Book Reviews “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse/Sofia the First: Board Book Box Sets”

Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
Series: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse / Sofia the First
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Dates: June 16, 2015

Our Scores: 4 out of 5 stars

Personally, I am big fan of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, as is my three year old daughter. “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Meeska Mooska-tales” is the latest collection of board books in a nice box set. This contains four board books within the slipcase that showcases all your favorite characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Includes are “Goofy Takes a Vacation”; “On the Go!”; “Perfect Pets”; “Snap Goes the Camera”. If you love “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, these are a must. My daughter got extremely excited when opening this box set and screamed “FOUR BOOKS!, REALLY?” when going through it and since then these have become a must read (during potty time, more on that below).

Next up is another one of my daughters favorite “Sofia the First” in her latest board book collection called “Sofia’s Princess Adventures”. Within this slipcase, there are also four board books that feature Sofia and friends in brand-new stories fit only for your little princess. The stories include “Best Friends”; “Good Sports”; “Magic Class” and “Sofia’s Amulet”. Both of these sets have easily earned themselves as the “go-to” books for potty time. One set is in the upstairs bathroom and the other is in the downstairs bathroom and during every visit these are taken out and read. So they are getting plenty of use from our family! So, I highly recommend.

Board Game Review “Monopoly: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Edition”

I have been playing Monopoly as long as I can remember but I guess I can say that I have never actually played Monopoly till I played “Monopoly: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Edition”. Even though this is not the 80’s cartoon that I grew up with, I still love it and if you are a fan of the current Nickelodeon cartoon you are going to love it also. If you are a hardcore fan of the 80’s cartoon and not a huge fan of the new series, don’t worry because there is a Monopoly edition coming out in November for that as well.

In this edition you have the ability to take over New York City and take off featured 22 locations found in current TV series like Donnie’s Workshop & Lab (Replacing Boardwalk and Park Place), Rock Bottom Boxing Club, Antonio’s Pizza-Rama, Kraang’s Lair, Shredder’s Hideout and Splinter’s Dojo. Instead of only traveling by trains in the original game, here you can travel in high tech turtle mobiles like the Patrol Buggy, Foot Clan Bike, Stealth Cycle, and ShellRaiser from the series.

There are six new collectible tokens included. Of course, you get the choice to either play for the side of good or the side of evil (or even Pizza). The tokens included are Kraang, Spike, Throwing Star, Mutagen, Shredder’s Mask, and of course PIZZA. The classic Chance and Community Chest cards are translated into Allies and Enemies cards.  This edition features  not money but Turtles cash featuring your favorite characters: $1.00 Shredder, $5.00 Raph, $10.00 Leo, $20.00 Mikey, $50.00 Donnie, $100.00 April, and $500.00 Splinter.

I was a little taken back that you couldn’t necessarily play with a token as each of your favorite turtles but I commend the brave choice to shake things up and be a little brave. If you are a turtle fan, you will no question find this game especially fun and creative. I look forward to sharing this game with my daughter as she grows up. She is two years old and already a huge fan of TMNT, so this will be popular game for sure in our house (or at least until the 80’s cartoon version comes out).

 

Jeff Lowe talks about the world’s first digital capture board, SMART kapp

Jeff Lowe is the VP Enterprise Sales & Marketing, SMART Technologies. SMART Technologies Inc., a leading collaboration company and global provider of visual collaboration solutions, recently announced a new product called, SMART kapp, which is the world’s first digital capture board. SMART kapp capitalizes on the company’s 20 year history as the inventor of the SMART Board® interactive whiteboard, their collaboration technologies and their patents. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jeff about this amazing new product and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got started with at SMART Technologies and your role with the company?
Jeff Lowe: I have been at SMART for a little over two years now, after a career in large technology organizations like IBM and TELUS. SMART has two distinct business units, one is the K-12 and the other is corporate or what we call Enterprise market. I am head of sales and marketing for the Enterprise market. We help companies to collaborate better with their workers whether they are in the same office, same city or across the world.

MG: Give us the lowdown on creating the world’s first digital capture board, SMART kapp?
JL: When you look at what collaboration tools companies are using, almost every company uses dry erase boards and flip charts. They have been around for decades and haven’t changed much, if at all, while other tools have adapted greatly to how far we have come in technology. That is one side and the other is informal collaboration, which is really growing. It is the preverbal water cooler conversations and the meetings that happen in between meetings, this is where a lot of work is being done these days in corporation around the world. So we feel that due to these things there are new tools required to grow and advance.

