Kickstarter Roundup!

I’ve covered a lot of puzzle-centric Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns in the blog, because I think it’s fascinating how many puzzle variants there are, and how many puzzle-loving creators are enthusiastically seizing the opportunity to add their own delightful gaming and puzzling twists to the market.

In previous posts, we’ve seen Baffledazzle‘s jigsaws with a twist, Completely Puzzled‘s community-building outreach, and 64 Oz. Games‘ campaign to adapt popular board games and card games for vision-impaired players. Some very creative and worthwhile projects have been realized with the help of crowdfunding.

Heck, several of the games and puzzles showcased at last month’s New York Toy Fair were brought to life thanks to crowdfunding!

So here are a few more projects that I think are worth your time.

The Maze is a series of Choose Your Own Adventure-style books with a curious puzzly twist: they place the reader inside a labyrinth and challenge you to read through the book and escape!

It’s an extended spacial-awareness puzzle where you need to visualize where you are in the maze at all times, overcoming obstacles and pitting your memory against the labyrinth itself.

A third of the way to its funding goal, The Maze envisions a series of mazes of varying difficulties for readers to tackle. It’s an intriguing take on a classic puzzle genre.

For a more traditional puzzle product, there’s The Grid. This multi-colored visual delight challenges players to place all of their tile pieces on the board before their opponents, mixing luck and strategy in a Qwirkle-style battle.

The Grid combines clever tile design with visually arresting gameplay, and the campaign has already reached its initial funding goal, meaning that additional donors are helping to refine the game with higher quality pieces and other add-ons.

From the elegant to the gloriously silly, our next campaign is Munchkin Shakespeare.

This latest edition of Munchkin from the team from Steve Jackson Games adds a literary touch to its famous line of puzzly card-battle games, as players do their best to team up, betray each other, and run amok in the hopes of gaining loot and escaping combat intact.

The bard himself and characters from his most famous plays are unleashed in cartoon form, ready to wreak havoc in all sorts of creative ways, wielded by cunning players and puzzlers with a penchant for sword-swinging nonsense in iambic pentameter.

This is another campaign where the initial funding goal has already been reached, and with only a day or two left in the campaign, they’re pushing towards some exciting stretch goals.

Our last campaign combines logic and deduction with mechanical puzzles, as the crew from ThinkFun launches their very first Kickstarter to bring Roller Coaster Challenge to life!

In the spirit of Gravity Maze and Laser Maze Jr., Roller Coaster Challenge presents players with some of the pieces of a puzzle and tasks them with completing a working model with their remaining pieces. This time around, you’re building a roller coaster track, with all the soaring loop-de-loops and plunging slides you’d expect from the theme park attraction.

With expansions including Kickstarter-exclusive roller coaster cars and additional pieces to create even taller, more complex models, this one could be a winner. Will you be able to complete the numerous twisting, turning variations, or will the perfect roller coaster track elude you?

But before I go, I want to revisit a previous Kickstarter success story that we’ve covered in the past: The Maze of Games.

Mike Selinker’s interactive puzzle novel has been on the market for a few years now, and as far as he knows, no one has conquered the final maze in the book.

And to give solvers a better chance at completing the book, the diabolical puzzlesmith has created The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze, a tie-in story with hints for cracking the most diabolical puzzly labyrinth that giant tome has to offer.

It’s only available for a short time, so if you’re hoping to one day best The Maze of Games, be sure to snag a copy!

And let us know if any of these puzzly Kickstarters piqued your interest! With so many worthy projects and products in the pipeline, hopefully one of them catches your eye and receives your support!


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Super Bowl Snack Puzzle: The Solution!

Last Friday, we shared a football-themed brain teaser just in time for Super Bowl Sunday, and today, we’re going to walk you through solving it!

So, first, let’s refresh you on the puzzle itself:

Five couples have gathered for the big game, each football-loving woman having invited a male date, because it’s fun to invert stereotypes sometimes.

