The Best Puzzle Solvers From Fiction for Children and Younger Readers

In the past, we have assembled super-teams of the best puzzle solvers in horror filmstelevision, and literature, both for adults and for teens. The goal was to highlight characters who stand out, the ones you’d want on your side, because they’re quick-witted, decisive, and immensely capable.

In the latest installment in this delightful series, we turn our attention to books for children and younger readers, seeking out the quickest minds and the deftest problem solvers, many of whom are some of the first puzzlers enthusiastic readers will encounter on the printed page.

So let’s meet (or revisit) some wickedly bright minds from kid-friendly reads.


winstonbreen

Winston Breen (The Puzzling World of Winston Breen series)

One of the savviest puzzlers in fiction, Winston isn’t just a master at solving puzzles. He understands that the best part of a puzzle is sharing it with others, watching as they’re stumped, then work their way through it, just as he did.

Across three novels, Winston pits his puzzly brain against shifty characters, decades-old mysteries, and some immensely clever brain teasers, and always making sure that, along the way, people learn how to tackle any problem in a fair, careful, and puzzly way.

encyclo

Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown and Sally Kimball (Encyclopedia Brown series)

For many younger readers, myself included, Encyclopedia Brown served as the perfect introduction to critical thinking, deduction, and logic puzzles. A gateway drug to Holmes and other methodical inductive detectives, Brown stories showed readers how to examine cause and effect, looking for clues and inconsistencies that could always be assembled like a jigsaw into a picture of the truth.

Plus his friend and bodyguard Sally Kimball was a top-notch puzzler in her own right. Often noticing clues that even escape Brown’s keen gaze, Sally had more than a few solutions to her credit, and nearly stumped the title character herself in her debut.

harrietthespy

Harriet M. Welsch (Harriet the Spy)

Less overtly puzzly than the previous names, Harriet uses her attention to detail and immaculate note-taking to document everything around her. Harriet’s spy notebook does come back to bite her when it’s discovered and used against her, but instead of wilting in the face of such obstacles, Harriet learns to apply her knowledge and skills to outwitting those who would mistreat her.

Yes, Harriet does make some mistakes along the way, but her intentions are good, and few puzzles could withstand the determination and laser-like focus of Harriet the Spy.

three investigators

Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews (The Three Investigators series)

When your motto is “We Investigate Anything,” you better be prepared for everything. Thankfully, that’s the case with Jones, Crenshaw, and Andrews, a team of teenage crime solvers who tackled some of the strangest (and seemingly supernatural mysteries) of any young detective team in literature.

Always outwitting their foes and unraveling problems through reason and logic (along with a fair bit of cleverness), the boys rarely needed more than a phone, a tape recorder, and access to the local library to crack any puzzle, no matter how peculiar. Alfred Hitchcock himself was impressed by the ingenuity and dedication of the Three Investigators, and would later point clients in their direction!

basil

Claudia Kincaid (The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)

A 12-year-old girl who feels unappreciated by her family, Claudia sets off with her brother to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Along the way, she manages to outwit the regular guard patrols in the museum, unravel an old woman’s esoteric filing system, and solve the mystery of a statue at the museum that baffled many.

Claudia is resourceful, strong-willed, and a deft researcher, and the questions she cracks in this book only hint at her full puzzle-solving potential.

Funjungle-1-3-HC

Theodore Roosevelt Fitzroy (Funjungle series)

When one of the biggest zoos in the world is your home, you’re bound to encounter some strangeness. But for Teddy Fitzroy, that’s just a usual day. The son of two Funjungle employees, Teddy is a curious young man who has solved some devious mysteries and crimes during his time at the zoo.

Employing admirable attention to detail, the brashness to challenge authority, and the bravery to put himself in harm’s way in order to help others, Teddy is part puzzler and part adventurer, often protecting innocent animals from danger along the way. His attention to detail is excellent and his ability to gather information is head-and-shoulders above most of the other characters. He’s the best investigator Funjungle could hope for.

The Great Brain collage

Tom Dennis Fitzgerald, Jr. (The Great Brain series)

Hey, what can I say? Not all puzzlers are totally pure of heart. Tom Fitzgerald, aka T.D., aka The Great Brain, is a ten-year-old master of mischief and enterprise, always engaging in clever schemes to line his own pockets, even as he accomplishes good deeds.

