Solitaire Chess: Recess for your Brain

Solitaire Chess: Recess for your Brain

Solitaire Chess

I mentioned the ThinkFun game Solitaire Chess in my 2010 Picks article and said I needed to play it some more.  Well I got to play it some more during the holidays and I really enjoy it….to the point I leave it on my desk in case I have some down time.  (which I don’t ever, but it motivates me to try to make some!)  Before I tell you about Solitaire Chess, we’re going to do a little flashback to the late 1980s…

When I was in grammar school I was lucky enough to be pulled out of class a couple times a week and put into what my school called “challenge.”  We played board games, did logic puzzles, played with tangrams, learned advanced problem solving techniques.  At the time I truly had no idea why I was being pulled out of class and to this day I’m convinced it was just so I didn’t end up totally disenchanted with school because I was unhappy or bored when I wasn’t in “challenge.”  Maybe this is why I invent games, regardless I think that veering away from the traditional math/English/social studies/science made my school experience far more enjoyable and I wish every kid got a “brain recess” a couple times a week!

solitaire_chessSadly, most schools out there that don’t have anything similar to a “challenge” program but I think every kid — and adult — should get a “Brain Recess.”  I guess I should specify that “Brain Recess” is not when students’ brains take a time out – we have TV for that – instead it’s when students get a break from the math equations and science terms that they are bombarded with all day and have the opportunity to let their brains play!  Luckliy, there are plenty of products out on the market today that can be fun, challenging and can be enjoyed solo.  Personally, I’m a fan of tangrams, pentominoes, logic grid puzzles, edge-matching puzzles and of course products that come from ThinkFun (which was called “Binary Arts” back when I was a kid!).  They have the fantastic Rush Hour puzzle series which has been out since 1996  (read my review of that HERE) and now I’m totally geeked about their newest puzzle product, Solitaire Chess!

I’ll admit I’m not a huge chess player, mostly because I don’t have the time to play and study it enough to be a decent player, but I love the idea that different pieces can move in different ways and this is what Solitaire Chess capitolizes on.  It’s a logic puzzle with 60 challenge cards that dictate which of the pieces you’ll be using and where they go on the 4×4 grid.  Then it’s up to you to find out how to knock off all of the pieces so only one piece remains on the board (you must knock a piece off every move you make).  If you get stuck there’s a booklet that will give you hints like which piece should remain on the board and which is the first piece you should move, so it’s not horrible to people who give up easily when they’re stuck.  I’ve really enjoyed playing with my copy of Solitaire Chess and I think it would have been something we would have had in our “challenge” room if it existed in the mid-80s.


And a funny video about Solitaire Chess…(not by me.)

Solitaire Chess Stats:

$17-$20 at Amazon and places Think Fun games are sold (~$15 for the Brain Fitness version pictured at top)
1 Player
How long do you want to play for?
Ages 8 and up


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  1. Lindsey

    To this day, I have no idea why I was tested for “challenge” and why I got in while others didn’t. The whole concept seems a bit strange to me, being that we were in a good school district and all. But that’s just me.

  2. Charlotte

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this great new game, Kim!

    It is SO critical that kids are exposed to and given opportunities to engage in healthy brain play both at home and in the classroom. You make a great point that too often schools view games as fluff, not fully understanding the incredible learning opportunities contained in a seemingly simple game challenge. When kids are given these opportunities, like your Challenge class, it’s often only offered to kids identified as “gifted,” meaning differently abled learners miss out on activities that may open up new ways for them to showcase their abilities… Given the right challenge, kids who struggle in other areas of the curriculum often surprise their parents/teacher with highly developed spatial, sequential, and strategic reasoning skills!

    Hope you’re able to clear the decks (or desk!) for some chess-playing brain recess soon!

  3. Tanya

    Great review Kim! I too when I was a kid was in what we called an Enrichment Class and was treated with problem solving and puzzles! So glad that you liked SC! When will you invent our next single player game??

  4. Jennifer

    I love all of the Thinkfun games, and Solitaire Chess is no exception. I have it on all my IPad and my phone, and my kids love it. My son loves to sit next to me and yell “I know how to solve it!” as I try to figure out the solution. (he is playing as I type)

    I use Thinkfun games in my classroom, and nothing makes my kids happier than when I tell them they can play math games. I agree with Charlotte that these games should not be just for the bright kids. The majority of the kids I teach for math are below grade level, and it is amazing to see them enjoying anything that has to do with math. I have seen so much growth in their logical reasoning skills, and spatial sense. I was given the opportunity to do an after school Game Club with the Gifted students. I was tempted to do it because the school would have bought the games for me, but I was told it could only be for the GATE students. I would love to do Game Club with the students that struggle, but people don’t see games as an intervention only and enrichment. Who says children who struggle can’t be enriched.

  5. sandie fletcher

    i always recommend the thinkfun and gamewright games to girls go to a school where they actually buy games and puzzles for learning’challenged’ children..and the rest of them too.. the fun and enjoyment to be had by playing these games it so valuable.
    For some kids those solo games are meditation and a chance to be soothed by stepping out of the chaos of the classroom and just foussing on a puzzle.
    Thanks for this review, we have this game in the shop and i wondered how it played:0

  6. Kim Vandenbroucke

    Sandie – Thanks for the comment!
    Like I said in the article, I REALLY don’t believe I’d be where I am today without that puzzle/game/brainteaser “challenge class” experience. I was bored in class and the days I had Challenge were the days I really looked forward to getting up and going to school. I wish more children had that type of experience — and I’m glad to hear some still do!

  7. Nathaniel Tice

    I was not given “challenge” opportunities in grammar school. I created my own.

    Apple IIe computers were available and I created artwork with the Turtle. Steve Jackson’s Choose Your Own Adventure series was available. My father was a Dungeon Master for his friends and had lots of good reading material.

    Home environment was different. My dad is an avid gamer and puzzles were always laying around in our house. When my dad found the Gamers Magazine, wow, I was sure someone was going to die, because everyone wanted to do the puzzles in it.

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