Jenga® Giant™

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Party Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 13-04-2015

Jenga Giant
Jenga® Giant™ is, as you might conclude, a giant version of Jenga. You play it just like you’d play Jenga®. Everything you know about Jenga® makes this game as fun as it is. Only with Jenga Giant the fun is, shall we say, even more major.

Why even more major? Because when those blocks come a-tumblin’ down, man, do they come a-tumblin’! We’re talking loud. We’re talking spectacularly loud. By the second or third time you play, and you know full well how much of a spectacle it is, and how loud it is, the tension is even greater, the game even that much more exciting, and attractive, which makes it especially good for parties.

It is made of “54 precision crafted polished Jenga® Giant™ Premium Hardwood Blocks each 6″x2″x1″” (premium hardwood, but not from endangered rain forest, jungle, or similar areas). This “precision crafted polished” feature of the game is what makes it work so well, and why you could very well drive yourself beyond the limits of the home craftperson should you try to make your own. Blocks that can slide without making the whole thing fall are blocks that slide the way only a precision crafted polished block could slide – smoothly, smugly, validating your Jenga-like acumen.

There is nothing cheap about Jenga Giant. Nothing. But after you play it at one or several of your parties, you’ll have no trouble at all justifying the expense. And neither will your guests.

To further the party-like aspect of Jenga Giant, and for a relatively minuscule investment, consider purchasing a ChalkInk marker so that you can write messages, erasably, in a subtle but clearly legible white, right upon your beautiful Jenga blocks, added rules and other hilarity-provoking things. We take, for example, from The Big List of Drinking Jenga Tiles (not that drinking is necessary or even essential for the majority of the added fun):

  • The next person must take their turn sitting on your lap.
  • You must play the rest of the game wearing no shoes or socks.
  • You must keep physical contact with the person to your right for the remainder of the game.
  • Any time you sing the Jeopardy theme song, the person taking their turn must complete their turn before you finish the song.

(Fortunately, the Jenga Giant blocks are giant enough for just about any message you can think of.)

The only reason we don’t recommend Jenga Giant for kids? Kids might get a bit too carried away to remember not to play near fragile things like on your beautiful dining room table or too close to the proverbial china closet. O, they will have fun. Big fun. But there are times when one must ask: what price fun?

dexterity-party

The Metagame

Filed Under (Party Games, Word Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 13-04-2015

metaga.me

The Metagame, explain the triumvirate at Local # 12,

“is a social card game about everything: comics and literature, fine art and tv, architecture and videogames. It’s a way to show off your cultural smarts and get into ridiculous arguments with your friends. Arguments like:

  • Which feels like first love: Pride and Prejudice or Hungry Hungry Hippos?
  • Which is responsible for the fraying of our moral fabric: Tupperware or Das Kapital?
  • Which should be required in schools: Dungeons and Dragons or the Bible?

“The Metagame is not a single game or a single set of rules. Like a traditional deck of cards, it’s an open game system enabling a wide variety of games for different settings and play styles.”

Before I begin to wax enthusiastic about The Metagame and all the joyous socio-conceptual affordances thereof, I needs must recuse myself. I know the guy. Eric Zimmerman. He is my friend and has catalyzed something like a renaissance of my work. So I really want to aid his success as much as he has aided mine.  On the other hand, as an advocate of good games, and real fun, I can’t keep myself, or you, from the many wonders of the Metagame.

There are six games. Each is different. Each is will make you laugh. There are games that are strong enough to engage a party-full of friends, and games that you can play with your lover – or a several of your lovers. The cards are very well thought out – all of them. Which is no small achievement, considering how many cards there are to think about.

Here’s a great little video on how to play the game:

And another, earlier one, with the inventors of the game, at a slightly earlier stage.

Here’s our review of the game at an earlier stage.

Here’s how you can buy the finished, packaged game in all it’s many glories.

And here’s our award:

Major Fun Award

Menu Mash-Up

Filed Under (Family Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 30-10-2014

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Menu_Mash_Up_product_shot_contentsParty games accommodate snacking in ways that other games don’t. Speed games engage the hands and eyes too much. Word games and strategy games consume too much intellectual bandwidth. But party games are made to be played with friends at a casual pace.