The women are Amanda, Evelyn, Janice, Rhianna, and Sue, and the men are Bill, Cory, Mack, Ted, and Walter.

Each couple brought a different snack: Doritos, Pringles, Lays, Tostitos, and Cheetos.

Can you figure out which couples brought which snack from the hints below?

Here are your hints:

1. Ted did not accompany Rhianna to the Super Bowl party.
2. Amanda and her date brought Doritos to the party.
3. Bill and his date and the couple who brought Pringles cheered for the Falcons.
4. Rhianna and her date cheered on the Patriots.
5. Mack and his date decided to bring Cheetos.
6. Evelyn and her date did not bring Lays chips.
7. Sue and her date, who wasn’t Ted, were Patriots fans.
8. Sue and her date didn’t bring Tostitos.
9. Cory and his date did not bring either Lays or Pringles to the gathering.
10. Bill and Amanda and their dates all sampled the five different types of chips.
11. Evelyn and her date did not bring Tostitos.
12. Ted and his date cheered the halftime show instead of either team.

So, given all the information, we know there are five couples, and we have clues regarding the men, the women, the snacks, and what they were rooting for. Let’s build a grid to help organize our information.

With the info in Clues 2, 3, 5, and 10, we have this starting grid:

We can now start to map out where some of the other women fit. According to Clues 4 and 7, both Rhianna and Sue were Patriots fans, which means they weren’t part of couples 1, 2, or 3.

Now, this doesn’t immediately place Sue or Rhianna, but when you combine this information with Clue 12, we can place Ted.

If we turn our attention to Clue 9, we can now place Cory, since we know he and his date didn’t bring Pringles or Lays, which means he can only be part of couple 5.

Since he didn’t bring Lays, we can also place both Lays and Tostitos in the snack column. And, by placing Cory, we also place Walt in the men column.

According to Clues 8 and 11, neither Evelyn nor Sue brought Tostitos, so we can place Rhianna in couple 5 with Cory. That leaves Sue as the other half of Patriots-cheering couple 4.

Finally, Clue 6 tells us that Evelyn didn’t bring Lays chips, meaning that we can place her in couple 3, and Janice in couple 2, completing our grid.

And there you have it, five couples enjoying the big game (or the halftime show). To each their own.

How did you do, fellow puzzlers? Did you unravel this one in celebration of Game Day? Let me know how you did!


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Cracking Einstein’s Riddle!

Fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, it’s time to put on our thinking caps and crack another puzzly mystery!

I’ve seen this riddle making the rounds online lately, and like many logic problems, puzzles, and brain teasers that go viral, it claims that 98% of the world couldn’t solve it!

Well, I don’t buy that. (I also don’t buy that Einstein created it or had anything to do with it, but since it circulates under the name “Einstein’s Riddle,” I’m also calling it such.)

[Image courtesy of Mental Floss.]

Einstein’s Riddle

  • There are five houses that are each a different color.
  • There is a person of a different nationality in each house.
  • The five owners drink a certain drink. They each smoke a certain brand of cigar and also have a certain pet. No owner has the same pet, smokes the same brand of cigars, nor drinks the same drink.

CLUES

1. The British man lives in the red house.
2. The Swedish man has a dog for a pet.
3. The Danish man drinks tea.
4. The green house is on the left of the white house.
5. The owner of the green house drinks coffee.
6. The person that smokes Pall Mall raises birds.
7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill.
8. The person that lives in the center house drinks milk.
9. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
10. The person that smokes Blend lives next to the one that has a cat.
11. The person that has a horse lives next to the one that smokes Dunhill.
12. The one that smokes Bluemaster drinks beer.
13. The German smokes Prince.
14. The Norwegian lives next to a blue house.
15. The man that smokes Blend has a neighbor that drinks water.

The question is “who owns the fish?”


Now, the first step is going through the clues and getting all five options for every variable. This will help us with the second step: building a grid to help us organize information.

