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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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101. Board Game: Quoridor [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:762]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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The rules for Quoridor are a paragraph long. You can understand everything you need to play the game in just a few minutes of watching someone play. The whole game takes five, maybe ten minutes. And yet it's completely absorbing, deeply challenging, often surprising, uniquely compelling.

The game is played on a 9x9 grid. Deep channels separate the squares. These channels are deep enough to hold a "wall" - a thin wooden rectangle wide enough to span the border of two squares. Each player has a wooden pawn. The object of the game is to be the first player to advance her pawn to the opposite side of the board. Each player, in the two-player version, also gets ten walls. On your turn you can either move your pawn one square horizontally or vertically, or you can add a wall. These two choices seem remarkably familiar, elegantly embodying a fundamental political dynamic: to advance our own cause, or to prevent the opposition from advancing. The result of this debate is the creation of an evermore complex maze, again depicting something remarkably familiar to anyone engaged in political discourse. Republicans, democrats, lovers, parents, children.

As Rob Solow reports, Quoridor is such an elegant game that it can be easily played (with some minor modifications) with a 5-year-old. And that is another important thing to note about Quoridor - because it is so easy to understand, because it's components are so few and so functional, it is also easy to modify. Like tic tac toe, Quoridor invites you to come up with new ways to play. Rob talks about giving the weaker player more walls. Since you can play several games in a half-hour, it is easy to create a handicapping system where the losing player gets two more fences for the next round.

Quoridor comes with four different-color pawns. In the four-player version, each player gets five wall pieces, and the pawns start out in the center of the board rather than on the opposite ends. This points to yet another variable - the starting position of the pawns. Then there's the rule for what happens when two pawns meet. In the standard rules, they get to jump over each other. But that, clearly, is only the beginning. And one can't help but gleefully contemplate the implications of a two-player version with four pawns.

Quoridor exemplifies the kind of thinking game that prompted the creation of the Major FUN award. It can be intensely competitive, but its elegance and brevity make playing the game itself fun, no matter who wins.

Designed by Mirko Marchesi, Quoridor is another beautifully rendered wooden game from Gigamic, available in the US through the wise auspices of Fundex Games.

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102. Board Game: Gulo Gulo [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:623]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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First of all, just saying "Gulo Gulo" is fun. Especially if you're a kid. In addition, there are the six little, kid-appealing, bear-like playing pieces. And the funny illustrations on the 23 thick, octagonal tiles you use to make the board. And the 22 colorful (five colors) wooden eggs with the wooden bowl you put the eggs into and the wacky "alarm pole" that you stick into the egg pile. And the velvet drawstring for eggs and bowl storage. All in all, everything looking like fun.

Then there's getting the game ready, which is also kind of fun. There's no board. Instead, you make a track out of all those lovely octagons (first you have to find the Gulo Junior tile, and set it aside). This is also kind of fun because there are at least four different edges you can use in connecting the octagons. And you put them face down, which makes you wonder what color they'll be when you turn them over. And just before you finish the track, you take the last four tiles, add the Gulo Junior tile, shuffle them, and place them face down as the last space on the track leading up to the wooden bowl nest. And either now or sometime before, you also put all the eggs into the nest, and stick the alarm pole deep into the eggs so it's as close to standing straight up as you can make it (this itself is challenging, and especially fun in retrospect).

Then there's the game. You start at one end of the track (the stack of 5 track pieces and the nest are at the other end). You turn over the first tile. That tile has a color. You "steal" the egg of the same color from the nest. Did you set off the egg alarm (make the pole fall)? No? Good. Now you can move your Gulo on to that tile. The next player can either steal an egg of the same color, or turn over the next tile, and try to steal the egg of that color. As the game continues, the players who are still closest to the start have the most choices - since they can move to any tile that has already been turned over and is the same color as the tile they are already on. Some of the eggs are smaller. They are harder to remove (especially for those of us who are fat-of-finger). Some of the eggs are larger. They are easier to remove, but also are more likely to cause the pole to fall. The player who reaches the last tile without triggering the egg alarm draws tiles from the tile pile. If she draws any tile but the Gulo Junior, she has to remove another egg. If she manages to free the Gulo Junior, she has to steal the purple egg. And if she manages to do that, without, and the alarm pole is still in the nest, she wins.

Recall the observation about the fat-of-finger. Compare the finger width of a 5-year-old to that of a 30-year-old. That explains why Gulo Gulo is such an excellent family game - it is one of the few children's games in which adults are actually at a disadvantage - just enough of a disadvantage to make playing with a 5-year-old a meaningful challenge.

Brought to the US by Rio Grande Games, Gulo Gulo was designed by Hans Raggan, Jürgen P. Grunau and Wolfgang Kramer (with noteworthy art by Victor Boden). Gulo Gulo has lasting play value, especially for families with children between the ages of 3 and 7. The design keeps everyone involved. Because of the increasing number of tiles that get exposed during the game, players who are behind have a good chance to leap forward, while players who are furthest ahead and set off the egg alarm have to move all the way back to the nearest tile of the same color. The game is easy enough to learn, at least to start. And the rest of the rules become clearer as the game progresses. And if not, don't worry. The mechanics of the game are fun enough and strong enough to keep the game fun, even if you don't use all of the rules. And if the game still proves too challenging, there's a set of easier rules for younger children. And for those adults who are terminally thick of finger, consider asking your kids for help.
 
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103. Board Game: Chicken Cha Cha Cha [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1032]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Chicken Cha Cha Cha is kids' game that is even more fun as a family game and at least as fun at a grown-up games party.

Short-term memory is an important aspect of this game. Which is part of what makes it such a good family game. Considering whose memory is shorter term, it's very likely that they'll have at least as good a chance at winning as you.

The real fun of the game, however, comes from chasing each other around a board of thick, cardboard, egg-shape tiles. There are four wooden chickens (two are supposed to be roosters, but that's where the game begins to get abstract). Each of these chickens have appropriately located places where one can put tail feathers - wooden sticks topped by egg-shaped balls, each corresponding to a chicken color.

Then there are the thick, cardboard, octagonal tiles which are placed face-down, and surrounded by the egg track. The images on these tiles correspond to images on the eggs.

You place your wooden chicken with its one wooden tail feather anywhere on the egg track. When it's your turn, you first have to find the octagonal tile that matches the egg tile in front of your chicken. If you are correct, you move your chicken to that tile, and go again, trying to guess which octagon matches the egg tile that is now in front of you. You can play in teams, even - which makes it more fun, and more likely that your collective recollection might be good enough to find which octagon matches which egg tile.

