Knock Your Blocks Off

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games) by Will Bain on 13-12-2011

Growing up, I had small set of Lincoln Logs. Enough to make a small cabin or a tall, skinny watchtower. I’m sure I tried many of the suggested structures, but the resultant building was only a step in a process. You see, I wasn’t all that interested in the structure per se, because I knew that whatever architectural masterpiece I created would be situated at the terminal end of plastic race track that curved up a flight of stairs where the other end was held in place by a few volumes of Collier’s encyclopedia. Within the bumpers of this track, a heavy red fire engine perched at the edge of the stairs awaiting only a nudge from my sister to send it hurtling toward a satisfyingly violent collision with whatever I had been able to construct at the other end.

Construction toys are never more fun than when you blast them apart, a fact that is wonderfully exploited by Gamewright’s Knock Your Blocks Off.

In short, each player builds a wall to hold up a crown. Once the walls are built, players try to knock off their opponents’ crowns. You score points for successfully knocking off a crown or when an opponent FAILS to knock off your crown.

I could stop right there and the game would be pretty sweet. Matter of fact, that would define a large percentage of my childhood games. Knock Your Blocks Off gives each player 6 blocks of wood for the wall, one block of wood for the crown, and a special DESTRUCTION DIE! The DESTRUCTION DIE (I just like writing it in all caps…) is the weapon each player uses against the other walls and it tells you how you will attack the walls. When it is your turn to attack, roll the DESTRUCTION DIE and check the result: Boulder = flick the die at the wall; Ogre = underhand toss; Dragon = Drop the die from a great height.

Did I mention the special powers?

Oh yeah. I thought that might get the attention of the nine year old boy in you. There are six kinds of walls you can build and each has a special power. The Fort is immune to Boulders. The Gate gives you bonus points for a successful attack. I won’t reveal more, but suffice it to say that the strategy of wall construction runs much deeper than “My wall is strong!!”

Much much deeper. The first to finish building their wall gets to grab the DESTRUCTION DIE. So speed is of the essence. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!! Each block is painted so that only certain edges can match up. When you build your wall, the edges of the blocks must match correctly or you don’t get your special power.

To recap: you need strength, you need speed, you need smarts, and you need strategery.

I could generally muster two of those four attributes which probably explains why I lost as much as I did; however the game rekindled that sense of glee I had with my tube of Lincoln Logs and my red Hot Wheels fire engine. The game is fast and easy to learn. The rules (in English and Spanish) fit on a slim accordion fold booklet.

Build it and break it. It’s Major Fun with seven blocks of wood and a colorful die. What more could you want?

2 – 4 players. Ages 8+

Knock Your Blocks Off  by Rebekah Bissell. © 2011 Gamewright.

Ladder Ball

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 16-08-2011

Were you, for several very good reasons, interested in playing a game of Ladder Ball, would you not prefer to be using the finest in Ladder Ball/Golf equipment?

I, General Fun himself, am a long-time fan of Ladder Golf/Ball, both in concept and practice. In practice, it is a lovely, gentle game, as inviting to children as it is to parents and grands. Tossing the bolas delights the eye, and is even more delightful when you watch them wrap around the rung of your choice. An underhand toss of modest enthusiasm is all that is required. Perhaps the most strenuous part of the game is picking up the bolas at the end of the round.

It is natural and convenient to adjust the challenge of the game to the players’ expertise. Place the ladders further apart or closer together, or, better yet, allow players to stand wherever they feel most like standing. Ladder Ball is a backyard game. You don’t hear about Ladder Ball tournaments or see people dressed in Ladder Ball uniforms. So it really doesn’t matter how you play it, or how good you are at it. What matters is the fun you’re having. And everything about the game reminds you that fun is what it’s for.