He possesses an impressive intellect, solving bank robberies and finding lost children (and rocking horses) with the same aplomb and sly cunning that he employs to stockpiling cash. There’s more than a little Tom Sawyer here, but with a devious puzzly mind capable of thinking several steps ahead to outwit foes (and siblings) alike.

tales of magic

Jane, Katharine, Mark, and Martha (plus their descendants) (Tales of Magic series)

Puzzles, brain teasers, and riddles can be tough enough on their own, but when you start adding magic to mix, then you’re dealing with something else entirely. Fortunately, this quartet of child conundrum-crackers are immensely capable of tackling any challenge tossed their way, be it a coin that causes “half-magic,” an enchanted lake, malfunctioning wishing wells, and time travel.

In each story, the children must puzzle out how the magic works, and then find a clever way to manipulate or outmaneuver the magical effects to save the day. These cagey kids would be a boon to any team of puzzlers.


Did I miss any world-class puzzlers from famous (or obscure) works of children’s lit? Let me know in the comments section below! I’d love to hear from you!

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Kickstarter Roundup!

Oh yes, it’s that time again.

For years now, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been hotbeds of innovative puzzle and game design, and I’m always happy to spread the word about worthy projects that I think will delight and intrigue my fellow PuzzleNationers.

So let’s take a look at some projects that are currently seeking funding and see if any pique your interest! (This time around, we’ve got twice as many recommendations as usual! So much puzzly potential!)


atoz crossword

The first is a project by Fireball Crosswords and Fireball Newsflash Crosswords constructor Peter Gordon, entitled A-to-Z Crosswords Volume 2: More Petite Pangram Puzzles.

The project is easy to explain, but mindblowing to think about. Every single day for 24 WEEKS, you get a 9×11 crossword puzzle that contains all 26 letters. The puzzles range from easy to medium in difficulty, arrive by email, and are constructed by Gordon and professional puzzler Frank Longo.

This is a very cool project that deserves your support — they’re a little more than a third of the way there, with 9 days to go — and you should definitely check it out!

puzzle postcard

The next project is Puzzle Postcards: Season Two by the Enigma Emporium.

Last year, Wish You Were Here was part of our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, and it’s fantastic to see that the Enigma Emporium is Kickstarting another puzzle postcard mystery this year.

Essentially, an entire mystery is concealed within a handful of postcards, challenging you to mine them for every scrap of information as you uncover a series of coded messages. It’s spycraft in an envelope, very clever stuff.

Already funded with 12 days to go — and carrying a solid track record of previous successful Kickstarter projects behind them — I cannot recommend this one highly enough. I loved Wish You Were Here, as well as the follow-up series.

fuzzies

For a change of pace, our next project is The Fuzzies.

Basically, this is a Jenga-style dexterity game, but made out of little fuzzy balls instead of pieces of wood. And instead of choosing which piece you remove and place on top, that is determined by a deck of cards instead.

I don’t know how it works — actually staying upright in the first place — but apparently it does.

This family-friendly game has already tripled its funding goal with 29 days to go, so it might be right up your alley.

enigmas

The next project we’re sharing today is the ENIGMAS deck of puzzle playing cards.

David Kwong — constructor, magician, and all-around puzzly fellow — has masterminded a puzzle mystery and a series of hidden messages and ciphers, all contained within a deck of cards.

ENIGMAS marries some of the ideas from his Enigmatist show — specifically the historical aspects — with an ingenious puzzle hunt to create an intriguing solving situation. Plus, once you’ve cracked all the puzzly elements, you’ve still got a beautiful deck of cards to enjoy.

This project has blasted well past its funding goal, and with 9 days to go, they’ve added a special limited-run deck of red cards (to compliment the standard blue deck) that will only be offered to Kickstarter backers and never sold in stores. With a pedigree like David’s, you can’t go wrong!

sherlock

Our next project is bigger and no less ambitious. It’s Sherlock’s Mysteries: An Interactive Puzzle Adventure (not to be confused with another Sherlock-based Kickstarter running right now).

Combining board game and escape room elements, this project contains 10 mysteries (described as chapters) that combine into one interwoven narrative where you try to save the life of Sherlock Holmes!

By combining murder mystery-style solving with puzzles like ciphers and deduction puzzles, this project definitely tries to encapsulate the experience of being the Great Detective from the comfort of your own home.

