5 Questions with James Ernest of Cheapass Games

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

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, writers, filmmakers, 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 James Ernest as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

James Ernest represents Cheapass Games, a company with a brilliantly simple rationale: they know you have board games at home, so why jack up the price of their games by making you buy more dice, chips, or tokens? Their games contain exactly what you need to play the game, and describe precisely what you’ll need to scrounge up from other games in order to play.

As president and game designer, James is instrumental not only in maintaining the Cheapass Games legacy of great games for a fair price, but he’s also adept at utilizing Kickstarter campaigns and social media to communicate directly with the devoted board game and card game audience. In doing so, he’s helped introduce numerous hilarious and innovative games to the market, including:

  • Unexploded Cow: a card game where you try to rid the world of mad cows and unexploded ordnance.
  • U.S. Patent Number One: a game where you and your opponents build time machines and race back in time to register for the very first patent. [Glenn’s note: Currently out of print, but one of my all-time favorite board games.]
  • Veritas: a Risk-like strategy game where you try to become the predominant Truth in Dark Ages France while monasteries burn down around you. (Check out our full product review here!)

James 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 James Ernest

1.) For nearly two decades now, the Cheapass Games brand has been synonymous with affordable games with tongue-in-cheek humor and high replay value. How do you know when a game is right for your brand? What role do you play in bringing these games to market?

I’m the designer as well as the publisher for Cheapass Games, so I play nearly all the roles. I try to create products that fit into that format. When I make something that doesn’t fit the format, I often look for other ways to bring it to market, such as finding another publisher, or using a separate imprint under Cheapass Games.

For a while I used “James Ernest Games” as an imprint for my higher-priced games, though I currently release everything as Cheapass. I also used the “Hip Pocket” brand for smaller, more abstract games, and that one will be coming back next year.

2.) Many of the games in your library rely on a combination of strategy and step-by-step chain thinking, both skills most puzzle enthusiasts have in spades. Are you a puzzle fan? And what about that style of gameplay appeals to you?

The challenge in creating a strategy game is to make a puzzle with variety, so it can be replayed without getting dull. Part of that variety comes from rules that can give rise to meaningfully different game paths, and part of it comes from the interaction of players with different strategies.

As you’ve mentioned, I also like games to have stories, and that works in a similar way: the story has to be open-ended enough that it can proceed differently each time. The game is more like an environment where the players tell their own stories, rather than a way to tell a linear story. This is obvious for RPGs [roleplaying games] but I think it’s true for other games as well.

3.) You’ve created games of your own as well as helping others bring their games to life. What puzzles and board games, either in gameplay or in the experience of producing them for sale, have most influenced you?

I learned a lot about game construction from playing and working on Magic: the Gathering. A lot of my games have decks of different card types, balanced to produce the right mix of hands, based on my experience doing deck construction in Magic.

I also draw a lot of my approach to games from Pitch, which is a cutthroat trick-taking game. In a nutshell, you can choose different strategies in that game, either to play conservatively and win slowly, or to take risks and have the potential to win quickly or move backwards. Neither of those strategies is dominant and that makes the game good. Of course I also play a lot of poker, which contains similar choices.

4.) What’s next for James Ernest?

My next project is Pairs, a “New Classic Pub Game,” which I will be Kickstarting in February. After that, I have a couple of older Cheapass Games that I want to bring back into print. And I’m working on a new tabletop miniatures game called Cagway Bay, which is pirate-themed and diceless. I have a number of new game projects as well, but right now I’m not announcing any of them because I can’t be sure when they will be ready.

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

If you want to create things, there is no substitute for practice. Don’t just read about games; don’t just play them. You have to make a lot of games.

Many thanks to James for his time. You can check out the latest news from Cheapass Games on their website — including their upcoming Kickstarter campaign for the game Pairs! — or follow James on Twitter (@cheapassjames). I cannot wait to see what he and the great folks at Cheapass Games come up with next.