On the other hand, if you really appreciate the game, you want to be able to take it seriously. You want bolas that are tied together with just the right kind of cord – one that doesn’t tangle, that isn’t so long that it can wrap around anything vital, that doesn’t knot (unless you really want it to), that is firmly seated in both bola balls. And you want the balls to have just the right heft so that they travel as far as you think they should, and yet just the right firmness, so that they can bounce, if needed, and don’t hurt in case someone gets in their way.

And you want the ladders (optimally, two ladders so you don’t have to walk too far each time you want to start a new round) to be as sturdy as they are attractive. The plastic, or even wooden versions just don’t have the heft, the ability to withstand the force of the well-flung bola without so much as a wobble. But a metal version, with strong steel posts and enameled rungs held together by easily adjustable, comfortably turnable, carefully crafted fasteners – ah, and again, ah. Hefty, but still within the range of what one might describe as portable, in a convenient carrying bag. And, considering, quite modestly priced.

The Maranda Enterprises Metal Ladderball Game. Quality fun.

Connect 4 Launchers

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Thinking Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 31-07-2011

Connect 4 Launchers is a two-player, disc-flinging, two-level, three-version, four-in-a-row variation of Hasbro’s highly successful Connect 4 brand.

Each player has 21 lifesaver-like checkers, and a launcher. The game board requires minimal assembly – there are four pillars (made to look like stacks of checkers) and two transparent target boards. The target boards (which, at first, seem rather flimsy, but prove to be more than sturdy enough to withstand many rains of checkers) fit snugly into the notches at the top and bottom of the pillars.

The launchers are very sturdy, and work flawlessly. The lifesaver-like checkers rest securely on the top of the launcher. The forward part of the base of the launcher is angled so that you can more easily aim for the upper or lower target board. A slide on the base of the launcher allows you to keep score (should score need to be kept).

If you look at your entire collection of checkers, you will notice four different kinds of “power checkers.” Distinguished by the patterns on the inner ring, the powers of your power checkers will allow you to: 1) go again, 2) remove all the checkers from every space that is connected to that checker, 3) remove all the checkers in that row (horizontal or vertical), or 4) remove the checker in any one of the next to that in which it lands.

Now you know more than you need to play the first two variations, and all you need to play the last.

The first two are most appealing to the younger, and/or frenzy-seeking player. Both players launch checkers at the same time, and keeps launching until a) someone has managed to get four-in-a-row, or b) there are no more checkers to launch. This version is appropriately called “Basic Frantic Launch.”

Then there’s the second version, “Championship Frantic Launch.” This game is played very much like “Basic Frantic Launch,” and is most definitely equally frantic, but here, instead of the game being over when someone wins, you play a series of games, scoring each (this is where that scoring slide comes into play), and then playing the next. You get two points if you score in the top tray, and one for scoring in the bottom.

Finally, for the more strategically-minded, the “Advanced Power Launch.” There’s no franticity here. Instead, there’s turn-taking and something significantly akin to strategery. There’s most definitely an element of luck, no matter how strategic your intentions. But there’s also an equally strong feeling that you might very well have developed the control and aim and all the inherent affordances to get a checker to land exactly where you think it should be. And then there are the power checkers, which, depending on their power, can wreak significant havoc on your opponent’s planfulness. And also an interesting wrinkle where the player who has the majority of checkers in any space gets to claim that as her own, whilst should there be an equal amount, the space belongs to neither.

The rules are easy to learn and very well-written, covering every possible gameplay event (what happens if your checker completely misses the trays, or if you have no checkers but the other player still has his, or if a checker lands in a tray, but not in a space.

And, yes, of course, you can play as teams, passing the launcher back and forth, adding significantly to the sense of inner- and inter-team franticity.

All in all, Connect 4 Launchers offers a surprisingly wide range of opportunities for merry mayhem. It is very easy to learn how to play, easy to build and store, the games are short and engaging, the range of variations creating a game that’s rich enough to play again and again. It appeals equally to the 5-year-old, elder siblings and the playfully-minded parent. Major Fun for the whole family.



