No, this isn't a game store or a site
for online games, but rather a listing of our huge games collection, including reviews and other comments. So read on!
If you're here because you're trying to find the rules for a game, note that we've added little icons linking to rules pages we've found for that game.
We first put this page up back in 1995, and somehow over the years it's managed to become years out of date. :-( But never fear, we are now (as in February 2001) slowly starting to do a little work every few days to take care of that problem: fixing bad links, adding more of the games in our collection, and at some point a major makeover should be in the works as well.
OK, now it's March 2008, and of course orders of magnitude more out of date than before, but I would like to note that in addition to the reviews written below by six-year-old Sam when we first started this page in 1995, you can now read some game descriptions by adult Sam at the ARG (Association of Reed Gamers) Game Database. Where *does* the time go, I ask you!
non-computer indoor games
places to buy interesting games
people's games pages/resources
|Aggravation||Amazing Illusions||The A-maze-ing Labyrinth|
|Back to the Farm||Backgammon||Battleship|
|Chess||Chutes and Ladders||Clue|
|Crossed Wires||Dino checkers||Diplomacy|
|Ghost Party||Go For Broke||Gomoku|
|Headache||Junior Monopoly||King's Court|
|Knights and Castles||The Lord of the Rings||The Mad Magazine game|
|Mancala||Master Labyrinth||Math Race|
|Miau! Miau!||Monopoly||Mystery Mansion|
|Pictionary||Princess||Pyramids and Mummies|
|Quarto||Risk||The Robin Hood Game|
|Royal Advance||Save the Whales||Scrabble|
|Scrabble Rebus||S'Math||Snakes and Ladders|
|Sorry||Stratego||The Whale Game|
|Totally||Trouble||Turn Tac Toe|
|The Uncle Wiggily Game||Upwords||Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego|
|Where in the World||Winnie the Pooh game||Wizard of Oz game|
For more info on board games, check out Yahoo's board games directory, the rec.games.board newsgroup and the Luding "board game database" page.
|| Harry Potter Uno
For more info on card games, check out Yahoo's card games index and some of the newsgroups in the rec.games.* hierarchy. One great site is John McLeod's Card Games page.
We have a ton of computer games, most of which are not yet listed below -- I just typed in the following as a start, and then of course we're supposed to be doing write-ups on them as well.
I put "cooperative" in quotes because it can really be in the eye (or ad copy) of the beholder. For instance, Nectar Collector bills itself as a semi-cooperative game because the players are learning bee lore together, because bees work together, and because some of the "squares" you can land on direct players to share things. But I think that that's really stretching it (it's definitely a competitive game where players take each other's honey as well as, you know, trying to be the winner).
The board games listed below are billed as cooperative because players take turns working towards a common goal. Or to put it more bluntly, they're a form of solitaire games. If you like, you can play them by yourself as well as playing them with other people. They're especially good for playing when at least one player is a child, and you go about it in a relaxed way and just enjoy each other's company and the aesthetics of the game. But if you're very competitive or are looking for a relatively challenging, fast-paced game, these will not really be your cup of tea.
Two companies that specialize in cooperative games (they put out the ones listed below) are Animal Town and Family Pastimes.
BTW, there are several well-known books on cooperative games (though of the more physical running-around-outside variety rather than board games).The Bank Street College Bookstore's Cooperative Learning page lists several of these books.
This section is for listing games of ours that have a strong or explicit math orientation. However, as far as young children are concerned, any game involving dice is a "math game," providing a lot of fun practice in adding and counting. The next step is any game involving money, where you get to add, subtract and make change using a variety of bills and/or coins. The money games (or games with scored cards to add up, like Uno) also introduce a little multiplication and "counting by" -- for example in Monopoly children will get pretty used to ideas like five twenties are equal to 100, counting by fives when they want to trade in a pile of fives for bigger bills, etc.
Personally, now that my son Sam is eight, I'd like to find more games that give multiplication/division practice just as a matter of course, with it being as natural to the game as adding up an amount and making change are to Monopoly.
Anyway, here's the list:
The letter dice, tiles and cards in these games also make good manipulatives for children who are learning the alphabet or learning to read.
Well, first I'm going to make you listen to a quick lecture about how all games are good for pre/non-readers. This is because games that involve some reading (such as Monopoly, where the squares and game cards have a few words on them that you read/see over and over and over again just as a matter of course while playing) are great practice for reading skills. If you are sensitive, flexible and creative, and can play in a fun, relaxed manner, giving some reading help during a game isn't really going to come across any differently than the
Even with games like Elfquest, where each player holds some cards with a bunch of text on them that they're supposed to keep secret from the other players, . Games like Boggle or Scrabble, where being able to read/scan/recognize quickly is the point of the game, present more of a challenge to adapt in this way, but you can still do it -- click on their names for suggestions.
