PuzzleNation Product Review: Slapzi

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

One of my favorite games that we featured in our New York Toy Fair posts was the dice game Tenzi. The mix of strategy, luck, and quick reaction times made for a perfect storm of chaotic fun.

So, when I found out that the team behind Tenzi also had a card game, Slapzi, I figured it was worth a look.

Slapzi’s concept is simple. There are two kinds of cards: picture cards and clue cards.

You are dealt five picture cards, each one bearing a picture of an object on the front and a picture of a different object on the back. Your goal is get rid of the five cards in your hand.

Each turn, a clue card is flipped over, revealing a quality of certain objects (“Not sold in a hardware store”) or a quality of certain objects’ names (“Two of the same letter together”).

You need to quickly look at your picture cards and determine which one fits the clue card. The first player to slap a picture card down over the clue card successfully gets rid of that card.

The sheer variety of objects on the picture cards — ranging from “hammock” and “teddy bear” to “eagle” and “sandwich” — means that there are plenty of chances to match the clue cards as they come up, but only if your reflexes are fast enough.

The creators also included plenty of variant rules, including ones where you match two clue cards at the same time, ones where you avoid matching the clue cards, and even one where every clue card is in play at the same time, with all players racing to empty their hands first.

Naturally, we couldn’t resist putting a slightly puzzlier spin on the game by playing with only one side of each picture card available to players. This added a level of strategy to the game, since you had to decide which objects might prove most beneficial.

After all, if you don’t have a living creature in your hand, you could find yourself out of luck with many of the clue cards. This restrictive gameplay introduced a more tactical element than some of the other rule variants.

That being said, every version of the game that we tried was a lot of fun. The rush to slap cards down, the excitement as your hand dwindles, and even the occasional pause where someone tries to justify an odd choice (like “teddy bear” for “thinner than a pizza box” by arguing about teddies who have lost their stuffing) made for great moments and plenty of laughs.

If you’re looking for a quick-reaction card game for all ages with loads of variation for more strategic solvers, Slapzi is an excellent choice.

Slapzi is available on Amazon, at various online retailers like The Good Toy Group, and in stores now.


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The 2017 New York Toy Fair, Part 2!

On Tuesday, I gave you a general rundown of what it was like exploring the massive spread of puzzles and games on display at this year’s New York Toy Fair.

In today’s post, I’d like to highlight some of the puzzles and games that most impressed me. I think many of these will also appeal to many of my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers as well.

So let’s dive right in!


One of the prime spots in the Launchpad area for first-time attendees was given to the team at Steamforged Games Ltd., who have brought the video game franchise Dark Souls into the board-game realm.

Between one and four players can test their mettle against various creatures, battling to capture their souls and use them to make your character stronger and more capable. The impressive array of miniatures, player cards, and tokens makes for an interactive experience that should satisfy both video game fans and board gamers alike.

For a more traditional family-friendly puzzle game, the crew at Befuddled Games has you covered with Kerfuddle and Tree Top Hop, both of which are suitable for solvers of any age group.

Kerfuddle combines a touch of Boggle with the ever-changing gameplay of Fluxx. Roll the dice and use them to form words, but be careful — the “Shake It Up” cards can make your word forming much more challenging.

Tree Top Hop is a great intro game for young players, as they move around the tree top, spelling words on their cards and racing to the treasure at the center of the board. By combining word-building and strategy, this is a terrific gateway game for new players.

Along the same lines as Kerfuddle is Twizmo! Words, except instead of dice, you have a Rubik’s Cube-style Twisty puzzle providing you with the letters you’ll use to build your word list. Designed by the same team who brought us Tak•tak, Twizmo! Words is a strong quick-play game for any Boggle fans in your household.

Snippets takes the list-building idea in another direction. Instead of random letters, you’re given a three-letter snippet of a word, and it’s up to you to come up with as many words containing that snippet as possible. So, if you’ve got TRA, you can write down EXTRA, TRAIN, STRAP, and so on.

And to close out this collection of word-forming games, we have Letter Tycoon, which adds a monetizing mechanic that really spices up the gameplay. Here, not only are you making money by forming words, but you can patent letters so that when other players use them, you cash in as well. It’s a really clever take on the word-building genre of games.

