Boomerang

Release: 5/9/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 32 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

The best way to travel is boomerang style. Pick a place to start and go! The farther you wander, the better the trip. Grab a bus, or train, a plane, a bike, or a boat to see and do as much as you can before your vacation ends. Spot native animals, collect souvenirs, hike the great outdoors, and experience fine dining. And don’t forget to take some great pictures along the way!

Boomerang is a draft-and-write card game. Pick a location card, mark sites you visit on your map, and pass your hand to the next player. Try to build the best trip over a series of seven cards balancing multiple ways to score with each new destination

The Boomerang family of games covers Australia, Europe, and the United States.Each game provides a common core of rules with surprising and fun continental differences.

Tune in to explore the game and learn how the entire series earns BOTH awards!

Boomerang  Grail Games  |  BGG Play on Board Game Arena

Designer: Scott Almes   Artist: Kerri Aitken

Publisher: Grail Games, Matagot

2-4 players  15-30 min.  ages 10+   MSRP $20

Time to teach/learn:  3-4 minutes

Music credits include:

Boomerang    by Cowboy Copasthe song

Baby Boomerang  by T. Rex  |  the song

Block Ness

Block Ness

Blue Orange Games | BGG

D: Laurent Escoffier
A: Simon Douchy
P: Blue Orange
2-4 players 15 min ages 8+ MSRP $28
Time to Teach/Learn: 3 minutes

Once home to a single very shy sea monster, Block Ness is now teeming with long bodied serpents! Each one is looking to stretch out and claim as much of the lake as it can. By twisting your monster’s undulating body over and around the others, can you create the longest serpent from head to tail?

Table presence is a relatively new term in the world of games. Think curb appeal when you hear realtors talk about houses and you get the idea. Block Ness has table presence. It will grab your eye from across the room!

The game is played in the box which represents the lake.The thick lake board has a grid pattern of holes punched into it and these holes will be filled by very large and colorful segments of sea monsters.

Each player has ten different arching segments with pegs that fit snugly into the holes in the board. Some segments arch high while others are low. Some are long and others are short. Each player also has a serpent head and tail piece which can be attached to the top of any body segment.

While playing, the game board will look like a tangled mess of serpent segments with monsters’ bodies intertwined.

To set up, each player snaps their starting serpent segment into the center of the lake board and places the head on one end and the tail on the other.

The goal in Block Ness is to create the longest serpent you can on the board before you run out of space in the lake. When playing with four players you use the entire lake board. When playing with two or three players, you use a smaller portion of the lake.

Each turn, in clockwise order, players will select and place a new serpent segment to extend either the head or the tail of their beast. The holes in the lake board are arrayed in such a way that there are six legal spaces where you can add a new piece. One directly in front or behind your serpent and two to each side at the front or back. Diagonal placement is not allowed. After the new segment has been added, you will move the tail to the new end of the creature or the head to the new beginning.

Play continues in this fashion with each serpent taking up more space. When no more pieces can be played, the game ends and the player who has placed the most serpent pieces on the board wins. In the case of a tie, the player whose serpent head is the tallest is the winner.

Block Ness asks its players to think in multiple directions at once because the lake is so small. Even after the first turn, it will be clear just how fast this lake is going to fill up.

You have to think about how to fold your serpent back against itself and how to extend each arching piece over yourself or others to find open water for your next move. You may never go under other pieces, even your own, and your piece may never pass over the head or tail of an opponent’s serpent.

As the game winds forward, you may only have a few starting spaces open because other serpents have slithered up next to you. And you have to keep a close eye on the length of each piece to insure each end of the segment you want to place has a open hole to land in.

Think sideways. Think up and down. Think head and tail. The challenge and fun in Block Ness comes from keeping your options open as long as you can in as many directions as possible.

Block Ness is fast and wonderfully tense. It might seem simple, but there is subtle depth in action. A good abstract strategy game presents each turn as mini-puzzle a player must unravel. Small victories linked together help you create a strategy and push your opponent to do the same. Each small puzzle you solve links to the next in a very visual way. Nessie herself remains a mystery, but in Block Ness, we can witness Major Fun made manifest, rising from the waves of its cardboard lake.

