The staff at "Toys Bulletin" arranged the first in a series of game nights. It is basically a party where the participants play several games throughout the evening. We invited 12 individuals to play 4 different games, by rotating from one table to another, playing each game a minimum of two times.
Six males and six females made up the group with ages ranging from 13-55, providing a nice cross section of different interests and abilities. Several staff members were available to explain the rules, answer any questions or settle any disputes. All of the games played were manufactured and distributed by "Set Enterprises, Inc.," out of Fountain Hills, Arizona.
The featured game was "Quiddler."
This game was first demonstrated to us at the recent New York Toy Fair, and it was an amazing experience. "Quiddler"
is called a "short word game." The game includes 118 beautifully designed cards, each highlighting a different letter of the alphabet, plus several cards containing two letters. The object of the game is to spell words and accumulate points. Letters like Q and X provide more points that more common letters.
The interesting part of the game is that on each deal more cards are dealt to each player, whereas during the early rounds each player receives very few cards. Thus, many of the spelled words contain as few as two or three letters. By using the deluxe version of the game
included a very clever "Short Word Dictionary." The dictionary was in alphabetical order like any ordinary dictionary, but it also had sub-sections which sorted all words based on the number of letters in a word from two to five. "Quiddler"
can be played by 2-8 players from ages 8 to adult.
The second game of the night was "Five Crowns."
This was a rummy type game, although the two 58 card decks include 5 suits, instead of the standard 4 suits found in a regular deck of cards. Players try to create runs of 3 or more cards of the same suit, or books of 3 or more cards of the same kind regardless of suit. There is a wild card that changes with each hand, and there are also Jokers included that are always wild. The first player to lay down all of his cards, with just one card remaining as a discard wins that round. There are 11 hands played in a complete game, and the lowest point total wins. "Five Crowns"
can be played by 2-7 players from ages 8 to adult.
was the third game played, and is the flagship product from "Set Enterprises, Inc." This is a visual game of shapes, numbers and colors. The object of "Set"
is to identify a set of three cards from among 12 cards displayed on the table. In order to qualify as a set, each feature must either be the same on each card, or different on each card. For example, a set could include 3 cards, each of which contains the same diamond shape, plus each of the diamonds is red in color, and there are exactly two diamonds on each card. Or a set might include 3 different shapes, all of a different color, and all with a different number of shapes on each card. Let me tell you, it is not easy to spot the sets. It takes concentration and practice. There are no turns in this game, as players call for and grab sets, which accumulate points. Once the deck of 81 cards is depleted, the player with the most sets wins the game. The basic game of "Set"
is recommended for 1 or more players, which includes rules for an entertaining solitaire challenge. It is suggested for ages 6 to adult.
There are several other versions of the "Set"
game, including "Set Cubed,"
an interesting dice variation of the game, the "Set Puzzle Book,"
and even an iPad app called "Set Pro HD."
The fourth and final game of the night was "Xactika."
The game consists of 81 cards each with 4 shapes on the card. The shapes are balls, cubes, cones and stars. Each card may have one or more of these shapes on the card. There are rules for playing to win, playing to lose, or playing to bid. We chose playing to win for game night, where the object was to take as many tricks as possible. It is basically a game of calling one of the shapes, and then the other players must play a card with the same shape on it. The player who plays the card with highest numerical value of that shape takes the trick. "Xactika"
is suggested for 2-10 players, ages 12 to adult.
Now that we have briefly described all of the games played, here are the comments gathered from game night. Starting with "Quiddler," the consensus of opinion was highly favorable. The players liked the design of the game, and the fast play. They really liked the "Short Word Dictionary," and the way it which it was organized. The group did disagree with the rules which allowed players to look at the "Short Word Dictionary" when it was not their turn. It was simply providing too much help, especially when playing with 4 or less players. So, we removed the "Short Word Dictionary" from the table and only used it to settle disputes at the end of the game.
Next up was "Five Crowns," which also garnered a favorable reaction from the players. Although most found it reminiscent of other rummy type games, they did comment on the excellent graphics depicted on the cards and thought the 5th suit added to the excitement. But, most of all, they loved the rotating wild cards, which caused several players to accidentally discard a wild card, due to a supposed lapse in concentration.
"Set" had actually been played previously by several of the players prior to game night, which was a bit of an advantage to those individuals. This game also appealed to the younger players a bit more than the older players. Some of the older players had trouble finding the sets, and reacting fast enough to stay competitive. Frankly, "Set" was a favorite among the Toys Bulletin staff, since we found the shapes and the shading used on the cards created a very challenging game for everyone. This may be one of the best "visual perception" games available right now.
Lastly, everyone enjoyed the game experience provided by "Xactika." Although the shapes highlighted on the cards were considered a bit too small by several players, the game itself created a good deal of excitement throughout the night. When asked at the end of the night which game they would like to play one more time, "Xactika" was the choice of the majority.
All of the games played retail for $12.99, with the exception of "Quiddler Deluxe," which includes the "Short Word Dictionary," for $26.99, and "Set Cubed," which retails for $19.99. Each game can be purchased at Amazon.com.
-- RJ Cullen