Laser Maze, Jr.

Filed Under (Kids Games, Puzzles) by Bernie DeKoven on Apr 14, 2015

laser maze jr

Laser Maze, Jr is “Junior” only because, unlike it’s Major Fun award-winning parent, Laser Maze (senior?) (which you can now play online):

  • the laser is safely secured to the puzzle frame, hence avoiding accidental lasering of eyes and things
  • there are 40 puzzles instead of 60, though the puzzles span four levels of difficulty, many of which are difficult enough to confound your local non-juniors
  • the puzzles are on large cards which fit beneath the top stage of the frame so as to make it easier to know precisely how to set up each puzzle
  • there’s a space fantasy theme to the whole game
  • it says “Jr” so you know it’s supposed to be for kids
  • the puzzle frame is exceptionally sturdy, the base flared for even more stability

The two “rocket target” pieces reflect the laser into their tops, causing the whole piece to glow when hit by the laser – a very rewarding reinforcement for any junior puzzle-solver. Yes, the more complex puzzles, with all their reflections and refractions, result in a somewhat more subtle rocket glow – but still wonderfully satisfying. The challenge cards are ingeniously designed – the part that shows you where to put the pieces at the onset of the puzzle sliding under the grid so as to be perfectly aligned and very easy to follow. The challenge part is indicated on the tab, showing clearly which pieces need to be added in order to complete the solution. The cards are two-sided, each side showing another puzzle. The solutions are all in the accompanying booklet, and are shown graphically, so no reading is required.

Here, from the puzzle’s producer, ThinkFun, (who has brought to us so many Major Fun-worth puzzles) a brief explanatory video:

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Two triple-AAA batteries, not included. Yes. Not.

Invented by Luke Hooper – the same who invented the other Laser Maze puzzle, and The Laser Game: Khet, with the challenge cards designed by Wei-Hwa Huang. As you probably guessed, it’s all Major Fun (and not just for Juniors).

puzzles-kids

Diamonds

Filed Under (Family Games, Thinking Games) by Will Bain on Apr 14, 2015

Tagged Under : , , ,

diamondsA good deal of my down time in college was spent playing card games. At lunch we would play Hearts and Euchre. After dinner we played Spades and Bridge. And during [Post-Colonial Comparative Ontological Super-Symmetry] lectures we played a raucous home-brewed game that combined the best elements of Speed, Pit, and what we called “Go Fish Yourself.” We never actually went to class so please feel free to insert any course title inside the brackets.

Had Diamonds existed 25 years ago, I feel confident in saying that we would have welcomed it into our busy schedule of card games, role-playing games, board games, and video games. Even now, when I find myself a putative adult with parenting and career responsibilities, I would gladly make time for a game or two of Diamonds. It has nice strategic depth like Spades and just a little meanness like Hearts.

In short, Diamonds is a trick-taking card game. The deck consists of 60 cards divided into the four traditional suits: Clubs, Spades, Hearts, and Diamonds. One player leads a card and the others follow suit if they can. The highest value card of the lead suit wins the trick. There is no trump suit.

The game comes with a big mound of plastic gems that are piled in the center of the table (called “The Supply”). Players earn diamond tokens each trick and these diamonds determine the player’s score at the end of the hand. Diamonds can be stored in one of two places: behind a small screen called “The Vault” or in front of the screen called “The Showroom.” At the end of the hand, gems in the Showroom are worth 1 point each and gems in the Vault are worth 2 points apiece. How you earn the gems and how they come to be in your Showroom or Vault is the clever aspect of this game.

Each suit allows you to take an action that will help you accumulate diamonds. The diamond suit allows you to take one gem from the supply and put it in your Vault. Hearts allow you to take one from the supply and put it in your Showroom. Spades allow you to move a gem from your Showroom to your Vault. Clubs allow you to steal a gem from another player’s Showroom and place it in your Showroom.

You get to use these actions in several situations. If you win the trick (you have the highest card of the lead suit) you get to take the action. If you do not have the lead suit and must play something else then you also get to take that card action. For example, if I lead Hearts and you don’t have one, you can play a Diamond and then take a gem from the supply (putting it in your Vault). At the end of the hand, players count up how many cards they have of each suit. The player with the highest in each suit also gets to take that action. Finally, if you take no cards (no tricks) the entire hand, you may take 2 gems from the Supply and put them in your Vault. You can earn a lot of points this way.

