Toy Fair 2003 – page 2

Green Board Games Company display unit for card gamesThe Green Board Game Co produces fine children's games with a strong educational element. On the stand this year were production games that were only seen in prototype last year: Constellation, in which players race across the night sky with some great pewter spaceship playing pieces; and Treason in the Tower, a family board game of stealing the Crown Jewels, also with some great pewter playing pieces.

There were several completely new games as well. Your Number's Up is a game of sums. The first player lays a number as the first in the equation shown on the board (e.g. x + y = z). Subsequent players try to complete the equation correctly. Whoever plays the last card wins the 'trick' – and cards left in your hand are penalties at the end of the hand. Two new card games are aimed at improving arithmetical skills: Fraction Action and Times Table Snap. Both packs can be used to play Snap or Pairs. The first contains different ways of expressing fractions: '½', 'half', '0.5'. So the players have to recognise the equivalence of these to play the game. The same principle underlies the second game, but here the cards show '8x3', '6x4' and 'twenty-four', for example. All of these are aimed at children and the educational market.

Hasbro is, of course, the biggest thing at the Toy Fair, but games are only a small part of their range (under the MB and Parker brands plus TSR and Wizards of the Coast). This year's new games include ProJax, a version of Jacks, and Twister Moves, a Twister variant using dance steps. Aimed at kids are Jungle Book versions of Twister and Matching Pairs.

From WotC there's the Subbuteo Trading Card Game – an extension of the TCG idea that capitalises on a well-loved Hasbro name. Family games include Globetrotter Trivial Pursuit, Simpsons Monopoly, Wonders of the World Monopoly and Deluxe Monopoly. Completely new is Knowing Me, Knowing You, in which players are asked questions about other players. You score points if you give the same answer as the other player – and find out who you match best with.

There's also an expansion set for Lord of the Rings Risk and the Dungeons and Dragons Board Game. Once again, there was no sign of the Avalon Hill range that Hasbro publishes in the USA. Magic: the Gathering is being revamped for its tenth year with a different card design for the Eighth Edition that's due out at the end of July.

Hobbygames were present to show the range of products they distribute in the UK. This includes Decipher's trading card and role-playing games – notably The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game – and Wizkids' Hero Clix and Mage Knight.

Having started with NametraiN a few years ago and word game Wordrop last year, Qfree Games is expanding its range considerably this year. Words and Letters is Snakes and Ladders with an educational twist and aimed at young children. But the main expansion is a set of six traditional games (Ludo, Draughts et al) packaged as "Games in Books". The box is formatted as a book. It opens to provide the playing surface and closes to store the playing pieces.

I didn't bother with the Ravensburger stand. The UK company concentrates on children's games and rarely brings in the sophisticated board games their German parent is famous for, let alone anything from their strategy games subsidiary, alea. For gamers, Ravensburger's stand at the Nuremberg Fair is always much more interesting.

Re:creation are publishers of Cranium, which they were busy promoting again, along with CadooΈ the children's version of the game.

Risk Takers returned with Incarceration, their family board game of prison life.

Toy Brokers appeared to have just the one new game: Trotters Trading Game. This is family board game themed to TV show Only Fools and Horses.

Upstarts! is best known for its family games, starting with The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game. The new edition of this is in a smaller box and has a lower price, which may introduce it to an even wider audience. This year the company moves into trading card games with Yu-Gi-Oh!, based on the latest hit from Japan. Bargain Hunt is a more usual family board game. Based, of course, on the TV show, the game includes the twist that the antiques players buy may actually be fakes. Squad Seven is a performance game in which players have to act out fights and shoot dart guns at cardboard targets. The jungle soundtrack on CD acts as an unpredictable timer. Sounds like fun!

The Mummy box artChart Star is a karaoke game: players sing over a backing track, aiming to get a high position in the 'charts'. Aimed at teen (pre-teen?) girls, Girls in Love is based on Jacqueline Wilson's books and TV series. The players decide whether to date, kiss or ditch various boys, aiming to avoid the geeks. The Mummy is a traditional family board game based on the cartoon TV series: players try to find the Dead Sea scrolls and avoid the mummy.

As well as its own productions, Upstarts! handles production and distribution for several other publishers. I've already mentioned Britannia Games above. Other games this year include Tinderbox Games' Classic Scrabble. This is in the familiar green box and contains wooden tiles and racks. Presumably Tinderbox has picked up the game from Mattel, who bought Spear's years ago and no longer seem to produce any games. And there is a new edition of The London Game Company's Rapidough.

Westnedge Games no longer distribute Gigamic's range of fine abstract games in the UK, which means that their product range is now traditional games and decks of cards.

Winning Moves had yet more local editions of Monopoly and Top Trumps decks plus Monopoly and Cluedo card games, but none of the interesting games that the company produces in Germany.

Click here for the next page of my Toy Fair 2003 report

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Note that games are often described by reference to other games. This is purely for comparison and does not imply that any game has been copied from another.

Page created 1st April 2003. Last modified 24th June 2005.
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