Mish Mash & Clack!

mish mashIt’s the second installment of Amigo week as we award Haim Shafir and Amigo for several games that we received recently. Although the games have some very similar features (for example they are all games of speed and quick reactions) each one has its own idiosyncrasies and charm. They are all very clever and, more importantly, fun.

The games I have for you today are those that are most accessible. These are the games you can play with even the youngest children. Their rules are simple, their mechanics intuitive, and the game play Major Fun.

Mish Mash (2 – 4 players. Ages: 5+)

Mish Mash (also called Kuddelmuddel in German) is a beautifully simple game. There are 80 cards and a bell. Each card has three pictures on it. These are spread face down in the middle of the table around the bell. The goal is to be the first to make a line of seven cards. Each card must share an image in common with its neighbors.

When the game begins, everyone starts drawing cards. The first card is turned face up. If a following card you draw has an image that matches your first card then you place it to the left or the right to form a line. Once you place a card it cannot be moved. If a card does not match, you return it to the pile in the center of the table and pick another.

The first to complete a line of seven cards rings the bell.

It takes just a moment to explain the rules and then the race is on. Luck plays something of a role but so does quick pattern recognition. The game is also very easy to adjust for different skill levels. Those who prove themselves most adept can be required to find more than seven cards. It can also be played in teams so it becomes more cooperative.

The illustrations are cute and the game play addictive. Mish Mash is a great game for the family.

Clack!Clack! (2 – 6 players, Ages: 4+)

Clack! is the one game in Haim Shafir’s quintilogy of speed games that uses dice and a unique playing piece. There are 2 dice: the first has five images (flower, star, footprint, puzzle piece, lightning bolt) plus a blank side; second has five colors (red, yellow, green, blue, purple) plus a blank side. The game also comes with 36 discs. Each disc has three pictures on it (matching the dice) but the pictures will be different colors on each disc.

The discs are shaped so that they can stack. In addition they are also magnetic so they will stay together when stacked.

To play, one person rolls both dice. At that point everyone rushes to stack all pieces that contain the shape and color that matches the dice. To make matters more interesting, the both dice have blank sides. If the blank comes up then players only have to pay attention to the other die. If BOTH blanks come up, players simply try to stack as many pieces as they can.

awardOnce the dice are rolled, the action proceeds rapidly and the sound of stacking discs rings out like tiny fire-crackers. Even more than the games we have looked at with bells, you have to have nimble fingers, both to be victorious and to avoid some bruises. When all the possible discs are taken, the players put the stack off to the side and roll the dice again. When all of the discs are gone, players stack up all their accumulated discs. Highest stack wins.

The clever stacking pieces and the intuitive rules make for addictive and thrilling games. Kids pick up the rules very quickly, and everyone relishes stamping through the discs just as fast as their hands will allow. It’s fun to get the tallest stack but it’s Major Fun to sneak that disc from right under someone else’s fingers.

Mish Mash & Clack! were designed by Haim Shafir and © 2013 by Amigo.


It’s been a good week for Tim W.K. Brown. http://www.timwkbrown.com

For those of you who read the fine print for our last game review, you will notice that Tim’s name showed up as the designer of Grid Stones.

And now, scant days later, here he is again, along with the good people at CSE Games.

Quartex is a tiling game that shares a lot of features with another Major Fun game: Cirplexed. Both games require players to draw tiles and play them on the grid that forms in the center of the table. Players score points for the patterns that they complete where the corners of the tiles come together. In Quartex there are four shapes that the tiles can make: yellow circles, purple crosses, red squares, and blue stars. Despite these similarities, there are a few significant differences that make Quartex Major Fun in its own regard.

awardFirst, each of the tiles is unique. No two tiles are alike. This means that you have to be careful as you place your tiles because you cannot count on getting pieces that will set up predictable patterns. It also helps to keep track of which corner-shapes have been showing up a lot. Those will dry up after a while and you don’t want to get stuck with tiles that can’t complete one of the four shapes.

Secondly, tiles can only be played if ALL the corners match up. In Cirplexed you could play even if some corners did not make a color match. Not so in Quartex. It’s a small but significant change in the way you play the game.

Finally, scoring is accomplished through the collection of tokens. Each time you complete a corner-shape, you collect a token of that color. There are 10 tokens of each color. At the end of the game, you multiply the number of tokens you have collected by the number of remaining tokens. This makes some tokens worth a lot more than others. For example, if you have 2 blue tokens and there are only 3 tokens left in the stack (your opponents have the rest) then you earn six points. If you have 2 red tokens and there are 6 left in the stack then you earn 12 points.

