Find Your Way With Moana In The Hour of Code

Last year, the Hour of Code Awakened with a Star Wars activity. The year before, kids were Frozen to their computers with coding and game development. In 2016, Disney has come to the party yet again; this time helping kids Wayfinding with code.

hour-of-code-moana

Right now I should be typing up a proposal for my spawnlings’ school, encouraging them to participate in Hour of Code this year. It doesn’t really matter what the school says; we’re doing it anyway. I just want to use the fancier computers at school with their internet connection, rather than my own.

It really shouldn’t be such a hassle—Hour of Code has been running for four years now, starting with a mere 70 public schools in the United States. Now they are international, with a plethora of activities available on their website: Star Wars, Frozen, Minecraft, Gumball, and much more.

This morning they announced this year’s big partnership with Disney’s Moana in Hour of Code: Wayfinding with Code.

Like Star Wars and Frozen in previous years, Wayfinding with Code is aimed at kids aged 8yo and up as an introduction to computer science. It’s available in multiple languages, is totally free online, and comes with a digital toolkit for parents/educators/organisers.

And yes, it is a big advertisement for the upcoming movie release. And I’m okay with that. I’m already in love with the movie. You don’t even have to ask about the kids.

Back to the coding! The activity itself is in the same “drag-and-drop” style popular with young budding coders. Students are asked to help move Moana and Maui across the sea, leading Moana’s people to new lands. The coding starts out with the basic commands, moving the boat in logic sequences.

moana-code

Just as the kids start to get the hang of the commands, Moana and Maui are ambushed by the adorable little Kakamora. This is where the coding takes on the next step in a dodgeball-style, and to be honest, it looks like the most fun!

kakamora

Hour of Code is happening all around the world, from December 5 to December 9, 2016. You don’t have to do it with a school. You can find someone near you already set up to go (search through the Hour of Code website). Or you can organise your own event at home with a couple of friends. All the information you need is available on the Hour of Code website, they even have a toolkit ready to go to help you along.

No matter which option you use, having fun with coding is always a win in my book. Now show me what you can do with an Hour of Code!

 

This post was originally published on GeekMom. EG Inc is participating in the Hour of Code, with a different coding activity every day this week. Share your project ideas in the comments!

Review: Monstrous (The Game)

Out of all the elements of this new game, the one that hooked the spawnlings was:

Throwing Cards Inside

Despite all of their Evil Genius training to take over the world, they are still little spawnlings at heart. Awwwww…

Of course, they also loved the mythical monsters, the references to Greek Mythology, the fantastic artwork, and especially the competition to be the GREATEST OF ALL GODS!! But let’s be honest here: Any game that allows them to break what is usually a standard rule in the house is ALWAYS going to win esteem points in their minds.IMG_0879

Monstrous was sent to me to play and review by Good Games (Australia). The deal was simply to play it with EG Inc and tell Good Games what I thought. They are familiar with my blog and my ever endearing personality – so they know they are going to have an honest and upfront assessment of this game. As will you.

So What Is It?

IT is a ‘tabletop’ game with card-throwing as a key feature. As individuals, 2 to 5 gods can play; as teams, you can have up to 10 gods fighting over the table. The box says “ages 10 and up” but 7yo Nefarious handed me my glorified derriere so I think you can safely include younger spawnlings. Zaltu (2yo) was not invited to play – I’m already at risk of injuring myself. I don’t need to add her to the mix.

monstrous1

Photo by Good Games

 

General Guidelines

All the players are gods (it doesn’t matter which god you are – if someone asks if you are a god, you say YES!). And all the gods are a little miffed about dwindling faith on Earth, with offerings and sacrifices and what-not. So Zeus commands the gods to ‘thrown down some monstrous pets’ and scare a little faith out of the pesky mortals.

The real stars of this game are the monsters – and don’t they look beautiful! I have been a fan of Greek Mythology since I was 8, especially the artistic interpretation of the mythic creatures. Monstrous is true to form.IMG_0900

Each monster has a range of powers to use, and it totally depends on which side up your card lands. There are TRAP powers, MONSTER powers, and LOCATION powers. Some of these powers release a ‘Faith’ count to you. And the god with the most faith at the end of the game wins.

Let’s Play

I’m just going to pre-empt all of this with a single statement: I am an un-coordinated git on the best of days. The spawnlings know this. It’s pretty fair to say I lost the game.

