They call Muggins “aerobics for the mind.” Because you might need to multiply and divide as well as add and subtract, they call it a math game. And, yes, it’s been reportedly a huge success in math classes. As they say on the home page, it’s a game “for those who love math or those who hate math, those who are math challenged and those who are math geniuses, these games are guaranteed to challenge, build math and thinking skills, and increase self-confidence.” But that’s no reason for you to think of Muggins as anything other than pure fun.

Muggins can be played by up to four players or teams. Three dice are thrown. Players try to combine the dice through arithmetic operations so as to cover one of the 36 open scoring spaces on the board. You get a higher score if you have covered two or more adjacent spaces. And, if you throw a triple, you get the added, and deliciously vindictive opportunity, to remove your opponents’ markers.

If you think you don’t have a move (you can’t figure out a combination of the dice that will result in one of the available spaces), you pass. If someone else can figure out how to use your dice to make a legal move, that person can call “muggins” and take that move for his or her own (hence, the name of the game – Muggins – as used in the game of Cribbage for a similar situation).

And, for those seeking the more, shall we say “participative” form of Muggins, we introduce the true meaning of Muggins, as found on Mug”gins, v. t. In certain games, to score against, or take an advantage over (an opponent), as for an error, announcing the act by saying “muggins.” In other words, when you find yourself not able to calculate your best move fast enough, just put your marker anywhere and see if anyone Muggins you. Of course you risk losing yet another marker, but, in the heat of the game, you can never tell what a well-timed bluff will get you.

The set (a wooden board, enough marbles for four players, three dice) also includes three polyhedral (12-sided) dice used in Supermuggins and, oddly enough, Muggins, Jr.

Yes, Muggins is just about your ideal educational game. Yes, you exercise arithmetic and algebraic skills. But it’s the game part, even more than the educational part that makes Muggins so clearly MajorFUN-Award-worthy. It’s a fun, challenging, exciting game for 1-4 players, or teams, that can be played by kids 12-up (younger, still, if using the Muggins, Jr. variation). The fact that it’s educational is mere gilding on this highly playable lily of a game.

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