If you get immediately behind someone else's chicken, and it's still your turn, you can, if you can identify the octagon tile that matches the egg tile that is in front of the opponent's chicken, jump over that chicken, and get his or her proverbial tail feather.

The first chicken with all four tail feathers wins.

Chicken chasing is great fun. It's as fun as playing tag or duck-duck-goose. And, as the game progresses, you remember (especially if you're young enough) more and more of the octagonal tiles, so you can run (or, as the game designers would want you to think of it, "cha cha") further and further. So the chase speeds up. And the tension increases. And sometimes you get so excited you forget where anything is. And sometimes you remember everything. And then you win.

Designed by Klaus Zoch, and graced by the endearing art of Doris Matthäus, Chicken Cha Cha Cha is a remarkably versatile, and engaging game, for a surprisingly wide range of ages. It's one of a relatively few games that kids can play as well as their parents can, that appeals to teens as much as pre-schoolers, that could find as much welcome in a games party for grown-ups as with the kids in the family room on a rainy afternoon.

Because the game is so elegant (there are really very rules) and so easily learned, it is also easily varied. If the game is too hard for some players, you can turn all the tiles over periodically for review. If it takes too long, you can have the chickens cha cha in opposite directions so they encounter each other more frequently. Since you make the board, you can always make it smaller, eliminating some eggs and their corresponding octagons as needed. You can even, if you're playing with people of my memory strengths, you might also consider increasing the number of guesses a player can make when octagon-hunting.

Chicken Cha Cha Cha - available in the US from Rio Grande Games. Not complex. Not profound. Most definitely Major FUN.
 
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104. Board Game: Stixx [Average Rating:4.70 Unranked]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Stixx is a strategy game. It's lovely to look at. Easy to understand. And yet, surprisingly subtle.

There are six different colors of Stixx (the game pieces). There are seven of each. To set up the game, players place the Stixx randomly (trying to keep the colors as far apart as possible) in the 42 grooves around the board. There's an extra Stixx. It's gray. It's used as a marker, replacing the Stixx that has just been collected, and indicating which Stixx are now collectable (those that are adjacent to either point of the marker).

Before the game begins, each player draws from a collection of six "hidden color tokens." This identifies the color of the Stixx the players are trying to collect. The object is to collect more of your Stixx than anybody has been able to collect of theirs.

There are many levels contemplation-worthy strategic complexities. Whenever you pick up a Stixx you determine which Stixx the next player can select from. If you're ahead, and you can isolate the grey Stixx so it's not touching any pieces, the game is over, and you win. If you try to collect too many Stixx of your color, your opponents will be able to guess what color you're trying to collect, and either keep you from collecting more, or take those colored Stixx themselves, just for spite.

Having to keep your goal secret while trying keep others from achieving theirs is an aspect of the game that adds greatly to the depth and humor of it all. If it gets too much for you, you can guess someone's color - forcing them to reveal it to everyone and, if you're correct, winning you two extra moves. If the possibility of taking those two extra moves becomes strategically attractive to you, and no one has yet guessed your color, you can reveal your secret color.

Stixx is easy enough to understand, and has a short enough playing-time, to meet the attention span of your average, gifted seven-year-old. It's also deep and intriguing enough to engage the serious-minded adult. And it often makes you laugh. Which is another way of saying Stixx is Major FUN.

Designed by Odet L' Homer and published by Goliath Games, Stixx can be played by two to six players, and, as good as it is, it seems to be just as good (if not better) when more than two want to play. Stixx is nicely packaged, very easy to store. It has a lot of colorful, irreplaceable plastic parts - 49 of them. But rest easy, wise Stixx-owner, Goliath will replace your losses for free.
 
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105. Board Game: Gobblet Gobblers [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:4831]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Do not be misled by cuteness or the obvious similarity to tic tac toe, Gobblet Gobblers is an abstract game worthy of serious strategic contemplation.

No, it's not chess. It's not even checkers. But it's not like any tic tac toe game you've ever played, unless you've already played the Major FUN Award-winning Gobblet Jr.

Repackaged and revisioned, Gobblet Gobblers plays the same as Gobblet Jr., but introduces a new level of whimsy and fantasy that invites children to view the often serious challenge of abstract reasoning with a light and playful heart.

Players build the board out of four, brightly colored wood pieces. Using these pieces, instead of a solid board, gives the game a friendlier feeling - integrating the game a bit more with its environment (kitchen table, play table, carpet, floor). The pieces all have little felt feather-like things sticking out of their "heads," adding to the whimsy and offering a practical and compelling way to lift and move the pieces from place to place. There are two different color pieces - blue and orange (oddly, but probably not coincidentally reprising the name of the publisher). Both players get six pieces - two sets of three nesting cylinders.

The game plays like tic tac toe (the object being to get three of your color pieces in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal row), but, unlike the traditional game, in Gobblet Gobblers you can move your pieces once they are placed, and, if your piece is larger than another, you can temporarily "gobble" it by placing your piece on top. Being able to move pieces is departure enough to make Gobblet Gobblers something more than your paper-and-pencil version of tic tac toe. But being able to cover a smaller piece takes the game to a new level of strategic complexity - new enough for it to become a unique invitation to abstract thinking - unique enough to invite serious attention from adults as well as children. And there's that added component of having to remember what gets covered. And the subsequent, sometimes delightfully agonizing experience of losing the game because of what lies beneath.

Designed by Thierry Denoual, who designed all of the current Gobblet variations, Gobblet Gobbler, with its humorous design (and lower price), is Major FUN, at least - especially for kids who have already mastered the traditional versions of tic tac toe, and even more especially for their parents.
 
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106. Board Game: Yamslam [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:4191]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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No, it's not Yahtzee. On the other hand, yes, it's a lot like Yahtzee. You roll five dice. You get three rolls during which you can re-roll all or any of the dice. You want to get maybe two pairs, or even better, three-of-a-kind, or better yet a small straight, and then there's a flush, which you can't get in that other game, which is better yet, and then there's a full house, and four-of-a-kind, or even better a full house, and your large straight, and, of course, your all-dice-of-the-same-number Yamslam, which makes you yell "Yamslam," take any chip you want, and an extra turn. And what all of this Yahtzee-likeness does is make Yamslam easier to learn. But, no, it's not Yahtzee.

There are chips, for example, which you don't get in that other game - four for each of the possible winning combinations. Each chip is worth more points, depending on probabilities. When you succeed, you collect a chip, making scoring for that particular combination one chip less likely. When there are no chips, that combination can no longer score. Then there's the possibility that you might gather one or more of each of the seven kinds of chip, for which you score more points, or that you might get six out of the seven, or all of a particular kind of chip, or take the last remaining chip - in which case you score yet more.

