Word Slam

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!

Word Slam

Thames & KOSMOS  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Inka & Markus Brand

Publisher: Thames & KOSMOS

3-99 players  45 min   ages 12+   MSRP $39.95

Music credits include:

Boy Meets Goy   by Benny Goodman   |   the song

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Picassimo

Release Date: 5/15/2017 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time: 43 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

There’s trouble brewing in the small town of Forgerville. The night before the new abstract art exhibition at the museum, all the paintings have gone missing! 

Luckily the museum employees have a plan. Overnight, they will paint furiously and replace the paintings with abstract works of their own.

Picassimo is a party game where players create, disassemble and reassemble works of art. You’ll use a 6 part canvas to create your drawing and then mix up some of the parts and present your masterpiece to the other players, your critics. They must then try to guess the subject of your artwork, even though the pieces are out of order, by mentally reassembling the parts.  

Best of all, you really don’t have to be an expert artist to do well at Picassimo. That’s because Picassimo allows you to look at each work of art and draw each work of art in a new way.

That’s what we call innovation. And it’s also what we call Major Fun!

Listen in to learn all about the game and discover whether Picassimo should be hanging in your gallery at home.

Picassimo

HABA  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Carlo Rossi   Publisher: HABA  |  HABA USA

3-6 players  30 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $45

Music credits include:

Theme from Picasso Summer  by Nelson Riddle  |  the song

Picasso’s Last Words   by Paul & Linda McCartney   |  the song

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Junk Art

Junk Art   Pretzel Games  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Jay Cormier & Sen-Foong Lim   Publisher: Pretzel Games 
2-6 players  30 min. ages 8+  MSRP $70.00

text-the concept

Art doesn’t have to hang on a wall or come in a gold frame. You can take random objects and build them into beautiful structures. Individually some people might see these pieces as junk but together, because of the WAY you put them together, your “junk” is ART !

You and your fellow artists are about to embark on a world tour to showcase your talent and skill and put them to the test, building new beautiful structures in each city you visit. And each city you visit will present new challenges to your creative energies. The player who is able to gather the largest group of fans will walk away known as the best junk artist of his or her time.

text-the components

Junk Art comes with a big ol’ box of junk in the form of weird and wonderfully shaped wooden pieces. There are 60 pieces in total, 15 different shapes in four different colors. There are thin pieces, chunky pieces, pieces with holes or slots, round pieces, flat pieces – a veritable banquet of found objects for your creations.


Each player gets a wooden base on which you will build your art.

There are cards for the cities you will visit

and there are cards representing each wooden piece in the game.

There are tokens representing the fans you gain as you play. Fans = points in the game.

There’s also a mini tape measure you may need to decide whose sculpture is the tallest.

To begin the game, arrange the entire pile of wooden pieces on the table so everyone can reach them. Each player gets a base. Last of all, select three of the city cards for your tour. From there, you’re ready to play !

text-the mechanics

Junk Art is a dexterity/stacking game. Each round you’ll create a work of art using cards to determine which pieces you use to create your artwork. Each city card provides a goal and rules for the round.

There are some basic stacking rules that always apply. Each piece must be placed on your base and cannot touch the table. You can use two hands to place it. You cant touch the structure itself BUT you can steady the base with one hand and stack with the other. You can nudge pieces around . And if you drop the piece you’re working on, you can try again as long as the whole structure didn’t fall. Any other pieces that fall off during construction, you’ll set aside in a personal pile. Sometimes these pieces may count against you.

At the end of each round, fan tokens will be awarded based on the goals provided by the city. At the end of three rounds, the player with the most fans wins.

text-apart

Junk Art is NOT your typical stacking game because Junk Art is really a dozen different games in one box.

