Speed Bump

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 29-07-2013

Speed Bump pattern recognition game


Speed Bump is what people who use words like that call a “pattern matching” game. We prefer to call it “fun.” “Major fun,” that is.

Each player (2-4) gets the same set of four, colorful, large, wooden tiles. There’s a deck of 50 Pattern Cards. These are the patterns that players try to match. As you can see in the picture, the patterns on the Pattern Cards are black shapes. And the tiles that you use to match the patterns are colorfully illustrated, which explains at least part of the challenge (and fun) of the game.

Each tile shows the same four traffic signs in the same position. The Pattern Cards show all four tiles. All you have to do is be the first to orient all four of your tiles so that the signs on the tiles are in the same position as shown on the Pattern Card – and be the first to hit the electronic Speed Bump buzzer. Actually, the Speed Bump buzzer doesn’t buzz. It honks a car horn and then says “Speed Bump” in a fun, somewhat bumpy truck-driving accent.

The rules suggest that if someone makes a mistake, they are out for the rest of the round. Though the rounds are short, we’d recommend that they just team up with another player.

There are two different kinds of Pattern Cards, and two different sides for the tiles, resulting in two different levels of challenge, effectively doubling the play vale of the game. The advanced level is called “All Terrain.” Here, the Pattern Cards are less abstract, but illustrate only some of the features shown on the tiles. You not only have to orient your tiles correctly, but you may also have to reorganize them to complete the match.

Major Fun AwardYou can further raise the challenge level by shuffling both kinds of pattern cards together, players having to flip their tiles over when a different level Pattern Card appears.

The rounds are, as you can imagine, very fast – maybe a minute or two. The winner keeps the Pattern Card. The first player to gather five Pattern Cards wins the game.

Speed Bump is recommended for 1-4 players who are at least 6-years-old. We couldn’t figure out how the one-player version would work, so we’re going to recommend it for 2-4 players. Original game concept by Oswald Greene, Jr., FunBox Games LLC, elegantly produced by Fat Brain Toys, of similar LLCness.

Spot It Jr: Animals

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 29-07-2013

You’d think Spot-It had won enough Major Fun awards already.

But what about a version of Spot-It that can also be played by younger children (ages 4 and up)? Would that also merit a Major Fun award?

You bet it would!

The animals on the cards are easier for younger kids to name. There are fewer items on each card and fewer cards in the deck. The shorter deck means less waiting to play the next game.

Major FunThe games are similar to the games in regular Spot It. Three suggested games are for ages 4 and up, two suggested games are for ages 6 and up. My nephews like game number 1, “Twins,” the best. All the cards are placed in a face down pile on the table. The first player takes the two top cards, and turns them over. The first player to “spot” the match wins those two cards. The game continues until all the cards are used up. Though the rules state that the player with the most cards wins, we, in typical Major Fun fashion, just count each player’s cards and then start the next round. No reason to make a big deal out if winning. Playing is fun enough.

My nephews started playing with Spot It Jr.! when my younger nephew was 4 and the older one was 6. They are now 5 and 7 and are still playing it. They also play with regular Spot It, but Spot It Jr. is easier and more fun for the 5-year-old.

Another testimony to how Major the fun is in both versions of Spot It:  they still play both games, and even my Dad, who generally doesn’t like games, has fun with them.

Spot It Jr.! is for 2-6 players. It is easy to transport and stays neat and tidy in its tin. Major Fun for adults and children. From Blue Orange Games.

- via Fun Majorette Erin Murphy


Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games, Word Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 08-07-2013



Tapple is what happens when you combine a traditional trivia game with a traditional children’s game and make it into a party game that could very well become your new family tradition.

There are 36 category cards which come tucked into a sweet little compartment on the bottom of the game. On each side of each category card are two categories (e.g.: things at a party, cartoons, song titles, movies). The yellow/orange side of the category cards are more challenging. Remember this.

The designers suggest that you can play with up to 8 people. We tried it with 10, and the fun we had was sweet enough to be an ice cream topping.

When a round begins, somebody selects a category from a category card and reads it aloud. If you’re playing with a group small enough, you all gather round the Tapple machine. In larger groups, you simply pass the Tapple machine from player to player.

The person who selected the category taps the center button, starting the ten-second timer. The next player taps a letter lever, gives a new example of something that fits the category that starts with the letter tapped, and, if the timer has not gone off yet, taps the timer to reset it for the next player. Etc., and so forth, until the timer goes off or someone makes a mistake.

The designers recommend that if someone makes a mistake, that person is eliminated, and the next player resumes the round. The rounds are short enough so that the players who can’t play are still amused by the fervent frolic of the remaining few.

The game is most fun when someone gets stumped, naturally. There is a rule for what happens if all the letters get used (select a new category, each player has to find two matches per turn), but generally it’s an indication that you should be using the harder categories.