Anyway, keeping that in mind, if what you wanted was a list of games that required no reading skills whatsoever, then here's a start:
Also, as I said in the Word games section, the letter dice, tiles and cards in word games make good manipulatives for children who are learning the alphabet or learning to read.
by Milton Bradley
This game is kind of like a cross between Boggle and Scrabble -- you dump letter cubes onto the table and then you're racing against the timer to arrange them in the best Scrabble-like crosswords pattern you can come up with before the sand runs out. However, because there are only 13 cubes, you're pretty limited in what you can do with them. So it's an OK game but not exactly, uh, deep.
So which do you think there are more of in this world: games that are some variation of Parcheesi or games that claim to be some variation of "America's #1 family game"? Well I don't know, but as you may have guessed, Aggravation falls under both categories. Just like Parcheesi, Headache, Trouble, Sorry and so on, pieces (in this case marbles) move around a track from their start to their home, requiring certain dice/card values to start, and sending other people's pieces back by landing on them. All #1-family-game claims to the contrary, I don't think it's a particularly distinguished member of the Parcheesi dynasty: the marbles are nicely tactile/colorful enough and contrast well with the black board, but the board's not all that interestingly-designed IMHO, and its particular twists on the Parcheesi rules ("shortcut" places) I don't find particularly inventive or exciting. So all in all, this game would make for a nice evening for people of a certain age who remember playing it as a child, or for people big on Parcheesi-type games, but is otherwise not that exciting.
Sam says, "Unlike Sorry, you do not start at the start. You start at the base, and to go to the start you have to roll a 6 or a 1. You get another turn for a 6 if you're able to use it. You work your way along the board until you finally come out into your home. There are little circled sqaures at the tips of triangles with no bottom lines. If you get a 1 when you're on a circled square, you can either go straight ahead through the normal line, go to the next circled square in the row of shortcuts, or go to the 'super shortcut.' (The circled squares are shortcuts.) When you're on the super shortcut, you can be taken by another person landing on the super shortcut spot after you. When on the super shortcut space, the only way you can get out is a 1 or being taken by another player. When you're on the super shortcut and you get a 1, you go to any circled place you want. If I were you, it'd be the closest one to your home. Then again, if you feel like being mischievous, you might land on one right behind your opponent. Do you know what's the funny thing about this game? Each player has their own dice. There's one more thing: don't be afraid the marbles will break because it's called EGG-ravation!" (6/8/95)
Sam says, "You collect treasures, such as a treasure chest, an emerald, and a clown. (Not a clown, a crown!) There's another game like this, but I'm not going to bother telling you its name -- you can just find out where it is yourself." (6/1/95)
by Milton Bradley
I assume that everyone knows what Battleship is, but one thing worth pointing out in the "educational games" department is that it's a good introduction to use of a grid coordinate system. Each player has two grids, numbered from 1 to 10 on the top and A through J on the side, and you need to be able to call out and find coordinates like "G5" to make your guesses as to where the other person's ships are and to see if your own ships have been hit or sunk.
I still think online games are a waste of time, but if you want to play online battleship, try out these two sites: http://csugrad.cs.vt.edu/htbin/battleship/battleship and http://manor.york.ac.uk/htdocs/bships.html.
by Aristoplay, who also have a By Jove page
I was just writing to someone about By Jove, so I thought I'd better get around to saying something about it here as well. I got this self-described "A Game and a Book of Classical Adventure" when Sam was four, and when we got home from the toy store we immediately sat down and played a single game of it for eight hours straight. Not every game will last as long as that, and part of it was that we kept stopping to read from its little mythology book every time a new character/creature/etc. was introduced, but the game can definitely go on and on and on.
This is another one of those games that steals heavily from Monopoly. You roll the two dice and travel around the big square board, getting "gold" coins every time you pass the beginning, perhaps landing on a square commanding you to pay taxes. Instead of going to jail you go to Hades, instead of orange and yellow Chance and Community Chest cards you have orange and yellow Oracle and Potluck cards, etc. But instead of making you into a real estate speculator, By Jove has you acting out (and it's more fun the more playacting you put into it) stories from Greek and Roman mythology.
The winner is the first person to amass 16 gold coins, 8 Vanquish-A-Peril (VAP) cards, a labyrinth (minotaur) card and a quest (golden fleece) card. As you travel around the board you collect (by landing on them) "heroes" (Hercules, Ulysses, Atalanta, etc.) to aid you in your adventures. Much of the circumference of the board is taken up with "perils" (Medusa, Procrustes, Circe, etc.) which you battle via dice-rolling. Unlike Monopoly, two of the squares (labyrinth and golden fleece) lead to two smaller paths in the middle of the board.
In general this is a good, playable, attractive and educational game. The only complaints I have with it are (1) why are the cards so flimsy and junky when the rest of the game looks so nice?, (2) some of the messages on the cards are kind of dumb in an "I think they were running out of time and ideas here" way, ala "Pan panics you back to the beginning", and (3) it can get exasperating if you have everything you need to win except for the quest or labyrinth card and then just go around and around and around for hours never landing on the square to enter the quest or labyrinth paths.