Each time you play you will be playing 3 of the games included. Each city card in the game provides its own set of rules and guidelines that will dictate how you play. You will proceed from city to city to city from left to right, playing and scoring by each city’s rules

Here’s a sample of a few different cities and the challenges you could face:

In Tokyo, each player starts with 10 piece cards. You select one card from these 10 put it on top of the deck and then hand it to the next player. That player flips over the card and must place the piece shown in their work of art. Play continues until all cards are played. The goal is to build the tallest work of art.

In Indianapolis, each player gets 10 piece cards. When someone says go, flip over the top card and add that piece to your artwork. Try to get all the pieces on the cards played to your art as fast as you can. The player with the most pieces added to their artwork scores the most fans

In Paris, players build a common artwork on a single base. Each player has 3 piece cards and chooses one to play, adding that piece to the artwork. Play continues with players drawing and placing pieces until junk starts to fall. The minute you knock off three or more pieces, you’re out for the round. The goal is to not get eliminated.

In New York, you select a piece card from one of three face up cards and place that piece on your base. If the piece you play touches a matching shape or color piece, you have to pick another card and place another piece. When you reach the star cards in the deck, the round ends. The goal is to build the tallest work.

There are cities where you play cards like a mini trick taking game to decide who gets what piece. There are cities where you place all the pieces of a single color. There are cities where you must collaborate on a common work.

As you can see, there is an immense variety in gameplay within even a single game of Junk Art.

Each individual city card, complete with rules and goals could have been packaged as a solo game. In addition, the designers provide three blank cards for players to create their own cities and rules to add to the fun.

The variety and replayability of Junk Art sets it apart from every other dexterity/stacking game on the market by a wide margin !

text-final

It is worth noting that Junk Art is a beautiful game. The pieces individually are interesting and pleasing to touch and behold. As you build, the odd shapes provide lots of inspiration for new and different combinations. If you’re going to make a game about creating art, the game itself must embrace a certain artfulness and allow the players to find ways to express it. Pretzel Games deserves very high marks for clearly making this a priority in the production and design of the game’s physical components.

At $70, the game isn’t cheap. Given the quality and number of components I think the game provides good value for the price but this price has the potential to be a real barrier to entry. The game is definitely more fun with more players but I am left to wonder if the game might have been better served as a 4 player game simply to reduce the number of components and the price. Junk Art is worth the investment, don’t get me wrong. The game is ridiculously fun ! My only fear is that it may not be able to reach a wider audience due to the higher pricetag.

Junk Art defied my expectations in the best possible way. I sat down thinking I knew what I was in for…. another stacking game with some small tweak. There are classics like JengaSuper RhinoBausack and Bamboleo but most others in this category are pale imitiations of these classics. It was a wonderful surprise to discover how designers Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim were able to add such a fresh and different voice to the stacking genre by mixing in tried and true game mechanics popular in less action based games. Card drafting, trick taking, even semi-cooperative play make Junk Art special but still super easy to teach and play.

Junk Art as an actual art form is all about remixing found objects to make new and beautiful statements and this game puts that lovely idea into practice. Give Junk Art a try at a party or with your family and you’ll see what I mean. And you’ll know why it is most certainly Major Fun.

***

Anaxi

Anaxi   Funnybone Toys  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: ??   Publisher: Funnybone Toys  2-6 players  20 min. ages 8+  MSRP $21.99

text-the concept

Anaxi is a party game. Anaxi is a word game. In fact, it’s both. Because Anaxi lives in the overlapping area between these two types of games.

In practice, Anaxi celebrates the venerable Venn diagram by making the diagrams into engines for fun. Using circular see-through word cards, players construct a mini-Venn diagram and then each player races to write down words that fit within each overlapping area of the cards. The player with the highest score after five rounds wins the game.

text-the components

Anaxi is a card game but the cards are not typical in any way. There are 75 word cards in the deck. They are circular (3.5” in diameter), made of flexible plastic and half of each card is transparent. The deck is split into three colors: 25 blue, 25 red and 25 orange cards.

anaxi-decks-2

Within the colored section of each card is a single word – an adjective. These adjectives run the gamut from square to spicy or fluffy to damp.

