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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Strike

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Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most fun, or, in the case of Strike, Major Fun!

Strike   Ravensburger  |  BGG  |  Amazon  

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Designer: Dieter Nüßle   Publisher: Ravensburger     2-5 players    15 min    ages 8+

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Strike is a game about throwing dice into a box. When I said simple, I really wasn’t kidding! I know it sounds a little dippy, but Strike manages to take something as basic as gravity and turn it into an enjoyable, compelling and addictive experience for players of all ages.

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The Strike box is the dice arena. Picture a mini Roman colosseum inside the box. Small spectators could sit around the tiered levels, watching dice hurtle down to the battleground, a small oval foam mat (6″ long and 4.5″ wide). The mat is just rubbery enough to make the dice bounce around more than you’d like.

Strike also comes with 31 custom dice. The dice are 16mm (5/8″); they are black with white ink. Each die has conventional pips 2-3-4-5-6 with one custom face a big white X in place of the 1. The dice are nice and hefty and big enough for even small hands to pick up and throw.

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The goal of the game is to be the last player with dice remaining. Setup is super easy. Divide up the dice evenly depending on the number of players and throw one die into the arena. If the starting die comes up on the X face, roll again until you get a number face. Now you’re ready to roll your way to victory!

On your turn, you start by pitching one of your dice into the arena. You’ll have a great deal of fun learning how best to pitch dice into the arena to get the results you want. Several things can happen after the die leaves your hand.

The die could land in the arena & make a match with one or more numbered dice.

The die could land in the arena & not match any dice.

OR The die could bounce out of the arena.

If the die you roll matches one or more dice already in the arena. Great! You get to remove all the matching number dice and keep them. Your turn is now over.

If the die you roll does not make a match, then you have a choice to make. You can end your turn, letting the next player go OR you can choose to roll another die into the arena. As long as you do not make a match, you can keep throwing dice… as long as you have dice to throw! If you run out, you’re out of the game, so there’s a nice press-your-luck element to this decision. The more non-matching dice in the arena, the greater your chances of making a match but the more dice you throw, the more dice you risk losing if they don’t match.

Remember the name of the game is Strike. It’s totally legal to try and strike other dice when you throw your die into the arena to make a different combination of numbers pop up.

Last of all, your die could bounce out of the arena. I know it seems unlikely, but that pesky foam mat is bouncier than you think! If this happens, the die is removed from the game. This is bad, because, remember, you want to be the last player with dice left. The good news is, this doesn’t necessarily end your turn. Just like rolling a non matching die, you can choose to throw another die if you want or you can end your turn.

Play continues in this fashion: a player throws a die, makes a match, removes matching dice and ends his or her turn OR a player throws a die, does not make a match and decides to throw another die or ends his or her turn.

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Two things: the X and The Clean Sweep.

Let’s talk about the X first. Remember every die has an X on one face. If you throw a die and it comes up X, you lose the die. It is removed from the game. Same goes for any other dice you might knock around in the arena and flip to the X. They are removed as well. This means every time you pitch a die into the arena you are at risk of losing it! It also means games of Strike go quickly because many dice will be taken out of circulation as Xs come up throughout the course of the game.

Aside from the simple joy of chucking dice, the Clean Sweep is probably my favorite part of Strike. Eventually in most games, you will reach a point where one player rolls and makes a match will all the remaining dice in the arena. This means all the dice will be removed from the arena making it a… Clean Sweep! Instead of rolling a single die like a regular turn, the next player must roll ALL HIS OR HER DICE into the arena. All the normal rules apply. If you make any matches, you get to remove these dice and keep them. Any non matching dice stay. Any Xs are removed from the game.

The Clean Sweep adds an extra level of tension and drama and fun to every game. When one die remains in the arena, the roller will be calling for a Clean Sweep and next player will be rooting for no matches. And when it happens, a cheer (followed by a groan) will almost always rise up from the table. The Clean Sweep is also a great equalizer in the game. Even if you build up a large pile of dice, one Clean Sweep will force you to roll all your dice at once. If many of them come up Xs or without a match, that pile will go away in a hurry!

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Strike may be stupid fun, but it’s also Major Fun. And I don’t mean stupid in an insulting way. By all rights, chucking dice into a box lid should barely qualify as a game, but Strike manages to take this stupidly simple, lovely idea and craft it into an experience that is a joy to play no matter your age. I’ve introduced Strike to dozens and dozens of players from ages 6 to 66 and the universal reaction has been “Let’s play again.” This is the cornerstone for any game worthy of the Major Fun Award.