The order of events is like this:

  • Throw a Monster
  • Check for Traps (if you have landed on another monster)
  • Check for Monster powers
  • Check for Location powers
  • Collect your Faith tokens (if any)
  • Draw a card
  • End your turn

IMG_0898So, you set up the Locations. Each god has a Player Card, with instructions and guidelines (very handy). You have your Monster Deck, and your Underworld (discard pile). It is easier standing around the table when you have your turn to throw – if your hand crosses the edge of the table, your throw is discounted and your Monster is discarded to the Underworld. Position is everything; Distractions are hilarious.

See – fairly easy going game, right?

Until you have your spawnlings (and husband) start setting up traps on your closest location.

To be honest, I was surprised at how much room there was for strategy in a game I thought was just ‘card throwing’. Each of the monster powers can be used in unique ways to give you the greatest impact on the table. If you’re a complete klutz like me, Pegasus will be your best friend – he has extra throws. Gorgons have always been, and will always be, absolute b*****s. Land on one of those and your card is GONE. And the Harpy – she steals your Faith, just like the lunch of King Phineus.

However, if you’re fellow gods pick up on your inability to throw a damn card, they are likely to start setting up traps on your more … ‘reachable’ locations. Once trapped, you lose your buddy Pegasus FOREVER!! L

Did we like the game?

Oh, yes! I have never played a game that required throwing things at the table. That’s not to say I haven’t thrown things across the table in frustration, but never as part of the game. This was novel and lots of fun.

There are lots of powers and interactions to keep track of during the game, but the rules and structure of the game are very simple to follow. The spawnlings loved it and have asked for it again next weekend. The best part is, you can change the game with locations and layouts, so maybe next time I will have a chance? Unlikely…IMG_0899

If there was anything I would change about the game, it would be the value of the Faith tokens. They come in 1, 3, 10, 30. I think I can see why they went with these combinations, but for the younger age groups, it adds a little extra work. If we had 1 and 2 value tokens, we would probably need more of them – though, the spawnlings would be faster in calculations.

For a throwing game, the cards are pretty good quality. Good durable card with a smooth glossy finish that won’t fade with wear anytime soon. Even when the Cyclops misjudged his step and went skidding across the table into a nearby wall, he walked away without even a scratch.

Monstrous is available through Good Games, for $39.95. Tell them I said hi. And thanks for the Pegasus.

Pokemon: 20 Years of Taking My Money

For 20 years, Pokemon has been taking my money. 20 YEARS!! Holy crispy Charmander! The calculations are sound: My younger brothers were in the first wave of fans; the Spawnlings are in the current wave. And with the latest money-sucker game now available on my iPhone (Pokemon Go)… well, that’s a lot of money to pay-out over such a sustained period of time. What could possibly appeal to two separate generations and maintain such high levels of fandom?Pokemon-20Bday-Cake-1

Continue reading

International Tabletop Day 2016

I like it when ‘big dates’ fall on the weekends – means less time explaining to disinterested teachers and more time focused on another level of education for the Spawnlings.

Seriously, who can’t see the benefits of Tabletop?

30 April is now THE day for some gameplay. So bring out your tablecloth, set up some tunes, and get ready for some sneaky cheeky fun! Here’s our Top 7 planned for the day:

1. Munchkin Quest

This ALWAYS top of the list for spawnlings. It has storytelling; it has weaponry; it has the opportunity to gang up on parents and make their life really difficult. What more could you want?


2. Zeus on the Loose

We bought this almost two years ago but never came around to play it yet. However, recent school holidays gave us the opportunity and we love it! I’ll be putting up a review after the weekend, but short version: you take it in turn adding numbers to the pile to reach 100. There are Greek Gods who will help you along the way because who ever hits 100 scores the point. Mathematics and strategy in a card game = more fun than you’d think!

3. Settlers of Catan

I grew up thinking Monopoly was the game to teach you how to negotiate. I was wrong. So very very wrong.

Catan is probably the most famous geeky tabletop game, known in almost any geeky circle. It is about bartering your resources well enough so you don’t have to rely on the fate of the dice.

Needless to say, I suck at it. But I love it!


4. Pandemic
Not the ideal game for germ-a-phobes. I like this game because it is a team game; everyone works together to defeat the icky diseases breaking out across the world. There is some serious strategy building required, and a great opportunity to work on communication. 

What really makes the game work is the collection of individual roles for each player. Everyone has their own skill/profession to be in the game and EVERYONE has a skill that gives you a good chance of winning.


5. Tavern Fame

Minus the drinking in the bar, this is easily the favourite warm up game in the Lair. It is brilliant as an introduction to RPG and storytelling, giving spawnlings a chance to build some serious Tall Tale talents. Hardest part is allowing each kid to tell their story without the inevitable challengers interrupting.


