Whew…ChiTAG is over and I’m exhausted! I will freely admit that between T&GCon, the TAGIEs and ChiTAG it’s my favorite 4 days in the game industry calendar because it feels like everyone is in town and it’s not quite as crazy as New York Toy Fair – although that’s debatable. During those 4 days I tackled: speaking at T&GCon on the “Packaging and Design” panel, I attended the Toy and Game Inventor Awards (and lost), was interviewed by a newspaper and a radio station, met with (what feels like) a zillion clients, met a whole bunch of new toy and game inventors, signed cards at the Top Trumps booth twice, and walked the show at the fastest clip possible. And it’s that last one that makes me sad to say that while I think I got to see everything at the show, I might have missed something and for that I’m sorry. Still, what I found was outstanding:
The game I want most:
…I apparently I can’t get it until spring. I saw this item in the last 10 minutes of the show and fell in love. The game’s inventor, David Hoyt, was signing cards with me at the Top Trumps booth earlier in the day and he showed me this product in the 30 seconds he had before meeting Mike Gray from Hasbro to play games for the evening. It’s called Word Winder and in this game you use Boggle-like rules to mark letters that form a word in hopes of creating a path from one side of the playing area to the other. The board is made up of lots of 4×4 letter squares so you can organize them and reorganize them any way you’d like. I cannot wait to get my hands on this one!
Word Winder Stats:
not for sale yet (I hear Mid-March) — UPDATE: ~$10 on Amazon
Some other games I liked (in no particular order):
Faux Cabulary by Out of the Box
This is an odd, but fun word-creation party game. One player draws a card with a definition like “The Synthetic Fur Used to Make Cold Weather Garments” and the other players select 3 dice at random. The card is read and players roll their dice once and use the face-up word bits to create a word that best fits the definition. You get results like “AfroPuffFuzz” and “SuperFunkGrub” and the card reader gets to select the winner. As a quick side note, I played this game with some Mennonites at New York Toy Fair and we had a blast.
Ages 13 and Up
Sutakku by Smirk & Dagger Games
Curt Covert, inventor of Sutakku, stopped me at the fair because he knows I have an affinity for push-your-luck dice games and he was dying to show me Sutakku. It’s exactly that, a quick-playing, push-your-luck dice game and the goal of each turn is to create a high scoring stack for the highest point total after 5 rounds. The general rule is to you roll 3 dice and select 2 of them to start or add to your stack. You always have to stack numbers that are equal or higher than the number on the top of your stack. There are bonus points for stacking on a 5 of 6 because you’re really pushing your luck and you score by multiplying the number on the top of the stack by the number of dice in the stack. The one interesting catch is that the dice don’t have regular numbers on them, but instead symbols which I haven’t decided if I love or hate yet. You don’t get the quick – OH YEA! after you have a good roll, but if your opponent has had one too many beers they might think they busted when they didn’t. So the jury is still out on the art – but I like the big dice, they feel good to roll (dice game lovers will understand that comment).
~$15 Amazon, mom & pop stores
1 or more players
Ages 14 and Up
Blindside by Talicor ~$30
Aparently this game sold out on Saturday and while I’m not a huge fan of abstract strategy, I get the appeal of this game. It’s like checkers mixed with chess on crack. The board is made up of a bunch of hexagons and each player (max 2) has 7 hexagon movers that have little arrow inserts which dictate how far and which direction it can move. The goal is to attack your opponent by jumping or landing on them and then removing their arrow(s) which depleates their mobility. When one player gets all of the arrows, they win. The board can also change shape so I see the hours of fun this could provide for someone who really digs abstract strategy games.
~$30 Amazonand some local game stores
25-30 minutes (so I’m told)
Ages 10 and Up
Oversight by Griddly Games
I saw this game last ChiTag when it was still in prototype form (another reason ChiTag is so cool!) and this year it was for sale! This is another abstract strategy but it’s definitely “lite” abstract strategy. You have a board with 49 tiles (7 rows by 7 columns) and each player has colored coins and their goal is to get 4 in a row. On their turn, players may either place one of their coins on any tile (the tile colors don’t matter – they’re just to distract you) or shift one of the rows of tiles that has an arrow next to it. You shift a row by pushing one tile in either end and this shifts all of the tiles and any tokens that are on those tiles. It’s definitely easier to learn than it is to explain in an article and has a similar feel to Gobblet or X-Ceter-O where it takes some thinking to win. (pic includes Reisa Schwartzman, Oversight inventor)
~$16 Amazon and a few game retailers
5-20 minutes (depending on how many players and how good they are)
Ages 7 and Up
Doggy Doo by Goliath
It’s a game about a dog that poops a compound (think Play-Doh) and it makes funny noises as the poop is working its way through the dog. That’s it, that’s all you need to know. But if you want to know more, kids get to feed the dog a “treat” (the compound) and then they roll a die to see how many times they get to pump the leash (which moves the compound through the dog). If the dog poops on your turn, you get to clean it up. The first player to get 3 pieces of poop on their shovel wins. Wow.
As a side note, this game came from Chicago invention firm Lund and Company (of TMX Elmo fame) and it was invented 15 years ago but didn’t find a home until Goliath picked it up in 2009. To read more about the game’s history, click HERE.
Doggie Doo Stats:
~$18 Amazon and loads of other retailers
Ages 4 and Up
Pick Me by Tree Toys, not for sale yet
Plastic Barbie-like arms in a cup? Yea – I didn’t care what this game was about, it already had me laughing! You use little guitars to flick picks into the cup of arms and if you get one to stick you win!
I should also mention that this game was so popular with people walking by that most of the parts for the sample that was out were stolen. While that must mean they like it, shame on fair goers for depriving other gamers from testing this one out!
Pick Me Stats:
not for sale yet
Some other notable games I feel I must mention:
GameChanger by Identity Games
This game has been all over the news and they had a huge, popular booth – which was probably also the best-looking one at the fair! If you haven’t heard about GameChanger, it’s a game board that you use with your iPad (yep, you plug it into the board). So now your board game has sound, video and is interactive. Right now it retails for $80 which is pricey, but the game board is like an extension of your ipad and it recognizes were your mover is on the board. The starter kit has 2 games and I hear there are going to be more game “skins” in the future so hopefully you’ll get a lot of mileage out of the $80 starter kit. (Pic taken by GameChanger — mine was blurry!)
Pajaggle by Pajaggle Inc.
I heard that the Pajaggle people had a great show and their product will soon have a much greater distribution. Congrats to them! Pajaggle is like a far more complex version of Perfection, just without the popping mechanism and annoying ticking timer. The pieces are extremely intricate which makes it a little harder to find their home space and some pieces even nest inside of others. The game play is pretty straightforward, race another person or race against yourself – it does come with a timer. There are some other little games but sadly a bunch of them require two sets or more to play and at $30 a pop it can get really expensive so fingers crossed that their greater distribution will bring the price down. UPDATE: Additional piece packs will be available soon for $12.99.