Sam says, "A game of Greek and Roman mythology. For example, you go on the trip with Jason and the Argonauts to get the golden fleece. You can read about that story in a little book which is in the 'By Jove' box. By the way, for a lot of these games you have to read. There's a maze of a minotaur, but you'll find out about it in the game. And remember: look out for Hades!!" (6/1/95)
I had never played this "A Child's First Game" before Sam got it (his second game, actually) as a gift when he was two, and to a person completely unfamiliar with it it looked dated and campy enough (gooey candy everywhere on everyone, and the characters/costumes look like something out of "The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert") to seem more suited to extremely-stoned college students than little kids. The big selling point of this game is that you don't have to be able to count -- you turn over the card on top of the pile and move to the color or character it depicts, but Sam really liked dice and counting so he wasn't that much into it. We used to play this using figures from The Wizard of Oz as the playing pieces, and with the added twist that landing on one of the candy people's squares would also get you a piece of candy, and when the neighbor kids found out about this latter benefit, as you can imagine they wanted to play and play and play! Anyway, you have been warned!
You can see pictures and further information about Candyland at the University of Waterloo's Museum and Archive of Games site.
Sam says, "As you might expect, a game about candy. There are things like cards which will zoom you over to candy-people spaces. Sometimes my mother will put candy on the board when you zoom to a candy place on the board or land on it. That thing about candy reminds me of an Oz book I have, but that's another story." (6/1/95)
Sam and Arthur have never been very interested in this game.
Sam says, "As you might expect, the goal is to connect four. You can use its pieces for checkers. If you can drop a piece into a column it will land at the bottom, or on the top piece already in that column. Keep a good lookout for other people's plans." (6/2/95)
Sam says, "Hoops and balls, don't you know about croquet?!?! Well if you did you still might like to hear what I have to say about it. Like I was saying, there are hoops and balls. And mallets and stakes. (How to set it up: First of all, decide on which color ball you want. There are blue, black, red and others. Next, put two stakes in the ground, and hammer them in with a hammer you have. Or if you're not a grown-up, ask a grown-up to help you with that. Next, set up a line of hoops between the two stakes, and show everyone how you have to hit the balls through the hoops. Next, decide which stake shall be start.) (How to start: Put your ball behind the stake which is start. Then, using your mallet, take a swing at your ball and try to get it through the hoop. But don't try to swing your mallet until everyone is clear out of the way.) (About the hoops: They're not round; they're about like a half-oval. You might need a grown-up to push them in, too -- you can show the grown-up where to push them in if you want.) (If you don't know how to play croquet: If you don't know how to play very well, and you're playing with a grown-up, let the grown-up go first. They'll probably be able to show you how to swing right and how to get good aim.) You basically play the way you start (which you saw before this), until you finally come to the end of the hoops. Then, try to take good aim to hit the ball so that it rams into the stake. The first person to do this is the winner. After that, discuss if you want to play again." (6/10/95)
Sam says, "Dino Checkers is a lot like checkers, in fact it is checkers, with dinosaurs instead of regular checkers pieces. There are volcanos for discarding pieces." (6/1/95)
We have a lot of colorful dominos, but they just get used as mini-building blocks and for making "domino effect" setups; we have never actually used them to play dominos. However, I just got mail from Russell J. Mason about some dominos computer games he's written for Win95 ... you can check them out at his The Game Maker page.
Also, check out DominoNet, for everything dominos from someone who seems to be totally blissed out over them.
by Mayfair Games Inc.
Right now (10/28/95) this is Sam's very favorite game -- he's been playing it at least once a day for the past two or so months. It's based on the first four books in the Elfquest series by Wendy and Richard Pini, and if you haven't read them then a lot of things about the game aren't going to make too much sense to you.
The game's plot is that the elves are trying to find the palace that is their ancestral home before the trolls can finish building a metal dome around it.
Sam says, "" (10/28/95)
Sam says, "In a way, like 'A-maze-ing Labyrinth', because they both have ghosts. This one's ghost can capture you. You go into a hallway with negative stuff. If you land on one of the negative squares, you lose that amount of positive numbers. (If you want to learn about 'negative/positive', you probably should see my Math Museum.) There are normal rooms to go into to escape the ghost. You can get the exact amount or over that amount on your dice roll to go into that room. There are trophy rooms where you get 3 points if you land in one. You have to get the exact amount on your dice, though. Though the game will tell you itself, you cannot go into a room with a closed door." (6/1/95)
This is a straightforward game of pick-up-sticks, with the twist that the "sticks" are actually little white-plastic tools (long and stick-like ones, though) such as hoes, rakes and saws. However, the tools are well-enough suited to the hands of Lego people that it wouldn't surprise me if pretty soon we had lots of tool-carrying Lego people and an empty Jack Straws box.
Sam says, "Have you ever thought about lifting ladders with a heave? Or raising oars with a hook? Jack Straws combines the fun of that, and learning to get a steady hand and a watchful eye (for spotting movements). Our copy of it is missing some pieces, and excuse me, I saw a movement from picking up that hoe. Hey, wait! Don't leave yet! Just because you foiled one pickup doesn't mean the game is going to stop." (8/1/95)
This is the game where you have a bunch of marbles balanced on long plastic toothpicks sticking through a cylinder, and take turns pulling the toothpicks out one by one while trying not to dislodge the marbles. The big thing about this here is that it's the first game that five-days-short-of-two-years-old Arthur can really play -- he can set up the sticks, put in the marbles, and actually manage to take turns pulling the sticks out again.