Hide N’ Cheek

Hide N’ Cheek

Big G Creative | BGG

D: uncredited
A: Kevin Hill, Ryan Noonan
P: Big G Creative
2-4 players ages 6+ MSRP $20

Time to Teach/Learn: 2 minutes

You are a chipmunk. And you are one crafty little bugger! In your spare time you play a bluffing game with your friends. Deep in the forest, you take turns hiding acorns under some logs, and, one by one, you and your pals get a chance to search. You might scare up a single nut or you could hit the motherlode. Any nuts you find get crammed into your chubby little cheeks! Do your best to avoid coming up empty or, even worse, finding a bad nut! With a little luck, your cheeks will be the chunkiest. You might look silly, but you won’t mind at all, because you’ll be crowned the Hide n’ Cheek Champion!

No matter how many games you may own, it is a safe bet you probably don’t have any games with four flexible smiling chipmunk masks. The masks are adjustable for heads and faces large and small. The cheeks on each mask have a stretchy fabric pouch.

There are 40 plastic acorns (36 good ones and 4 bad ones) and 4 hollow logs – small plastic cups with wood grain texture.

To play, each player will don a chipmunk mask, gather all the nuts into a pile and get ready to laugh.

Each round, one player will hide nuts and the others will try to find them. The Finders shut their eyes while the Hider selects three nuts from the pile and decides how to arrange them under the logs. Once the nuts are hidden, the Hider mixes up the logs and presents them to the group. Eyes open, the Finders now, one by one in clockwise order, get a chance to look under a log and see if they find a nut. If a nut is found… wahoo! They take the nut and cram it into one of their cheek pouches. If the log is empty, better luck next time. The next player in order becomes the new Hider and repeats the process, selecting three nuts, hiding them, and the others taking turns searching.

Once per game, instead of selecting three nuts, each Hider can declare a Bad Nut round. Instead of placing three regular nuts, the Hider places a single green Bad Nut under one of the logs. Bad luck for the player who selects the log with the bad nut! They must give the Hider three nuts from their cheek pouches.

When the pile of nuts is gone, the player whose cheeks are cram-packed with the most nuts wins the game.

Without the ridiculous masks, Hide ‘n Cheek would be an amusing diversion at best.

It is physically impossible not to laugh once you see someone wearing a mask. If you ever wondered what you would look like as a demented cartoon animal, this is your chance! The masks are equal parts hilarious and horrifying. It is very very likely once you see the masks, you may feel self conscious and silly about putting one on. And in the era of pandemics, it is worth emphasizing that each and every mask should be sanitized between uses. But here’s the thing…

EVERYONE playing will be wearing the masks. You ALL share the experience of looking and feeling and even sounding ridiculous as you play the game. Crazy chipmunk voices are not only allowed; I say they are encouraged!

The masks are a perfect reminder to not take yourself, or others, or even the game too seriously. Wearing the mask literally conceals your you-ness. But wearing the mask also sets you free. It unites you with the other players. You all look silly. You can’t point and laugh at others without them pointing and laughing at you as your cheeks fill up with acorns.

Any game may gather a group at a table to play, but few can create a truly shared experience that makes winning or losing an afterthought. Hide n’ Cheek celebrates the fun of playing by poking gentle fun at the people playing. “Relax,” it says. “Take a beat. Take a deep breath and laugh at yourself.” Hide n’ Cheek wrestles us to the ground and makes us come to terms with the fact that play is an essentially absurd activity. But not without meaning or value. It is joyful, silly, freeing, and oh so human. A game like Hide N’ Cheek is Major Fun because it reminds us of this simple, noble truth.

Pocket Paragons

Release: 3/7/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 38 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Pocket Paragons is a what-beats-what card dueling game. Select a card; play it’s ability and try to anticipate your opponent’s next move. Duel one on one or in teams of three characters.

From Mata the Paladin to Sadoh the Ocean Queen, this is a world of high fantasy and high stakes. Seven cards separate you from glory or defeat.