Tapple is fast and fun. The Tapple machine is cleverly designed and wonderfully functional. A lever allows you to reset all the letter tabs instantly. The timer is unmistakably loud. You can turn the game off with a switch to conserve batteries. If you have a place to keep the rules, you can throw the box away entirely.

The designers acknowledge that Tapple is based on a traditional German/Dutch game called Pim Pam Pet, but the execution makes the game so playable that it becomes a new game in its own right.

Tapple, recommended for ages 8 and above, comes to us from USAopoly.




Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 02-07-2013


Happen to know a card game called “Spit“? You know, that competitive solitaire-like game, only for two or more players. Where you don’t take turns, and you have to keep very alert, because sometimes the very pile you were hoping to play on gets played on first by the other player.

Well, Ratuki isn’t Spit. It’s Spit-like. But faster, with a unique set of cards that adds a challenging perceptual/conceptual twist that makes it into something very much like a new game entirely.

The object of the Ratuki is to capture the most cards by being the first to complete a set of 5 cards, again and again and again. Players begin with a hand of 3 cards. There can be as many piles in the playing area as there are players. Each pile has to start with a ONE. Actually, there are five different kinds of ONEs: roman numerals, bilingual number names, fingers, faces of a die, and your regular Arabic-numeral type numbers. In a similar vein, there are TWOs of 5 kinds, each of which can be played on top of a ONE of any kind.

So, yes, you’re racing to build stacks of up to 5 cards, and equally yes, they can be of any kind, and even moreso, you have to constantly switch your expectations of which kind of number actually comes next.

Major Fun AwardThen there are the Ratuki cards, which you can use to capture a stack at any time. Sadly, there are only two of these wild delights. When you play your Ratuki card, you’re supposed to say “Ratuki.” Turns out to be almost as much fun to say that silly word as it is to play the card. Let’s say it together now, for the fun of it: ra-tooooo-kee! See what I mean?

And so the game goes. Speaking of which, if you can’t play, you can always discard one or more of the cards in your hand and pick up a new card from your draw pile. Which in one way is good, in another, not so – because after the round is over and you’ve counted all the cards you’ve won, you have to subtract every card left in your discard and draw piles from your score.

From time to time, no one has any cards they can play (unless they discard). And, since nobody wants especially to discard, you get these stand-off moments, where the game is stopped until someone confronts the fates, and discards, for the sake of keeping the game going. This results in a semi-profound meta-moment where the fun of the game actually takes precedence over the fun of winning.

There are many reasons to add this game to your library: the “educational” value, the appeal to children and adults, the ease of learning, the brevity of rounds, the quality of the cards, and, most of all, the sheer, intense fun of it all.

Designed by Greg Zima, designer of the Major Fun award winning Stomple and Party Gras and  made available by USAopoly.

Wig Out!

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 25-06-2013



Wig Out! is a fast, fun, easy-to-learn card game where players compete to be the first to get rid of their cards by matching pairs and piles of the same image.

When you consider how much fun and engaging it is, the game is remarkably easy to learn. All you have to do is find a pair of your cards that match, or match one of your cards to a pair (or pile) of cards that is already on the table. It’s that easy. And that, in itself, is a praiseworthy accomplishment of what, in our estimation, is of major significance. Though not as significant as the fun it creates.

There are 14 different characters depicted on the cards. The characters are all funny-looking, and the color and design of each makes it exceptionally easy to see when there’s a match (another major accomplishment, design-wise). Each player gets 7 cards (if there are 5 or 6 players, each gets 5 cards), and when the game starts, the action keeps going, getting more and more frantic, until someone shouts “Wig Out!,” thereby implying that she has gotten rid of all the cards in her hand and is deserving of all the accolades due to the manifestly victorious.

Since there are 14 different characters, as the game progresses, you get more and more piles to look at. And, of course, the more piles, the more concentration you need, and the more frenzied you get. If you can find no piles for your cards, you just pick another card. As the game draws to its tensely dramatic close, it often seems like everyone has been waiting to get rid of exactly the same card, which, given the nature of the design, is almost always the case.

Major Fun AwardLovely, lovely game. Victory is a matter of luck and focus. Anyone can win. The closer you get to winning, the closer everyone else is. And it all happens so quickly that you don’t even have time to feel competitive, or care, really, who wins. Because by then it’s time to start the next round.

Yes, of course, you can play for score, the player who wins the most rounds winning the game. But that’s not really the point as far as we’re concerned. It’s the ease of the game, the funniness of the images, and the fun of playing such a silly, but challenging game together.

Wig Out is for 2-6 players, ages 6 and up. It was designed by Forrest-Pruzan Creative with illustrations by Dean MacAdam. It comes to us courtesy of Gamewright.