In a day and age where even games for families and children grow increasingly complex, it’s a pleasure to find in Strike a game that celebrates simplicity as a basic expression of playfulness and joy.

Pingo Pingo

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Release Date: 2/1/2016 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:   39 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Space penguins guard The Golden Pineapple on a mysterious island.

You had me at space penguins… 🙂

Pingo Pingo is a wacky game driven by a 15 minute soundtrack. Using a deck of cards and your trusty rubber dart gun, you must face traps, cross rope bridges, avoid angry polar bears and hordes of pengiuns to collect the most treasure and escape before time runs out. Tune in to find out why Pingo Pingo is… Major Fun!

Pingo Pingo    Iello  |  BGG  |  Designer’s web site

Designer: Roberto Fraga  Publisher: Iello  2-5 pl 15 min  ages 6+

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Music credits include:

The Penguin  by Raymond Scott  |  the song

Mad City

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Mad City is one of those rare tiling games where you can’t take your sweet time about placing your tiles. The game assigns you the role of a city planner who must arrange a 3×3 grid of tiles in order to make the most money—but you have less than a minute to do so. Needless to say, things can get messy.

Before I go on I need to recognize that there are A LOT of pieces in this game. When you open it up you have a lot of die-cut tokens to punch out. These will make quite a pile on your game table. Keep in mind that there are several ways to play the game. The first time you play you should play the Base Game (which is what we did) in which case you won’t need most of the tiles. You will only need your score board, the bag, the timer, and the 54 city tiles. And the park tree.

Everyone starts by drawing 9 city tiles from the bag and placing them in a face-down pile. When everyone has a pile of nine city tiles, they pass them to the player on the left. Someone says go and flips the timer. Players now have ONE MINUTE to arrange their city tiles into a 3×3 grid that will earn them maximum points.

The city tiles can have a variety of colored zones: residential (yellow), industrial (red), urban (blue), lakes (teal), and parks (green). Yellow, red, and blue zones will usually have buildings in them. There are also roads that can divide up tiles. In your one minute of frantic planning, you are trying to arrange your tiles to match up (as best you can) the roads and colored zones. Scoring is based on how many buildings of the same color you can bunch up or how many road segments you can connect.

At the end of the minute, everyone stops work. If a player has not created a 3×3 grid, that player shuffles any tiles not in the grid and fills in the grid at random. Then everyone looks at their city and scores each colored zone based on a chart provided on each score board. I won’t go into each colored zone in detail, but suffice it to say that the more buildings you have connected in a colored district the higher will be your score. There are points for the longest road.

There are also points for parks and lakes but those only go to one player. During the minute of play, anyone can grab the Park Tree. That player gets to score any parks and lakes BUT once that person grabs the tree he or she cannot do any more work on their city. Once you grab the tree, you can’t touch your city tiles until it’s time to score. In general, you want to make a decent city and then grab the tree. Think of parks and lakes as bonus points.

There is a lot going on in that one minute. It is hard to focus when everyone is busy trying to fit their pieces into a grid, and everyone would like to grab the tree but not too soon! The first person to 150 points wins.

Major Fun AwardOnce you get some play time in with the base game, you can check out the Standard Game. This introduces a much different way to score and it uses most of the tokens that you punched out when you first unwrapped the game. There are also more things to grab (like the Park Tree). In this game, the first to 100 points wins. You also have to pay much closer attention to the colors you are arranging.

Mad City can also be played as a solitaire activity. The game comes with three ways to play solo.

All said, Mad City is a fast-paced but strategically engaging game. Each player essentially plays alone except for the times when you are rushing to grab the Park Tree (or one of the other tokens from the more advanced game). Major Fun but definitely not for the weak of heart.

1 – 6 players. Ages 8+

Mad City was designed by Kane Klenko and is © 2014 by Mayfair Games.

Zitternix (Keep It Steady)

So, here’s what you get when you open your box Zitternix. Take a minute. No more than two. See if you can figure out the rules.

If you’re still having trouble, read the following later:

If I wanted to my designer friends to know more about the kinds of games I really, truly admire (and am always a wee bit angry at myself for not having come up with the game myself), as so oft I do, I’d use Zitternex to show how close you can get to creating a completely self-explanatory games.