Pocket Paragons is a duel distilled down to its very essence. A long game might take ten minutes! But don’t be fooled into thinking speed means lack of strategy. There are fun and challenging decisions at the heart of every turn.

Listen in to explore the game and learn how the game earns BOTH our awards.

Pocket Paragons  Solis Game Studio  |  BGG  

Designer: Brian McKay   Artist: Megan Cheever

Publisher: Solis Game Studio

2 players  5-10 min.  ages 12+   MSRP $25

Time to teach/learn:  5 minutes

Time to teach and learn: 3-4 minutes

Music credits include:

Pocket Calculator  |  by Basscraft the song

Hand in My Pocket  |  by  Vitamin String Quartet the song

So Clover

Release: 2/18/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 86 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Four clue words on four leaves. Can your teammates use these clues to select and arrange four square donut-shaped cards so their keywords line up?

So Clover is a cooperative word association game. Talk it through and look for a common thread. It will take more than luck to make the right connections.

Tune in to explore the game and learn why we think it is chock full of Major Fun!

So Clover

Repos Prod  BGG 

Designer: François Romain

Publisher: Repos Prod

3-6 players  30 min.  ages 10+   MSRP $25

Time to teach/learn:  3 minutes

Music credits include:

Crimson & Clover  |  Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld  |  the song

I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover  |  Emmy Rossum  |  the song

Luck Be A Lady  |  Acoustic Sessions  |  the song

Hibachi

Release: 12/15/2021    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 42 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

It’s a hectic night at the Hibachi restaurant. So many hungry people to feed. And so many different dishes! The spatulas are ting -ting-tinging against the hot cooktop and the onion volcanoes are erupting, as shrimp and steak, broccoli and mushrooms and rice fly from plate to bowl. No one leaves here hungry!

Hibachi is a charming dexterity driven set collecting game. Players throw their chef’s coins (hefty poker chips) to gather ingredients and special actions to fill recipes.

Give a listen to learn how Hibachi puts a fresh face on elements of chance and skill. And be ready for a heaping helping of Major Fun!

Hibachi     Grail Games  |  BGG 

D: Marco Teubner (Safranito, Flying Kiwis,
A: Kerri Aitken
P: Grail Games
2-4 players ages 10+ MSRP $40
Time to Teach/Learn: 3-4 minutes

Music credits include:

I Don’t Want to Throw Rice  by Dolly Parton  |  the song

Throw It Away  by Abbey Lincoln  |  the song

Ten

Release: 11/29/2021    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Run Time: 81 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Ten is a press your luck card game with a twist. The goal is simple: assemble the longest runs of consecutive cards in four colors. How many cards are you willing to draw as you push two different totals closer and closer to ten? Use currency cards to buy from the market or win auctions for wild cards. Be careful, though! If you bust, everyone else may cash in.

Engaging, interactive, and filled with tough decisions, Ten is great for all ages. Listen in to explore the game and discover how Ten delivers on its promise of Major Fun.

ALSO in this episode… a Game Night Grab Bag segment featuring Brenna Noonan and Doug! The challenge: games where you build the board as you play.

Ten      

AEG  BGG  Buy 

Designer: Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich

Artist: Shawn Stankewich

Publisher: AEG

1-5 players  15-30 min.  ages 10+   MSRP $20

Time to teach/learn:  2-3 minutes

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For info on the other segments featured on the show, check out the show notes at The Spiel!

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Interstitial music credits include:

Rotary Ten  by REM  |  the song

Count to Ten  by Timbuk 3  |  the song

Ten Years Gone  by Dread Zeppelin  |  the song

Hammer Time

Hammer Time

HABA USA  |  BGG 

Designer: Shaun Graham, Scott Huntington
Artist:
Natalie Behle
Publisher: HABA
2-4 players 15 minutes ages 5+ MSRP $25
Time to teach & learn: 2-3 minutes

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Sparkle mountain stands before you, its caverns filled with glittering gems. You and your crew of gnomes are ready to fill your wagons with riches, tapping rubies, diamonds, and emeralds loose from the walls with your trusty hammer. There’s just one problem. Dragomir the Dragon sleeps under the mountain. Make too much noise and he will chase you away!

