author, filmmaker, or comic book creator will trace their origin to this game. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Unicorn Glitterluck: A Party for Rosalie (HABA)

RRP: $27.99 

A new board game store recently opened up in my small town, our first such store. On our first visit there my 5-year-old (soon to be 6-year-old) daughter immediately gravitated towards Unicorn Glitterluck, which might tell you something about this game's ideal market. What might also clue you in is that the photo of the game in action on the back of the box includes a chocolate donut with white sprinkles casually sitting next to the board on a napkin. That does seem ideal accompaniment to this adorable and sugary game. It's a cooperative game where you are basically helping to plan a party to welcome a newborn baby unicorn named Rosalie into the world of Cloudland. You play as one of four unicorns with names such as the titular Glitterluck, Stardust, Marvel Flower, and Magic Swirl, all represented by wooden playing pieces. You move across Cloudland to find friends to invite to the party and collect 10 cloud crystals. It's for 2-4 players and recommended for ages 4-99, which I guess means centenarians will miss out on all the fun. As long as my daughter and her friends can play then I'm good. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Ya Blew It! (Wonder Forge)

SRP: $16.99

This risk-taking party game has proven to be a real crowd-pleaser. As a group of greedy prospectors, you and your friends will take turns revealing claims of valuable gemstones. Going around the table, everyone else will have a chance to roll a die and steal the claim; if the claim makes it back to the person who revealed it, they'll be able to push their luck and reveal even more gem cards. But, be too greedy and you run the risk of losing it all at the roll of a die-the more gem cards on the table, the more likely you will be to roll a number that makes you discard them all.

Like any good party game, Ya Blew It! isn't overcomplicated, and there's a real glee in the gambling aspect of it all. (Whenever there's a big, important roll of a die, everyone was watching.) Plus, the packaging and theme-both the box and the players' dice resemble sticks of dynamite-is far and away our favorite of 2018. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.) 

(For suggestions for even more board games, read our 2018 gift guide for board games.) 

Technology:

Guardians of the Galaxy Dancing Groot Speaker (eKids/Fun.com)

RRP: $24.99

This speaker isn't intended for die-hard music heads concerned with the best sound quality possible (its reasonable price should signal that). But it is an amusing gift for Marvel fans, including kids who might want a speaker in their room. As befitting the Guardians of the Galaxy films, it is styled like a tape deck. The plant-based hero Groot is perched on top and when music is played he moves to it. It comes preloaded with Jay and the Americans' 1964 hit "Come a Little Bit Closer," which was featured in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Groot also says his signature catchphrase at the touch of button. But you can also connect your MP3 player, Walkman, Discman, etc. to the speaker via the aux-in port so that he can dance to the song of your choice. To sum up the product, in the words of Groot himself: "I am Groot." By Mark Redfern (Buy it via Fun.com here.

 

Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit (Kano)

RRP: $99.99

A more technology dependent world remains our likely future and so it makes sense to get kids started early on learning the language of tech. We teach them to read and write, we teach them science and math, we even encourage them to learn a foreign language in school (my daughter is only in kindergarten and she's already in an after school Spanish club). But are they doing enough in public school to prepare children for potential tech careers? Well Kano has you covered. They have several products aimed at kids to help them learn some basic tech skills in a fun way. Firstly there's the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit. While the world of Harry Potter is all about magic, this toy is very much grounded in real science. Basically it's a Harry Potter wand that even Muggles as young as 6 should be able to build and work. Via an app you can download for your tablet or laptop, with a wave of the wand it can teach the child the basics of coding. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Kano Computer Kit Touch (Kano)

RRP: $279.99

These days, kids know how to work tablets and smart phones from a young age. While my wife and I try our best to limit and manage the screen-time of our soon-to-be 6-year-old daughter, she's been fairly fluent in how to basically work our iPad for a couple of years now. But how many kids know how to actually build their own tablet? The Kano Computer Kit Touch allows them to do just that. It includes all the parts and easy to follow instructions for how to assemble the tablet. But the fun and learning doesn't stop there. Once it's built, kids can learn coding, build games (such as the classic Pong), make music via Google's Song Maker, do art, and connect to the Internet to download apps. Don't just give your kid their own tablet, empower them to learn how to make their own and help prepare them for the inevitable future. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.

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