Menu Mash-Up doesn’t just accommodate party food, it has the distinction of being a party game that could actively encourage players to put the game aside for a while in order to prepare a full meal.

The mechanics are simple—think Apples to Apples but with ingredients. There are three kinds of cards: ingredients, preps, and dishes. Players have a hand of ten cards: 7 ingredients (papaya, caviar, asparagus, saffron, etc…) and 3 preps (cookies, baked, flambéed, omelet, etc…) Each round begins with one player (the Diner) drawing a Dish card. These cards describe what the other players (the Cooks) need to prepare such as Romantic Dinner, Tickle the Senses, Break the Bank, and Bring the Pain. The cooks put together any number of their ingredients and preps in a way that will most appeal to the diner. These cards are placed in an ingenious folder that looks like a menu and passed to the Diner. The Diner shuffles the menus, reads them out, and then chooses the winner for the round.

Some of the Dish cards are have special instructions. The Diner might have to roll a die for the number of ingredients or the Cooks might have a 45 second timer. These serve to spice things up as it were.

01 AwardIt’s a tried and true party game mechanic but the responses to the various dishes are incredibly varied. The game also comes with a set of Linking Cards that anyone can use—words like “with,” “followed by,” “on.” Cooks have 10 cards PLUS the Linking Cards to arrange in any order they want. They can fill the order with multiple courses or one simple item.

One of the things I loved about the game was how it swung between funny and tantalizing. There were lots of combinations that made us laugh but the ones we talked about the most were the ones that sparked our gustatory imaginations. And you could tell the really powerful ones because everyone would sit back for a moment with a faraway look and sigh a collective “mmmmmm.”

Silly, sumptuous, and absolutely Major Fun.

3 – 7 players. Ages 12+

Menu Mash-Up was designed by Karen Hudes and is © 2013. The game is produced by Chronicle Books.

Blurble

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 13-08-2014

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BlurbleDeluxeBlurble is a game like Anomia that gets a lot of laughs and game-play-mileage out of making you sound stupid.

You aren’t stupid. I know this because you are reading this web post. You also demonstrate great taste and a fine appreciation for the playful side of life. And in that last regard, Blurble is the game for you.

Just be warned: the longer you play the game, the dumber you will sound.

The game consists of a big deck of cards. How many cards, you ask? I’m not quite sure, but at a guess I would say more than 11. Yep, the box lid confirms there are more than 11 cards (489 more to be exact). The cards have pictures on them—illustrations of objects that are easy to identify (although one card had a plate of nachos that I was SURE was a pizza).

The game starts with a person called the “Blurbler.” Say it out loud. GO on. Now say it more than five times in a row. That kind of silly stupid tongue tied feeling is something you are going to have to get used to a lot. The Blurbler turns to the first person clockwise and flips up a card. The two players then races to say a word that begins with the same letter as the object in the picture.

Blurble cardsBUT (and notice it is a big but…) there are legal words and there are illegal words. Words cannot be proper nouns, numbers, contractions, or contain fewer than 3 letters (when we played we misread the rules and so disallowed anything with less than 4 letters—harder but still tons of fun). Words may never be used more than once in a game. Finally, the word cannot name the image. For instance, if a picture of a cat comes up you cannot say cat nor can you say catatonic nor can you say vacation (va CAT ion). That last one you might be able to slip by the other players (who act as judges) but they could call you out for illegal Blurbling.

01 AwardAs the game goes on you do tend to get faster but you also tend to run into words that have already been used. You will find yourself tripping over some of the most basic words because you just can’t remember if the word has been used before.

One thing we really liked about Blurble is that you are not penalized for saying an illegal word. If you say an illegal word you just have to keep trying. Players just keep shouting out words (and a lot of gibberish) until they say a legal one.

Major Fun for lots of ages and big groups of people.

2-12 players. Ages 8+

Blurble was designed by Grant Bernard and is © 2011 by Bernard Games.