LEGO Champion

Filed Under (Creative, Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 11-07-2011

LEGO is an elemental media of play: stick, ball, box, and LEGO. It is impossible for me to think about my childhood without LEGO present. Colorful blocks. An ingenious locking mechanism. Simple pieces that can be combined into vast worlds. I am constantly amazed with the ways children can expand on the idea. I am also impressed with how the designers at LEGO suggest new and engaging ways for children and adults to think about this toy.

LEGO Champion adds another magnificent, Major Fun title to the company’s growing catalogue of board games AND it succeeds by utilizing the most basic piece of the LEGO universe: the 2×4 block.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I see all the different pieces that comprise the LEGO universe. Many are highly specialized pieces that were created for the themed sets. LEGO Champion eschews the custom pieces and delights the competitors with challenges that are based on only simple blocks. The game consists of a simple, rectangular game board; 8 LEGO people (each a different color); a LEGO Dice; and lots of 2×4 blocks (matching the colors of the LEGO people). The playing board must be constructed but it is very simple and clear instructions are included. Preparing the game for the first time didn’t take more than a few minutes.

Play moves clockwise. On his or her turn, each player rolls the LEGO Dice. Each face of the die is a solid color (red, yellow, purple, blue, orange, and green) that represents a type of challenge. When a color is rolled, that color of brick is placed on the game board, the player advances to that color, and a challenge ensues.

  • If green is rolled, JUMP AHEAD.  The player simply advances to a green block and stops.
  • If red is rolled, the game is ON TARGET. The LEGO Dice is placed on the table and each player throws one LEGO brick at it. Closest wins.
  • Blue is CODEBREAKER. The roller puts three blocks together and the other players have to guess the order by asking only yes or no questions.
  • BLUFFING BRICKS is on orange. Every player grabs three bricks WITHOUT looking at them. Players bid on how many of one color are held in the hands.
  • Yellow TOPPLE TOWER was a big favorite. The roller places one brick on the table. The next person must snap together 2 bricks and balance them on the first. Play continues with each person snapping together one more block than the person before.
  • But purple SPEED BUILDER stole the show. The roller creates a sculpture of 8 bricks (one of each color) while the other players close their eyes. When the sculpture is revealed, the other players race to be the first to copy the creation.

The game is wonderfully customizable and the directions (oh those elegant, well-organized directions!!) encourage players to make up new challenges. The LEGO Dice can be modified in many ways—the game comes with four other faces that can be swapped onto the die (the bowling challenge was a blast). We were coming up with all sorts of games and variations as we played. Some of ours might turn out to be duds, but LEGO provides so many Major Fun examples that given a little time, families and friends will begin to accumulate their own personal favorites.

LEGO Champion really takes me back to what makes LEGO so vital and fun in the first place. It’s the same principle that often makes the box more fun than the toy in which it was wrapped. People want to play, and all they need are a few versatile pieces and some suggestions. Once they get going, the fun endures and grows.

LEGO Champion was designed by Cephas Howard and Jesper Nielsen. It is © 2011 by LEGO.


Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games, Tops for 2011) by Bernie DeKoven on 03-07-2011

award-winning dexterity game for twoOne of the things that we look for when we grant a Major Fun award is how easy it is to figure out how to play the game – even without the rules. Learning time is always a problem with games – the more time it takes to learn (regardless of how wonderful the game is) the narrower the appeal. So, when we do find a game that is almost self-explanatory, and when it’s well-made, and when it’s fun enough for people to want to play again and again and yet again – we consider it a major find.

Today, we take great pleasure in introducing you to our current Major Fun major find – a little wooden game called Fastrack. Well, not totally wooden – there’s an elastic band on either side. And not so little – interior dimensions are 13″ by just about 8″. And there’s a drawstring bag, made out of something net-like, which is also not wooden.