anaxi-cards

There are also two base cards (an extra in case you lose one). You’ll build the Venn diagram on top of this base card when each game round begins.

anaxi-base

There’s a 1-minute sand timer included and an answer pad.

anaxi-pad

Setup for the game is really simple. Separate the deck into three 25 card decks by color. Place the base card centrally located where everyone can see it and make sure everyone has a sheet from the answer pad and a pen or pencil. Now you’re ready to play Anaxi!

anaxi-setup-2

text-the mechanics

There are five rounds in the game. Each round a dealer selects one card from each of the three decks and places them around the base card. The base card has colored and numbered areas so you can see how and where to line up the three cards. The basic idea is that the see through area of the card will face inward toward the base card, allowing players to see how the three word cards overlap. There are four overlapping areas. One area between each word and one combined area where all three words overlap together in the middle.

Here’s an example layout: Round – Cold – Sweet

anaxi-example

Once the cards are in place, the dealer will turn over the sand timer and the round begins!

Each player looks at the four overlapping areas on the base card. Can you think of something that is round and sweet? Then write those words in column 3 on your sheet. Can you think of things that are cold and round? Write those in column 1. How about cold sweet? Column 2 for those. Last of all, what about things that are all three: round, cold and sweet? All those answers go in column 4.

Once the timer runs out, players score points for each answer on their sheets that is unique and fits the words. Columns 1-3 score 1 point for each unique answer. Column 4, the answer that combines all three word, scores 3 points per unique answer.

After round one, it’s lather, rinse and repeat. Three new words, flip the timer and go! The player with the highest score after five rounds wins the game.

text-apart

Sometimes games that rely on creativity can fall flat because they don’t offer enough inspiration or choices. Especially when placed under time pressure, players can freeze up or just give up because they feel frustrated.

That’s pretty much the opposite of fun.

Not so with Anaxi. There are four different ways you can see the words each round and that means you have lots of fuel for inspiration and imagination each round.

The timer does go fast, so you shouldn’t expect to write a novel’s worth of answers under each column but you’ll be surprised how some words connect immediately and others leave you scratching your head. Try it. Set a timer and give the three words from the example above a go. Don’t peek below at my answers! (listed at the bottom of the review)

How did you do?

Anaxi also encourages and awards creativity and imaginative answers. You are not limited to one word or simple answers to fit the words. For Column 4 in the earlier example (things that are cold, round and sweet) I could have written: a frozen ice cream cake for my cat’s 9th birthday. Major Fun games can and should put you in this playful mindset and Anaxi excels in this regard.

Major Fun games are also flexible enough to allow variants or adjustments. We found it fun to let the dealer select the word cards rather than from a random draw from each deck. Chance can produce some fun results, but it was equally fun to see what crazy combinations each player came up with.

text-final

Even though Anaxi is a light hearted game suitable for parties and word-nerds alike, the inspiration for the game comes from several philosophers.

The most obvious is John Venn whose diagrams gave visual form to overlapping ideas.

The less obvious connection reaches back to ancient Greece. Anaxi owes its name to the Greek philosopher Anaximander, the father of Cosmology. He wrote about the boundless material of the universe being transformed into all the aspects of the world around us and then returning to this primordial form. How does this relate? Each round, players take basic words and combine them into new forms. The cards return to the decks and can take totally new definitions each round of the game.

You certainly don’t need to know any of these details to have fun with Anaxi but I am glad they took the time to include it.

My one and only quibble with the game is the lack of credit for the game design. Every game has a designer even if the game was developed in-house by the fine folks at Funnybone Toys. Credit should be given where it is due and it is a shame this information is still not standard among all publishers.

But let’s not stray too far from the mark here.

Anaxi is a fast fun mash-up of word and party game genres. It’s enjoyable by players young and old and certainly overlaps with the two words that matter most to us: Major Fun.

