Note how each player’s hand is under the playing table. That’s because it’s holding on to a pretty strong magnet which, in turn, is holding on to its chosen striker. This is one of your intrinsically fun things – moving things with magnets, trying to knock something into the other guy’s something else.

We’ve seen games kind of like this before. Heavier ones. More, shall we say, aggressively competitive ones. That’s what makes this one different – because it’s none of the above. Sturdy, you bet. Wood. Fully assembled. It’s, like they say in the video, kind of like foosball, kind of like Air Hockey. But sweeter.Each player controls a “striker” that looks like what a pawn might become if it knew about giraffes. The players move their strikers around the board by use of a magnetic piece below the board. There’s a marble, and a goal pit at each end. A sometimes unfortunately shallow pit which is deep enough to hold a marble as well as temporarily incapacitate your playing piece.

dexterity-family-kids-partyThe magnet-connection, so to speak, works brilliantly. It’s “attractive” enough to keep your striker in place as you engage in speedy, yet strategically relevant scurrying from place-to-place. In addition, there are three small white magnets, plastic covered cylinders about as large as a nose-plug for infant swimmers (keep them little ones away from these highly swallowable innovations). These three magnets are positioned along the center line of the playing table. They easily, yay, eagerly adhere to any close-passing playing striker. Should two little magnets find themselves thus attracted, you are, as they say, Klasked.

So, it’s like this: should you get the marble into your opponent’s goal, your opponent is Klasked and you gain a point (which you demonstrate by rolling the checker-like wooden disc (the one you put in that long groove on top of one of the long walls of the game) into to the next available dip. If your opponent’s striker winds up in your opponent’s goal pit, your opponent is Klasked. You get the point. Your opponent restores the magnets, marbles and strikers to their assigned starting positions. And then there’s the consequence for too much enthusiasm which results in striker-loss. Lose your striker, and you are Klasked again.

Simple rules. Fun for many ages. Easy to learn. Deeply absorbing. Based on a Danish pub game. No wonder.

From Marbles the Brain Store


There are three spiders. They have a magnetic personality, despite their apparent spiderness. There are two game boards. One game board is suspended over the other. Two of the spiders (Peter and Parker) live on the top board, the other hangs somewhat menacingly by its web (OK, string) between the two boards. The string is connected to two magnets, and to  Spinderella. Peter connects through the top board to one of the magnets, Parker to the other. Moving the Peter and Parker apart or close together raises or lowers Spinderella. Peter and Parker, depending on where they are positioned, change where Spinderalla hangs. If you can figure it all out, you’ll be able to move Peter and Parker so that Spinderella can get close enough to the ant of your choice (also magnetic), to carry that poor ant back to the starting point. In sum, it’s all about the spiders.

There is some set-up time involved. Fortunately the instructions are well-illustrated and compassionately brief.

Each of up to four players gets three ants. Their goal is to be the first to get all three of their ants across the windy ant-track to the safety of the ant home. All ants share the same starting place and the same home. Kind of sweet, no?

There’s also a tree trunk. It’s hollow – and just big enough to cover an ant and protect it from Spinderella, and tall enough to make any ant who happens to be on top of the tree trunk a very tempting Spinderalla morsel.

Spinderella - set up

There are three dice. One die is determines whether you are moving the spiders (and, hence, Spinderella), an ant or the tree trunk. Another die determines how many spaces Peter and Parker can move. And the third how many spaces your ants can move. On your turn, you roll all three dice.

You roll the dice, you get to move either the spiders, your ants, or the tree trunk. If you roll the tree trunk, you can also move your ants. Ants can land on top of each other or on top of the tree trunk. If one ant lands on another, the bottom ant, when it moves, carries the top ant with it.

thinking-family-kidsSo, you get the general idea. What you can’t quite get from the description is how innovative, and especially how fun the game turns out to be. Getting Spinderalla to move where you what her to be is obviously the most challenging and fun-provoking part of the game, though trying to escape the growing menace of Spinderalla is equally fun. The fact that you all get to move her (if the dice are right), so what appears to be a good move for you at one moment in the game might get you in big trouble (ant-capture-wise) the next move, adds significantly to the joyful angst of it all. Hiding under the tree trunk is very clever, unless you want to move that particular ant.