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 iBooks and apps, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

The greatest gift exchange there never was…

It’s Christmas Eve, so hopefully you’ve perused our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide and completed all your shopping in a timely and not-at-stress-inducing, hair-tearing-out manner.

But if not, fear not! Some of the puzzliest and cleverest people in the artistic, board game, and puzzle communities may have just come up with the perfect last-minute solution for you.

You’re probably familiar with the concept of the White Elephant gift exchange, wherein everyone supplies a gift, and then a game of keeping or swapping takes over, allowing people to take turns, develop friendly little rivalries, and generally enjoy a bit of holiday frivolity.

But have you ever heard of a White Heffalump exchange?

This year, numerous game designers, artists, and puzzlers were recruited by Mike Selinker, the head of Lone Shark Games, to participate in a White Elephant gift exchange. But this exchange had a marvelous twist: every gift was imaginary.

So everyone involved — including such names as James Ernest (head of Cheapass Games, publishers of Veritas), John Kovalic (artist for Munchkin and creator of ROFL!) and puzzler constructions Eric Berlin and Brendan Emmett Quigley — created an imaginary gift for the exchange.

And then they all played the game on Twitter, so fans and friends could enjoy the madcap holiday cheer.

Here are a few of the “gifts” created for the White Heffalump gift exchange:

It’s easy to imagine a trip with The Doctor would be a highly sought-after prize.

What’s more heartwarming than retroactively sharing a friendship since first grade? (And possibly an iron-clad alibi, should you need one…)

It’s like one of those grab-the-money booths from an old game show, but with SWEETS!

A formidable steed and a delicious meal all in one. You can’t lose!

And the wily Matt Forbeck offered up the ideal machine for generating presents for next year’s White Heffalump exchange.

From “time to play with toys” and a dapper platypus to a 29-word crossword and a wish-granting pocket pet, the gifts were hilarious, innovative, and absolutely ridiculous, and the gameplay back and forth as people traded and stole gifts was just as entertaining.

[For more details on the exchange, check out Matt Forbeck’s write-up here or Mike Selinker’s incredibly thorough recap here.]

So, if you’re still struggling with gift ideas, you can always go the White Heffalump route. It’s creative, low-budget, and loads of fun. Enjoy!

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 Classic Word Search iBook (recently featured by Apple in the Made for iBooks category!), play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

PuzzleNation Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: Grab Bag!

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 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 a grab bag of all sorts of puzzle games, apps, puzzle books, and board games, the perfect random assortment for a puzzle fan you need ideas for! We’re sure you’ll find the right gift for any puzzler on your list!


To start, we’ve got an assortment of pencil-and-paper puzzle books to choose from!

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

Whether it’s their 100 Years of Crosswords commemorative book, their kid-friendly Kindergarten Learning Fun book (part of the Learning Fun series), their holidaytastic Sugar & Spice Pocket Sudoku Pack, or one of their many value packs featuring puzzles of all sorts, Penny/Dell has you covered. (And be sure to click here for their ongoing 12 Days of Holiday Savings promotion for even better deals!)

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!

Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords

Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords

Jeff Chen’s puzzles for Bridge enthusiasts

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s puzzles (the only one I’d firmly classify as 18 and up)

–Patrick Blindauer’s Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords and Wide-Screen Crosswords

And many top constructors have started marketing their puzzles directly to solvers, so in addition to free puzzles available on their websites, they have downloadable puzzle bundles and collections!

Patrick Blindauer PuzzleFests (puzzle bundles)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

Robin Stears’ StearsWords (themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles)

Of course, if you’d like to have a crossword specially created for someone, both Brendan Emmett Quigley and Robin Stears create puzzles to order on their sites! Two prolific, topnotch constructors are at your service!


And here is our grab bag of puzzle games and apps galore!

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games, card game)

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!]

Penny/Dell Puzzles Crossword App

Test your crossword chops with this impressive app, featuring smart navigation to move you to partially filled-in entries and an alternate-clue option to help you solve!

