|Release: 11/21/2017||Download: Enhanced | MP3|
|Run Time: 60 min||Subscribe: Enhanced | MP3 | RSS|
|The party game Codenames took the game playing world by storm in 2015. Teams compete to find the secret names of their agents using a grid of word cards and two simple clues: a word and a number. It’s engaging, creative and loads of fun.
Duet offers us a tense two player transformation of the original. You and your partner must contact 15 agents using a grid of word cards and a very limited number of clues. The big problem is each of you only know half the agents in play!
More puzzle than party, Codenames Duet offers a totally different challenge and experience through the same basic set of rules. By all rights, Duet is a game that should not work. Reimagining a lively party game as a thoughtful deductive puzzle for two is a huge leap. And yet Duet sings in harmony with its older cousin – a familiar melody but clearly its own tune.
Listen in to discover why we celebrate this remarkable and resilient game design, in all its forms, as Major Fun!
Designer: Vlaada Chvatil, Scott Eaton
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
2 players 15-30 min ages 12+ MSRP $19.95
Music credits include:
Designer: Gil Hova
Publisher: Formal Ferret Games
1-6 players 20 min. ages 10+ MSRP $25
In Wordsy, players use a grid of letter cards to form a word each round. Some letters are worth more, others less. If you’re quick, you could score a nice bonus but only if your word scores more than the others. At the end of 7 rounds, the player with the most points wins the game.
Wordsy comes with a deck of 76 letter cards. 60 of the letters are common. 16 letters are rare. The rare letters have a golden color and icons showing the bonus points they score.
There are also 4 column cards that will determine the point value for letters during the game (5-4-3-2).
The game also comes with a scorepad, a sandtimer and pencils. There’s also a no-flip card and a card used in solo play.
Each round, a grid of 8 letter cards will be dealt to the table. The letters will be separated into four columns and a point card will be assigned to each column. The leftmost column is worth five points, the next 4 points, 3 points, and 2 points.
There can never be more than two of the same letter in the grid and there can never be more than 2 rare letters in the grid. When everyone is ready, the round begins and the goal is to form a word using the letters in the grid.
If the two letters in the 5 point column are T and L, then you’ll have a lot of incentive to use those letters. If your word has a T and an L you’ll get 5 points for each.
If the 3 point column has a B and and H, you’ll get 3 points for a B in your word. Since H is considered a rare letter you get a bonus point, the H is worth 4. So if my word was THIMBLE I’d score 17 points.
You can use the letters in any order and the word you make can be any length (the longer, the better). No peeking at other people’s words!
Each player will have a sheet from the score pad and will write down a single word for the round.
The first person to finish will put the other players on the clock by flipping the 30 second sandtimer. You must have a word written on your sheet by the time the sand runs out.
When the round ends, each player will read their word aloud and announce his or her score. If you were the fastest player to find a word AND your word scored more points than most or all others (depending on the number of players) you get a bonus. If you were not the fastest but your word scored more points, you get a bonus. These bonuses increase in later rounds.
Between rounds, the mix of letters in the grid shifts. The four cards in the lower point columns (3 and 2) are discarded and the cards columns 4 and 5 slide down. Four new cards are then added to the grid in the high point columns.
It’s lather, rinse and repeat for six more rounds.
The fastest player from the prior round takes the no-flip card, meaning he or she cannot flip the timer in the next round. This means someone different is guaranteed to be the fastest player each round.
At the end of the game you get rid of the two lowest scoring words and add your points, including any bonuses. Highest point total wins the game.
To this point, Wordsy follows some pretty standard conventions we have come to know and love when playing word games.
It has some Boggle in its DNA. There’s a random grouping of letters each round BUT….
Instead of a grid of letter dice we have a grid of letter cards AND all the letters in Wordsy are not created equal. Some letters are clearly more important than others based on their position in the grid. This makes you look at the letter grid in a way that’s fresh and different, prioritizing letters in high point columns or rare letters with bonus points.