01 AwardOne of the things we really like about the game Diamonds is that you almost always score something during a hand. Heck, several players can score in the same trick. It is very difficult to play a hand and score nothing. As a way of keeping players involved and invested, this is brilliant. There is also a great tension that builds through the game because you might not know how many gems a player has behind the screen.

As is suggested by the name, the suit of diamonds is the best suit as it allows you to put gems directly in your vault; however, the other suits are effective and fun and make for exciting gameplay. In a four-player game, only 40 cards are dealt so it is possible that there might not be many diamond cards in circulation. If that’s the case, hearts and clubs are the only way to earn gems and you need spades to get them safely into your Vault. And because we at Major Fun have mean little hearts, there was a good deal of glee had when we could use clubs to steal diamonds from each other.

Diamonds is a Major Fun twist on standard card games. It is certainly the safest way to be a diamond thief.

2 – 6 players. Ages 8+

Diamonds was designed by Mike Fitzgerald and is © 2014 by Stronghold Games LLC.

Jenga® Giant™

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on Apr 13, 2015

Jenga Giant
Jenga® Giant™ is, as you might conclude, a giant version of Jenga. You play it just like you’d play Jenga®. Everything you know about Jenga® makes this game as fun as it is. Only with Jenga Giant the fun is, shall we say, even more major.

Why even more major? Because when those blocks come a-tumblin’ down, man, do they come a-tumblin’! We’re talking loud. We’re talking spectacularly loud. By the second or third time you play, and you know full well how much of a spectacle it is, and how loud it is, the tension is even greater, the game even that much more exciting, and attractive, which makes it especially good for parties.

It is made of “54 precision crafted polished Jenga® Giant™ Premium Hardwood Blocks each 6″x2″x1″” (premium hardwood, but not from endangered rain forest, jungle, or similar areas). This “precision crafted polished” feature of the game is what makes it work so well, and why you could very well drive yourself beyond the limits of the home craftperson should you try to make your own. Blocks that can slide without making the whole thing fall are blocks that slide the way only a precision crafted polished block could slide – smoothly, smugly, validating your Jenga-like acumen.

There is nothing cheap about Jenga Giant. Nothing. But after you play it at one or several of your parties, you’ll have no trouble at all justifying the expense. And neither will your guests.

To further the party-like aspect of Jenga Giant, and for a relatively minuscule investment, consider purchasing a ChalkInk marker so that you can write messages, erasably, in a subtle but clearly legible white, right upon your beautiful Jenga blocks, added rules and other hilarity-provoking things. We take, for example, from The Big List of Drinking Jenga Tiles (not that drinking is necessary or even essential for the majority of the added fun):

  • The next person must take their turn sitting on your lap.
  • You must play the rest of the game wearing no shoes or socks.
  • You must keep physical contact with the person to your right for the remainder of the game.
  • Any time you sing the Jeopardy theme song, the person taking their turn must complete their turn before you finish the song.

(Fortunately, the Jenga Giant blocks are giant enough for just about any message you can think of.)

The only reason we don’t recommend Jenga Giant for kids? Kids might get a bit too carried away to remember not to play near fragile things like on your beautiful dining room table or too close to the proverbial china closet. O, they will have fun. Big fun. But there are times when one must ask: what price fun?

dexterity-party

The Metagame

Filed Under (Party Games, Word Games) by Bernie DeKoven on Apr 13, 2015

metaga.me

The Metagame, explain the triumvirate at Local # 12,

“is a social card game about everything: comics and literature, fine art and tv, architecture and videogames. It’s a way to show off your cultural smarts and get into ridiculous arguments with your friends. Arguments like:

  • Which feels like first love: Pride and Prejudice or Hungry Hungry Hippos?
  • Which is responsible for the fraying of our moral fabric: Tupperware or Das Kapital?
  • Which should be required in schools: Dungeons and Dragons or the Bible?

“The Metagame is not a single game or a single set of rules. Like a traditional deck of cards, it’s an open game system enabling a wide variety of games for different settings and play styles.”

Before I begin to wax enthusiastic about The Metagame and all the joyous socio-conceptual affordances thereof, I needs must recuse myself. I know the guy. Eric Zimmerman. He is my friend and has catalyzed something like a renaissance of my work. So I really want to aid his success as much as he has aided mine.  On the other hand, as an advocate of good games, and real fun, I can’t keep myself, or you, from the many wonders of the Metagame.

There are six games. Each is different. Each is will make you laugh. There are games that are strong enough to engage a party-full of friends, and games that you can play with your lover – or a several of your lovers. The cards are very well thought out – all of them. Which is no small achievement, considering how many cards there are to think about.

