PN Product Review: Gemji

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There’s an ongoing quest for the perfect all-in-one game/puzzle kit.

Over the years, we’ve seen games and puzzles come and go that attempt to build an all-in-one play set that allows for new variations and still remains portable. The Dark Imp has their 6-in-1 Christmas cracker set, for instance. Knot Dice offers numerous games and puzzles to accompany their beautiful dice. Looney Labs has their Looney Pyramids, complete with an ever-growing online archive of new games developed by fans.

Those games are all terrific, but so far, the simplest remains a deck of cards. You can play an endless number of games with it, and it fits in your pocket.

But people keep trying, and some of those projects are worth checking out.

So when I stumbled across Gemji on Kickstarter, I was definitely intrigued.

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It’s a magnetic tile set that promised all sorts of building and play options, and it really seemed to allow for much more than any magnetic set I’d seen before.

I finally received my Gemji set in the mail a while back, and I’ve been playing with it on and off for the last few weeks, testing out all sorts of ways to play with it.

And today, I’m going to share my thoughts with you and let you make up your own minds.

gemji car

The base Gemji collection includes 70 magnetic tiles (black on one side, white on the other), a folding base to build on, and two manuals.

It’s a building toy, a plaything, a puzzle set, and a game kit all in one. You can play magnetic versions of chess, Stratego, Battleship, Othello/Go, and many others. You can play tangram-style shape-making games (in 2-D and 3-D). You can make dice and play dice games. Dexterity games, stacking games, building games, strategy games… there are all sorts of options.

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In addition to the numerous games and activities suggested in the two accompanying booklets — Play and Build, respectively — it’s infinitely adaptable, so you can’t help but start making your own games and puzzles out of it.

For instance, one of our first ideas was to build a small platform and play a Catch the Moon-style balance game with it.

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We built a die to roll that would determine if you had to add one tile or two to the sculpture in the center of the platform.

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And when the sculpture inevitably collapsed, it simply clicked and clacked together on the platform, rather than crashing to the floor in a cacophony like Jenga would.

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That’s a big plus.

Play can be as elegant or as silly as you like. For one game, we made “dice” again, and laid out a field of tiles randomly across the table. Then we tossed our dice one at a time and saw how many tiles we could pick up Katamari Damacy-style. Naturally, the game became more complex — adding obstacles to avoid, adding or losing points depending on tiles picked up, lost, or recovered — and we’d quickly lost half an hour of lunchtime.

gemji dog

All in all, I think Gemji has built a solid foundation for puzzle gaming. It will be a treat to see how other players develop new games and innovative ways to use the tiles in puzzly ways.

[Gemji is not yet commercially available, but they’re hoping to be on sale in time for the holiday season. Check out their website for further details.]


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