Wordsy is a Scrabble cousin, too. The goal each turn is to come up with the best scoring word you can given the options available BUT here’s the big one…
You can use any letters you want to make your word, even letters that are not part of the grid!
This changes everything. You can add as many non-scoring letters as you need to get to a word that uses the juicy scoring ones. Unlike Boggle, you can’t complain about a weird gibberish jumble of letter cubes turning up. Unlike Scrabble, you can’t complain that your rack of letter tiles resembles the mating call of some angry monkey because it’s all vowels.
Suddenly the grid of letters on the table is not a limitation; it’s an opportunity. Wordsy challenges you to be creative, the game wants you to play with letters and words to find one that fits well with the scoring rules you are presented with each round.
This means the variety of words found each round will most often be wildly different, since players have so much freedom to find them.
That moment of discovery each round is what makes Wordsy special and different and fun. You arent just rearranging fixed letters like a puzzle to find the best fit. The game asks you to add your own imagination to find the right combination of letters that ARE NOT THERE. You’re more invested in every word you find because you had to add something to find it.
Wordsy is familiar but fresh. It is easy to teach and learn. It encourages creative thinking. And it will not wear out its welcome over time since each new grid of letters provides a new challenge.
This makes Wordsy a modern classic. The fun it offers is evergreen and can grow with players over a lifetime of games. It also makes Wordsy a Keeper, the highest honor any Major Fun game can achieve. If you are a fan of word games, make room on your shelf for Wordsy. I’m confident it will stand the test of time.
Designer: David Harvey
Publisher: Competo , Marektoy
2-4 players 10 min. ages 8+ MSRP $60
Bonk is a fast paced game of dexterity and daring feats of physics. Using a rotating wooden slide and a few little metal balls, your team’s goal is to knock a wooden ball from its perch in the center of the board into the opposing team’s goal.
Bonk feels like a pub game from a bygone era. The game itself is a beautiful wooden box with four angled areas marked with wooden barriers. Two angled areas at each end point toward a goal, which is a gap containing a small wooden ‘nose’ a small arrow shaped block that will guide the scoring ball to the edge of the board.
Each angled area has a hole in the board. This hole is for the large wooden slide each player will use to play the game. The slides are tall and black and remind me of a part of a roller coaster, the part where you are just coming down the hill and screaming your head off. They also remind me of the big water slides or blanket slides you see at county fairs. The slide has a groove for the metal balls to whizz down and onto the board. The base of the slide is round and there’s a peg that you’ll place into the hole in one of the angled areas so that you can rotate the slide in all directions.
There are 12 metal balls, 6 for each team and one larger wooden ball, the ball you’ll try to hit during the game.
Bonk is played over a series of rounds. Each round, you and your teammate slide metal balls down your wooden slides attempting to knock a wooden ball into the goal on the other side of the board. When one team scores, you get a point and reset. The first team to five wins.
To begin, everyone high fives and all balls are left on the edge of the board. Once the high fives are done (some might want to shout BONK !) then the mayhem begins !
Pick up a ball, place it at the top of your slide, rotate your slide to aim, and whoosh let the ball roll down and into play. Hopefully it will knock into the ball but very often you will miss, so it’s lather rinse and repeat. The problem is you have a very limited number of balls, so if you go for the rapid fire approach, you may end up giving all the balls to the other team. If you go to slow, you may lose before you have your first shot lined up. Each round is a bit of glorious controlled chaos that is the essence of silly fun. You might be laughing too much or watching the ball bounce around and even forget to keep shooting.
The sheer novelty and creativity of Bonk certainly sets it apart from most games. Not often you get to hone your skills at rolling balls down a slide hoping to nail a target and make it move.
But that’s just the start. There’s one element I have forgotten to mention.
The wooden game board, the playing surface itself is not flat ! It is curved, meaning the board is basically a small hill. The crest of the hill is the center of the board (where the wooden ball starts) so t he board slowly slopes downward toward each team’s goal.