The game is easy to learn and quick to play and it all fits nicely in the included bag. The press-board tile pieces are well shaped, but they are much smaller and lighter than the wooden tiles of Cirplexed, so this game is less suitable for seniors or those who lack fine motor control.

All in all, Tim W.K. Brown has scored a few more Major Fun points with another well-crafted strategy game.

2 – 5 players. Ages: 8+

Quartex was designed by Tim W.K. Brown. © 2012 by CSE Games.

Pharrell Williams, “Happy”

HappyThe idea of listening to a single song for 24 hours might strike some as a recipe for crazy. Let’s take it a step further and imagine watching the music video for that one song for 24 hours.

And yet, I am here to encourage you all to check out the music video for Pharrell’s song “Happy.”
The world’s first 24 hour music video.
Go to the website and give it just a few minutes.

The song is exactly four minutes long. It plays 15 times an hour for 24 hours. Each time the song plays it is accompanied by a different dancer that the camera tracks along the sidewalks, streets, and interiors of Los Angeles. That’s 360 dancers who cover dozens of miles over the course of the day.

The song is catchy and upbeat (as its title would imply) but the dancers (including Pharrell at the top of each hour) make this project so incredibly engaging. They are young and old. Fresh faced and grizzled. Professional and purely amateur. But all are colorful and expressive and fun.

The sheer size and scope of this project would have made it impossible to appreciate even a few years ago, but modern video technology and the website’s brilliant interface allow users to skip through the hours of the day almost seamlessly. When you skip forward, the video jumps exactly four minutes ahead so that the song picks up at the moment you just left off. Same part of the song. Different dancer. The style of camera work and the inspired video navigation display combine to turn 360 iterations of the same song into something much more– something you experience as a single piece instead of piece-meal.

Check it out. And if you need a little tonic after, you can join our friends Ren and Stimpy in their own happy dance.

Expansions of Note

Word on the Street and Reverse Charades are two of our favorite games. Both received Major Fun awards. Both are keepers.

If you have not played these games then get on it!! For those of you who have played, more than likely you have shuffled through the standard decks of cards enough that some of the novelty has worn off (along with the plastic finish on the cards). Well, lucky for us, both games have come out with expansion packs.

Word on the Street

Out of the Box Games

Word on the Street is a fantastic word game that plays like tug-of-war. The expansion pack comes with 216 double sided cards, a handy card tray, and a new sand timer (in case your old one got submerged in coffee—don’t ask). The cards refresh the categories so that long time players can’t rely on tried-and-true answers that newbies haven’t had time to commit to memory.

If you have played Word on the Street enough to commit best-answers to memory, then you might want to take some time to walk out into the sunlight before diving into this expansion.

Reverse Charades


Reverse Charades has come out with three theme-based expansions: Girls’ Night In, Sports, and Holidays. Each box contains over 200 double-sided cards related to the appropriate theme. Holidays will appeal to a wide audience. Sports looks to appeal to a specific sub-set of the population. Girls’ Night In at first seems designed to exclude men, but although the cards are themed around traditional “girl” roles, the selling point for this expansion is that a portion of proceeds go to support breast cancer research and treatment.

Purchasing the base Reverse Charades game also supports children’s hospitals, so if you buy the base and the pink expansion, you can feel doubly generous. That will help to restore some dignity the next time you have to act out “bikini wax” in front of your closest friends.

Changing of the Guard

A field promotion often means one of two things:

1) The officer who held the rank you now fill was killed, and you are being sent to the very same, patently dangerous place OR…

2) The higher ups have discovered a new and incredibly unpleasant problem for which they need someone flush with the glow of a promotion.

As the newly minted Major Fun I say, “Bring it on!! There’s fun to be had!!”

I knew I found a bright soul when Bernie DeKoven invited me over for that first games tasting. He has been a great friend and mentor. I appreciate the opportunity he gave me to sample from the vast universe of games that come to our table. I have been honored to write for the Major Fun Awards. I will post more about myself (as well as several Major Fun game reviews) in the next week.

I have a lot to learn and a big presence to fill. Hope I serve you well.