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)

ROFL! (Cryptozoic, party game)

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!]

Seven Bridges (app)

Based on the classic Konigsberg Bridge puzzle, Seven Bridges challenges you to navigate different towns and cross each bridge only once! A terrific chain-solving game with more than a few tricks up its sleeve!

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!]

PuzzleNation Classic Word Search (iBook)

Enjoy our own puzzler-friendly classic word search iBook (with three volumes of themed puzzles to choose from)! With an adaptable screen and plenty of puzzles to keep you busy, Classic Word Search is a terrific way to pass the time!

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and the World’s Largest Scrabble Game

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with multisyllabic ambitions ($39.95) and the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game ($12,000!), but neither is 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!]

Laser Maze (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

ThinkFun brings us a logic game with an actual laser in Laser Maze, a game of light, mirrors, strategy, and skill! ($26.95)

[Check out our full product review of Laser Maze by clicking here!]

Treasure Hunt Game (Hammacher Schlemmer, party game)

All the tools you need to create an engaging treasure hunt for kids can be found in Hammacher Schlemmer’s Award-Winning Treasure Hunt Game! With a map, clues, coins, and everything else you’ll need, it’s an all-in-one kit for scavenger hunt fun! ($64.95)

Veritas (Cheapass Games, board game)

In Veritas, it’s the Dark Ages, and you’re trying to protect your brand of the truth. As monasteries burn and other versions of the truth are spread, can you become the predominant truth in France? This strategy game has a wicked sense of humor and some fun twists on the Risk model. ($15, plus chips)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Chrononauts (Looney Labs, card game)

Time travel can be tough, but when other time travelers are changing history, it can be downright weird. In Chrononauts, you’ll bend the rules of time and space in the hopes of completing your mission and going home. And who hasn’t wanted to make history once or twice? ($20)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Dabble (app)

This word-forming game will put your anagram skills to the test as you try to move letters between tiers in order to spell multiple words of varying lengths! It’s Scrabble taken to the next level!

Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs, board game)

Take a board game, and make the cards, goals, and board changeable, and you’ve got Fluxx: The Board Game. It’s the ultimate think-on-your-feet experience, and like nothing you’ve played before. ($30)

[Check out our full product review here!]


The Brain Fitness series: Solitaire Chess, Rush Hour, and Chocolate Fix (ThinkFun, puzzle games)

It’s three variations on ThinkFun’s classic puzzle games in order to keep your mind in fighting trim for puzzling! Put your chess skills in play for Solitaire Chess, your Sudoku skills on high for Chocolate Fix, and your chain-solving on overdrive for Rush Hour ($14.99 each)!

[Check out our full product review of the Brain Fitness line by clicking here!]

Light ‘Em Up (app)

In this app, you control fire and you’re trying to burn all the woodpiles in the area. But fire is trickier than you think! A fun problem-solving game with a great medieval look!

Pink Hijinks (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Pyramids series, Pink Hijinks is a quick-to-play strategy game for two players! Roll the dice, make your move, and try to race your opponent to the finish in this easily transported game of tactics! ($12)

[Check out our full product review here!]


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

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

PuzzleNation Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Category

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 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 books, downloadable puzzles, specialty puzzles, puzzle apps and iBooks, 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 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 their 100 Years of Crosswords commemorative book, their kid-friendly Kindergarten Learning Fun book (part of the Learning Fun line), their holidaytastic Sugar & Spice Pocket Sudoku Pack, or one of their many value packs featuring puzzles of all sorts, Penny/Dell has you covered. (And be sure to click here for their ongoing 12 Days of Holiday Savings promotion for even better deals!)

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!

Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords

Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords

Jeff Chen’s puzzles for Bridge enthusiasts

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s puzzles (18 and up)

–Patrick Blindauer’s Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords and Wide-Screen Crosswords


Downloadable Puzzles

Many top constructors have started marketing their puzzles directly to solvers, so in addition to free puzzles available on their websites, they have downloadable puzzle bundles and collections!