This means the wooden ball just needs the slightest nudge to start rolling downhill toward a goal and the angled beams that defined each players slide area serve a second purpose, they will guide the ball down toward the goal like a funnel.
You might think this means the first team to even touch the ball will score. Not so ! The board is big enough that you have time to react at least once or twice unless the shot has perfect aim.
Bonk is definitely a game where the more your practice and play with the slides, the better you get and the more you’ll see the potential for crazy angled shots.
Without the time pressure the curved board provides, a game round in Bonk could drag on with players chasing the ball from corner to corner without scoring. With the curved board and angled beams toward the goal, each round is a frenzy of activity leaving you wanting to set up and try again.
Bonk is engaging. Just seeing it on a table makes you want to play.
It just looks fun! And it delivers on that promise again and again.
There’s no barrier to entry with Bonk. Anyone can play. And that unlocks a special kind of fun you can share with everyone. And there certainly are not enough great games that do this.
Just sit down and give it a go. Whether or not you knock the ball around on your first try or your fifteenth, just the act of sending the balls down the slide is reward enough to make you want to keep playing.
This makes Bonk Major Fun of the highest and simplest order. Fun you can share with anyone, any time. The only winning that really matters with Bonk is that you play. You win any time you play, whether you ever score a point.
|Release: 10/17/2017||Download: Enhanced | MP3|
|Run Time: 50 min||Subscribe: Enhanced | MP3 | RSS|
|Word Slam is a team-based word guessing game.
One teammate provides clues in the form of word cards on a rack.
Can your team guess the target word first?
Now this might sound like many other party games BUT… Word Slam does something different. Something noteworthy. Something ridiculously simple and ridiculously fun.
Word Slam forces each team to use a fixed set of words as clues.
The challenge and the joy in the game comes from the very clever omissions from the decks of words you use as clues. The word you want is never there, so the game pushes you to be creative with the words provided. To find freedom inside the limitations imposed.
This simple twist – limiting the language you can use to communicate with your team makes Word Slam both frustrating and fun, because, in a very real way, the fun comes from the frustration.
Listen in to learn more about the game and why we think it is unequivocally Major Fun!
Designer: Inka & Markus Brand
Publisher: Thames & KOSMOS
3-99 players 45 min ages 12+ MSRP $39.95
Music credits include:
Publisher: Moose Toys
2+ players 5-10 min. ages 6+ MSRP $15
Boom Blast Stix is a spring loaded trap. 32 springs and 32 traps to be precise. Your goal is to set one of these mini traps, place it on the pedestal and hope you don’t set the pile of springs sproinging off in every direction!
The game comes in a large plastic tube used to store the 32 plastic stix, ingeniously engineered little yellow springs.
Each of the stix is a triangular spring. There’s a flat tab one side which makes it easy to hold. The other two sides are sort of like a ball and socket joint. There’s a nubby round end and a hollowed out end sort of like a glove. To set the spring, you bend the nubby round end so that it fits into the glove with a satisfying little click.
The lid to the tube is a red pedestal, the actual playing surface for the game. The top of the lid is concave, so the stix will nestle down into it as the first few are placed. If you want some height, you can leave the lid on and play on top of the tube. You can also take the lid off and place it directly on the table.
Scatter the springs around the table so everyone has some within easy reach, place the pedestal (high or low) on the table and you’re ready to play !
It’s worth noting that very young kids should only play Boom Blast Stix with supervision. The springs are not dangerous so long as you stay a reasonable distance from the pedestal as you are placing the springs. The stix will click and pop when they go off and fly around which will cause a great commotion but their bark is much worse than their bite.
There are two easy steps to Boom Blast Stix.
Step one : pick a stix from the pile and set the spring.
Step two : gently place your stix on the red pedestal.
Now what you want to happen is… nothing. As long as the pile of stix doesn’t explode, you heave a sigh of relief and it’s the next player’s turn.
