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Major Fun Award-winning Games
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The Major FUN Award goes to games and people that bring people fun, and to any organization managing to make the world more fun, through its own person contributions, and through the products it has managed to bring to the market.

Major FUN especially likes games that:

*make people laugh
*are original, flexible, easy to adapt
*are well-made, durable, easily stored
*are easy to understand and teach

Games that receive an award are selected during "Games Tastings"- monthly gatherings attended by a random collection of local game-players. We start with a pile of unopened games, in no particular order. We read boxes and create our "menu" - a well-ordered stack of games. We then play our way through the stack. We rarely play a whole game through (that's why we call it a "Tasting"), unless we are having too much fun to stop. Those games, the ones we really don't want to stop playing, become candidates for a Major Fun Award. It's informal, not very scientific, but it's fun, and surprisingly accurate. The winning games are reviewed by Major FUN himself. There are no negative reviews, so, if you submit a game and it doesn't get reviewed, it's because, FUN-wise, it wasn't found to be, shall we say, Major.

for more, see: http://www.majorfun.com/

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151. Board Game: Hands Up! [Average Rating:6.25 Unranked]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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First, you take the Major Fun award-winning game Set. Then you make it look like something fun and funny. Then you give it a theme, like, say, cops and robbers, so instead of shapes you have robbers, and finger prints, and gems. Then you add some special cards, like a “Lights Out” card that eliminates the colors, and a “Police” card that lets you win by finding a robber of the same color (unless you also have a Lights Out card showing, and then you win if you find any robber). And you make the cards round. And you add a big plastic diamond which gets grabbed by the first player who thinks she knows the answer. And then, instead of keeping all the cards in a pack and dealing them out to fill a grid, you distribute the cards evenly between the players. And players all add a new card from their pile to the table every turn. And you make it the rule that when the player grabs the diamond, and is correct, all the other players have to divide the cards that are on the table between them. And when that player is wrong, she has to take all the cards on the table. And, of course, the first player to run completely out of cards is the winner.

And what you get is a new game, entirely. A game that is as cognitively demanding as the Award-winning game of Set, but makes you laugh, too. Designed by Inon Kohn, and distributed by FoxMind Games, Hands Up is easy to learn, and though a game can be played in as little as 15 minutes, it’s very likely that players will want to play again and again. It’s for 2-6 players (the more players, the more laughter, the fewer, the more intense), ages 7 and up.

You get 60 octagonal cards, a honkin’ big plastic diamond, and some good, hard, brain-teasing fun.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/07/hands-up/
 
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152. Board Game: Sounds Like a Plan [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:6279]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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You get 300 “Advice Cards,” 100 “Plan Cards,” 8 wooden pawns that look remarkably like pinless push pins, a die, and a board (that serves mostly for scoring – I guess you could call it a “scoring board”), and a set of rules. There’s a track around the edges of the board that goes from Start, and then after 44 spaces, Finish. The track looks like a cork board. Which makes the pawns look like push pins stuck into a cork board. Which is fun.

But, of course, the really fun part doesn’t come until you start playing the game.

Let’s start with a Plan. Which, in this game, begins with a Plan Card, which is, in fact, a To Do List. Each To Do List has three different To Do’s. For example:

1. Build a tree house.
2. Get a tattoo
3. Tightope walk between two buildings.

Then you, the Planner, throw the die, which determines what kind of advice you’re looking for: the best advice, the worst advice, the kind of advice your grandma might give you, or the kind of advice you’d expect to get from a kid. The two other sides of the die are for something else.

Everybody has 6 cards, drawn from random from the many, many Advice Cards. Advice? Like:

* Learn the law
* Cover your mouth
* Call an attorney
* Take a large bag
* Take lots of cash
* Study architecture

The Planner selects which of the three To Dos she wants to, uh, do. Like “Get a tattoo.” And the die tells everybody that she’s looking for the kind of advice her grandmother would give. Which card would you select?

So you select that card. And everyone else (there can be up to 8 players) selects one of theirs. Then everyone gives you their advice – which is always fun. You look at the cards. You put them in order, from, according to your lights and the dictates of the die, best to worst (or worst to best, depending). There are 5 scoring positions in the middle of the board. You place each card, in order, starting at the top (which is worth 5 points), and ending at the 1-point-worth position. Players whose card was chosen move accordingly, one space for each point. And then it’s someone else’s turn to be Planner.

The players who got to give advice all replenish their hands. And the next person gets to be Planner.

Sounds Like a Plan turns out to be everything you’d want to see in a Major Fun party game. It’s easy to learn. It takes maybe a half hour to play. And you spend most of the time laughing. As you can see, the cards are very cleverly written – the Advice cards easily as clever as the Plan cards. The die works brilliantly to keep the game unpredictable and fun. There are two other sides of the die: one is “Wild” which allows the Planner to select whatever kind of advice she wants to get; the other is called “Psychic.” When that turns up, the players have to guess which of the three To Do’s on the Plan Card the Planner would most likely select, and then come up with the most appropriate Plan for that To Do. OK. So there’s a certain element of luck there. In fact, there are certain elements of luck everywhere in the game – what side of the die turns up, what Advice Cards you get, what Plan Card is selected. All of which prove to provide exactly enough luck to keep anyone from taking anything about the game too seriously.

It’s most definitely the kind of game you can play with anyone of 2-digit age. It’s clearly as much fun to play it with your family as it is with a bunch of friends. And the fun is most clearly Major.

Designed by Colleen McCarthy-Evans and Joyce Johnson with art by Lisa Goldstein, Sounds Like a Plan turns out to be yet another Major Fun game from Gamewright.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/07/sounds-like-a-plan/
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153. Board Game: PigzUp! [Average Rating:5.47 Unranked]
 
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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PigzUp is a beautifully made, wooden stacking game for 2-4 children that looks like the fun it turns out to be. The set consists of 8 wooden pigs, a wooden die and a deck of 60 round cards.

The wooden Pigz all have soft, felt ears, large painted noses in one of 4 colors, and their tops and bottoms vary in width. The cards are numbered 1-4, and are also in 4 different colors. Some of the cards are in more than one color.

The cards are distributed, face-down, as evenly as possible to all the players. Players then flip over their top cards. If any of them match, those players race to see who can be first to stack their Pigz. They have to stack as many Pigz as the number on their matching cards, and make sure that the Pigz on top of the stack are the same color as on the matching cards.

The player who succeeds can get rid of the cards she already played. The other player has to return his cards to the his stack. The first player to use up all the cards wins.

If they want to use the die (making the game more fun and more challenging), they can only touch their Pigz according to the roll of the die, either: using only a finger of each hand, only one hand, or only by the ears. Younger children (the game is recommended for ages 4 and up) might have enough difficulty just determining when a match is made, or stacking the Pigz (given that the tops are different sizes), so you might wait before you introduce the die. But once they are able to use the die, the game becomes much sillier, the added challenge making even losing fun.

PigzUp is recommended for 2-4 players, ages 4 and up. It was designed by Thierry Denoual and is available from Blue Orange Games.


http://www.majorfun.com/2010/06/pigzup/
 
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154. Board Game: Pairs in Pears [Average Rating:5.15 Overall Rank:9734]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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PAIRSinPEARS and APPLELETTERS are two new word games published by the producers of the Major Fun award-winning Bananagrams. Despite temptations to review them together (you’ll find them on the same page on the Banagrams site), they are each each different enough, and fun enough, to be worthy of a separate review. Hence, this.

