On The Third Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Tempo, Kleine Schneke (or Snail’s Pace Race)!

The Rules:

All six racing snails are placed on their colour on the board and players place bets on which two snails they think will come first and last in the race, respectively. Players then take it in turns to roll the dice and move the snail of the colour shown one space forward on the board. Generally two snails will be moved, as the dice will show different colours, however one snail will be moved forward two spaces if the dice show the same colour when they’re rolled. This continues until all snails have finished the race.The winner is the player who guessed most accurately the winning and losing snails.

For Christmas?

Yes! This game is great for everyone because there is no strategy or tactic to it; it’s not about skill, it’s about guessing and getting lucky with the dice rolls! Plus it would be funny to see Aunt Jean get frustrated over the apparent lack of any kind of method to the game, the very existence of it will upset her delicate world-view, which will add entertainment value to the overall experience of the game. Because every player has to guess which snails will win and lose you could make it interesting (if there are no kids playing) by placing bets on your snails to add a little edge to the game. After all, it’s Christmas, and there should be plenty of sweets around that could be used as chips.

Happy Third Day of Christmas! I hope you’re still trying to eat your way through the Christmas dinner leftovers and haven’t even thought about cooking anything fresh for the last few days!

On The Second Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Scwarzer Peter (Black Peter/Old Maid) and a book about German robbers and thieves.

The Rules!

The whole deck of cards is shuffled and then dealt out between all the players. Each player then looks through their cards and removes any pairs they already have in their hand and lays them on the table in front of them. Once this is done players take it in turns to draw one card at random from one other player and see if it makes a pair. Once all pairs have been laid down the player left with the Black Peter card is the loser.

For Christmas?

Yes! It’d be a good way of keeping the kids calm and in one place whilst you get dinner going, or out of the oven. Aunt Jean could even be enlisted to help play as it’s simple enough that she can’t get confused. This game would be a good stocking-filler for the kids as it’s pocket-sized. It can also be played with up to 6 players (when playing with one deck of cards) so it’s good for those times when there’s a group of people together!

Happy Second Day of Christmas! Keep playing games, keep eating sweets, keep opening presents and keep reading about our Christmas games!

On The First Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Teddy Memory – and suggested that I work on my memory before buying him another present…

The Rules:

This game is just Pairs, but under a cuter name. Very simple and straightforward. You shuffle all the cards and lay them face-down on the table/floor/whatever surface you’re playing on. Then the first player picks two cards and turns them face up. If they’re the same that player gets to keep them and takes another turn. If they’re different they have to be turned over again and play passes to the next player on the left. The winner is the person with the most pairs when all the cards have been picked up.

For Christmas?

Well, why not? It’s a nice easy game that can be played by any number of people (provided you have enough cards and a big enough table or floor). It’s also fantastic for all ages because it forces you to exercise your memory muscles! Brain-active games have been shown to help prevent Alzheimer’s, so get all the oldies playing with the kids and then everyone can have healthier brains! It’s definitely a social game too, so Aunt Jean (see Twelve Games of Christmas – 2013) won’t be able to complain that no one wants to spend any time with her! (Unless of course she doesn’t want to play the game and then, well, what can you do?)

Anyone who was reading this blog as far back as 2013 will already have a feel for how these posts go. The only difference really is that this year they’re all kids/family games rather than just any game we really liked during the year.

Merry Christmas everyone! Play many games and bring joy and game-related arguments to all your family and friends!

Lotti Karotti or Funny Bunny!

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 1999

Creator: Ian Steven (artist)

Go back to whichever hole you jumped out of and leave us alone!

What do you call a happy rabbit? A hop-timist! (Not the place for bad rabbit jokes? Okay…)

Lotti Karotti (the German name for the game, the English is Funny Bunny) is a simple and fun game in which you race against the other players’ rabbits, and hop that little bit faster than everyone else!

What’s In The Box:

dsc_0142

  1. Three-dimensional playing board
  2. Game rules
  3. Deck of action cards
  4. 4 x 4 coloured rabbits

Playing The Game:

Objective: To get one of your rabbits to the big carrot faster than anyone else.

To begin the game the deck of action cards should be shuffled and placed face-down at the side of the board and the carrot should be twisted until there are no holes showing in the board. Next each player should choose a colour of rabbit to be from the four available. As it doesn’t say in the rules who plays first we just did Rock, Paper, Scissors for it. Once a first player has been determined they draw the first card from the deck and turn it face up on the table. They then perform the action on the card which will be either, hop 1, 2 or 3 spaces, or twist the carrot.

