Tabletop Day 2017: PuzzleNation Style!

Saturday, April 29, is the fifth annual International Tabletop Day! Whether you play board games, role-playing games, card games, dice games, puzzles, or logic games, this is the holiday for you, family, and friends to come together and play games

Although the actual holiday is tomorrow — making today Tabletop Day Eve — we celebrated early! The PuzzleNation Crew got together with our friends from Penny Dell Puzzles for a few hours of Tabletop Day fun on Tuesday! Games were played, snacks were consumed, and fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers were introduced to some terrific games.

[The spread of games available for the event. Can you name them all?]

As usual, the event started with people picking out their favorites and introducing new players to the game. Tsuro, a path-laying tile game where each player maneuvers a flying dragon across the board, was immediately snatched up by our first group of players.

While one table was occupied with Tsuro, I introduced several players to the quick-play pattern-matching card game Loonacy, which always lives up to its name. The fast-paced play and constantly changing images to match make for a fun intro game or a palate cleanser between longer-play games.

More hands of Loonacy followed as the Tsuro players moved on to the runaway Kickstarter sensation Exploding Kittens. The players bravely tried to avert and avoid the catastrophes induced by various adorable, oblivious. combustible cats.

But, as you can see from the photo above, everything game-related immediately came to a halt when Tabletop Day Cake arrived!

Shout-out to fellow puzzler Jen Cunningham for delivering a delicious dice-shaped treat fit for experienced tabletoppers and board game newbies alike!

After a much-appreciated cake break, we switched to dice games as several players filled their hands with colorful cubes and played Tenzi.

There’s something very enjoyable about hearing players shaking big handfuls of dice and preparing to roll them all at once. It’s like a drumroll. Great stuff.

As some players returned to work, others filtered in, and we opted to close out our Tabletop Day celebration with a bit of Apples to Apples.

It was a silly, mellow way to wrap up a terrific session of gaming. Another marvelous Tabletop Day success!

[Naturally, people waited with baited breath to see who won our raffle AND this terrific Bananagrams tote bag full of games and goodies!]

So, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, how are you celebrating International Tabletop Day tomorrow? Let us know in the comment section! We’d love to hear from you! And remember to check out Tuesday’s post for ideas on how to participate in a Tabletop Day event near you!


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Lunar Landing

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

ThinkFun has emerged as the premiere vendor of logic puzzles for solvers of all ages. Whether they’re challenging you with marbles, lasers, or electronic circuits, their complete-the-path games offer lots of puzzly fun.

Their latest offering, Lunar Landing, seems at first to fall into the same pattern, but as you learn the rules and begin tackling the challenge cards included, you quickly realize there’s more than meets the eye at play.

In Lunar Landing, your goal is to pilot the red shuttle to an emergency entry port in the center of the landing grid. Sounds easy enough, right? But the twist is how you get there.

Scattered across the landing field are helper bots which help your shuttle move around the landing field. The shuttle can only move toward one of the helper bots in the same row or column. The shuttle must move from helper bot to helper bot until it reaches the emergency entry port.

Because Lunar Landing is set in space, the shuttle can’t just stop wherever it chooses. Once the shuttle is set on a path toward a helper bot, it continues along that path until it reaches that bot. This means you can pass right over the emergency entry port unless there’s a helper bot in the correct position to stop the shuttle on that red square.

This movement mechanism is the engine behind each of the 40 challenge cards in the deck. Progressing in increasing difficulty from beginner to intermediate to advanced to expert, the challenge cards provide you with the starting layouts for each landing grid. You place the shuttle and helper bots as instructed, and then try to puzzle out how to complete the task at hand.

The early scenarios are all about moving the shuttle from place to place. In later challenges, you’ll have to move the helper bots as well, positioning them to form a path that’ll bounce your shuttle to the center of the grid.

The helper bots move in the same way as the shuttle — toward another helper bot along a row or column — and as the scenarios evolve, you’ll rely on moving the helper bots more and more.