***

Here’s what I came up with for the example listed above:

Column 1 (round & cold): curling stone, hailstone, snowball, snow tire

Column 2: (cold & sweet): ice cream, frozen yogurt

Column 3: (round & sweet): gumball, bon bon, mint, hard candy

Column 4: (round, sweet, and cold): a single scoop of ice cream

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.

20160109-_MG_5753

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

20160109-_MG_5836

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

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:

alsofooo

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.

Sneaky Cards

sneaky cards

“Play it forward!” Oh, how long I’ve longed to find a good excuse to use that wonderful pun “Play it Forward.” Sheer brilliance.

Which is a foretaste of what you fall heir to once you open your box of Sneaky Cards.

The box. Ah, yes. Black and sneaky looking, but in a cute kind of way. With a magnetic lid. Oh, how love magnetic lids. But wait, there’s more, there’s in fact, not even having started.

There are 54 cards, color-coded. At the bottom of each card, there’s a rectangle onto which is printed a unique code for that unique card that you’d be holding in your hand at the time. Beneath that there’s a URL: SNEAKYCARDS.COM. Remember that.

On the cards themselves are instructions that not only you, but also whoever receives the card must follow. Yes, I said “receive.” For in this game, if there were such a thing as winning, you would have given ALL your cards away, playing it, as it were, forward in deed.

Let me further instantiate:

Purple Code.

Mission Objective: Grow

Find a new favorite song

Discover a catchy tune you’ve never hard before and write the artist and title below. Then pass this card along to someone else.

Pink Code.

Mission Objective: Create

Hiaku, once written

Fill the world with endless joy

Create one yourself.

Write a hiaku on a piece of paper, and then give it to someone along with this card.

Code Blue

Mission Objectives: Engage

Start the wave in a food court or cafeteria

When you do: Give this card to a stranger who joined you.

01 AwardYou may want or need to direct the person to go to the SNEAKYCARDS.COM website, click on “track this card” and enter the code on the card. Because that is the gateway to a great deal of fun, including the frequently-updated Sneaky Cards global tracking map.

Warning: just sorting through the cards to determine which ones you’d most likely be willing to use is a bit like riffling through your psyche, if you know what I mean. You learn a lot about yourself when you discover that you are simply not ready to “Lie down in a public place until someone checks on you.”

Yes, yes, this is a brilliant, innovative, fun and often surprisingly instructive little game, that we can’t, for the time being, recommend highly enough.

Sneaky Cards is based on an original concept by Harry Lee. From Gamewright, for one or more players, age 12 and up.

Rory’s Story Cubes – Batman

cubes
Rory’s Story Cubes has been a consistent winner here on Major Fun, and its newest incarnation, Rory’s Story Cubes – Batman, proves just as worthy of recognition as all its previous incarnations – not only because of its design, but also because, for the first time, the game goes beyond its own basic assumptions (all images on the dice must be abstract enough to allow for a wide variety of interpretations), to embrace a well-established story line. And what a story line! Batman! All those years, those characters, those crimes to solve, those bizarre semi-miraculous BatThings to put to use in defense of the good.

So here, for example, are all nine dice, in a row, ready for players to create their story. Hmmm. The first three icons are familiar enough: a timer, Penguin, and money. And then there’s a house. No, a mansion. Must be the Waynes’. So, we begin:

batcubes
 

“In the shadows of Gotham City, time, once again, seems to be running out. The notorious Penguin has been spotted preparing to hatch one of his nefarious plots to defame our hero and his family. He has just learned that a great deal of money is being held at Wayne Manor. His plan, not only to steal the money, but to replace it with counterfeit money laced with a powerful hallucinogen that makes Batman and his cohort talk like penguins…”

family-cooperative-creativeO, well, you get the picture.

The challenge is to use as many of the dice as you can in a story. You can make the story by yourself, with a partner, with everyone playing. If you don’t know what a particular icon stands for (like the next to the last icon – could be popcorn, you know, or, more probably, an explosion), you can make up your own relatively reasonable interpretation, look at the thoughtfully included guide that shows all 54 sides and their meanings, or, well, roll the die again.