This game also bills itself as "supercheckers" and that pretty well describes it -- a big board (64 diamonds), a lot of pieces (each player has 24), and a big free-for-all as you go jumping all around (all pieces move like checker kings) over every piece in sight (including your own -- this is good for setting up long multi-stage jumps that leave your opponent plus a dropped jaw and minus a lot of pieces). But surprisingly enough, the object of the game is not to capture all of your opponent's pieces, but rather to make it so your opponent no longer has any pieces in the 16-diamond center court area. Anyway, it's a cool game and a nice variation on checkers.
This is a set of four soft plastic/foam darts and some plastic tubing that can be laid out as target hoops. The darts themselves are totally cool -- bright colors with rubbery, bendy grappling-hook things for the "points." They're lightweight enough for even the smallest child to throw far, and the points/hooks are good enough shock absorbers to keep them from doing much bouncing after they land. The tubing was a good idea for a way to put large hoops into a compact box, but they still make kind of sorry-looking hoops, you'd probably be better off making your own targets using hula hoops and other such things. All in all this was a big hit at our house. (Though unfortunately a huge raccoon agreed enough with this assessment to really mangle one of the darts a few nights ago. :-()
Maria Reidelbach's book "Completely Mad: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine" claims that this game "... became Parker Brothers' most successful board game since Monopoly." It's no longer made, but I've seen it at a couple garage sales recently and also seen it offered in rec.games.board. Anyway, if you grew up reading Mad Magazine, then you'll have a big smile on your face as you open the box and set up the game, seeing all the familiar artwork and humorous touches. Unfortunately, the smile will fade long before you finish the game, and for that matter you'll probably put the game back in the box long before you finish it. The object of the game is to lose all your money, but as the players are constantly being directed to switch seats and get more money, this is something you have little if any control over. So the game goes on and on and on with the same things happening over and over and over ... basically, playing this game is like picking up an old issue of Mad, ripping out ten or so pages, and spending the next few hours reading them over and over and over again until it somehow dawns on you that maybe you really have better things to do with your time after all.
And for those people who got to this page because they were searching the web for answers to a certain game-trivia contest, OK, I'll give you the answer: the largest bill in the Mad Magazine Game is $1,329,063.00
Sam says, "A lot like A-maze-ing Labyrinth, which you can read about in a different part of this. Unlike A-maze-ing Labyrinth, instead of collecting treasures, you collect magic items to make -- well, as I would say -- a witches brew." (6/1/95)
Math Race is kind of a freeform -- lay it out yourself -- board game of math problems.
Sam says, "Ugh, slime that Gruzzle before it's too late! As you might expect, you rescue math. (In fact, that's its name backwards.) There are a bunch of Gruzzles as well as sharks. If you land in a shark's mouth, or on it, Benny Butterfly will carry you up and you restart the level. Also, don't be too upset about the weather changing. If you get touched by a Gruzzle (there are Gruzzles in Word Rescue too), you lose a trash-can lid. You can select just simple collecting numbers, which are from 0 to 9 (you get a bonus if you do them in order), or you can jump and touch one, and to get it, solve a math problem. You can solve the math problems in numbers or WORDS. If you get a math problem wrong, a Gruzzle appears. Watch out that they don't land on your head. Oh, and one more thing: you can be a boy or a girl. Also, you slime a Gruzzle by pressing the space bar (and then it makes you point at the Gruzzle). You'll find out why in its story." (6/8/95)
After seeing the "this game will change the way you think!" tagline in game catalogs and on the box, I was disappointed to bring it home from the store to find that it was a boxfull of logic puzzles (ranging widely from classic through clever through stupid and so on) on cards, accompanied by a token pad-of-paper game where you move a space by getting a "correct" answer. I'm not saying we don't like logic puzzles, because we do like them very much -- I'm just complaining because I feel it had led me to think it was something even stranger.
On the plus side, yes, you get a box of logic puzzles on cards, can do things like take turns pulling them out randomly, and Sam has had a lot of fun with this.
On the down side, IMHO the accompanying pad-of-paper game is pretty worthless, some of the puzzles are stupid, they insist that their answers are always the right ones (even if you can come up with something equally or even more plausible), and there's too much murder, murder, murder in it for my tastes (as in Sam's example below, many of the puzzles are presented in the form of murder mysteries where the same characters seem to repeatedly kill each other off). (6/16/95)
Sam says, "Boggle your brain on its questions. (I wonder how many words you can find in a brain after it's boggled? Ha ha!) Its questions are like:"
Shadow surveyed the scene. Itzak Gusher, the famous oil tycoon, was found shot to death while sitting in his car. Shadow was puzzled by the fact that he couldn't find a single trace of gunpowder anywhere in the car. This led Shadow to believe that Itzak had been murdered by someone outside the car. The strange part is, all the windows and doors were completely closed and locked. The only bullet holes were found on Itzak's body. Since the car wasn't damaged, how did the assassin manage to kill him?