Still wondering what the rules are? OK, if you’re not, skip the following section and go on to the next:

The Rules

  1. You take all the sticks and put them through the ring so that the whole bundle can stand freely, noting, as you must, that the different color sticks have different properties. There’s fat blue, average red and slim yellow. This observation might help you win the game, at some point, when points are being counted.
  2. You roll the die and remove a stick of the corresponding color. If you make the big wooden ring touch the table, your turn has ended, so you set everything up again and basically wait until the whole game starts again. Which isn’t that long.
  3. And, yes, Fat Blue is worth 3 points. And, yes, the other sticks are worth fewer, arithmetically descending with relative girth.
  4. And then there are the rules it would talk you maybe longer to figure out, like: if it looks like you don’t have a good choice, and you already own a stick of the color in question you can place it back into the game. Which you probably will find minorly upsetting, unless you make the bundle fall. In that event, you will be more upset. And you can quit the whole game if you manage to get the bundle down to three sticks. And did you know that the further off the table the ring is, the longer the bundle will keep from collapsing?

And now for those of you who figured out the game:

dexterity-family-kids-partyOK, so it’s not completely self-explanatory. In fact, one of the things that makes Zitternix (called Keep It Steady in English-speaking countries) such a good toy/game (which makes it already a happy coincidence – a game that is as much a toy as it is a game) that it is just as easy to find new rules, new things to make it do and keep it from doing, for finding ways to play the game so that everybody gets to play even though they “lost” – kind of like a group solitaire, or playing the game on a slanted surface just to see what happens…

What Major Major Fun!

 

Schatz-Rabatz (Treasure Trouble)

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Schatz-Rabatz is a game of luck and speed. There are two versions: one, for younger players, is all about luck, speed and a little about visual and spatial discrimination (if you want to look at it that way); the other is all about skill.

The main elements of the game are the treasure chests, the wooden pieces that you try to fit into the treasure chest, the cards that tell you what pieces are eliminated (younger version) or what pieces to look for, the score cards and a sand timer.

In the younger version, a card is selected and placed face down on the table. The pieces (treasures) are placed in the middle of the table, in easy reach of all the players. Each player gets a treasure chest. The sand timer is started, and players race to fill their treasure chests. Naturally, you can fit in fewer large pieces than small. When time is up, you must put the lid on your treasure chest, and, if you have to, remove any pieces until you can fit the lid on correctly. The card is turned over. Any pieces depicted on the card are eliminated. The rest are counted for your score. The player with the most pieces remaining wins that round. Like I said, it’s mostly luck, which, for the right children at the right age, is exactly what everything is about. Also, the more players there are, the more the game is about making sure the other players don’t get the piece you’re looking for.

family-kids1In the older version, the cards are placed face up, so you can see what pieces you don’t want to collect. So there’s really no luck involved – only speed and skill (go for the smallest pieces first, try to fit in as many as you can, be sure none of the pieces you have selected are shown on the playing card, be sure everything fits). All this adds a certain amount of what one might call cognitive dissonance, and what another might call more fun – especially the older other.

All in all, a novel, and entertaining game, primarily for children and the adults who love them. Designed by Karin Hetling with art by Johann Rüttnger, Schatz-Rabatz is recommended for children ages 5 and up (small parts). It is produced by Noris, and is available in the US from Amazon.

Crash Cup Karambaloge

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Crash Cup Karambaloge – yes, that’s the name of the game all right – reminded me of (pardon my literacy) a book by H. G. Wells (yes, that H. G. Wells) called Floor Games (there’s a PDF version here). It’s a book about H. G. and son playing miniature war games, using everything in the house they could find that would support the fantasy.

Crash Cup KarambalageCrash Cup Karambaloge is not a model war game, but it is in the same spirit. It’s a car-racing game, played with cardboard pieces, wooden supports, pucks, and score keepers. It’s really a starter set – even though it comes complete with everything you need to play, plus a rule book containing four different versions.

You play it on the floor, or on a table – any space wide and flat enough to build your race track. Much of the delight of the game comes from its simplicity, and the elegance of the little device you use to propel your vehicle (puck) through the race course – or whatever it is that you choose to build together.

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Everything about it reflects the kind of fun we advocate – simple, but intriguing mechanics; inviting skill, imagination and creativity – all in all, a genuine invitation to family play.

Recommended for children 6 and older, Crash Cup Karambaloge can be played with 2-6 players. It was designed by Heinz Meister and is available in the US from HABAUSA

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Thumbs Up!