Bananagrams, as you remember, comes in a banana-shaped cloth bag. PAIRSinPEARS comes in a pear-shaped bag. Like the banananess of Bananagrams, the pear-shaped bag is about as pearish as PAIRSinPEARS game gets.

Open your PAIRSinPEARS pear-shaped bag and you’ll find a set of rules, 4 complete sets of alphabet tiles, A-Z, each in a different pattern (hollow, filled in black, filled in with lines, filled in with dots) and the cutest ever teeny tiny magic slate.

PAIRSinPEARS is an excellent and engaging challenge for any word-lover. But parents and younger players will discover that the designers of PAIRSinPEARS have paid a lot of attention to how younger children could get involved. First of all, the tiles are larger, and easier for little fingers to manipulate than those you would find in the other Bananagrams games. Next, the entire first page of instructions is devoted to word recognition exercises designed specifically to help younger children become familiar with the properties of the tiles: spelling out someone’s name using two different alphabet sets, find matching pairs of vowels or consonants, putting three letters of each set in alphabetical order, making rhyming words, making homonyms.

Then there are two actual games described, both for 2-4 players, both taking less than 5 minutes per round. The main difference is that in the second game, you keep score.

The first game, eponymously named PAIRSinPAIRS, is designed for ages 5 and up. Players divide all 104 tiles between them and then race to be the first to complete a target number of pairs of intersecting words using matching tile patterns. The challenge is compounded by the scarcity of vowels. Since there are exactly four complete alphabets, there are only four of each vowel.

The challenge is as much to perception as it is to vocabulary. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to distinguish between stripe- and dot-filled letters, especially when you’re under pressure.

In the next game, PAIRPOINTS, for ages 7 and up, players not only have to create more word pairs, but they also have to consider score. Here’s where the magic slate comes in handy. Players can use any of the 4 kinds of letters, but they get twice the score when the letters are all of the same kind. This sets up a delightfully dissonant cognitive chord.

In addition to making words and distinguishing patterns, players have to decide when to go for the extra score or go for creating another pair. And even when they get all the pairs they need to end the round, they can choose to continue improving their score, making still more pairs.

Banagrams players might find PAIRSinPEARS especially appealing because, as in Banagrams, you don’t have to take turns. PAIRSinPAIRS, however, is a clearly different game. It is just as much an invitation to highly focused word play as Bananagrams, but it offers a significantly different, though equally enticing challenge.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/07/pairsinpears/
 
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155. Board Game: SWAT! [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:5044]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Swat! is a card game for 2-7 players. It’s very easy to learn. It’s quick and exciting to play. It’s as fun for a 7-year-old as for a 70-year-old. What else do you need to know?

Oh, how to play it.

There are 110 cards. There’s a dealer. The dealer turns the cards over one at a time, making a stack of them. Any time any player wants to, she can “swat” the stack. She gets the stack. Then she gets to be the dealer. As long as she’s the dealer, she doesn’t get any stacks. As soon as someone else deals, she can get as many as three stacks. The round continues until everyone has three stacks or the dealer runs out of cards.

The cards are cartoon bugs. Each kind of bug is worth points. Some bugs are worth negative points (the ones with stingers). Some bugs aren’t worth anything unless you have two of them. Then there are wild cards and cards that you can get 7 points for if you capture the majority of them and lose 7 points if you have less than the majority.

So therein lie the rubs. You want to swat, but you only want to swat a stack that’s worth a lot of points. And it’s very hard to figure out exactly how many points the stack is worth, unless you have a very good memory and have enhanced arithmetic competencies. So you have to guess how much the stack is worth. And it’s worth more or less every time a card is added. So you want to wait. But then someone else swats.

Very easy to learn. Very easy to play. Not so easy to figure out who won. Because you have to look at all the cards you get and make pairs out of the cards that you have to make pairs out of, and count the cards that you have to get a majority of, and add and subtract. Luckily, it gets easier as you become more familiar with the game. Also lucky, players usually help each other with the scoring part. And even luckier, the more you play, the more you remember about what the cards are worth and for.

Swatting is fun. Swat is fun. Funny fun. It’s what you might call a “filler” game, or a “casual” game. Designed by one of the most prolific game designers currently on the planet, Reiner Knizia, graced by the wonderfully whimsical art by Charlie Bink Maureen Wingrove, packaged in a metal, plush-lined case. Swat is a game you might not want to take seriously, but you might want to take with you everywhere.

Avalialable in the U.S. through Fred Distribution.

Published on http://www.majorfun.com/2010/08/swat/
 
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156. Board Game: Buzz It! [Average Rating:5.74 Overall Rank:6263]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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You get 160 cards, total. Each player gets three cards. Each card has two categories on it – like: “Cannot take off” and “Leisure activities for old people.” Or “Things you secretly do at work” and “Famous sportsmen.” Or “Things that itch” and “Presents for mommy’s widdle puddy tat.” (Actual categories from actual cards.) You get an electronic timer you can set to 5 or 8 seconds. And you get a cloth bag that everything fits into very nicely.

It’s your turn to be Buzz Master. You pick any card, either category, and read it aloud. You start the timer. It beeps once. Everyone else takes a turn, each turn trying to come up with yet another example of the chosen category. Then the timer makes a polite, cymbal-crashing sound, and the card goes to whomever’s turn it is as a “token of failure.”

The round continues until everyone has used all their cards. Then a new round starts. On and on until all the cards have been played, the player with the fewest “failure tokens” having won.

You take turns being Buzz Master. The Buzz Master’s responsibilities are not only to select which of the two categories to use, but also to make sure the chosen category is in keeping with the general spirit of the crowd (Buzz It can be played by 2 to 10 players), and that responses are in keeping with the category. The Buzz Master may elect to make the categories more or less abstruse (e.g. “fictional sportsmen” instead of “famous sportsmen” ), or add more restrictions (things that itch beginning with the letter “b”). By artful selection and modification, the Buzz Master helps keep the game fun and helps the players avoid needing to resort to overly playful strategies (you could, if you wanted to, both hem and haw until the time was just about up, forcing the next player to take the “token of failure.”) Though the rules don’t specify it, it’s fairly obvious that when there are only two players, the Buzz Master answers questions as well as asks them.

OK, so the timer doesn’t “buzz.” It gongs. Which is a lot more pleasant, especially since it does so every 8 or 5 seconds (depending on the whim of the Buzz Master). And the box it comes in is cute, but flimsy. Which is also OK, because the bag works perfectly and for pretty much ever.

Buzz It, yet another of the surprisingly many games designed by Reiner Knizia, is most definitely a game you’ll want to take with you next time you have a family festival or you meet with a group of playful friends. It’s easy to learn. It is fast. It is funny. It is Major Fun.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/08/buzz-it/
 
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157. Board Game: Minotaurus [Average Rating:5.64 Overall Rank:7320]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Minotaurus is another game in the “build, play, change” series of LEGO games that once again proves fun enough to merit our serious consideration.

It’s a children’s game, (7 to probably 14) where chance plays a central role, and yet strategic thinking most definitely pays off.

The premise is as follows: like Ovid’s story of Theseus, the fearsome Minotaur will do battle with anyone entering its maze. Here, each player is in charge of a band of heroes, each of whom hopes to travel the maze to win a place of invulnerability, which is frighteningly adjacent to the Minotaur’s home. The first player to get the majority of his heroes to the center of the board defeats the Minotaur.

As with all LEGO experiences, you begin the game by building it. LEGO has perfected its method of documenting building instructions, doing it all with step-by-step illustrations that require no reading. Because the Minotaur’s maze is so complex, a template is also included to help you build it. And, as with all LEGO games, building the board is only the beginning of the play experience. Now, on with the game.