Between the two elastic bands, spanning the middle of the board, there’s a wooden divider. In the middle of this divider, there’s a small hole – slightly larger than one checker-puck-width. On either side of the divider there’s just enough room to line-up five checker-pucks. And that, my friends, is all you need to know, pretty much.

dexterity gameIt’s a two-player game. Each player begins with five wooden, let’s call them “disks.”  Checker-like, puckish things that get twanged from one side of the board, through the divider, to the other. Twanging is generally done with one finger on the disk, the disk pulled back against the elastic and then released, both players twanging simultaneously. The round ends, hopefully, when one player has no more disks to twang. I say “hopefully” because, though a round can take less than a couple minutes, equally matched players can drive each other to exhaustion – which is pretty much the whole point.

Though the rules are exceptionally brief, and the game can be played without them, there are some good reasons to read them. For example, you learn that if a disk is stuck in the slot, you can only move it by shooting another disk at it. Which makes sense insofar as there might be some potential finger damage from ongoing rapid-disk-propulsion. You also learn that if a disk jumps over the divider and lands on the other side of the board, it still counts. And that disks that fly off the board entirely are out of play for that round, which means that you only have to get the remainder on to the other side to win.

The game is easy to handicap – especially if you are playing with your kids. For example, they can let you start with three disks, while they take the remaining seven.

The concept for this game has been around for a while. But the execution makes Fastrack exceptional. The game looks as attractive as it plays. The race-flag checkerboard and red colors accentuate the experience of speed. The elastic bands have enough elasticity so that you can shoot your disks with significant twang, and, if you shoot a disk just right, it can bounce back and forth across the board several many, delightworthy times. The board and disks are scaled perfectly so that you get the same delightful action you might get from a larger version, yet the game itself is just the right size to carry with you effortlessly everywhere. The twang often leads to many satisfying bangs as the disks carom off the wooden divider and the wooden sides of the wooden board. It is a skill game. And you can get better. And that’s all you need to know.

The game was designed by Jean-Marie Albert of Ferti in France, who also designed the Major Fun award-winning Le Pass Trappe – which explains a lot.

Make ‘n’ Break Challenge

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 15-06-2011

Why won't these pieces do what I want!!!Make n Break Challenge extends the popular Ravenburger series of games into the realm of head-to-head block-stacking death-match, where every move could be your last…

Until the next round.

The game is essentially a stacking race. There are 80 building cards that show what is to be constructed. Each card has a number that indicates the level of difficulty and the points to be earned (1-4). There is a card holder so that the opponents may both see the card. Each player is provided 10 colorful wooden blocks (2 red triangles, 2 blue cubes, 2 red cylinders, 2 green rectangles, 1 blue crescent, and 1 orange “bridge”) and a pair of wooden tongs.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment. A pair of wooden tongs, similar to those with which you would serve salad.

When a challenge card is revealed, the players race to build the structure on the card using only the tongs in one hand. And that hand? It has to stay behind a mark on the tongs so your fleshy, sensitive digits are almost 5 inches removed from the blocks you are attempting to stack. The first to complete the pictured challenge receives the points for that card. Another great twist in this game is the fact that the building cards have a wide variety of challenges. Many show a structure that the players must construct exactly as pictured, but some challenges allow players to make any structure as long as it follows certain rules. Some cards show the pieces that the players must use and the number of pieces that may be touching the table. Some tell how many can touch the table and how tall the structure must be. Some require the players to line the pieces up in order of size.

The wooden blocks present a significant test to human manual dexterity. They have heft, and their centers of gravity find interesting ways to spin in the grip of the wooden tongs. Their painted and polished surfaces are slippery. Add in the pressure of an opponent stacking and cursing mere inches from you and the Make n Break Challenge might be referring more to your composure than to the structures you are supposed to be building.

But once your sanity returns and your pulse comes back down into double digits you’ll find that you are itching for another go. And that feeling of an impending stroke—that was really the onset of Major Fun.