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We at Major Fun are nothing if not suckers for colorful dexterity games. It’s not like we are particularly good at them, it’s just that they are so darn cute!! The best ones are silly and involve a lot of involuntary shouting.

dexterity-family-kids-partyThere is nothing in the rules for Blue Orange’s dexterity game Thumbs Up! about shouting. It’s just something I felt strongly compelled to do when trying to arrange the colorful rings on my thumb in the right order. Each player is provided with 8 rings (2 blue, 2 red, 2 green, and 2 yellow). When everyone is ready, a challenge card is flipped over and players race to stack the correct number of rings in the right order. For example, the challenge card might show 5 dice: 2 red, a green, a yellow, and a blue. Each die shows one number from 1 to 5: green 1, red 2, red 3, blue 4, yellow 5. Player must stack 5 rings on their thumbs in this order.

The player who is fastest wins the round and earns the card. The player who first collects 5 cards wins the game.

It’s a simple and engaging formula. As you get better, there are several variations that change up the rules. We also found ways to handicap some of the fastest players in order to prevent one person from dominating. However you decide to play, the rounds are fast and frantic and excitement builds with each challenge card.

The rules are completely intuitive and fit on a small square sheet of paper. You can combine sets for larger groups or adapt the rules for team play.

Major Fun likes it and, given the opportunity, he’s gonna put a ring on it.

2 – 6 players. Ages 6+

Thumbs Up was designed by Alexandre Droit and is © 2015 by Blue Orange Games.

Jumbo Bananagrams

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It always amazes me how much a game can change when you change its scale. Today’s example: Jumbo Bananagrams.

Yes, it’s Bananagrams – your basic, Major Fun, Keeper-award-winning crossword-making word game. Bananagrams jumbofied, however, becomes a team sport.  Because the letters are so large, and the game can take up so much more space, it becomes that much more engaging for the fortunate many.

word-party-family-kidsSay, for example, that you’re playing Jumbo Bananagrams with the equivalent of 4 players. Given the sheer hugeness of it all, you decide to play with four teams instead – let’s say teams of 4 players each. So, now you have 16 people playing. You know how much of the table a normal regulation Bananagrams game can take up? Well, with Jumbo Bananagrams you can easily use a whole lawn, or living room, or basketball court. And each time a new letter is added, everybody on your team has to be involved in figuring out where to put it, how to rearrange the letters to maximize the manifest cleverness of it all. O, the excitement! O, the teamwork! And if you happen to have a business of some kind, with a staff in need of exploring their abilities to work together, or just to have fun together, well, now you have a near perfect team-building activity.

And, of course there are many, many other games that all these large (3×3-inch), floppy letters inspire. Can you, for example, toss them so they spell a word? Can you make a relay race? A mixer for a conference of perhaps 144 people (take a letter, any letter – OK, that’s your letter; now run around and find other letter/people with whom you can make an impressively large word, or a word that rhymes with Google maybe, or a palindrome potentially.

And, yes, teachers can use these for thinly disguised educational purposes, engaging an entire class in a literacy exercise or vocabulary exercise or just plain exercise. Jumbo Bananagrams being not just a game (an excellent game, in fact) but a tool for genuinely fun, real-time, all-embracing personal, family and professional growth.

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Ring It!

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You know those pat-your-head-and-rub-your-tummy kind of games? Ring It! is kind of that kind, except it’s more like a see-the-match-and-clap-your-hands-and-ring-the-bell-first kind of game. And the fun, she is major in deed.

Ringit_Tin_New_FlatYou get 90 round cards and a bell in a highly portable tin. These cards, as illustrated, have numbers on them that come in different colors. There are also some designs on the edges of the cards, also as illustrated. For the basic game, you get an equal amount of cards (10), put them in a face-down pile, and take turns turning over the top card in your pile and placing it another pile, face-up. If either the color or number match, or if two Ring It! cards show up, you try to be the first to clap and ring the bell. If correct, and first, you get all the cards that are in play. If not, all the cards in play are discarded as well as three of the mistake-maker’s cards.

Then there are “trick cards” that look just like Ring It! cards, except for the small skull of don’t-clapitude.

party-familySpeaking of clapitude, there are variations, O, yes. Maybe instead of the clapping thing you do the rubbing the belly thing, or the fake sneeze thing or the pig squeal. Or you do the thing and then Ring It whenever the borders of the cards match, or when two numbers can be added to make a third number on another card, or when two colors could be mixed to make a third (blue and yellow make green) or, well, you get it – basically, a game that you can make almost impossibly difficult or possibly even more fun than you thought possible.

Major Fun for 2-9 children as young as five-years old and as old as you, at least. Designed by Thierry Denoual from Blue Orange Games.

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