  • Colors: Blue, Green, Red, White, Yellow
  • Nationalities: British, Danish, German, Norwegian, Swedish
  • Beverages: Beer, Coffee, Milk, Tea, Water
  • Cigars: Blend, Bluemaster, Dunhill, Pall Mall, Prince
  • Pets: Birds, Cat, Dog, Fish Horse

Okay, let’s build our grid. Now, we could list every intersection of information, like a full logic problem grid, but I don’t think that’s necessary here. We can simplify.

So where do we start? Well, since several clues refer to a first house, a center house, or neighboring houses, let’s assume that we’re talking about five houses in a row, and use that as our top line. Then we can list all of the other categories we need to determine along the left side.

Now let’s fill in what we know from the clues. We know the Norwegian lives in the first house (clue #9), the man living in the center house drinks milk (clue #8), and the Norwegian lives next to the blue house (clue #14).

This might not seem like much, but we can already determine what color the Norwegian’s house is. The British man lives in the red house (clue #1), so the Norwegian’s house isn’t red. The green house is on the left of the white house (clue #4), so the Norwegian’s house is neither green nor white, since there’s no house to the left of the Norwegian’s house, and the house to the right is blue. Therefore, the Norwegian’s house is yellow, the only color left.

And that tells us something else. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill (clue #7), so we know what the Norwegian smokes. Plus, the man who keeps the horse lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill (clue #11), so we know the pet for the blue house.

We can now determine the color for every house. The green house is to the left of the white house (clue #4), and the owner of the green house drinks coffee (clue #5). But since we already know the owner of the center house drinks milk, that means the green house has to be the fourth, and the white house the fifth. Therefore, the center house is red.

But that’s not all we know now! The British man lives in the red house (clue #1), so we can place him as well.

Hmmm, where do we go from here? Well, let’s take a look at the beverages. We know the Norwegian doesn’t drink coffee or milk, but we also know that the Danish man drinks tea (clue #3), so the Norwegian doesn’t. We also know that the one that smokes Bluemaster drinks beer (clue #12), and the Norwegian smokes Dunhill, so that eliminates beer. Therefore, the Norwegian drinks water.

Since the man that smokes Blend has a neighbor that drinks water (clue #15), we can place Blend in the second house. (Clue #10 tells us that the person that smokes Blend lives next to the one that has a cat, but right now, we can’t be sure if that’s the first house or the center house, so let’s table that clue for now.)

But remember clue #12, the one that smokes Bluemaster drinks beer? Well, we know all the drinks except the second house and the fifth house, and the owner of second house smokes Blend, so the owner of the fifth house must both smoke Bluemaster and drink beer.

That leaves tea as the only possible beverage for the second house, and the Danish man drinks tea (clue #3), so we can place him as well.

Now we’re cooking! The German smokes Prince (clue #13), and since we know the nationality of the third house’s owner and what the fifth house’s owner smokes, the only option remaining is the fourth house. By process of elimination, that also places the Swedish man in the fifth house and Pall Mall in the center house.

And we’re left with only the pets to place. Appropriate, given that the question that got us started is “who owns the fish?”

According to clue #2, the Swedish man has a dog for a pet, and the person that smokes Pall Mall raises birds, so that takes care of the center and fifth houses, leaving only the first house and the fourth.

Clue #10, the one we put aside earlier, now comes into play. The person that smokes Blend lives next to the one that has a cat, and since the neighbor on one side (the center house) raises birds, that leaves only the first house open to have a cat.

Therefore, the German man — who smokes Prince, drinks coffee, and lives in the green house — also owns a fish.

98% of people can’t solve it? Apparently, I have greater faith in solvers than “Einstein” did.


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PuzzleNation Reviews: ThinkFun’s Circuit Maze and Clue Master

[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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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Clue edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of one of the classic deduction games: Clue.

[Image courtesy of Nerdist.]

Clue (also known as Cluedo) is a classic in several respects. It is a beloved board game, mentioned alongside Monopoly, Scrabble, Battleship, and Candyland as staples of board game culture, but one that is quite rare: a deduction-based game where you’re playing against both your opponents and the game itself. (The only other game I can think of that captures the same spirit of gameplay is Gameworthy Labs’ Oh My Gods!)