And then there's the "flush" possibility. The odd numbers on the dice are one color, the even another. You score a flush (if you want it) when all the dice are the same color.

Put all these together and you have something that is clearly not Yahtzee. Fewer combinations, a faster game, more possibilities for scoring, all stored in a metal tin that contains the game with efficiency and grace. Place the chips in their well-marked holders, leave the dice on the pleasingly-cushioned felt-lined bottom, close the lid, and no matter how hard you shake the set, everything stays in place. Forget the rules? All the score possibilities are conveniently described on the perimeter of the box.

Designed by Thierry Denoual (who also designed the Gobblet games), Yamslam is a gift of light-hearted, undemanding fun for anyone in the family who is old enough to add. And then there are variations to try, including at least one for those times when you just need to be by yourself.

Yahtzee? Most definitely not. Fun? Majorly!
 
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107. Board Game: Quarto! [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:696]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Quarto will remind you of Tic Tac Toe, until you actually play it. Like Tic Tac Toe, you're trying to get all your pieces in a row. And that's about it, Tic Tac Toe-wise.

There are 16 pieces. Eight blond pieces and eight dark pieces. But if you look a little closer, you'll notice that each piece is different. Nobody's a "color." Each has an attribute (size, color, shape, hollowness) that it shares with three other pieces. So your tall square blond solid piece is like the tall round dark piece that has a hole in it, because they are tall.

Your object is to add the piece that completes a row, column or diagonal of 4 pieces, all of which have the same attribute. Not necessarily all blond pieces or all short pieces, and certainly not all "your" pieces. Maybe all round pieces or all solid pieces. Or all pieces with a hole.

So things are not, as they say, merely black or white. To win, you have to continually change what attribute your looking for. Much more like life, strategically-speaking.

And then there's one more intriguingly life-like rule you should know about: You decide what piece your opponent will play next. Really. That's what you do. When your turn is over, you hand the piece of your choice to your opponent. And now that we're speaking about strategy, suddenly everything becomes much more subtle, even more interesting. Because you're trying everso hard to give your opponent the very piece she really wouldn't want. A piece, in fact, that might very well be the one piece that will make you win.

It's a unique concept in the world of strategy games - and uniquely welcome. Because you have to think even more closely about what your opponent might be thinking.

The designer, Blaise Müller, suggests a variation for those who need yet more strategic depth. How about counting 4-in-a-square as well as 4-in-a-row? Ah, how subtle. How challenging. Which makes you wonder about 4-in-an-L, or 4-in-a-zig-zag, even.

In other words, Quarto, like the majority of games in the Gigamic line, has just about all the elements that make a game Major FUN. It takes maybe 5 minutes to learn and maybe 5 minutes to play, and yet it's deep enough to be worth playing over and over. It's as easy to learn as it is because it's based on something familiar. It's as intriguing as it is, because it offers something unique. It's elemental enough to be easily modified to increase or decrease the challenge. It's made of wood. It's durable. It even has a drawstring bag to house the pieces. And, for a modest mailing fee, Fundex will replace any lost piece.
 
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108. Board Game: Bananagrams [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:1228]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Bananagrams is a word game that uses letter tiles - 144 unusally finger-friendly, bakelite letter tiles. It will remind you of other letter-tile word games, many other letter-tile word games, until you actually read the rules (which are simple enough to summarize on the 1x2-inch tag that is attached to the banana-like zippable package).

Basically, you draw a bunch of tiles and try to assemble all of them into a crossword array. If you succeed, you draw more. That's about it, basically-wise. The full rules are a bit more complex. Players all get the same number of letter tiles, the exact number depending on the how many are playing. They race to assemble all their letters into a crossword. As soon as one player succeeds, she calls "peel," at which time every player has to take a another letter tile. And so it goes, on and on, until almost all the letter tiles are used up. Naturally, the first player to have used all her tiles shouts "bananas" (if she still has the presence of mind to remember), and wins the game.

Everything about Bananagrams is Major FUN, the quality of the tiles, the portability and storability, the adaptability and flexibility. Because the game is so simple to explain, it is also simple to change - to adapt to different skill levels, different environments and time constraints. Read, for example, Lance Hampton's exemplary story of how he plays Bananagrams with his kids http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/369649. We're working on variations for teams, and maybe even cooperative versions.

The Nathanson family, Bannanagram designers, comment:

"Obsessed by all the word games that could be found, we all hankered after something a bit more fluid than the classics we all love and wanted a game that the family could play together – ALL ages at the same time. We sought something portable, that we could take with us on our various travels and simple enough (with no superfluous pieces or packaging) that we could play in restaurants while waiting for our food. We love that one hand can be played in as little as five minutes, but as it’s so addictive, it’s often hard to put away!"

If you like playing with words, it's very likely that you'll be taking a banana-case full of Bananagrams with you everywhere.
 
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109. Board Game: Farkle [Average Rating:5.48 Overall Rank:9833]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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The name of the game is Farkel. You could easily confuse it with Farkle, which wouldn't be a major mistake. In fact, you could just as easily confuse it with 10000, 5000, Buzzball, Greed, Hot Dice, Oh Crap, Squelch, Wimp Out, Zilch, or Zonk. And you'd be perfectly entitled, insofar as they are each and all names for basically the same game - a dice game, played with six dice, that is most definitely not Yahtzee.

However, the subject of this review is not Farkel, but Pocket Farkel, as a matter of fact. (One of my very favorite game names, that I find myself obliged to repeat in rapid succession many times each time I open the game box).
Speaking of boxes, that's perhaps the key to what makes Pocket Farkel so fun-worthy. It's a handy little box, with the dice fitting snugly into their little foam niches, and the scoring rules (which are difficult to remember for the novice Farkeler) so clearly printed on the inside of the lid. And, as you would assume, it fits tidily into your pocket. Yes, all you really need are six dice. But the package here is the product. Its elegance, its accessibility all invite play, making the game into something unique.
The rules of Pocket Farkel are slightly different than those of your regular Farkle - simpler, more scoring possibilities, more engaging. On your turn, you first roll all six dice. You then set aside any of dice that score (see the ever-so handy scoring combination chart on the box lid), and then you roll the rest of the dice. But you have to have to score to go on. If you don't score, you Farkel. And to Farkel is to lose all those conceptually hard-earned points you thought you were getting for that round. As in, "O, Farkel!" Which is another way of saying, no matter how disappointed you get, you just can't take it seriously.

