Rush Hour Shift

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games, Thinking Games) by Bernie DeKoven on Mar 25, 2015

Rush Hour Shift
Rush Hour Shift is a strategy game based on ThinkFun‘s popular Rush Hour puzzle series. )If your not familiar with charm of these puzzles, you can play with the basic concept of this intriguing little puzzle online.)

Major Fun AwardThe game board is in three parts, loosely connected so that you can shift (hence, the name of the game) either end of the board up or down. There are 12 “blocking vehicles” of three different lengths, and ten different ways to arrange the vehicles on the board. These vehicles can be moved, they just can’t be moved sideways, nor can they move over each other (which explains why they are called “blocking” vehicles). There’s also a deck of 32 movement cards which determine how far you can move your “hero car” and/or whether you get to shift one of the two ends of the game board.

After the game is set up (according to any one of the ten arrangements shown in the rule book), each player gets four cards. From then on, players alternate turns, selecting one of their cards, discarding the card face-up, following the movement rules (how far you can move, whether or not you can shift the board end), and then taking another card from the draw pile. The game ends as soon as one player has managed to maneuver his or her hero car off the board.

It’s a quick game, success depending on chance, logic, and being strategic enough to make the correct decision between preventing your opponent from winning or creating your own path to victory. There’s one additional strategic deliciousness – if a vehicle is positioned so that it bridges between a shifting end and the non-shiftable center board, that end is locked, and remains unshiftable until the blocking vehicle is moved.

All in all, Rush Hour Shift proves to be a unique and remarkably engaging combination of strategy game for two people as young as eight or as old as you. Everything works to keep you engaged – the elegant design of the board, the different lengths of the vehicles, the variety of starting positions, the luck of the draw. Kids may be attracted by the toy-like appearance of the game (and so might you), but it turns out to provide a significant challenge worthy even of someone of your esteemed logical prowess.

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Qwixx

Filed Under (Family Games) by Marc Gilutin on Mar 24, 2015

Tagged Under :

qwixxHmmmm……

What were those criteria for a game to be Major Fun again?

1. Game can be learned in 15 minutes or less?

CHECK!

2. Played in under an hour?

Check!! Two or three times.

3.Fun enough to play over and over again?

Check!

4. Suitable for a wide audience?

Check!.

Qwixx! Tell me what game I’m thinking of.

:-)

I just did.

Now, those criteria:

1. Qwixx is easily understood. By kids even. 8 and up. Maybe younger.

How is it played?

Each player has a score sheet (pictured).

The remainder of the game is….wait for it……

Six Dice!

qwixx scorecardTwo white dice and one each of Red, yellow, blue, and green

(which match the rows on the score pad)

Red and Yellow numbered from 2-12. Blue and Green, from 12-2.

When it’s your turn, you (the “Active Player”)roll all six dice.

Then everyone (Participation! Yay!) has the *option to use the two white dice as two red, two yellow, two blue, or two green and cross off that total # in the appropriate space on the score sheet.

Once that’s happened, the “Active Player”(only)has a further option: She MAY add the pips of one white die and one colored die  and cross off the number in the row matching the colored die.

Like a white 2 and a red 2 can cross off the  red 4 on her score sheet.

But here’s the thing about crossing off. Once you make a check mark on a particular row, you can’t put any checks to the left of it. So planning can be challenging.

There’s one more thing. The “Active Player” MUST put an X somewhere on his sheet. If he can’t or doesn’t want to (because he’ll have too many empty spaces on the left side, he must fill one bad one on the bottom right of his scorepad. (Those are -5 points at the end)

What now?

The game continues with the players taking turns as the “Active Player” until the game ends.

One more special rule:

The last number in each row (12 for red and yellow. 2 for Blue and Green) cannot be crossed off unless you already had at least five or more Xs in that row.

If you do, you put an X in the 2 or 12 AND you also get an X in the “Lock” space to the right.