Normally players will place a rabbit onto the first, second or third spot on the board on their first turn. This normally creates a que of rabbits, like this:

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Here two rabbits are adjacent to each other.

If this happens and the player in the middle or the back turns over a card that tells them to hop they are allowed to jump over any number of rabbits that are adjacent to them to get to the next empty space. Like this:

dsc_0189
The second yellow rabbit has hopped over the first yellow rabbit and the purple one to reach the third space on the board.

When the carrot is turned it causes holes to open up at different points on the board. If one of your rabbits is on a hole when it is opened by another player (or yourself) it falls underneath the board and is immediately out of the game. Likewise if a hole is opened next to where one of your rabbits is and you turn up a card saying to hop one space you also have to hop into the hole, you cannot hop over it.

Winning The Game:

The first player to get a rabbit to the top of the carrot is the winner.

Strategy:

It’s not really possible to have a strategy for this game. This time round that we played it all my rabbits ended up in underneath the board and there was absolutely nothing I could have done about it. I would say just try and get your first rabbit as far along the board as possible. But otherwise don’t think it through too much, because it’s a game of chance with the cards really.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. Between 2001 – 2002 this game was recommended for two awards and won 1.
  2. I have absolutely nothing else interesting to write here.

To Conclude:

As kids games go this is pretty great. It doesn’t involve any complicated thinking but also, because of the nature of the ‘carrot’ cards, doesn’t get boring either. It’s a good quick play for children of all ages with a cute theme.

Sphinx!

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: 1999

Creator(s): Gunter Baars (designer) and Chris Mitchell (artist)

Can you fathom the riddle of the Sphinx?

sphinx-riddle
Image courtesy of awesomejelly.com

Sphinx  is a simple game for kids which incorporates the popular mythological creature. The Sphinx is a widely recognize creature; a lion with the head of a man. The most famous Sphinx in the world is the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt, which stands near the Great Pyramids of Giza on the west bank of the Nile. In popular mythology the Sphinx is a wise being which often demands the answer to a riddle. when this answer is given incorrectly the Sphinx eats the unfortunate person who couldn’t answer. However, the mini Sphinxes in this game are much less vicious.

What’s In The Box:

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  1. Game board
  2. 3 6-sided dice, one with a double snake image on one side
  3. 6 Sphinxes with different coloured bases
  4. 4 player tokens
  5. 6 coloured Sphinx cards
  6. 1 Rule book (not in the picture as someone was reading it at the time)

Playing the Game:

Objective: To collect the right coloured Sphinx cards and present them before the Sphinxes to collect the treasure.

Okay, that’s not a hugely clear way of writing the objective, but that’s why we write the rest of the post!

To begin the game each player chooses a token and places it on the square on the board with an arrow on it. The six Sphinxes are then randomly placed on each of the six squares with a Sphinx image on it. If you’re playing with less than four players you should remove the appropriate number of Sphinx cards from the stack by the side of the board so that there is one for each player. In this game the youngest player starts, and play then continues clockwise round the board.

To begin your turn you roll all three dice. In this game you do not total the number shown on the dice, instead you take each die as an independent section of your turn, in whichever order you choose. If you pass another player you can take a Sphinx card that you need from them. However you cannot take a card that you already have, if a player has Sphinx cards, but you already have all of them, they have to return one to the stack and recollect it.

An interesting thing about this game is the flexibility with which you can take each turn, when you move forward with the number on one die, you can then move backwards using the number on the next die.

Note: you cannot move forward an backward on the same number. For example I couldn’t split a five on one die into two three squares forward, one square back, I would have to move either five squares forward or backwards.

 

dsc_0184

Okay, take this picture as an example of how I might take my turn. Say I’m green and I’ve just rolled a 2, 3 and 5. I could then proceed as follows: I could go forward two squares and collect the beige Sphinx card (to collect a card you can either land on, or pass over the correct square), I could then proceed a further five squares along in the same direction as I was previously going. This would pass me over a mummy hand, doing this means that I can look at the base of any one of the six Sphinxes on the board to know which colour it is. In addition to that, I also have to spin the section of board that I’ve landed on. It’s not clear in this picture, but some of the sections of wall in the maze are small 2×2 square turntables. If a player ends one of their moves on one of theses, they have to rotate it 180 degrees; if another player is on the next square, or the other side of the same wall section, they are also rotated. Lastly I have a 3 to use up, I can then go in whichever direction I choose, three either direction takes me to another turntable.