Although the game purports to be for 2-4 players (and only 2 play at any one time) we found that at least 6 could easily play by forming 2 teams and rotating through the “hot seat”. The pressure of spectators adds a kick to an already intense game.

Before I sign off, I also want to express our Major Appreciation to Ravensburger for the elegant and efficient packaging of the game. The pieces are solid and durable. The box cradles the game components in much the same way a custom toolbox has formed niches for each tool. And the card holder folds flat for easy storage. We at Major Fun appreciate the thought that goes in to the storage of our favorite games, and Ravensbuger deserves our praise.

Make ‘n’ Break Challenge is © 2009 by Ravensburger Spielverlag. Challenge version by Stefan Dorra and Manfred Reindl. Design by Kinetic, Ravensburger DE, and Kniff Design. Illustrations by Walter Pepperle.


Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Senior-Worthy) by Bernie DeKoven on 31-05-2011

Just when you think nobody could possibly invent a lawn or beach game that is at least as fun as bocce and horseshoes and games of that ilk, but actually, genuinely different, and as inviting to children as it is to adults, that can be played standing or sitting (on, for example, a wheelchair), that allows for genuine competition and yet has a friend-keeping element of luck, and doesn’t use rings or balls or bean bags or bolos, but instead, for the first time in lawn-and/or-beach game history, rolling wooden discs…

…along comes Matt Butler with his game of Rollors.

The game (conveniently packaged in a polyester/nylon zipper bag) is all wood (New Zealand Pine) with the exception of a measuring cord – but even that has a wood pin that fits perfectly into the top of the goal for convenient goal-proximity measuring and just loosely enough for a satisfying pull-out. There are two sets of 3 wooden Rollors. The Rollors are 5 inches wide and about an inch-and-a-quarter wide – wide enough so they can be rolled on their edges, and narrow enough so that sooner or later, they’ll probably fall on one of their faces (though you never know). In each set (red or blue), the Rollors are numbered, and there’s a different number on each side. One Rollor, for example, has a number 2 on one side, and a number 5 on the other. A second Rollor, for a second example, has a number 1 on one side and a number 6 on the other. And the third Rollor – we’ll just leave that to your mathematical ingenuity to figure out. And then there are two, beautifully wooden, pyramid-like goal-things that you set 25 feet away from each other – more or less.

The rules are very logical, comfortably brief and easy to learn. The object is to get your Rollor closest to the goal. If it falls over before it reaches the goal, you hope that it will fall so that it’s closer to the goal than any of your opponent’s Rollors, higher-scoring side face-up. If your Rollor makes it so close to the goal that it ends up actually leaning on the goal (a “leaner”), you hope that the number that is facing out is as high as it possibly can be, because that number gets doubled! And if your Rollor remains on its edge, and is closer to the goal than any of your opponent’s Rollors, you score the sum of both sides (which, not actually magically, is the same for all Rollors).

A bit like bocce, a bit like cornhole, a bit like horseshoes, but, not like any of them at all. The more you play, the more you can appreciate the intelligence behind the design, and the uniquely gentle, but focused fun it leads to.

Rollors are fun to roll – easier on arm and wrist than most rolling/pitching lawn games, more suitable to kids as well as adults, seniors as well as people of limited mobility. If you happen to have a 25-ft long carpeted hallway in your office or personal domain, you can develop remarkable skill and control and stuff. When you find yourself Rollor-ing on beach or lawn, you’ll have all the endless nuance of terrain to play with and against. In any of these environments, the game is fun and inviting. The nature of a rolling Rollor is such that it lends itself to some amazingly surprising feats of apparent skill – curving, spinning, potentially stopping without falling over, or falling over on the exact side you predict. As you gain confidence and competence, you will no doubt develop your own variations, specially designed to take advantage of terrain, your personal mastery, and your competitive instincts. Perhaps it would be fun to include a small hill in the Rollors court. Or some obstacles around which one might attempt to slalom. Or to play with three players on a team, all throwing simultaneously, on a golf course or bowling alley or in the dorm or in the woods (where the grass is short enough so you can still find your Rollors) or on a glacier….