About halfway to its goal with 21 days left, this project isn’t a lock (given the price tag of $135 to experience the entire story), but it’s definitely worth a look. (I’m especially intrigued by the fact that certain levels offer “refill kits” that allow the experience to be played more than once!)

shivers

For something just as puzzly but more immersive from a roleplaying point of view, there’s The Shivers.

In this game, someone has gone missing in the house owned by the Shivers family, and you play one of the family members trying to solve the mystery and defeat dangerous foes at work in various sinister and creepy scenarios.

This gameplay is bolstered by pop-up 3-D models of the various rooms of the house, bringing the setting and different stories to life right before your eyes.

This is a very clever combination of puzzle hunt, roleplaying game, and pop-up book that I’ve never really seen before, and like some of these other projects, it has blown past its funding goal with strong support from interested gamers and puzzlers.

legacy

Following the escape room/puzzle mystery at home template, Legacy: Quest for a Family Treasure is our next project to discuss.

You receive a black box in the mail, and inside, you discover in your estranged father’s will that there is a family treasure hidden somewhere in Europe. And you’ll have to unravel secrets of the past in order to secure your future.

This immersive mystery involves audio and video clues, physical evidence to pore over, and even incorporates Internet searching into the gameplay. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the level of depth and attention to detail in this one, and clearly I’m not the only one, as the project has already met and surpassed its funding goal with 10 days to go.

The familial element adds a neat twist to the mystery-at-home genre, and I suspect this project will do very well.

labyrinth

The last project we’ll be sharing today is The Labyrinth: An Immersive Multi-Platform Puzzle Challenge.

There’s a lot of stuff included in this one: puzzle boxes, ciphers, maps, tools. They’re sending you a CRATE full of material here. The goal is to move through the various chambers of a labyrinth, solving puzzles as you go.

With 55 puzzles included — and an expected solve time of 8-10 hours — this is a breathtaking amount of puzzly paraphernalia. So there’s cost to consider here. The full puzzle costs $195 (there’s even a more expensive deluxe edition), so although that easily makes it the priciest project we’re discussing today, but also one of the most visually impressive.

And yet, with 14 days to go, they’ve already passed their funding goal nine times over. Check it out and see what you think of the expansive puzzle selection offered here.


Have any of these games or projects hooked you? Tell us which ones you’re supporting in the comments section below! And if there are any campaigns you’re supporting that we missed, let us know!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Weird Versions of Monopoly, Part 2!

Last week, we ventured on a deep dive into the expansive world of Monopoly. Yes, that most ubiquitous of games that everybody knows. That quintessential board game that comes in many different flavors, but only one texture.

In last week’s post, we strolled up and down the game’s historical timeline, covering curious updates, odd revamps, and truly baffling licensing deals that made for a cavalcade of dice-rolling piece-moving strangeness.

But we restricted ourselves to official releases authorized by either Hasbro or Winning Moves UK. That still leaves a world of unofficial, unauthorized, and third-party variations on Monopoly out there to be covered.

andy mangold monopoly

[Check out this incredibly classy repackaging of Monopoly
by designer and artist Andy Mangold.]

So in part two of this trip down a Marvin Gardens path of peculiarity, we’re casting a wider net and seeing what we catch.

These are the weirdest, least likely, and most envelope-pushing versions of Monopoly I could find. (Oh, and I’m excluding purposely offensive versions, so versions that mention ethnicity or sexuality have been left out of this post.)

Without further ado, let’s enjoy!


anti-monopoly

Anti-Monopoly

Let’s start with perhaps the most famous unofficial version of Monopoly to ever hit shelves. Anti-Monopoly starts where a traditional game ends — with many properties held by a few wealthy entities — and challenges the players to break up the monopolies. Both a smart inversion of the original and an interesting gameplay experience in itself, Anti-Monopoly kicked off an infamous legal battle.

In fact, after two appeals, the inventor was forced to let Parker Brothers buy him out, rather than go bankrupt himself defending his creation. That is the saddest sort of irony.

web-lovers-monopoly

Web Lovers Monopoly

A game that plays like Monopoly but bends some of its classic elements to fit the gimmick, Web Lovers Monopoly replaces properties with websites, including swapping Boardwalk for Yahoo and placing Facebook, Google, and YouTube fairly early on in the board, which makes me wonder when this game was produced.