The number of spaces a hero may move is determined by the roll of a die. There are two special faces. If you roll the face with the black tile on it, you move the Minotaur. Strategically, you want to move the Minotaur as close to one of your opponent’s as possible. Unfortunately, once the Minotaur is out of his secret castle, he becomes a threat to anyone who wanders near enough. If you roll a gray tile, you can move a barrier from anywhere on the board to somewhere that will block your opponent, or perhaps the bully Minotaur himself. If there are only two players, the winning player is the first to get two of her three heroes into secret castle, if there are three or four players, all that is required to win is that you get one hero to the Minotaur’s secret temple. So, as you can see, despite the element of luck, playing the game well requires some serious thinking. And, because of the element of luck, losing is a little easier to take. To get a more immediate understanding of the rules, just click your way over to this animated walk-through.

LEGO games are designed to be changed. The board can be redesigned, other LEGO bricks and bits can be added, and the rules themselves are fodder for further experimentation. This is what makes the games 1) so inviting, and 2) so difficult to review.

You can, for example, replace the face of the die that indicates 3 moves with a green tile, indicating that you can cross over a wall. You can change how many moves the Minotaur gets (more moves makes him more menacing, and the game more difficult to win). To make the game more challenging increase the number of heroes a player has to get to the temple.

There are at least as many ways to change the rules as there are to build the board – especially if you have other LEGO pieces and even more especially if you have another LEGO dice from another game. You don’t have to change the game just for the sake of change. You can change the game to make it more fun for the very particular people you are playing with. If people aren’t into competing, make it more cooperative (everybody gets to move at the same time). If they want more thinking let them move two pieces on a single turn. If there are more people who want to play, have them share pieces, each starting from a different place on the board, but on the same side as players with the same color piece. If you’re the only person who wants to play, make it into a solitaire. You can incorporate high drama (especially when captured by the Minotaur) and low comedy (making Minotaur noises and miniature warrior sounds).

You can’t really appreciate Minotaurus, or any of the LEGO games, just by playing it one time, or with one group of people, or by building it once or by playing by one set of rules. You have to build it, play it, change it, build it differently, play it differently, change it again, until you make it your own. That’s the fun. That’s the beauty. That’s the opportunity.

Minotaurus was designed by Cephas Howard.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/08/minotaurus/

 
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158. Board Game: Hide and Eeek! [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:7699]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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See the elephant on the cover of the game box? You’ll see 100 of them when you open the box and look at the cards. What do elephants make you think of? Forgot already? Yup, it’s a memory game. See the mouse? Small-hand-size 3-d funny-looking mouse? What do elephants say when they see a mouse? Eeek!, of course. So, it’s an observation game. See the dice? There are two of them. One has arrows and numbers on it. The other says things like “higher,” “lower,” “even” and, oddly enough, “odd.” So it’s a game of luck, too.

Re. those 100 elephant-illustrated cards. They’re numbered, from, as you might surmise, 1, to 100. Now, imagine that you’ve made a neat, 6×6 array of elephant-down elephant cards. You can think of that as your playing board, because that’s pretty much what it is.

Now, give each player (from 2 players to 6) an elephant card. That card gets placed on the table, elephant-up, so everyone can see it. OK. Put the mouse somewhere near the middle of the array, on one of the face-down elephants. OK. So it’s your turn. You throw the dice. One die, the die with the numbers (1-6) and arrows (up or down) tells you two things. First of all, it tells you how many places (turned-over elephant cards) you can move (horizontally and/or vertically). We’ll get to the arrows a little later. Once you complete your move, you turn over any adjacent turned-over elephant. Now the other die is important. It tells you what kind of elephant you’re looking for – an even- or odd-numbered elephant, or one that is higher or lower than your turned-over elephant card. You turn over the chosen card. Wait, is that a little mouse hanging from the elephant’s trunk? Quick, grab the plastic mouse and say “eeek!” Cool! Now you get to keep that card, and continue your turn. Unless someone else said “eeek!” first. And then they get the turn, and the card, and you don’t.

OK. Say the adjacent card you just happened to pick doesn’t have a mouse on it, and does have the kind of number you were looking for. Now you have this choice: a) you can take that card, or b) you can leave it, move the mouse the required number of spaces, and hope you’ll just happen to find yet another card of the collectible kind. And, if you do find such a card, you can prolong your turn yet another move. And if you don’t, you have to return all the cards you collected that round. This, in game parlance, is known as “pressing your luck.”

And then there’s the arrows. The arrows tell you whether, when you turn a card over and it doesn’t meet the criteria shown on the category die, you leave that card face-up or face-down. Having to leave it face-down is what makes Hide and Eeek a memory game.

You get a lot to think about. A lot. Not so much that the game is by any means difficult. You can be as young as 8, and still have significant fun. But just enough so you have to pay close attention, all the time. Just when you think you’ve found a card you were looking for, you miss noticing that there is a mouse on it. Just when you think you know exactly where you can find the kind of card you need, you discover you’ve forgotten where you saw it before. Every card that is left face-up lures you forward. And every player who moves after you gets lured somewhere else.

So there’s memory, there’s observation, there are numerical properties, there’s luck, there’s strategy, and, most importantly, there’s fun. Major fun. For all the complexity, the game is easy to learn. It takes maybe 15 minutes to play. It keeps everyone involved. It’s well-made. It’s cleverly designed by Peggy Brown, attractively illustrated by Kevin Whitlark. Sometimes, it’s so much fun being the one who grabs the mouse and gets to say Eeek that it really doesn’t matter who actually wins the game!

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/08/hide-and-eeek/
 
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159. Board Game: Order's Up! [Average Rating:5.47 Overall Rank:8952]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Any game that has a bell that you want to be the first to ring is almost a fatal attraction for your average 6-12 year-old. Especially if it’s one of those neat metal kinds that hotels used to use. Any game that has pictures of desserts and drinks and diner-like meals – especially hamburgers with french fries – well, you can almost taste the fun.

Order’s Up! is is a Lotto-like game. There are 16 heavy, cardstock “Guest Checks,” each showing combinations of 6 different delicious-looking foods. There are 64 food tiles. Four kinds of these tiles are “wild” and can be used for a variety of main courses, drinks, or desserts. There’s a die that you roll to find out if you get a food tile, or you add two more tiles to the “serving area” or you get to swap Guest Checks with another player, or you get a free tile, or you get to ring the bell, or you don’t. And there’s the bell.

The bell is placed in the middle of the playing area. Four food tiles are placed face-up around the bell. The rest are divided into 4 different stacks and placed just outside the serving area. When it’s your turn, you roll the die. If it comes up on the bell symbol, the first player (not necessarily you) to ring the bell gets to take one tile from the serving area and put it on his Guest Check. If the die shows a cracked bell, you can’t ring the bell until it’s your turn again. If you do, you lose one item from your Guest Check.

So there’s recognition and reaction time (and restraint), there’s the drama of swapping one of your empty Guest Check’s for someone’s almost full Guest Check, and then having your almost full Guest Check getting swapped away by someone else. There’s the finding of the right match. There’s the racing to be the first to ring the bell. And then there’s ringing the bell when you shouldn’t.

For kids 6-10, Order’s Up! is absurdly fun. It takes maybe 10 minutes to learn, and each round can be played in 15 minutes. You can, of course, play as many rounds as you feel like. There are enough Guest Checks so that you can make the game more challenging by giving each player two cards to fill. You can easily the challenge (perceptually and physically) by giving the winning player an extra card to fill for the next round.