Will Bain (Major Fun)

GamesTaster Bain called to the command

Given the current rise in psycho-conceptual crises that threaten to bankrupt the family rooms of the global nation, GamesTaster William Bain, author of many of our recent, well-written, humorously insightful reviews; has been granted an emergency field commission to that of Major Fun.

The elderly, but still beloved Bernie (former Major Fun) DeKoven, with undue humility and admitted glee, has been promoted to the rank of General Fun (ret.), and, reeking with past glory, gladly leaves the seal of Major Fun to stronger, younger hands.

Fight the fun fight, William (Major Fun) Bain. Find, for man and woman, young and old, the good game.

Major Senior-Worthy Fun Award

It started with this article in Newsday – Racing to Play. It’s about the kinds of games seniors play. You know what kinds the reporter talks about? The Mah Jong, Scrabble, Bingo kinds. The reporter actually interviewed me. She had already done a lot of research and was convinced that she had a fundamental grasp of what seniors (that’s me, too, you know, your very Major Fun) play.

Me, I was majorly stunned that anyone could make such a conclusion about seniors and the games they play. Here’s the only quote she got out of me:

“Fun is “noble” in the eyes of California-based game-maker and guru Bernie DeKoven, 64. “I think a lot of older people are reclaiming their need to play,” he said, “and they’re looking for opportunity and finding places that foster a certain amount of playfulness.”

You can almost hear the horror.

I’ve been mulling and stewing and then, from Jac Rongen, came these wonderfully affirming photos. Spurred to action, I, your local Defender of the Playful, have created yet another Major Fun award. For games that are good enough to interest the grown-up mind, without making too many demands of a somewhat outgrown body. I am calling this award the “Major Senior-Worthy Fun” awards.

So I started with games that have already been recognized in a Major-funlike manner, and singled out those games that don’t require too much speed or dexterity. Each and all a genuine challenge to mind and wit, all and each an invitation to mature, skilled, senior-like play.

The Major Fun Keeper Award

The Major Fun Keeper Award is a new award, developed to single out those Major Fun games that “…you don’t lend out. To anyone. Even a family member. Some you play maybe a couple times a week. Some maybe a couple times a year. But when the time comes around, the right people, the right moment, it’s exactly and only a particular game you want to play, you want to know exactly where that game is – in your hand!” Click on the seal to see the current winners.

Games that Make You Laugh

Recently, in my attempts to communicate quickly and clearly with various game manufacturers about the kinds of games that are candidates for Major Fun Awards, I’ve started to use the term “Games that Make You Laugh.”

Clearly, this leaves out a lot of games that have already received a Major Fun award. Clearly, major fun is something that is experienced just as much in Games that Make You Think and Games that Make You Lose Track of Time and Games that Make You Like People….

But, in the bigger picture of game awards and recognition schemes, nobody else really singles out games that make people laugh. And, as Major Fun, Defender of the Playful, it is my duty and destiny to Be the One.

And, frankly, those are the games I like the best, the games that make people laugh, aloud, alot.

Maybe it’s the times. Maybe it’s me. But, until further notice, it’s what Major Fun is all about – games that make you laugh

Perfect Timing

Perfect Timing is probably the first game that focuses on the ability to sense (or guess) elapsed time. The game (for 2-4 players) includes 4 electronic stop watches that measure time in hundredths of a second. The fun of the game lies in trying to predict, with great precision, exactly when one or two seconds have elapsed.

There are two versions available: a two-player portable set, and a 2-4 player board game. We played the board game. The board is used to help keep score and to determine the exact challenge to be played. There are two kinds of challenges in which you either try to estimate the time with your eyes closed, or you get to look at the stopwatch and test your reaction time. Timelines, on the perimeter of the board, are divided into 24 hours. Your success in a challenge determines whether you gain or lose time.

The theme of the game feels a bit like the old TV game “The Price is Right.” If you succeed at a challenge (being very careful not to go over the time limit), you win any of ten different “prizes” (a calculator, dishwasher, microwave, etc.). Exceeding the time limit is like overbidding in The Price is Right. You don’t win the appliance of your dreams. I had difficulty restraining myself from doing Monte Hall impressions.

Despite the many other nuances and events built into the game, playing with your ability to estimate time, and your reaction time, is such a novel and exciting experience that it overshadows everything else. Hence, it becomes the kind of game you may play only a few times before you have to put it away – at least until you find someone new to play with.

Perfect Timing – a perfect addition to anyone’s collection of games that make people laugh.

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