Also, free parking is now free wireless and jail has been replaced with the real world. Other than mentioning websites and lightly ribbing internet users, I’m not really sure what the point of this game is. If it’s a satire, Monopoly for Millennials had more bite than this.

bibleopoly

BibleOpoly

Using a game representing one of the classic seven deadly sins to teach younger players about the Bible is certainly a curious choice, but hey, we’re not here to judge. (Okay, maybe we are, a little bit.)

In BibleOpoly (a name that does NOT flow off the tongue), players travel through Biblical cities in order to earn the bricks and steeple necessary to build a church. Instead of selfish or greed-fueled acts, you succeed by helping fellow players, making offerings, and doing Community Service (their version of Community Chest), which is nice.

But the less said about The Abyss being listed as a place alongside spots like Nazareth and Bethlehem, the better. Yikes.

photo-opoly

Photo-opoly

Yup, it’s a DIY Monopoly board where you select 22 photos to incorporate into the game. This is actually a cool idea — once you get past the whole “Here, I bought you this, now YOU make it” aspect of the game.

Of course, it makes one wonder about the consequences of making a family version of this game, then having another child, and then that child discovering they’re not included in the family Monopoly game. Or who gets the game in the divorce.

Let’s move on, shall we?

medical monopoly

Medical Monopoly

Yup. The for-profit medical industry in Monopoly form. The first player (er, doctor) to fill their hospital with patients wins.

I feel gross just writing about this game. And that was before I read the instructions:

The object of the game is to introduce and inform young people to the cause and treatment of common physical problems that have a solution known as First Aid. Office Visits to a doctor are also explained for both common and serious problems, giving a better understanding to the patient.

Yeah, they try to pass off this soulless cash-grabbery as a learning experience. ICK.

communist-monopoly

Queue

Now let’s look at a strange version of Monopoly that actually is educational. Queue, the creation of Karol Madj, is set in communist Poland and designed to educate folks on daily life at the time.

Yes, it’s Communist Monopoly. Which is interesting, since Fidel Castro ordered the nationwide destruction of Monopoly games upon taking power in Cuba.

Anyway, the goal of Queue is to line up in an orderly fashion to buy goods and services, including bread. It’s a sobering take on the traditionally cash-flashy game, and one that really immerses you in a different cultural experience.

And like many educational games, it is boring as all get out.

onopo

Onopo

Let’s close out today’s post with a visually fascinating variation of the famous game.

This is Onopo, the minimalist’s approach to Monopoly. An art project by creator Matthew Hollet, Onopo was designed to boil Monopoly down to basics in a visual sense, stripping away the traditional design elements but leaving behind a playable result.

onopo-4-460x460

There’s no geography and virtually no text in the game, but even a cursory glance at the gameboard and the cards reveal just how effective the minimalist approach can be. After a few seconds of confusion, you figure it all out.

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Although Onopo was never commercially released, it’s worth including both for its ambitious design and the statement it makes about branding. In a game that increasingly remains relevant by draping itself in other popular trappings and logos, it becomes less interesting than this bare-bones version of itself.


We hope you enjoyed this two-week trip down the many avenues (and occasional places) that Monopoly has traveled.

Is there a strange or noteworthy version of the game that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Weird Versions of Monopoly!

When it comes to board games, there’s no game more ubiquitous than Monopoly. Everyone has played it, every household has a copy somewhere, and whether you enjoy the game or not, you still have a favorite game piece.

Not only has Monopoly conquered game shelves around the world, but there are so many specialty versions of the game that you’re guaranteed to find one just for you. From The Golden Girls and Star Wars to Hello Kitty and Littlest Pet Shop, from cat lovers and horse lovers to Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, there are an insane number of Monopoly variants on the market.

sunmaid

And some of these Monopoly games are just plain weird. (Heinz, Sun-Maid, and Best Buy all have their own versions!)

So today, we thought we’d take you for a stroll down Memory Lane (which was renamed Mediterranean Avenue in the 1950s) to revisit the board game everyone knows, but in forms you might not have seen before.

These are the weirdest, least likely, and most baffling versions of Monopoly I could find. (Oh, and if you’re looking for Cheaters Edition, we’ve already covered that one.)

Enjoy!