The game is, like almost all Gamewright games, well and thoughtfully made. The bell is not really very loud. The cards are durable and well-illustrated. The die large and legible. The rules easy to read and describe. The box sturdy, providing easy storage.

Designed by Myles Christensen and illustrated by Lee Calderon, Order’s Up has just the right balance of luck, skill, and social interaction to engage and challenge 2-6 kids.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/08/order%E2%80%99s-up/
 
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160. Board Game: Monster 4 [Average Rating:5.23 Overall Rank:9939]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Monster 4 is exceptionally easy to learn – that’s probably because it’s based on a game that just about anybody who is past kindergarten age already knows – Tic Tac Toe.

Of course, being a LEGO game, it’s a lot more than you’d expect, a lot more fun, a lot more interesting, even if you’re already a world-class Tic Tac Toe champion, or not.

First, it’s not 3-in-a-row, but 4-in-a-row – which, strategically, is somewhat more interesting, especially since most of us already know how to win the 3-in-a-row game.

Next, you can play it with up to 4 players.

And then there’s the LEGO dice (even though there’s only one die, and we were all trained to call one die a “die” – LEGO likes to call it a “dice” – and we like LEGO, so it’s a, well, dice it is), which introduces luck into the whole thing, which makes it even more different than you thought.

And then there are the “ghost” pieces – which are “wild” (as inherent to the ghost-character according to most ghostly lore) and can be, according to which variation you’re playing, be considered is belonging to anybody, or as belonging to nobody. So, whenever you see a Ghost, you know you need only 3 more of your pieces to win – or not.

And then there’s the Spider, which, when landing on a particular quadrant of the board, again according to which variation you’re playing, either makes all the pieces on that quadrant leap off the board and return to their opponents’ piece-holding piece, or makes everybody else’s pieces leap off the board, your pieces being granted temporary spider- immunity.

The game has a scary graveyard Halloweeny theme. The pieces look like little monsters (one of my favorite things about LEGO figures is how, regardless of how scary they’re made to look, they always seem, well, cuddly). The spaces like graveyards. And the spider, despite its six-legged, googly-eyed, somewhat surprised appearance, most definitely monstrously spiderish.

For someone who has played with LEGOs alot, Monster 4 takes maybe 10 minutes to build. As with all LEGO products, the building instructions require no reading and are carefully, nay, painstakingly illustrated, step-by-step. Also, as with all things LEGO, when you finish building the game you discover that not only were you able to find every piece, but there are even extra pieces for you to use in your further LEGO explorations.

The playing instructions are also easy to follow, though reading (or being read to) is most definitely required. But, as they say somewhere, the game’s the thing, and Monster 4 turns out to be as fun as it looks, at least. So much fun, and so easy to learn (because it’s based on such a familiar game) that it makes you want to play it again and again, trying out all the recommended variations, mixing them up, and adding your own. And this, of course, is where the game gets even more fun than you thought possible – when you change it and it becomes truly your own.

Designed by Cephas Howard, available wherever people are smart enough to make it available, and Amazon even.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/08/monster-4/
 
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161. Board Game: Lava Dragon [Average Rating:5.16 Overall Rank:10440]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Lava Dragon can be a very scary game – especially if you follow the recommendations and change a rule or two.

As you can see, there’s a castle-mountain-looking thing which is actually (gasp) a volcano! And there, perched on the top, a comparatively giant (double gasp) dragon! And should you, teeny tiny micro-fig that you are (to get a sense of scale, you can almost make out the red guy on the second level), brave the menacingly volcanic temperament and be the first to reach the top, you will have won not only the game, but also a fanciful flight on the back of the even more fanciful dragon (which is in its LEGOish way, a most awe-inspiring creature).

The key to the game, as in most LEGO games, is in the die (or, as LEGO would have you call it “dice”). After you’ve built everything and placed your brave avatar on the lowest level of the conceptual volcano, your dice is empty save for two orange “lava tiles” on opposite sides. These orange “lava tiles” allow you to move one of the 12 orange lava cones anywhere you want (generally, between one of your opponent’s and where said opponent would most passionately wish to go). From then on, every time you roll the dice to a side with sufficient space, you can add one of your own movement squares (you get four of the tiny things) to that face of the dice. As the game progresses, every time you roll the dice, you and everyone else who has a movement square on the top face of the dice gets to move his or her avatar one space for every one of her or his movement squares showing. There are rumors that where you decide to place your movement square is of significant strategic impact.

Once again you experience the unique play element introduced by the LEGO dice – a die whose faces you each can actually change as the game progresses.

And so it goes, each player taking a turn adding one of their movement squares (if possible), blocking someone else with a lava tube (often, even more fun than moving your own piece), moving their knights one or several spaces vertically or horizontally, peg-by-peg towards the top. And everyone is amused. Until someone makes it to the top first, and is more amused than everyone else.

Later, perhaps much later, when you’ve discovered all that you wish to discover about the game, and you all feel brave enough to explore even more gasp-inducing variations, you find yourself ready, for example, to face the dread power of the, pant, lava, gasp, stick.

See, there’s this stick. And there are these holes on the sides of two of the levels of the volcano (one near the bottom, one near the top). And these holes go all the way through. And should your personal piece be near one of those aforementioned hole, and should your opponent happen to roll the dice so as to cause the volcano-exploding orange tile to be revealed, that opponent can now take said lava stick, poke it through the hole on the opposite side of the volcano, and cause your beloved micro-fig to leap, rather spectacularly, off the volcano, to be returned to the very bottom and start the climb all over.

But fear not. There’s another, and perhaps happier wrinkle you can also employ to in some small way ameliorate the potential horror of the lava stick. There’s a brown tile that you can add to the dice. And this tile, known as the “climbing rope,” will allow you to scale a completely flat surface of the volcano, lifting you two levels closer to the top. So if you do get knocked down, there’s now the chance for a swifter climb.

We recommend this game only for kids, from the ages of 7-15, because adults tend to have weaker hearts.

Lava Dragon was designed by Cephas Howard, and is available in most toy-carrying stores, and, of course, Amazon,

There’s an animated demo of the game on the LEGO site.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/08/lava-dragon/
 
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162. Board Game: Tic-Attack-Toe [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Tic Attack Toe is, as you might have guessed, based on Tic Tac Toe. That tells you that it’s a two-player strategy game and very easy to learn.

It doesn’t tell you that, unlike everything you know about Tic Tac Toe, there’s no one winning strategy, the game never ends with a tie, there’s just enough luck in the game to keep it interesting for adults and kids alike, it’s significantly more fun, and brilliantly designed – from package to play.

You get a plastic box. Each corner of the box is extended just a bit – as if it were the center square in a game of tic tac toe, with the adjacent squares partially erased. Which is exactly what it is. And once you lay it on the table you realize the design is just enough to make box function, rather perfectly, like a whole tic tac toe board.

You open the lid to find 60 cards. 25 cards are X-shaped (strategically notched, rounded-corner rectangles), 25 O-shaped (corners also rounded, the rest strategically un-notched). Of these, both players get two sets of cards numbered 1-12, and one wild card. There are 9 cards used to keep score (you get to take one every time you complete a tic tac toe). And one rule card.