Patrick Blindauer PuzzleFests (puzzle bundles)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

Robin Stears’ StearsWords (themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles)


Specialty Puzzles

If you’d like to have a crossword specially created for someone, both Brendan Emmett Quigley and Robin Stears create puzzles to order on their sites! Two prolific, topnotch constructors are at your service!


Puzzle Apps / iBooks

Crosswords and other puzzles have absolutely taken over the portable market with apps and iBooks and games galore, so here are a few for the puzzle-loving techie on the go!

Penny/Dell Puzzles Crossword App

Test your crossword chops with this impressive app, featuring smart navigation to move you to partially filled-in entries and an alternate-clue option to help you solve!

PuzzleNation Classic Word Search iBooks

Enjoy our own puzzler-friendly classic word search iBook (with three volumes of themed puzzles to choose from)! With an adaptable screen and plenty of puzzles to keep you busy, Classic Word Search is a terrific way to pass the time!

Dabble

This word-forming game will put your anagram skills to the test as you try to move letters between tiers in order to spell multiple words of varying lengths! It’s Scrabble taken to the next level!

Seven Bridges

Based on the classic Konigsberg Bridge puzzle, Seven Bridges challenges you to navigate different towns and cross each bridge only once! A terrific chain-solving game with more than a few tricks up its sleeve!

Light ‘Em Up

In this app, you control fire and you’re trying to burn all the woodpiles in the area. But fire is trickier than you think! A fun problem-solving game with a great medieval look!


Puzzle Games

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


Laser Maze and the Brain Fitness series: Solitaire Chess, Rush Hour, and Chocolate Fix (ThinkFun)

ThinkFun brings us a logic game with an actual laser in Laser Maze ($26.95), as well as three variations on their classic puzzle games in order to keep your mind in fighting trim for puzzling! Put your chess skills in play for Solitaire Chess, your Sudoku skills on high for Chocolate Fix, and your chain-solving on overdrive for Rush Hour ($14.99 each)!

[Check out our full product review of Laser Maze by clicking here and our review of the Brain Fitness line by clicking here!]

Pink Hijinks (Looney Labs)

Part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Pyramids series, Pink Hijinks is a quick-to-play strategy game for two players! Roll the dice, make your move, and try to race your opponent to the finish in this easily transported game of tactics! ($12)

[Check out our full product review 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!

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and the World’s Largest Scrabble Game

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with multisyllabic ambitions ($39.95) and the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game ($12,000!), but neither is 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!]

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!]

Veritas (Cheapass Games)

In Veritas, it’s the Dark Ages, and you’re trying to protect your brand of the truth. As monasteries burn and other versions of the truth are spread, can you become the predominant truth in France? This strategy game has a wicked sense of humor and some fun twists on the Risk model. ($15, plus chips)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs)

Take a board game, and make the cards, goals, and board changeable, and you’ve got Fluxx: The Board Game. It’s the ultimate think-on-your-feet experience, and like nothing you’ve played before. ($30)

[Check out our full product review here!]


Card Games

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

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!]

Chrononauts (Looney Labs)

Time travel can be tough, but when other time travelers are changing history, it can be downright weird. In Chrononauts, you’ll bend the rules of time and space in the hopes of completing your mission and going home. And who hasn’t wanted to make history once or twice? ($20)

[Check out our full product review here!]


Party Games

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

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!]

Treasure Hunt Game (Hammacher Schlemmer)

All the tools you need to create an engaging treasure hunt for kids can be found in Hammacher Schlemmer’s Award-Winning Treasure Hunt Game! With a map, clues, coins, and everything else you’ll need, it’s an all-in-one kit for scavenger hunt fun! ($64.95)


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

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

PuzzleNation Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Age

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog Holiday Gift Guide!

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

This guide is broken down by age group, so we’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for puzzlers of any age on your list!