First, let’s look at the different ways they’ve tried to update Monopoly over the years.

monopoly electronic banking

Electronic Banking Monopoly

One of the bright spots of playing Monopoly is the colorful money. Whether you’re the banker or one of the players, you can’t resist rifling through stacks of fake cash.

So when Monopoly announced that they’d be updating the game with a calculator, credit cards, and even electronic banking, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why?” No amount of tech, no matter how cool, can duplicate dropping a $500 dollar bill.

monopoly-ultimate

Ultimate Banking Monopoly

Again, this version has cashless gameplay, as well as property values that rise and fall as you play. Although the property value gimmick is an interesting change, losing the money seems to suck a lot of the fun from the experience.

monopoly-revolution

Monopoly Revolution

No, you’re not overthrowing the elites and eating the rich in this version of the famous game. Instead, they just made the classic board round. (Oh, and also added an electronic aspect to track players’ money and add sound effects.)

Several of the branded versions of Monopoly have also used the circular board, many claiming that it helps make the game more compact and portable.

millionaire-monopoly

Monopoly Millionaire

In this greed-fueled version of the game, the first player to reach a million dollars wins. This does strip down the game — eliminating railroads, utilities, and tax spaces — as well as limiting the number of players to 4, but they make up for it by adding upgradable tokens and twists through Fortune Cards and Millionaire Lifestyle spots (instead of Chance and Community Chest).

This boils Monopoly down to its roots, and you feel slightly dirtier just by playing it.

monopoly empire

Monopoly Empire

Similar to Monopoly Millionaire, this isn’t a race to acquire property and muscle out your competitors, it’s a race to fill your tower with billboards representing different companies. And you can up the rent you charge as your tower grows.

Spaces are brands, tokens are brands, brands brands brands.

On the plus side, you can’t go bankrupt in this game. I guess you’re too big to fail.

gold monopoly

Monopoly Luxury Edition

Of course, there are blinged-out versions of Monopoly that are larger, more ornate, and designed more as discussion pieces than games to be played.

But nothing quite compares to this $10,000 edition of the game with 18-karat-gold dice, diamond ornamentation, and actual money. (Oh, except for the FAO Schwarz version with actual currency that costs $100,000. It’s insane.)

monopoly live

That is, except for Monopoly Live, which features an electronic talking tower with motion sensors.

Yeah, the infrared tower runs the game. No dice, no cards, no money. Everything is managed with the tower and a few interactive game pieces on the board.

Have you ever wanted to play board games with Big Brother? Now you can!


Now let’s look at some of the intriguing licenses and branding the game has embraced over the decades.

monopoly tut

Monopoly: Tutankhamun and The Golden Age of the Pharaohs

Go big or go home. Based on the King Tut exhibit that toured the world in the mid-2000s, this game has you building shrines and pyramids instead of houses and hotels, along with gold versions of the classic game pieces. (Bummer, I wanted to be a scarab or the unblinking red eye of Ra!)

Honestly, this is weird, but pretty cool.

monopoly-millennial

Monopoly for Millennials

The most “OK Boomer” of the editions of Monopoly I could find, this one can’t seem to decide if it’s celebrating millennials or mocking them.

On one hand, you’re buying experiences instead of properties: retreats, music festivals, etc. On the other hand, the game box itself says, “Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway,” while the game has spaces like “Parents’ Basement” for you to land on.

Hasbro_MonopolyHouseDivided-1-1024x576

Monopoly: House Divided edition

Hey, does regular Monopoly not provoke enough ill will or table-flipping in your household? Why not try a version where each player is a candidate trying to earn votes in different states?

Yeah, in this one, your token indicates party loyalty — red or blue, how lovely — and features everything from fundraising, Executive Power spaces, and a White House token.

monopoly pizza

Monopoly Pizza Game

Pizza and board games have been tag team partners for mellow game nights forever, but this is something else entirely. In Monopoly Pizza edition, you’re trying to collect as many pizza slices as you can.

This is actually a pretty cute idea — and friendlier to kids than the soul-crushing real estate version we all know — but it’s hard not to be jarred by the pizza box packaging and menu-style gameboard.

It makes me hungry instead of angry. I guess that’s a win.

monopoly angry birds

Angry Birds Monopoly

Oh, and speaking of anger, check out this fusion of board games and app games.

In this strange mix of property acquisition and dexterity, you get to pick up characters AND fire tiny figures at cardboard pigs across four different worlds (versions) of Angry Birds.

