Tag Archives: parent

Beyond the Game of Kings

Chess has been around for hundreds of years, and it’s always been associated with intelligence, strategy, and memory. But over the past decade—partly due to the increase in video and smartphone games—the Game of Kings, has lost some of its allure and its audience. This week we take a look at two great chess-like games that are fun, engaging, and at least as intellectually stimulating and challenging as chess.

arimaa gameFrom a distance, Armiaa looks like chess: There are two sides, each with 16 pieces, and it’s played on an 8×8 board. But the similarity ends there. The most powerful piece is the elephant and the weakest are the rabbits. All the pieces move the same way: one space left, right, or forward. And all but the rabbits can move one space backwards.

arimaa2The company’s tag line is “Intuitively simple… intellectually challenging” and they’re right. Unlike chess, where there’s only one way to set up the board, in Armaa, players set up their pieces any way they’d like (as long as they’re all in two “home rows”). The game’s inventor estimates that there are as many as 64 million ways to start the game, as opposed to only 20 in chess. And unlike chess, where weaker pieces protect the stronger ones, here, the strong protect the weak and the goal is to get one of your rabbits all the way across the board. Each turn, players can move up to four spaces—all by one piece or divided among several. You can use your turn to advance or protect your own pieces or to push or pull your opponent’s to less favorable spaces—or to one of the four trap spaces that remove pieces from the board. Sounds a little complicated, but the rules are easy enough for kids as young as five or six to learn.

Once the game is underway, there are an average of 17,000 possible moves at any given time (vs. about 30 in chess), Armiaa stimulates logical and strategic thinking, improves focus and problem-solving skills, stimulates creativity, and may even help with math. But more than that, it’s a delightful way for a parent and child to spend time together. $30.00 http://arimaa.com

Commander-in-Chief (X-Plus Products)
commander-in-chief 1While the goal of this game is similar to chess—capture your opponent’s leader—Commander-in-Chief turns the traditional 8×8 chess board on its head. Well, actually, on its side: the game is played with the board in a diamond shape. The 15 spaces in the corner facing each player are brown and represent land, and there’s a wide blue ocean between the two warring forces. The board is set up in a specific way and the 15 solid, nicely crafted pieces—which include tanks, submarines, helicopters, destroyers, fighter jets, bombers, and amphibian assault vehicles—can move through the air, on land, by sea, or in some cases, a combination.

commander-in-chief2Each piece has unique directional movements and restrictions, and keeping track of them can be tough. But every time you play (and you’re going to want to play this game over and over), you’ll get closer to mastering them—just like in chess. Until then, the game comes with two one-page reference guides—one for each side.

Commander-in-Chief isn’t quite as involved as chess, but it definitely requires logic, strategic thinking, planning, and logic. A great game for beginners and experts alike, it takes only about 30 minutes to play. And one especially nice feature that separates it from other similar games is that it can be played by 2 or 4 players. $34.00. http://www.commander-in-chief.com/the-game.html

Here’s Looking at (and Listening to) You, Baby

Long gone are the days when mom and dad had to lie sleepless wondering whether they heard a cry or whimper from baby’s room down the hall. Today’s parents have a variety of technology to keep an eye—and an ear on baby from the next room or even from the office across town. For this column, we reviewed several Internet-enabled monitors, most of which work on private WIFI networks so there’s no fear of broadcasting your lives around the neighborhood to parents with similar devices. None of these monitors are cheap, but you’ll be able to get your money’s worth by using them as security monitors or nannycams after your baby gets older.


Peek Plus Internet Baby Monitor System

peek plus monitor parents@play

The Peek Plus has all the features you want. You can carry the included video monitor on your belt and watch it all over the. Or you can access video on your phone or Internet while Grandpa and Grandma (up to three viewers) see the same thing on a password-protected network. The only drawback here is the required bridge unit (included) that connects to your Ethernet network to make the WiFi work. This means another set of wires to deal with, though the bridge unit can be kept away from the camera. http://www.summerinfant.com


Withings Smart Baby Monitor

withings monitor parents@playA screenless monitor with a simple, clean design. The monitor itself looks like a white jewelry box that unfolds to reveal a simple 3MP lens. On the back, you’ll find just two plugs, Ethernet and mini-USB for recharging the battery. This is one of the few monitors that includes a bracket to attach the monitor on the side of a crib. It also plays lullabies and has a night light, two features that can both be controlled using the app from anywhere in the world. You can even take photos with the monitor with a 4X zoom and 90 degree pan that works with just a pinch or swipe of the finger. http://withings.com/en/babymonitor


Samsung SNH 1010 Smart Cam Monitor

samsung monitor parents@playThis is the monitor of choice for the social media-connected. It will send a tweet or email when there’s movement or sound from the baby’s room. It will also post motion- or sound-activated video and stills directly to YouTube and Picasa so you can quickly share with friends and the world. It runs on AC power and connects to the Internet via Ethernet or wirelessly. Up to 10 users can access the camera at the same time and an unlimited number of cameras can be added to the network. The SmartCam has night vision and even includes small speakers for two-way talk. http://www.samsung.com/us


IZON 2.0 WIFI Video Monitor

izon parents@playWe love the sleek look of the IZON, which has the look and feel of an Apple product and sets it apart from the rest of the crowd. This is a monitor for design lovers. It was easy to set up using a simple QR code that collects information on your local network. It was simple to use on our iPad and iPhone, and allows you to add multiple IZON cameras and view them at the same time. The IZON has motion and sound alerts, and can record up to 100 events for free to a designated cloud storage area. Sound and video are crisp, though not HD. However—and this is a big however—we can recommend the IZON only if your baby’s room always has a light on, since the monitor has neither LED nor infrared technology. http://steminnovation.com/