Kickstarter Updates: Pairs, Baffledazzle, and Board Games for the Blind!

The Internet has truly changed everything: how we communicate, how we shop, how we learn, how news spreads, how businesses rise and fall. And the puzzle world is no different.

The Internet allows us to bring PuzzleNation apps right into your phones and tablets. Constructors are making names for themselves marketing directly to solvers. And now, with the growing influence of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other crowd-funding platforms, puzzlers and game designers are bringing terrific, innovative puzzles to life like never before.

I sincerely enjoy sharing crowd-funding news with the PuzzleNation audience, because it’s a rare opportunity to see a puzzle or a game go from an idea to a finished product from start to finish. I’ve reported on plenty of them, and today, I’d like to update you on a few successful campaigns that made it through the crowd-funding gauntlet and recently delivered their products to market.

The first comes from our friends at Cheapass Games, who actually launched two Kickstarter campaigns this year. Not only did they recently wrap up the funding process for a storytelling strategy game called Stuff and Nonsense, but they introduced a terrific new card game, Pairs, under their Hip Pocket Games brand.

[A handful of different Pairs decks, including a pirate-themed deck,
a goblin-themed deck, and a Professor Elemental-themed deck.]

Their campaign did so well that they’ve released the original Pairs deck (known as the Fruit Deck, pictured above) and ELEVEN alternate decks, each with a different theme, great custom artwork, and rules for an additional card game specific to that deck.

A social card game that’s easy to learn and hard to master, Pairs (confidently and humorously subtitled A New Classic Pub Game) recently hit stores, and I expect it will be a big hit.

Back in April, I posted about a campaign launched by the folks at 64 Oz. Games called Board Games: Now Blind Accessible. The campaign raised funds for several products designed to bring established board games to the visually impaired, including braille sleeves for card games and a 20-sided braille die, each allowing sighted players and non-sighted players to enjoy the same gaming experience.

It’s a wonderful cause, and I’m pleased to report that this month, they’ve released accessibility kits for numerous popular games, including Munchkin, The Resistance, and AEG Love Letter, with more on the way!

In addition to the accessibility kits, they’ve produced a card game called Yoink!, designed to be played blindfolded and relying on touch alone. I received a copy this weekend and tried it out with friends with great success.

[Check out the different patterns and shapes on these Yoink! cards. You have to collect three of a kind or three totally different ones to win, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.]

With other top games on the to-do list, 64 Oz. Games is doing great work for board game fans everywhere.

Finally, I have an update about Rachel Happen’s Baffledazzle campaign.

Raising nearly $14,000 dollars for a laser cutter and supplies to bring her jigsaw puzzles-with-a-twist to life, Rachel has completed production on her first run of Baffledazzle puzzles, shipping them out to backers AND loading up her new Etsy store.

And in honor of her successful campaign, I thought I’d do a brief series of unboxing photos to show you the care and attention she paid in packaging her puzzles for backers and customers.

Here’s the absolutely monstrous box I received in the mail,
loaded to the brim with packing peanuts.

And here are the carefully bubble-wrapped parcels of each Baffledazzle brand puzzle. The larger ones came complete with storage bags, hint and solution envelopes, and pins for each puzzle. (You can see two in the corners of the puzzle cards, as well as one on the drawstring of the top green bag.

And here’s a better look at some of the packaging. High-quality bags protect the wooden and acrylic puzzle pieces, and each is labeled with a signature “Hello, my name is Baffledazzle” sticker.

Two of the beautiful laser-cut wooden pieces from the Ozuzo puzzle.

A close-up of some of the carefully crafted puzzle pieces for the Cirkusu puzzle.

Rachel absolutely outdid herself with the Baffledazzle campaign, and I cannot wait to see what she cooks up next.

With the successes of Pairs, Board Games: Now Blind Accessible, and Baffledazzle, we can chock up three more victories for the online puzzle community. With so many creators out there and the technology at our fingertips, the puzzly possibilities are virtually limitless.

And in closing, I’d like to hear from you, PuzzleNationers. Have you supported any Kickstarter or Indiegogo puzzle campaigns? If not, would you in the future? Let me know!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

5 Questions with Puzzle Creator Rachel Happen of Baffledazzle

Welcome to another edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, board game creators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole.

