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: 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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PuzzleNation 2015 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Category

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2015 Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is broken down into categories for ease of searching. We have puzzle apps, puzzle books, downloadable puzzles and puzzles by mail, jigsaw puzzles, puzzle games, board games, card games, and party games. We’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for any puzzler on your list!


Puzzle Apps

Naturally, you’ll forgive us for starting off with a link for a familiar puzzle app!

The Penny Dell Crossword App not only features bundles of terrific puzzle content, but it offers a free daily puzzle to all users! You can check out the full details on the PuzzleNation website!


Puzzle Books

Pencil-and-paper puzzles are alive and well, and we’re happy to share some of our favorites with you.

 

 

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s the Colossal Grab-a-Pencil Book of Brain Boosters ($10.50, also available with Logic Puzzles!), the Splash of Color Christmas Special (and its sister title, Flying Colors, both $6.99), the Logic Problems Spectacular collecting more than a hundred brain teasing puzzly challenges ($8.99), or their Super Grab-a-Pencil Pocket series — with a crossword edition (pictured above), a Fill-In editiona Sudoku edition, and a Word Seek edition ($7.95 each) — Penny Dell has you covered.

And be sure to check out their deals on Facebook and Twitter for the entire holiday season. 15% off all sorts of puzzle bundles and books!

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Ian Livengood’s Sit & Solve® Sports Crosswords ($5.95)

–Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords ($8.95)

–Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords ($8.95)

–Jeff Chen’s puzzles for bridge enthusiasts ($12.95)

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Sit & Solve® Marching Bands ($5.95) and Diagramless Crosswords ($20.98)

–Patrick Blindauer’s Sit & Solve® Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords ($5.95) and Wide-Screen Crosswords ($8.95)

–Dale Maron’s Pentdoku Puzzles: Volume 1 ($12.95)

The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker

And we simply have to mention one of the most innovative puzzle books released this year, the interactive puzzle novel The Maze of Games! Now going into its second edition, this delightfully challenging read allows solvers to choose their own path through various labyrinths and challenge themselves to dozens of puzzles, this is a one-of-a-kind solving experience. Factor in the Wil Wheaton-read audiobook and Austin Wintory’s soundtrack, and you have a real winner here. ($49.95 in hardcover, $20 in ebook form)

[Click here to check out our full review!]

Collins Little Book of Bananagrams

Are you a Bananagrams fan who’s looking for something to give you an edge? The Collins Little Book of Bananagrams might be just what you need! With a list of puzzle words you might not otherwise think of, suggestions for other games to play with Bananagrams tiles, and techniques for speeding up your gameplay, you’re sure to be Top Banana with this handy guide in your pocket. ($9.95)


Downloadable Puzzles and Puzzles by Mail

Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between by-mail offers and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!

The Uptown Puzzle Club (puzzle bundles by mail) ($35 for 12 issues)

The Crosswords Club (puzzle bundles by mail, available in both regular and large print; $39.95 for 12 issues, $59.95 for large print)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles) ($20 for 1 year)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest ($26 per year)

–Bassey Godwin’s Will Sudoku (PDF puzzle bundle, full review here!) ($10)


Jigsaw Puzzles

Puzzometry

For a next level jigsaw-style challenge, Puzzometry is tough to top. These beautiful pieces can be combined in seemingly endless combinations, and yet, there’s only one solution. Available as Puzzometry ($16), Puzzometry Jr. ($11), and Puzzometry Squares ($16), you’ve got three distinct challenges appropriate for different ages!

[Check out the full review of Puzzometry by clicking here!]

Tavern Puzzles

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to free your heart from the tangled pieces of Heart’s Desire or remove the ring from the Iron Maiden, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($22)


Puzzle Games

These one- and two-player puzzle games are perfect to train your brain and keep you guessing!

Houdini, Gravity Maze, and Laser Maze Jr. (ThinkFun)

ThinkFun meshes learning and gameplay with three logic games ready to challenge kids and adults alike. Whether it’s the ropes and locks challenging nimble fingers in Houdini ($19.99), the marble-dropping path-building of Gravity Maze ($24.99), or the study of optics and mirrors with an actual laser in Laser Maze Jr. ($29.99), young minds and older minds will soon be in fighting trim for puzzling!