If the stack of stix explodes. BOOOM! The springs wil go flying in every direction with shouts and screams and laughs soon to follow.
If for some reason you knock any stix off without making everything explode, you have to replace the stix you dislodged, making it even more likely you’ll be the one to set off the springs !
Two things set Boom Blast Stix apart. One is obvious. One not so much.
The obvious thing is the stix, the springs themselves. They are wonderfully engineered to feel balanced and they snap together with a very satisfying feeling and click that makes them seem like they will hold on for a good while. Notice I said seem… because the truth is sometimes you can just look at or barely breathe on a spring and… SPROING it will go off ! The whole game is built around these springs and if they were not fun to set and set off, the whole game would crash and burn. These little gems are fun to set and sproing even when you’re not playing the game. I may have spent as much time flipping and dropping the springs just for fun as I have actually playing the game.
The non obvious thing is this. Boom Blast Stix reminds us that losing is actually winning with some games. Technically, you lose if you detonate the pile, but, really, who are we kidding? The whole hope of the group is to see the pile of stix go off. So, really, you’ve just giving everyone what they want – an excuse to laugh and shout… and a reason to set it up and try again. You want to keep going as long as you can, of course, and the tension mounts the more stix there are in the stack. But the person who triggers the explosion is the one who gets to experience the heart and soul of the game. You don’t feel like the loser of anything. You gain. Everyone does. A scream, A raucous laugh. A smile. A dive for cover. And most important – a memory of that crazy moment that could last far beyond the game or even the night.
It sounds a little dippy I know, but trust me, Major Fun knows about such things. Boom Blast Stix reminds us that losing can sometimes be the best way to win when you really know how to play.
Dumb fun can be the absolute best kind of fun. And that’s the kind of fun you find in Boom Blast Stix.
It’s a visceral reaction, almost instinctual when we encounter it. It takes no forethought or strategy to recognize. It simply is. We all have this ability as children and as adults it can easily get lost or obscured by the pressures and stresses of the daily world and routine. What makes Boom Blast Stix unequivocally Major Fun is the fact that it can trigger or even reawaken that innate sense of mindless fun present in every one of us. We don’t have to question it – simply give into the moment and enjoy what it offers – that small moment of risk and joy we all know, we all remember and we all cherish.
|Release: 9/7/2017||Download: Enhanced | MP3|
|Run Time: 34 min||Subscribe: Enhanced | MP3 | RSS|
|Fuji Flush is a wonderfully simple card game.
Your goal is to flush all the number cards from your hand, one card at a time. There are lots of low cards in the deck and fewer high cards.
The higher number you play, the more likely you are to flush it BUT here’s the twist. If two players play the same number, they are added together. This means low cards can often band together to beat high ones.
It’s a game about strength in numbers. And the more people you play with, the more fun the game becomes.
Designer: Friedemann Friese Artist: Harald Lieske
Publisher: 2F Spiele, Stronghold Games
3-8 players 10-20 min ages 7+ MSRP $14.95
Music credits include:
4-8 players 5-15 min. ages 6+ MSRP $25
To those of us who like party games, especially party games that make people laugh, in particular party games like Knots, have we got a game for you!
It’s called Twangled. It would remind you mightily of the traditional, classic, puzzling, physical and often hilarious game Knots if it weren’t for: a set of eight elastic bands, in four different colors, with a loop at each end; and a spinner you kick. Which, aside from reading the rules and playing the game itself, is how you know that it’s not Knots. No. Not knots at all.I explicate by cleverly quoting the rules thus: “Players grab a colored band – making sure that at least one band of each color is taken before doubling up any colors. Players stand in a circle facing inward – making sure not to stand next to someone with the same band color. Place the kick spinner in the center of Get Twangled! Determine a player to go first. On your turn, kick the spinner and perform the action as indicated without letting go of the bands. For example, if a player spins ‘Under Green,; that player must move his or her entire body underneath a green band. The player may have to do other necessary moves to get under the green band, such as step over a yellow band. If using more than one of a band color, you must perform your action on the band furthest from you. Once a player has completed the action, play passes to the person on the left, who then kicks the spinner and performs his or her required action. Now it is time to get unTwangled. Without ever letting go of the bands, players work together to figure out how to return to the starting formation. Communication is key as players direct each other to move over and under bands.”