Oaky, so that’s how you would play a turn. Lastly, there’s a double-snake symbol on one of the sides of one of the dice. When this is rolled the player who rolls it has to swap one of the Sphinx from the center of the board with one of those situated down the right-hand side.  When doing this they are not allowed to look at the base of either of the Sphinxes; that can only be done when a player passes over, or lands on a mummy hand.

Winning The Game!

To win the game a player must correctly discover (or guess) the colours and order of the three Sphinxes in the center of the board and proceed to the first Sphinx and present the correctly coloured Sphinx cards.

dsc_0186
The Green player (me) is going for the win. I announced the first Sphinx to be blue, the second green and the third beige. I won. 😀

The optimistic player must then announce to all other players which Sphinx they think has each colour. They then look, without showing any other player what the colours are and announce whether they are right or wrong. If they are right they then show the Sphinx bases to all the other players. If they are wrong they remove their playing piece from the board, and stay quiet whilst everyone else keeps playing. The first player to get to the middle with the right Sphinx cards in the right order wins.

Strategy:

This is a pretty simple game, aimed at kids aged 8+. The only thing I really want to say in terms of strategy is that if you roll a double snake, the best thing to do on that turn is to try and pass over a mummy hand with your other two numbers, before swapping any of the Sphinxes. If you do this then you can look at one of the Sphinxes from the edge of the board, and then move that one into a space in the middle. When you do this you’re actually making it easier for you to win the game as you’ve played a Sphinx that you already know the colour of. Don’t forget that you have to collect Sphinx cards though, I generally try and pass over as many Sphinx cards as possible on my way around the board, as I can then proceed very quickly to the treasure in the middle once I’ve worked out the colours of the Sphinxes.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The word Sphinx was derived from the Greek word spingein, meaning to bind or squeeze, by Greek grammarians . However, the etymology of the word is unrelated to the legends that surround the creature, and therefore dubious.
  2. The earliest Greek author to mention the creature was Hesiod, and he called it Phix.
  3. The most famous Sphinx legend features the Winged Sphinx of Boeotian Thebes. This Sphinx was said to have terrorized people by demanding the answer to the following riddle, “What has one voice, but becomes four-footed, two-footed and three-footed?” and devouring anyone who answered incorrectly. Upon being given the correct answer: a man who crawls on four legs as an infant, walks on two when grown and leans on a staff in old age, she kills herself. Talk about a drama queen.
  4. It is from this legend that the belief that Sphinxes are omniscient apparently arose.
  5. The Great Sphinx of Giza is known by the Arabs as “Father of Terror”.
  6. Although most images of the Sphinx don’t have enough information with them for their function or symbolism to be known it is generally believed that the Sphinx served a protective function.
  7. Sphinxes were commonly carved with the heads of pharaohs on them.

Okay, I know this is only seven points, but there’s actually so much that can be read about Sphinxes in different parts of the world, in legend and in artistic representation and interpretation that I can’t go through more of it without my brain turning into jelly!

To Conclude:

This game is great. It’s complicated enough to be a challenge; the three-section turn means you have to think a little more tactically that if you simply moved the entire dice roll in one go. But simple enough that you can’t really get into any arguments about the rules or anything like that. It’s also a good memory game for children as in discovering the pattern of colours of the central Sphinxes they have to remember which Sphinx had which colour, and they have to be aware when Sphinxes are moved. This is challenging for children (and some adults) and encourages the development of focus, concentration and the short-term memory.

I rated this five because, in addition to the well-structured nature of the game, the box is also great. Every piece has a place and it’s tidy and efficient.

 

Schwarzer Peter (Old Maid) – A Card Game

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-6

Year of Publication: 1874

Creator(s): Hans-Joachim Behrendt, Beatrice Braun-Fock, Dick Bruna and Wilhelm Busch (artists)

Who’s got the lucky black cat?

Schwarzer Peter is the German version of Old Maid. As I was unable to find accurate dates for Schwarzer Peter, I have here included the details for Old Maid instead.

What’s In The Box:

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One deck of cards!

Playing The Game:

Objective: To have the most pairs at the end of the game, and not be holding the black cat card.

To begin the game the deck is thoroughly shuffled and the entire deck is dealt out to the players. Players then find all pairs that they have in their hand and place them on the table like this:

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Each player has laid down the pairs they had to start with.

