Candygrams       Official Site |  BGG  | Buy

Publisher: Johnny Landers P: Candygrams LLC
2-4 players  15-20 min. ages 7+  MSRP $25

text-the concept

Candygrams is a colorful crossword game that offers some fun and challenging twists to a traditional word game. Use letter tiles to create (and recreate) your own grid of words to win the game.

text-the components

Candygrams comes with 111 really nice letter tiles. Each tile has a nice thickness and heft and is screen printed in one of three bright colors: pink, yellow and blue.

The game also comes with two large six sided dice. These dice have colored faces that match the colors of the tiles: 2 yellow, 2 pink and a 2 blue sides.

To play, mix up the tiles face down and each player draws 25 tiles to his or her hand (called the candy shop). Set 10 extra tiles face up in the middle. This is the Candy Jar. Now we’re ready to begin!

text-the mechanics

Well, almost ready! The first thing each player will do is create a starting word for his or her own personal crossword layout. Over the course of the game, you’ll build from the base word up and down and across to form new words with new tiles. You will create your own personal free-form board.

The only rule with this starting word? It has to contain at least one of each different color tile.

Once everyone has a base word, the first round begins with someone rolling the dice.

Once the dice are rolled everyone plays together using the result of the dice. The colors rolled on the dice tell you which dice can be used to make words this round. If I roll pink and blue, this means those are the only color letters I can use. Yellow has to sit this one out.

This color rule applies to the letters you build off of on your crossword board. Using the example above, you have to build your new word off a blue or pink letter. You can add onto an existing word, branch off in a new direction, even create multiple words as long as all the tiles are played in a single line horizontally or vertically. But in each case this pesky color rule still applies.

The goal of the game is to play all 25 tiles first, so the longer the word you build each turn, the closer you are to victory. No scoring, no points. Just get all the tiles from your candy shop to your board.


The color restrictions provided by the dice deserve some real love here. Instead of one rack of letter tiles, you really have Six different racks of tiles depending on how the dice come up. Blue – Pink, Blue- Yellow, Yellow – Pink involved two colors BUT it is also possible to roll doubles! So you may have a turn where you can only play just blue, pink or yellow!

On one hand, this may severely limit your options, depending on the mix of tiles in your candy shop. BUT whenever doubles are rolled, you can swap one tile from your hand with a tile in the Candy Jar. This means, as the dice come up with doubles you can slowly shift your hand away from troublesome letters

As the game moves on, you may find a great word (or words) that use a ton of tiles but if the color dice dont cooperate, you may have to bide your time and hold onto those letters, hoping the right roll will come next round. A different kind of randomness. Not the randomness of drawing a bad rack of tiles. But randomness that requires patience and planning. You dont know how the dice will come up, so there’s an element of hand management in play throughout the game.If you do not try to keep a bit of balance in your candy shop, you may find yourself with a a mix of tiles you know wont blend together. If you dont take this into account, you’ll find yourself with a mix of tiles that wont blend together nicely into words and have to pass, waiting for doubles so you can swap out a tile.

It’s not just what tiles you play but when you play them that matters!

Even where you play them matters! And this is what really sets Candygrams apart.

When you go to form your word each round, you have access to any tiles already on the board and played to your layout provided that removing them from the layout doesnt split the board and that all the words in your crossword are, well, still words! You cant take a tile and leave a string of gibberish!

This means that if you are clever about WHERE you play your tiles to the board, you still have access to them on later rounds. Using prefixes or suffixes that can be peeled off and have a word remain valid may give you many more options. And the number of options you keep open comes down to how cleverly you can build your words and your board.

Here, I used the S from tonics (above) later in the game to make the word suds (below). Since tonic (singular) is still a valid word, I can peel off the S and use it again.

Using dice to create a new challenge each round and allowing players to use tiles already in play make decisions in Candygrams fun and different than most other word games.


Whenever we begin a discussion about word games, we have to address the 800 pound gorilla in the room: Scrabble. Since 1937, it has dominated and continues to dominate the market. And for good reason. It’s an excellent game! That said, it has so thoroughly dominated the landscape and for such a long time, it is almost impossible to imagine a word game that isn’t built from a foundation that starts with Scrabble. Can you think of many words games today that you wouldnt start by saying “It’s like Scrabble, but….?” It’s not impossible, but it’s not easy! I’m no Scrabble hater at all but its success has has a collective effect on how we imagine word games. Scrabble has provided the boundaries and that means we end up with a LOT of games that are just way too similar to the original.