On the other hand, you don’t really need to know the rules to figure out how to play. It’s just about intuitive. And the parts that aren’t don’t matter. And if you know how to play Knots, you already know more than enough to figure the rest out.
Much of the not-Knots quality of the game can be traced to the stretchiness of the bands, which can be compared to and contrasted with the unstretchiness of the human arm. And then there’s the spinner, which is not part of the traditional game of Knots and yet functions admirably well as a novel device for causing people to become Twangled, in deed. Speaking of whom, Twangle is designed to be played by four to eight players, ages six to decrepit.
Yet another surprising and oft-delightful differentiation caused by the stretchiness factor: the aftergame. So hilariously logical is this aftergame that I fear I would spoil it should I say more. I suppose, if you don’t discover the hilarious logic of the aftergame yourself, you could write and ask us. To give you fair warning, it’s an undocumented feature that apparently appears serendipitously. I shall say no more other than: Major Fun. In deed!
|Release: 8/15/2017||Download: Enhanced | MP3|
|Run Time: 38 min||Subscribe: Enhanced | MP3 | RSS|
|It might come as a suprise to learn that mole rats make perfect astronauts.
Or maybe we should call them ratstronauts?
Their skin can’t feel pain. They can lower their metabolism and breathing. They’re resistant to cancer and can even survive without oxygen for a time.
You and your fellow players are mole rats living on a space station in a galaxy far far away.
Suddenly, the alarm blares… INTRUDER ALERT! The station is being overrun by intergalactic snakes!!
It’s up to your team to gather the right emergency supplies and find a way to the last escape pod before time runs out. Just don’t forget the duct tape!
Listen in to discover why we think this cooperative game is great for kids and adults and is most definitely… Major Fun!
Mole Rats in Space
Designer: Matt Leacock Publisher: Peaceable Kingdom
2-4 players 20 min ages 7+ MSRP $20
Music credits include:
Designer: George Buckenham, Alex Fleetwood
Art: T. Burrell-Saward, L. McCarthy, C. Shaw
Publisher: Sensible Object
1-5 players 15-30 min. ages 7+ MSRP $99
Beasts of Balance allows players to build and destroy a new world each time you play. Using wonderful and whimsical three dimensional animals, you populate your world by stacking each one on a platform called a plinth, hoping to create new hybrids, score points and keep each creature from going extinct.
Beasts of Balance is a playful hybrid. It combines the simple almost primal act of stacking with technological elements that enhance and expand gameplay in fun and unexpected ways.
The game comes with a lovely assortment of chunky three dimensional pieces representing animals, forces of nature and artifacts.
The animals include : a bear, a shark, an octopus, a warthog, a toucan, and an eagle. These are the literal building blocks of life for your new world.
The forces of nature are : fire, water, earth and air. Each has a specific shape and color and each element combines with the others to form ten different shapes/pieces.
The artifacts are four different shapes, some simple, some complex, and each will have its own effect on the game.
All these pieces will be balanced upon the plinth, a circular platform with a special symbol printed on one side.
Now all these things come in the box, but in order to play, there’s one additional thing not included in the box you’ll need… an app ! It’s free to download and it’s not a gimmick. It’s essential to gameplay and is available on all major mobile and tablet platforms.
One one level, Beasts of burden can be described in a single, simple sentence : Stack pieces on the plinth to score points until the stack falls down.
At its heart, this is the entire game. You select a piece, any piece, and place it on the plinth, hoping not to bring the whole thing crashing down. On this level, this is a game you’ve probably played a hundred times before.