And so the game goes, people scoring. People Farkeling. There's laughing. There's muttering. And then there's more laughing. For a family with kids who can keep score - and not care too much about it - it's something you might want to take with you everywhere.
The Pocket Farkel people make an astounding variety of Farkel sets - there's Pirate Farkel and Froggy Farkel and Moose Farkel, Bear Farkel and Equine Farkel and Gator Farkel. There's Glow-in-the-Dark Farkel and Full Contact Farkel, Fat Free Lo Carb Farkel, and no matter what they're called, they're all Farkel. The dice might look different, but the game's the same. Enticing. Engaging. Major FUN.
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110. Board Game: Funny Business [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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The people at Gamewright call their Funny Business game "The Hilarious Game of Mismatched Mergers." And by golly, they're right!

Funny Business is a family game that engaged our particular family, ranging in age from just 12 to significantly 67, in verifiable moments of hilarious, helpless laughter.

You get a deck of very big "Business Cards." These are not your traditional business cards, they're cards that identify kinds of business - like "Bakery" and "Barber Shop" - 200 different businesses. Each card also has a list of 20 words associated with that business - like bread and doughnut and bangs and curls. Everybody gets a write-on-wipe-off naming card, a voting wheel, a marker (with write-on-wipe-offing eraser), and until the timer runs out to write down what you might call a, for example, Barber Shop and Bakery. You know, like Snips 'n Crumpets, and The Coiffed Bagel, and maybe Feed and Groom.

When time's up, one player reads all the answers on their naming cards. The cards, by the way, each have a different color border which in turn correspond to one of the colors on the voting wheel, all of which add to the ease and the fun of voting.

You get 2 points if you get the most votes, and 1 point if you vote for the winner.

If you tie - somehow two or more players become so attuned to each other and the underlying silliness of the game that they all write the same thing - both players get points if they get voted for, and if they vote for the winner. The fact that such ties occur a testimony to the kind of closeness this silly game engenders. We played all 6 rounds, and by the 3rd or 4th we started having ties, and by the 5th or 6th, we were still having ties.

A lot of the laughter is at yourself - in a very fun sort of way. From time to time you amaze yourself at your cleverness, or your ability to think of a name that's too, shall we say, personal to share, while simultaneously nothing short of genius. We kept score. But by the last round we were too tired from laughing to care who won.

The older folk spent the most time laughing. For the 12-year-old, much of the hilarious subtlety seemed other.

Designed by Jack Degnan for Gamewright, Funny Business proves to be a Major FUN party-like game, for friends or families of up to 8 players whose kids are in their teens or beyond.
 
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111. Board Game: O'NO 99 [Average Rating:5.15 Overall Rank:10325]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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This is not ONO 99 - but I couldn't find any category on the Geek. It's called 99 or Bust and is a product of Legendary Games (pocketfarkel.com)

There are some times very good reasons for repackaging a traditional game. 99 is one such traditional game, and the people who brought us Pocket Farkel are just the people to demonstrate how good those reasons can be.

Though the traditional game of 99 can be played with a standard deck of cards, the publishers of Ninety-Nine or Bust have taken a extra step, creating a unique set of cards that supports all the standard rules of the game without changing any of the elements that make the game as fun as it is.

In the traditional game players take turns adding a card to a discard pile. And I really mean "add." Whenever a card is played, it's numerical value is added to the total. The only rule is that the total can't exceed 99.

There are certain cards that have special functions, which, of course, is what keeps the game interesting. Aces count as a 1 or as 11. Fours reverse the direction of play without adding anything to the total. Nines also don't anything. Tens increase or decrease the total value of the pile by ten. And kings reset the value of the deck to 99.

In Ninety Nine or Bust there are still 52 cards. And the object is still not to exceed 99. The cards are numbered from 1-10. There are no 9s. There are only four special cards: "subtract 10," "stays the same," "reverse direction," and "99." Because their functions are actually written on the cards, the game is much easier to learn. There's also a little less to think about, fewer choices to make. And the special cards don't look at all like normal playing cards, so the game itself seems special, which it is.

There's a wonderful balance between chance and the illusion of choice. There aren't any winning strategies. But it feels like there are. You get to make other people lose. But again, only if you're lucky and they're not. The odds are unpredictable enough so that, even if you lose three games in a row, you can still win. And even if you do win, it's not really because of anything you are or did or should have done. Just like losing isn't. It all adds up, as they say, to a perfect little party game - an invitation to easy going fun, for 2 to 8 players, for 10 minutes or maybe an hour.
 
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112. Board Game: Pylos [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:1964]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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At first glance, Pylos looks like a game where players race to have their color bead on top of the pyramid. Which is pretty much what the game is about. But if you try to do just exactly that, the game seems silly in deed. The second player always wins. Unless you read the rules.

If you find a square of beads already on the board, you can put one bead on top, either from your "reserve" (the troughs on your side of the board), or by moving a bead that is already on the board. If you build a new square of your beads (four adjacent to each other), you get to take one or two (the number being of great, yet subtle strategic significance) of your "free" beads (freedom being measured in terms of not having any other piece on top of you), and return them to your reserve. Which gives you an extra piece or two to play. Which makes it more likely that the other player will run of pieces before the top bead can be placed.

It helps if you understand the game of Nim, or the chess concept of opposition. It's about timing, about leaving the other player with one less move.

It especially helps if you read the rules carefully. Even though Pylos is an easy game to learn, and the rules are brief and succinct, they are also quite dense. The game looks so much like a simple race to the top that it's almost too easy to overlook what the game is really about. It's a strategic game, requiring planning and logic.

There are "advanced rules" when you're ready for them (if you get 4-in-a-row on the bottom level or 3-in-a-row on the next level, you also get to take back one or two of your beads). And of course you can simplify the game by eliminating one of the two square rules (the rules allowing you to move or take one or two beads from the board when you complete a square of your color or a square of mixed color).

Designed by David G. Royffe, Pylos is another well-made, wooden, aesthetically pleasing, casual strategy game in the Gigamic collection, available in the US from Fundex Games. Recommended for two players over the age of seven, it takes about 10-20 minutes to play, maybe 10 minutes to learn. For younger players, making a pyramid out of beads, especially when you have a base that keeps all the beads in one place, is so satisfying, and so much fun, that it might take them a while to get to the beauty of the game itself. When they're ready, they will learn.
 
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113. Board Game: Batik [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:3627]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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When I ask you to identify a board game that is a strategic puzzle game for two players that also involves dexterity, what game pops into your well-informed head? Would it, perhaps, be Batik?

You know, Batik, that lovely, wooden, puzzle-looking game in the Gigamic collection - yes, that collection of wooden strategic games available in the US from Fundex Games.