Enter Candygrams. Yes, you can definitely see it has a Scrabblicious foundation. BUT let’s try the exercise I suggested above.

It’s like Scrabble…

but you have dice

and the dice tell you what tiles you can use

and the dice tell you when you can swap tiles

and you build words on your own board

and you can use tiles already played to the board

and you ‘re not playing for points

So, it’s not one difference. It’s many! This is no tweak. It may have started in the Scrabble chorus, but Candygrams has a clear voice – a voice that stands out from the crowd.

The last thing I want is for my praise of these subtleties to make Candygrams seem too complex. It’s truest strength lies in its simplicity.

The game really is roll dice, build words from the colors rolled. Use all your tiles to win and reuse tiles already played, if you’re clever.

Young players can play on one level and word nerds can appreciate it on another. But the magic is both groups could enjoy playing together

That makes Candygrams a delight and most surely a delicious helping of Major Fun!



Despite the rather cruel and fickle nature of this particular March, there have been a couple of really pleasant days in which all but the most stubborn or sheltered piles of snow melted away. Spring is in full tease mode. Yesterday I went for a run in shorts and t-shirt. Today I had to push an inch of wet snow off my windshield before I left work.

But those few nice days got me out not just to run but to play a couple games of Murbles that Murray Kramer of Kramer Kreations was nice enough to send to us back in December. Now, Murray is from Pensacola, Florida where I can only assume that a lawn-bowling game like Murbles is a viable year-round proposition. Unfortunately the game reached me in Indianapolis just as we were settling in for what would be one of the snowiest winters on record.

Each set of Murbles comes with a target ball (white) and six other balls in 2 colors. The ones I tossed around the yard were red and blue, but there is a huge variety of colors you can order. As with most bocce-style bowling games, you throw the target murble and then players try to get their murbles closest to the target. With the basic set, two or four people could play by alternating throws. Combine multiple sets and you can have a game for an entire family reunion.

awardAlthough the game will be immediately familiar to anyone who has ever thrown objects over a grassy surface, it is the packaging and materials that really make Murbles stand out. The murbles are three inches in diameter, weigh about half a pound (8 ounces), and come in a colorful canvas bag with the rules printed on it. The murbles are small enough and light enough that children and the elderly can play with them, but they still have enough “heft” so that your throws feel controlled. They are made from a dense, recycled plastic that is also buoyant so you won’t lose them at the bottom of a lake (although prevailing winds and waves might lead you on an extended chase).

Murbles is Major Fun that you can throw in your back pack or the back of your car and then throw around in the great outdoors. Something to usher in the spring and a great reason to get outside and (as my mom would say) get the stink blown off.

[sniff] I’m pretty sure I need to get out more.

2+ players. Ages 6+

Murbles was designed by Murray Kramer and is © 2011 by Kramer Kreations.



Major Fun would like some credit for doing this entire review without making one joke about balls. Not one. Read back through there and check out all the opportunities I had. I tell you what, being this mature is really hard difficult.

Ringer Toss

Ringer Toss


Ringer Toss is what some people would consider a tailgate game, what others might think of as a backyard game, and what almost anyone would think of as an invitation to some genuine, not too physical, but worthy-of-taking seriously fun.

To play the game, you first have to assemble it (which takes maybe 3 minutes). It’s made of wood – recycled wood, as a matter of fact. There are four large pieces which fit together to form what one of our players thought of as a shoe-shine kit. There are five square dowels that form the targets, five plastic cups that serve as added challenges, and four rings for each of two players. All you do is take turns tossing the rings (suggested distance is about 10 feet away) so they go over the cups and posts, or knock the cups off a post that already has a ring around it, or end up lying somewhere on the game stand. Each of these accomplishments is worth points – the more challenging, the higher the potential score.