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Hammer Time is a sparkly sight to behold. 90 brightly colored gemstones in 6 different colors will be strewn across the game board. The game board is very unconventional; it’s the bottom of the box turned over, so it forms a mini-table. There’s a large mousepad-like sticker illustrated with cavern walls and Dragomir the Dragon sleeping in the corner. You will permanently attach this to the box bottom.

It’s no surprise the chunky wooden hammer is the star of the show.

There are two types of cards in the game: task cards (which can provide a bonus gem) and wagon cards (each player has four).

Finally, there’s a color die used for the Master variant of the game.

To play, spread out the gems on the box. Each player shuffles their wagon cards and flips one face up. It’s hammer time!

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Hammer Time is a game about knocking gems off a box with a hammer. The first player to fill four wagon cards with gems wins the game.

On your turn, you will take the hammer and tap along any side of the box. You can knock gently or with great gusto BUT the goal is to tap just hard enough to knock the right combination of gems off the edge of the box.

If you knock even one gem off the box, stop hammering! Your turn is over.

Count the gems you knocked off. If there are 8 or less gems, great! Compare the gems to your wagon card. Each wagon card has a specific combination of colored gems. If any of the gems you knocked off match your wagon card, place them on the card. Diamonds are wild. When the wagon card is full, set it aside, flip over a new wagon card, and return the gems to the board.

If you knock off nine or more gems, watch out! You made too much noise with your hammering! Dragomir wakes up and all the gems are returned to the board.

While hammering a box might sound easy, it is tricky to find just the right touch. Tap too light one turn and the next you will send half the gems flying!

Task cards provide another incentive. After knocking off gems, check the task card to see if you complete it. A task could ask for a certain number of gems or a certain type of gem. If you fulfill this requirement, you complete the task. This task card can be used as a wild gem to fill any spot in a wagon.

You can only fill one wagon and one task per turn.

Once you’ve collected the gems you can, return uncollected gems to the board and pass the hammer to the next player.

The first player to fill all four wagons walks away from Sparkle Mountain, the richest gnome in the realm!

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The Master variant to Hammer Time adds another layer of craziness. Each turn a die is rolled and the player will have to hammer the box in a wacky way.

You might have to hammer with your eyes shut, or use your fist instead of the hammer at all. You might even have to lay your head on the table as you hammer. Each turn builds to another fun crescendo with the roll of the die, followed by laughs and groans based on the result.

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It’s dangerous describing a game that operates on this level of playfulness. It can easily kill the fun. It’s like over-explaining a joke.

Hammer Time is a reminder that the simplest kind of fun can often be the most lasting.

The pleasure that comes from whacking the side of a box and seeing what happens, unlocks a joy that we can all share regardless of age or experience.

The brilliance of Hammer Time is that is doesn’t try to cover up this experience with too many rules. It embraces the core element (the hammering!) and celebrates it. Win or lose, the real pleasure comes from playing. That is the heart and soul of Major Fun.

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Written by: Stephen Conway

Ohanami

Ohanami

Pandasaurus Games  |  BGG  

D: Steffen Benndorf
A: Christian Opperer
P: NSV, Pandasaurus Games
2-4 players  20 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $15
5 minutes to learn
Written by: Doug Richardson


text-the concept

Cherry blossom season is about to blanket Zen gardens with their resplendent wonder. Water, vegetation, stones, and sakura trees must be placed in perfect harmony in order to become a Master Gardener.

Over three rounds you will carefully select or reject the elements for your next garden creation. Do you have the skills to craft the best Zen garden?

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Ohanami is played with a deck of 120 cards, numbered from 1 to 120. Each card depicts one of four elements: water (blue), plants (green), stones (grey), or cherry blossoms (pink).To help score your game, a handy pad of scoresheets is included.

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Ohanami is a card drafting and set collecting game. Over three rounds, players will hope to be the most masterful gardener by drafting and scoring sets of elements by skillfully adding these to their three gardens. 

Each round starts by dealing ten cards to each player. Then players select two cards to keep for their gardens.