Rumble in the House / Rumble in the Dungeon

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 11-08-2014

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Rumble in the houseA while back we awarded King of Tokyo with a Major Fun Award. Giant monsters rampaging their way through a major metropolitan city. What isn’t there to like?

Well, Flatlined Games has lowered the stakes a little (you are fighting over a house instead of a city) but kicked the rampaging into overdrive.

Rumble in the House (and it’s virtually identical twin Rumble in the Dungeon) distills the fighting game down to its most basic core: move monsters, remove monsters. Cram a bunch of hare-trigger psychopaths (like Cthulhu, a Chicken Man superhero, and a penguin packing dynamite) into a single flat and watch the furniture fly.

For all its parts, the game is beautifully simple. There are twelve room tiles that make up the board. Arrange these as you like. There are twelve monsters on little plastic stands. Place one in each room. There are 12 monster tokens. Each player chooses 2 at random. Keep yours hidden! These are the monsters you are trying to protect as long as you can.

Rumble ComponentsOn your turn you can do one of two things: move one monster (if it is alone) OR “pick a fight.” If there are two or more monsters in a room, you get to remove one from the game. Fights in the house are very fast and very decisive!

As monsters are eliminated from the house, you must place them in a line. Play until only one character remains. Points are determined by the place of your monsters in the line. The first two monsters score nothing. Zero. After that each monster scores points by their position in line starting with one point for the third monster and going up to ten points for the one who walked out of the house. You take the score of your last monster.

The game is played over three rounds. Each time, you build the house, draw new secret monsters, and then RUUUUMMMMMMBLE!!

01 AwardRumble in the Dungeon is the successor to Rumble in the House. The location and characters have changed and a treasure chest has been added to the basic mechanics. Moving and fighting are still the main actions, but if you can get one of your characters to carry the treasure chest to the dungeon’s entrance, that character can leave and earn 10 points. Moving and fighting continue even if someone succeeds in removing the treasure (instead of fighting for the treasure you are now fighting over who let someone else abscond with it).

Rumble in the dungeonYour first game is the longest and that’s only because you have to punch out the pieces and glance through the rules. The artwork on the pieces, the box, and the rules by Kwanchai Moriya is fun and colorful. We loved looking at the pieces and making up stories about how one character defeated the other. It’s a very light game but it lends itself to lots of replay. I also appreciated that even when your monsters have been eliminated you still get to influence the game.

Spite becomes a powerful force for Major Fun.

2-6 players. Ages 8+

Rumble in the House was designed by Olivier Saffre and is © 2011 by Flatlined Games. Rumble in the Dungeon is © 2012. Worldwide distribution is being handled by the good people at Iello.

Spot It! Freeze

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games, Speed Game) by Will Bain on 01-07-2014

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spotitfreeze_gamerIt has been well established that Spot It! is Major Fun.

For evidence, you may look here…

…and here

…and here

…and here

Although it seems like we have sufficiently covered this point, I don’t think it can be over-stated how clever the basic game is. You have 55 cards. Each card has eight images. Any two cards in the deck have exactly one image in common. Games revolve around trying to find which one is the match. Spot It! Freeze adds a timer to the mix. The electronic timer has two modes: countdown and random.

I’ll admit that most of us at Major Fun were skeptical that a timer would add much to the game. After all, the point of Spot It! is to be fast. Surely a timer couldn’t help much.

We were wrong.

Blue Orange has come up with some great games that utilize the two types of timer to great effect. The most basic game requires the players to collect cards from a pile in the middle. Play proceeds as normal until a player successfully makes a match with one of the blue images (cold-based images like ice and snow are always blue). When that happens, that player yells “Freeze” and the countdown timer is started. The player has 10 seconds to play solo—no one else can interrupt. When the 10 seconds is over everyone else can jump back in.

Playing by yourself is an advantage, but not nearly as great as you might first imagine. The countdown adds pressure that tends to interfere with your ability to spot the similar images. It breaks the flow and it also gives your opponents time to look at the card and jump in at the end of the countdown.

