Monthly Archives: November 2016

Suspend: A really addictive game from Melissa and Doug

mdMelissa and Doug make games? Please don’t adjust you glasses. You read that correctly. Melissa and Doug and now more than just a company that makes great toys. They have branched into the world of strategy games.

For years I had been a fan of Melissa and Doug’s high quality toys. When I opened the box for Suspend, I starting wondering if their games would live up to the standard they set with their toys. Happily, it did.

Game Play:

The game is very simple to understand. Your goal is to add a series of metal rods to what looks like a modern art sculpture. It’s a little like Jenga and a little like Villa Paletti. There are 24 game rods which is divided up among the players. The goal is to be the first player that gets rid of all their rods. The rods all have notches and you can hang your new piece on a notch or a straight section of any existing rod. If you hand a piece that causes another piece to touch the table you must reposition you piece. If you cause one or more pieces to fall then you must pick those pieces up and them to your pile.

It’s that simple. Well, the rules are simple, learning to balance the piece you add might take a little practice. The official rules add a few restrictions, such as you can only use one hand to place a piece. You should really think of these restrictions as optional, since they only really serve to make the game more challenging. You might want to relax the rules for younger players, while enforcing them for the adults. This is a great way to give a slight handicap to the kids. Of course, I suspect that after a few games the kids will be better than the adults and you might have to give the adults the handicap.


The game base is wood and the rods are all metal with plastic nobs on the ends. It’s very high quality and should last for years and years. I must give Melissa and Doug high marks for placing a highly visible Choking Hazard Warning right on the front of the package. So many companies try and hide that warning. Melissa and Doug put it front and center. It’s obvious that children’s safety really matters to them, as it should.

One personal pet peeve:

The game package is a plastic tube. I really hate games that are not in rectangular boxes. The reason is that they do not sit well on the shelf. They are difficult to stack. Also, are much more susceptible to falling off the shelf. Of course, I have over 300 games on my bookcases, so having new ones fit well is probably a more important issue for me. I still love the game. I would just love it a little more if it came in a box.

The package says for Ages 8+. I think that is a very conservative recommendation. Younger players might need to use both hands, but they should have no trouble playing.

You can find this gem just about everywhere that carries Melissa and Doug products.

Here in Durham, I recommend going to:

The Playhouse

702 Ninth Street

Durham, NC 27701

Gobblet: Quality game with Quality components

So often with American games these days, we must make a choice between quality components and quality games. Happily the folks at Blue Orange Games understand we don’t want to make that choice and produce a line of games that combine quality of game play with quality of components.

The first thing I noticed was the very high quality components. A solid wooden box, with a slide out lid the doubles as the game board, the form factor is just 9 ½ inches square and 2 inches thick, making it very easy to find shelf space for. The game pieces are very solid wooden pieces large enough for little hands. The rules are a short 1 page.

The object of the game is simple, place four of your gobblets in a row. The wrinkle is the 4 different sized gobblets are sized such that they fit inside of each other allowing players to Gobble up another piece. Like so many good abstract strategy games, gobblet is short on rules and long on strategy.

The game is played on a 4×4 board and each player gets 12 gobblets, 3 of each of the 4 different sizes.
On your turn you can choose one of 4 possible actions:

1)Put a new gobblet on the board
2)Move a gobblet already in play to any empty space
3)”Gobble up” any smaller sized gobblet with a gobblet already in play.
4)If your opponent already has 3 in a row, you can “gobble up” one of those pieces with a large sized gobblet that is not in play yet.

When moving pieces on the board, you only move the top piece, so the gobblet inside it will remain, possibly creating a four in a row. It’s important to remember what’s been gobbled up. If you touch a gobblet you must move that piece, so no changing your mind.

If you think this is just a 4×4 tic-tac-toe, think again. Gobblet offers a rich degree of strategy, making it suitable for a wide range of ages.

The game box says ages 7 and up and I think that’s a very reasonable age range. Blue Orange also makes a Gobblet Jr, which uses a 3×3 board with the same basic game play.

The instructions are clearly written and very well illustrated.

Blue Orange has bright yellow, easy to see “Choking Hazard” warning box which is more prominent then most of their competitors. However like so many game manufacturers they place it on the back panel of the packing, contrary to CPSC guidelines which call for it on the front of the package.

I’d rate this a terrific game for children 7-10 . It’s easy to teach and helps with motor skills, memory and critical thinking. The large game pieces will be easy for children to manipulate and are durable enough to handle the sometimes rough play from children.

Highly Recommended.

Sherlock: A masterpiece from Reinhard Staupe


If you are like most game buyers in the United States it is unlikely that you have ever heard the name Reinhard Staupe. That is a shame since he might just be the greatest designer of games for children. Fortunately, the folks at Playroom Entertainment are not only familiar with Staupe, they are big fans of his. Playroom publishes a wide range of his games for the US market. What makes his games so good?

  • Simple rules. It shouldn’t take you more than 60 seconds to learn how to play.
  • No words on the cards, only simple but engaging graphics.
  • Fun for both children and adults.
  • Easy enough for children to play competitively with adults.

I plan on reviewing a number of his games in the next few months. Since Sherlock is my favorite Staupe game let’s start there.

Game Overview:
A series of eight “Clue” cards are placed in a circle. Players need to remember the card in each location. After 30 seconds the cards are turned face down. The tricky part is the clues change during the game, as players collect them. Be the first player to collect six clues and you win.

Game Play:
Each card has a picture of a common everyday object. Things such as foods, clothing, animals and household objects. The cards also have a number between one and four along with an arrow indicating the direction that Sherlock moves. When it’s your turn, the player to your right places the Sherlock card next to any of the face down cards. You must then say what the object on that card is. The card is turned face up. If you are incorrect then your turn is over. All face up cards are turned over and the next player goes. If you are correct, then Sherlock is moved in the direction of the arrow the number of cards indicated by the number next to the arrow. You then need to remember what is on the card next to Sherlock. As long as you correctly identify the card, Sherlock moves and you keep guessing. If Sherlock is moved back to card that is already face up then you get that card. A new card is drawn from the deck to replace it, the cards are turned face down and the next player goes.

A typical game takes about 20 minutes. If you want a more challenging game then start with 12 cards on the table instead of 8. If you want to really make things challenging then add a rule that the player must also mention the color of the object as well. That’s one of the things I like most about Reinhard Staupe’s games. You can easily make it the game easier or more difficult.

The box says for ages 5 and up. With younger children you might need to remove the cards that have pictures of object they aren’t familiar with. Since the game comes with 49 clue cards, you can easily remove the few that your younger players don’t know.

Highly Recommended.