Too Many Cinderellas

Too Many Cinderellas   Grail Games  |  BGG  |  Amazon  

Designer: Nobutake Dogen, Nao Shimamura 

Publisher: Grail Games, Taikikennai Games  2-4 players 10 min  ages 10+   $12.95

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Prince Charming has met and lost is soulmate: Cinderella. While he searches high and low using a forgotten shoe, you and your fellow players have a different plan… to convince the prince to marry a Cinderella of your choosing! In order to do this, you will play rumor cards limiting the traits the Prince should focus on in his search. You hope, in the end, your Cinderella will stand out among the rest and the Prince will marry the person (or cat) you chose for him.

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Too Many Cinderellas is a very compact game. It comes with 18 Cinderella cards, 9 wooden yes/no tokens and 9 plastic diamonds. The cards feature whimsical art by Hinami Tsukuda.

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At its heart, Too Many Cinderellas is a light-hearted logic game. Each player is dealt four cards. Two cards will be played as rumors and two cards will be kept in-hand as possible Cinderellas for the Prince to marry.

Rumors create the logic puzzle at the core of the game. In order to understand them, we need to take a closer look at the cards.

Each card has a split identity – it can be a rumor OR it can be a Cinderella – a possible Cinderella for the Prince.

The main portion of the card shows an illustration of the Cinderella and characteristics that define this person. A Cinderella can be young or teenaged or an adult or a senior, for instance. A Cinderella could have brown hair or blonde or black. A Cinderella might wear glasses or like rice or be royalty. 

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A Cinderella doesn’t even have to be a woman. Cinderella could be a man… or even a cat!

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There are easy to understand icons along the side of each card that describe each Cinderella’s defining traits.

Remember, though, each card has a second identity or use – as a rumor. At the bottom of each card is a thought bubble containing a simple sentence. This sentence is the rumor and will begin to define who Cinderella isn’t. So a rumor might say Cinderella is not a senior OR Cinderella is does not like rice OR Cinderella does not have brown hair.

So, now that you see how the cards are put together, the game goes like this.

Each player, one at a time, will offer up a card as a rumor to the group by playing it to the table. The group will then vote on whether this rumor is true or not. Players will secretly choose a yes or no token and then everyone will reveal their vote. If all vote YES, the rumor is true and will help define who Cinderella is not.

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If even one person votes NO, then the rumor is false and will not be considered when the Prince chooses his Cinderella.

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Here’s the rub. You only get one NO vote for the entire game round! Once used, your NO token is placed on the rumor card you quashed. This means you must choose wisely when voting NO or you may end up being forced to vote YES on rumors you don’t want.

This process continues until all players have offered up two rumor cards and each rumor has been put to a vote. One final random rumor is drawn from the deck and added to the table just as if someone had played it. It can be included or dismissed depending on the final vote.

After all rumors have been voted up or down, each player offers their best Cinderella to the Prince, meaning a single Cinderella card that conforms to the restrictions laid out by the rumors. For instance, at the end of a round, the rumors might say: Cinderella is not an adult, is not dark haired and does not like cake. Any Cinderella card in your hand that avoids all these traits could be offered up as a possible match to the Prince. Most times, the Prince will have several Cinderellas from which to choose. In this case, he will select the Cinderella with the lowest value (printed in the upper left corner of the card). So your best hope of making a match for the Prince is to play the lowest value Cinderella card that fits the logic puzzle for the round!

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You can play a single game round in about 5-6 minutes as a stand-alone game or you can earn a diamond each time the Prince selects your Cinderella. First to three wins.

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The big moment in Too Many Cinderellas comes as the logic puzzle is finished each round. This moment is what sets the game apart.

Do you have a Cinderella card that fits with all the restrictions placed by the rumors?

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If one of the true rumors says Cinderella is not an adult and both your remaining Cinderella cards are adults, then you might be out of luck this round. BUT, if you’ve planned wisely, you’ll have to resist the urge to cheer when you make it through the round with a lovely Cinderella card for the Prince to consider.

Your goal is to play rumor cards that do not eliminate your own Cinderella cards from contention AND restrict or eliminate Cinderella cards in other player’s hands. The fact that every card has both a rumor and a potential mate for the Prince makes this process challenging and a lot of fun!

You have one NO, so you can eliminate one horrible rumor that might eliminate many of your Cinderellas. But this NO will only get you so far. The game nudges you strongly to pay attention to what other people are playing and try to make educated guesses about what they might be holding and how they might vote on any given card.

It’s good to look at your cards and have a plan when the round starts but you may have to switch things up if an untimely rumor slips through. In other words, the game mixes long term strategy with strategy of the moment. 