MG: What are some of the features that you are most excited about?
JL: I would have to mention three. The first is the ability to capture what is written on the board in real-time. Often times what happens in a meeting is that people are jotting down their ideas and then that information then needs to be captured. This can happen via one of two ways, either someone has to come and write it up or people take a photo with their phones. It is often not an ideal way to capture that information. On the kapp board you can literally just hit a button and capture what is on the board in a high quality digital image like a JPG or PDF. The next one is to be able to share that with remote workers. How often during meetings do we have remote people on the phone, who are trying to follow a meeting but cannot see what is being written on the board, so they become disengaged. Sometime people will take a photo of the board and email it to the remote workers. What we are able to do with the kapp board is you can scan a QR code, which launches your email on your mobile phone that is paired with the board and you send an email which invites them to the kapp meeting. There is nothing that the remote worker even has to have installed. They open a browser and can watch in real time the annotations taking place on the board.

MG: Since it is glass; how resistance are we talking to scratches and other wear and tear?
JL: We have thought of that. It made with tempered glass. It is pretty heavy duty glass. One of the great things about glass is how easy it is to write on. It is very smooth and elegant. It also is easy to erase it. We all know how dry erase board have issues with old things left on there that can’t be erased. That all goes away with the glass surface.

MG: Are they any features that are going to be added in at a later time?
JL: Yes, that is a fantastic question Mike! This is version 1 and we are looking to launch the next version already with the next few months with shipping to begin start of the next year. Some of the features you will see is size. The current size is similar to a typical dry erase board or flip chart. We are looking to introduce one in the 80+ inch range. The second is colors. Right now, the color of the ink is only black. In the future we are planning on including other colors. We are also looking to expand features with the software application itself, for example things like print to text conversion and expanding on the number of concurrent users that can connect to a meeting, which is right now five.

Top Board Games for your Christmas List!

Still not sure what to get that hardcore board gamer in your family for a present? Don’t want to just go the impersonal gift card route? Well, here’s my top four for the person who is really into board games:

#4: Well, I suppose I should have called this my top five, because four is a tie between “Alien Frontiers” (Game Salute) and “Star Trek Catan” (Mayday Games).

Both are what we call ‘resource building’ games and depend on your resources to build up your settlements. “Alien Frontiers” uses dice as the actual ships, and you place them in various builder positions based on your rolls, while “Star Trek Catan” uses the dice rolls to correspond to randomly placed tiles that make up the game board which you them place on to determine what resources you get. Both games end in victory points based on what you’ve built, and both have strategies that not only allow you to find better/faster ways to build, but also allow for some blocking of other players. “Alien Encounters” does this more so as you can place your dice where you want, as opposed to “Star Trek Catan,” where blocking is based on random dice rolls. While both are space exploration/expansion games, “Alien Frontiers” gets a bit of an edge in that you have more control over what happens since you have more control of what you do with the dice rolls, but “Star Trek Catan” also gets an edge because, well come on…it’s “Star Trek”!! You get to build starships and space stations and even use the original crew members for their special abilities that help you throughout the game.

#3: “Pathfinder Adventure” Cardgame (Paizo Publishing)

This game is very well done!! It combines so many elements of other games while being quite original and exceptionally versatile. The game is essentially a dungeon crawl game, but unlike other dungeon crawl game, there are no little miniatures or card board-cut outs to move around on a dungeon/game board. Instead, it’s all cards. Imagine “Dungeons & Dragons” as a card game. This is truly a cooperative game, the party has to work together to defeat the scenarios, but you also get to customize your character/deck to start and then continuously build your character/deck as you go through different adventures/scenarios/campaigns. The greatest part of this game is you can play a short 45-minute scenario, a 3-hour adventure, or an entire campaign that can last a week, a month, a year…etc. Not only that, but you can play with different play groups and keep your character along with the deck you’ve created by printing out a card/deck list off of the Paizo website, or play a completely different character, yet still save that one for later with a different deck list. Future expansion will probably keep this game fresh for years to come.