It’s a very busy game board — Mousetrap-level busyness, to be honest — but makes a valiant attempt to bring both games together.

com-edition-featured-1

.Com Monopoly

Would you like to play a business-inspired game while reminiscing about the delightful highs and lows of the dotcom bubble bursting? This version has got you covered, replacing houses and hotels with households and offices.

With properties like Lycos and Yahoo! on the board — as well as “timely” tokens like a surfboard, a pixelated hand-style cursor, and a virus — this is a nostalgic trip back to the days when modems screeched at you to indicate a successful connection and your dad could ruin a four-hour song download by picking up the phone to call your grandma.

Monopoly-Unicorns-Vs.-Llamas-Board-Game

Monopoly: Unicorns vs. Llamas

If you’re looking for a kid-friendly version of House Divided, there’s always this sugary-sweet version of the game. In this version, players are members of either Team Unicorn or Team Llama, and they’re trying to buy up spaces for their particular animal. But instead of properties, you’re buying yearbook-style awards for your creature like “most huggable.”

Rainbow-splashed and glitter-bombed to the extreme, this game is very weird — was I supposed to know llamas and unicorns have some sort of rivalry? — but also very cute.


And here we go. The weirdest official version of Monopoly I could find.

Are you ready?

Let’s do this.

bass fishing

Monopoly: Bass Fishing edition

Bass Fishing Monopoly.

The outdoorsy version of Monopoly — in that you just sit around until it’s your turn to do something — bass fishing was clearly begging for its own dedicated version of Monopoly. You can stop rubbing that lamp, your wish has been granted.

Yeah, you land on equipment, boats, and places to fish, as well as random spaces for large AND small-mouthed bass.

But that’s not all.

Seriously. It’s not all. If you want to really splash out, there’s an even more specialized version out there dedicated to bass-fishing lakes. All the properties are lakes, though there are still random fish spaces.


Let’s end with a nice one, shall we?

monopoly-glass

Monopoly: Glass edition

Designed with a tempered glass board and translucent game pieces, this game is absolutely beautiful. It feels crisp and clean and delicate. It’s a conversation piece, basically, but one you can play.

It’ll set you back about $80 on Amazon, and it doesn’t inspire the same adrenaline rush as Bass Fishing Monopoly, but it sure is pretty to look at.


There you go, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. I hope you enjoyed this trip to various Boardwalks, Park Places, and community chests.

Keep in mind, these are just the weird ones actually licensed by Monopoly. Next week, I’ll be covering the weirdest ones made by outside parties!


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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

A Puzzly Guinness World Record You Can Help Break!

guinness20205

[Image courtesy of Amazon.]

How would you like the opportunity to be part of a new Guinness World Record?

Well, this Thursday, you can take part in a world record attempt with the team from Rubik’s, and you don’t even have to leave home to do so!

rubik

[Click here for more details and to sign up for a giveaway!]

Yes, at 3 PM Eastern, 12 Pacific, Rubik’s will host a solving lesson on YouTube and they’re looking to draw the largest audience of Rubik’s Cube fans in history to learn the tricks of the trade and earn a world record along the way.

Of course, there’s probably no other puzzle or puzzly product that has as many Guinness World Records associated with it.

We’ve chronicled many of these in the past, covering everything from fastest solves to strangest solving conditions. We’ve seen various sized Cubes solved in seconds, blindfolded solves, and one-handed solves.

We’ve seem them solved upside-down, while juggling, while on a pogo stick, while underwater, while running a marathon, while on a bike, and even while skydiving.

There are records for the largest number solved while riding a unicycle and for the most people simultaneously solving them (over 3000!), and now, Rubik is inviting fans to participate in another puzzly adventure.

What a cool way to bring people together in a time where social distancing, Coronavirus concerns, social unrest, and more might be making people feel isolated.

And hey, if it succeeds, “Guinness World Record Holder” will look pretty good on your resume!

Will you be participating, fellow puzzlers? Or have you already mastered the Rubik’s Cube? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Chicken War

chicken war header

[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

The farm is no longer the quiet, idyllic escape you pictured when learning the sounds barnyard animals make. Instead, it has fallen to factional fury and un-cooped combat between various groups of chickens vying for victory. Such is the setting for ThinkFun‘s latest brain-training game, the colorful and crafty tile game Chicken War.

chickenwar1

There are two ways to win Chicken War. You can either be the last player standing or the first player to complete their army. To be the last player standing, your opponents’ leaders must be identified. To be the first player to complete your army, you have to have nine other chickens with two traits in common with your leader.