Each round you define Cinderella by omission. We learn what he or she is not, so anyone outside those restrictions is allowed. This is an important and powerful concept and the game manages to teach it in such a simple, fun way.

It’s a simple process to play Too Many Cinderellas but the game offers an engaging and ever-changing puzzle that each player can try to manipulate to his or her advantage. And if you make mistakes, the game is forgiving and short enough you will be eager to jump in again and do better in the next round.

There are a few cards with special actions that allow an extra no token or a no token to be removed and even one to reverse the tie breaker (high card wins instead of low). These special abilities keep the game fresh and allow for the rumors/rules for each game round to change a lot with the play of a single card.

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Too Many Cinderellas proves that logic games do not have to be dry or boring. They can be whimsical and fun. I love the fact that the Prince’s perfect Cinderella could be an elderly gentleman who loves books, a cat with a wig, or a dude in a dress. In fact this sense of whimsy and fun can easily take over the game. I’ve seen groups of players abandon the need to win to make sure that the cat becomes the best Cinderella for the Prince. This might defy conventional logic for some, but it tracks perfectly with the higher logic of fun.

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Side note:  kudos to Grail Games (based in Sydney Australia) for bringing this game to a wider audience. The game was originally published in Japan by Taikikennai Games in a very limited form. Micro games are an increasingly well known genre outside of Japan, based on the wild success of Love Letter and its ilk. I’m glad to see more and more publishers interested in the creative possibilities in this genre, especially when they find gems like this one.

Plexi Puzzles

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There are currently three Plexi Puzzles offered by Brainwright. They are beautifully made acrylic puzzles, all designed by Kate Jones (an exceptionally devoted designer and producer of truly elegant, and often profoundly puzzling puzzles). They are as much works of art as they are invitations to play.

Each of the three is as major in the fun it offers, each in a different way. They all include a tray (with transparent cover for storage and display), and a booklet of many different puzzles that can be explore with the pieces.

The Iamond Hex Plexi Puzzle (shown) is composed of 12 angled shapes made by combining equilateral triangles in various configurations – similar in conceptual and geometrical design to Pentominoes. The recommended minimal age is 10. I am almost 75. And let me tell you, both myself and my local ten-year-old found the puzzle to be more than sufficiently puzzling.

Then there’s the Roundominoes Plexi Puzzle – also acrylic, also beautifully made and presented with its own storage and assembly tray, offering an even greater variety of different puzzles to explore. This one is composed, as you might guess, of circles. There’s the 7 red singleround pieces (as you might imagine them to be) and the 7 orange doublerounds (two singlerounds connected), and then the 7 blue triplerounds, and an assortment of “bridges” (pairs of purple, orange and green circles with an extra thingy that fits around a round; and one light blue circle with thingy). Because there are so many more puzzles to explore, younger players (the recommended minimal age is 8) and even I found the puzzle more, well, friendly.

Finally, the Plexi XL, a set of 16 pieces built from hexagons. There’s one piece that’s a simple single hexagon, two pieces that are double hexagons, and the rest are “polyhexagons,” the shapes that result from joining sets of three, four or five hexagons in every possible combination. This puzzle is a larger format than the other two. It also has a recommended minimal age of 8. And the variety of puzzles described in the accompanying booklet is the most extensive of all.

These puzzles are, as I’ve tried to imply, not easy. But they are all enticingly beautiful, well-made, and opportunities to get deeply engaged in exploring the many the wonders of mathematical, geometrical and topological connections. For those of us who appreciate this kind of thing, these are about as Major, fun-wise, as you can get.

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Favor of the Pharaoh

Release Date: 5/2/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   48 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Roll like an Egyptian!

Favor of the Pharaoh is a recipe filling roll-and-keep dice game based on an earlier title: To Court the King. Starting as a lowly peasant, you rise through the ranks of ancient Egyptian society by rolling increasingly difficult combinations to gain abilities, bonuses, and special dice. When the final round begins, the player who rolls the most dice with the highest matching number will gain the Favor of the Pharaoh!

This is the first game to merit BOTH the Major Fun and Spiel of Approval awards! The basic game is easy to learn and adaptable for younger or less experienced players. Double sided level bars allow for more strategic and thoughtful play. Put simply, you can tailor the game to fit almost any group at your table. Familiar yet fresh, Favor of the Pharaoh is a worthy recipient of both honors and, perhaps, a spot on your game shelf, too.