Designed by Roberto Franco with art by Doris Mathtäus, Spinderella can be purchased from the German manufacturer who claims that it is suitable for children 6 years old and up. It will soon be available in the US from Lion Rampant Imports.

Brain Cheeser

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 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.


SmartMax is a magnetic construction toy. It looks somewhat familiar – a set of magnetic balls that act as connectors for magnetic rods. But everything is enlarged and covered in plastic. Which makes it something new, something genuinely playworthy, something perfect for little hands, and too big for little mouths.

Actually, it’s even more perfect than that.

It’s very easy for kids, little or larger, to build with it. There’s nothing that has to be fit to anything, because the pieces join magnetically. So very little dexterity is required – so little that the manufacturers recommend it for children one year old and up.

Older children will find themselves strangely attracted, if you excuse the expression, to some of the more subtle aspects of the design. It turns out that you can’t get the ends of the same-colored bars to stick together. And then, on further exploration, you discover that you also can’t get the warm-colored bars (yellow, orange and red) to stick to each other, while you can barely keep them from sticking to the ends of the cold-colored bars (green, blue and purple). Were you old enough to need an explanation for such a phenomenal phenomenon, you would probably find yourself talking about magnetic poles and the laws of like and unlike, attraction and repulsion. If you were young enough, however, you would find yourself experiencing something close to true magic, playing with the different color rods and touching the wonder of what you can or can’t make them do.

You might also notice that the grey balls connect to all the rods, and vice-versa. There is genuine delight to be found as you discover how pivotally useful those grey balls prove themselves to be.

And further, should you be very observant, you might even notice that the longer bars seem to hold more strongly to things than the shorter bars.

So much to discover. So much to play with. So easy to build with. So wonderfully surprisingly fun.

One nit that we find ourselves having to pick – the enclosed booklet. It is not an instruction booklet. It is not an idea booklet.  It is a marketing booklet, illustrating the multitudinous marvels of the SmartMax system, including some pieces that, in all likelihood, are not part of the set you purchased, even should you have purchased the top-of-the-line SmartMax Basic 42. We recommend that you keep the booklet filed somewhere else, where children won’t see it, lest you kindle unslakable SmartMax lust. Well, perhaps slakable, depending on how much you’re ready to spend. O, yes, the curved pieces and all their constructively curvy implications that would be yours to explore had you purchased the SmartMax Basic 36. And yet, and yet all the wonderful things you can build with the minor multitude of straight pieces found in the SmartMax Basic 42.

By the way, and beyond, there is also the SmartMax Basic Stunt with tracks and platforms and wheels that snap to the rods to make deliciously smooth-rolling car- and truck-like things. This one is more like a kit, and can get frustrating for smaller children – especially if the child sees the image on the box (as usual, there are no instructions or illustrations pertaining to what else you might do with this set). But the cars (just add wheels, and maybe a cab or truck body) are so intriguingly magnetic, so easily coupled and/or pushed away; and the tracks and platforms lend themselves to hours of rolling around fantasy. And the smaller, also kit-like, but equally attractive SmartMax Drive and Fly looks like it would prove an equally welcome addition to the SmartMax repertoire.

So many SmartMax kits. Such major fun to be had.

The Magic Labyrinth

The minute you open the box, you know that you are about to play a game that has been made for fun. The rules are beautifully illustrated. The game board is made of heavy pressboard, and is at least as colorful as the illustrations. Preparing the game for the first time, you punch out sections of the die-cut board, and each punch is pleasantly perfect.

There are two boards, actually: the Garden Level Game Board, and the Labyrinth Board. The first thing you do is punch out 24 coin-like “Magic Symbol Chips” from the Labyrinth Board, and place them in the cloth bag. Next, punch out everything that looks punch-outable, until you end up with a grid. Then you take the 24 wooden wall pieces and place them in the grid so as to make a solvable maze. There are many different maze patterns you can make, some of which can be extremely difficult to solve. After the maze has been built, you cover it with the Garden Level Game Board, and, for, for fun’s sake, turn the whole thing around so that no one actually remembers what the maze looked like.