That color is now closed (unavailable for any future Xs ) for the rest of the game. If the game isn’t yet over, that die is removed for the rest of the game.

When two of the colors have been locked in that manner…or when one player has put 4 BAD Xs in the bottom right, the game is over.

Scores are added up using the formula at the bottom of the score sheet.

2. &  3. The average game takes 20 or so minutes, which makes #3 a certainty. Everybody wants more. Usually immediately.

(The first game of Qwixx we played, I devastated the opposition with 109 points!!

(Inside my addled brain, I’m saying “Finally. A game I’m good at. Maybe even great!”)

Everybody wanted to play again so we did.

I scored 21.

(Cue comedic trombone sound: “Wah! Wah! Wah!!”)

But, truth be told, I enjoyed the second time as much as the first. Oh joyous Major Fun!!

4. Qwixx is easily understood by kids of just about any age. (The publishers say ‘8 and up’ although I know a couple of six year olds….

But here’s something else about Qwixx….a very attractive something…..

Major Fun awardTHERE’S NO DOWN TIME!!!

“No Whaat time???” you ask.

“Down Time” for a player of games, which I am….and so are you….

is when  it’s your turn, the other players end up sitting there (patiently?) waiting for you to do your thing.

This can really minimize the fun aspect of a game.

Some more complex games suffer terribly on account of this. This and

“Analysis Paralysis”.

Why yes, you’re right. It DOES rhyme.

Some players are a little too……um….”deliberate” in their choice of moves. I’m being polite here. They take a long time, even when it’s not really called for.

Not fun. Not even minor fun. Let alone Major Fun.

Qwixx doesn’t have that! YAY!!!

Quixx engages everyone. On everyone’s turn. There’s always something to do. Or at least the potential to. So you remain involved. For the whole game.

More games should do this.

Until they do….play Qwixx!!!

Fun? Major!!

Anti-Qwirkle

Filed Under (Family Games, Keeper) by Marc Gilutin on Mar 9, 2015

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As fellow (Major) Funseekers, you’re no doubt familiar with Qwirkle. One of the first “Keepers”, if memory serves.

Well, after we’d played it  most Tuesday nights for a year or two, my friend “Two Hour Bob” and I (2-H-B couldn’t sit still for much more than that) started messing with the rules……as gamers do.

First, to avoid the end game getting bogged down by trying to figure out what our opponent had left in his hand, we’d take four random tiles out of each game before we started without looking at them. Success!!

Lots of friends have picked up on this and. maybe, someday, it will be an official rule.

But then, one very silly night, I asked 2-H-B,   ” Why not  try ‘ANTI-Qwirkle’?”.

“Auntie Whom??”

(A reminder for those of you who need it on the basic rules.):

There are tiles of six colors and six shapes.

Three of each of each. (I love saying that!)

A turn consists of  playing one or more of the six tiles from your hand in a straight line, intersecting with at least one tile already on the board. Sorta like that word game.

The rules allow you to play either Same Shape/Different Color or Same Color/Different Shape.

No exceptions.

EXCEPT… this one Tuesday night, we were feeling…exceptional.

And we changed the rules (Sorry, Susan!)

anti-qwirkleInstead of having one and only one thing in common with the other tiles played that turn, each one could have no shared attribute. No same color, no same shape as any of the others in its row or column.

So you could play a red square, a blue diamond, and a yellow star in the same row or column, etc, but none of their properties could match.

This was fun.

Major.

And scoring? Man, did we score!

Because of the nature of the new set of rules, ‘only’ getting a Qwirkle was a  disappointing turn. Many turns ended up falling in the 15-20 point range. Or more.

So, even though you’d never ‘UNkeep’ a Keeper, there’s something fun to try with your copy of Qwirkle next time it hits the table.

Let us know how it went.

Hanoch Piven – Defender of the Playful

Filed Under (Defender of the Playful) by Bernie DeKoven on Mar 7, 2015

when we play we are free

“When we play,” says Hanoch Piven, “we are free.”

