Bonk

Bonk   Official Site  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: David Harvey 
Publisher: Competo , Marektoy
2-4 players  10 min. ages 8+  MSRP $60

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

***

Boom Blast Stix

Boom Blast Stix   Official Site  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: uncredited   
Publisher: Moose Toys
2+ players  5-10 min. ages 6+  MSRP $15

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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!

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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.

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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 !

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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.

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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.

***

Twangled

Twangled    Mindware   |  Buy

Designer: uncredited   
Publisher: Mindware
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!

Beasts of Balance

Beasts of Balance   Sensible Object  |  BGG  |  Buy

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

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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.

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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.

To set up, put the plinth in a place where everyone can reach it easily and spread out the pieces. Start the app and you are ready to play!

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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.

And yet…

With the addition of technology, Beasts of Balance delivers a richly thematic experience that is packed with fun discoveries and meaningful decisions.

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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!

Once placed on the plinth, the world you build isnt just on the plinth. It’s on the screen, too. The animal or element or artifact will have an impact on the world depicted on the screen.

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.

Eventually, inevitably, your world will come crashing down. But this is not immediately the end of the game. The app reacts with a volcano on the verge of eruption.

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.

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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.

Beasts of Balance presents players with a shining example of a game that embraces the spirit of playfulness. This same joyful impulse lives at the core of any game worthy of being called Major Fun.

***

Tricky Trunks

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!

Tricky Trunks

Blue Orange  |  BGG  |  Amazon

Designer: Brian Weinstock  Publisher: Blue Orange

2-4 players  10 min   ages 5+   MSRP $25

Music credits include:

Baby Elephant Walk  The Miniature Men  |  the song

Baby Elephant Walk  Dave Grusin  |  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

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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.

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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 !

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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.

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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 !

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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.

***

Ice Cool

Ice Cool   Brain Games  |  BGG

Designer: Brian Gomez

Publisher: Brain Games  2-4 players  20 min.  ages 6+  MSRP $39.99

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Young penguins can be troublemakers, especially if they’re hungry. You and your classmates have decided to sneak out of class to grab an early snack. You’ve hidden some fish around the school and there’s only one thing standing between you and these tasty morsels… the hall monitor! If you’re quick, you’ll be able to scoot through the halls and grab your fish before getting caught. If not, you’ll be stuck in detention…. again!

Ice Cool is a dexterity game where players will take turns flicking their penguins through a 3 dimensional school trying to either catch fish or catch the students skipping class.

You’ll each take turns playing one of the young student penguins (the Runners) and the Hall Monitor (the Catcher) and at the end of the game the player with the most points wins. 

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The minute you open the box, you’ll see this is a game very different from most others. There are multiple open faced box bottoms inside the main box bottom, nested together like Russian Matryoshka dolls. There are five boxes in total: four rectangular rooms and one square room. Each room is numbered and has doorways cut out along at least two sides. You will assemble these boxes to create the game board – a three dimensional school for the penguins!

There are several wooden fish tokens in the game. Each player gets 3 in their chosen color. The remaining plain wood fish are used to hold the board together sort of like clothes pins. Once assembled, the board is really quite sturdy and can be rotated or slid along the table so players can line up their shots.

There’s a deck of cards which are score cards. If you snag a fish or grab a student in the halls, you’ll get to draw one of these. They are numbered 1-3.

Each penguin has a colored ID card (which can be confiscated if you are caught) and a roly-poly plastic penguin figurine which you will flick around the school.

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These penguins are very similar to the figures used in Subbuteo, a flicking soccer game that has been a part of millions of children’s lives since 1947. The penguins have a rounded base that is weighted and tapered bodies with a round head. The penguin will sit flat on the board but with even the slightest nudge, it will weeble and wobble back and forth.

Once the school is setup, you will place your fish over the marked doorways, shuffle the score cards and you’re ready to play!

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Each player in Ice Cool will get to play in two different ways: as the runner and as the catcher.

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As the runner you will start in the classroom and try to flick your penguin through the doorways containing your colored fish. For each doorway you go through, you will collect your fish and a score card. If you can collect all three of your fish, the round will end.

As the Catcher, you dont care about doorways or fish. You care about catching the other penguins! You will flick your penguin through the school hoping to make contact with each penguin running around the halls.