There are four large “Magnetic Magician Pawns.” Each pawn is placed in one of the four corners of the Garden Level Game Board. There are also four metal balls, each of which is placed beneath a pawn.

Without actually looking into the bag, one player picks a Magic Symbol Chip and places it on the corresponding symbol on the Garden Leven Game Board. The first player who can move his piece on to that chip – without dropping the steel ball – wins that round.

The starting player rolls the die, which allows him to move from one to four spaces, horizontally and/or vertically. At first, it’s sheer luck. There’s no way to tell when you’ll run against a wall, and lose the ball – and when you do, you have to return to start. But once you do lose the ball, you’ll know exactly what to avoid the next turn.

And on and on, turn by turn, players begin to learn the maze, each from their own perspective, each hoping to be the first to win a Magic Symbol Chip. When that happens, the next player draws the next chip, and the new round begins.

It takes about 15 minutes to set the game up the first time. Playing the whole game (collecting all 24 Magic Symbol Chips), can take a while, but each round takes a little less time as more of the maze is explored and mastered. And, of course, you can stop whenever you are tired or are told you have to.

The mystery of the hidden maze, the excitement of losing the ball and having to start over, the surprise of having suddenly lost the ball, the delight of having mastered a portion of the maze, the elegance of the rules, the opportunity to build yet another, more or less challenging maze – all combine wonderfully to create a game that remains fascinating each time it is played.

The Magic Labyrinth was designed by Dirk Baumann, and is made available through Playroom Entertainment. It is for two-four players, and can be enjoyed by kids as young as 6, and by adults who have a good memory. As in most memory games, the kids have the advantage, which makes The Magic Labyrinth such a perfect family game. It is not really a strategic game, which, for many of us, makes the game especially appealing. But it does require deductive reasoning as well as a good memory, and, hence, challenges and exercises both. It’s an elegant game – not quite like any other. And, most importantly, turns out to be significantly, dare I say, majorly fun.

Sumo Ham Slam

I’ve generally found that if you are going to do silly, you might as well go all out. What’s the point of dressing up as a pirate if you’re only going to go through the day saying your same old innocuous pleasantries in your predictable Midwestern mumble? Sometimes you just have to go for the gusto.

Gamewright goes for the gusto with their hamster sumo wrestling game Sumo Ham Slam. That’s right, sumo hamsters. And if the thought of crashing your hamster into your opponent’s hamster until one of you falls over or out of the ring doesn’t bring a smile to your face then remember this: at the start of the match, all players must chant SUMO HAM SLAM!! And there are magnets. And your feed your hamsters to make them heavier.

Still no smile? Check the flesh around your mouth for facial paralysis. Go watch some Monty Python.

The game comes with a plastic wrestling ring, four hollow plastic hamsters, 40 “food pellet” chips, a die, and two magnetic wands. The wands slide under the surface of the wrestling ring and control the movement of your hamster. The die tells you what to do on your turn: Eat, Train, or Slam! You earn plastic pellets by eating and training (thus making your hamster heavier) and you earn victory points by wrestling when you roll a Slam! The first player to earn five victory points is the winner. To augment the verisimilitude of the sumo-like encounter, the manufacturer recommends substituting pennies or nickels for the lighter weight plastic pellets, thereby further adding to the gravity and humorously hefty hamsterness of it all.

Once all the food pellets (or coins) are consumed, the game becomes a constant series of sumo matches. Which is just as well because the real joy of the game comes from the silly, but absolutely necessary ritual of chanting SUMO HAM SLAM!! before each bout. And sumo wrestling hamsters are nothing without their rituals.

Well, maybe they are Major Fun.

Sumo Ham Slam was designed by Mary Jo Reutter with art by Dean MacAdam. © 2010 by Gamewright.