Once every player has finished laying down their pairs they take it in turns to take one card at random from one other player. When playing with two this means you will always (unless you draw the Black Peter card) manage to make a pair.

Winning The Game!

Once all the pairs have been made the player left with the Black Peter card is the loser, and the player with the most pairs is the winner. In the event that the player with the most pairs is also holding the Black Peter card, the player with the next highest number of pairs is announced the winner.

dsc_0156
In this game I have clearly won, as my opponent was left with the Black Peter card, despite having quite a lot of pairs.

Strategy:

There’s little to be said for strategy in this game. It’s generally chance as to whether or not you will be dealt the Black Peter at the beginning or will draw it from another player. When playing with two players you both know from the beginning which of you has the Black Peter, but this doesn’t actually make much difference, in that the second player can still accidentally draw it on their turn. You just have to hope to get lucky.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. Although there are many different published decks of cards with nice illustrations on them for playing this game it can also easily be played with a regular deck of cards.
  2. The name Schwarzer Peter is thought to be reminiscent of a comrade of Schinderhannesthe robber Johann Peter Petriwho was also known as Black Peter. It’s thought that the game originated in his prison years, from 1811 onward, however, the true origin is probably older.
  3. Old Maid is a Victorian card game, for 2+ players, believed to have been derived from a drinking game, in which the loser buys the next round/pays for the drinks.
  4. It is known by many different names; Schwarzer Peter in Germany, Svarte Petter in Sweden, Svarteper in Norway, Sorteper in Denmark, Fekete Péter in Hungary, Musta Pekka in Finland, Asino in Italy, Le Pouilleux in France and Babnuki  in Japan.
  5. There is an English variation of the game, known as Scabby Queen which is played with a standard 52-card deck in which the loser has an additional punishment, on top of losing the game. When played with a standard deck of cards the odd card is usually a queen and the punishment inflicted in this game is this:

When the loser (the player with the single remaining queen) is found, the deck of cards, including the remaining queen but not the jokers, is shuffled and the loser cuts the deck. The card on the bottom of the pile they picked up then decides their “punishment”. If a red card (heart or diamond) is chosen, then the player is rapped on the back of the hand with the deck. If a black card (spades or clubs) is chosen, then he has the entire deck scraped across his knuckles (known as snipes. A skilled player can draw blood with the opening ‘snipe’). The number of times this is performed is decided by the value of the card. Cards 2-10 carry face value, jacks and kings have a value of 10, aces are 11 and queens are 21. Be aware that this can rip the skin of your hands, and can be extremely painful, hence the name Scabby Queen. It is also better to use old or cheap cards, as the cards can also be damaged (cheap and older cards also tend to be softer and more bendable, so the “punishment” is less severe). However, today the game is often played without this punishment, especially where the pain inflicted is not considered appropriate by the players (such as when parents are playing with their children), though the game is still called scabby queen. As with all playground games, the rules are often lost in translation and regional variations are common (school-specific rule-sets are not unusual). Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Please note that this variation of the game is rarely played now.

To Conclude:

It’s a good game for families, it teaches kids to identify matching pairs, as well as providing a learning opportunity if you’re using an animal deck. You can get the children to identify different types of animal in their masculine and feminine forms (if they have them) and also what the babies are called. On top of that the game is very straightforward, so it’s hard to get confused when playing it. I rated this 5 because there’s nothing I would change about it.

Connect 4!

5 - 5 - Strike Thro

4.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1974

Creator(s): Milton Bradley designers, artists etc are uncredited.

The simplest and yet often the most frustrating of games!

Connect 4 is a popular game played most often by children of primary school age (7-11). It has a very simple your-turn-my-turn game play and can be quite frustrating if your opponent keeps winning.

What’s In The Box:

whats-in-the-box

  1. 1 Fold-out game grid
  2. 21 yellow and red counters

Playing The Game:

Objective: To create a line of four of your counters either horizontally, vertically or diagonally, before your opponent.

This game is incredibly simple in its original form. The yellow player takes the first turn, and places one of their counters into the top of any column on the grid, this then falls to the bottom, taking a position on the lowest line on the grid. The red player then follows suit.

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This is what a game that is about halfway through might look like.

The game continues in this manner, with players each dropping counters into whichever column they like, until either one player has succeeded in creating a line of four, or both players have run out of counters.

Winning The Game!