01 AwardAnother variation involves the random timer (a loud ticking sound) that plays like Catchphrase. Each player has a stack of cards they are trying to get rid of. A card is turned face up in the middle of the table and the timer is started. One player flips their top card up and tries to make a match. Once they do, play moves clockwise to the next person. If the timer stops on your turn (before you can play a card) then you take two cards from the middle pile. You can also reverse the order by matching a blue item and saying “Freeze.” You don’t have to reverse things but you can.

This is a great game variation for a wide range of players. It equalizes things quite a bit. My daughter is fantastic at the basic Spot It! Far and above the best player in our group. She can consistently take on and beat all the rest of us COMBINED. This variation (called Flash Freeze) means that she still has to wait for the rest of us and it is possible for us to keep her from playing (or at least give her very little time). I’ll admit that it seems petty and cruel to keep my 12 year old daughter from playing her cards, but short of gouging out her eyes, I’m not sure there is any other chance the rest of us have.

And she has lovely eyes.

Spot It! Freeze is a great expansion of the Spot It! universe. It is the only one to not come in a round tin but the timer is also a compact box for the cards. It is clever and bright and fast and oh so Major Fun.

2 – 8 players. Ages 8+

Spot It! Freeze © 2014 by Blue Orange Games.

Dodge Dice

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 20-06-2014

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Dodge DiceDodge Dice is a wonderfully minimalist press-your-luck game. Ten dice and some chips are all it takes to give you a lot of tough choices in the face of random chance.

Eight of the dice are the Dodge Dice. These have three blue sides, two green sides, and one red side. One die is the Penalty Die. Similar to the Dodge Dice, the Penalty Die has three blue, two green, and one red sides; however, each side also has a number value: blue = 10, green = 20, and red = 40. The final die is the Action Die. This die either stops the round immediately or effects the final penalty score.

The starting player rolls all the dice. Whatever color the Penalty Die shows is the color that must remain face up in future rolls. The first player puts the Penalty Die and any matching Dodge Dice in the middle of the table and passes the rest of the dice to the next player. That player rolls all the dice, setting aside any that are the same color as those in the middle and passing the rest.

The goal of the game is to have the fewest points. You earn points if the round stops on your turn. There are two ways for the round to stop. First, if the STOP symbol comes up on the Action Die when you roll the round stops (duh). Second, if all the Dodge Dice are the same color, the round stops.

01 AwardIf the round stops on you, you earn the number of points on the Penalty Die BUT this can be changed by the Action Die. The points can be doubled or tripled. The points could actually be subtracted from your score or the points could be passed to one of the other players. Of the six possibilities that could happen to you when the round stops, four of them are bad for you but two are good.

So, because this is a press-your-luck game there must be some choice to make so that you could conceivably avoid a bad outcome. That’s where the chips come in. Every player has two Skip Chips. You can play one before you roll to pass the dice to the next player or you can play two chips to skip AFTER you have rolled. Skip Chips can replenish with a lucky roll of the Action Die, but these chips become very valuable in those long rounds toward the end of the game.

There’s a lot of nail-biting and analysis paralysis that accompanies some of these rolls. Do you take a few points now so you can save your chips for later? Do you roll and spend your chips only if you have to? Is it better for you to take a few points if it means preventing someone from ending the game?

All good questions and all Major Fun.

2 – 6 players. Ages 8+

Dodge Dice was designed by Eric Messersmith and Mike Mandolese and is © 2014 by Gamewright.

Castle Blast

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games, Toys) by Will Bain on 11-06-2014

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Castle BlastAs anyone knows who has ever played with building blocks, the apotheosis of the constructive activity is the moment when you bring it all crashing down. For every castle or city or log cabin there is some dragon or dinosaur or marauding army that is merely biding its time.

Castle Blast is a building game that comes with its own wrecking ball. The good folks at Mindware embrace the Truth that what goes up must come down (especially since the game will probably have to go back in the box eventually). It’s about time kids learned that nothing made by human hands will endure.

In the words of Percy Bysshe Shelly, “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! For only my Twinkies and long-chain hydrocarbons remain!”