Favor of the Pharaoh

Official Site  |  BGG  |  Amazon 

Designer: Tom Lehmann  Publisher: Bezier Games

2-4 players  45 min.  ages 12+  MSRP $59.99 

Special edition also available with 64 additional dice: $79.95

Music credits include:

Walk Like an Egyptian  by The Cleverlys  |  the song

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Other Links:

Capital Gaming Expo

The Loft

Snakes & Lattes on College

Ottawa Redblacks

Dr. Eureka

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Dr. Eureka   Blue Orange  |  BGG  |  Amazon  

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Designer: Roberto Fraga   Publisher: Blue Orange  2-4 players 10 min  ages 6+   $20

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The lab is a hectic place and Doctor Eureka needs the help of his trusty assistants to complete his experiments. One by one new recipes for amazing formulas come from Doctor Eureka and its up to you to mix the right molecules in three different test tubes as fast as you can. The first player to mix five formulas will earn a seat along side the good doctor as one of the best and brightest scientists.

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If you’re mixing molecules, you have to have the right equipment. Each player has 3 clear plastic test tubes. Placed in the tubes are two colored plastic balls, the molecules: two purple, two orange, and two green. The balls are made so they *just* barely fit inside the test tubes.

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In addition to your lab equipment there are 54 formula cards which have different recipes on each one. There’s also a sand timer.

TO begin, each player will arrange their molecules in their tubes so that each one has two balls of the same color: so 2 purple, 2 orange, and 2 green.  Shuffle the formula cards and you’re ready to play Dr Eureka!

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Dr. Eureka is a simultaneous pattern matching game. To begin a round, flip over the top card from the formula deck and place it on the table where everyone can see it easily. Flip the timer and start mixing!  The card will show three test tubes with a specific pattern of molecules. 

One tube might have an orange in the bottom, then a purple and then a green. The next tube is orange purple and the last tube has a single green molecule.

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Your job is to match this pattern on the card by pouring the molecules from tube to tube. First player to make the match declares Eureka and wins the card.

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There are some devilishly fun restrictions and rules that govern how you can mix your molecules.

First and most obvious is that you are not allowed to touch the balls directly. This means your main mixing method will be to pick up the tubes and pour the molecules from tube to tube.

Second, no spilling is allowed. If you pour any balls out onto the table, you’ve ruined this batch and are out for the round.

Third, each tube must match the pattern on the card BUT that’s not all.  The tubes must be placed on the table so they match the pattern as well. So the balls have to be in the right order and the tubes have to be in the right sequence.

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Last of all (and this one is tricky!) you are allowed to flip any of your tubes upside down to make them match the pattern. Remember, no spilling is allowed! So if you try to flip your tube and the balls drop out, you’re done.

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So the art and science of Dr Eureka comes down to a clever mix of speed and caution. You have to finish first but only the player who can match the pattern without dropping any balls will win the card.

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Dr Eureka straddles the line between puzzle and game. You can play the game simply as a mental challenge; and it is a wonderful little brain teaser. It reminds me of the slide puzzles I used to play with at my grandparent’s house.

But the real fun begins when you add time pressure and other players. You can help but laugh and lose yourself in the game as you watch or hear your fellow players struggling to match the pattern right along side you. Go too fast and you’re sure to pour balls all over the place. Mix too deliberately and someone else will match the card and snatch the card before you.

The game is a great value as well.It’s rare these days to find a game with this many unique components at such an affordable price. The full retail price is $20. The 12 large test tubes and 24 colored balls are very sturdy and will last a lifetime.

It is truly a game for all ages. I’ve played with 6 year olds and 69 year olds and the joy of shouting Eureka ahead of everyone else is universal. You can easily add more or less time to each round to adjust to the skill level of players at the table. And if you want even more challenge you can try the advanced mode where players bid to solve each formula in a certain number of moves.

Simple joys are often the best. Dr Eureka champions this concept in so many ways. The game is engaging, fast and fun. The rules are so intuitive, you almost know how to play simply by setting the game up. And yet the challenge and enjoyment you’ll get after dozens of games won’t diminish. Playing well requires creativity and quick thinking – there’s an art and a science to it – making the most efficient moves while refining your pouring techniques.  You don’t have to hold a higher degree to understand why Dr Eureka is Major Fun.

Foooty

(I think Foooty might be pronounced “fooo-tee” to distinguish it from “footy” the game. Though you could certainly play footy, the game, with your Foooty. But Foooty is so much more.)

It’s made of a thing that looks like this.

