I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since Toy Fair! I feel like I just got back, but that’s probably since I’m still wallowing in follow up work! Anyway, the first game sample I got while at the show was given to me by the wonderful people at Educational Insights (I was at their booth visiting Tim Walsh who was signing his hit game BLURT!: read review here). They were so excited about Stix & Stones that they gave me a copy, along with the biggest tote bag I’ve ever seen. It had to have been like 40in x 40in! No really, I could have smuggled a grown adult around Javits in the bag! Thankfully, the game wasn’t large enough to make the giant tote bag a necessity, but I was hoping it would be like Halloween and I could stop by other game manufacturers, ask them to help fill it up and I’d come home with a ton of new games, but that didn’t really work out.
Before I even opened the Stix & Stones game box, something on the outside caught my eye: there’s a photo of the inventor. No really – a photo of Steve Ryan and his daughter Ali along with a little blurb about the game. I was floored. I LOVE this idea, not only does it do a great job of drawing attention to the invention community, it also humanizes the product. I really don’t think that the American public realizes that the people who invent games aren’t employed by the game manufacturers. That they’re regular people who have an idea or they’re people who are professional inventors whose job it is to invent games for a living. Either way, the manufacturers do not employ them; they come up with games ideas and then pitch them to manufacturers in hopes of getting someone to license it from them. And I just don’t think these brilliant folks get enough recognition, so I like this new idea!
So what kind of game did Ali and Steve come up with? It’s a family game that was invented when Steve decided to have a little fun after trimming a 60-year-old ash tree in his back yard. As the story goes, Steve was trimming his tree one day and looked down to see the trimmings creating recognizable patterns on the ground below. He climbed down from his ladder and started moving the pieces to create pictures. When his daughter, Ali, came home from school, the two of them started playing. As Steve puts it, “I live by the motto…All work and no play makes Steve a dull boy (or something like that).” And Stix & Stones was born.
As you can somewhat decipher from the paragraph above, the game is about making pictures out of little plastic sticks and stones — and one red arrow. Some of the words are easy like “Ferris Wheel” and “Peace Symbol” while others really make you think, like “Moby Dick.” The game testers were a little skeptical about some of the words at first, but it’s amazing how much the little red arrow helps! There is also a bidding aspect to the game. Since there are two teams, when the word is selected at the beginning of the round the representative who will make the image bids how many pieces they think they’ll need to make their picture. The team representative that bids the lowest number of pieces has one minute to create their picture. If their team guesses correctly, they win the round. If they don’t the other team has a chance to steal. This “bidding” process was a little hard for some of the testers; they had a time even venturing a guess on how high, or low to start the bidding. One of the groups omitted the bidding entirely and just let each team draw a card, make a picture during a shared one minute, and then guess and steal at the same time. Regardless, the testing went well and everyone was amazed at how you could successfully make things like, “Abraham Lincoln,” out of sticks and stones.
Stix & Stones Stats:
$25 at Amazon.com and some specialty retailers
4 or More Players
Ages 7 and up (although some of the words might be a little tough…)