The use of such a well-established theme provides a fantasy framework that helps new players get into the game, and players who are familiar with Rory’s cubes find a whole new way to think of the game, and all the other sets of cubes they may be fortunate enough to already own.

The set comes with 9 cubes, instructions, and a Batman-Belt-worthy carrying box, and is recommended for 1 or more creative players, ages 8 and up. Major, as you already probably concluded, fun.

Joinks

joinks

There’s a new construction toy called “Joinks.” It goes without saying that this is a Major Fun toy, otherwise you wouldn’t see it here.

We are significantly enthused. The keys to our enthusiasm are the amazing flexibility of the silicone connectors and the well-made, smooth, warm to the touch wooden dowels you connect with them.

The connectors (one might call them “Joinks”) are wonderfully forgiving – you can make them do just about anything you imagine they should do. The sleeves are just tight enough so the dowels always fit snugly, yet not so tight that you really have to make any effort to get them to fit.

kids-toys-creativeThere are six different kinds of connectors. One has a suction cup on one end so you can semi-firmly attach your creations to the, for example, wall, or, for another example, your forehead. Then there’s the sleeve (that’s what I decided to call them) for connecting two rods together, the three-sleeve connectors, the four-sleeve connectors, the five sleeve connectors and these strange little balls that you put on the end of the dowels for architectural panache.

Even the box it comes in is carefully thought out. Made of sturdy cardboard, it works like a sorting tray, so that every component has its place.

It’s not about making anything. It’s about playfulness, experimentation, creativity, exploration, fun. The video says it all:

Recommended for builders three-years old and up (I, Mr. 73-year-old LOVE this toy). Original design by Richard Elaver of Designer Craftsman. Joniks comes to you from the frequently Major Fun-awarded Fat Brain Toys.

Compose Yourself

compose yourself

Compose Yourself is an invitation to the fun of music, to the kind of fun that only an accomplished composer knows, to the way Mozart and Bach played with music. With a little assistance from ThinkFun.

The result is half contained in a lovely box with a lovely bag and a thick pack of transparent cards. The other half is on your computer.

Obeserve:

Compose Yourself invites anyone, kids, adults, even people who can’t read music, who don’t play an instrument, who’ve never composed anything more musical than a tuneless whistle; to experience the fun that is core to the art of composing music. All it takes is a little playfulness and curiosity, the cards and your computer, and a world of beautiful, harmonious, apparently endless fun opens to you.

You select cards from the deck, sure, at random, what the heck. Pick a card, any card will do. In fact, pick four cards. OK, pick twelve. Decide how you want to position each card (they’re transparent so you can not only turn them around, you can also flip them over). And then enter the code on each card into the computer. You can reposition the cards on the computer as well. When you’re ready, you can get the computer to play your composition. And you can choose between the “marimba” sound (which makes it easier to hear the notes) or the orchestra (which will bathe you in symphonic delight), or both. You can change your composition as often as you want. Play around with the cards. Explore some of the very useful tips from the Maestro. For example:

Try repeating a card somewhere. Repetition is fine, in fact, in music it’s great. There are 30 pairs in this pack, see how repeating a card somewhere in your tune makes it sound.

Try a trick that poets use when they make rhymes? Create a composition using alternating cards. e.g., A,D,A,D,B,C,B,C. You may find that it adds a lovely beat or cadence.

You can save your composition as an MP3. You can print it out if you’re of the music-playing sort. And you’ll be learning stuff like how to read music (without even trying) and how musical phrases can be manipulated and how very much fun it all can be.

In all the many delights of discovering games that are worthy of the Major Fun seal, I have never been this delighted, this gratified. Compose Yourself exemplifies everything I’ve been teaching about what an educational toy or game should be – and it never once makes you think that education has anything to do with it.