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Ten things, actually. Which you can cunningly assemble to look like this:

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by doing this (but probably not as quickly as depicted):

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You can also make a minor myriad other things with your Foooty components, such as a football-shaped Foooty, a Frisbee-shaped Foooty, 5 little juggling Foooties, or Foootie lamps:

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It’s not exactly available right now. But, if what I see from the burgeoning success of their Kickstarter is any indication (which it most definitely is), it should be available by June.

I have one. If you are feeling impatient and supportive, a $17 donation to their Kickstarter will get you one too, probably by sometime in June.

New York 1901

Release Date: 4/1/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   50 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Steel giants rise high into the clouds. In New York 1901, you play an up-and-coming real estate developer trying to make your name by building the greatest array of skyscrapers the world has ever seen.

You do this by claiming lots and placing Tetris-like tiles on the board, scoring points for building and upgrading your properties, having the most buildings along key streets in Manhattan and, if you plan well, you may also score bonus points for a secret goal at the end of the game.

More brainy than zany, New York 1901 allows players to shape the city according to their grand plan from a deceptively simple series of choices. Tune in to learn more about the game and why it deserves the award.

New York 1901    Official Site  |  BGG  |  Amazon 

Designer: Chenier LaSalle  Publisher: Blue Orange Games
2-4 players 45 min  ages 8+  MSRP $49.99

Music credits include:

Empire State Human  by The Human League  |  the song 

Fuse

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Release Date: 3/7/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   45 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Red alert! Dozens of bombs are hidden across the decks of your ship. Can your team find defuse them all before time runs out?

Fuse is a 10 minute cooperative dice game. Bomb cards have a recipe of numbers and/or colors needed to defuse them. The team must roll and negotiate to collect dice in order to fill each bomb’s recipe and move on to defuse all the bomb cards in the deck before time runs out.

Fuse is easy to learn, fast to play, hard to win and amazingly addictive. That is a winning recipe for Major Fun! Tune in to learn more about Fuse and why it deserves the award.

Fuse    Official Site  |  BGG  |  FUSE App (Android) | (iOS)

Designer: Kane Klenko  Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
1-5 pl 15 min  ages 6+  MSRP $30.00

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Music credits include:

Spaceship Superstar  by Prism  |  the song 

Strike

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Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most fun, or, in the case of Strike, Major Fun!

Strike   Ravensburger  |  BGG  |  Amazon  

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Designer: Dieter Nüßle   Publisher: Ravensburger     2-5 players    15 min    ages 8+

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Strike is a game about throwing dice into a box. When I said simple, I really wasn’t kidding! I know it sounds a little dippy, but Strike manages to take something as basic as gravity and turn it into an enjoyable, compelling and addictive experience for players of all ages.

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The Strike box is the dice arena. Picture a mini Roman colosseum inside the box. Small spectators could sit around the tiered levels, watching dice hurtle down to the battleground, a small oval foam mat (6″ long and 4.5″ wide). The mat is just rubbery enough to make the dice bounce around more than you’d like.

Strike also comes with 31 custom dice. The dice are 16mm (5/8″); they are black with white ink. Each die has conventional pips 2-3-4-5-6 with one custom face a big white X in place of the 1. The dice are nice and hefty and big enough for even small hands to pick up and throw.

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The goal of the game is to be the last player with dice remaining. Setup is super easy. Divide up the dice evenly depending on the number of players and throw one die into the arena. If the starting die comes up on the X face, roll again until you get a number face. Now you’re ready to roll your way to victory!

On your turn, you start by pitching one of your dice into the arena. You’ll have a great deal of fun learning how best to pitch dice into the arena to get the results you want. Several things can happen after the die leaves your hand.

The die could land in the arena & make a match with one or more numbered dice.

The die could land in the arena & not match any dice.

OR The die could bounce out of the arena.

If the die you roll matches one or more dice already in the arena. Great! You get to remove all the matching number dice and keep them. Your turn is now over.

If the die you roll does not make a match, then you have a choice to make. You can end your turn, letting the next player go OR you can choose to roll another die into the arena. As long as you do not make a match, you can keep throwing dice… as long as you have dice to throw! If you run out, you’re out of the game, so there’s a nice press-your-luck element to this decision. The more non-matching dice in the arena, the greater your chances of making a match but the more dice you throw, the more dice you risk losing if they don’t match.

Remember the name of the game is Strike. It’s totally legal to try and strike other dice when you throw your die into the arena to make a different combination of numbers pop up.

Last of all, your die could bounce out of the arena. I know it seems unlikely, but that pesky foam mat is bouncier than you think! If this happens, the die is removed from the game. This is bad, because, remember, you want to be the last player with dice left. The good news is, this doesn’t necessarily end your turn. Just like rolling a non matching die, you can choose to throw another die if you want or you can end your turn.