Yes, indeed, the signs all point to Major Fun.


Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games, Thinking Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 03-04-2011

The moment you open the box, it’s clear that RoadZters, the latest racing game from Cepia Games, is going to be Major Fun. And the more you explore the beautifully made components, and the sheer ingenuity of the design, the clearer it gets.

It’s a car race, but you don’t exactly race cars. Rather, you roll a special kind of ball, the Z-ball, a small, hollow ball that is weighted with what feels like BBs, so that it actually stops while still on the track, and even on an incline. And, depending on how good of a Z-ball-flicker you are, you can develop quite a degree of mastery – making the ball spin and curve and jump around the track.

You also get 4 cars, each of a different color. The cars have wheels, and will roll, but you don’t roll them. You can, however, thanks to their artfully constructed rear decks, use them as Z-ball ramps. The cars serve as markers, to indicate your progress during the race. Each car also comes with a specially designed rubber mat. You place the mat on the front end of the car, actually to prevent it from rolling. After you’ve had your turn, you move the car with its mat to where the Z-ball stopped (that is, if it stopped on the track). When it’s your turn again, you lift the car off its mat, giving you all the clearance you need to make your next Z-ball shot.

The tracks fit together with ease. The yellow guide rails are wonderfully flexible. They fit into holes on either side of the track, and provide almost endless subtlety as you explore how curves in the track can effect the course a Z-ball must take. There are stickers that you can use to further embellish the set, but even without them, you will be impressed by the elegance of your completed track.

We always appreciate good packaging, but the RoadZters packaging is exceptional. It’s like what you’d expect from a good set of drill bits, every kind of piece having its own compartment.

The rule sheet comes in 6 different languages, which could explain why, though they’re brief, they are also more difficult to follow than you would expect from such an elegant game. Luckily, once you understand how the Z-ball works, the rest is self-explanatory.

RoadZters was designed by Patrick Naveau (PNDI). The game can be enjoyed by anyone who knows how to flick a ball. It’s best with 4 players, but with 3 or even 2, it’s still fun. If you’re lucky enough to have your own set or two, you can while away many happy hours mastering your precision Z-ball flicking skills.

I was fortunate enough to capture a Z-ball moment between Game Tasters Will and Erin (with Chris in the background providing the necessary egging-on).

Animal Upon Animal balancing bridge

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 03-03-2011

One must admit that the name of the game, Animal Upon Animal balancing bridge, isn’t what one might call “catchy,” on the other hand, the original German name, Tier auf Tier, isn’t that descriptive.

There are 29, brightly colored wooden animals, each with a variety of ridges and bumps that can provide a welcome, shall we say, clawhold, as players attempt to balance the animals on top of each other. In addition to the animals, there is also a die which determines which animals, on which side or sector of the box a player can choose from.

Also included is a deck of cards, each card depicting the player’s assignment – the three animals that must be balanced and arranged so that all three are in contact with each other, and fitting comfortably on the cardboard bridge; the rules (in several different languages), and, of course, the beautifully illustrated box which, in fact, plays a central role in the game.

Each player gets three cards. The first player to get all her cards solved wins the game. It doesn’t matter who solves what, as long as three animals depicted on one of your cards are, at any moment of the game, all on the bridge, and all touching each other, and you only have used one hand to make that happen. This keeps everyone involved throughout the game, as one player might easily, accidentally or simply in pursuing his own goals, connect the very three animals that are on someone else’s card. Also, getting all three animals to connect, each with the other two, adds a uniquely inviting challenge, conceptually, and physically. Finally, a player might, just as easily, cause some or all of the animals to fall off the bridge. The animals remain where they are (except for the big green crocodile, which is returned to the bridge), and the player who made the animals fall gets an extra assignment card as a penalty (depending on the age of the player, you may or may not want to use the penalty rule).