Major Fun Award

It takes a while to get the toss just right. It’s easy to fling the rings too hard. A gentle, careful, level spin is best. So we’re not talking about feats of great strength here, but rather about exhibitions of calm, controlled, gentle accuracy. This makes the game one that older people can play with as much chance of success as their children or even children’s children.

The ring’s the thing. It adds a unique feel to the game that is compellingly gentle. The cups contribute an added challenge in two ways: they serve as obstacles to getting the ring around a post, and then become targets that fly off with glee-inducing clamor.

Easy to build. Easy to learn. Easy to carry around. Ringer Toss is just the kind of game you’ll want to have with you basically everywhere.

Wits & Wagers: Party

Wits & Wagers: PartyVegas, baby!!

Let it ride!!

Baby needs a new pair of shoes!!


And thus endeth my knowledge of Las Vegas and the exciting life of the high roller. What I do know is that any great game has an element of risk. Vegas epitomizes the lengths to which people, both the casinos and the gamblers, will go to make money. The games in Vegas are a thin fiction that glamorize this risky pursuit  of the Big Money. In contrast, North Star Games’ party version of Wits and Wagers, uses the opulent veneer of Vegas to encourage players to take a more intellectual risk in order to win some fun. Dare I say, the Big Funny?

As is subtly implied in its title, Wits & Wagers revolves around making a wager. Once you have divided into teams, the group is asked a question that has a numeric answer. For example: In what year was Velcro invented? In feet and inches, what was the longest recorded zucchini? How many taxis are in New York City?

Each team writes their answer on a wonderful little dry erase board. Each team’s board is revealed at the same time and put in order from lowest to highest. Although it is possible that someone will know the exact answer to a question, such precision is rarely possible and the game derives much of its fun from the teams betting on what response is closest to the correct answer without going over.

Each team has two betting tokens. Once the whiteboards are arranged, each team places their tokens on the numbers that they think are closest to the correct answer (but not higher than the answer). Once everyone bets, the answer is revealed to an eruption of cheers, howls, name-calling, fist-bumping, finger-pointing, and teeth-gnashing. The team who wrote down the closest number gets a chip. Any team that placed a betting token on the closest number also gets a chip.

This process of coming up with an answer and then betting on the collective range of possibilities is very engaging. Just coming up with an answer for your team is tense, but the fun really kicks in when you see the other guesses; especially when the range of answers is close. All the same arguments your team had in coming up with a number come BACK when it is time to put your tokens down.

Major Fun AwardTo keep things interesting, the seventh (and final) round adds a wrinkle. This time, your team can use the chips you have won over the last few rounds in the betting stage. On this round, when you place your betting tokens, you can add some (or all) of your chips to that bet. If you win, you get a chip for your token and one chip for each chip that you bet. If you lose, you lose them all. In this way, the fortunes of the teams can change quickly. In one of our games, we had three teams that all wrote the same number as their answer. It was the last round and those three teams were well ahead of the fourth team, but because they thought they had an easy answer (how could three groups of well-educated adults be wrong?) all three teams went all in. The fourth team also bet on that answer BUT kept a few chips back. As you’ve probably guessed, the answer was wrong. The three leading teams were wiped out and the last place team won.

Wits & Wagers: Party is crisply designed and a snap to learn. The dry erase boards and markers work perfectly for this kind of game. We also appreciated the clearly illustrated (and short) instructions.

You won’t lose your shirt but you might lose your breath. There is a lot of laughter and cheering and groaning. And that’s the kind of “loss” that makes a game Major Fun.

For 4+ players, ages 8+

Wits & Wagers: Party was designed by Dominic Crapuchettes and © 2012 by North Star Games.


cirplexed! You get these colorful tiles. Ninety of them. Each tile is composed of four quarter-circles, each of a different color. Each player takes the same number of tiles – how many tiles depends on how many (2 to 6) players. In a 2-4-player game, for example, each gets 22 tiles.

You, and all the other players, take a tile out of the tile bag (well, first you have to count out the appropriate number of tiles and put them in the bag). Then you all pick two more tiles. So, now you have one tile on the table in front of you and two tiles in your hand. You pick one of your two tiles and put it adjacent to the tile in front of you. Hopefully, in doing so, you’ll make at least half a circle of the same color between the two tiles.