Batik, the puzzle game designed by Kris Burmin, in which two players take turns dropping two different colors of wooden, tangram-like pieces into a wood and plexiglass frame.

One of the most self-explanatory games around, especially for those who've played Connect Four. Even those who've played with Connect Four, just to see what happens, like a checker-dropping 3-year-old.

See, when it's your turn, especially in the beginning of the game, it's not just a question of dropping any old shape into the frame. First of all, you have to pick a strategically significant shape (big? pointy? tiny? smooth?), and you have to get it to land pretty much just where you want it to land, somewhere preferably snug, or not, 'cause you often win by taking up more, rather than less space. And there's just a tad of luck, too. Taking turns, using any piece you want (unless you're playing the official "use only your own piece" version), making sure that you're not the player whose piece doesn't fit ertirely within the frame.

Not that I'm recommending you should, but nonetheless gleefully noting that Pete Hornburg figured out how to get all the pieces to fit perfectly inside the game frame, thereby demonstrating the puzzle-likeness if it all, while more than hinting at the possibility of the perfect game and the observation that you're playing in a game frame.

Lovely, the whole thing. Easy to learn. Short games (maybe 10 minutes). Fun for a remarkably wide range of players. There's the dexterity and luck part, so it's not necessarily the smartest who always wins. Which inevitably makes for more fun. Unless you get too serious about the game. On the other hand, it's good to know you can get serious about it if you have to - just in case.
 
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114. Board Game: Six [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:3021]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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What would be a good name for a game played with six-sided hexagons (as if there were any other kind)? Just six-sided (I'm making a point here) hexagons? Not even a board? Where you try to be the first to make a shape out of...wait for it...six wooden black or red six-sided hexagons?

What about a strategic game where you take turns adding a hexagon of your black or red color to any other hexagon already on the table, or floor, or blanket? Until all your lovely, smoothly wooden hexagons are played, and then you can move them from hexagon-adjoining place to any other hexagon-adjoinable place? And you win if you can get six of your own in a row, or triangle or in a six-sided circle?

What do you think of "Six"?

Sheer coincidence that the publishers also chose to call it Six? I think not.

Even though you each have 19 hexagon-pieces. 19. Not the everso appropriately six-divisible 18 hexagon-pieces. You still get a, dare I say it, Major Fun experience, which, if Major Fun gave star-ratings, is clearly six-star-worthy.

And then there's what one might think of as the "Advanced Major Fun" to be had by players of the advanced version, because, see, after you play for a while you discover how you change the entire mass of hexagons into two, and you begin to wonder, almost without reading the advanced rules, what doing so might do to your opponent, like, for example, put the entire smaller cluster (wherein a substantial majority of your opponent's pieces happen to reside) out of play for the rest of the game.


Steffen Mühlhäuser's game of hexagons is newly made available in the U.S. through FoxMind, and still published in Europe by Steffen-Spiele. Most games can be played in from six to 36 minutes. Easy to learn for those of checker-playing persuasion. Easy to carry around, rules and all, in a conveniently included drawstring bag or its lovely six-sided box.
 
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115. Board Game: Abalone [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:1131]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Let us begin our exploration of the game classic Abalone (recently re-released by Foxmind) by paying particular attention to the rule that: the winner is the first player to push a total of SIX of his opponent's marblss off the board.

So, already you're intrigued - marbles, marble-pushing, pushing marbles off the board, a board you can push marbles off of into. And then there's the number six (6). I stress this number because, after thorough investigation, lasting conceptual days and actally maybe a couple entire hours, with fewer and fewer marbles and the way the game can go on and on and on, it stops being fun. Unless of course you remember that you're supposed to stop playing the game as soon as soneone has eliminated six of his oppoennent's lovely large, shiny, black or white marbles.

Marble-pushing. Pushing one or two or three of your marbles in a line, to the next space. Marbles resting in hexagonal sections of a hexagonal board, with marble-size channels linking the hive-like cells. Making it possible to push even four, or possibly five marbles (three of yours and two of your opponent's, because to push your opponent's marbles you have to have more than he does, and since you can't push more than three of yours, it stands to reason.

I think the game deigners (Laurent Levi and Michel Lalet) wanted you to know that this one's going to be fun. Marble-pushing. What an interesting, fun thing to do especialy with beautifl, large, glass marbbles. So black and white. So back and forth. So tempting to make up your own variations in which you can push let's say up to five of your marbles, which would mean up to four of your opponent's,because it's just so much fun to move all those marbles in a row.

O there are rules. Surprisingly complex rules governing how many marbles you can move, when you can't, how far, each of which add yet another possible variation to explore, once variation-exploring is what you're into.

In sum, don't forget: six pieces and the game's over! Maybe seven. Maybe three.
 
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116. Board Game: Quoridor Kid [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:3757]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Whatever you can say about Mirko Marchesi's Quoridor, you can also say about Mirko Marchesi's Quoridor Kid.

Except that Quoridor Kid is cuter. And takes less time to play. And the board is 7x7 instead of 9x9. And there are 16 instead of 20 fences.

They play the same. They offer the same exercise in strategic maze-making. One is cute and short. The other is larger, darker, more brooding, more adult. But no matter which you are playing, Quoridor or the Kid, as child or adult, it's the same fun and fascination.

Which is rather remarkable, come to think of it, that a kid's version of an adult game should prove as maturely playworthy as the adult version. Which makes this version a special gift to parents. Because here's a game in a version that will appeal to your child as it will to to you. Your child will be especially sensitive to the fun of it - to the fantasy, the remarkably skillful humor of the mouse-in-maze metaphor - and consequently, they might laugh more often than you will.

It is a challenging game. You begin on the edges of a 7x7 grid. You, as a mouse whose nose is the same color as a piece of wooden cheese placed on the opposite side of the board. You take turns moving your mouse, horizontally or vertically, one space at a time. Your goal and purpose, as in much of life, is to get to your cheese first. You do that by moving forward, or by placing fences between your opponent and her cheese. Moving and fencing, the board begins to look like a maze, and the strategic depth is equally amazing.

All that metaphorically-appropriate mouse-and-cheese cuteness aside, getting to your cheese first is something you can take seriously, beyond metaphor. And as a parent, it is a special thrill when, as you inevitably will, you lose a game to your own child - fair and square. You won't have to say things like "well, then, you're the second winner," or make just the mistake that will "accidentally" give your child the victory. Because playing Quoridor, Kid or not, can get as challenging to the grown-up as it can to the child - and still look fun!