Runners always start in the classroom on a red dot for their first turn. The Catcher starts in the kitchen anywhere he or she wants. Players take turns one at a time, flicking trying to achieive their individual goals.  Each room has a red line marking the playable area. If you get too far into a corner, you can pull your penguin out into the room in order to make your next move.

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Now Ice Cool is already visually amazing and the challenge of flicking around this 3d school is inherently and addictively fun. You can flick your penguin in straight lines and with the right angle you can even get your penguin to bend around corners or through doors.

BUT there’s another element that literally and figuratively vaults Ice Cool into another stratosphere of fun. You can make your penguin do jumps! That’s right, if you aim high on the penguin (around the shoulders)  the little guys will jump into the air, meaning you can hop over walls or even across the school in a single move. It sounds preposterous and it may take a few practice flicks (be careful not to flick too hard!) but within half a dozen tries your penguins will be airborn! Not bad for a bunch of flightless birds. 🙂

This element is a game changer. It changes your strategy and allows you to look at the board in entirely new ways. This makes Ice Cool very different from almost any other flicking game that comes to mind.

But mostly, it’s just crazy fun trying to make your penguins fly….

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Simple joys are often the best when it comes to Major Fun and Ice Cool is a champion in this regard. The pieces cry out to be flicked and you’ll start flicking them through doors and over walls just for fun as you are setting up the game. In other words, you almost instinctively know how to play just by opening the box! The game has sense enough celebrate these simple pleasures and not bury them under overly complicated rules. Anyone with working fingers can play and enjoy Ice Cool and will instantly know that it is absolutely… Major Fun!

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Happy Salmon

happy fish

The game is called Happy Salmon. You might wonder why this particular salmon is so happy. After all, salmon have a hard life with the, you know, swimming up river and the jumping and the bears and the dying. Could it be so happy because it won a Major Fun award? Or is it because it knows how happy it will make the people who get to play it?

This is one smug salmon. And deservedly so. The game is quick (takes maybe a couple minutes to play). It’s easy to learn. It gets everybody moving. Everybody involved. And, best of all, it makes people laugh.

You could think of it as a card game – that’s because it’s played with a special deck of cards. But it’s really a people game.

It goes like this:

There are six sets of 12 cards, each a different color. First, give one set to each of 3-6 players who are at least six years old. There are four different cards: Happy Salmon, High 5, Switcheroo and Pound It! Each card has an associated action. Your objective is to be the first to get rid of all your cards. You can only do that if you can find someone who’s playing the same kind of card. You can tell, because that person is either trying to get you to High Five or to Fist Bump (Pound) or change places (Switcheroo) or Happy Salmon (put your wrist along the other player’s wrist and wiggle your hand in a salmon-fin-like manner).

You’ll probably play many rounds of the game before you put it back in its neat, salmony zipper pouch. And next time you play, you might want to try the completely silent variation (though it is likely that the laughter will escape you).

Luckily, there are two great videos showing the game in action. First, here’s one with kids playing:

And now, one for the growns:

O, the fun! O, the sheer Majorness of the fun!!

Designed by Ken Gruhl and Quentin Weir, from Northstar Games.

Nitro Glyxerol

Release Date: 6/1/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   36 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

It makes old people young again, turns wallflowers into stunning beauties and can turn dust, dirt or dung into gold! It smells wonderful and tastes even better. You can even reach the speed of light if you have enough!

What is it? Nitro Glyxerol of course! The only catch: every batch has to be mixed fresh… and you never quite know the results until you’re done…

Nitro Glyxerol is a chemical mixing dexterity game. Shake and slide colored cubes through a maze to the long neck of your flask shaped mixer as fast as you can. But be careful! Precision is as important as speed in this game. The order of the cubes must match the pattern of cards laid out on the table. Collect cards to score points but beware of the dreaded mouse poop cube. If you prove to be a successful mixer. It could get in the way!

Nitro Glyxerol

Official Site  |  BGG  |  Amazon.de 

Designer: Luca Borsa, Andrea Mainini  Publisher: Zoch Verlag

2-4 players  20 min.  ages 7+  MSRP 30 EUR 

Music credits include:

Womabass by Oliver Heldens and Tiësto  |  the song

***

Other links:

Wombat square poop:  video  |  wiki

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

text-the concept

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.

text-the components

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!

text-the mechanics

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.

text-apart

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.

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