With the addition of technology, Beasts of Balance delivers a richly thematic experience that is packed with fun discoveries and meaningful decisions.
It’s these technological enhancments that we should explore because they make Beasts of Balance both innovative and unique. The these tech twists come in several flavors.
Since Beasts of Balance uses an app to guide you through the game, it will come as no surprise that learning and playing the game feels like playing a video game. Rather than read rules, launch the app and simply follow the instructions. It will guide you through a typical turn which goes like this:
Select a piece, identify the piece to the plinth, and then place the piece on the plinth.
Each piece has a special symbol printed on it. Find this side of the piece and place it against the matching symbol on the plinth and watch what happens. Voilà ! Like magic, the app now displays a picture of the piece you have selected. The app and the plinth can keep track of what pieces are part of the world you create as long as you identify each piece to the plinth. The app will even remind you if you forget!
The bear will appear on land. The shark in the sea and so on. Elemental pieces will grant bonuses to creatures aligned with that element.
But here’s the thing… I’m not going to tell you what all the pieces do! Because the game itself leaves these wonderful discoveries to the players AS YOU PLAY! You might select a piece the first few times you play just so you can learn what effect it has on the game. Each one interacts with the app in ways that will leave you smiling and provide even greater challenges and decisions once you understand how they interact.
Without giving away some of the small mysteries you get to experience in the game, I will say that animals can evolve into wild and wonderful creatures as your world gets bigger and each animal is constantly at risk of extinction. As you play and learn, each piece you play will begin to suggest possible courses of action and each will have consequences on your world.
Since it knows what pieces should be part of your world, if collectively everyone can place all the fallen pieces back onto the plinth before the volcano blows, the game will continue. If not, kerblooey! Game over. Check out your score if you want. Reset the app and you’re ready to go again.
Here’s the beauty behind Beasts of Balance. Score really doesn’t matter. You play this game for the joy and the fun of seeing how each world will turn on both on the screen and on the plinth. The games you remember will most likely not be because you score a bunch of points, but because somehow you managed to balance the massive eagle on top of 11 other precariously perched pieces. Or the crazy hybrid animal you created, the majestic and saved to your menagerie even though your world crumbled after just a few turns. Or the game where everyone scrambled to get 8 pieces back onto the plinth just before the volcano exploded!
The Game evokes moments of joy and fun that would be impossible without the harmony the game creates between the physical and digital worlds. It is interactive in the truest sense. You interact with the pieces, the tech and each other as you play. Winning and losing is secondary to the process of play. And each time you play, you’re likely to learn some new wrinkle or new path yet to be explored.
Given the quality of the components and the app (and the development that went into both), I don’t think Beasts of Balance is overpriced, but at $100, the price will certainly be a barrier to entry for some, if not many. I think Sensible Object, the publisher, made the right choice by not skimping on any aspect of the game. It does limit the market for the game, of course, but the result is a game that feels truly innovative and feels like it has stayed very true to the original creative vision behind the game. If you have the extra income, you’ll be happy with your investment. If the game is beyond your budget, seek it out at a game store or convention so you can get a chance to give it a go.
|Release: 6/13/2017||Download: Enhanced | MP3|
|Run Time: 40 min||Subscribe: Enhanced | MP3 | RSS|
|Life in the herd can get boring when you’re a young elephant. To pass the time, the little ones invent games to play. First they gather a bunch of colorful balls. Next they race to see who can pick them up BUT here’s the challenge:
You must pick up the balls according to a certain pattern and..
NO HANDS ALLOWED!!
You can only use your kooky plastic elephant trunk to pick up the balls!
Listen in to discover why we think Tricky Trunks is a joy to play. It’s Hungry Hungry Hippos for the 21st century. And is most emphatically Major Fun!
Designer: Brian Weinstock Publisher: Blue Orange
2-4 players 10 min ages 5+ MSRP $25