Winning the game is simple, and would look like this:

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Yellow player (me) has successfully created a diagonal line through the red players attempt to create a line of four!

Strategy:

This game is one of a group of games that can always be won by the first player, provided they play correctly. Strategically the best starting position for the first player is the central column, as from there they can choose to play on either side of grid whilst knowing that they’ll be connected to their other counters. I generally play to block off my opponent at every turn, whilst simultaneously trying to create a position in which I can create two lines of four, meaning that my opponent, at that point, cannot stop me from winning.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The game was first sold under this name by Milton Bradley in February of 1974, but is also known by these names: Captain’s Mistress, Four Up, Plot Four, Find Four, Four in a Row, Four in a Line and Gravitaps (Soviet Union)
  2. The game is a Solved game, meaning that its outcome can be correctly predicted from any position, assuming that both player play perfectly.
  3. The game has been mathematically solved by several different people, the first of whom was James Dow Allen on October 1st, 1988.
  4. There are several different variations of the game; Pop Out, Pop 10, 5-in-a-Row and Power Up. They can be read about in more detail here.
  5. Hasbro produces various sized outdoor versions of the game, the largest of which is built from weather-resistant wood, and measures 120cm in width and height.
  6. A rumor that the game was created by David Bowie was started by NME broadcaster and reporter Stuart Maconie which then became an urban myth.
  7. Another version of the game, Connect 4 Twist & Turn was published by Winning Moves in 2015. This version features a game tower instead of a grid, with five rings that twist independently. The objective, to create a row of four of your colour disc, is the same, however as a player can choose to twist a ring after they’ve played a disc a new level of strategy is added to the game.

Look at that! I managed to find quite a few interesting things about this game!

To Conclude:

This game is great, as a child I loved it (and am still good at it). I rated it 4.5 instead of 5 because of the problem where the first player can always win. Although there’s not much that can be done about it in the original form of the game it doesn’t still make the game technically unfair. Aside from that though, I have nothing to complain about, the game is great for kids as it makes them think a little tactically, plus, it’s simple enough that it can be learnt in a few minutes. I’d say that this a game to have in the house if you’ve got children, especially as it’s easy to tidy up due to not having lots of tiny pieces.

Mastermind! (again)

There’s No One More Mindful Than Me Here, You Could Even Say I’m The Mastermind!

Okay, I know that’s a bad line, but we actually already wrote a post about this game which you can read hereso I didn’t have much creativity flowing through me. So, if we’ve already reviewed this game, why are we reviewing it again, I hear you ask. Well it’s simple really, the first Mastermind post that we wrote was actually about Mastermind Junior which is the simple-for-kids version of the game. Hence my second Mastermind post.

However, as this is a follow-on post it’s going to be quite short, as the fundamental way of playing the game is exactly the same.

Playing The Game And The Differences Between The Two Versions:

Adult Mastermind is exactly the same as Mastermind Junior in that one player makes a pattern or code using the colours and hides it from their opponent. The opponent then uses the remaining colours to try and crack the code. The first player indicates whether or not their guess is correct using the (in this game) black and white pegs. A white peg means a colour is right but in the wrong place, and a black peg means a colour is right and in the right place. This the where the difference between the two games comes in; in Mastermind Junior the first player indicates which colour is right by the placement of the pegs, but in regular Mastermind the second player doesn’t know which of the colours they’ve chosen is correct, only that one of them is.

So here you can see how correct colours/placements are indicated in Mastermind Junior:

IMAG2557
The white animals indicate correct colour and placement.

And here how they’re indicated in regular Mastermind:

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I apologise for the weird angle of the photo, WordPress refuses to let make the photo vertical so that it looks less strange. But here black pegs indicate correct colour and place, and white correct colour but wrong place. You can see that there’s no way to tell which of your colours is correct with this layout.

There’s a slight difference. The first difference between the games is that in the adult version you play with one extra colour in the code, making it that little bit harder to crack. In addition to that your opponent doesn’t indicate to you which of your colours is correct, so you have more guessing to do.

Winning The Game:

Traditionally this game is played in rounds; the players decide before starting how many rounds are going to be played (always and even number) with the roles of code-maker and code-breaker alternating every round. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of this. Points are scored by the code-maker. S/he gets one point for each guess the code-breaker makes, and is given an extra point if the code-breaker doesn’t manage to accurately guess the entire code in their last move. Points are kept track of across the rounds and added up at the end.