We now move on from combining letters to combining jigsaw pieces. The puzzles from Palmetto Puzzle Works all center around tessellations — shapes that repeat and interlock in many different ways.

Whether you’re trying to fit the pieces into a given space or you’re connecting them freestyle, these well-made wooden puzzles bring an M.C. Escher touch to the world of jigsaw-style solving.

Beasts of Balance, on the other hand, has players using game pieces in a different way, as solvers stack the animal shapes and try to keep their ever-growing tower of creatures and artifacts from toppling over. The game has a tablet interaction feature that enhances both the gameplay and the storytelling aspect of the game, making the most of new school and old school puzzling.

But if you’re looking to do some puzzly building in a different way, Maze by Seedling is a solid choice. Here, you can map out and design your own marble maze, and then tackle your own creation with a fully-functioning labyrinth board, complete with marbles, walls, and holes to avoid.

And while we’re on the subject of do-it-yourself puzzling, the crew behind Pinbox 3000 have designed a build-your-own pinball game system that allows for infinite customization. They give you everything you need to build a functioning game, and then leave the theme, bells, and whistles totally up to you.

I wrote about this one back when it was a Kickstarter project, and it was cool to see the brand continuing to thrive and grow.

Another gaming classic with a modern twist is Tatsu, which combines Asian-inspired mythology with backgammon-style gameplay. Designed by the same creative team as the tile-placement game Hive, Tatsu is a clever, elegant game all about strategy and guile. It’s easy to learn and tough to master, and I suspect it will do quite well.

If you’re looking to combine strategy with rapid-fire gameplay, Tenzi is for you. In Tenzi, you’re given ten dice, and you have to keep rolling them until all ten match. It’s like Speed Yahtzee! But with dozens of additional variant games at your disposal, from stacking to scoring to rule-shifting games, this dice game has legs and is easy to tote around to play anywhere.

If you’re looking to take your card games anywhere, the team at Narrows Hill have a great solution for you. The Card Caddy is not only a protective case for any deck of cards, but it opens up into a perfect card-dealing and sorting setup for ease of play.

We also got an early glimpse of a forthcoming addition to the Fluxx family of card games. Since Fluxx is celebrating 21 years on the market this year, the crew at Looney Labs is celebrating with Drinking Fluxx, a spirits-soaked version of their famous chaotic rule-shifting card game.

You can mix and match the various ingredients to try to create a winning formula (and perhaps a sideline as a bartender for your fellow players). Just make sure you call a cab after playing.

Whereas Tenzi and Fluxx are quite portable, Banana Bandits from CMON Games requires some space, since you have an entire 3-D building to set up as your game board. As you and your fellow players try to prove yourselves as worthy successors to the boss of the Banana Bandits, you’ll climb and explore the building, collect coins, and tangle with opponents, all on an impressively realized game space.

Will you be top banana, or is it time for you to split?

And the last game I’ll be discussing today is Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks, an elaborate galaxy-spanning game where you play as one of six Doctors traveling across time and space in order to complete missions, save the innocent, thwart your enemies, and generally wreak timey-wimey havoc.

Between the terrific miniatures and the expansive options available for players, this was one of the highlights of Toy Fair for me, and I can’t wait to see how they incorporate additional Doctors into the game later down the line.

Obviously this is just a small sample of all the fantastic, eye-catching puzzles and games that graced New York Toy Fair this year. But nonetheless, it’s an impressive group, covering so many different aspects of the puzzle and game world, and constantly blazing new trails in terms of creativity and innovation.

I have no doubt you’ll be seeing more about some of these projects as 2017 rolls onward.

[You can check out our full gallery of photos from New York Toy Fair on Facebook by clicking here!]


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Knot Dice

Celtic knot designs are both gorgeous and intricate, allowing for elaborate unbroken paths to be formed within circles, crosses, and other shapes. Game designer Matthew O’Malley found inspiration in those wonderfully interwoven images, and the result is the subject of today’s review.

In the puzzle game Knot Dice, you have eighteen identical six-sided dice featuring a different pattern on each face of the die. In order to form a completed design — in either one dimension or three dimensions — a solver uses the patterns on each face to form unbroken paths.

[The six faces of a Knot die. Top row: end-cap, chain, branch;
Bottom row: sharp corner, rounded corner, crossing.]

There are rulebooks included for both single-player puzzles and multi-player games.

