Hello and welcome to Puzzle Pacs. I am a gamer at heart, and love all sorts. I started this website because I was looking online for reviews and descriptions of non-video type games and puzzles, and didn’t find exactly what I was looking for very easily. There are literally thousands of games on the market now, and more are being created all the time. I like the old-fashioned classics but I’m also excited to find new games too. At Puzzle Pacs you will find reviews of both. Happy gaming!
Game: Poker, specifically Texas Hold’em
For Ages: 8+
Number of Players: 2+
Family game night started out with a regular poker game. To say that I am not a poker player is an understatement. I have probably played poker twice in my life previous to this game. But someone in my family suggested it so I thought, sure, why not? I wasn’t the only one not familiar with the rules however. Out of seven players, three had a good idea how to play, and four of us were looking pretty confused. After a few fits and starts and going over the Texas Hold’em poker rules, we played our first game. It didn’t really work well because we were seven and we were running out of cards when we threw out some and asked for more. So we switched to Texas Hold’em since one of our players pointed out that we wouldn’t run into that issue. Read More
Available at: Amazon.com
No. of players: 2 – 6
I’m fortunate to live near my local library. I visit every week and occasionally I check out the games. I’d taken out Timeline: Inventions a couple of weeks ago and when my extended family came over for dinner we had a great time. In fact my cousin left that evening declaring he would be buying it. So last week I looked once again in the game section of the library and sitting by itself on a low shelf was Wazabi, a family-friendly dice game. I checked the age requirement (8+) and number of players (2 to 6) and took it to the counter and borrowed it.
The Wazabi Dice Game
The object of this game is to try to get rid of as many dice as possible. Sounds like a simple enough premise, but it’s actually not. It came with a very small booklet of instructions (granted that may have been the library’s instruction booklet and not the original one for the game. In any case, being about 4 inches square, it was difficult to read and understand. It would have been helpful had there been some images or diagrams – something to give a better idea of how to play the game than what was in that small booklet.
The deck needs to be shuffled before play begins. One card has an explanation of what the other cards in the deck signify so that card should be removed and set aside for reference. Since it was just my daughter and myself playing this game, we each received 4 die to start and 4 cards. The remaining cards were placed in the center of the table to act as the draw pile. There were quite a few left over dice which we were not needed so we set them aside. The dice have small images on them representing different actions players must take during game play. We each took a turn rolling our four die to determine who would play first. The player with the most ‘W’s face up on their die would go first, and in our case it was my daughter who had 3 ‘W’s to my one.
The first player throws all 4 of his or her dice onto the table. The player can have several choices to play depending on what shows face up on their dice. On the top left corner of the cards there are from one to four ‘W”s, which will come into play on which card can be used from those in their hands. If three Ws are showing, then the player can play any cards that have 3 Ws or less. The cards each depict a character from the game and each character has different capabilities. Character 1 may say you can discard 2 dice, but character 2 may say to give die to your opponent. Another card may tell you to draw a card.
The dice may also have directives. If there is a small diagram with an arrow showing, then the player may give a die to her or his opponent. Once a card is played, it should be discarded. Play continues along this pattern. Players can have any number of cards in their hands if the card they play tells them to draw more.
If you are able to lose some dice by either discarding or giving them to your opponent, you will find game play getting more difficult since the fewer the die in a players possession, the fewer options there will be when the dice is rolled. For example, if you are holding 5 cards in your hand, and you roll 4 dice, you can choose what to do to your advantage with what is face up on the dice with to match with the cards you’re holding. But if you have just one die in your hand the have just one option to play a card.
The winner is the player who manages to get rid of all the dice, no matter how many cards he or she is holding. As mentioned, it’s not as easy as it sounds and players can go back and forth with numerous turns trying to get rid of their last dice. And therein lies the fun! There were several turns that I took with just one die to dispose of and I’d end up with two more on my opponent’s turn! Literally my luck was based on the throw of the dice. In the end,
it was my daughter who won the game. If it weren’t for reading through the instructions while playing it would have taken us less than the half hour it did to play the first round. The second round went smoother and we were quick to finish in about 15 minutes with another win for my daughter.