Philip Sheppard, Maestro, who composed the cards explains

Dear budding musician,

I invented these cards to help me with a challenge I face every day. You see, I’m very lucky because I get to write music for my job, but I have to write hundreds of pieces a year and sometimes I need help to think of a new tune really quickly. So, late one night, I was working on some music for a film and I was stuck.

I thought to myself, what would Bach or Mozart do? Well, they would take a few notes and turn them upside down or backwards until their musical lines danced across the page, through an orchestra right into your heart & soul.

There was a piece of transparent paper on my desk and I had this crazy idea. Soon I had a stack of cards that I could flip and rotate and a world of tunes opened up right there. I wrote three pieces that night; the next day the director of the film was thrilled. You now get the resulting cards, and I hope you have as much fun making music as I do. Remember, we all talk about playing music, but it’s even more fun to play with music — so Compose Yourself!

Well, I add, bless you, Maestro, and you too, ThinkFun, for creating such a playful invitation to such deeply rewarding fun.

family-kids-creative

Urban Fold

urban fold

Until now, we haven’t even considered giving a Major Fun award to a crafts kit. A product called Urban Fold made us reconsider our policy.

It is one of a series of products that come to us from a company called Paper Punk. Go to their site. It is well-worth the visit. For on it, you will see what amounts to a new, and very welcome approach to children’s craft kits.

Urban Fold comes in a reusable storage box that contains 48 punch-and-fold shapes (punch-and-fold, as you probably already surmised, refers to thin, cardboard shapes that you fold along scored lines, and then attempt to put many little tabs into their appropriate little slots – this is not necessarily without its challenges, and hence, though it is recommended for children 6 and up, we would add that children of that age who can actually get all those tabs with out bending the tabs or themselves out of shape are exceptional and should be treated with great respect and much hugging), 697 stickers (of the peel-off persuasion, easily peeled, I might add, and of sizes varying from large to meticulous), and 1 poster and planning mat (a large, two-sided sheet of paper – one side serving as a planning grid, the other as a guide to different kinds of buildings that can be created from the shapes and stickers).

The poster/planning mat shows you how seriously you can take the whole thing – which is always good to know. We, in our frivolously fun way, decided to ignore that side of things pretty much altogether – though, I’m sure, at one time or another, we’ll appreciate the depth of detail and probably regret our devil-may-care enthusiasm. On the other hand, we won’t regret the fun we had, not at all at all.

The die-cutting is sufficiently deep so that even the youngest and most whimsy-driven member of our family test-group (nine-years-old) could tear out any of the shapes without tearing the shapes themselves – which is no small feat. The peel-off stickers also peel off without undue damage to their integrity.

We all sat around the table, folding and slotting. It took the six of us about an hour to complete that part of the kit – a surprisingly pleasant, relaxed, and thoroughly constructive family-togetherness hour (which is in itself remarkable – we’re talking an entire hour here, together!). We had little time left, and spent that investigating stickers. The oldest amongst us was able, with great care and precision of stickage, to create something quite in keeping with the craft-aspect of it all. Doors, windows, all aligned with care and propriety. The youngest didn’t care about any of that. He just stuck things here and there, exercising his art in the fullest, making something closely approximating a graffiti wall, which turned out to be clearly the most fun for him and us.

And then, because we had to eat, we had the opportunity to be feel quite sanguine about how everything fit so neatly in the box, all the shapes maintaining themselves quite enduringly.

It’s this flexibility, this range of potential engagement that made it so clear that we had something unique here – a craft kit for all moods and purposes, something that could respond to the moment, could absorb a wide range of interests, skills, approaches, and constraints. The geometric shapes lend themselves to play – they can be assembled into almost anything we could imagine. The stickers, though detailed enough to be taken literally, could just as easily be collaged and montaged into multi-hued memorials to mayhem. All in all, Urban Fold turned out to be Major Fun.

family-kids-creative

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