Answer: kaztI rehsuG saw ni a elbitrevnoc
We haven't gotten around to saying anything about this game yet, but you might like to check out Parker Brothers' Monopoly page at (could you guess?) http://www.monopoly.com, as well as the University of Waterloo's Museum and Archive of Games Monopoly page.
Sam says, "You're a mouse. Stay away from the cat. The cat can win by getting you, but you can never win." (6/6/95)
Sam says, "Parcheesi, the game which a lot of games are based on! Parcheesi, the game with movement bonuses!. Parcheesi, the game a bit unlike Sorry, because it doesn't have slides! Parcheesi, a game where everyone shares the same home! Parcheesi, the game with safety tiles! Parcheesi, not unlike Knights and Castles (but Parcheesi does not have castles or knights). Parcheesi, the colors are yellow, red, green and blue! Parcheesi, the game with a spare for every color! Parcheesi, the game ... well, I think I will let you find out the rest about the game." (6/7/95)
by Family Pastimes
Sam says, "Make sure your brain is functioning -- if you can't remember things, it will be kind of hard. The things it invented are like 'the dog will let you pass if you give him the bone' but you can add other things that are true, as long as the other player(s) agree to it. For example, you burn the guard with the candle, and he's in pain so much that he doesn't make a move to stop you from passing by. It's the race before nighttime. There are moon squares; if you land on one you have to put one piece of nighttime onto the castle. If you defeat every guard of the castle and protection before nighttime closes in, the whole bunch of players will win. Oh, one more thing: don't make too silly ideas when it comes to encountering a guard." (6/5/95)
by Parker Brothers
Probe is a 2-4 player card-game version of hangman. Players use letter cards to lay out their words face down in racks in front of them, and each player's turn consists of drawing a Probe card instructing them what to do (take a normal turn/guess, add extra points to their score, expose a card, etc.). The scoring scheme is involved enough that when we've played this game we've just plain not used it, instead just focusing on who guesses whose word first, but we've also only played it as a two-person game -- with more people we'll probably try using their scoring.
12/1/96 comment: 26-month-old Arthur likes to play with the cards from this game right now because he's just learning the alphabet and is very excited about anything with letters on it. Unfortunately, there are such a huge number of letter cards that they quickly get scattered everywhere, people slip on them and fall down, and they take a long time to pick up again, so I like it better when he plays with letter dice/tile games instead. :-)
This two-in-one game wound up in all sorts of gift catalogs, because it's extremely attractive, but unfortunately "well-designed" describes its looks much more than its actual playability. The board is a four-pointed star with the Pyramids game on one side and the Mummies game on the other. On the Pyramids side, the board's four triangles fold up to form a large pyramid, and players take turns placing puzzle-piece-like blocks onto the pyramid's sides, amassing piles of coins, and answering questions or otherwise following the instructions on cards. On the Mummies side, players race to a mummy's tomb via rolls of a hieroglyph-decorated die and more card instructions.
On the plus side, again, the game is very pretty, it does teach you some things about ancient Egyptian culture, and Sam has found it entertaining enough to play quite a few times.
On the negative side, the rules are often unclear and/or sketchily written, the number of puzzle or question-asking cards is small enough that you get to know all the answers pretty quickly, and a lot of it just seems kind of arbitrarily thrown together. (6/16/95)
Sam says, "When it was talking about the game being a bit thrown-together in some places, there are several different ways to win. One of them is to have a certain number of coins in the mummy's chamber (which will be explained later), even though there are not many things to get coins from. (Here's what the mummy's chamber looks like: it can only be told from the rest of the hieroglyphic path because it goes in a rectangle, and its hieroglyphics are pink.)"
"How you get the cards in the Mummies game: There are squares which have all of the hieroglyphics. One of the hieroglyphics is lightened up above the others. For example, if the lighted-up one is a scarab, and when you roll the dice it comes up with a scarab, and there are no other scarab squares in the way to the space with all the hieroglyphics, then you'll go there and get a card. Why that would happen would be explained later. (Why a dice-roll with a certain hieroglyphic will bring you to the next square with that certain hieroglyphic you rolled -- because that's the way the game works.)"
"Now we get to the game of Pyramids. Do you use the hieroglyphic dice? Yes! Why you use the hieroglyphic dice in Pyramids:"
Sam says, "(I made a little joke about Rebound -- it was 'Someone's bound to read about Rebound' -- the 're' in 'read' and the 'bound' in the word 'bound.') In a way, a game of strength, because it takes a lot of strength to roll the ball with your finger onto the scoring pad. The goal is to reach 500 points before your opponent. The points are 10, 20, 50, 100. If you push too soft, it doesn't reach the scoring place. If you push too hard, it goes into the pit, you don't get any points (with that ball, of course). Actually, they're not really balls -- more like silver marbles with red or blue rings around them. The players are red and blue." (6/1/95)
by Parker Brothers
This pattern-matching game is reminisent of the "which two of these
Sam says, "Scan is a hard game. You need to match tan cards (cards with tan outlines) and " (10/15/95)
You might like to check out The Official Scrabble Homepage.