After everyone has played, you again pick another tile from the bag, giving you again the choice of two tiles. And, again, you try to place one of those tiles next to the tiles already in front of you in such a way as to create as many part or whole circles of the same color as possible. And on and on again, until the last tile has been played.

Even though you are always only picking one of the two tiles in your hand, your options increase as more and more tiles are laid on the table. So there’s a lot to think about, the most exacerbating of which is that sometimes you have no choice other than to put the wrong color in a 3/4-completed circle.

When all the tiles are exhausted, you count up all your completed circles. The player with the most, wins. If there’s a tie, you count your 3/4 circles. If there’s still a tie, even your half-circles get counted.

Major Fun awardThough it’s a competitive game, no one is really trying to make anyone else lose. It’s all about your trying to maximize your own score. So it’s what you might call gently competitive. Nonetheless, the challenge is deeply absorbing. Luckily, so to speak, luck is most definitely a factor – but still the most observant player has the best chance of winning.

The tiles are beautiful to watch as the patterns gets built. Because everyone has to wait until the last player has made his or her move before picking another tile, players are forced to be tuned to each other as much as they are to their own growing array of tiles. It’s like playing a good game of solitaire, only more interesting, and with more people. And, like a deck of cards, it invites you to create your own variations.

The game takes 15-30 minutes to play. Easy to learn. Easy to teach. A perfect family game for ages 6 and up. Visually inviting. Far easier to read than a deck of cards. Designed by one of our most prolifically Major Fun designers, Susan McKinley Ross. Available from one of our most prolifically Major Fun companies: Mindware.


I moved 12 times in my first 6 years of marriage. Many of those were short skips across town as we jumped from one cramped box of graduate student housing to another, but they all involved packing and repacking all our belongings into a truck and then emptying said truck a few miles away. Under those conditions you either gain a knack for the packing process or you learn to save up for a professional.

We could never afford a professional.

Those skills came in quite handy as I went up against Major Fun in a friendly game of Quadefy.

Maranda Games has released several handsome abstract strategy games and Quadefy is their entry into the realm of three-dimensional tiling games. 2 players take turns placing their wooden blocks within a 4X4X4 cubic grid. The last player to make a legal move wins. Each player has 8 game pieces that resemble three-dimensional Tetris shapes. An illegal move is any placement of a piece that extends out of the 4X4X4 grid.

The pieces are composed of attractive, solid wooden blocks that are designed for play and display. All 16 pieces fit together to form a perfect cube which means Quadefy serves double duty as a competitive strategy game and an engaging solo puzzle. Like the other games in Maranda’s line-up, Quadefy is visually striking and is meant to be left out for guests to see and touch and covet.

Games are fast, even when some players are *AHEM* deliberative [significant look in the direction of Major Fun…], but there are so many ways to start that re-playability is high. Patience and spatial awareness are handy traits, but that goes for most games.

And as fun as the game is already, I heartily recommend an alternative condition suggested by Major Fun himself: play with your eyes closed. Try it as a solo puzzle and then in competition. It’s a great twist on an engaging and well designed game.

For 2 players, ages 6+

Quadefy game design by Mark Fuchs. © 2011 by Maranda Games.


There is an elegance of design to many Gigamic games that is impossible to ignore and Kabaleo keeps up the tradition. The conical pieces are simple, colorful, and they make a satisfying clack when stacked. This is not trivial because clacking and stacking are what you will do a lot in this game.

The elegance of the pieces underscores the elegance of the game. There are six colors. Each player has a different color, and the winner is the one whose color is on top of the most stacks once all the pieces are used.

So not only is the design of the pieces unique and striking, the design is also functional.

There are 24 Bases (cones with a single stripe of color) and 36 Pieces (cones with a double stripe). There are also 6 Target cones which are not colored on the outside but are colored INSIDE the cone. Players draw a Target at the beginning of the game and this becomes their color—a fact they keep secret during play. The number of colors with which you play is always two more than the number of participants. This makes it very difficult to guess exactly which color any player has.

Before play begins, the bases are scattered in the middle, and each player draws a certain number of Pieces from a bag. The Pieces may not be kept secret.