Here’s a great little video on how to play the game:

And another, earlier one, with the inventors of the game, at a slightly earlier stage.

Here’s our review of the game at an earlier stage.

Here’s how you can buy the finished, packaged game in all it’s many glories.

And here’s our award:

Major Fun Award

Bounden: dance, play, love

Filed Under (Cooperation, Creative, Virtual Games) by Bernie DeKoven on Apr 5, 2015

Tagged Under :

bounden
Two people. One SmartThing (you know, iPod, iPhone, Galaxy). Each partner (player/dancer) is holding on to one end of the SmartThing, thumb on the little “place your thumb here” circle. You center the cursor in the midscreen circle. A large ball appears. A cursor-like object in the center. You hear music. You tilt. The ball seems to turn with your tilt, revealing a trail of rings and things. You commencez your personal Pas de Deux.

Through careful and cunning tilting and twisting of the SmartThing and your personal bodies, you do what you can to keep the cursor aligned with the apparently endless parade of circles and almost-circles that appear to float around the ball. Do well enough, and you will both, ensemble, level up.

Watch, for example, this:

It’s a unique game, an “invitation to the dance” if there ever was one. There are subtleties and complexities, o yes. For example, the almost-circles written about above: well, once you get your cursor into one of them you have to then turn your Thing so that it is aligned with the opening of the aforesaid almost-circle – causing you to initiate yet another kind of dance-like movement.

But, for me, given my ever-sharpening focus on the play/love connection, Bounden is a lesson in love.

It’s all about sharing control.

As far as the game goes, it really doesn’t matter what you do with your bodies. It’s all about keeping the stream of circles and near-circles centered on the cross-hair-cursor in the middle of the screen. And to do that, it doesn’t really help if you’re the “better” player, or if you have a more intuitive, shall we say, “grasp” on the game and how to tilt the Thing. All that really matters is how you and your partner play together, understand together, move together, help each other, teach each other, give each other control. Which seems to me what love is, what playing together is, what makes this game so praiseworthy, so valuable, so fun, so profoundly challenging.

It’s an important game, evolution-of-gaming-wise-speaking. It’s a first: cooperative, musical, artistic even. But for couples, even long-married couples, it’s a lesson in love, and the importance – the crucial importance – of playfulness. Holding on, yes, but letting go, too.

01 Award
More about Bounden here.

Rory’s Story Cubes – Mix and Max

Filed Under (Cooperation, Creative, Family Games, Keeper, Word Games) by Bernie DeKoven on Mar 27, 2015

story cubes enchanted

As you no doubt know, Rory’s Story Cubes® has achieved that most coveted of all Major Fun awards, the Major Fun Keeper! In their ceaseless attempts to make a good thing better, Gamewright has recently introduced what they are calling the Story Cubes Mix: small sets of three cubes each, each with their own theme. Currently, there are: Clues (mystery detective images), Prehistoria (dinosaurs and their ilk), and Enchanted (fairy tale). Each box and set of cubes is a different color – making it easier to sort one set out from the other, when so moved. Though, in truth, mixing them together stimulates even more creativity. It is my great pleasure to inform you that each of these has received a Major Fun award.

They are each very affordable, each wealthy enough with iconic imagery to engage the story-telling heart and direct it towards a different world. And, when used to supplement any of the existing Story Cube sets, each takes the story a different way, each serving to add yet more to the mix of inspiration for aspiring story-makers.

And for those who have not yet purchased the basic Story Cube set, try using a Mix to supplement your next story-reading. Take any book that you and your kids like to read together, and, at mutually agreed upon moments, roll a cube or two or three, interpret the symbols, and add them to the story. It’s a whole new way to read together.

story cubes maxAnd then there’s Rory’s Story Cubes® Max, the original Story Cubes made larger. Mixing a Mix with the Max (excuse me, I couldn’t help myself) makes a mix even that much easier to unmix – should the need arise.

Major Fun Keeper AwardEach of the various instantiations of Rory’s Story Cubes complement and extend the value of the others. The Max set invites those of us who don’t see as clearly as we think. It’s size and heft is even more inviting – especially for adult and group play.

The invitation to creative, story-telling fun just keeps getting majorer and majorer.