Which is what makes the Fun of Quoridor Kid so Major. What else would you call kind of fun can you get from a game that requires deep, logical thinking, that looks and plays as inviting to adults as it is to kids, as it is to kids without adults?
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117. Board Game: Word on the Street [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:1050]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Take all your consonants except for the ridiculous ones like Q, X and Z. Put them on your satisfyingly hefty bakelite tiles. Now, make a long game board, like a 4-lane highway with a divider strip just wide enough and long enough to accommodate all of your happily hefty letter tiles. Next, get together a deck of 216, often surprisingly laugh-provoking, double-sided category cards, like: "The Brand of Clothing Worn by One of the Players," and "Something that is Wasted," and "Something Used by Scuba Divers," and "A Word that Describes a Car Crash," "A Title Used for Males but not for Females." Add a cardholder and sand timer. And those are all the ingredients needed for a new and notably Major FUN word game called "Word on the Street" from those frequently Major FUN game publishers, Out of the Box.

Everything, of course, except for the rules. And there in lies the tickle.

Designed by Jack Degnan to give a couple or a couple of teams of word-lovers ample opportunity to demonstrate their brilliance and/or befudlement, the game is a contest to see who, in 30 seconds, can think of a word that 1) fits the category, and 2) has as many as possible of the letters still in play, many of which are doubled - as in MISSISSIPPI which would allow us to move the M one lane closer to us, the P two lanes closer, and the S clear off the board, which would put us one letter ahead. Only 7 more to go and we win!

Though Mississippi would in deed be a coup, it would not be considered a valid response to the category "A Brand of Clothing Worn by One of the Players." To which the best I could do at this time is probably MAIDENFORM (getting to move M twice as well as a D, N, F and R once). Or would MASSIMO with its two M's and two S's be better?

As the game progresses, different letters, and hence different words become more desirable, offensively or defensively, so the challenge keeps on changing. The best word might not have the most double letters in it if some letters only one space away from us, or more enticing yet, one space away from the opponent's goal. The 30-second timer keeps the game moving apace. The cards keep the game surprising and funny. The tiles are large enough for all to read. The board works perfectly in directing player's attention to the strategically most valuable letters. All this makes the game absorbing and delightfully tense, from the moment the first card is read until one team finally manages to capture the eighth letter.

Recommended for 2 to 12 players old enough to appreciate each other's verbal mastery.
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118. Board Game: Ring-O Flamingo [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:4696]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Ring-O Flamingo, a.k.a. "The Frantic Fling-a-Ring Game," is, as advertised, a game that is at least as much about ring-flinging as it is about getting frantic.

Each player gets one of 4 plastic "lifeboats" each of a different color, each containing a set of 12 flat, flexible, plastic, lifesaver-like rings of a matching color. These flat, flexible, plastic, lifesaver-like rings are placed, one at a time, in a slot in the front of the lifeboat. To fling the ring, you aim your lifeboat, bend the ring towards you just exactly as much as you think necessary and then release it.

Your goal, should you be goal-oriented, is for your ring to land, quoit-like, around any of the 7 plastic flamingos (yes, plastic flamingos), and not around either of the two plastic alligators.

The flamingos and alligators fit into slots in the thick game board. Turned 90-degrees, they stand firmly enough to resist and staunchly deflect any inaccurately flung rings. The board is thick enough to withstand repeated reassembly.

Ringing an alligator is a bad thing to do and makes you lose two points. You get 2 points for each of your rings that is first to ring a flamingo, and one point for each of your subsequent flamingo-ringing ring.

Since everyone plays simultaneously, mastering the "frantic" part of this "Frantic Fling-a-Ring" game is as crucial to success as good aim. Since being the first to ring a particular flamingo gets you twice as many points, the need for speed is clearly established. And, of course, the faster you fling, the less accurate you become. The tension makes the game even more challenging, and instructive.

On the other hand, ring-flinging is so much fun that it almost doesn't matter whether you manage to get a ring around anything. It's as amusing just to fling the rings at each other, or to see how far or how high you can fling them. Which is what makes the game as alluring to a three-year-old as to your seriously competitive eleven-teen. You can try to fling rings into the box lid or against the wall (extra points for "leaners"). And for those families fortunate enough to have playful parents, it's a great invitation to share some moments of controlled and victimless mayhem.

Designed by Haim Shafir, Yakov Kaufman, and Yoav Ziv, the game works wondrously well. All the parts of the game reinforce the fantasy: the lifesaver rings, the ring-storing and flinging boats, the brightly colored and exactingly rendered flamingos. The ring-flingers can be repositioned anywhere around the board to increase aim and accuracy. You can even play as teams with one player repositioning the boat and the other doing the flinging. The rings themselves are exactly as springy as they need to be to flip and fly. And there is just enough chance to keep anyone from getting overbearingly good at the game. Hence the Majorness of the FUN.

Ring-O Flamingo is exciting and alluring enough to be played and replayed by everyone in the family. There are a lot of rings (48 of them). Hence, parents would be especially wise to include in their rendition of basic game rules the tradition of after-game ring-gathering.
 
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119. Board Game: Connect 4x4 [Average Rating:5.75 Overall Rank:7439]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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If you've ever played Connect Four, you'll immediately understand the attraction of playing with three or four players. With two players, you've got strategy. With three or four, you've got politics. Sometimes, you just have to cooperate with the very people you are competing against, just to keep someone else from winning. Such is the nature of playing with more than two.

And it's prettier - having four colors instead of two. Colored rings, even.

But that's just part of what makes this game so worthy of our collective consideration. The other part is the channels that accommodate the ex-checker rings. They're double-wide, double-sided. Which means that two rings fit where only one ring used to. And you win regardless of whether your ring is in the front or back of a channel - as long as there are four-in-a-row of your color.

There are also two "blocker" pieces for each color. Double-wide themselves, they fit into both sides of a channel. The blockers are powerful pieces, which is why you only have two of them, which is why you have to conserve them, which is what makes the game all the more inviting for people who like to ponder.

The strategic implications of all this are profound and subtle. Profound enough to make you have to rethink pretty-much everything you know about how to win Connect Four, subtle enough to make the game challenging enough to attract an adult audience, and perhaps too challenging for younger children. But, like Connect Four, the mechanics of dropping checkers into different columns, of being able to empty the entire board by moving the retaining wall on the bottom are still very much present, and at least fascinating enough to keep the toy-value of the game as playworthy as the game itself.

Hasbro has been full of gleeful surprises of late. Though they've been releasing new versions of their licensed products for a while, they have taken great efforts, in most cases, to make sure that the new releases are also new games - different enough from their predecessors to be worthy of serious consideration. Elegant enough to be easy to learn and to invite players to develop their own variations. Fun enough to sustain many hours of thought-provoking, deeply engaging play.
 