And I’m overjoyed to have Rachel Happen as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

Rachel is the entrepreneur behind Baffledazzle, a Kickstarter campaign to create visually striking, challenging jigsaw puzzles for a new generation of savvy puzzlers. Baffledazzle originated as Tumblr and Twitter accounts that encouraged viewers to try different activities and explore Rachel’s unique brand of visual and mental puzzles.

As an avid puzzle solver herself, Rachel strives to turn every new puzzle into a learning exercise, making Baffledazzle puzzles an intriguing mixture of hands-on puzzling and solver-driven exploration.

Rachel was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions for Rachel Happen

1.) How did you first get into puzzles?

Honestly, I can’t remember! I have always been really into puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles were my school-break staple for many years. I’d spend snowy days lying on the floor, sorting pieces by color. In fourth grade I had a math teacher that would give us those grid-based logic puzzles to fill time. I just devoured them. I solved them all and collected them in a binder. She had no idea what to think of me.

But my interest in puzzles really ramped up a couple of years ago when I stumbled on a 1960s-era Springbok and it knocked my socks off. They were doing things that pushed the jigsaw puzzle medium forward, visually and conceptually. I absolutely love exploration and challenges so finding both in a jigsaw puzzle was heaven.

I started buying up old Springboks and learned all about Par and Stave and the centuries-old tradition of beautiful wooden jigsaw puzzles. Then I read Anne Williams’ excellent book on jigsaw puzzle history and just thought, “I have to try making my own puzzles.”

[A glimpse at Code Breakers, one of Rachel’s puzzly designs.]

2.) Many of your creations, both on your YouTube channel and in your Kickstarter campaign, have both a puzzle aspect and a research aspect. Is it safe to say that your optimal solving experience goes beyond paper or puzzle pieces? What appeals most to you about that style of puzzling?

Ah, you put this so beautifully! Yes that’s exactly right. I want to use puzzles as a path, instead of making puzzles for puzzles’ sake. I aim to make puzzles that take you somewhere new, show you something you haven’t seen before. The solving experience I’m looking for is one of discovery.

I love that style of puzzling because one minute you’re quietly solving a puzzle and the next you’re combing through the history of public transit in France or plugging common Polish sayings into Google Translate, hot on the trail of the next clue. It pulls you away from your desk and pushes you out into the world. By making puzzles about real things (facts, people, moments in history, cultural traditions, etc.) I’ve tried to give solvers another way to engage with the world, another way to explore it.

I also love that there are no rules! They’re puzzles where you’re supposed to look up the answers on your phone. I wanted to make puzzles that acknowledged the omnipresence of information. I’ve tried to draw on that skill for searching by asking solvers to harness it and navigate into new waters, find new sources, and piece things together.

[In this video, Rachel discusses the Baffledazzle Kickstarter
campaign she launched earlier this month.]

3.) You mention in your Kickstarter video that you’re also a dancer and a clothing designer. How does the creative process for those activities compare to creating a BaffleDazzle video or puzzle?

Ooh, good question! I feel like the creative process is very similar because I’m hyper-focused on experience. Creation of any kind usually starts with an experience of my own. Maybe I saw something, learned something, or felt something that I thought was worth sharing. From there I think about how I can capture that experience in an object, activity, or performance.

For me, it’s not enough to just share the thing. Seeing a picture of that hilarious dog isn’t the same as walking around a street corner and just seeing it there. You don’t feel that same silly elation of encountering something bizarre out of nowhere. Similarly, reading a couple of sentences about a clever British spy isn’t the same as sliding a dusty book off the shelves of a deathly quiet library, flipping it open, and seeing her face, discovering her story like some forgotten treasure.

I do everything I can to capture that experience, then iterate and iterate and iterate! I credit my love of “let’s try it again!” to years of training in a ballet conservatory, where you can never practice too much.

When it starts to feel done, I take a step back and ask if I’ve made something that rewards people for their time. Have I captured the experience? Does this deliver something new? Will people walk away seeing the world a little differently? If the answer is yes then I push it out into the world!

[A few of the intricate pieces that make up the Baffledazzle puzzle
Cirkusu, which we’ll be reviewing on Tuesday!]

4.) What’s next for Rachel Happen and Baffledazzle?

More puzzles!! I have a big backlog of puzzle ideas that I’d love to create. Having my own laser cutter will make prototyping new puzzles much easier, so I’m putting 110% into this Kickstarter campaign to (hopefully!) fund that purchase.