For Ages 3-5 and Up

Treasure Hunt Game (Hammacher Schlemmer, party game)

All the tools you need to create an engaging treasure hunt for kids can be found in Hammacher Schlemmer’s Award-Winning Treasure Hunt Game! With a map, clues, coins, and everything else you’ll need, it’s an all-in-one kit for scavenger hunt fun! ($64.95)

Kindergarten Learning Fun

The kid-friendly Kindergarten Learning Fun book (part of the Learning Fun series) is a perfect introductory book of puzzles for youngsters! ($3.99)


For Ages 8 and Up

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and the World’s Largest Scrabble Game

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with multisyllabic ambitions ($39.95) and the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game ($12,000!), but neither is 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!]

Seven Bridges (app)

Based on the classic Konigsberg Bridge puzzle, Seven Bridges challenges you to navigate different towns and cross each bridge only once! A terrific chain-solving game with more than a few tricks up its sleeve!

Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs, board game)

Take a board game, and make the cards, goals, and board changeable, and you’ve got Fluxx: The Board Game. It’s the ultimate think-on-your-feet experience, and like nothing you’ve played before. ($30)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt, puzzle game)

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)


Laser Maze and the Brain Fitness series: Solitaire Chess, Rush Hour, and Chocolate Fix (ThinkFun, puzzle games)

ThinkFun brings us a logic game with an actual laser in Laser Maze ($26.95), as well as three variations on their classic puzzle games in order to keep your mind in fighting trim for puzzling! Put your chess skills in play for Solitaire Chess, your Sudoku skills on high for Chocolate Fix, and your chain-solving on overdrive for Rush Hour ($14.99 each)!

[Check out our full product review of Laser Maze by clicking here and our review of the Brain Fitness line by clicking here!]

Light ‘Em Up (app)

In this app, you control fire and you’re trying to burn all the woodpiles in the area. But fire is trickier than you think! A fun problem-solving game with a great medieval look!

ROFL! (Cryptozoic, party game)

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!]


For Ages 10-12 and Up

Dabble (app)

This word-forming game will put your anagram skills to the test as you try to move letters between tiers in order to spell multiple words of varying lengths! It’s Scrabble taken to the next level!

Penny/Dell Puzzles Crossword App (app)

Test your crossword chops with this impressive app, featuring smart navigation to move you to partially filled-in entries and an alternate-clue option to help you solve!

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games, board game)

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!]

Chrononauts (Looney Labs, card game)

Time travel can be tough, but when other time travelers are changing history, it can be downright weird. In Chrononauts, you’ll bend the rules of time and space in the hopes of completing your mission and going home. And who hasn’t wanted to make history once or twice? ($20)

[Check out our full product review here!]

PuzzleNation Classic Word Search (iBook)

Enjoy our own puzzler-friendly classic word search iBook (with three volumes of themed puzzles to choose from)! With an adaptable screen and plenty of puzzles to keep you busy, Classic Word Search is a terrific way to pass the time!

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games, card game)

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!]


For Ages 14 and Up

Pink Hijinks (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Pyramids series, Pink Hijinks is a quick-to-play strategy game for two players! Roll the dice, make your move, and try to race your opponent to the finish in this easily transported game of tactics! ($12)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Veritas (Cheapass Games, board game)

In Veritas, it’s the Dark Ages, and you’re trying to protect your brand of the truth. As monasteries burn and other versions of the truth are spread, can you become the predominant truth in France? This strategy game has a wicked sense of humor and some fun twists on the Risk model. ($15, plus chips)

[Check out our full product review here!]


For Ages 18 and Up

Most puzzle books would probably fall in the Age 9-10 and Up range, but oftentimes, the cluing is geared toward an older audience, so to avoid confusion, I’ve bundled the majority of the puzzle books here.

 

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

Whether it’s their 100 Years of Crosswords commemorative book, their holidaytastic Sugar & Spice Pocket Sudoku Pack, or one of their many value packs featuring puzzles of all sorts, Penny/Dell has you covered. (And be sure to click here for their ongoing 12 Days of Holiday Savings promotion for even better deals!)