Rush Hour Shift

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Thinking Games) by Bernie DeKoven on Mar 25, 2015

Rush Hour Shift
Rush Hour Shift is a strategy game based on ThinkFun‘s popular Rush Hour puzzle series. )If your not familiar with charm of these puzzles, you can play with the basic concept of this intriguing little puzzle online.)

Major Fun AwardThe game board is in three parts, loosely connected so that you can shift (hence, the name of the game) either end of the board up or down. There are 12 “blocking vehicles” of three different lengths, and ten different ways to arrange the vehicles on the board. These vehicles can be moved, they just can’t be moved sideways, nor can they move over each other (which explains why they are called “blocking” vehicles). There’s also a deck of 32 movement cards which determine how far you can move your “hero car” and/or whether you get to shift one of the two ends of the game board.

After the game is set up (according to any one of the ten arrangements shown in the rule book), each player gets four cards. From then on, players alternate turns, selecting one of their cards, discarding the card face-up, following the movement rules (how far you can move, whether or not you can shift the board end), and then taking another card from the draw pile. The game ends as soon as one player has managed to maneuver his or her hero car off the board.

It’s a quick game, success depending on chance, logic, and being strategic enough to make the correct decision between preventing your opponent from winning or creating your own path to victory. There’s one additional strategic deliciousness – if a vehicle is positioned so that it bridges between a shifting end and the non-shiftable center board, that end is locked, and remains unshiftable until the blocking vehicle is moved.

All in all, Rush Hour Shift proves to be a unique and remarkably engaging combination of strategy game for two people as young as eight or as old as you. Everything works to keep you engaged – the elegant design of the board, the different lengths of the vehicles, the variety of starting positions, the luck of the draw. Kids may be attracted by the toy-like appearance of the game (and so might you), but it turns out to provide a significant challenge worthy even of someone of your esteemed logical prowess.

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Qwixx

Filed Under (Family Games) by Marc Gilutin on Mar 24, 2015

Tagged Under :

qwixxHmmmm……

What were those criteria for a game to be Major Fun again?

1. Game can be learned in 15 minutes or less?

CHECK!

2. Played in under an hour?

Check!! Two or three times.

3.Fun enough to play over and over again?

Check!

4. Suitable for a wide audience?

Check!.

Qwixx! Tell me what game I’m thinking of.

:-)

I just did.

Now, those criteria:

1. Qwixx is easily understood. By kids even. 8 and up. Maybe younger.

How is it played?

Each player has a score sheet (pictured).

The remainder of the game is….wait for it……

Six Dice!

qwixx scorecardTwo white dice and one each of Red, yellow, blue, and green

(which match the rows on the score pad)

Red and Yellow numbered from 2-12. Blue and Green, from 12-2.

When it’s your turn, you (the “Active Player”)roll all six dice.

Then everyone (Participation! Yay!) has the *option to use the two white dice as two red, two yellow, two blue, or two green and cross off that total # in the appropriate space on the score sheet.

Once that’s happened, the “Active Player”(only)has a further option: She MAY add the pips of one white die and one colored die  and cross off the number in the row matching the colored die.

Like a white 2 and a red 2 can cross off the  red 4 on her score sheet.

But here’s the thing about crossing off. Once you make a check mark on a particular row, you can’t put any checks to the left of it. So planning can be challenging.

There’s one more thing. The “Active Player” MUST put an X somewhere on his sheet. If he can’t or doesn’t want to (because he’ll have too many empty spaces on the left side, he must fill one bad one on the bottom right of his scorepad. (Those are -5 points at the end)

What now?

The game continues with the players taking turns as the “Active Player” until the game ends.

One more special rule:

The last number in each row (12 for red and yellow. 2 for Blue and Green) cannot be crossed off unless you already had at least five or more Xs in that row.

If you do, you put an X in the 2 or 12 AND you also get an X in the “Lock” space to the right.

That color is now closed (unavailable for any future Xs ) for the rest of the game. If the game isn’t yet over, that die is removed for the rest of the game.

When two of the colors have been locked in that manner…or when one player has put 4 BAD Xs in the bottom right, the game is over.

Scores are added up using the formula at the bottom of the score sheet.

2. &  3. The average game takes 20 or so minutes, which makes #3 a certainty. Everybody wants more. Usually immediately.

(The first game of Qwixx we played, I devastated the opposition with 109 points!!

(Inside my addled brain, I’m saying “Finally. A game I’m good at. Maybe even great!”)

Everybody wanted to play again so we did.

I scored 21.

(Cue comedic trombone sound: “Wah! Wah! Wah!!”)