William Bain, Games Taster

The Parsons Effect, Part Two – Perturbation

Further exploration of the Parsons Effect demonstrates what happens when you spin a hexagon-shaped magnet-cluster near similar hexagon-shaped magnet-clusters.

Parsons comments: “It’s like, when the one that is spinning is in full spin, the other, more stayed hexagon-shaped magnet clusters choose to ignore all that frenzied enthusiasm. But as it slows down, the others start noticing, and, with a wiggle and perhaps even a spin of their own, acknowledge the whirl.”

An introduction to the Neodymium magnet executive puzzle toy

The four following reviews are almost identical, each featuring a different rendition of the same magnetic puzzle/toy concept. There are minor differences, and, depending the player’s preferences, one might prove definitely more, shall we say, “attractive,” than the rest. But comparing them to each in any effort to determine which was truly best only led us to the kinds of thinking that this website is not designed to support.

When we find an exceptional toy or game, one of sustainable play value, our goal is simply to add our bit of recognition and support, to recommend them as something worthy of your playtime. Our goal is not to tell you which is, for example, the best chess set you can buy, because chess is chess. And though the look and feel of different chess sets may appeal to different people, the fact is, if you want to play chess, it’s still a good game, even if you’re playing in with bits of paper. Rarely, we find a newly invented toy or game available, almost simultaneously, from 4 different sources. Given our mission here, the only solution we could arrive at was to create 4 different reviews, awarding each the Major Fun seal.
We think you’ll enjoy this toy a great deal. Read the reviews. Check out the websites. It really doesn’t matter which you end up buying. Each will bring you hours of challenging, engaging, and, hopefully, major fun.


We’ve been taking a very close look at a puzzling phenomenon, known as The Neo Cube. The website alone is sufficiently filled with invitations and incentives for purchasing these extremely attractive technical marvels to explain why we’ve been looking so closely.

Attractive indeed. Attracting curiosity, creativity, dexterity, ingenuity. Visually and tactually engaging. They are executive wonder toys. Moderately expensive investments, that payoff in hours of meditative, and sometimes significantly aggravating play.
Neocubes are made of Neodymium magnets – the strongest, longest lasting of rare earth magnets. These magnets really, really want to stick together. Assembling them into any of the amazingly attractive configurations shown on the web or featured in their documentation sometimes requires very strong fingers and deep, abiding dedication. Assembling the 6x6x6 cube (a challenge so fundamental that it has become a magnetic-ball-puzzle industry standard to include at least 216 – or 6-cubed balls) can get significantly frustrating, not because it is conceptually difficult, but rather because the balls can offer surprisingly strong resistance to being pulled apart or forced together in any way other than that which seems to appeal to them at the moment.
Neocubes comes in a blister pack that includes 8 extra magnets, instructions and a drawstring bag. The back of the pack contains ample warnings about the dangers of swallowing, heating, or handling these magnets should their coatings be compromised. The manufacturers strongly and understandably advise that these magnets should not be played with by children younger 12.
The spectacular variety of sculptural puzzles that these magnetic balls lend themselves to can be found everywhere on the web. On flickr you can find image after image of Neocubes. On Youtube you can watch a minor myriad of people making mini-metal-marble magnetic magic with Neocubes. As you watch, it is clear that making these extremely attractive configurations is as much a performance art as it is an act of conceptual mastery.
Until this review, the story of these amazing magnet balls has been uniformly focused on the many marvelous puzzle-like activities available to the magnet-ball-empowered few. Our explorations have revealed equally marvelous toy-potential. Here is a very simple example – showing what happens when you roll one ball at another, with appropriate speed and something like aim, on a plate. Turn up your sound to appreciate the fullness of the inherent glee.
With this very preliminary foray into the “toyetic” qualities of it all, we hereby invite your contributions of similarly jolly, playworthy discoveries. This first is but a taste. (Actually, more of a hint than a taste as the frame speed of the video doesn’t show the full spinning glories we experienced. But a tasty hint, nonetheless.)

image by Frans (3Djavu.nl)

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