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!

Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords

Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords

Jeff Chen’s puzzles for Bridge enthusiasts

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s puzzles (the only one I’d firmly classify as 18 and up)

–Patrick Blindauer’s Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords and WideScreen Crosswords

And many top constructors have started marketing their puzzles directly to solvers, so in addition to free puzzles available on their websites, they have downloadable puzzle bundles and collections!

Patrick Blindauer PuzzleFests (puzzle bundles)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

Robin Stears’ StearsWords (themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles)

Of course, if you’d like to have a crossword specially created for someone, both Brendan Emmett Quigley and Robin Stears create puzzles to order on their sites! Two prolific, topnotch constructors are at your service!


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

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

PuzzleNation Product Reviews: Veritas

Here at PuzzleNation Blog, we’re constantly on the lookout for any and all things puzzly, happy to spread the word on anything that will appeal to puzzle solvers.

And we think Cheapass Games’ board game Veritas fits the bill nicely.

Veritas is a strategy game in the same vein as Risk and other map-based board games, but with a much quicker pace and a delightfully wicked sense of humor.

The game is set in France during the Dark Ages, and each player represents some version of the Truth, printed in a few books at a random monastery. As you make more copies of the Truth and spread the word to other monasteries and cities, your fellow players are doing the same with their own versions of the Truth, as each of you tries to become the prevailing Truth in the country.

Sounds like a pretty straightforward strategy game, right? But that’s where the element of luck comes in.

Every round, each player pulls from a set of tiles, each tile representing a monastery that will burn down that turn. As monasteries burn, the books they contain are scattered, and the map becomes a little smaller, a little more claustrophobic, and one player’s Truth begins supplanting that of others.

Veritas is a marvelous mix of chance and skill, encouraging both short-term and long-term strategizing (skills that puzzle solvers and puzzle gamers have in spades).

The element of randomness is key in separating Veritas from games with similar territorial stakes. There’s a fun element of the unknown as you pick your tile, and since books are scattered instead of destroyed, there’s significantly less chance of hard feelings when one player burns down another player’s monastery.

(Plus it’s always fun to explain to coworkers in the lunchroom what you’re doing. “Burning down French monasteries” is never the answer they expect. *laughs*)

(Confession: We were so involved in the gameplay that I forgot to take pictures of the board. Please enjoy this dramatic recreation.)

The Cheapass Games rationale is simple, but elegant. They know you’ve got board games at home, so why jack up the price of their games by making you buy another set of dice, another set of chips, another set of tokens and supplemental pieces?

Cheapass Games arrive in a slim white box — as our complimentary review copy did — containing exactly what you need to play the game, and describing precisely what you’ll need from other games to play.

In the case of Veritas, you receive the game board (split into 8 well-rendered cards), the monastery tiles (for randomized burning), and instructions. Simple and elegant. All you need are chips to represent books filled with your truth.

Dime-sized ones will work best, especially since they need to be stackable. Monasteries in key positions can start to resemble miniature games of Jenga, as opposing players keep adding to the stack.

We used Rolco plastic chips in our playtesting, but they didn’t stack particularly well. (The game’s designers highly recommend using smaller poker chips like the ones featured here, since they’re designed to be stacked and won’t take up too much space on the game board.)

The game’s setup is a snap, though you’ll want to give the instructions a thorough read before starting, since the multiple actions available to players on a given turn can take a minute or two to suss out completely. (Any rules we were fuzzy on became instantly clear after a round or two of play.)

Veritas is a terrific strategy game that will appeal to plenty of puzzle solvers and gamers of all ages, continuing the Cheapass Games tradition of clever games with their signature sense of humor.

After all, what’s a little monastery burning between friends? =)

[You can find more information on Veritas (or pick up a copy of your own) by clicking here.]

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, check out our Classic Word Search iBook (recently featured by Apple in the Made for iBooks category!), play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!