Sam says, "A lot like Scrabble Rebus, S'Math and we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. You have seven letter tiles which are used to make words like CAT and HAT and BAT. You can use other tiles from other people's words, or already-made ones of your own, to make your words." (6/2/95)
This game looks like Scrabble except that most of the tiles have simple pictures on them rather than letters, and yes, you use them to make rebuses, for example, a tile with the letter "W" on it and a tile with a picture of a hen on it become a rebus for the word "when". However, the problem with this game is that it's very unlikely that you'll be able to make a very impressive rebus from any random seven tiles, so you'll spend the whole game feeling frustrated with the lowest-common-denominator rebuses you are forced to make.
Sam says, "(Set!!! Three green ovals filled, two red diamonds outlined, one purple squiggle striped.) That was just an example of the kind of sets you can make. For example, a different one is three green ovals filled, three green squiggles filled, and three green diamonds filled. " (6/10/95)
Sam says, "In a way, like Pokerkub, because they both have numbers on the tiles. In S'Math here you only make math problems with the answers. My mother and I will sometimes do things like '12 = 12'. There are blanks which can stand for a plus, minus, division, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ... you get the idea." (6/2/95)
I have a great sentimental attachment to the "Snakes and Ladders" version, because it's the very first game I ever bought for Sam, back when he was 2 1/2 and had a broken leg. He was in a waist-to-toe "spica" cast that wouldn't even let him sit up, and he would lay on his stomach playing Snakes and Ladders over and over with me and others. By doing this he learned his numbers as dice patterns before he ever learned them as Arabic numerals. We started by using just one die, and when he got the hang of that, playing with both dice was how he first got started on learning to add.
Anyway, I'm sure you get the idea that this is a very good first game for young children -- it's tactile, with nice wooden pieces and a dice cup, it's pretty, with the board picturing attractive snakes and vegetation, it's simple, yet has a lot of action in an entertaining and unpredictable way, and there's none of the bordering-on-insipid moralizing of the "Chutes and Ladders" version. If by any chance you don't know how to play this game, well, it's as simple as rolling the dice, climbing the ladders and sliding down the snakes. Galt Toys makes it.
"Miaou! Miaou!' is a snakes/chutes variation that chronicles the adventures of "Ronron" the cat as he makes his way towards "his favorite place on a cushion at the fireside." Two interesting things about this version are (1) there isn't the fixed snake/slide-ladder dualism -- instead, there are various ladders, steps, trees, etc. which go up or down depending on which way Ronron is running in the pictures, and (2) the up-and-down devices relate to things (being chased by dogs, chasing birds, etc.) Ronron actually does, as opposed to the generic moralizing of Chutes and Ladders or the "gee, for some reason there are a bunch of ladders and giant snakes in the yard"-ness of Snakes and Ladders. This game came out around 1905 (what we have is a reproduction included in "The Great Cat Game Book" by Erika Bruce), so this type of game must be very old. I should do some research on how different games began so I can include some of that info on this page.
Ah, I see that the University of Waterloo's Museum and Archive of Games has done the research -- check out their page on this family of games for many pictures and some history.
And as for Chutes and Ladders ... well, so far you've seen two complaints about insipid/generic moralizing, and I guess that about covers it. With Chutes and Ladders, every ladder is a reward and every slide is a punishment, for example rescuing a cat from a tree gets you a ladder to a purring cat, whereas pulling a cat's tail gets you a slide to a bunch of scratches. Well, while those two examples are OK enough, some of the others are IMHO just repressive, such as that splashing in puddles or eating candy will make you sick, or putting a dunce-cap on a comic-book-reading kid. So I say HMMMPH!!! to Milton Bradley for this one.
Sorry is a very well-known member of the Parcheesi family of games.
Sam says, "A game a bit like Aggravation and Headache and Trouble. In a way it's like Knights and Castles -- not that Sorry has medieval stuff. There's slides to slide on. You can only slide on slides that aren't of your color. If you want to play it we can always tell you how to play it. (I made a little joke about Sorry ... what it is is 'I'm sorry if you play Sorry, because I'll probably be playing Sorry with you, and I'll probably be sorry-ed by you guys.')" (6/5/95)
I'm sorting this under T instead of I because its name is commonly shortened to "TIM."
