Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Thinkfun's Roller Coaster Challenge

Thinkfun came out with Roller Coaster Challenge last year and it really is a "Thrill Ride Building Game!"

This game comes with a ton of parts.  It is a bit daunting when you open the box.  Honestly, it's a bit of a challenge getting everything back into the box when you're done too!

It comes with a rule book which goes over the different pieces in detail.  It's a good idea to have this page open when you are getting started.  For the straight track pieces, there are two bits of information that you need to keep in mind.  First, you need to know how long the track is, that is, how far across the game board it will stretch.  There are dots on each piece that indicate the length, so two dots on a piece means it will stretch across two spaces.  Secondly, you have to take into account how far down the tracks are meant to drop.  The color of each track will indicate this, which is why you really need to keep the book open to the above page!  At least until you get used to it.

You will also find some curved track pieces.  These attach to the post pieces and then to the straight pieces.  You can see how the parts connect in the picture above.  You also get a start track and an end track.

Other things that you will find in the box include challenge cards, the game board, a little coaster car, the post pieces, and two tunnels.  But let's not forget the exciting Loop-the-Loop yellow track!  It does make for some fancy roller coasters!

Once you are familiar with the pieces, you pick a challenge card, build the setup pieces, and get to work finishing the track.  When you're done, you send your little coaster car on a fun ride!

Ginny and I completed all the challenges.  We found that while one or two were tricky, they weren't really very hard at all.   The part that took time was building the needed parts for each challenge.

It didn't matter that the challenges weren't that difficult, because we had an absolute blast building all these wonderful coasters!   Jack joined us for some custom building time too.

Even our cat thought this was a pretty cool toy!

I think this was one of Jack's creations.  We built so many, I don't really remember!

We even had fun trying to catch the coaster car in action!  Here it is approaching a tunnel.

And do you see that red smear?  That's the coaster going through the Loop-the-Loop!

I have two tips for building these coasters.  First, build all the required pieces for the challenge before you begin.  Second, begin building at the start track, always working from the tallest tower to the shortest.

Here are some tips if you are experiencing any problems with your tracks.  Some of these tips apply more to custom tracks then to the challenge cards, but it is good to keep them in mind.
1)  Check your connections.  Sometimes they seem secure, but they can come loose as you manipulate other parts of the track into place.
2)  Watch the track heights!  They are critical.
3)  Sometimes the car will hit the top of the tunnel.  That doesn't usually cause problems, but sometimes it flips the car or jams it.  Try some minor adjustments of the tunnel height.
4)  Sometimes the car will jump the track.  It may be that it has too much momentum.  If you create a track with very steep sections close together, this can give it a lot of speed and make it jump off!
5)  Watch the magenta pieces.  They are flat-ish.  If there isn't a steep enough track before the magenta bits, your car may not have enough momentum to make it past them.

Ginny and I give Thinkfun's Roller Coaster Challenge two thumbs up!  It is not overly challenging, but it is loads of fun!

We are wondering if a second set would allow us to make even awesomer tracks.  Hmmm...   :-)

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Puzzle Goodies from Dave and Busters

We've got some major drilling going on next door.  I can't figure out if they are drilling for oil or water, but it is LOUD!  The shrilling shrieking noise is constant and gives me a serious headache.  So yesterday we escaped to Dave and Busters.  When we arrived, I realized that might not have been the best way to get away from too much noise (it is always chaotic there), but it was half price games Wednesday, so we still had fun!

We racked up some serious tickets and splurged on some fun prizes.  They even had some fun puzzle type prizes and we grabbed them!

Tetris Light is awesome!  It comes with the 7 basic Tetris shapes.  The blue one plugs in and the others light up when they touch the blue one. 

We made some nifty designs and it comes with other ideas too.  We think this is pretty darn cool!

We also got Tetris 3D Cube.  It is a little puzzle game.

It comes with 16 shapes.  They are plastic and colorful.

The booklet contains a couple of open-ended challenges and explains the basic Tetris shapes.  Some of the challenges require the shapes to be correctly orientated, while others allow flipping. 

Honestly, I completely stink at these types of puzzles.  I tried for a while to build the 8X8 square, but this was the best I could come up with!  I need to look up strategies for solving these I think.

I was happy to find puzzles at Dave and Busters.  They even had this adorable Tacocat from Exploding Kittens!  Wow!

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Monday, June 4, 2018

House Cat Word Search and Hug Your Cat Day

 The Puzzle Den - House Cat Word Search

June 4th is Hug Your Cat Day and here's a free word search to help you celebrate!  It is positively PACKED full of kitty related words!  It should prove a challenge to young and old alike.  Here's A Brief History of House Cats from the Smithsonian website that would be fun to read to your students while they search.

The rest of this post is dedicated to pictures of our kitty.  No need to read on if you aren't interested!