Should you try it?
Sure! The game I borrowed from the library is not the exact version as the image in my blog (couldn’t find that one), so I would double-check what is included in the game before you purchase. In my version, the card that depicts and describes all the other cards in the game, and thereby letting you know how to play a hand, was too small in that the images were hard to make out. So hopefully different versions of this game will have a larger instruction booklet and/or a better way of depicting the explanations of the playing cards.
It took us looking at the instructions, playing a hand, and taking a couple of turns to figure out how to Wazabi. Despite that initial slow going it was a pretty fun dice game and would probably be even more fun and prove more challenging with more than two players as was the case with my daughter and myself. I’d also recommend this game to take away for a cottage vacation. Easy enough to set up and clean up and it doesn’t take a lot of space.
Company Name: White Mountain Puzzles
For Ages: 3 to infinity
Number of Players: How many can fit around the puzzle table?
The Jigsaw Puzzle Maker
White Mountain jigsaw puzzles have been around for over 35 years, starting out as a poster company and becoming the puzzle maker company known today as White Mountain. Their puzzles range in difficulty from beginner to advanced and they have some cool jigsaw puzzles for adults as well as jigsaws for kids. The puzzles for kids start at 24 pieces for ages 3 and up and well, adults can choose any puzzle up to 1,000 pieces – I don’t see any larger than that on their website.
You can find the White Mountain Puzzle catalog on their website. I didn’t count but there looks to be 100s of options for every age and taste.
Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles
Studies show that working on jigsaw puzzles improves cognitive abilities in older people and research is ongoing with regard to their effect on staving off Alzheimer’s and other cognitive-impairing symptoms, especially with regard to people over the age of 50:
“Solving jigsaw puzzles is a low-cost, intrinsically motivating, cognitive leisure activity, which can be executed alone or with others and without the need to operate a digital device.”
~ Source is the PACE study.
Another great thing about jigsaw puzzles is the social aspect. Chances are if you have a puzzle going on a table somewhere in your home, there will be more than one person working on it. There have been many instances where I’ve put on the kettle, settled in at the puzzle table pulled out a brand new puzzle, and been surrounded by family pulling up a chair. It’s awesome. And once you start putting the puzzle together, it’s hard to stop. I’ll think to myself, just one more piece. Then an hour later I look up, bleary-eyed but quite satisfied too.
Which ones I love the most
My favourite puzzles are 1,000 pieces and have a good amount of colour. That’s not to say I won’t do one without. Not long ago I constructed a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that depicted the famous photograph of a line of men sitting out on a beam jutting out over New York City. The photograph is called ‘Lunch Atop a Skyscraper’ and was taken in 1932. The puzzle I did was the same as the photograph – all different hues of black, white and grey. I love that photograph so I was happy to do the puzzle, but unless you like really challenging jigsaws, I’d avoid it. What felt like months took me about three weeks to complete. That one is not for the fainthearted! I’d recommend doing a puzzle, especially if you want to keep family involved, that has some challenge but not so much that everyone will walk away and leave it there for months!
White Mountain has a few of those challenging ones, but it also has quite a variety of medium to easy puzzles too. My favourite is the one at the top of this blog post, Reader’s Paradise. That image is my idea of heaven!
There is an endless supply of jigsaw puzzles with whatever image takes your fancy. There are puzzles centered around one single object, say a pencil, and the image could have 500 pencils of differing sizes and colours. Or you could have puppies, with many breeds depicted. That’s educational as well as fun. Personally I enjoy scenes such as the one in Reader’s Paradise, but I have done all sorts – winter scenes, summer, old-fashioned, modern, you name it.
Jigsaw Puzzle Accessories
I have blogged about a jigsaw puzzle table but there are many puzzle accessories to appeal to jigsaw enthusiasts. Of course there’s glue if you want to make your finished jigsaw a permanent piece, but there is also foldaway mats and other fun items that make the jigsaw experience more entertaining. White Mountain also has some accessories listed on their website.