#2: “Thunderstone” (AEG)

This game just squeaks ahead of Pathfinder based on its pure addictiveness. It’s a deck building game with a High Fantasy (and somewhat Sci-Fi) taste to it, where every player starts with the same cards in his/her deck, but then builds their own unique decks based on decisions throughout the game. You gain heroes, weapons, equipment, spells, etc, to defeat monsters and gain victory points. The best part of this game is that each game you play is randomized, so you never have the same game choices. Each game is completely different in what it has to offer based on what random cards are used in that particular game. My playgroup seriously played this game for three days straight when we first got it. So much fun!!

#1: “Lords of Waterdeep” (Wizards of the Coast/Avalon/Hasbro)

Why #1? Simply because this is the game I play the most. It’s like one of your favorite band’s CDs, you just keep coming back to it after trying something else. Another resource building game (this one placed in High Fantasy “Dungeons & Dragons” settings), in this game each player collects different resources for different quests to gain victory points based on completed quests. Different from most resource building games, each player isn’t trying to collect the same items, as each quest has different requirements. To make it even more fun, you get bonus points at the end of the game based on which random ‘Lord’ you are for the game, so players have a chance to jump ahead in points at the end of the game. Again, a different game every time because of the random set up of Lords & quests, it keeps anyone with a short attention span entertained. I was introduced to this game at GenCon (nerdom’s annual amazing gaming convention), and I haven’t looked back since.

Next time…COMICS!!

Bear Wolf operates the New Game in Town shops in Dekalb and Dixon, Illinois
Visit them at www.newgame-intown.com

Book Review “Kiss, Kiss Good Night” by Kenn Nesbitt

Author: Kenn Nesbitt
Illustrator: Rebecca Elliott
Board book: 12 pages
Publisher: Cartwheel Books
Release Date: August 27, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

A snuggle, a hug, a kiss, a nuzzle. What wonderful ways to show you love someone. “Kiss, Kiss Good Night,” is a warm, loving, cuddle-inducing book. The animals in this book are all going to bed and before they fall asleep, their mothers each give them a sweet sign of love. There is nothing better than a mother’s love, especially at night. Kenn Nesbitt captures just what it means to love and be loved.

Rebecca Elliott is an incredible illustrator. She beautifully portrays a mother’s love with her adorable animal pictures. In every furry detail, there is a bit of love. This is a wonderful bedtime book. I can’t wait to read this to my daughter every night!

Book Review "Star Trek The Next Generation: On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise"

Author: Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Barron’s Educational Series
Release Date: March 1, 2013

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Being a big Star Trek fan-or Trekkie, I just had to add this latest book to my collection. The U.S.S. Enterprise is represented all around my office with model, toys and even Christmas ornments. So if you are a fan of “Star Trek” then who wouldn’t want to be transported to the Final Frontier for a 3D tour within this book? I have to say I was hoping for a little more since this book really is putting its audience under the age of 12.  Nonetheless, I like to consider myself young at heart.  This brand-new book contains a detailed 48 pages contains a 3D tour of everyone favorite way to cruise through space, the U.S.S. Enterprise.  This year is a big year for “Star Trek” with “Star Trek: Into Darkness” coming out this May, as well as the 25th anniversary of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”,  so fans are sure to be on “Star Trek” overload.

As long as they are aware that it is rather short and aimed at a younger audience they should still be left satisfied. If you are a new “Star Trek” fan or a life-long fan, this contains the history of the starship Enterprise in detail and with very sharp illustrations.  I was excited to get a chance to see the Enterprise from new angles and it almost feels like you are a fly on the wall. So what can you expect to see inside the ship? How about the ship’s bridge, the captain’s chair, the main consoles, as well as their Starfleet members living quarters.  Even though the book is only 48 pages, there is still some decent information packed into it.

So if you are left wanting a little more from this book, it also contains a CD-ROM, which gives a digital detailed tour of the Enterprise . This software program was developed along with the creators of the “Star Trek” sets that were used in the films and on the television series, so you know that it is accurate.  I feel that this kind of makes up for the length of the book and gives the reader an added bonus. Speaking of accuracy, the book is authored by Michael Okuda, and his wife Denise.  In fact Michael was the scenic art supervisor for “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, and the designer of the ship’s control panels, computer readout animations, and other features. So that also shows the book is in good hands. Like I said, try having a fan pass this up.