It’s a bit like a sliding-tile puzzle, since you can only move the shuttle along certain paths, as determined by the locations of the helper bots. Many of the challenge cards can only be conquered by setting up a chain reaction, which gives Lunar Landing the feeling of a one-person chess game: You’re trying to see several moves ahead, looking for the perfect sequence of moves that will let you achieve victory.

Taking a simple scientific concept — objects in motion tend to stay in motion — and building a logic game around it is very clever, and it makes for a solving experience that feels new and challenging. Since each piece can potentially move, depending on the challenge card layout, there are more variables at play here than in previous ThinkFun logic puzzles.

The helper bots are modeled on classic robot designs from the 1940s and 1950s, and that adds to the game’s charm, as if the vivid Technicolor visions that predated the Space Race have finally been realized.

The landing grid doubles as storage for the challenge cards and game pieces, making for an easily transported puzzle game that can be enjoyed anywhere at the drop of a hat.

Lunar Landing continues the fine tradition of ThinkFun puzzle games, keeping even experienced puzzlers on their toes with inventive gameplay and outside-the-box thinking. What a treat.

Lunar Landing is available from ThinkFun through Amazon and other online retailers. Click here to check out other ThinkFun product reviews!


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International Tabletop Day is almost here!

Saturday, April 29 is International Tabletop Day, a day that has been set aside for family and friends to get together and play games. Board games, card games, role-playing games, puzzles… anything that involves gathering in person and having fun around a table fits the bill!

Although the actual holiday is Saturday, we’re celebrating early around here! The PuzzleNation Crew is getting together with our friends from Penny/Dell Puzzles for a few hours of Tabletop Day fun this afternoon!

Games will be played, snacks will be consumed, and fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers will be introduced to some terrific games.

(Sadly, a lot of personal favorites will have to be excluded — Forbidden Island, The Oregon Trail card game, choice offerings from Cheapass Games and other great companies — because they take more than 30 minutes to play. It IS a work day, after all.)

[The Nashville Public Library has an Eventbrite page up for their Tabletop Day Event.]

And as for the day itself, there’s a plethora of events to enjoy! Check out the official International Tabletop Day Facebook page for information, as well as your local library, community center, and friendly local game shops! There are sure to be events, game demos, get-togethers, parties, and more if you just go looking for them!

Heck, the crew at The Loft Game Lounge in Ottawa is even hosting a Tabletop Day Prom!

Oops, gotta go. It’s almost time for our Tabletop Day celebration. Let us know how you’re celebrating in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!


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A Puzzoo Full of Anagraminals!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or @midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

For years now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleZoo, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and animals of all shapes and sizes!

Examples include Hammerheadings Shark, Four Squirrel, and Salmon Says!

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!