Once you’ve chosen two cards, you will pass the remaining cards on to the next player. Before you look at any new cards, all players will reveal the two cards they’ve selected, and place them into one of three gardens or discard them.

These two cards may go into the same garden or into  separate gardens. Either way, you’ll only have three gardens for the entire game. And you’ll find the cards you place define the limits of your gardens.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’ve selected the blue 68 and the green 75. You decide to put this water feature and that bit of shrubbery into the same garden. From now on, only cards numbered higher than 75, or lower than 68 may be put in this garden. 

In other words, you may never place a card with a number that falls between two other cards into a garden. Such a card will have to go into one of your other gardens, or be discarded from the game.

So, on one hand, you’ll be selecting cards based on their number to fit into your gardens. BUT, you’ll also choose cards to play based on how each color group scores.

At the end of the first round, only the blue water feature cards will score.  Count the total number of blue cards in your gardens and earn 3 points for each of them. None of your other cards will score in round one.

In round two, both your blue water cards, and your green plant cards will score. Blue will again earn you 3 points apiece. Green will be worth 4 points each. Note: you are scoring for all the blue and all the green in your gardens, not just the cards you added during this round.

At the end of round three, all your cards will score one more time. Blue 3 points and green 4. Now your grey stone cards will score, and you’ll get 7 points for each of them.  

Finally, your pink cherry blossom cards will score.

If you have one lone pink card, you’ll get 1 point. Two pink cards get you 3 points, 3 pink cards are worth 6 points (1 + 2 + 3 = 6, etc.)…all  the way up to 120 points for 15 or more pink cards.

So, let’s review. Draft two cards each turn. Choose to either fit them into one of your three gardens or discard them. Draft and pass through ten cards per hand over three rounds. Score the relevant elements of your growing garden each round. Highest score wins and becomes the Master Gardener!

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First, some context, in Japan a Hanami is a planned excursion, a sort of picnic and stroll under the blossoming cherry trees. Life slows, and time is taken to appreciate the beauty of rock and water, bush and flowering trees.

People use Zen gardens to disentangle themselves from the cares of everyday life, and engage with nature. In the same way, Ohanami the game allows us to engage with the nature of play itself.

When we sit down to play any tabletop game, we accept the fact that we are fooling ourselves. We haven’t really become kings commanding great armies, or builders erecting a city, or farmers growing the best crops. We are merely players, abiding by a set of rules, and using simple items of paper and plastic and wood to depict our imaginary world.

All games are abstractions. Some games refuse to put on airs. What is the theme of checkers?  Doesn’t matter; just capture your opponent’s pieces and win.

Some games go to elaborate ends to try and convince you of their made-up “reality”. These are usually found in gigantic boxes crammed with elaborate carved pieces and fantastic terrain. And generally with a fantastic price attached.

By comparison, you might think Ohanami isn’t even trying. 120 cards and a scorepad? Really? Well, hold on, I think Ohanami is one of the most thematic games around.

Who are we? Clearly, we are gardeners, assigned the task of creating three Zen gardens. The pieces we choose for these gardens must both fit (numerically) and add up to a pleasing whole.

Each turn you sort through the goods on offer and select two candidates to take back to your workshop.  Hopefully, you’ve chosen well and can fit these new pieces into your expanding gardens.

Of course, you’ll keep an eye on what your rivals are doing. No sense leaving all the choicest pieces to them! Which means you view each small decision with both an eye toward your gardens, and a glance over the fence at what is happening next door.

Because your concern is with both the numbers on the cards and the types of landscape they represent, both the mathematical and aesthetic parts of your brain are involved in every decision. In a very simple way, this mimics why people enjoy zen gardens: engagement.

Because the rules are brief, you are playing within moments. Even with your first choices, you are setting the constraints of your three little worlds. In a flash, a round is over and scored. Repeat twice and the game is done.

And yet Ohanami never feels rushed. The lightness of rules allows you to notice the smallest detail: to appreciate the gardens around you and compare them with your own – to feel the world stop for 20 minutes and appreciate the joy of play.