Cheese Louise

Filed Under (Kids Games) by Will Bain on 25-06-2013

Cheese Louise pattern matching game

Do you need every aspect of your sandwich to be perfect before you take a bite? Do you make sure all the Cheerios are evenly distributed before you plunge in your spoon? Do you fill every hole of your waffle before cutting along each of the ridges?

If so, Cheese Louise is the game for you.

The game comes with 24 double sided cards, each in the shape of a bread slice. Each side of the slice depicts some condiments (sometimes a few flies too). To accompany the bread there are 22 slices of foam “cheese” (for those who are dairy intolerant, no actual cheese was used in the manufacture of this game). The cheese has holes like Swiss cheese. Your challenge is to find the slice of cheese that will perfectly cover all the other items on your slice of “bread” (for those of you on a gluten free diet, or simply watching your carb intake, no actual bread was used in the manufacture of the game).

Each player gets a slice of bread. Once the cheese is spread out in the middle of the table, the race is on. First one to match the correct cheese to their bread slice wins and keeps the bread slice. Everyone draws another slice and then starts madly shuffling through the cheese.

Major Fun loves a good sandwich, and making these sandwiches is Major Fun.

The entirety of the rules (with illustrations) fits on one small piece of paper. The foam cheese and plastic bread slices are clever and so incredibly frustrating!!

Major FunCheese Louise is a pattern recognition game much like Set or Swish but maybe even a bit more deceptive. It looks so easy, but there are small variations in the bread slices and the cheese slices. These differences generate far more choices than are obvious at first. Consider too that each cheese slice have eight ways they can fit on to any one piece of bread (four ways on each side of the cheese). If every piece of cheese is different then the game creates 176 different options—only one of which will work.

The pace is fast and a winner usually emerges pretty quickly (first person to finish 5 slices). Even with the small number of bread slices, the challenge on replay is still there. You can recognize a slice of bread and still not be able to find the right cheese because they’ve all been scrambled.

Who moved your cheese? EVERYONE moved your cheese.

For 1-4 players, ages 6+

Cheese Louise was designed by Kim Vandenbrouke of Brainy Chick, Inc. Distributed by Fat Brain Toy Co.

Fish to Fish

Filed Under (Kids Games, Thinking Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 23-06-2013

Fish to Fish

Fish to Fish is a logic and observation game in which players compete to be the first to create a sequence of fish, each fish differing from the previous by only one attribute.

Each fish has five different attributes: color, pattern, the shape of the fin, the size of the eye, and the kind of mouth.

There are 32 Fish Tiles – thick, large, colorful, fun-to-slide-around tiles. You can divide them into 4 sets of 8, each set having the same color and pattern. Half of each set will have small or large eyes; open or closed mouths; small fins or large fins; stripes or spots.

There are also 32 Fish Cards. Each card illustrates two different fish. The object is to be the first to find the Fish Tiles which will create a sequence that begins with one of the fish depicted on the Fish Card, and ends with the other, each tile differing by only one attribute.

thinking-kidsWhat makes the fun as major as it is that there’s more than one way to make a correct sequence. So, depending on how close everyone is are to a solution, it is fairly likely that the fish you need are still available. If you can’t do it with three fish, you probably can do it with four, or five, or six, if you have to.

There’s an additional rule which adds significantly to the majorness of the fun and the tension of the game. If another player has the tile you need, and you only need one tile – that particular one – to complete your sequence, you can snatch that tile away and win the game: much to the chagrin of the other player, and even that much more to your sense of shrewdly won victory.

Fish to Fish can be played as a solitaire, or by 2-5 children of checker-playing age. It was designed by Nicholas Cravotta and Rebecca Bleau of Blue Matter Games, and is made available by Fat Brain Toy Company.


La Boca

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games, Puzzles) by Bernie DeKoven on 17-06-2013

La Boca

So, there’s these wooden blocks. Eleven of them to be exact, each a different color. Only we’re playing with just ten, because we’re not feeling “expert” enough yet. And you and I, we’re sitting opposite each other, each of us looking at one side of a two-sided card. My side shows me what I want my side of our block building to look like, yours, yours. Your side of the card is different from mine, and vice, needless to say, versa.

So, we start the digital timer, and, simultaneously, using only that one set of blocks, we each try to build what we see on our side of the card as fast as possible. We can talk to each other, of course. We can laugh, sing, cry, even. As long as we can build the thing, and, in the shortest possible time, your side looks like your side of the card and mine, mine.

Major Fun AwardAnd, should it happen that we’re not the only two people playing, when our turn is over we get another turn, only with a different partner, until everyone gets a turn playing with everyone. And when everyone has played with everyone, the game is over, and the fastest pair wins.

