Game Night 2 - Scopa - Scribbo - Mah Jongg - Canasta - and The Void Puzzle

We really enjoyed our first "Game Night" a few weeks ago, and we decided to do it again. This time around all of the games were distributed by "Winning Moves Games," which was founded in 1995, and has a solid reputation for their family card and board games, along with puzzles and a line of retro games.

We set up things very similar to last time around. We invited 12 individuals, ranging in age from 12 to 65, to play each of the 4 games by rotating from table to table. We also wanted everyone to have a chance to play against different opponents as we rotated. During breaks in the action, we also suggested that everyone walk over to a separate table in the corner, and try to solve "The Void Puzzle."

Let's take a brief look at each of the 4 games and describe "The Void Puzzle" in more detail.
"Scopa," which means "to sweep," is a grand old Italian card game that is beloved by everyone in that renowned European country. The game consists of 40 "Scopa" cards, 10 of each suit (coins, cups, clubs and swords), numbered from 1 to 10. The cards themselves are exquisite with beautiful illustrations on each. To begin play, cards are dealt to each player, with the final 4 cards being placed face up on the table for all to see.

The object of the game is to capture the cards that are placed in the center of the table, by making a numeric match regardless of suit. If no match can be made, a card from that player's hand must join the other cards still remaining on the table. The game continues until all cards have been played. Points are awarded based on most cards captured, most coin cards, capturing the 7 of coins and by winning the "Primiera," which is the total of the highest cards of each suit captured. "Scopa" is easy to play, and a game can be completed in less than 30 minutes. "Scopa" retails for just $5.95.
"Scribbo" resembles the game of Bingo, but it is so much more. The game includes 4 special "Scribbo" pads, each containing an ample supply of specially designed game sheets. The game sheets, which differ from pad to pad, consist of two side by side grids of 25 squares (5 x 5). Each of the two grids has one number from 1-24 in the upper right corner of the square. The center free square has no number.

The game is played by alternating players calling out one letter of the alphabet and a number from 1-24. All players must place that letter in the properly numbered square on one of their two grids. The object of the game is to spell words horizontally, vertically or on a special diagonal running from top to bottom. Word attempts may be blocked by other players who may designate a different letter for a numbered space on their turn. Scoring is based on the number of letters in correctly spelled words. Players may also call for blanks instead of a letter of the alphabet to help insure their words are included in the final scoring. "Scribbo" is an addictive game which can be completed in less than 30 minutes. "Scribbo" retails for $13.95.
"Mah Jongg" is a game of Chinese origin, which is generally played with tiles, but "Winning Moves" has come up with an interesting variation using cards instead of tiles. In fact, this special edition of "Mah Jongg" includes 152 gold edged cards, each of which includes very sharp looking renditions of the Dragons, Flowers, Winds, Jokers and three main suits, Craks, Dots and Bams. All of the traditional rules of "Mah Jongg" can be found in this version of the game, although we used the "basic game" (beginner) rules on game night.

Players begin with 13 cards and in the basic game, they each try to collect 3 sets of four identical cards, and one pair. Cards are drawn and discarded, and your opponent can "call for" a discard that might improve their hand. Once a player has completed the requirements for a winning hand, they yell "Mah Jongg" and points are totaled. Scoring is unique in "Mah Jongg" in that each player starts with 650 points. That total is increased or decreased depending on which player wins the hand. Play continues until each person has dealt one time. The player with the highest point total wins the game. A four player "Mah Jongg" game might last up to an hour.  "Mah Jongg" retails for $16.95.
"Canasta," the fourth game of the night, is a retro game made famous in the 50s. "Canasta" was actually a card game I played as a kid, and all I could remember was that I had to hold lots of cards in my hand when I played. Although that memory proved correct, "Canasta" was also a fine addition to our game night selections. The "Canasta" deck includes 108 cards. There are 88 cards ranging from 4-10, along with Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces (8 of each). In addition, there are 12 Wild cards, 4 Bonus cards and 4 Stop cards.

After cards are dealt, each player in turn takes a card from the Draw Pile, tries to complete a meld (3 or more of the same number) and then discards an unwanted card. Melds can grow beyond 3 cards, and if a meld of 7 cards is reached, it is called a "Canasta." Wild cards prove very handy in expanding the melds, and players must be careful of their discards, as it could be just the card your opponent may need, since they may have an opportunity of picking up discards, and even the entire discard pile. Melds can be held in your hand or placed in front of you, all part of the final scoring strategy. Stop cards are great discards, as they cannot be picked up by an opponent. Scoring is based on the number of "Canastas" laid down, as well as points accumulated from other melds. First player to 5,000 points wins the game. A typical game of "Canasta" could last over an hour. "Canasta" retails for $10.95.
With multiple games being played, there is always some down time as players wait for others to complete their games. This provided an excellent opportunity for the final challenge of the evening, which was a visit to the corner table and "The Void Puzzle." This unique puzzle resembles a standard Rubik's Cube, but only at first glance. A closer look reveals holes cut right through the middle of the cube, which removes the center cubes and considerably alters the possible moves.

Apparently what first appears as an easier puzzle, is actually even more difficult than the Rubik's Cube. It has something to do with parity and some Physics laws that went way over my head. Anyway, we scrambled the colorful rings on "The Void Puzzle," placed it on the corner table and asked everyone to give it a try. The time needed to solve this puzzle is unknown. "The Void Puzzle" retails for $15.95.

After a long night of games, we got some very specific comments about each of the games, including "The Void Puzzle."

First of all, the two less time consuming games were big favorites. Both "Scopa" and "Scribbo" were solid fun for everyone that night. They loved the partnering used in 4 player "Scopa" and they liked the scoring and game flow. They also felt "Scopa" was a more relaxed game, with luck being a key element in winning. As far as "Scribbo," the ease in using the game pads was a key to its success. Creating potential words and then having them blocked, although accidentally, by opposing players added to the excitement. They also liked the portability of both games.

The players seemed more familiar with both "Mah Jongg" and "Canasta," as more than half of the individuals had played one of the two games before. Our older players remembered "Canasta" from the late 50s, and many had played the more common tile version of "Mah Jongg." The players loved the illustrations on the gold edged "Mah Jongg" cards, and liked the fact that you could "call" for a card, even when it was not your turn. Several complained about the number of cards being held while playing "Canasta," and almost everyone suggested a "card shuffler" for both games. Although the playing time for "Mah Jongg" and "Canasta" were a bit longer, each game was very strategic, and in many cases, the winner made a big move during the final hand, to snap up a victory.

We have to say that unfortunately no one solved "The Void Puzzle." The person who spent the most time with it, and honestly got the closest to restoring the cube to its original colors was the oldest person playing that night. She was 65 years old, and had a determination in her eyes that certainly surprised many of the younger players. All of the players thought that this variation of the original Rubik's Cube was a relaxing, yet challenging diversion. The response we heard most often was, "If I just had a little bit more time."

All four games and "The Void Puzzle" can be bought directly at "," or at ""

We found "Game Night 2" to be a great success, as all of the games played seemed to have caught the imagination of our players, stirring some old memories and creating some keen competition among new friends.
-- RJ Cullen


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