You take all the cards of your chosen symbol (as in X or O), shuffle them, and deal yourself six. From then on, you take turns placing cards on the board (the center square and 8 adjacent indicated squares). You can place any of your cards anywhere as long as they are higher than any card already played – yours or your opponent’s. That part, the having to play a higher card part, is where the game takes on much of its uniqueness, strategic interest, and fun. You can get very strategic about it all – strategic enough to merit serious contemplation. Since you only have two cards of each value, playing your highest is something you can only do twice in each game. The wild card, interestingly enough, beats any card. And even more interestingly, any card beats a wild.

Every time you win you get to pick up a score card (from the pile of 9, which you have perhaps chosen to stack in the conveniently provided box lid). The game doesn’t stop there, naturally. You go on playing until someone has collected 5 score cards.

Everything about this game reflects what some people might call “intelligent design.” Very intelligent: The minimalist board which doubles as a carrying case. The well-written, concise, comprehensive, and admirably brief rules – simple enough to invite the development of house rules for those who wish to take the game more or less seriously (try playing with partners – like bridge, reduce the number of score cards needed to win, increase the number of cards in your hand). The design of the cards, making it very easy on the eyes, very clear what each card is worth and to whom it belongs. The elegance and depth of game play. It’s only a little game – like one of those games you’d expect to see hanging on a supermarket endcap. But it’s a paradigm for what a Major Fun game should be.

The PB&J Toy company produces toys and games, most of which are just being introduced this year. The concept of playing Tic Attack Toe came to them by way of By George! Inc, but the packaging, the final rules, the refined game play all came from PB&J. If Tic Attack Toe is representative of their games, this is a company we will be wanting to play very close attention to.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/08/tic-attack-toe/
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163. Board Game: Staccabees [Average Rating:6.34 Unranked]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Staccabees is a surprisingly fun stacking game (as you might guess from the name).

There are three different sizes of hardwood cubes: the natural-wood-colored are the largest, the orange are next, and the white, the smallest. There’s a 4-sided top-like thing. You spin it. If, when it finally falls over, an S is on top, you take half of any of the three kinds (rounding up if the number is uneven) in your collection, and add them to the STAC. If a T is on top, you take the top cube off the STAC and add it to your stock. If an A is showing, you add all of any one kind of your blocks to the STAC. And if a C is revealed, you don’t do anything. Which, depending on how high the stack, can be a great relief.

There’s a total of 54 blocks. Each player gets 3 of each kind of block, which leaves enough for as many as 6 players. Players take turns spinning the top-like thing (which some scholars refer to as a teetotum, while others of a more ethnic bent think of as a driedel), following the directions, and hoping that they: a) don’t make the stack fall, and b) be the first to use up all their blocks.

Though the rules are simple (it may take a while to remember what each letter on the teetotum stands for, but after a few games, it’s not an issue), they are very cleverly designed. If you are unfortunate enough to have toppled the tower, when it’s your turn again, and you get something like A for all or S for half, you could very likely get rid of a lot of blocks, and, at the same time, radically increase the height of the tower (and it’s instability) for the next player.

This makes Staccabees remain fun until the very last spin. Even someone with only one block left can easily find herself still playing round after round after round. And if you seem to have gathered a great many blocks, there’s still the possibility that you can turn your fate completely around with a single spin.

There’s a delightfully growing tension to the game, which is even more delightfully balanced by at least an equal amount of laughter.

Everything is well made (all hardwood), and comes with a cloth, drawstring bag for easy transportation – which is something you’ll want to do a lot, take the game with you, just about everywhere.

Staccabees, designed by Daniel Singer and Bruce Kothmann, is as fun for kids as it is for the entire family. Major fun.
 
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164. Board Game: Wits & Wagers Family [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:942]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Wits & Wagers is a Major Fun award-winning game – a Keeper, in fact. So now we have Wits & Wagers Family, which, as you might correctly conclude, is a somewhat less complex version, designed to appeal to the whole family. Except for kids that are below the age of…what? 10? 8? 6? 4?

Use your make-believe, wipe-offable marker to write your hypothetical guess on your imaginary write-on, wipe-offable Answer Board. Then collect everyone’s similarly imaginary Answer Boards and organize them from low to high (or high to low). Ready to vote? Great. Place one or two of your pretend “Meeples” (wooden, people-shaped playing pieces) of your choice – the larger one on your best guess, the smaller on your next best.

The manufacturers suggest 8 as the youngest age. Did you write down the correct answer? Give yourself 1 point. Did you imagine yourself putting your Meeple on the correct answer? Your big Meeple? Give yourself 2 more points. Your smaller Meeple, one more point. Actually if you guessed 8 or lower you’d be OK, as long as no one got closer to the right answer than you. And, since there are two right answers, you could have Meepled 4 and still get the point(s).

Mark the circles on the fantasized score board to show everyone’s score. Ready for the next question?

That’s pretty much it, Wits & Wagers Family game-wise. You get 300 questions on 150, cute little narrow cards; 5 small markers, 5 different colored wooden Meeples (10 altogether – one large, one smaller), 5 Answer Boards, a scoreboard, and a clearly written and illustrated set of instructions which, even if you haven’t played the original game, you’ll be able to figure out in a paucity of minutes.

By the way, there are TWO correct answers to the minimal age question. According to the manufacturer, the answer is 8. According to us, 4. Of course our 4-year-old is a genius, and he had his genius mother to help him. He didn’t have any trouble guessing, since all you have to do is write a number, and, later, pick a number. Being correct was another question altogether – and if you’re 4, it doesn’t matter so much anyway. As long as you get to play.

Wits & Wagers Family is significantly fun. Major, even, fun-wise. It’s easy to learn, each round takes well under the expected attention span for even the youngest player. The scoring is quick and easy to remember. You can play as teams and it’s just as much fun as if everyone has their own Meeples. Most of the questions (e.g. “What percent of men have color blindness?) are obscure enough to encourage educated or totally misinformed guessing. Some (“How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?”) are well within the range of common adult knowledge, but even then the game works, because you’re allowed to have the same answer as someone else and get all the recognition you so rightly deserve, and sometimes we adults have a strong need to be right.

Designed by Dominic Crapuchettes, with gently compelling art by Jacoby O’Connor and Shawn Wilson, funwise, Wits & Wagers Family is, like I said, just plain Major!

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/09/wits-wagers-family/
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165. Board Game: Sync Up! [Average Rating:6.12 Unranked]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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The category is “hotels.” You’re playing with Rocky. Everybody has already voted on how many of the four questions you’ll answer correctly. The first question is: “a motel with a number in its name.” You and Rocky count off: “one, two, three Sync Up!” You say “Motel 6,” Rocky says “Supper 8.” No points. So you’re on to the next question. “A luxury hotel.” Ready? “One, two, three, Sync Up!” And you both answer “The Four Seasons.” Fantastic! Four Seasons? How could you both come up with something so relatively obscure? What about Napa Valley’s Auberge de Soliel, for gosh sakes? So, anyway, congratulations. You get two points. Ready for the next question?

The game you’re playing is called Sync Up! And the fun you’re having is Major. It’s a party game for 3-6 teen-age and aboves. You play it in rounds. A round involves as many turns as it takes for each of you to get to play with a different partner. By the time you’ve played all the rounds, everybody has had one turn to play with everyone else. It could get confusing, which explains why you also get a special, erasable, Turn Tracker, with a special erasable marker with a special marker eraser on top.

Even though the play is highly cooperative, the game itself is competitive. Ultimately, despite your concerted efforts to be in “sync” with your partner, you win because of your individual score. Your score is determined by two things: how many questions you and your partner pro temp give the same answer to, and how precisely you can predict the number of questions a pair of players will answer the same. This keeps you involved when it’s not your turn to answer questions. You keep score by moving your pawns around and around a spiral track. For a tad bit more drama, some spaces on the track instruct you to keep your eyes closed when working with your partner.