Strategy:

In the Junior version of the game, not much strategy is required, as the code is only three pegs rather than four. In the adult version my preferred strategy is the one seen in the photo above. I like to start with four of one colour and see if any of them are right. This does seem pointless to some people but it’s a very quick and useful way of knowing, is this colour in the pattern. From that first one you simply continue in a similar pattern with other colours until you have the code. Though this strategy doesn’t crack the code in the optimal 5 moves most of the time I will say that I’ve never lost a game playing that way.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The modern game, played with pegs, closely resembles a pen and paper game called Bulls and Cows that may be over a century old.
  2. The rights to the game have been held by Invicta Plastics since 1971, initially they manufactured it themselves, but have since licensed it to Hasbro, Pressman Toys and Orda Industries for production across the world.
  3. The 1973 edition of the game features a well-dressed white man sitting in the foreground with an attractive Asian woman standing behind him. Bill Woodward and Cecilia Fung reunited in 2003 after 30 years to pose for another publicity photo.
  4. In a standard set of the game, allowing a four-peg code, with six colour options, there are 1,296 different possible code patterns (including, and allowing for duplicates).
  5. In 1977 Donald Knuth showed that the code-breaker can solve in a maximum of five moves, using this algorithm.
  6. There have been computer versions of the game produced, as well as multiple different editions released.
  7. The difficulty level of the game is altered simply by changing the number of pegs allowed for the code, or the way in which the code-maker indicates a correct or incorrect guess.

Conclusion:

To conclude, I have to reaffirm how much I like this game. In both the child and adult forms. I think it’s a great game for kids because it’s quick, it’s easy to understand, and it promotes logic, problem-solving thinking. I think it’s a must-have if you have kids, or if you like quick games.

P.S. I know I borrowed the History section (and the winning section) from the previous Mastermind post, by they were still applicable, so please don’t be grumpy!

Kids Games – Teddy Memory

5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-4

Year of Publication: Unknown

Creator(s): Ravensburger

How’s Your Memory?

In this classic variation of Pairs, the simple memory game Teddy Memory is a cute and child-appealing version of the game, with adorable teddy cards.

What’s In The Box?

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  1. Multi-lingual rulebook
  2. 24 Teddy cards (12 pairs)

Playing The Game:

Objective: To have the best memory and so collect the most pairs before the end of the game.

In normal Pairs there is only one way to play the game: you shuffle the cards and lay them all out face-down on the table. You then take it in turns to flip over two cards. If they match you can keep them and take another turn. If they don’t match you have to turn them over again and it is the next players turn. In Teddy Memory Ravensburger have suggested two additional ways to play this game, which are both interesting.

The first is this: Reaction Memory
I’m going to write here exactly what they wrote in the rulebook. “Shuffle all of the cards and place them face down in the same direction. The first player turns over one of the cards and leaves it face up. The next player then does the same, and the game continues in this manner until two matching cards are revealed. Then it’s up to the players to react – the first one to call out what the picture on these cards is takes them as his or her own. The game then carries on as before. The game is over when only two cards are left on the table. The player with the highest number of pairs is the winner.”

The second variation is: Describing Pictures
“The Memory cards are shuffled well and placed face up on the table. One player chooses a card, describes it and then passes it on to the next player. The second player chooses the matching card from the table and keeps the pair. This player then chooses a new card and describes it before passing it on to the next player. The game is over when all the cards have been collected. There is no winner in this game.”

These are all simple and I don’t think they really need any extra explanation, so I’m going to go straight to the next part of the post.

Strategy!

Well, this is a game for children aged 2 and a half – 5 so there’s not much in the way of strategy. For the classic version of the game the best way to play is really to concentrate on what other people are turning over. I find that to collect a lot of pairs you should first turn over a card that you haven’t seen the other side of, and then try and remember if its pair has already been turned over somewhere. If it has, pick that one out, and if it hasn’t, turn over another random one to see if you can get lucky.
That’s basically it. Concentrate hard and you might be able to win. But also maybe not, that’s the beauty of simple games.

History and Other Interesting Things:

To be totally honest, this game is really old but it’s almost impossible to date it or to know anything interesting about it except that there’s hundreds of variations of it, with Bears, Disney Princesses, Barbie, Happy Families, Farm Animals… The list goes on.

Further Reading and Other Editions of the Game:

This is possibly the easiest game to find variations of ever. Online there are regular memory games, number memory games, letter memory games… Some more challenging and obviously educational than others, but fundamentally all the same.