The White Mountain puzzles are made with tight interlocking pieces and are known for the ability to pick them up by a corner and still have them stay together. This is great for moving the puzzle around to aid in putting them on a backing if so desired.
What To Do With Your ‘Old’ Puzzles?
So, you’ve got a stack of used-just-once jigsaw puzzles piling up in a closet that no one ever sees anymore? You open the closet door and without even glancing at what is obstructing your view to deeper, darker recess, you shove aside a precarious mountain of boxes. Yes, the those old jigsaws. I suggest you take ’em all out, go through and make two piles. One pile to give away and one pile (which should be A LOT smaller to keep because you love them and want to do them again.
Take the discard pile of puzzle boxes and load them right up in your car. No car? Call a friend to give you a lift – you never known, said friend may take a few boxes off your hands. Bring them to a church for their spring/winter/summer sales. Or, donate them to senior’s residence. Or drop them off at your neighbour’s house, ring the bell and run away.
This is the great thing about jigsaw puzzles. As long as no pieces are missing, they can be done over and over again. If there are any pieces missing though, do your neighbour a favour and toss them! There is nothing worse than doing a 1,000 piece puzzle and that last piece is nowhere to be found. Bah!
I have found many puzzles at church fairs, garage sales and the like. The only problem is you are taking a chance that a piece may be missing. But if your re-purposed puzzle only costs you a dollar than it may have been worth it. I’ve been lucky so far and have had only one puzzle bought at a church sale come up missing. I made sure to recycle that one – in the recycling bin, not at another church sale!
Purchase At: Amazon.com
Measurements: 28″ tall and table top measures 26″ x 34″
If you are anything like me, you will often have a jigsaw puzzle on the go somewhere in the house. Jigsaw puzzle fun can happen anywhere though – at the cottage is ideal for rainy day weather. Or if you like winter vacations, jigsaw puzzles for children can be easy to set up if you have a jigsaw organizer board.
I like to time my creations ahead of time. I have quite a few puzzles waiting in the wings to be perused, chosen, opened and started. It is said that jigsaw puzzles are good for you. They help to refine the ability to focus attention, if not improve, then certainly maintain one’s cognitive abilities as well as improve fine motor skills in children.
Product: Skip Bo Card Game
Available at: Amazon.com
No. of players: 2 – 6
When the rainy weather keeps me inside the cottage this summer, my first thoughts turn to which game to unearth from the pile in the corner that will keep my family occupied for and entertained for the duration. Time passes and no one notices when you choose the right game to bring during down times. Recently we tried Skip Bo to fill that void and it did not disappoint.
The History of Skip Bo
According to Wikipedia, Skip Bo was inspired by a game called Spite and Malice, a card game that was created using several decks of regular playing cards. A woman by the name of Minnie Hazel ‘Skip’ Bowman recreated the game using its own specialized deck and called it Skip Bo after her own name. I always wondered what the Skip Bo name had to do with the actual game playing and now I know. It turns out that other than a rather snappy sounding name, the moniker doesn’t have much to do with the actual game. Read More
Kickstarter is a content-rich platform full of inventions, creations and otherwise brilliant ideas that people try to get backing for. Many projects become fully funded by backers before time runs out for their project to be completely funded. If time runs out before their goal is reached, the current backers will have their backing canceled and will not pay anything. If the funding goal for a project is met however, charges will be applied to your credit card. It’s a great system and awesome to be an early supporter of some really creative people.
Kickstarter is where I came across the Die Fly! card game. To back it on Kickstarter, just click on the green ‘Back this project’ button and choose your pledge amount.
Product: Timeline: Inventions
Available at: Amazon.com
No. of players: 2 – 6
My cousin and his family came for dinner recently. After clearing the table of dishes, the table of dishes we played a game that I had borrowed from my local library. It was pretty good, though there were a few kinks in the course of game play which I will talk about later. For now, continue reading more about why you and your family would enjoy playing Timeline.