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Ohanami creates a pleasing challenge out of mere pasteboard and ink, which replicates the experience of enjoying a well laid out garden. A subtle experience, but yet one available to anyone old enough to know their numbers and colors. 

Finding a game which plays quickly is easy. Finding one which plays quickly and deeply and with a structure which supports the theme of the game is much rarer.

Ohanami is a short, but evocative game.  It is accessible to almost anyone. The gift it gives us is time: leaving us  to look forward to many years beneath the cherry blossoms in quiet, playful contemplation. 

A game with such humble beauty and quiet pleasure needs no fanfare.  Exactly the reason we find it so worthy of both our awards. 

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Written by: Doug Richardson

Flapjack Flipout

Flapjack Flipout

Mind The Gap Studios  |  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Peter Newland
Artist:
Thea Baldwin
Publisher: Mind the Gap Studios
2-4 players 15-30 minutes ages 8+ MSRP $30
Time to teach & learn: 3 minutes

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The morning rush is on! The griddle is hot and the batter is ready. Don your apron and join the crowd of short order cooks in the kitchen. Sling the most pancakes and complete three orders to become the Champion of Breakfasts!

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Flapjack Flipout is a mini-diner in a box. 

There are 50 large cardboard flapjacks in many different varieties: chocolate chip, blueberry, apple, pumpkin, plain, plus a daily special, and even a moldy one. The front side of each pancake shows its flavor, while the back side of each pancake is the same. 

The deck of order cards looks like pages from a receipt book from any greasy spoon restaurant. Order cards list the number and type of pancakes wanted by a customer.

The most eye-catching element of the game are its six large wooden griddles. This is the skillet you will use to flip your flapjacks as you play.

Last but not least, every diner needs a bell, so we know when an order is complete.

To play, everyone grabs a griddle. Spread the flapjacks around the table, face down. Shuffle the order cards and place the bell where everyone can reach it. Now you’re ready to start flipping!

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Flapjack Flipout is a frenetic race to flip and collect the right combination of pancakes to fill the current order. 

Each round starts when a new order card is revealed and read out loud to all players. 

Now the frenzied flipping begins! Take a face down flapjack and place it on your griddle.The goal is to flip the pancake over to reveal its flavor. It may take a few tries… ok, maybe more than a few (and a lot of laughing), but you’ll cheer when you stick the landing each time.

Once you reveal the flavor of the flapjack, you will place it on the table in front of you FACE DOWN. When you think you have flipped the correct number and type of pancakes to fill the order, ring the bell. Flip over pancakes from your face down stacks to reveal the right combination for the order.

If you’re correct, you earn the order card. If there’s a mix-up and you reveal an incorrect combination, play continues for the others, but you are out for the round.

The first player to collect three order cards wins the game.

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Many games combine pattern matching with dexterity. And for good reason. It’s a tried and true combination – like peanut butter and chocolate. In fact this duo is so successful, very few games in this genre vary from the formula.

Flapjack Flipout adds a third ingredient to the mix: memory. Suddenly the game is not just about a player’s talent slinging cardboard. A player must also devise a simple system to organize their pancakes, since all successfully flipped flapjacks will end up face down on the table.

This trio of elements creates a wonderful tension between the need to go fast while flipping and a need to go slow enough to remember what type of pancakes you flipped and where you put them.

Memory serves as a clever catch up mechanism as well. If you did not win the last round, you may save the pancakes you flipped. When the next round begins, you may already have some or even all the flapjacks needed to fill the order… if only you can remember where you put them.

“Take your time,” the game says, “but hurry!”

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Flapjack Flipout is quick, challenging, hilarious, and accessible to players of almost any age and experience level. And like any good diner whose cooks can whip up a custom order, you can tweak the game to suit many different players.You can up the difficulty by adding moldy pancakes and daily specials, or dial the game back for younger players by separating the dexterity and memory elements. There are even rules for team play – one player flipping two griddles at once, the other loading each one. You may be starving by the time you finish playing, but there’s no doubt Flapjack Flipout offers up a full menu of Major Fun. 

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Written by: Stephen Conway

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