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120. Board Game: Run Wild [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:7011]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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It's a card game. It's a well-made card game, with exceptionally colorful cards in a convenient card-size tin. It's a card game for 2-4 players of any age, as long as they're old enough to know the difference between sequences of the same color and groups of the same number.

It's Run Wild, a tense, heads-down card game, where everybody plays simultaneously and the first person to play all the cards in their hand wins.

Lay down your sets and runs of three or four. Once a set or run is played, it belongs to everybody. You can add your cards to any set or run on the table. You can use cards from any set or run on the table (as long as there are at least three cards remaining). And there are wild cards, O yes, indeed there are wild cards. Lovely, colorfully wild, wild cards. Cards of two kinds of wildness: one of which can be used, as you would expect, in place of any card. The other, as you might not expect, a "draw-three" card, making the other players add three more cards to their hand - resulting in what some may see as sweet revenge, and others as just desserts.

There are 72 cards in the deck. The deck is divided equally between all players, and placed in a face-down pile. Each player draws the top eight cards. At a mutually agreed upon signal, everyone starts laying down their sets and runs. If you have no cards to lay down, you can pick from the cards that remain in your portion of the deck. This is really not a thing you want to do, because it means that you have more cards that you'll have to get rid of. So you focus, with somewhat passionate intensity, on what everyone else has played. If you are trying to be exceptionally strategic, you might try to hold off on laying out any new sets or runs, because every new set or run is someone else's new opportunity. On the other hand, the longer you hold on to your cards, the less likely it is that you will win the round.

At the end of the round, you are penalized five points for each card still in your hand, and ten points for each wild card. Hence the added incentive to get rid of your cards mingles somewhat acidly with the strategic value of waiting for the right moment to give that draw-three card to someone who is just about to go out. Ah, so sweet the desserts. Yet, wait one a minute too long, and O the bitterness and remorse of it all.

Designed by Brad Carter, Run Wild is not frantic like the two-player solitaire game of Spit or Speed. It's a light-hearted game that will probably make you laugh, but it will also challenge you, pretty much entirely. Its rules are not only easy to understand, but also inviting to tinker with. For example, should the game prove too challenging for some players, all you need to do to level the playing field is give the player who won the last round an additional card or two when she starts the next, or play in teams, or see if you can get everyone to go out at the same time. Even untinkered-with, it's worthy of your most determinedly playful consideration.


from:

http://majorfun.com/2009/09/run-wild.html
 
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121. Board Game: Circle Out! [Average Rating:4.44 Unranked]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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It is a distinct pleasure to introduce you to a new card game called "Circle Out." Distinct, because it's unique, a pleasure because its most definitely fun. The closest approximation I can come up with is the Major FUN Award-winning card game Set.

Like Set, Circle Out engages both logical and perceptual skills. It's called Circle Out because the object of the game is to find sequences of cards that can be connected, color to color, the first color matching the last in the sequence, making a circular chain. The longer the chain, the higher the score value (if score is what you're keeping).

The game begins by laying out 12-16 cards. The first player to find a circular chain (using each color only once per circle), takes the cards from the array, places them in front of her, and then replaces those cards with the same number of cards from the deck. The game continues until the deck, or the players, are exhausted. If you need more graphic clarity, watch this demonstration of the game.

Joseph Lytle, the designer of Circle Out, has a deep appreciation for math and fun. In one of his Youtube videos, called "Splitting the Deck/Circle Out as a Mathematical Curiosity," he gives us a taste of the some of the more hidden properties of the deck. For more background, here's Mr. Lytle expostulating on the inspiration for the game, which, oddly enough, has to do with a meditation on economics.

Lytle describes another variation of the game, which, in turn, helps us realize that the game is elegant enough to invite yet more variations - always a sign of a game that will prove high in replay value.

Recommended for 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, Circle Out can engage the entire family. Prepare to be surprised by who will prove better at the game. The skills required have little to do with education or maturity, which explains a lot about why Circle Out has earned a Major FUN Award.
 
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122. Board Game: Cir*Kis [Average Rating:5.39 Overall Rank:10265]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Cir*Kis is as much of a puzzle as it is a strategy game as it is an exploration of the geometry of the decagon (like an octagon, only with 10 sides). One of the interesting properties of a decagon is that it can surround a five-pointed star with satisfyingly geometric aplomb.

Each of up to 4 players gets a collection of 9 different shapes of the same color. These shapes vary in size from the easy-to-find-but-difficult-to-position "big slice" to the easy-to-lose "sliver" which can only be placed in clearly demarcated spaces on the edges of the board. The board is covered with a raised pattern of circles (actually decagons) and stars and irregular shapes connecting them. The pieces fit into and over the design on the board. It requires a certain amount of dexterity and a significant amount of perceptual discrimination to figure out what fits where. The strategy, of course, is in understanding why.

After the first move (the rules suggest that the youngest player goes first), the next player has to place their piece so that it is adjacent to the last played. As soon as a player is able to complete a shape (a circle or star), she scores. If her color is in the majority, she scores 10 points. If not, only 5.

You can also get a free turn, which means that you can take the lead, which can be of significant strategic import if you are significantly strategic. The opportunities are rather rare, which make them of even more strategic interest - you must either place one of your pieces in a space surrounded by other pieces, or complete the center star or be the first to place a sliver piece.

Visually, Cir*Kis is as compelling as any other tessellation. The conceptual challenge of separating figure from ground adds significantly the strategic challenge of playing the game.

For 2-4 players, aged 8 and up, Cir*Kis offers a unique challenge to the eye and mind. It might remind you of Blokus or Pentominoes, but there really is no other game quite like it - lovely to look at, visually challenging, strategically deep enough to be played again and again, Major FUN.

see http://majorfun.com/2009/10/cirkis.html
 
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123. Board Game: Worm Up! [Average Rating:5.92 Overall Rank:3272]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Worm up!

There's something gently lovable about Worm up! O, it's fun, all right. Major FUN, in actual fact. But it's funny, too. And so spare in its design that it's what you might call endearing.

The colorful little game box contains 5 sets (each in a different color) of 7 wooden hemispheres. These are used to make worms - take a set, put the hemispheres, hemi-side down, in a column, and there you have it, your basic worm.

Then there are 4 black cylinders. Also wooden. And some cardboard pieces. Thick, durable cardboard to be sure. One of these pieces serves as the finish line, and two of the cylinders fit on either end of it. The other two cylinders are placed about 2-feet away to create the starting line. The other cardboard pieces are also in 5 sets. Each set consists of 5 rectangular tokens, numbered 4, 5, 6, and 7, and one with an X on it.