The Shad Roe

Top to Bonobottom

Meerkategories

Letter Scorpion

Diamond Myna

Toucan by Toucan / Toucan-Step

Opossum Spots / Opossum Triangles / Some Opposum

Opossum-Doku

Su-duck-u

Kuduku

Sudokookaburra

Kangasudoku

Kakuroo / Kangakuro / Okakuropi

Secret Bird

Bird Seek

Missing Owls / Missing Fowls

Pigzag

Lizard Words

CopperHeads and CottonTails

Heads & Whales Word Seek

Deer & Hare Word Seek

Cross Hares

Squirrel Master

Antagrams

Antelope Magic Square / Anaconda Magic Square / Anaconda Magic Bears

Flounder Power / Fowl Power / Flamingo Power / Buffalower Power

Syllacrowstics

Cros-ticks

Anacrosticonda

Anacross-Eater

Escowlators / Escalgators

Ocelogic Problem / Loggerhead Problem

Leop-art logic

Hamster Words

Dolphinish the Fours

Fisherits

Missing Lynx / Lynxwords / Frame Lynx

Frameskinks

Borderfeline Framework

Fiddler crab’s Frame

Shadowbox turtle

Ringmastiff

Bingoat / Dingo

Pulling Stingrays / Pushmi-pullyu-ing-Strings

Weasel Words / Weevil Words / Beaver Words

Places, Fleas

Fish Bowl Game / Mole Game

Armadillemma Crossword

Camelflage

Crick-et by Crick-et / Chick by Chick

Cattleships / Wombattleships / Battleshippos

Codeworms / Toadwords

Barracudiagramless

End of the Swine

End of the Lion / Lion ‘Em Up / Draw the Lion

DonKeyword / Keawords

Hare Off

Boarmaster

Letterfoxes / Otterboxes (solves as a Letterbox and can be recycled as a phone case . . . eco-friendly)

Windowl Boxes / Window Foxes

Mathfoxes

Croc Arithmetic

Word Platypus

Frogressions

Fasterbirds

Pigsaw Bears

Pug-Ins

Alpha-male Soup

Goatagrams / Goatfalls / Quick Goats

Picture Sloth

Goose Tile / Mongoose tiles

Ducky Clover / Lucky Plover

Crypto-Lemur-ick / Crypto-TriviAlligator

Bats and Geeses

Pine Drone

Word Quails

Missing Reptiles

Missing Dingoes

Explorabird

Spellhound

Around the Flock

Alpha Wolf Quote / Alphagators

You Know the Ostrich / Ewe Gnu the Scrods

A to Zebra Maze / A to Z Mazebra / A to Zebra

Word Mazebra / Word Rat Maze

Pick and Zoos

Hopscotch-opotamus

Hippogressions

Hippo-plus-fours-a-mus

Riddle me Rhino

Wolfinder

Three-toed slothsomes

Build-a-quokka

Crisscrossafossa

Ringers-tailed lemur

Snake-a-Letter

Parrot Pairs

What’s Eft?

It’s Your Moose

Leopard Purrfect

Lucky Starfish

Puffin the Middle

Crickets and Mortar

Middle of the Roadrunner

Common Toad

Canine of Diamonds

Diamond Ring-tailed lemur

Place Your Numbat

Sharks and Sparrows

Eels

Black swan Out!

Jigsawback shark

Crackerjackrabbits

Puzzle Horse Derby

Cubstitutions

Who’s Macawling?

Marquee Malarkiwi / Kiwiword

Coming and Flamingoing

Lostrich Letters

Word Condorigins

Poetic Okapiple

Word Lemurgers

ChinChilla Up

Pyth-On Your Marks

Vowl Play

Change of Chimp-and-Scene

Meerkatch-Up

Rhino of Way

Fish Think Ringers are Food!

Marching Bandicoots


One contributor even channeled the Crocodile Hunter!

Zoo?! We’re visiting the true Drop-outback to see the Quokka-jacks and Loose Croco-tiles, mate!


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Zoo entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

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The Best of All Possible Puzzle/Game Worlds?

[A sampling of the wide variety of modern puzzles and games. Fluxx cards, Bananagrams tiles, a wooden puzzle box, Pairs cards, David Steinberg’s Juicy Crosswords from the Orange County Register, Timeline cards, last month’s edition of The Crosswords Club, Puzzometry pieces, Cards Against Humanity cards, multi-sided roleplaying dice.]

This is the most exciting time in history to be a puzzler or board game enthusiast.

Think about it. If you want to play a game or solve a puzzle, you don’t have to go any farther than your pocket, since a plethora of puzzly goodness awaits you on your smartphone.

Puzzle apps are our bread and butter here at PuzzleNation, so this might feel like a cheap plug, but honestly, it boggles my mind how much more accessible puzzles and games are now than they were even five years ago.

And the app revolution is only one part of the story.

I was reading a book the other day, as I am wont to do on the long train rides to and from PuzzleNation HQ. Titled The Revenge of Analog, it was all about the cultural response to digital media, highlighting the resurgence of vinyl records, film, and other tangible alternatives to electronic formats.

