Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lucky Ducks

  Lucky Ducks is one of those battery games. Yellow, plastic ducks ride around an electronic pond while a quacking sound repeats. Each duck has a shape under it, and the ducks are sorted as players pick them up.
  My 3-year-old doesn't have much patience for playing this as a game. She prefers to play alone with the ducks as a toy. My older children think the game is too boring to play.
  My biggest criticism of the game is a packaging issue. In order to fit the game back into the box, both sides of the box must be opened so that three ducks can be tucked into each corner. Another problem is that the red button in the center, which makes the pond move and quack, gets hit right through the box. I don't have any luck turning off the pond through the box, so I have to take the ducks out of one side, pull out the pond, turn it off, and then pack it back away.
  Maybe a more sophisticated game owner wouldn't have these problems. Maybe some people wouldn't be bothered by the quacking. Maybe some kids would play more with the game. But not us.
  For ages 3 and older, 2-4 players. Cost: About $20.

Our rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


  Blokus was fun to play right out of the box. The directions are simple enough to be playing within a minute. Learning how to play the game well takes longer.
  Each person has colored tiles connected in different patterns. These tiles must be laid down corner-to-corner with the same color. Players try to block each other and leave themselves enough space to play all their pieces.
  We found that if two players use one color each, it's too easy. If two players play two colors each, it's a game that is as challenging as a four-person game.
  Young children will enjoy the colorful tiles that look like jewels. Older children will enjoy mercilessly blocking off their parents. Blokus has won many awards, and I can see that the game has educational value, teaching spacial relationships and logic. The education isn't heavy-handed, however, and Blokus is a fun, competitive game that takes about 20 minutes to play.
  For ages 5 to adult, 1-4 players. Cost: About $25.

Our rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, November 17, 2007


  The box for Stratego says the game is for ages 8 and older, but in our experience, it has appealed to younger ages.
  Each player controls an army, and sets up his pieces unseen by the opponent. Each piece has a number on it, and as the pieces move across the board, they challenge each other. The higher number wins the battle. There are only a couple more rules, for example the scouts can move unlimited spaces, and only number threes can defuse bombs. But the game's rules are simple enough for a 5-year-old.
  As players get older, they will learn better strategies to win. The ultimate goal of the game is to find the opponent's flag. Setting up your pieces to attack, defend and hide your flag is complicated, so this is the part that older children will enjoy. But if you're older still, it becomes frustrating that so much of the game is based on luck. There's no such thing as a perfect way to set up your pieces. However, players can gain an advantage by remembering what their opponent's pieces are once they've seen them.
  Young children enjoy figuring out which number is bigger in a battle. And if the adult they're playing with sets up his soldiers to help a child win, the game can be really fun. But it's too upsetting if you start taking all their soldiers.
  The game has many little pieces that get put away in a fussy plastic tray. If your kids are small enough to enjoy tossing these around the room, store it on a high shelf.
  For ages 8 to adult, but we have played it at younger ages, 2 players. Cost: About $15.

Our rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Pay Day or Payday

  Pay Day has been around awhile, and the version we have is from 1975. It's another garage sale find, a game I remember from when I was a kid.
  My kids enjoy the game because it's the right level of difficulty, not too hard or simple. The board looks like a calendar month, and the game takes you through life events until the last day of the month, pay day. Players decide how many months to play, and whoever has the most money at the end wins.
  It's fun to get postcards and bills in the mail, to buy antiques with the hopes to resell them, and otherwise feel like you're managing your money. The graphics on the board, cards and money are bright and fun.
  Pay Day does have a few rules to read through. It might be best to read them before you intend to sit down and play. The game gives kids practice at counting money, adding and subtracting. There isn't a lot of challenge for logic and decision-making.
  For ages 8 to adult, 2-4 players. Cost: About $12. (I think the game is supposed to be spelled as two words, but amazon spells it as one.)

Our rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Junior Labyrinth

  Junior Labyrinth, like other games from Ravensburger, has a box, board and pieces that have a nice texture to them. The playing pieces, which look like ghosts, are made of thick cardboard on plastic stands. The maze squares are the same thick cardboard, and up to the task of being handled a lot.
  Each player is a ghost in a maze. By choosing a coin, players see what object in the maze they're trying to get to. They slide in their one maze piece to alter the maze, hopefully reaching their goal.
  I modify the rules for younger players by saying they can replace a maze piece instead of having to slide a piece in. You can imagine how much this would change the game, because sometimes, sliding a piece in alters more than you anticipated.
  That's the value of Junior Labyrinth as a learning game. It can be quite a puzzle to figure out a way to get through the maze, and there almost always is a way if you look hard enough.
  Our family doesn't have the regular version of Labyrinth. Now that the kids are getting older, maybe we'll have to get it and compare.
  My one criticism is that the game board doesn't lie as flat as it should, and this makes it hard to slide the maze pieces across the fold.
  For ages 5 and older, 1-4 players. Cost: About $19.

Our rating: 4 out of 5 stars