But, truth be told, I enjoyed the second time as much as the first. Oh joyous Major Fun!!

4. Qwixx is easily understood by kids of just about any age. (The publishers say ‘8 and up’ although I know a couple of six year olds….

But here’s something else about Qwixx….a very attractive something…..

Major Fun awardTHERE’S NO DOWN TIME!!!

“No Whaat time???” you ask.

“Down Time” for a player of games, which I am….and so are you….

is when  it’s your turn, the other players end up sitting there (patiently?) waiting for you to do your thing.

This can really minimize the fun aspect of a game.

Some more complex games suffer terribly on account of this. This and

“Analysis Paralysis”.

Why yes, you’re right. It DOES rhyme.

Some players are a little too……um….”deliberate” in their choice of moves. I’m being polite here. They take a long time, even when it’s not really called for.

Not fun. Not even minor fun. Let alone Major Fun.

Qwixx doesn’t have that! YAY!!!

Quixx engages everyone. On everyone’s turn. There’s always something to do. Or at least the potential to. So you remain involved. For the whole game.

More games should do this.

Until they do….play Qwixx!!!

Fun? Major!!

Anti-Qwirkle

Filed Under (Family Games, Keeper) by Marc Gilutin on Mar 9, 2015

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As fellow (Major) Funseekers, you’re no doubt familiar with Qwirkle. One of the first “Keepers”, if memory serves.

Well, after we’d played it  most Tuesday nights for a year or two, my friend “Two Hour Bob” and I (2-H-B couldn’t sit still for much more than that) started messing with the rules……as gamers do.

First, to avoid the end game getting bogged down by trying to figure out what our opponent had left in his hand, we’d take four random tiles out of each game before we started without looking at them. Success!!

Lots of friends have picked up on this and. maybe, someday, it will be an official rule.

But then, one very silly night, I asked 2-H-B,   ” Why not  try ‘ANTI-Qwirkle’?”.

“Auntie Whom??”

(A reminder for those of you who need it on the basic rules.):

There are tiles of six colors and six shapes.

Three of each of each. (I love saying that!)

A turn consists of  playing one or more of the six tiles from your hand in a straight line, intersecting with at least one tile already on the board. Sorta like that word game.

The rules allow you to play either Same Shape/Different Color or Same Color/Different Shape.

No exceptions.

EXCEPT… this one Tuesday night, we were feeling…exceptional.

And we changed the rules (Sorry, Susan!)

anti-qwirkleInstead of having one and only one thing in common with the other tiles played that turn, each one could have no shared attribute. No same color, no same shape as any of the others in its row or column.

So you could play a red square, a blue diamond, and a yellow star in the same row or column, etc, but none of their properties could match.

This was fun.

Major.

And scoring? Man, did we score!

Because of the nature of the new set of rules, ‘only’ getting a Qwirkle was a  disappointing turn. Many turns ended up falling in the 15-20 point range. Or more.

So, even though you’d never ‘UNkeep’ a Keeper, there’s something fun to try with your copy of Qwirkle next time it hits the table.

Let us know how it went.

Hanoch Piven – Defender of the Playful

Filed Under (Defender of the Playful) by Bernie DeKoven on Mar 7, 2015

when we play we are free

“When we play,” says Hanoch Piven, “we are free.”

Fortunately, there are other people in this world besides me who have devoted much of their life to practicing the art of playfulness – who teach, demonstrate, manifest, explore, devote art and heart to play – and who understand the political implications of all the aforementioned. Hanoch Piven is one such. And one of the things he has to teach is that of all the arts, few are as perfectly suited to manifesting the spirit and practice of playfulness as the art of collage.

Watch, therefore, this:

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Since 2003, Piven has been conducting creative workshops. These workshops apply the principles of Piven’s collage technique, prompting children and adults to experiment with common everyday objects and create their own works of art. Apart from being an easy and fun way to experience creativity, the workshops have been embraced by educators, art therapists and management consultants as an efficient tool for communicating through play.

Piven has also taught and lectured in many Art Schools around the world such as China Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, Art Center of Design in Pasadena, Sheridan College in Toronto and Instituto Europeo di Design in Rome, SCAD in Savannah, Bezalel and Shenkar in Israel and more.

And last but not least, Piven is active in the field of Education, as Creative Director of Aulas Creativas, an online community of educators in Spain, and as a lecturer and conductor of creativity and communication workshops with students, teachers and parents.

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Hanoch Piven, Defender of the Playful

Defender of the Playful