Play continues in this fashion: a player throws a die, makes a match, removes matching dice and ends his or her turn OR a player throws a die, does not make a match and decides to throw another die or ends his or her turn.

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Two things: the X and The Clean Sweep.

Let’s talk about the X first. Remember every die has an X on one face. If you throw a die and it comes up X, you lose the die. It is removed from the game. Same goes for any other dice you might knock around in the arena and flip to the X. They are removed as well. This means every time you pitch a die into the arena you are at risk of losing it! It also means games of Strike go quickly because many dice will be taken out of circulation as Xs come up throughout the course of the game.

Aside from the simple joy of chucking dice, the Clean Sweep is probably my favorite part of Strike. Eventually in most games, you will reach a point where one player rolls and makes a match will all the remaining dice in the arena. This means all the dice will be removed from the arena making it a… Clean Sweep! Instead of rolling a single die like a regular turn, the next player must roll ALL HIS OR HER DICE into the arena. All the normal rules apply. If you make any matches, you get to remove these dice and keep them. Any non matching dice stay. Any Xs are removed from the game.

The Clean Sweep adds an extra level of tension and drama and fun to every game. When one die remains in the arena, the roller will be calling for a Clean Sweep and next player will be rooting for no matches. And when it happens, a cheer (followed by a groan) will almost always rise up from the table. The Clean Sweep is also a great equalizer in the game. Even if you build up a large pile of dice, one Clean Sweep will force you to roll all your dice at once. If many of them come up Xs or without a match, that pile will go away in a hurry!

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Strike may be stupid fun, but it’s also Major Fun. And I don’t mean stupid in an insulting way. By all rights, chucking dice into a box lid should barely qualify as a game, but Strike manages to take this stupidly simple, lovely idea and craft it into an experience that is a joy to play no matter your age. I’ve introduced Strike to dozens and dozens of players from ages 6 to 66 and the universal reaction has been “Let’s play again.” This is the cornerstone for any game worthy of the Major Fun Award.

In a day and age where even games for families and children grow increasingly complex, it’s a pleasure to find in Strike a game that celebrates simplicity as a basic expression of playfulness and joy.

Pingo Pingo

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Release Date: 2/1/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   39 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Space penguins guard The Golden Pineapple on a mysterious island.

You had me at space penguins… 🙂

Pingo Pingo is a wacky game driven by a 15 minute soundtrack. Using a deck of cards and your trusty rubber dart gun, you must face traps, cross rope bridges, avoid angry polar bears and hordes of pengiuns to collect the most treasure and escape before time runs out. Tune in to find out why Pingo Pingo is… Major Fun!

Pingo Pingo    Iello  |  BGG  |  Designer’s web site

Designer: Roberto Fraga  Publisher: Iello  2-5 pl 15 min  ages 6+

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Music credits include:

The Penguin  by Raymond Scott  |  the song

CoCoCross

CoCoCross

So, what, you ask, is a “Rolling Block Brainteaser”? It’s a puzzle in which you roll a block, obviously, from block-face to block-face, across and around a grid. The block and grid are designed with raised ridges and grooves so that each face of the block fits snugly within the grid. The object: to roll the block, vertically or horizontally and always landing flat on your the face, from the designated start position to the designated finish position in no more than the indicated number of rolls. There are 24, two-sided puzzle cards, making 48 different levels of inexorably increasing difficulty.

There are two different blocks – one is shaped like a brick, the other like an arch. The arch-shaped block is chock full of more complex implications, and is used only with the second half of the puzzle deck. Its shape is different enough to make the more advanced puzzles feel almost like an entirely different set of challenges, even though the movement principles are the same.

Like many of the best of such puzzles, CoCoCross is a model for how to structure a good learning experience. Puzzle by puzzle you learn more about the kind of thinking you need to do to figure things out. When you graduate to the advanced level, you apply everything you learned in the first to a whole new set of challenges.

puzzlesThe design of the package is especially appealing. The transparent grid forms the lid of the container in which the cards and puzzle pieces are housed. Because there are only two pieces, aside from the cards, it is wonderfully easy to keep track of everything. And it’s small enough (less than 4×5 inches) to take with you everywhere – in the car, the plane, to the beach and beyond.

In sum, it’s a model of good design and good fun. It’s compact enough to be endearingly convenient, complex enough to stimulate curiosity and invite you to exercise your logical and mathematical skills, varied enough to offer surprise after surprise, and fun enough to make you want to play and play until you master every one of the 48 challenges.

In sum: major fun.

 

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