In addition to the score board, the 6 pawns of 6 different colors, the erasable Turn Tracker and marker, and the 30 Make a Bet! cards, you also get the real treasure of the game – 226 double-sided category cards, each side with another category and 4 questions.

It’s the category cards that are key to the fun – so much so that you can have significant fun playing Sync Up! with nothing else but. In fact, if you and your friend both have Skype, you can play online! Our recommended approach: use both video and chat. The person with the category cards (let’s call her the “emcee”) offers a selection of 5 categories. Once a category is chosen, the emcee reads the first question, both players write their answers in the chat window (without hitting return). Then, when both are ready, they both hit return and reveal their answers. No, it’s not the entire, or even the real game. But it’s great fun.

Sync-Up was designed by Brian S. Spence, Garrett J. Donner, and Michael S. Steer; and published by USAopoly, Sync Up! Major Fun congratulations and gratitude to all.


http://www.majorfun.com/2010/09/sync-up/
 
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166. Board Game: Trixo [Average Rating:4.56 Unranked]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Trixo is a tile game, based on tic-tac-toe. Based, but taking the game in a unique, and absorbing direction, even for those of us who have come to think of tic-tac-toe as a “trivial” game.

You get 36 well-made, plastic tiles – just large, colorful, and hefty enough to make you feel that someone really wants you to take the game seriously. There are 14 blue tiles with a white X on their faces, 14 red tiles with a white diamond (which acts as an O), 5 orange Trixo tiles (with the special, Asian-like symbol that looks like a plus sign going through a rectangle), and 3 green Slide tiles (the ones with an arrow on them).

Two-to-four players each take 4 tiles from the face-down, randomly arranged Trixo tile collection. They then take turns, adding one of their tiles to the imaginary 3×3 grid, and selecting a replacement from the collection. On their turn, they may either place their tile on an empty space, stack a tile on top of any other tile (as long as it is different from the tile below it and there are no more than two other tiles in the stack), or “push” a row or column of two tiles.

The orange Trixo tile is used to block other players, and the Slide tiles to push. You can place a tile vertically, horizontally, or diagonally adjacent to any tile, as long as it doesn’t extend beyond the imagined 3×3 matrix.

As you can see, we are clearly beyond the pale of what you or I might consider to be tic-tac-toe. Yet everything else we know about tic-tac-toe is central to the game. This is one of the reasons the game is so easy to learn. The Trixo and Slide tiles are two of the reasons the game is so interesting, and so unlike everything we know about tic-tac-toe.

We Tasted the game with only three players, and it was as easy to understand and as challenging as any thinking game that one might call “Major Fun.” According to the rules, when you get three-in-a-row, you get to take all the tiles that make up that three-in-a-row – which includes any tiles in that row that happen to be stacked. Which means if the other players (for example, the author of this post) aren’t careful enough, the player who wins that three-in-a-row might wind up with an impressive number of tiles. After about three such events, it was pretty clear who was going to claim victory, but so absorbed were we by the game play that we continued until the last tile was played.

Designed by Ariel Laden, Trixo turns out to be a fun, easy to learn, well-made and absorbing strategy game. It takes maybe 15 minutes to play, and even less time to learn. It’s simple enough to intrigue anyone who knows how to play tic-tac-toe. It’s interesting enough to want to play several times before admitting ultimate defeat. And then to want to play again, maybe with someone else.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/09/trixo/
 
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167. Board Game: Scrabble Flash [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:5650]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Scrabble Flash is an electronic word-making game. It’s a good word game. It’s fun, absorbing, challenging. There are three different games, and each has one variation. In the first game, you try to make as many words as possible in the given time (75 seconds – with an extra 5 seconds added to the clock for every 5-letter word solved). In the second game, you have to use all the tiles (4 or 5 depending on how many you start with) to make one word; and, as soon as you do, you get your next set of letters, and so on. In the last, you play competitively, passing the tiles to another player as soon as you have succeeded in spelling a word using all the tiles. That player must accomplish the goal in ever diminishing time. If the timer expires, you’re out for that round.

The variation: you can use 4 or 5 tiles. If you use 4 tiles in the first game, you can spell 2-, 3, or 4 letter words. In the other games, all the words have 4 letters. If you use all 5 tiles, words have to be 3, 4 or 5 letters, and the other games require your using all 5 tiles. Whether you elect to use 4 or all 5 tiles, the games are equally challenging and inviting.

Whenever you finish a game (the time has run out), the tiles inform you how many words you were able to complete, and how many words you could have completed if you only thought harder and moved the tiles faster. This is really all the information you need to keep your ego in check. As you might guess, the game uses the official Scrabble dictionary. As you might conclude, many of the words you’ll need to know are, well, shall we say “obscure”?

Major Fun AwardScrabble Flash is not just an electronic word-making game. You could download one of those to play on your iPod/pad/phone or computer. It’s the tiles, the 5, separate tiles, and the feel of them, and the challenge of moving them and lining them up as quickly as quick can be that makes Scrabble Flash as uniquely, and majorly fun as it turns out to be – no matter which variation you play, regardless of whether you’re playing by yourself or with friends or family.

If you’re over 10, it will take you a while to get over the sheer wonder of the technology you’re playing with. It’s truly amazing to discover how this thing works – how the tiles can function individually and collectively, how it “knows” how many letters you’re playing with, how the tiles communicate with each other. If you’re under 10, you’ll just enjoy playing the games, taking, as is your age-related privilege, the technology completely for granted.

You get 5 tiles and a storage case. The tiles are like Siftables – they are each battery-powered, they each have an LCD screen and a computer chip, and they “communicate” with each other via infrared transmitter/receivers housed in each tile. The batteries (watch-like), are included, bless them.

The whole package is so convenient, the little case so elegantly portable, the components so accountably few, that you’ll be taking the game with you pretty much everywhere. All of these factors also make it perfect for a library games collection, for a school library collection, for your own personal collection, to play at home, to play at restaurants, and, whenever possible, to flaunt shamelessly.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/09/flash/
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168. Board Game: Linja [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:3292]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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It’s true that we of Major Fundom like our props. Good games aren’t just fun ideas, they are fun items: tactile, colorful, aural, rarely olfactory, but always concrete. Of the world. We don’t need a lot of props, but the game pieces should have some heft and style. Elegance (or the lack thereof) can seal the difference between a game that is Major Fun and one that is Major Oh-So-Close.

Linja consists of two props: short bamboo rods and 24 wooden playing pieces (12 black and 12 red) shaped like hour-glasses. Set the bamboo rods in six parallel line on a flat surface, line up your game pieces, and the strategy is on. Of course, if you are like us, it takes a while to really set up the game because you are re-enacting scenes from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with the bamboo and pretending the wooden game pieces are deadly Linja assassins. First the black Linja infiltrate the palace, then the red Linja neutralize the roof guards, only to discover they’ve been lured into a devious trap…

Where was I?

Oh yeah. The game. So your goal is to get your pieces from your side of the board to the other side. Simple enough. In many respects the movement of the pieces will be familiar to anyone who has played Backgammon. On your turn you have two moves. For your first move you may advance one of your pieces one space. Check out the number of pieces (red and black) in that space—this will control how many spaces you may advance your next piece. For your second move, you must advance a second piece a number of spaces equal to the number of pieces where your first one landed.