6. Qwirkle 

Even the 2yo can play this one (with a little help). Great strategy and pattern recognition. It starts friendly, with the shared intent of keeping the game ‘neat’ – but there is always some mongrel who has to mess the neat pattern, and then it descends into a table full of jibes and defensive moves.


7. Too Many Monkeys

Another one 2yo Zaltu loves to play. Simple card strategy, collecting all the numbered monkeys from 1 to 6, avoiding raccoons, elephants, and giraffes. All three Spawnlings were happily playing this for 20mins at the hospital while the doc took my cast off. I keep this one on the side between Zaltu and I, while also playing one of the ‘older’ games with the others. It’s not a ‘baby game’ – I’d peg it around 3-8 years old. 

Plenty of games to fill your day! Remember: the primary objective is to have fun! Put the World Domination on hold for one day, and spend the time getting to know how your fellow gamers think. Show the spawnlings life is not just shoot’em up and count the credits. 

Well, unless your bartering those credits for a cup of tea…

PAX Aust Highlights: Tavern Fame

A few weeks back, I attended PAX Aust in Melbourne. It was my first time. And it was brilliant.

It was also my first time attending anything as an official writer (under the guise of GeekMom), so it wasn’t just a schmooze and cruise affair either. There was serious gaming to be had!

Continue reading

Evil Genius Tool #3 – Pokemon

In the spirit of Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/Ninjamas, I walked away from this argument. However, in the spirit of Ninjamas, I definitely knocked her down a peg or two.

Oh EG Mum, what did you pick a fight over this time?”

This woman was trying to convince me how Pokemon is evil.

Naturally I agreed with her. Pokemon really is an Evil Genius Tool. But I don’t think she appreciated my reasoning.

You see – Pokemon is evil for a couple of reasons:

Commercial Viability

Let’s start at the obvious – Pokemon is owned by Nintendo. Sure, it originally started as a Gameboy feature (remember those?) but then it’s commercial viability became a tad obvious so Nintendo bought it and started flooding anime, manga, toys, books, magazines, and my favourite – trading cards.

Druddigon-New

If there is ever a way that you want to control a generation of kids – bring it out in trading cards. The little spawnlings go uber-competitive over the varying strengths and destructive value (love it). So of course, they want to buy more cards.

And here is the beauty – you can then watch young kids learn the value of individual cards and negotiate/bargain/extort accordingly. Some of these kids could teach a few commercial lawyers I know! All the separate values of the characters, plus the damage and danger – it’s amazing to watch in action. And all this over a printed piece of cardboard. Skills they learn for life.

Educational Value

So I’ve already touched on the negotiation/bargaining/extortion skills within Pokemon. But there is more – the trading card game is quite educational on the ground level. And once you know how to exploit this, any spawnling can convince any adult that Pokemon is good. This can lead to  stacks of cards from inexperienced parents and grandparents, as well as convincing principals to allow Pokemon in schools. Old article from last year, but I have heard of the same argument being used in many schools around the world ever since.

Telling this to EG Grandma and EG Opa has scored about a dozen full-size packs over the last year between our two spawnlings. Grandparents think they are tricking the kids into educational activities; Spawnlings know they are tricking the grandparents into buying them more cards, even when EG Mum has said earn the spending money yourself. Win-win; especially as I watch on in amusement.

Strategy of the Game

My final point is on the strategy of the game itself. You have to capture pokemon and enslave them to do battles for your own benefit. A bit like recruiting minions.

Rayquaza-New

In battle, the greatest of champions have a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the characters – and the players themselves. Have you ever seen a live-battle between two Trading Card Game players? It is intense, and inspiring. There are threats of clawing your (pokemon’s) throat out; claims of dirty play; screams of agony as they run out of energy (cards); and moans of despair as the last trophy card is turned over. It’s like WWE, but without the visual impairment of seeing the players in spandex. Bad spandex.

As entertaining as it may be, the strategy is quite amazing to see. I have watched as a 7yo determines the favoured style of pokemon in his opponent, readjust his approach accordingly – and willingly sacrifice his current pokemon to ensure that he can then move a subsequent card up and smash his opponent in such a way, the poor 28yo guy sniffed back a tear.

If Pokemon teaches Sinister and Nefarious skills like this, then I think my legacy is in good hands.

Naturally, pointing out these 3 chief values (for me) to this Other Mother did not help my argument. I think the response was more like fear – quick glance at her son watching Sinister and Nefarious battle it out. So, in the spirit of Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice, I walked away.

Don’t even have the heart to tell her about Monsuno. Think Pokemon but with more genetic engineering.

But that’s a discussion for another day…

No commission, credit, or any other form of bribe was received from this post. Should have been – with the amount of money my kids are investing in this venture. Well played, Nintendo. Well played.