I had not heard of this game before my daughter picked it off the library shelf and showed it to me. It is housed in a compact, decorative tin box. The box holds a set of 109 playing cards and instructions on how to play given the number of players involved. You can have as few as 2 players and up to 8. It’s a very simple game, easy to pick up and understand. Put one of your older kids in charge of reading out the instructions and setting the game up.
This game is sold with a variety of themes such as Science, American history, Diversity, Discoveries, and the one my family played, Inventions. Each card has a different invention listed with an image and the year it was first invented. It would be great if a bit more info was listed with each card. I was curious about many of them but we did not want to interrupt the game to start googling.
There’s something to be said for short and sweet game play. Even though they don’t take long, short games can still be quite involved and captivate the players. One of the best family board games is Play Mind and that might be just the thing for those among us who have shorter attention spans.
History of Play Mind
The game Mastermind was invented in 1971 by Mordecai Meirowitz and was inspired by a pencil and paper game called Bulls and Cows. Over the years Mastermind has had several iterations, including PlayMind. I’m not quite sure of the differences between PlayMind and Mastermind since it’s been quite a few years since I’ve played Mastermind, and honestly, I can’t see much difference between the two.
Since the original Mastermind was invented in 1971, there have been many other variations of the game and, though I haven’t had the opportunity to play them all, I would imagine they provide the same level of amusement as Mastermind. In this blog post I will be talking about Play Mind.
Setting up the board
There are two players for Play Mind: the codemaker and the codebreaker. There are 4 rounds, 2 per player. The codemaker chooses 4 different coloured pegs (in the basic and easiest version of the game rules) and places them in random holes into the hidden area of the board so that the codebreaker can’t see the colours nor the positions of the pegs. Following this set up the game is ready to be played.
First round of play
The codebreaker chooses 4 differently coloured pegs and inserts them randomly into the first row of holes in the board. The codemaker then checks the colour and position of each of the codebreaker’s pegs against the pegs he or she has hidden. For every correct colour chosen by the codebreaker, the codemaker will insert a small white peg in the corresponding row of holes next to the large peg holes. For every correct colour and position chosen by the codebreaker, the codemaker will insert a small black peg into the corresponding spot in the ‘answer’ row. This tells the codebreaker where he or she got it right and where he or she got it wrong. If a hole in the answer row is empty, the codebreaker knows that he/she did not get one (or more) of the colours correct at all.
The codebreaker then takes 4 more coloured pegs and inserts them in the 2nd row. This second row will call for some strategy. If he was lucky, the player will have got a black peg and will know which colour to insert where based on that. If she gets empty holes, she can choose to eliminate a colour and choose one she hasn’t used yet. The more he gets right, the closer she gets to getting all the correctly coloured pegs into their corresponding positions. When that has been achieved the players can make note of how many rows it took to break the code and so put a red or blue (players choice) peg in small holes along the sides of the board to note which row was achieved.
The second player then takes their turn.
Winning the game
The player who manages break their codes in the least amount of tries down the board will be the winner. Ties are possible as well, but in all the games of Play Mind I’ve played, and there have been many, that’s only ever happened once. In that case, the players can go one more round if desired. The player who manages to use the least amount of rows before breaking the code wins the game.
Where it can be played
The age recommend for Play Mind is 7 years and up and it’s indicated on the box that the game takes 15 minutes to play. I would say that it could take a bit longer than that to play a full two rounds depending on the ages of the players. It’s a great game for those who enjoy logic type puzzles and strategy games. It’s also a perfect rainy day cottage game, or just a something to play while in a waiting room, dentist’s office or anywhere else where a wait is involved. It’s easy enough so that you can play a short game with one round.