The game ends when you and your opponent’s pieces have completely passed each other on the board. Score is calculated by how far you managed to move your pieces. For each piece that made it to your opponent’s side, you earn 5 points. You also get points (fewer points) for the spaces close to your opponent’s side.

I must admit that I thought my strategy was pretty solid. I wracked up several 5 point pieces early. But in the last five or six rotations, my opponent advanced almost all his pieces into my home row or the penultimate row. Crushing defeat.

There might be a sure-fire strategy for winning, but maintaining the balance between advancing your pieces and yet keeping a few back was incredibly engaging. If there is a strategy like you would find in tic-tac-toe, then the game pieces, the elegant rules, and the levels of planning make the search Major Fun.

Game and artistic design for Linja by Stephan Mühlhäuser. © 2003 by Steffen-Spiele and distributed under license by FoxMind Games.
William Bain, Games Taster

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/09/linja/
 
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169. Board Game: Tsuro [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:647]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Eight player strategy game!!!

When I first played Tsuro, I missed the unpacking. I’ll come back to this in a moment, but I say it now to explain why my first impression of the game seems so odd. Without having heard the rules, I was struck by the fact that there were eight player pieces. The board is rather small, and I thought the game would be crowded with five players, let alone eight; but I was impressed that the game was designed from the beginning to accommodate eight players.

Eight.

With no expansion pack.

In minutes we were playing, and I got caught up in the intricate patterns that our pieces had to navigate. The game sucked me in, and it wasn’t until I got home that I carefully examined the elements of the game. That right there is the mark of a good game. It engaged me so completely that I didn’t fiddle around with the pieces in order to evaluate their quality. They are good, durable, lovely, even, but the game itself is the major attraction.

Tsuro is a strategic tiling game in which players take turns laying down a square tile and then moving their game piece along one of the 4 paths that criss-cross each tile. After a player lays down a tile (adjacent to her marker), she moves her marker to the end of the path, and any other player whose path connects with that tile also moves their marker. If the paths on the new tile connect to yet other paths on other tiles, the players must continue following their paths to the very end. As the board fills with tiles (thirty-six total in a six by six grid), paths connect, and players whose markers are on paths that connect to an edge of the board are eliminated. After all the moves have been made, and all survivors acknowledged, the player who placed the tile then draws another and play proceeds clockwise. The object is to be the last player whose marker remains on the board.

The reason that so many players can stay engaged, even though players do have to wait for their turns, is that there’s always the possibility that a new tile placement will connect their markers to a new path segment. Regardless of whose move it is, all players have to move their markers if the path they are on is extended after a tile is placed. So, each new tile builds a lot of suspense, and everyone who is still playing stays involved.

Elimination games can be tricky things because the defeated players have to sit out while the others finish. This is true of Tsuro but the game is quick to play. Death is mercifully sudden. And down-time is minimal.

I said I’d come back to the unpacking. On top of being a fun game (Major Fun, by the way, if you missed the medal hanging over there on the left) Tsuro is a beautiful game. The heavy cardboard tiles have a Japanese water-color image on the back and the paths look as if they were engraved on a surface of polished limestone. The instructions fit on one side of one sheet of paper, the other side resembling a screen-print image of bamboo and Japanese characters. The board is a painting of a phoenix in warm reds, ochres, and oranges.

Ray Wehrs of Mayfair Games notes: “…The 35 path tiles all unique; there is not a duplicate in the deck. The more you play, the more you understand their relevance in regards to the many true levels of strategy in Tsuro. You’ll also learn that Tsuro plays very differently with 2 players than 8… and everywhere in between. The number of players participating will directly affect the strategies of the players.”

In design, playability, and elegance, Tsuro seems perfectly suited for Major Fun.

Tsuro was designed by Tom McMurchie. Artistic design by Shane Small, Cathy Brigg, and Sarah Phelps. © 2009 by Calliope Games, available 2010 from Mayfair Games.

William Bain, Games Taster

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/09/tsuro/
 
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170. Board Game: Spot it! [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:604]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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We are always on the lookout for ways to empower players to make a game their own. We believe that if a game is strong enough so that players can change the rules to make the game more fun – whatever they consider fun to be – with whomever they’re playing, then we have a game that we want to hold on to for a long, long time.

It turns out that the Major Fun award-winning game Spot-It! is just such a game. This is at least partly because of a rather unique approach to the way the game is played. Rather than being a single game with variations, Spot It! consists of 4 rounds of play, each focusing on a different “mini party game.”

These mini-games are artfully constructed, each proving a little more challenging than the other. The first two mini-games are races, players competing to be the first to match a central card. In the final two games, the competition is a little more personal, especially with 3 or more players. Here the goal is to make another player lose by adding cards to his or her collection. Since there is always a match between any two cards, you can, if you’re fast enough, select which player you want to compete against. Generally, you want to make sure that the winning player doesn’t. Unless it’s a grudge match, in which it can get, in a silly kind of way, quite brutal.

Because each mini party game uses the same cards, the overall message of the game is that there are at least 4 different ways to play it. And if there are 4, there must be more.

And, in practice, there are far more – every time you play with a different age group or in a different setting (in a restaurant, in the kitchen, a classrooople and as few as 2. We’ve played it in the library and dining room, on the table and on the floor, and every tm, a senior center), you find yourself modifying the rules, just a tad. This works so well because the core concept is so strong. The deck of 55 cards, the 50 different symbols, designed so that any two cards will have one, and only one matching symbol; the added visual challenge presented by the different sizes of the symbols; the circular cards that fit so nicely in your hand – combine to create an extremely flexible tool for open-ended play. We’ve played Spot-It with a lot of different people – seniors, adults, teens, tweens, school-age kids, even pre-schoolers. We’ve played it with as many as 6 peime we’ve played it, we’ve played it just a little bit differently, and regardless of how we’ve played it, or where, or with whom, we’ve consistently found it to be fun.

Spot-It! is a Keeper!

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/10/spot-it-is-a-keeper/
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171. Board Game: Triplica [Average Rating:5.38 Overall Rank:9025]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Triplica

Triplica is a card game you can play by yourself, or with up to 6 people.

There are two decks of cards. One is composed of 36 “Goal Cards,” the other of 60 “Play Cards.”

There are 6 different shapes, each of a different color. The Play Cards each consist of a unique combination of 3 of those shapes.

There are 3 different ways to play Triplica (oddly enough), and in each the object is to win Goal Cards by lining up Play Cards so that three of the same symbols are in a row, diagonally or horizontally.

The best, and clearly the most fun way to discover the properties of this unique set of cards is to begin with the solitaire version, even if you’re not alone. Here, the Goal Cards are organized into 6 face-up piles, each pile having the same kind of Goal Card. Four Play Cards are placed vertically, face-up, in a line below the Goal Card piles. The rest of the deck of Play Cards is face down. Cards are then played, one at a time, from the Play Card pile. You place the cards face up on top of any one of the Play Cards already on the table. Every time you create a line of three of the same symbols in a horizontal row or diagonal, you take the corresponding Goal Card. When you play a Play Card you can set it down in either orientation, as long as it is vertical. So, for example, if a diamond is on the top, you can place the card so that the diamond is on the bottom. Thus, each time you place a card you have 8 choices as to where (which of the four piles) and how (up or down) you place it.

As you continue playing, you steadily exhaust the Goal Cards. This, of course, is what you want to do. On the other hand, every Goal Card you “win” gives you one less goal to play for. Once you win all the diamond Goal Cards, making a row of diamonds with your Play Cards just doesn’t pay.