But the film version is also beloved by game devotees and comedy lovers alike. And although I’m dubious about the recently-announced remake of Clue coming to theaters in the near future, there is one revamp of the mystery property that I can get behind: a playable LEGO version of the game.

[Image courtesy of Nerdist.]

As part of the 2014 MOCOlympics — a competition between amateur LEGO designers, where MOC stands for “my own creation” — master builder Ian Spacek created this delightful set, which captures the spirit of each character and each of the game’s signature rooms in impressive miniature fashion.

You see, the challenge was to “build a game that you would choose to play on a rainy afternoon when the power’s out and you don’t have any juice left on your iDevices.” And I think Spacek’s design fits the bill with gusto.

[Spacek even designed a punch card to aid players. Image courtesy of Nerdist.]

I’d much rather see a company put money into releasing this little beauty than an unnecessary retread of one of my favorite films. (Unfortunately, since the MOC Olympics aren’t associated with the LEGO company, this set isn’t available for purchase.)

Somebody just needs to whip up a LEGO version of Murder By Death and I’ll be set for any rainy day to come.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: More UK Puzzles edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’m returning to the subject of big international puzzle events!

A few weeks ago, the UK Puzzle Association hosted the 2016 UK Sudoku Championship. And this weekend, they’ve got another major puzzle event in store for puzzlers worldwide: The 2016 UK Puzzle Championship!

The event spans June 24 through June 27, and chairman Alan O’Donnell of the UK Puzzle Association sent out the Instruction Booklet for this year’s event a few days ago, continuing a string of major puzzle events in Europe and across the world.

Although the UK Puzzle Championship is only open to competitors from the UK — with the top two earning a place on the UK team for the 2016 World Puzzle Championship — international players are welcome to test their puzzly mettle as guest solvers.

But even if most PuzzleNationers aren’t eligible to compete, you can still enjoy the challenge of some topnotch puzzles. Let’s take a look at some of the diabolical puzzles they’ve cooked up for this year’s event!

This Banknotes puzzle sets the tone for much of the Instruction Booklet to come, offering a number-placement puzzle with clues outside the grid. In this case, you have different valued 3×1 “banknotes” to place in the grid, and their total values add up to the numbers outside a given row or column.

So this is a bit like the game Battleship, except with different valued ships instead of different sized ones.

Here we have a more traditional Fill-In puzzle, but with an nontraditional grid shape. This one is all about efficient word placement.

Instead of placing words into this grid, the Cloud puzzle asks you to fill in which squares are covered by “clouds,” based on the total number of cloud-covered cells given on the outside of the grid. This is essentially a small Logic Art puzzle.

This Hidoku turns the usual Sudoku-solving on its ear by requiring you to place the numbers 1 through 25 into the following grid so that they form an unbroken chain. Consecutive numbers must touch, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.

For fans of Penny Dell Puzzles, this is like Sudoku and Word Maze had a diabolical little baby.

[I left the solution in with this one to help illustrate the solving style.]

Hashi is an intriguing deduction puzzle that follows the same cluing mentality as Blackout! or Minesweeper. Each circle contains a number indicating how many “bridges” connect that “island” to the other islands either vertical or horizontal to that island.

You’re essentially building your own Word Trails puzzle with Hashi, except you’re using numbers instead of the letters in a famous saying.

This is probably my favorite of the puzzles I’ve encountered in this Instruction Booklet, and I’m definitely looking forward to solving it this weekend.


These puzzles are just a sampling of the numerous puzzles you’ll tackle if you accept the UK Puzzle Championship challenge.

Not only are Kakuro and Sum-Doku (or Killer Sudoku) included, but also other twists on classic solving styles like Fill-Ins, Deduction puzzles, and Logic Problems.

You can check out the full Instruction Booklet here, and remember, you’ll have two and a half hours to solve as many of the 29 puzzles in the packet as possible, so good luck on June 24!


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