Now for Something Completely Different

It’s not easy being in the toy and game business. The pressure to continually come up with new ideas—and then transform them into unique, entertaining, fun products that people will actually want to play with—is huge. This week we had a chance to review a number of board games that were clever, innovative, and great fun for the whole family.

Make ‘n’ Break Party (Ravensburger)
make n break partyThis new release adds a new twist to the original Make ‘n’ Break game. The concept is pretty simple: pick a card with a picture of a structure, then build that structure using small blocks before the timer goes off. But here’s the twist. Instead of just building what’s on the card, one player has to describe the structure to a teammate who can’t see the picture. And that’s just the basic game mode. In addition to the picture, each card has several related words which come into play in more advanced modes. In mode two, one player still describes the structure, but can’t use any of the words on the card. For example, if the words are balance and triangle, he or she can’t say either one in any form—something that makes describing what’s on the card harder and the laughter louder. In the toughest mode, the player who’s doing the building is blindfolded. For a maximum of 9 players. The box says ages 10 and up, but younger kids will have a blast too. 3-9 players. $22.00.

Front Runner (SimplyFun)
front runner math gameThere are a lot of great math games out there, but we found this one to be especially challenging—in a good way. The setting is a horse race, and each player is a jockey. The horse pawns are numbered 2-7 and are actually the answers to the equations printed on Equation Cards. But instead of solving simple addition or subtraction problems, players are solving for factors, which are the numbers that divide evenly into larger numbers without a remainder (for example, the factors of 10 are 1, 2, 5,and 10). Unlike a lot of other math-based games, Front Runner involves strategy. The only way a horse can move forward is if its number is a factor. Here’s how it works. A problem printed on the card (each card has three problems, one easy, one hard, one even harder) reads X+Y-Z=?. Using three dice, the player rolls 5, 3, and 2. 5+3-2 is 6. Since the factors of 6 are 1, 2, 3, and 6, those horses move forward. But if the player arranges the dice 5+2-3, the answer is 4, whose factors are 2 and 4, so only those horses would move, leaving the others behind. Players try to create equations whose factors advance their horse—but no one else’s. It’s a little complicated in the beginning, but well worth the effort. 2-6 players. Ages 8 and up.

Bugs in the Kitchen (Ravensburger)
bugs in the kitchenAt the start of the game, the board is made up of spoons, knives, and forks that are arranged so they trap a battery-operated HEXBUG that’s trying to escape. Players take turn rolling a die that shows one of the utensils, which they can turn, creating paths that the bouncing bug will follow. Players strategically turn the utensils so they lure the bug into their trap. Bugs in the Kitchen is fast paced, raucous, and can be played in less than 10 minutes by 2-4 exterminators. Ages 6 and up. $44.99.

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