In the chapter “The Revenge of Board Games,” the author discussed the social aspect of tabletop gaming, and how sitting down with people and playing a game is a far different, more rewarding experience than online gaming and other social media-based interactions. (A fine point to consider, what with International TableTop Day a little more than a week away.)

While I do think that’s partially true, I also think that downplays the ingenuity of the puzzle/game community. I think we’re the best of both worlds.

I mentioned in my Tak review last week that puzzles are being created today that could not have been five or ten or twenty years ago. The advent of 3-D printing and laser cutters for homes and small businesses has brought design, construction, and promotion literally to the doorstep of entrepreneurial puzzlers.

Just last week I received a new edition of Puzzometry in the mail, a perk for supporting a team for a school robotics competition. This laser-cut plastic jigsaw will keep me guessing for hours (if its puzzly siblings are anything to go by), and it was designed and manufactured by a single individual.

Old and new styles are meshing as never before. Many puzzle constructors are partially or fully supporting themselves via email puzzle subscriptions and direct sales to the customer. Events like the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games are organized and advertised mostly online.

Crowdfunding has leveled the playing field for many companies and designers in both puzzles and games, allowing more products than ever before to enter the market. (According to Kickstarter, tabletop game projects raised $52 million dollars in 2013, and that number has surely gone up in the meantime.)

You’ve got a proper board game renaissance as classic games and styles of play are meshing with new technology, and games from across the world are shared on YouTube, at Friendly Local Game Shops, or even in puzzle cafes like Toronto’s Snakes and Lattes or New York City’s The Uncommons.

Whether you’re a pen-and-paper solver or a Penny Dell Crossword App devotee, a fan of classics like Chutes and Ladders or a proud tabletopper experimenting with the newest games, this is an amazing time to be a puzzler or board gamer.

So keep playing. Keep puzzling. And share that with others.


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Solving puzzles is the bee’s knees!

[Image courtesy of Gift of Curiosity.]

As a puzzler, I am on a quest to highlight and recognize the skills and accomplishments of fellow puzzlers. All too often, other outlets restrict this activity to humans and humans alone.

But PuzzleNation Blog has a fine long-standing tradition of celebrating the puzzly accomplishments of non-human puzzlers. In the past, we’ve discussed the puzzle skills evidenced by cats, dogs, crows, cockatoos, and octopuses.

Today, we proudly add another species to that litany of puzzle-cracking creatures: bees.

[Image courtesy of Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance.]

An article in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Biology — titled, in true scientific fashion, “Associative Mechanisms Allow for Social Learning and Cultural Transmission of String Pulling in an Insect” — states that bees can not only learn non-natural skills, but teach them to other bees.

This behavior, previously only observed in vertebrates, is a huge step forward for our studies of animal cognition.

Allow me to explain.

A group of bees were given a non-natural task to complete — pulling a string attached to a blue disc hidden under Plexiglas — in order to earn a drop of sugar water.

In the first test, zero out of 50 bees figured out how to remove the disc. When half of those bees were given a second chance, two of them did figure out how to pull the string and retrieve the disc.

[Image courtesy of Reuters.]

The study goes on to describe how the scientists taught the bees to complete the task, and then how these bees (known as innovators) could go on to teach other bees how to do so.

From an article on Natural Science News:

The skill spread quickly and half of the untrained bees gained the ability by learning from the original innovator bee. Even after the original innovator bee died, the skill continued to be passed down to future generations. This was the first recorded case of cultural transmission of a non-natural skill in social insects.

Now, this is all very exciting, but in the midst of all this news coverage and scientific back-patting, I feel like someone’s accomplishments have been overshadowed.

TWO of those bees figured this out on their own. No scientist teachers, no innovator bees, just their own puzzly chops.

Sure, it took two tries, but heck, it takes me more than two tries to solve plenty of puzzles!

And so, on behalf of the vertebrate puzzle-solving community, I’d like to welcome those two bees to our ranks. Other bees may follow, but you were the first. Nicely done.


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