The puzzles center around completing designs by moving dice, sliding them, or rotating them, depending on the puzzle, and many of the puzzles begin with starting patterns provided by the game designer. These puzzles are simple and quite elegant, making wonderful use of the various patterns on each die.

The games are a bit more inventive, many of them centered around Celtic history and mythology. Whether you’re collaborating with other players to build elaborate knotworks, racing to complete different knots, or capturing your opponent’s token, there are numerous clever and creative ways to employ the patterned dice to their fullest potential. (Both the game and puzzle booklets contain a 4×4 game board and a page on which to track your scores.)

But the best part about this puzzle game? The dice. They’re beautiful, and the rich green shading makes the intricate patterns pop, drawing the eye immediately. (I must admit, I’m probably biased design-wise, as I have a set of roleplaying dice with the exact same color patterns.)

The game took almost a year to deliver to Kickstarter backers, and much of that time was spent making sure that the mass-produced dice for the game met the high standards of O’Malley’s early designs. He wanted the dice to be vivid, polished, and usable for the numerous puzzles and games that had been devised for the set. That rigorous attention to detail and demand for perfection has paid off in truly eye-catching fashion.

Knot Dice puts a new twist on traditional dice games, and the fluid gameplay and design will appeal to both puzzlers and game fans alike. This game was definitely worth the wait.

[Knot Dice is a Black Oak Games product and available online here!]


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PuzzleNation Product Reviews: Fluxx Dice and Adventure Time Fluxx

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The flagship game of the Looney Labs brand, Fluxx, at its core, is a card game that mixes flexibility and strategy in gloriously chaotic fashion. The basic mechanics of Fluxx — collecting keeper cards in order to complete a certain goal — remain the same each time you play, but with constantly shifting rules and goals (as well as obstacles your fellow players employ), every time you play, it’s a brand new game.

And quite honestly, given how often the rules change during a game, I didn’t think Fluxx could get more chaotic.

Enter Fluxx Dice.

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Fluxx Dice adds five cards to your Fluxx deck, and they all concern using (or not using) the two Fluxx Dice to change how many cards you draw per turn and how many you play per turn.

The addition of dice-rolling randomness to an already hectic game offers a level of unpredictability that even a well-shuffled deck cannot. Especially since a sufficiently tactical Fluxx player can often overcome the game’s inherent instability with the proper strategy. But no one can prepare for a chance roll of the dice!

Although I’ve only tried Fluxx Dice with the standard game, Batman Fluxx, and today’s other review product so far, I can confidently say that you will not believe how big an impact five little cards and two dice will have on your gameplay. What a terrific way to add a touch more luck and consequence to a game that already employs both so deftly.

This brings us to Adventure Time Fluxx.

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[A small sampling of cards given the Adventure Time touch.]

Adventure Time is a Dungeons and Dragons-inspired cartoon show about a boy named Finn and his best friend, a shape-shifting dog named Jake, as they have adventures in the Land of Ooo. In a world populated by talking sweets, numerous princesses, and monsters galore, Finn and Jake must deal with the return of magic to the world and the aftermath of the Great Mushroom War.

As you can see, the show’s fingerprints are all over this themed Fluxx deck, and given that the show itself has a very strong “anything can happen” vibe to it, this is clearly a match made in heaven.

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[Two of my favorite characters become valuable Keeper cards in this edition of Fluxx.]

Although I hoped some of the cards would offer fans of the show gameplay incentives — akin to the Batman Fluxx card that rewarded players wearing something with the Batman symbol on it — my fellow players and I did come up with an appropriate Adventure Time-fueled variant.

Each time a keeper card was played, the person who played it had the opportunity to repeat a quote or popular line from that character. If they did so, they received either an additional card to be played immediately OR a roll of the Fluxx Dice to alter the current rules of the game.

For a show that rewards sharp-eyed attentive viewers with in-jokes and humor, this felt like a suitably Adventure Time-y wrinkle to add to the game.

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The family of Fluxx games continues to grow, and although Adventure Time Fluxx didn’t really bring anything new to the table gameplay-wise, the immense charm of its themed cards and references to the show still make it a worthwhile addition to any Fluxx fan’s collection.

And as for Fluxx Dice, it may be a small set, but in terms of sheer gameplay impact, it packs one heck of a punch.


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