At the beginning of the game, all the animals are distributed, more or less equally, outside the four sides of the box. Inside the box, there are four triangular divisions, each depicting a different environment – volcanic, oceanic, forest, and desert. The markings on the die reflect each of the different climates, with two additions – one face allows you to move an animal that is already on the bridge, the other allows you to select any animal. A bridge spans the four environments. Animals that fall off the bridge during the game still can be chosen, along with the animals that are outside the sector, as determined by the die.

Animal Upon Animal balancing bridge can be played by two to four players (the more, the merrier), age six and older. It is as engaging a challenge for adults as it is for children. A steady hand, and a good sense of humor are highly recommended. Success in the game is not simply a question of dexterity, but also of reasoning and imagination – imagining how any given three of these irregularly-shaped wooden animals, with all their curves and notches, can be made to somehow and somewhat fit together. And, of course, it’s really all about fun.

Because of the cards, it is easy to adjust the challenge to the abilities of each player, giving younger players fewer cards, and older, more steady-handed players more cards. At last a family game that your two-card-holding adult has a chance to win against your five-card-holding kid!

Designed by Klaus Miltenberger with art by Michael Bayer, the game, like most games from Haba, is as delightful to look at as it is to play. Well-made, well-designed, well-worth its Major Fun award.

CooCoo the Rocking Clown

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 22-02-2011

CooCoo the Rocking Clown looks like a game you’d want to buy for your preschoolers. Which, of course, you most definitely would. It’s colorful. It’s wooden. It’s self explanatory. But what you might not discover until you manage to get it away from the kids is how much fun you could have with it, too. With the whole family, or all by yourself, without the kids, or with your friends at your next game night.

CooCoo comes with 24 wooden cylinders. There are 4 different colors. Each set of colors comes with one large cylinder, two smaller, and three smaller than that. There is no significance assigned to color or size, except, of course, that the larger cylinders weigh more, and can consequently have more impact on CooCoo’s balance.

You can play any way you want. Just place as many cylinders as you can without making CooCoo drop anything. Generally, when playing with a group, the idea is to put any cylinder anywhere you want, as long as all the cylinders stay on CooCoo when your turn is over. CooCoo’s feet are curved like a rocker. The curve isn’t as smooth as you think, so it’s possible to make CooCoo lean a little more or a little longer than you think she should.

CooCoo is recommended for kids 3 and over. Younger kids can play with it too, they just might not be able to get CooCoo to hold as many cylinders, or remember to put everything back into the box when they’re finished playing. As kids get a little older, they can use CooCoo the way they’d use any other building toy. By the time they’re school age, they’ll have the dexterity and conceptual skills to get CooCoo to hold all the cylinders.

As they get older, they’ll probably try, not only to see if they can get to hold ALL the cylinders, but also to see if they can make CooCoo lean. They’ll play cooperatively. Maybe they’ll try together to see how high they can build all the cylinders. They’ll play competitively. They’ll make up rules, so that a player who makes CooCoo drop a cylinder or more gets a negative point for every cylinder dropped. Maybe some colors and sizes are worth more. Maybe you can only use CooCoo’s head and arms.

Or, maybe they’ll make it the goal to see if it’s possible to get CooCoo to drop all the cylinders without falling completely over, or, on the other hand, maybe it’ll be a more interesting challenge to try to make CooCoo fall over, too.

These are the things that make CooCoo such a good party game. You can make your own rules. You can make it as difficult or as silly as you want. You can get a bunch of people to play. And, because the game is so dramatic, and attractive, you can get a bigger bunch of people to cheer you on.

CooCoo the Rocking Clown was designed by Thierry Denoual, and published by Blue Orange Games. Even if you don’t have children yet, CooCoo’s an investment in fun.