A few months’ ago, I found myself at lunch with an interesting mix of people at the Sandbox Summit, hosted at MIT. One of the attendees confessed that he felt a bit out of place among all of the tech advocates present since the company he works for makes basic board games that utilize no technology at all. I was intrigued. Upon questioning, I found out that Jason Schneider works for Gamewright, a company whose name I wasn’t familiar with, but whose games I had purchased on numerous occasions for my nieces. They are the name behind Rat-a-Tat Cat, Slamwich, and In a Pickle. I immediately know that I wanted to share their games with my readers!
The favorite game of the bunch was well-timed for LadyBug’s 3rd birthday, although she is still a bit too young to fully understand the rules. Take the Cake is a counting and shape matching game wrapped into a fun concept. You roll the die and get a 1, 2, or 3. That tells you how many times you can shake the cupcake. With each shake (hopefully) some decorative “sprinkles” fall out. Match the sprinkles to the shapes on the game cards and if you finish any of the sets, the card is yours. The cupcake shaker is a bit tricky, since kids are inclined to keep shaking rather than stop after only one or two tries. And I wish they had designed the cards so the spots for the pieces were cutout so little hands couldn’t easily knock pieces off, but otherwise this game is a gem. It’s a simple concept and the elements are all appealing to young kids. Who doesn’t love the idea of “decorating” a cupcake with colorful sprinkles?
Take the Cake is designed for 2-4 players ages 4 and up, requires no reading and has (not surprisingly) won quite a few toy awards.
Rory’s Story Cubes are one of those games that are so simple that there is plenty of room to play your own way. This tiny little set comes with 9 dice, each with 6 different images. Roll the dice and tell a story using the images you uncover. You can tell the story out loud, have everyone write their own version from the same dice, or act something out with no words at all. The small size of this game and the lack of a game board make it ideal for throwing in a purse or backpack, playing on a plane or in a campground and giving as an add-on gift or a stocking stuffer. I just love the options for Rory’s Story Cubes and think it’s a great option for families, classrooms and even nursing homes.
Rory’s Story Cubes are designed for ages 8+ (although younger kids can have fun, too) and can be played alone or with an unlimited number of players. It’s another multi-award winning game.
What happens when you take Bingo, cross it with an I Spy-style game and then add a dash of strategy? You get Can You See What I See? Bingo Link. And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s a great game!
Each player chooses one of the four game boards. The player who goes first, chooses one of the pictures on the board and calls it out. Everyone places a marker on the corresponding picture, Bingo-style. And then the next person goes. The goal is to create a path from one side of the board to the opposite side (they are color coded) while keeping other players from doing the same. The first person to make a path wins.
Bug and I have played this a number of times and he is starting to get the strategy involved in choosing spots (you can’t just pick all the pictures you like most if you want to win!). LadyBug is still too young for this one. She will play for awhile before she starts hoarding all of the pieces so she can cover the entire board. It is probably not surprising, but you can’t cover one entire board and still have enough to play on two other boards! Anyway, this one is fun, relatively quick and accessible to a wide age range. Older kids will employ a bit more strategy to block each other from winning, while younger kids can focus on making their own way across. If you’ve got really little ones, it’s just good for them to find identify and locate pictures on the board. I think this would be a nice choice for kids with special needs as well, as it forces them to work on a pincer grip and choose a picture out of a sea of options.
Can You See What I See is designed for 2-4 players (wish there were a few more game boards!) ages 6 and up. There is no reading required and it also has won a fair share of awards.
I only selected one game geared toward older kids and adults and this was it. The premise is similar to Apples to Apples, which is a popular choice at family gatherings. Each player has several “Advice” cards in their hand at any given time. One by one, players take turns being the “judge.” That person turns over a “To-Do” card that has three possible activities. The judge chooses one of those activities and each of the other player has to submit an Advice card based on categories such as Best Advice, Worst Advice, Advice from Your Grandmother and Advice from a Kid. The judge ranks the cards from favorite to least and players are awarded points based on how their advice went over.
This game is fun and funny, but the rules definitely felt a bit too complicated after playing similar games. The feedback was mixed on the die that mandates what type of advice to provide, as some of the fun is deliberately providing an absurd answer that you know the judge will appreciate. Players felt more pressure to choose the “correct” bit of advice based on the die, rather than the answers they enjoyed the most. Scoring and moving around the game board with 6+ players also felt unwieldy. General consensus was that we liked the premise of the game, but might simplify it by dropping the die and game board and just choosing one favorite card each round (thereby awarding just one point).
Sounds Like a Plan is designed for 4-8 players ages 10 and up, but could certainly accommodate more with slightly altered game play. It has the longest game time of the Gamewright games review (logical, since it’s aimed at an old crowd) at 30 minutes. Once again, this could easily be shortened or lengthened with some slight game alterations. It is also an award-winning game title.
If you browse the Gamewright website, you’ll find some general themes. While not true of every title, these apply to most of their titles:
- Minimal commercial tie-in
- A lot of card, die and other small package games
- Price points that make these nice add-on gifts
- Intelligent game play, not just the luck of the draw
- Room for alteration of the rules to meet the needs of the players, or for creating new games entirely
Overall, I’m a big fan of this brand. There are no batteries required and nothing blinks or sings. It’s a refreshing way to spend some quality together as a family.
Disclosure: There was no promise of a positive review and the opinions in this post are my own. The Amazon affiliate links contained in this post have no bearing on my product reviews.