Once the goal and starting line are set up, players line-up their worms. Each of the 3 to 5 players selects one of the cardboard tokens, places that token face-down on the table, and turns their tokens over simultaneously. Players who have chosen the same number token don't get to move their worms. The others move their worms, one segment at a time, starting from the last segment, and sliding that segment to the head of the worm, the player who chose the lowest number going first. The X token allows you to either move your worm (any number that hasn't been already chosen) or move the goal (which takes on evermore strategic significance as the game progresses). To move the goal, you put your finger on one of the cylinders (anchoring it), and then, with your finger on the other cylinder, rotate the goal as far as you want to.

You can move your worm in any manner you wish, positioning pieces so as to make it twist and turn to block your opponents, as long as each worm piece is placed adjacent to the piece most recently moved to the head of the worm. Even though you're just sliding these little wooden half-domes from the back to the font of the line, as the game progresses, the worms seem to move in a wonderfully wriggly, worm-like fashion. Because the pieces are so simple, the illusion is that much more powerful.

And of course trying to predict what tile the other players might choose so you can choose differently is endlessly surprising, turn after turn.

The game takes maybe 10 minutes to play, though we had to play it twice before we felt that the game was over, and then had to have a quite serious discussion about why we should really be playing it at least one more time. It's good for families whose kids are a precocious 7 or older. It's good for kids. It's a good game to play between more serious games. Gentle fun. A happy little diversion.

If I were Alex Randolph, the designer of the game, I would consider it a minor masterwork. And I would take equal delight in the production quality. The packaging is very spare - very little space is wasted. The rules are brief and easy to learn.

There's a quote by Randolph on the side of the box. I think it explains much about why his game is as fun, and as elegant as it is:

"Somehow," he writes, "I feel that boardgames are the beginning of everything truly human, and so, ultimately, of the highest human endeavors, especially those which I find most precious, because they have no purpose outside themselves. They are, themselves, their purpose. Poetry, art, music, story telling, pure mathematics, pure science, philosophy...all are spiritual luxuries. Luxuries are things that delight us, that we long to possess, but that we can very well do without. They are not practical. They are not needed for our survival. And board games? Board games are luxuries, too, of course, albeit minor and marginal, but in the sense of non-utility, perhaps the purest."
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124. Board Game: Tumblin-Dice [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:472]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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When Randy Nash first developed Tumblin' Dice, he did what any game inventor would do - especially one who created a game that people really loved - he started his own company. Recently, the older/wiser Mr. Nash licensed his game to Fred Distribution - a company with a genuinely deep appreciation for really good games. And they honored his concept, and made it a little more attractive, and just as well-made, and just as much fun.

The game is called Tumblin' Dice, which is exactly what it was called when we first gave it our highest award - the Keeper. I am happy to say, this renewed version is at least as much of a Keeper as it was then.

Think of it shuffleboard with dice. You'd be wrong, but you'd understand almost all you needed to know in order to start playing. There are four sets of dice, each a different colors (and lovely colors they are). Each set has four dice. Players take turns flick/slide/rolling their dice, starting on the top level, aiming towards one of the three platforms on the lowest levels. If your die reaches the third level, you get exactly as many points as are on the top of the die. If your die reaches the fourth level, you get twice as many points; the fifth level, three times as many, and if you reach the lowest level, you multiply the face of the die by four.

Since players are taking turns, there's a good chance that someone will knock your high-scoring die off the board. So the game can get quite competitive. There's a lot of opportunity to develop skill. But there's enough chance (despite my desire to maintain the illusion, I don't think it's really possible to determine what face of the die will show up at the end of a roll) to keep things interesting, even for the poor-of-aim.

The turns are very short, and a whole round can take only a few minutes. So everyone stays involved even when there are four players. And as soon as one round is over, and all the points are scored, people are ready and eager to play again. It's a perfect family game. For children who are still learning to add and multiply, it even has some educational value - not enough to spoil the fun, just enough to make their parents willing to let them play, too. If the multiplication is too hard, instead of multiplying you can just add extra points for dice that reach the scoring levels. Because of the skill required, and the competitiveness, adults can get intensely engaged. Because of the luck factor, anyone who can flick/slide/roll a die has a reasonable chance of winning. And, if you have some perverse need to make it even more challenging, you can try removing some or all of the pegs on the bottom two levels. I tried. I put them back.

Tumbln' dice is a big game. Some assembly is required. But it's easy and takes maybe 90 seconds the first time. And just as easily disassembled and snuggled back into its box, in maybe 45. Of course, somebody who hasn't played it yet will probably come over shortly after you've finally put it away, and you'll find yourself gleefully putting it back together again.

Tumblin' Dice is an investment in long-lasting, generation-spanning fun. The payoff is Major FUN.
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125. Board Game: Consensus Junior [Average Rating:7.27 Unranked]
Major Fun
United States
Indiana
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Consensus Junior is the third and newest addition to the award-winning Consensus collection. As the name implies, this one's for the kids.

The game follows the same, award-winning design as the other two versions. There's a large, colorful board, a deck of 200 noun cards, a deck of 75 adjective cards, a deck of voting cards (8 sets of cards, each with a unique border color, numbering 1-10) and a collection of 8 colored pawns, one for each of the sets of voting cards. The board has numbered spaces for 10 noun cards, a space for the adjective card, and a scoring track. The noun cards are drawn and placed face-up, one in each of the numbered spaces on the board. An adjective card is turned over. Players select the one noun they think most closely fits the adjective, place their vote face down on the table, and then take turns revealing their selection. The answer receiving the greatest number of votes is deemed the winning answer and the players who chose the winning answer move ahead one space. In a case where there is no clear majority, no one scores. Hence the name, Consensus.

The key to the difference between the Junior Edition and the other editions of Consensus is the content of the noun and adjective cards. Given, for example, the following randomly selected noun cards:

* Bee Hive
* Bed Bug
* My Daddy
* Nemo
* World Peace

Which would you vote for if the adjective were (also a random sample):

* Rare
* Adorable
* Unforgettable

If the adjective were "rare," which do you think is, um, rarest: your daddy, world peace, Nemo? Which the most adorable? Which the most self-evidently unforgettable?

Even as the mature person you most obviously are, you'd still have a somewhat clear and more or less patently obvious choice, regardless of which adjective was chosen. And, with an "opponent" of the unabashed certainty of an eight-year-old, you know there will be strong opinions about everything. This is what makes the Junior Edition so appealing: everyone counts, everyone in the family finds themselves personally invited, everyone has an opinion, everyone feels equally entitled, equally correct, and, with the Junior edition, pretty much equally informed. How many family games can you say that about?
 
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