Sam says, "Blast into TIM! Have all sorts of fun! Toss basketballs, set kitties falling through trapdoors, blow up walls, change the gravity for bowling balls, puncture balloons and all sorts of stuff. There are lots of neat things for you to do, including setting blimps on fire. Here's the best way I can describe a machine in words: First we take a bowling ball, and set it somewhere on the playing field. Put a ramp under it. Put a trampoline at the other end of the ramp. Click the action button. What happens? The bowling ball falls, rolls down the ramp, and bounces on the trampoline. Now we stop and put a few more pieces in. Then the bowling ball bounces into a flint-and-tinder. The flint sets on fire and lights a firework. It goes off and explodes in a brilliant burst of colors. Now stop your machine. Set it so the solution to your puzzle is setting off the firework. Next time you run your machine, it will say, 'Congratulations, your solution is complete!' Sometimes it will even make a noise like 'Sierra'or 'Phew!' Now go and ask a friend to try your puzzle. For information about the pieces you put on the play field, put down a small magnifying glass by them and it will give you information, like 'This bowling ball is very heavy in weight and doesn't bounce much.' Happy puzzle solving (and puzzle making)!" (7/27/95)
Sam says, "If your child(ren) have a favorite kind of toy (such as Duplo or Playmobil), you and your child(ren) are taking walks, you can be talking with your child(ren)'s favorite toys having adventures. p.s. This has been tested." (10/4/96)
OK, so this is kind of an idiotic thing to list here, but as the fulfillment of an old childhood longing, I just couldn't resist announcing that we now have a (whopping big 14-foot round) trampoline! I've lived in places with pools, tennis courts, etc. but trampolines were always exotic items that could only be approached via the whims of a neighbor, or a gym teacher deciding to make class a bit less horrible than usual one day. I have to announce, though, that it's not like riding a bicycle -- it's going to take some practice and getting used to it before I can do all my old tricks again.
The problem is, the weight limit on the thing is supposedly 215 pounds, which will probably cause problems for some of my friends. :-(
10/4/96 update: another problem is that Sam broke his leg on the trampoline on 9/5. :-(!!! It's a crack just below his right knee, and is healing nicely - the cast is scheduled to come off 10/15. Since he broke his leg all we've used the trampoline for (besides guests jumping on it) is making paper-mache pinatas on top of it.
11/28/96 update: OK, now that Sam's out of his cast and even jumping on the trampoline again, it's out of the doghouse and I can add a little more to this review. Recently a person wrote asking me about trampoline games, and these are the three that we do that I wrote to her about:
by Milton Bradley
I believe that this was a very common children's game at one point just as the Uncle Wiggily books were once a lot more common than they are now, because I'd seen many mentions of it but had never actually run into it. Then we found one at a garage sale just before Sam's eighth birthday. The "Ages 4 - 7" label on the box was Sam's first confrontation with being outside the older end of an age range ... usually his experience has been of playing a lot of "for ages ten and up" games and laughing at the idea that someone would think he was "too young."
So we brought it home and played it. It's kind of similar to Candyland in that you draw cards to move your piece (a cardboard Uncle Wiggily with a plastic stand) along a path to a goal, but instead of being color coded they have rhymes, ala "Uncle Wiggily moves ahead by nine, he thinks this game is really fine." As you can imagine, hearing this small series of rhymes repeated over and over and over throughout the course of the game would really get on the nerves of most adults, but the just-turned-two-year-old Arthur was in total ecstasy. When it was his turn Arthur would pick up his card and "read" it in a rhythmic babble, then rush it to Jon to read it out loud for him, then rush back to the board. (written 9/96)
You can see pictures and further information about the Uncle Wiggily game at the University of Waterloo's Museum and Archive of Games site.
Poor Harry Potter! Being caught between Voldemort and the Dursleys was bad enough, but now he's in danger of being buried alive under his own merchandise! I can not believe some of the bizarre Harry Potter thises and thats that are being pushed by one company or another, and if it's this bad now, just think what will happen when the movie comes out. Yikes! But then I saw Harry Potter Uno, and, um, now this one we had to have! Our old Uno set was getting pretty ratty after many years of heavy use, anyway.
In general they did a nice job of it -- the four colors are now deeper and richer for the four houses, there are a few appropriate new cards (for example, Invisibility lets you ignore a "Draw" card, and Howler forces another player to call out the cards in their hand) -- but the character illustrations could definitely use some improvement, and some of the choices for illustration strike me as pretty odd. I mean, why are the
Sam says, "This game reminds me of Wacky Wheels, because Wacky Wheels has a Panda Bear which is named 'Uno.' There are 'Draw Four' wild cards, you get to pick the next color. The next player who goes has to draw four cards from the cards pile. They're numbers 1 to 9 if I'm correct; actually there should be 0 too. A good strategy for this game is when you get a wild card, pick the color you have most of to be the new color. In a way it's like Crazy Eights." (6/2/95)
by Milton Bradley
Upwords is like a small-scale (8x8 board with 64 letter tiles) Scrabble with the gimmick that you can put letters on top of other letters that are already on the board, in addition to next to them.
The problem with this game is that the board is so small (and the number of duplicates of each letter too few) that there just isn't much room for words to spread out, and so you end up having to do a lot of "let's see, all I can do is put a 'C' on top of this 'B' to change 'BAT' to CAT'" as opposed to the flashy virtuosity of some of the stuff you can come up with in Scrabble. However, if you're playing with a young child whose spelling isn't that great yet, that same problem can serve as kind of an equalizer (and good practice for the child), that you'll both end up doing lots of little AT/VAT/RAT/HAT/THAT-type progressions. In fact, I recently saw a message describing how a person had used Upwords to help teach her child to read, laying out all that BAT/RAT/CAT/MAT stuff.