[Check out our full product reviews of Houdini by clicking here, Gravity Maze by clicking here, and Laser Maze Jr. by clicking here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! ($19.95)


Board Games

Some of the puzzliest games on the market today are being made by top-flight board game companies, and we’ve got some marvelous games that will appeal to puzzlers of all ages!

Stuff and Nonsense (Cheapass Games)

Many games are about grand adventures, but only Stuff and Nonsense is about pretending to go on grand adventures while scamming your fellow would-be adventurers. Can you sneak around London and gather the props you need for your impressive lie, all while avoiding the fiendishly clever Professor Elemental? Great fun and quick to learn. ($25)

[To check out the full review of Stuff and Nonsense, click here!]

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Zip It (Bananagrams)

Bananagrams is already pretty travel-sized, but if you’re looking for a game you can play on an airplane tray table, you need to check out Zip It. This 24-cube game works on Bananagrams rules AND allows you to use the carrying case to keep score! For puzzling in your pocket, you can’t go wrong. ($12.99)

Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games)

A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Your goal is to avoid meeting another dragon or flying off the board. It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($29.99)

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and Drawing Room Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer)

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with mega-syllabic ambitions ($29.95) and Drawing Room Scrabble for those with swankier taste ($149.95) — not to mention the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game for $12,000! — but few are as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Qwirkle (MindWare)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train Dominoes, Qwirkle is all about placing your tiles to maximize points and minimize helping your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump right into! ($34.99)

Tak•tak (Twizmo Games)

If you’re looking for a game that combines the strategy of chess and the mechanics of Upwords, Tak•tak is right up your alley. Score points by stacking and attacking your opponent’s pieces in this game that’s more than meets the eye! ($18.95)

[Check out our full product review of Tak•tak by clicking here!]


Card Games

These card games add a bit of friendly competition to some splendid strategizing for puzzlers of all sorts!

Pairs (Hip Pocket Games)

A simple card game with a lot of strategy behind it, Pairs is about NOT scoring points and avoiding pairing your cards at all costs. With new deck styles arriving all the time — like the Goddesses of Cuisine deck and the Lord of the Fries deck — complete with numerous variant games available, Pairs is a perfect group card game you can pick up quickly. ($10)

Give Me the Brain (Cheapass Games)

In this revamped version of a lesser-known classic, you and your fellow players are zombies running a fast food joint, competing to complete your tasks first. Unfortunately, there’s only one brain for all of you to share. A mix of strategy and luck, Give Me the Brain is the most fun you can having working in fast food, undead or not! ($25)

[Review coming soon!]

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. ($27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Batman Fluxx, Retro Loonacy, and Just Desserts (Looney Labs)

The folks at Looney Labs are all about games where the rules can change in an instant. They’ve broadened their library of Fluxx card decks with a marvelous Batman-fueled version ($20), as well as putting a new twist on their fast-play matching game with Retro Loonacy ($15)! Plus, you can always put your culinary skills to the test in the deliciously busy Just Desserts! ($18)

[Check out our full product reviews of Batman Fluxx here, Retro Loonacy here, and Just Desserts here, plus reviews for Adventure Time Fluxx and Fluxx Dice here!]

Timeline (Asmodee Games)

Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before OR after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning) history! ($14.99)

Adorable Pandaring (Asmadi Games)

We can all agree that pandas are adorable, but in Adorable Pandaring, you only earn points if your pandas are adorable, so you need to change the rules to favor the pandas in your hand. This game might have some mighty cute art, but don’t be fooled — it is all about timing and strategy. ($12)

[Check out the full review of Adorable Pandaring by clicking here!]

Compose Yourself (ThinkFun)

For a card game that’s marvelously musically different, try your hand at Compose Yourself. It’s designed to teach people of all ages the magic of music, and you can use the cards included to compose your own pieces, performed by an actual orchestra! I sincerely doubt you’ve ever seen — or heard — anything like it. ($14.99)

[Check out the full review of Compose Yourself by clicking here!]


Party Games

Some puzzles are best enjoyed in groups, so here are a few fun options for party puzzling!

Schmovie (Galactic Sneeze)

Are you the funniest, punniest one in your group of friends? Find out by playing Schmovie, the party game that pushes you to scribble down the best name for an imaginary movie created on the spot! Now redesigned in a sleeker box and playable by all ages, this is the movie game for everyone. ($19.95)

[Check out our full product review of the original version of Schmovie here!]

ROFL! (Cryptozoic)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! ($35)

[Check out our full product review here!]


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

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