Fortunately, there are other people in this world besides me who have devoted much of their life to practicing the art of playfulness – who teach, demonstrate, manifest, explore, devote art and heart to play – and who understand the political implications of all the aforementioned. Hanoch Piven is one such. And one of the things he has to teach is that of all the arts, few are as perfectly suited to manifesting the spirit and practice of playfulness as the art of collage.

Watch, therefore, this:

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Since 2003, Piven has been conducting creative workshops. These workshops apply the principles of Piven’s collage technique, prompting children and adults to experiment with common everyday objects and create their own works of art. Apart from being an easy and fun way to experience creativity, the workshops have been embraced by educators, art therapists and management consultants as an efficient tool for communicating through play.

Piven has also taught and lectured in many Art Schools around the world such as China Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, Art Center of Design in Pasadena, Sheridan College in Toronto and Instituto Europeo di Design in Rome, SCAD in Savannah, Bezalel and Shenkar in Israel and more.

And last but not least, Piven is active in the field of Education, as Creative Director of Aulas Creativas, an online community of educators in Spain, and as a lecturer and conductor of creativity and communication workshops with students, teachers and parents.

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Hanoch Piven, Defender of the Playful

Defender of the Playful

Chickyboom

Filed Under (Dexterity, Family Games, Kids Games) by Bernie DeKoven on Mar 6, 2015

ChickyBoom

The game’s called “Chickyboom.” It’s called “Chickyboom” because that’s what happens when Chicky slides off the balance bar: Chicky goes “boom.” Well, not exactly “boom.” But boom enough to make you laugh.  So, you might have, well, lost, but never you mind, little chicky, it’s hard to take the game seriously, especially when you’re playing with such funny-looking chickies.

ChickyBoom
There’s a lot about Chickyboom that makes it an exceptional invitation to play. You probably won’t be able to tell until you’re able to accept that invitation. It’s not just that the game is made of finger-pleasing wood. Or that the point value (if you’re playing for score) is so clearly indicated on each point-worthy piece. Or that everything is painted so brightly. Or even that the Chickies are so darn cute, and it’s fun to pick them up by the little felt “feather” that sticks up from their heads: it’s the elegance of the way everything works.

The roof (well, it looks rooflike) of the base (which could easily be imagined to be a chicken coop or hen house or something chickeny) is gently curved, so that it’s relatively easy to build the “rocking perch” (the see-saw-like board which is balanced on top of the chicken-coop-like thing). There are small legs on the bottom of the balance board which make it a wee bit more forgiving when it comes to balancing it. As does the gentleness of the curve of the coop roof.

And then there are the one-point wagon wheels, which, though not as heavy as the three-point hay bales, and less than half as thick, are wider and more accommodating (for, perhaps two chickies or a chicky and a bale. And as for the chickens, there are two kinds: the fatter three-pointers and the smaller two-pointers. With all these variables, and the effect of where they are placed on the balance board, combined with what other pieces are also on the board, and where they are placed, and how those pieces are stacked, and what happens when the balance board starts a-rockin’… all adds up to a game that’s worthy of hours and hours of serious contemplation and just as many hours of much hilarity.

The stacking part of the game is at as much fun as the unstacking. And what if you can remove two pieces at a time, or just one? Or have to use chopsticks?! Or play cooperatively, using only one finger per player.

And if the stacking part gets too challenging, you could, conceivably, turn the balance board over, using the two red rods on the underside (now topside) as stops to prevent pieces from falling off too easily.

And then there’s the “you don’t really need to keep score” rule: “the last player to collect a piece from the perch without making it topple wins the game!”

Chickyboom was intelligently designed by Thiery Denoual and is available from Blue Orange games.

