Tag Archives: simply fun

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. http://www.ravensburger.com

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. http://www.simplyfun.com

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. http://www.ravensburger.com

Educational Board Games Kids Will Want to Play

As parents, we’re supposed to always be on the lookout for “teachable moments”—those golden opportunities to ruin nearly any fun activity by clumsily inserting some educational content. Kids can smell teachable moments a mile away and their eyes start to roll long before the words ever leave our mouth. But some games find the golden ratio, that perfect balance between fun and educational. Here are five games that parents and kids will love to play—and learn—together.

Space It! 
space it from simply funThis is a simple, yet very clever numbers game. Players create sequences of numbered tiles that follow a pattern that they make up. For example if the sequence is 2-7-12, the next player would have to play 17 (adding five) or create a completely new sequence utilizing at least one of the numbers that’s already there. For example, a 5 above the 7 and a 9 below. Although the rules say to create sequences only by adding, you can can add a degree of difficulty by allowing for multiplication, subtraction, or division. Ages 8 and up. simplyfun.com

Let’s Drive
lett's drive, from simply funAnother low-stress-yet-entertaining game for the whole family. Players collect points as they “travel” through the United States and Canada. It’s a great way for the kids to learn state capitals, scenic locations, and trivia about every state. It’s also a good way for moms and dads to brush up on geography—I have to admit that as a west-coaster, the east coast has always been something of a blur. Ages 8 and up. simplyfun.com

blunders, from blundersmaniaWho would have guessed that learning manners could actually be fun—fun enough that a 9-year old would pull the game out from a shelf of a dozen of her favorites and ask to play it? True story. Players move through the board by rolling dice and answering questions from several categories: Dining, Home, Play. Questions can be fill-in-the-blank (“What’s the right thing to do if you’re sitting on a crowded bus and an elderly lady gets on?”), multiple choice, or true/false (“Billy love to zoom around the street and across everyone’s lawn on their bikes. This is okay to do because they are having fun”). Or, they may have to do things like create a proper place setting (honestly, does anyone really know where the dessert fork goes?) Ages 5-10. blundersmania.com

Eat to Win
eat to win board gameDesigned by a concerned mom whose child struggled with weight issues, Eat to Win tests players’ knowledge of nutrition and exercise in a fun, engaging way. Players answer multiple choice (“How many calories do you burn jumping rope for 30 minutes?), or true/false questions (“You should eat Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt”). Plus, there’s a physical activity component, things like “Hop on one foot across the room and back” or “Everyone get up and run around the room and flapping your arms like a duck.” Players earn money for reaching certain milestones (or if they don’t want to hop, they can pay a laziness penalty). Ages 6 and up. Eattowingame.com

jishakuJishaku (the Japanese word for magnet), is a neat combination of strategy game and science lesson. Played with a set of different-sized magnetic stones of varying strengths on a surface that looks like a foam egg carton, it matters not only where you place each stone, but also howyou place it. A fascinating way to spend some quality time exploring the laws of magnetism with boys or girls 8 and up. playjishaku.com