12/1/96 comment: 26-month-old Arthur is really into playing with this game right now because he's just learning the alphabet and is very excited about anything with letters on it. At this moment it holds more interest for him than letter-dice games because the letters stay the same when you bump them, and more interest for him than other letter board games because the tiles are relatively big and because each space on the board is raised so that the tile fits around it and stays in place (and they stack nicely).
Sam says, "My usual comment about Wacky Wheels is 'VROOM!!! VROOM!! POW, POW POW!!! WHAMHOO!' There's a shootout option where you can pick regular zones or bonus zones. It's an 'RA', er, I'll let it show you what it is. There's a different thing to pick, but that would give away what it is, you can just find out more about it, well, YOURSELF. There's also a duck zone where you have a timeout, use hedgehogs to shoot ducks. My usual comment about that thing is 'POW POW QUACK!'" (6/2/95)
Sam says, "Come out, come out, wherever you are, and meet the young game of the lady who fell from the star! The four players are: Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow. Watch out for cyclones which blow you back to the start. When your player reaches the Emerald City, make sure you have a pair of green spectacles put on. The goal is to get out the Wicked Witch's broomstick and go to Dorothy's house, on an exact roll. Don't fall asleep too much in the poppy field'" (6/5/95)
While it's true that this isn't a game store (hmm, maybe it should be, after all!), at the same time I thought I might as well type in the names/numbers of some catalogs/companies for people who are having trouble finding any games more unusual than, say, Monopoly. Alternately, you might prefer to check out Yahoo's list of games companies for pointers to online catalogs and so on.
What do you think I'd rather do -- travel to the toy store and get a new game for $25, or walk down the street and get five used ones for $5 (or maybe even for $1)? Garage sales and thrift stores are great for getting both interesting out-of-print games (like the Mad Magazine Game or Lord of the Rings) and those ubiquitous ones like Sorry or Clue that you somehow just hadn't gotten around to picking up yet. (However, on the down side, a lot of garage sale games are the really cheesy commercial ones like "Mutant Turtles and Power Rangers have a big fight to see who can make more money.")
Every week or so we get a letter from someone who entered the name of their desired long-out-of-print game into a search engine, up came our page, and now they want to know where they can buy a copy of their own. I always direct them to the eBay auction site -- you can usually find multiple copies of any old game there, going for quite reasonable prices.
Animal Town is a family mail-order-catalog business that develops and markets their own board games (such as Nectar Collector, Save the Whales and Back to the Farm) as well as featuring a selection of other people's games, toys, books and so on. In a lot of ways it's your generic progressive/educational/environment/cooperation/etc. kids-stuff catalog (boy am I on a lot of companies' mailing lists!), but as far as those catalogs go, it's the one I usually used to buy from, because they come across as real people rather than a churn-it-out facade of hype and buzzwords. They're a mix of somewhat-melancholy nostalgia (old family pictures and stories) and optimism for a future safe for California liberals, but on them it works because it comes across as sincere rather than the typical "buy this and your kid will either turn into Einstein or Laura Ingalls Wilder" catalog marketing BS.
P.O. Box 7529
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48107
Makers of very attractive and ambitious educational/learning board and card games, such as By Jove, Knights and Castles, and Pyramids and Mummies. Many games are multi-level, meaning that there are two or more different sets of rules/game objects/etc. for players of different abilities. Their games are available in many stores, but you can also buy from their catalog (and check out their web site).
Bridge supplies as you might expect, but they also have lots of interesting kinds of playing cards.
They specialize in jigsaw puzzles, but also have an assortment of interesting games that fall towards the puzzle end of things, i.e. decorative and tactile. Free online puzzles too.
Makers of homemade-looking cooperative board games like Princess and Amazing Illusions.
This is our local (downtown Santa Cruz) toys and games store, with a large selection of high-quality and interesting games. Their online catalog doesn't have so much, but if you're ever in the area you might like to check it out, as well as their affiliated RPG store "The Dragon Hobby Games", around the block.
A very extensive selection of playing cards; not as many of other kinds of games.
When we first started this page back in 1995, online games were pretty much a total joke! There you were with your fast and powerful computer sitting there playing online games like Battleship that would make you wait a few minutes for the web page to reload after each move -- it was like a return to the days of playing ASCII-graphic or text-adventure games on your shell account over a 300-baud modem, only even slower! But still, people would keep mailing us asking where they could find online games, so we had added this section.
Well, over the last many years online games technology has improved a lot, but a lot of the games are still a total joke, ala "see how many times you can click the bouncing corporate mascot/symbol/tie-in" or "our racing game responds so slowly to your clicks as to be pretty much unplayable, but doesn't it look cool?". Let's see if we can find some decent online games to list below anyway:
Copyright © 1995-2008 Tané Tachyon, Sam Shemitz and Arthur Shemitz