Major Fun Award

Pyramix

Filed Under (Family Games, Thinking Games) by Bernie DeKoven on Mar 1, 2015

pyramix
Pyramix is a light and lovely little strategy game for 2-4 players. The lovely part of it is as much how it works as how it plays.

The secret, oddly enough, is the tray.

I explicate:

You get 56 cubes (not dice, cubes – wait for it). There are three kinds of cubes (well, four, if you count the Cobra cubes): Ankhs, Cranes and Eyes – in four different colors. And you put the cubes in the tray, stacking them until you get a pyramid. And the thing is, stacking them is, like, a no-brainer. No steadiness of hand or acuity of eye is required because of the tray. You kind of just pour, so to speak, the cubes into the tray and they stack, as it were, themselves.

So why are these cubes and not dice? Because every side is the same, only the cubes are different. See, not dice. Cubes.

The game is all about removing the cubes, which also works in a lovely and endearing-like manner. You can remove any cube as long as: two or three sides are visible, it isn’t touching a Cobra cube, and removing it doesn’t result in an empty space in the tray. If you look at the pyramid a little more closely (which you will be doing, a lot), you’ll notice that there are generally speaking an ample number of cubes for the picking, some of which at the near bottom of a whole line of cubes. And when you take one of those away, the cubes on the top all slide down, revealing yet more possibilities, or perhaps another Cobra.

Every cube you remove is worth points: the Eyes are worth three, the Cranes two and the Ankhs one. The Cobras aren’t worth anything, which doesn’t matter because you can’t remove them anyway. So, strategically speaking, the Eyes have it.

When all legally removable cubes have been collected, the game is over. You remove any Cobras and any Cobra-adjacent cubes from the tray, count all the cubes you have of the same color – the color, not the kind. And the player who has the most of a particular color gets to claim all the cubes of that color that are in the tray as hers. So, strategically speaking, you most definitely want to be collecting cubes of a particular color while you’re also trying to collect cubes of a the higher-scoring kind.

You’re going to be spending a lot of your time turning the pyramid around, inspecting every side, and appreciating how easily the base turns.

It all turns out, as it were, to present a challenge that is easy enough for an eight-year-old to understand, and rife enough with strategic implications to entice serious contemplation by your resident contemplators.

Suffice it to say: fun-wise, what we’re looking at here is major.

Major Fun Award
Pyramix was designed by Tim Roediger, with art by Lisa Goldstein. We recommend it wholeheartedly. It takes maybe 15 minutes to play. It takes even less time to learn. You’ll want to play at least a few rounds (or spins) before admitting defeat. There’s no game quite like it. Yet.

Dots incredible

Filed Under (Puzzles) by Bernie DeKoven on Feb 26, 2015

You are indubitably familiar with our rave review of David Kalvitis’ The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Adventure. I suggest you read the review so you can prepare yourself emotionally for the second coming. Well, the second book in the series.

What seems to us to be consistently amazing is how he keeps coming up with new kinds of dot-to-dot puzzles. Some of the challenges are really challenging. It’s not just dot-to-dot, it’s dot-to-OMG-to-dot. There are four-page puzzles. Three-page puzzles. There’s a puzzle where you connect the coordinates and another where instead of dots you have words, and you connect them alphabetically.

And then there’s the adventure – a picture story that only becomes clear after you’ve completed all the puzzles. One reward after another.

This is the second in Kalvatis’ Dot-to-Dot Adventure series. The first also earned a Major Fun award.

And in all of his work, it’s quality of the drawings themselves that makes the fun so major: always surprisingly masterful, and deeply satisfying when you complete them – satisfying enough to entice your resident artist (my wife) to making that extra artist effort to color them in.

dots

puzzles

Ozobot

Filed Under (electronic toy, Toys) by Bernie DeKoven on Dec 11, 2014

Ozobot

Ozobot is something like a 1-inch sized R2-D2 that talks in colored light. It follows the path you draw for it and is programmed by codes – sequences of colors that you include in the path.