Or something to that effect.

The rules are simple: build a castle to protect 3 items (a princess, a treasure, and a dragon); roll the die to see how many swings you can take; swing the wrecking ball until you knock the three characters out of the fortification. The game comes with a small game-board and a castle design that you can follow. Or not. Build your own castle and see how it goes.

In the end, it all falls down.

When you successfully knock a character out of the castle, you get a token that corresponds to that character. Collect all three character tokens to win. Depending on how many players you have, you will probably have to reconstruct the castle multiple times.

01 AwardThe game looks great. The wooden blocks are solid and smooth and colorful. The rules are simple and provide several variations of play for those who want to add some variety to the endless cycle of creation and destruction. If you already have wooden blocks scattered underfoot and in the bottom of toy boxes, you could incorporate them in very easily.

Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Major Fun is loosed upon the world… (apologies to Yeats)

2-4 players. Ages 5+

Castle Blast is © 2013 by MindWare.

Staxis

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 09-06-2014

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MindWare’s Staxis is like playing a game of pick-up-sticks in reverse. And I don’t mean that way you start the game by dropping a handful of long toothpicks in a pile, but rather imagine having to carefully place each stick so that they stand on end or balance against each other without touching the table.

The game comes with a base structure that looks like a Soviet era satellite has come to rest in your home. Once you have Sputnik assembled on your playing surface, players divide the 50 long stacking sticks between them. The first player to get rid of all their sticks is the winner.

Before you balance one of your sticks on the Epcot Spaceship Earth you have to roll a die. This tells you how many points of contact your stick must have with any wooden part of the structure. A single point basically means that you have to balance your stick horizontally across another stick. A double point means that your stick must touch two other sticks.

Although the two-point option seems easier and more stable, it proves very tricky as the game proceeds. Sticks balanced on two points generally form angles that make the single-point rolls even more challenging. The double-point sticks also seem to cause the weight to shift in unexpected ways.

A player must successfully balance one stick on his or her turn, but any sticks that fall off are collected by that player. This encourages players to take chances in order to leave their opponents with increasingly unstable configurations.

awardStaxis takes a steady hand and a keen eye. The tension builds steadily which lends itself to a lot of good natured trash talking and goading. The rules are barely necessary and that’s only for the first time you build the base Tesla Tower. The game is well constructed although you should be careful with the wooden stacking sticks. They do lend themselves to splinters.

Our kids had a blast with Staxis and it made for a great game with mixed ages. Major Fun game for dexterity, balance, and show-boating.

2-6 players. Ages 6+

Staxis was designed by Paul Wickens and is © 2013 by MindWare.

Anomia: Party Edition

Filed Under (Family Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on 06-03-2014

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PictureAnomia was awarded Major Fun early in 2012. You can check out that review here or keep reading for a brief recap. Anomia’s new Party Edition is the same game but with the addition of more decks of cards so you can play multiple rounds without repeating the same cue cards. Same Major Fun simplicity. Same Major Fun turmoil. Same Major Fun yelling and grabbing and laughing.

The game consists of cards that contain a clue and a symbol. In turn, each player turns over a card from a personal pile. If there are no matching symbols then nothing happens, and the next player turns over a card. If two cards have the same symbol then those two players race to shout an example of the other person’s clue. Winner gets the other card.

The wonder and joy of this game comes from the dysfunction of the human brain under surprising, stressful conditions. Some of the most ridiculous things will tumble out of your mouth when you have to name a kind of chewing gum under pressure. Or your brain will freeze when asked to give but one example of a soup.

awardAlthough only one player turns a card at any one time, any of the other players might have to leap into action at any moment. Once one face-off is resolved, another might appear when the top card of a pile is moved. The players are always engaged. Even when there are no matches there is never any down-time.

The addition of more decks allows for greater replay. Otherwise, Anomia has wisely left a good thing to be a good thing. It’s Major Fun no matter how tongue tied and brain dead it makes you look.

3 – 6 Players. Ages 10+

Anomia: Party Edition was designed by Andrew Innes and © 2013 by Anomia Press LLC.