Conclusion:

This game is great for kids, and for adults. It’s so simple that the rules have no ambiguity to them, and you can even make your own version of this game at home using paper and pens if you don’t have a properly published version. It’s also quick and straightforward, so although it’s always possible to get frustrated at a game I believe that this one generally remains fun and light-hearted. If you’ve got kids and you haven’t played this game with them you should get a copy, especially as it really helps them focus, therefore improving their concentration and memory skills from an early age.

Mastermind

3 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1971

Creator(s): Mordecai Meirowitz (designer)

I’m The Real Mastermind:

It’s completely possible, and quite likely, that the first thing that comes to mind upon hearing the word Mastermind is the TV Quiz Show, and although there is a board game of this, this is not it. This game of Mastermind pre-dates the TV show (by 1 year) and is a very simple, quick and fun game that anyone can pick up. But I want it noted here that the version featuring in our photos is in fact the Junior Mastermind, version of the game produced for children, featuring small, brightly coloured jungle animals as the pieces and having only three holes across for the code, rather than 4.

What’s In The Box:

You can probably tell that we're missing some of the pieces...
You can probably tell that we’re missing some of the pieces…
  1. Green jungle playing board
  2. Rocky mountain section (used to hide the code)
  3. An assortment of 6 coloured animals
  4. 15 red creatures and 15 white creatures (supposedly)

Playing The Game:

Objective: to crack your opponents code before you run out of pieces, or to create a code that your opponent cannot crack.

To start the game you choose one player to be the code-maker, and one to be the code-breaker; then you position the board accordingly. The code-maker then takes a minute or two to secretly decide what the code’s going to be and put the pegs (or in our case little animals) in the shielded section of the board. After this, play starts.

It’s now the job of the code-breaker to pick out pegs (or animals), and position them on their side of the board in the order that they think the code is. The code-maker then uses their red or white creatures to signal which, if any, of these guess are right. To be right a piece must have both the correct position in the code (i.e. central, left or right hand end, from the point of view of the code-maker) and be the right colour.

So the first turn of the game might look something like this:

And they're all wrong
And they’re all wrong

Play continues in this manner until the either the code is cracked, or you’ve played to the end of the board. Like this:

And Dave wins
And Dave wins

Winning The Game:

Traditionally this game is played in rounds; the players decide before starting how many rounds are going to be played (always and even number) with the roles of code-maker and code-breaker alternating every round. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of this. Points are scored by the code-maker. S/he gets one point for each guess the code-breaker makes, and is given an extra point if the code-breaker doesn’t manage to accurately guess the entire code in their last move. Points are kept track of across the rounds and added up at the end.

Strategy:

For the Junior version of this game there isn’t a great deal of strategy required, but for the adult version (which has a four-peg code, rather than three, and one more option for indicating yes or no to part of a code) you can be a little more logical about it. Unless you’re a mathematician (which I’m definitely not, but the internet’s a wonderful place to learn things) you probably won’t be able to work out in your head the maths that accompanies this game, but the most important thing to remember is that duplicates are allowed in the code.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The modern game, played with pegs, closely resembles a pen and paper game called Bulls and Cows that may be over a century old.
  2. The rights to the game have been held by Invicta Plastics since 1971, initially they manufactured it themselves, but have since licensed it to Hasbro, Pressman Toys and Orda Industries for production across the world.
  3. The 1973 edition of the game features a well-dressed white man sitting in the foreground with an attractive Asian woman standing behind him. Bill Woodward and Cecilia Fung reunited in 2003 after 30 years to pose for another publicity photo.
  4. In a standard set of the game, allowing a four-peg code, with six colour options, there are 1,296 different possible code patterns (including, and allowing for duplicates).
  5. In 1977 Donald Knuth showed that the code-breaker can solve in a maximum of five moves, using this algorithm.
  6. There have been computer versions of the game produced, as well as multiple different editions released.
  7. The difficulty level of the game is altered simply by changing the number of pegs allowed for the code, or the way in which the code-maker indicates a correct or incorrect guess.

To Conclude:

I like Mastermind a lot, it’s a simple game that’s good for burning time or just chilling out, it doesn’t require a lot of concentration, and it doesn’t take long to play. I’d strongly recommend teaching it to kids too, the length of time it takes to play is well-suited to the generally shorter attention span of kids. But don’t let the really little ones get their hands on it – swallowing one of those pieces could end really badly!