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NY Toy Fair 2019 III: Tiny Pong, Porcupine Pop, The Slow-Motion Race Game, and Dungeon & Dragons: Stranger Things

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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While the momentum is still with me, let's continue rolling through pics and notes from NY Toy Fair 2019, which took place Feb. 16-19.

That's just over two weeks ago as I write this, yet it feels like forever. My perspective is an odd one sometimes as I start to feel that all this stuff in my notebook and image files is old news, whereas most of it hasn't been seen by anyone who wasn't also at NY Toy Fair. Given that this post features games coming from Hasbro — that is, titles that might not appeal to much of the BGG audience — you might wish that I had forgotten to write about them, but I find it instructive to cover Hasbro for two reasons:

1. Hasbro sells a lot of games. If you are a designer and aspire to have a game in hundreds of thousands of homes, you should be aware of what Hasbro releases. You won't have the marketing funds to achieve that level of success on your own, but maybe you can place something with an agent and things will roll on from there. If nothing else, you can be aware that these games exist and represent probably the largest segment of the game-buying audience.

2. For the most part, Hasbro releases games that are so minimalistic, each of them can be described with a single sentence. I don't mean to suggest that such minimalism should always be a designer's goal, but I appreciate the aesthetic purity of the game and game-like experiences Hasbro is putting onto the market. The games essentially package a concept — a way for people to interact with one another — and that's what you're buying. You'll bring one of these designs out at a family event, and possibly without even realizing it, other people will suddenly find themselves in a game, similar to how some people will sit around a table after dinner and spontaneously create a dexterity game with the remaining food stuff. To quote the Seinfeld episode "The Pitch":

GEORGE: What'd you do today?
RUSSELL: I got up and came to work.
GEORGE: There's a show. That's a show.

The games seemingly arise out of nothing — and of course for many people they consist of nothing as well, but that's a matter of taste, not a question of whether or not something is a game. Some people want games to mimic an interactive stage play experience — an improvisatory show in which you're the star and the playing is akin to performing — and many of these designs deliver just that.

Let's move on to a few examples of what I'm talking about, leading off with Porcupine Pop:

In this Pie Face-like game, players take turns rolling the die, then pressing the porcupine's nose a number of times equal to the number rolled, hoping that its Nerf dart quills aren't shot into their face while doing so.

In the vein of Don't Wake Daddy, Plumber Pants challenges players to hang stuff on the plumber's belt without joggling him too much and causing his head to shoot up through the sink to yell at them.

Reach into the bowl in Blowfish Blowup and try to grab stuff out of the bowl without touching the blowfish and having it blow up.

Connect 4: Shots was a hit, so let's try Battleship Shots, which has you bouncing "missile" balls over a barrier to attempt to sink the opponent's ships. (Name and component design not final.)

Star Wars: Escape From Death Star Game! Man, did my brother and I play that a ton in our youth! Not sure I'd want to play it today, though, even with the exclusive Grand Moff Tarkin figure. What am I going to do with that? Seat him at the game table and pretend that he's playing against me?

Bop It! Chewie seems like the logical next step from Bop It! R2-D2. Each of those figures seems to be somewhat divorced from the Star Wars canon these days and more product than anything else — as with Loopin' Chewie, for example — but maybe that's my cynical adult self talking.

I don't have much more to say about Tiny Pong than what I wrote above, and I'm not even sure it qualifies for a listing on BGG at this point. Depends on the scoring system, I think, as that's what would make it a game rather than an activity — as meaningless as that difference is at times...

"Headbands buzz when you go too fast!" You don't even need a description for The Slow-Motion Race Game as the caption on the box gives it all away. Not stated: Create an experience that others will film and share on social media to advertise this game.

The Lie Detector Game falls into the "embarrass yourself for the amusement of others" genre seen in other recent adult party games from Hasbro. Many of the questions have blanks that you fill in, which allows you to increase or decrease the level of embarrassment suffered by all. If you answer a question truthfully — and they all have a yes/no format — you claim the card, and whoever first collects ten cards wins a trip to therapy.

Raising Hell, due out Q2 2019, plays like What Do You Meme?, but with players playing images that relate to kids and parenthood and captions that relate to same in order to create humorous combinations of the two and score points.

Monopoly: Cats vs. Dogs is one of many Monopoly titles coming out in 2019, with this one hitting the market on August 1. The hook of this 2-6 player game is that players will split into opposing teams, with one of those teams winning at the end of the game, so presumably you'll want to trade solely with teammates in order to maximize the benefits of that trade.

Even more Monopoly is coming in 2019, as if you had any doubt. Monopoly Gamer: Overwatch follows Monopoly Gamer in 2017 and Monopoly Gamer: Mario Kart in 2018, and like those two titles, I'm sure that multiple Power Packs will be available so that people can collect all the characters and line them up on a windowsill in their office.

The new version of Monopoly: Fortnite includes 27 new characters as collecting skins is one of the attractions of that online game.

Monopoly: L.O.L. Surprise! introduced me to the world of L.O.L. Surprise!, which seems to have a toy line, clothing line, a home furnishing line, and much more. The toy line features wide-eyed Keane girl figures from the Betty Boop school of design (oversized head that can be seen solely from the front), and the tokens in Monopoly: L.O.L. Surprise! are accessories for these toys, with those accessories being in a blind box so that you don't know what you're getting when you buy the game. Collectible toyetic play discovery — so synergistic!

Monopoly: Game of Thrones has a player count of 2-6, which seems wrong from the get-go. You need to go to seven, yes? Also, the selling point for this edition is the "Iron Throne card holder that plays the iconic theme song throughout gameplay, the first time that a music component has been incorporated into a Monopoly board", but as much as I love the Game of Thrones intro music, I don't think I'd want to hear it for every minute of an episode. The first bite is always the best, yes, with each subsequent one diluting your enjoyment.

We close our tour of Hasbro's NY Toy Fair 2019 game wing with three Stranger Things-related items, one of those being a Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set that includes the campaign created by series character Mike Wheeler, along with two demogorgon figures. This marketing tie-in is an ideal way to attract potential new players: You've seen the show, now play the game! You too can become encased in a portal to another dimension!

Trivial Pursuit: Back to the 80's asks how well I know the 1980s. I lived through that decade, so I have some recollection of things, but I don't recall this "Upside Down" at all. I think it's made up.

Finally, we have a tiny mock arcade that includes four classic arcade games from the 1980s, along with sixteen mock arcade games from that same time period. Mash those buttons, using only your mind...

Hasbro didn't have any swag to take home, but on my walk from its media center back to the Javits Center, I did run across this upright piano on the street free for the taking. Fitting it in my carry-on was a struggle, but you don't turn down free stuff, right?
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