Of course, there’s more. There’s playing with all eleven blocks. There’s a point system. There’s this very simple, clever, and surprisingly functional method to make sure that everyone plays with everyone else. And there’s the frustration, and craziness, and the laughing? Oy is there the laughing.

Cleverly crafted, well-designed, primarily cooperative, Major Fun for 3-6 players, ages 8 and up. It’ll take maybe 40 minutes for the whole game. Designed by Inka & Markus Brand, published by Kosmos games, and soon available in the U.S. from Z-Man Games.

Riff Raff

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 29-04-2013

Riff Raff

Riff Raff is a game of rigorous self-assessment, strategic cunning, and Kung-Fu-like dexterity. OK, maybe not so rigorous or cunning. And more of the white-belt level, Kung-Fu-wise. But, for a rocking-boat-in-the-water balancing-type game, surprisingly, shall we say, deep.

Stage one: the setting-up

There are two large cardboard “waves” that bend into three sections. These are placed together on to the parts compartment in the box, so as to form the base for the ship. A wooden collar is then placed over the opening where the two wave-pieces meet. Into this, you “place the joint of the ball-bar on the wooden ring in such a way that the boat sinks into the whole and the two retaining rods come to lie in the troughs of the ring.” Thus assuring something like 360-degree rockability. And then on goes the hull, and the mast goes into the hole in the hull, and a small round bar is placed into the bottommost mast-hole upon which is placed the lower yardarm. And, oh, you know, you get a boat, cunningly counterweighted, tantalizingly tippable, with three yardarms, that have numbers on each end.

Each player (2-4) gets a set of 8 different pieces- wooden, of course, as is the boat and all its parts, except for the metal ball counter-weight, and a deck of ten cards, numbered from one, to, let me see, yes, ten.

Stage two: the up-setting

Major Fun awardEach player selects one of her cards. Simultaneously, all players reveal their chosen number. The player with the highest number is captain, and starts the game. The player who has the second highest card goes next, etc. Once a card is played, it gets thrown into somewhere retrievable for the next game. Now here’s the thing about the cards. It’s not just about seeing who gets to go when. It’s also about where you have to put a piece of your cargo. Note the numbers on the ship. Note the corresponding number on the card you played. Ten gets to go first. But then again, that means the player who played a ten has to put a piece of the very top yardarm in the “ten” section.

So, when you select your card, you have to anticipate (predict, potentially; guess, actually) what card the other players might also choose. Which, of course, entails considerations about what card they think you’re likely to choose. Hence the whole strategic cunning part. And the Kung-Fu-like hand-steadiness. And, of course, the rigorous self-assessment (I mean, can I actually get the monkey to hang on the 10 side of the yardarm, given how the whole ship is tilting 1o-wardly?).

The game is surprisingly easy to understand. Consistently engaging. Frequently funny. And probably one of the strategically deepest dexterity games we’ve yet encountered. Major, we say, fun.

Designed by Christoph Cantzler, art by Michael Menzel, published by Zoch, available in the U.S. from Lion Rampant Imports


Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 29-04-2013

Hamsterrolle via BoardgameCafe.net

For people who like to explore the mysteries of balance and steadiness of hand,  Hamsterrolle is an ingenious, and, to our knowledge, unique (and, hence, uniquely fun) challenge.

If it reminds you a bit of one of those wheelish things you find in a hamster cage, you have satisfactorily explained the etymology of the game’s name.

The main component of the game is a large, wooden wheel, divided into 12 sections by steps of different length. There are also four sets of 7 wooden pieces, each piece a different color and shape. In addition, there is a cone-shaped piece, used to steady the wheel in preparation for the beginning of the game. Each of the 2-4 players gets one full set.

Major Fun awardOnce the cone-shaped piece is in postion, the game begins. The first player places any of her pieces into the first, second, or third compartment (separated by steps) after the cone. From then on, players take turns placing their pieces, either in the same compartment in which the last piece was placed, or the compartment after that, or the compartment after that. If a piece is placed in the same compartment, it must be different than all the other pieces in that compartment, and placed so that it is ahead of the last piece placed.

Sooner or later, the wheel rolls. That establishes the “roll” direction, and all subsequent plays must be made so that the wheel, if it rolls, will continue rolling in the same direction. This can also cause a piece or several to fall out of their compartments. Even if they only fall partly out, they are still considered “yours,” so you must add them to your collection, which is not so good for you, especially when you take into account that the first player to use up all her pieces is the winner.

The game is challenging, absorbing, and takes you enough by surprise to catalyze serious laughter. It can be played by almost any age. The rules can be easily changed to accommodate younger children and older adults. It is elegant, attractive, and major fun.

Watch a couple kids playing:

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Now watch the amazingness:

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Designed by Jacques Zeimet and produced by Zoch games, Hamsterrolle is recommended for 2-4 players ages 7 and older. It is available in the U.S. from Lion Rampant Imports