On each player’s turn, you take one of the Pieces and place it on a Base in the middle of the table. Pieces may not be placed on Bases of the same color, but you may place any Piece on top of any other Piece (say that 5 times fast). So a blue Piece could go on a pink Base and a green Piece could go on top of that blue Piece (making a 3 stack of cones). A green Piece could now be played on the previous green Piece BUT instead of stacking higher, you remove both green Pieces.

Different colors STACK. Same colors REMOVE. Piece on Base must be different colors.

That is some elegant game design.

Planning ahead is maddening. You don’t want to reveal your color so misdirection and blocking are good strategies; however as your opponents and you are running out of pieces, it becomes very important to free up your color in such a way that cripples an opponent.

Kabaleo is incredibly intuitive and gameplay is quick. The rules take up two very small pages in a rulebook that covers maybe 2 dozen languages. The rules also include wordless, pictorial directions that show what moves are allowed and what are not (especially handy for you anthropologists, semiologists, and sociologists studying cultures with no written or verbal language). Kabaleo is Major Fun because it feels fun to play and feels GOOD to play.

(Although I bet anyone of the Cold War generation who opens the box will think “Missile silo.” Go get the game and you’ll see what I mean.)

2 – 4 players. Ages 8+

Kabaleo concept by Jean Luc Renaud and is © 2010 by Gigamic.


Just when you think nobody could possibly invent a lawn or beach game that is at least as fun as bocce and horseshoes and games of that ilk, but actually, genuinely different, and as inviting to children as it is to adults, that can be played standing or sitting (on, for example, a wheelchair), that allows for genuine competition and yet has a friend-keeping element of luck, and doesn’t use rings or balls or bean bags or bolos, but instead, for the first time in lawn-and/or-beach game history, rolling wooden discs…

…along comes Matt Butler with his game of Rollors.

The game (conveniently packaged in a polyester/nylon zipper bag) is all wood (New Zealand Pine) with the exception of a measuring cord – but even that has a wood pin that fits perfectly into the top of the goal for convenient goal-proximity measuring and just loosely enough for a satisfying pull-out. There are two sets of 3 wooden Rollors. The Rollors are 5 inches wide and about an inch-and-a-quarter wide – wide enough so they can be rolled on their edges, and narrow enough so that sooner or later, they’ll probably fall on one of their faces (though you never know). In each set (red or blue), the Rollors are numbered, and there’s a different number on each side. One Rollor, for example, has a number 2 on one side, and a number 5 on the other. A second Rollor, for a second example, has a number 1 on one side and a number 6 on the other. And the third Rollor – we’ll just leave that to your mathematical ingenuity to figure out. And then there are two, beautifully wooden, pyramid-like goal-things that you set 25 feet away from each other – more or less.

The rules are very logical, comfortably brief and easy to learn. The object is to get your Rollor closest to the goal. If it falls over before it reaches the goal, you hope that it will fall so that it’s closer to the goal than any of your opponent’s Rollors, higher-scoring side face-up. If your Rollor makes it so close to the goal that it ends up actually leaning on the goal (a “leaner”), you hope that the number that is facing out is as high as it possibly can be, because that number gets doubled! And if your Rollor remains on its edge, and is closer to the goal than any of your opponent’s Rollors, you score the sum of both sides (which, not actually magically, is the same for all Rollors).

A bit like bocce, a bit like cornhole, a bit like horseshoes, but, not like any of them at all. The more you play, the more you can appreciate the intelligence behind the design, and the uniquely gentle, but focused fun it leads to.

Rollors are fun to roll – easier on arm and wrist than most rolling/pitching lawn games, more suitable to kids as well as adults, seniors as well as people of limited mobility. If you happen to have a 25-ft long carpeted hallway in your office or personal domain, you can develop remarkable skill and control and stuff. When you find yourself Rollor-ing on beach or lawn, you’ll have all the endless nuance of terrain to play with and against. In any of these environments, the game is fun and inviting. The nature of a rolling Rollor is such that it lends itself to some amazingly surprising feats of apparent skill – curving, spinning, potentially stopping without falling over, or falling over on the exact side you predict. As you gain confidence and competence, you will no doubt develop your own variations, specially designed to take advantage of terrain, your personal mastery, and your competitive instincts. Perhaps it would be fun to include a small hill in the Rollors court. Or some obstacles around which one might attempt to slalom. Or to play with three players on a team, all throwing simultaneously, on a golf course or bowling alley or in the dorm or in the woods (where the grass is short enough so you can still find your Rollors) or on a glacier….