The object of the solitaire is to win all the Goal Cards before you exhaust the Play Cards. Yes, there’s definitely a luck factor. But there’s also just enough strategic choice for you to feel proud of yourself for winning, and to blame chance if you don’t. You can also keep score, if you’re of the scoring bent – giving yourself one point for every card remaining in the deck of Play Cards, and losing one point for every Goal Card remaining when you exhaust all the Play Cards.

Major Fun thinking game for family and kidsThere are two different ways to play Triplica with other people. In the All Play version, each player gets one Goal Card and three Play Cards.

Depending on how many players, you play onto 3-5 piles of Play Cards. Players are then dealt 3 Play Cards, and then take turns, placing one of their Play Cards on any of the stacks and replenishing their hand. The object is to play a card so that it creates a line of three symbols that match the symbol on the player’s Goal Card.

In the Single Play version, each player gets 5 Goal Cards and one Play Card.

In the All Play version, regardless of whose turn it is, anyone whose Goal Card is matched as a result of someone’s play gets to claim a goal. Since it is possible that more than one set of symbols will be aligned as a result of the placement of a single card, more than one player can claim a goal. In the Single Play version, only the player whose turn it is gets to claim the goal.

The All Play version also requires a bit more, shall we say, deviousness. With every card played, you have to be careful not to be too obvious about what your goal is, while you’re trying to block your opponents from getting their goals, while you’re trying to get the cards aligned so that you can get 3 of the right symbols (those that match your Goal Card) in a row.

The two versions are different enough to appeal to different players at different times. The concept is rich enough to encourage players to make up their own variations. The basic goal of aligning three symbols is easy enough for a child of 7 to understand. The strategic goals complex enough to challenge an adult. A game takes around 15 minutes to play, which is exactly long enough to make you want to play again and again.


http://www.majorfun.com/2010/10/triplica/
 
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172. Board Game: Spot it! [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:604]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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We are always on the lookout for ways to empower players to make a game their own. We believe that if a game is strong enough so that players can change the rules to make the game more fun – whatever they consider fun to be – with whomever they’re playing, then we have a game that we want to hold on to for a long, long time.

It turns out that the Major Fun award-winning game Spot-It! is just such a game. This is at least partly because of a rather unique approach to the way the game is played. Rather than being a single game with variations, Spot It! consists of 4 rounds of play, each focusing on a different “mini party game.”

These mini-games are artfully constructed, each proving a little more challenging than the other. The first two mini-games are races, players competing to be the first to match a central card. In the final two games, the competition is a little more personal, especially with 3 or more players. Here the goal is to make another player lose by adding cards to his or her collection. Since there is always a match between any two cards, you can, if you’re fast enough, select which player you want to compete against. Generally, you want to make sure that the winning player doesn’t. Unless it’s a grudge match, in which it can get, in a silly kind of way, quite brutal.

Because each mini party game uses the same cards, the overall message of the game is that there are at least 4 different ways to play it. And if there are 4, there must be more.

And, in practice, there are far more – every time you play with a different age group or in a different setting (in a restaurant, in the kitchen, a classrooople and as few as 2. We’ve played it in the library and dining room, on the table and on the floor, and every tm, a senior center), you find yourself modifying the rules, just a tad. This works so well because the core concept is so strong. The deck of 55 cards, the 50 different symbols, designed so that any two cards will have one, and only one matching symbol; the added visual challenge presented by the different sizes of the symbols; the circular cards that fit so nicely in your hand – combine to create an extremely flexible tool for open-ended play. We’ve played Spot-It with a lot of different people – seniors, adults, teens, tweens, school-age kids, even pre-schoolers. We’ve played it with as many as 6 peime we’ve played it, we’ve played it just a little bit differently, and regardless of how we’ve played it, or where, or with whom, we’ve consistently found it to be fun.

Spot-It! is funtastic!

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/10/spot-it-is-a-keeper/
 
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173. Board Game: Skippity [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:5655]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Skippity is a strategy game for two-four players. It takes only a few minutes to learn, and a game can be over in as little as ten minutes – depending on how strategic people get.

There are 100 “Skippers,” 20 of each of 5 different colors. The board is like a checker board with 10 rows and 10 columns, with squares of, as you might have already surmised, 5 different colors.

The board is seeded by placing all the Skippers anywhere on the board, until the entire playing area is filled. The four center Skippers are removed, and the game begins. Players take turns capturing Skippers by jumping over them (vertically or horizontally only). Multiple jumps are permitted. The goal is to capture the most Skipper sets (one of each color) by the time the last legal jump has been made.

You can block your opponents by doing your best to keep them from capturing the colors they need to win. The more strategic you get in your decision-making, the more interesting the game becomes, and, of necessity, the longer it takes to play.

Skippity is so easy to learn and play that it lends itself to all kinds of variations:

Try seeding the board in different patterns. For example, you could place all the same color on each row, or alternate between two or three different colors. Instead of removing just the four center checkers, remove one or maybe two in each corner.

Skippity is simple enough to be understood by players as young as five, and deep enough to interest the significantly mature. The colors of the pieces and the board add visual appeal. There are a lot of pieces, and they are not standard checker size or color, but you can lose as many as four without even a minor sense of tragedy.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/10/skippity/
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174. Board Game: The Magic Labyrinth [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:644]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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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.

http://www.majorfun.com/2010/12/the-magic-labyrinth/
 
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175. Board Game: Reverse Charades [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:2501] [Average Rating:6.93 Unranked]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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See, in your traditional, non-reverse charades, one person is trying to get her team to guess a word, a phrase, a book, song or movie title – except she can’t talk; while her team is guessing everything they can think of that is remotely connected to the frantic gestures of their team mate. So, logically, Reverse Charades is just like charades, except that it’s the team that’s frantically gesturing to one of their team members, who is guessing with equal franticity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvH2nmyrbeM

So, you ask, is that fun enough to deserve being a whole new game? Our answer, without further qualifications or conceptual gesticulations: you bet it is! Observe the following for further self-evidence.

As you can see, the team is trying to get its representative to guess as many words as possible within the three-minute time limit. As you might also note, there are children in the team, and the timer they are using happens to be on an i(pod or phone). This demonstrates two more key aspects of the game – it is such an elegant, easy-to-understand concept for anyone who knows charades (like, for example, you) that it lends itself to just about any group; and that the rules, as elegantly as they are written, are meant to be change – whatever makes the game fun for whomever you get to be playing with.

When we first tasted it, we didn’t have the recommended minimum number of players. We only had 4 people, and the game recommends a minimum of 6, 3 players for each team. So we changed the rules. We didn’t have teams. Three people did the charading, one the guessing. Next round, we just changed the guesser. If we would have kept score, we would have given ourselves points for all the words we managed to get, each round, hoping each time to beat our record. And the fun actually abounded.

Reverse Charades demonstrates the kind of reversal that we most like to see in games. In your traditional, non-reverse charades, one player has to do all the performing, all alone. This puts anyone even remotely shy or self-conscious in a potentially embarrassing position, and, sadly, some people find that person’s discomfort emblematic of the fun of non-reverse charades. In Reverse Charades, no one is embarrassed, because everyone is acting silly together. And yes, there is a certain chaos. And yes, it’s the very kind of chaos makes the fun major.

Designed by Dave Regnier, the most recent edition of Reverse Charades comes with 576 word cards, a three-minute sand timer, and very simple, inviting instructions. A new edition, many new sets of cards (sports cards, 80s, junior editions, movie, holidays), and an app or two are all in the works.

http://www.majorfun.com/2011/01/reverse-charades/
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