Aside from puzzles, I’d like to explore other experiences that could be paths to discovery. We’ll see what sorts of shenanigans I can get up to with a laser cutter in the workshop!

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, entrepreneurs, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

See how many chips you can eat in a stack! But seriously, I would say: make things first, then worry if they’re any good. The only difference between someone with a business and someone with a good idea is that one of them acts like they know what they’re doing.


But wait! There’s more! Rachel has hidden a puzzle in this interview! The first person to provide the answer — either in a comment on this post or on one of Rachel’s social media platforms — will win a set of four Code Breakers puzzles!

(This offer is not contingent on the success of the campaign; she’s already produced these Code Breakers. And this puzzle never expires! If someone solves it years from now, she’ll still send them their prize.)


Many thanks to Rachel for her time. You can check out (and support) the Baffledazzle Kickstarter by clicking here, and be sure to check out Rachel’s other creative endeavors by following her on Facebook, Twitter (@Baffledazzle), and on her Tumblr page.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

Puzzles and Brain Health

There is a lot of talk nowadays about brain boosting and other attempts to combat the effects of aging on the brain. There are numerous websites and products boasting that they can help keep your wits sharp, your memory keen, and the threat of Alzheimer’s at bay.

From visual acuity and perception to coordination, critical thinking to spatial reasoning, from observational skill to improved memory, there are a lot of promises being made about brain health.

Unfortunately, there’s a wealth of conflicting and inconsistent data out there. (This article by The New York Times points out some of the inconsistencies in brain health reporting when it comes to puzzles.)

From a recent NPR article:

Molly Wagster, chief of the behavioral and systems neuroscience branch at the National Institute on Aging, studies how puzzles can benefit brains. “What we know is that it probably makes us better at puzzle solving, but it may not necessarily make us better at other types of cognitive activities,” Wagster explains.

However, in general, experts agree that puzzle solving is good for us. But what puzzles do the most good, and when should you start solving?

I’ve done my best to comb through the available data — both through reports from news sources and scientific papers themselves — and there’s one thing that they all seem to agree on…

Start puzzling when you’re young.

A study by the University of Chicago said that children who play with jigsaws and other shape-based puzzles at a young age tend to develop better spatial and math-related skills.

And there are other studies that support the idea that a fundamental base of puzzling at a young age contributes to better brain health later in life.

A study at Berkeley published in the Archives of Neurology (and covered by CBS News) found a correlation between crossword puzzle solving (and other challenging mind games) and a decreased likelihood to develop a particular marker for Alzheimer’s disease.

This study also said that when you engage in these activities is a factor. Like the University of Chicago study, the Berkeley study states that adults who engaged in crosswords and similarly brain-stimulating activities in their early and middle years had the lowest amount of these markers.

There is plenty of data to suggest that crosswords and other associative puzzles can have unexpected brain health benefits.

My friend Jake had major brain surgery years ago, and part of his post-surgery recovery consisted of solving crosswords. It was considered excellent speech/occupational therapy, and he sought out more crosswords post-recovery.

(This article from The New York Times discusses in detail another example of the curious relationship between crosswords, memory, and post-surgery treatment.)

But what about those who’ve come to puzzles later in life? Are all the promises made by those websites and brain-boosting products possible?

It depends on the puzzle. There are plenty of puzzles that are great at exercising various brain functions and observational skill, but there’s precious little scientific data to back up whether these games and puzzles actually help with memory retention or other faculties challenged by age.

But a recent article by Dr. Rob Winningham suggests that certain types of puzzle solving are more beneficial than others.

Crossword puzzles involve getting a cue and then attempting to retrieve previously learned information, which is something that people with age related cognitive impairment and even early to mid stage dementia can do fairly well.

Age related changes in cognition and earlier stages of dementia are primarily associated with impairments in the ability to concentrate, pay attention, and make new memories; crossword puzzles don’t really exercise those abilities, but Sudoku puzzles do.

According to Dr. Winningham, the heavy demand Sudoku puzzles place on concentration and active attention-keeping — especially when solved with distractions like television or conversation in the mix — exercise those parts of the brain associated with the formation of new memories, encouraging better memory retention and other mental faculties so many solvers of all ages want to keep in top condition.

While there’s still more research to be done to narrow down exactly what puzzles are best for your brain in the long term, there’s no denying that puzzle solving is always a healthy decision.

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebookfollow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, check out our Tumblr, download our puzzle apps and iBooks, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!