I would not take this game to a beach. Obviously the kids might want to do other beach-type activities, but sometimes families take along other just-in-case games to keep boredom at bay. However, Mind Play has small pegs that are easy to drop or fumble with when clearing the board to set up a new game and finding those pieces in the sand would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
I’m don’t think Play Mind would make a good game for car/van/camper travel for much the same reason. If you go over a bump in the road, you might lose hold of a peg or two and no one wants to be fumbling around in a moving vehicle looking for small game pieces.
Every once in a while I scout around online looking for new and unusual games to blog about. On a recent quest I logged onto Kickstarter and the very first thing that popped up in my feed was The Binding of Issac: Four Souls. Kickstarter knows me! (But that’s a blog post for another day).
The Binding of Issac: Four Souls card game is based on the 2011 video game of the same (base) name which was created and designed by Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl. The video game was inspired by McMillen’s vision of conflicting ideologies brought about by his family’s religious beliefs. The game was a huge success, with downloads via Steam in the millions.
The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls Kickstarter Campaign
McMillen’s card game, which is planned for release in November 2018, is being funded on Kickstarter. You will have until July 27 to back the project and pick up some swag in return. As of now, the game has met the Kickstarter criteria to be wholly funded by the campaign’s end so it will be a go for sure. As a matter of fact, as stated on its Kickstarter page, The Binding of Issac: Four Souls was 100% funded with its first hour and a half on the Kickstarter platform. Obviously there is a huge amount of excitement surrounding the publication of this game. Every time I refresh the page, more backers appear and as of this writing, there are currently well over 18,000 supporters from all over the world.
The Four Souls game is multi-player and is about ‘sacrifice, betrayal and hoarding’. Watch the video showing Mr. McMillen describing the game and to see the beta testers playing. They appear to be having a great time and it does make one want to jump on the Kickstarter bandwagon and back the game. The idea behind the game is explained in depth on the campaign page and there is another video explaining game play. It doesn’t appear that this game is for kids, though young adults and older would likely be attracted to its energy and intrigue. Of course anyone who knows and has played the original video game is probably already a backer.
One of the videos on Kickstarter describes the game as ‘one of the most disturbingly cute balls of social chaos you’ve experienced in ages’. How can you not want to know what that is like!?
How to Acquire the Binding Of Isaac: Four Souls Card Game
As mentioned, backers will be able to get some swag. How much swag is dependent on how much one is willing to contribute to the campaign. Several levels have already been closed to contribution so don’t wait too long if you do plan to back this project. The closer it comes to the campaign deadline, the more likely more levels of contribution will be closed off, so get your game contribution in while you can. Even the smallest contribution of $5 will get you a digital download. What that download consists of has not been revealed. Perhaps it’s an image of one of the characters, or a game card image.
If you are not quite ready to back the game you can click a small heart icon, enter your email address and get a reminder about backing the game before the campaign ends. After that your opportunity to be one of the first 18,000+ to acquire the game is over.
General Game Play
There is strategy involved in this game, consisting of alliances and betrayal and beating bosses. Listening to the video will tell you that the betrayal comes in after alliances have been formed and the betrayal is more likely to happen the closer a player comes to winning the game. Winning happens when 4 souls have been collected, so the closer a player comes to winning all 4 souls, the more likely it is that your alliances will be trying to take you down. There are also boss fights, power ups, and much, much more. From the looks of the description and videos the game play is actually quite involved.
Winning the Game
Having not had the opportunity to play the game myself (but wouldn’t it have been awesome to be a beta tester for this one!) I can only report that the winner is the player who manages to acquire 4 souls from bosses. According to the video however, there is more to game play than just defeating bosses. You will have to strategize along the way to beat the other players at their own strategies and watch out sneaky betrayals – those you thought were allied with you can suddenly turn out to be your worst enemy.
I am signing up to be a backer and I can’t wait for its release in November. The only thing that can (famous last words anyone?) go wrong with backing is that sometimes creatives and inventors on Kickstarter can delay their project’s release beyond the original promised release date. So far that doesn’t look like it will be the case here and honestly, it’s not something I personally worry about when I back a Kickstarter project. I would rather be patient and wait it out than have a less than perfect project.