If you have a tablet, there’s even more to play with. Much more.

ozobot drawingBefore you get into tableting, we recommend that you provide for all the time your Oozboticist might require to fully appreciate the Ozobot’s path-following capabilities. The pre-made paths that you can print out introduce yet further path-making possibilities.  Included in the selection is a complete illustration of all the various programming codes – and these will become very useful after  the joys of path-making grow thin. But we highly recommend that you start with making your own tracks (markers not included) – it gives your junior roboticist the most immediate understanding of how Ozobot works and provides her with hours to create her own, hand-drawn works of Ozobot-enhanced amazement.

After path-making comes code-enhancing. By adOzobot on Tabletding brief sequences of color to the path, you can make your Ozobot speed up and slow down, turn, spin, and, once you’ve reached the necessary mastery, dance. The two included “skins” (plastic shells) allow the player to further personalize their Ozobot. With these, plus the addition of various found-object costume-like elements taped to the top of the Ozobot, it becomes possible to introduce a welcome element of fantasy play.

Though the toy is recommended for older children, our almost-nine-year-old genius grandson was immediately engaged, and spent several hours mastering the rudiments of Ozobotics before we dared expose him to splendiferously computer-enhanced wonders of  Ozobotting on the tablet. And splendiferous these wonders truly are – redefining the experience of tablet-play and introducing the limitless possibilities of creating hybrid (encompassing both tablet and table-top environs) Ozobot playgrounds.

01 AwardOzobots are beautifully packaged in thick, museum-quality transparent cubes. They’re the same price per unit whether you buy them in their single or double pack. One is great fun. Two is twice as much, not only in cost, but also in play potential. With two, you can make them race (when an Ozobot comes to an intersection, it randomly selects one of the possible branches, adding just that element of luck that makes racing so much fun), dance a pas de deux, or just enjoy the visual complexity as they navigate their randomly chosen paths through the path. And, yes, one could most definitely conclude that the more Ozbots, the more the potential fun. But even one is major enough to produce significant glee.

Brain Cheeser

Filed Under (Magnetic, Puzzles, Thinking Games) by Will Bain on Dec 1, 2014

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brain-cheeserAlthough most of the games that earn the Major Fun Award are ones that involve multiple players, there are times when you just want to play by yourself. Solitaire games help pass the time when there is nothing to do but wait, but that doesn’t mean they have to be brainless.

Brain Cheeser by SmartGames is a puzzle game for one person that can be easily carried in a small bag or a large pocket. It’s a slim board book, about 4 inches square, with a snap-clasp and a magnetic back cover. The magnets that stick to that cover are 8 slices of Swiss cheese and 6 round mice. The pages of the booklet present 48 puzzles (of increasing difficulty) all of which involve fitting the mice into the holes created by the slices of cheese.

The cheese slices are cut so that some of the edges form half-circles. When placed next to other slices, some of the demi-circles line up to form complete circles that are large enough to fit the round mice pieces. The mixing and matching of the cheese slices forms the heart of the puzzle. Each challenge presents you with a few starting slices and/or the location of some of the mice. It’s then up to you to arrange the rest of the 8 cheese slices so that the mice fit in the holes.

The challenges are arranged in four levels (starter, junior, expert, and master). The starter level is very easy and would be great for very young children to learn how to manipulate the pieces before moving on to the higher levels. Older kids and adults should probably skip on to the junior level as their starting place.

The puzzles are engaging and the magnetic pieces do a great job of holding everything together. The game is designed for travel and in this regard the magnetic surface makes a lot of sense. It’s cute and challenging and easy to bring along in the car or the doctor’s waiting room. Major Fun for those times when your best company is you.

Solo play. Ages 6+

Brain Cheeser was designed by SmartGames (Belgium) and is © 2013. The game was provided to us by KEH Communications.

Menu Mash-Up

Filed Under (Family Games, Party Games) by Will Bain on Oct 30, 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.