[Note: I received free copies of these games in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]
Deduction is one of the most powerful puzzle-solving skills, and honestly, it’s a difficult one to develop.
“If this, then that” thinking involves holding several pieces of information in your head at once, eliminating red herrings and unhelpful possibilities until you’re left with one solution that fits all the requirements. (Every Sudoku puzzle is an exercise in deduction, after all.)
And today, we’ve got two new ThinkFun products to review that are centered around learning the art of deduction in different ways: Clue Master and Circuit Maze.
Clue Master is centered around a 3×3 grid that the solver must fill with nine dog toys: three bones, three balls, and three bowls. Each symbol comes in three colors — green, red, and blue — leaving us with nine unique pieces to place in our grid. (The solving style is very similar to their Brain Fitness puzzle game Chocolate Fix.)
Completing the grid is the only way to open the secret door of Tippy the dog’s doghouse, returning the friendly, blocky puppy to his rightful place in the back yard. (Hence the dog toys.)
The instructions, puzzles, solutions, game board, and pieces are all contained within the single spiral-bound game book, making this one of ThinkFun’s most portable products yet. The magnetic pieces are fairly sturdy, as is the game board, so it will hold up nicely to the rigors of travel (and being stuffed into various carry-on bags).
The gameplay itself is all about interpreting the clues provided with each challenge card. Some clues give you colors only, others shapes only, and the occasional clue is centered around a given piece’s location on the grid.
Once you graduate from the Beginner and Intermediate difficulty levels, you’ll face a new wrinkle: negative clues. Negative clues are layouts that must be avoided, so instead of telling you where to place a piece, they tell you expressly where NOT to place a piece, ratcheting up the difficulty.
Clue Master truly lives up to the “8 to adult” age range of the product. The Beginner puzzles walk you through simple deduction techniques, allowing younger minds and new solvers alike the chance to get accustomed to that sort of if-then chain-solving.
For a bit more of a challenge, let’s check out Circuit Maze.
ThinkFun has a solid track record when it comes to maze games that involve some level of logic or deduction, whether it’s learning optics with Laser Maze Jr. (or the original Laser Maze) or navigating the three-dimensional twists, turns, and drops of Gravity Maze.
Now, they’ve turned their attention to current and electricity with Circuit Maze, challenging solvers to use switches, connective pathways, and light-up relays to complete the partially-built circuits on each of the game’s challenge cards.
One of the more intriguing twists built into Circuit Maze is that your starting and ending points are a pair of connected pieces: the blue positive piece containing the batteries and the blue negative piece that closes the circuit. The current has to flow from positive to negative, so that means your light-up relays (which are also marked with + and – paths) can only be placed in certain configurations.
To add to the difficulty, oftentimes one of the two blue starting and ending pieces is NOT set in the challenge cards, so you won’t necessarily know what your starting or ending point is, placing another obstacle between you and successfully closing the circuit and ensuring your relays light up as needed.
The switch is another delightful wrinkle on the ThinkFun logic maze formula, since each setting can have its own unique requirements.
For instance, the above setup requires a different relay to light up for each switch setting (meaning that the switch’s first setting lights up the red, its second setting lights up the yellow, and its third setting lights up the green). These multiple goals make building your pathway more challenging and really forces you to think about how to use each piece to its utmost.
[Here the completed circuit causes each relay to light up with a flip of the switch.]
The challenge cards range from Beginner, which offers introductory tricks and lessons, to Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert puzzles, each with their own obstacles.
Sometimes, you know where a piece is placed, but not which direction it should face. Other times, you have to create pathways that will allow multiple relays to light up at once, and others where nothing lights up at all.
In the Advanced-level challenge card below, the solver has to make sure that the red relay always lights up, no matter what setting the switch is on, but other switch settings also have to light up either the yellow or green relays. It’s quite a mental workout!
Circuit Maze definitely rivals Gravity Maze as the most challenging ThinkFun product to date, but it’s a very worthwhile challenge to tackle. This is next-level deductive thinking, plotting out paths that accomplish different tasks at different times, all while maintaining a complete circuit and matching positive and negative current paths.
This serves as a strong follow-up to the deduction lessons new solvers learned in Clue Master, making for a solid one-two punch of logical puzzling the whole family can enjoy together (or you can play by yourself)!
Clue Master and Circuit Maze are both available this holiday season at Amazon or Target!
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