As you can see, Chicken War’s hybrid style of play combines the player observation of a game like Throw Throw Burrito or Scrimish with the deductive reasoning of a game like Clue.

chickenwar2

Each player is trying to recruit chickens for their army, and must do so in full view of the other players. This means that you have to strategize not only your recruitment process, but how to do so without revealing too much to your opponents. Plus you have to do all that while keeping an eye on your opponents’ efforts to recruit!

First, you select your leader from the ten starting chickens in your yard. Optimally, you’ll pick a leader where many of the other starting chickens already share two traits, which gives you a leg up in building your army.

chickenwar3

You’ll hide your leader token under that particular chicken to mark it, using your screen to do so away from the prying eyes of other players.

Remember, that’s two traits and only two traits in common.

chicken war trait

The four possible traits, as shown above, are weapon, shirt color, eyewear, and footwear. Each trait has three variations. For instance, shirt color can be blue, red, or green. Eyewear can be sunglasses, mask, or none.

(Keep those four traits in mind. Body type, pose, and style of tail are all irrelevant, but can be distracting.)

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As you can see here, the top two chickens have two traits in common: shirt color and eyewear. (Footwear and weapon differ.) The two bottom chickens have three traits in common: shirt color, eyewear, and footwear. Therefore, if 05 and 06 are leaders, 05 has a recruit, but 06 does not.

How do you recruit chickens? By drawing from the discard pile. You either keep the new chicken and discard one of the chickens from your yard, or you immediately discard the new chicken.

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The only other ways to recruit chickens are to use the two special tiles: steal and infiltrate.

Steal lets you take a chicken from another player’s yard and discard one of your unwanted chickens into the discard pile. This not only gives you a new chicken, but leaves your opponent one chicken short. This can be a strategic advantage, because any player with fewer than 10 chickens can’t lob an egg and cannot win the game, even if their remaining chickens all match the leader.

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Infiltrate allows you to swap one of your chickens with one of your opponents’ chickens. That player must then tell you one trait your chicken (the one placed in their yard) has with their leader. If there are no traits in common with the leader, they must tell you that instead. And if you accidentally trade for their leader, they must pick a new leader and start over. So in any case, you gain a new chicken and important knowledge about your opponent’s game.

If multiple players gang up on a single player, the Infiltrate card can prove very dangerous, eventually outing the player’s leader and making them easy pickings for an egg and elimination from the game. (This tactic is more likely to catch new players, as more experienced players would endeavor to repeat the same revealed trait over and over, whenever possible.)

So each turn, you must either draw a chicken from the discard pile or lob an egg.

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Lobbing one of your three eggs means you place your egg on a chicken in another player’s yard that you suspect is their leader. If you’re correct, that player is out.

But if you’re wrong, you lose an egg and have to discard two chickens from your yard, leaving yourself two chickens short of victory. (Also, as we stated before, you can’t win the game or lob an egg with fewer than 10 chickens in your yard.)

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The two methods of winning can often lead to two different styles of gameplay. Either a player focuses on their recruitment, hoping to be the first to complete their army, or they focus on eliminating another player by sussing out who their leader chicken is.

This adds a lot of variety to the game, particularly when it comes to repeat playthroughs. Figuring out your opponents’ tactics can inform your own, and yet, you don’t want to tip your hand.

Once I had one or two playthroughs behind me, I really started getting invested in the gameplay and trying to get into my opponents’ heads. (Also, there’s something delightfully demented about these chickens all being armed with “weapons” we would use to make breakfast from their eggs. That’s a nice touch.)

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Although it makes for a tense, enjoyable one-on-one game, the full potential of Chicken War comes alive with all four players involved. It forces to split your attention, retain a lot of information, and constantly adapt your strategy to an ever-shifting landscape.

As you can see, there’s a surprising amount of thought, strategy, and complexity behind this so-called guessing game, and it makes Chicken War a terrific gateway game to other board games in the same style, but with more complex rulesets or player choices. War is hell, but Chicken War is healthy brain-fueled fun.

[Chicken War is available from ThinkFun and other retail outlets.]


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