Yes, indeed, the signs all point to Major Fun.

Vintage Flora – a kinder, gentler jigsaw puzzle

When it come to beautiful, well-made jigsaw puzzles, few companies have been able to match the quality of Ravensburger puzzles. The pieces are cleanly cut, unique, and made of thick, linen-finished, glare-free cardboard stock. The prints are vividly colored and in sharp focus. And the adult puzzle collection ranges from 300 to 32,000 pieces.

Ravensburger uses what it calls its “Softclick-Technology” to guarantee a “100% interlocking mechanism for the world’s most optimal fit of individually formed puzzle pieces, resulting in an absolutely smooth puzzle.” Instead of snapping together, pieces fit so well that they seem to glide into each other, effortlessly. And there’s no denying that the experience of putting a Ravensburger puzzle together is satisfying and rewarding.

But the fun of putting together a good jigsaw puzzle is only somewhat dependent on any of those factors. Often, the image itself – the detail, the complexity, the variety – is what determines how challenging the experience will be, and how fun.

The Vintage Flora puzzle is a very good example of a puzzle that is especially pleasing to solve, and just challenging enough to keep you going until you’ve placed the very last piece. Notice that the puzzle is divided into 24 squares, each (except for the last) devoted to a different letter of the alphabet, each with a different and highly textured background, each with its own border. For those of us who like to put the edges of a puzzle together before we fill in the rest, solving Vintage Flora is very close to an apotheosis.

Though we recommend Vintage Flora especially to the casual puzzle solver, the quality of the image and design makes it something that anyone who likes a good puzzle would appreciate.

Sequence States & Capitals

“States,” you’re probably saying to yourself, and “Capitals? Ah, therefore, it’s an educational game, you know, for people who want to do things like that, learn States and capitals.”  You’d be part right. But only part. First of all, it’s Sequence – the Major Fun award-winning family game that’s as highly recommended for seniors as it is for families and kids. So the real reason, the best reason to play is the sheer fun of it all. Second, you don’t really have to know anything about what State has what capital, even though, after a few games, you probably will know all the capitals of all the States.

So here’s what you get: a well-made folding game board  showing each of the 50 States, twice, just the shapes, in different colors; a deck of 108 color-coded cards, each naming a capital, each showing the shape  and color of the State to which it belongs; and chips, 150 of them, 50 of each of 3 different colors, two-sided, embossed chips, one side with a white background; and game instructions, clearly-written, in English and Spanish.

You need at least 2 people to play. Each player gets one color of chips. If you have 3 people, then you use all three colors. If you have more (as many as 12), you play in teams, each team getting one color. Depending on how many players, each player gets from 8 to 3 cards. Your goal is to be the first player, or team, to get 5-in-a-row, twice.

The strategic part of the game is heightened by two features. First, since each State is on the board twice, you have to decide which occurrence of the State to cover with one of your chips – the one that opens the most possibilities for you, or the one that more effectively blocks one of your opponents. Second, there are two kinds of “special” cards – one that says “ADD” (letting you add a chip anywhere on the board), and another that says “REMOVE.” There are only four of each, so if you find one of those cards, you want to wait until the best possible moment to use it.

Other than that, the game is about luck, teamwork, and a lot of looking for the right State. The luck keeps the game fun and accessible to all. The teamwork greatly adds to the fun, and the looking around is what contributes so directly to the learning. The more you play, the more you begin to recognize the shapes of the States and their capitals. It’s as easy, and as fun as that.

It pays, strategically, to complete a 5-in-a-row as soon as you can. Once you do, none of those chips can be removed. Hence, just enough potential and pressure to keep you into the game until the very end. The colors are distinct enough, the chips large enough, the pace gentle enough for people of all ages. And if your goal is in deed educational, Sequence States & Capitals is probably one of the best models you’ll find for what an educational game should be – fun, engaging, and the learning, when it comes, comes gently and incidentally.


Scroll To Top