Deb (we kept the name she had from the shelter) does not like pick-ups!  When we first got her, she had a "one hand only" rule.  If two hands tried to get too close, she would take off!  Ten years later, she will put up with any number of hands (from multiple people) but she only lets us get close snugs once in a while.  The picture above captures one such moment.  You can see her little paw is ready to escape!

She is super photogenic though, and my camera is packed full of pictures of this little cutie!  (There are a couple pics of my kids...just one or two!)

So anyway, download your copy of this puzzle and you just might find your favorite feline wanting to help you solve it too!  (Deb loves helping us, especially when pens are involved!)

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

IQ Stars Review

IQ Stars is here!  This is another single player puzzle game from Smart Games.  They have a whole series of IQ puzzles and most of them are compact enough to fit in your pocket!  Some of the other IQ puzzles include IQ Fit, IQ Puzzler, IQ Blox, and IQ Candy (yum).

I have mentioned these games on my blog before, but it looks like I have never actually reviewed one of them.  Shame on me!  These are actually some of my MOST FAVORITE puzzle games.  There are a few reasons why, which I will get to below while I review IQ Stars.

One of the things that I look for in a new puzzle game is size.  I really like the compact ones.  This means that I can easily carry it with me in a pocket or a purse/bag.  I will admit that I don't always have a puzzle game on me, but I do grab and go sometimes, and this is a property that I very much appreciate.

Another thing that I look for in a puzzle is pack-ability.  (That might not be a real word!)  What I mean is that I like for all the pieces, rules, and game board etc to be easily stored together.  Some puzzles come with a handy storage bag.  Some puzzles are designed to be stored in the cardboard box that it came in.  And some puzzles are designed such that the playing board also double as a storage case.  This last type is my favorite and IQ Stars does this.  Once you pull it out of the box it was purchased in, you can throw that grummy old cardboard box away with no worries!  All the pieces fit snugly into the game board and the rules/challenge booklet sits on top of that.  The clear top hinges over and snaps everything securely closed.  The worst part about some puzzles is that it is very easy to misplace pieces or rules if they don't come with some kind of handy storage option.  You can't play them again if parts are missing!

Another important thing I look for in a puzzle is a unique solution set.  This actually is the MOST IMPORTANT thing of all!  The aforementioned attributes are much less important, but usually the first things I notice about a puzzle.  You have to play around with the puzzle to get a feel for its solve-ability.  And a crucial factor for keeping me engaged in a puzzle is whether or not it has unique solutions.  Now this doesn't mean that those types of puzzles are the best, just that those are the types of puzzles that make me happy.  There are some puzzles in which you need to find a path, like a sequential movement puzzle.  These ones also have unique solutions (the shortest path or least number of moves), but it is hard to keep track of your moves in these cases, so some of the harder challenges become less interesting to me, simply because I lose track of all these moves.  But I think I am rambling...

Anyhow, for puzzles like IQ Stars, the challenges usually have unique solutions.  There is almost always only one unique placement of the pieces that will solve the challenge.  You do stumble occasionally on a solution in which two pieces might fit in in two different ways, but it's not common.  I think the designers are fairly careful (and clever) in constructing the challenges in this way

IQ Stars comes with 7 pieces.  Each piece has 3, 4, or 5 stars connected together in some shape.  The game board has star-shaped nubs that the playing pieces fit onto so they don't slide around. 

To begin play, you pick a challenge and place the pieces that are given in their spots.  Now you must figure out how to place the rest of the pieces onto the game board such that they all fit in nicely!

This was Junior Challenge #38.  It was fairly simple to solve.

IQ Stars comes with 120 challenges in its little booklet.  1- 24 are Starter challenges, 25-48 are Junior, 49-72 are Expert, 73-96 are Master, and the rest are Wizard.  The Wizard levels do get a bit challenging as they only show 1 star of each colored piece.  You have to figure out which orientation each piece takes and then fill in the rest.  Wow!  I enjoyed these ones!  The challenge booklet also contains all the answers at the end of the booklet and some rules of play at the front.  They do claim that there is only 1 possible solution for each challenge!

Some tips for playing IQ Stars:
1)  If you get stuck, check the challenge and make sure all your starter pieces are placed correctly.
2)  Try placing the pink piece first.  It has a crazy cup-like (u) shape and can be tricky to find a spot for.
3)  The purple piece is the only straight piece and only has 3 stars.  Don't create any straight holes for yourself that are longer than 3 stars!  The green piece can also fit into some straight holes of length 3 but it does have an additional star with a bend at the end.
4)  The red shape is like a parallelogram so make sure you leave space for that one too!

Basically, every time you crack open a new puzzle, you should really give those pieces a careful look over.  Find the ones that will be hardest to fit in and try placing them first.  Those ones will usually be confined to only a few possibilities, and they are easy to narrow down.  Hope that makes sense!

 IQ Stars is recommended for ages 6 to adult.  If you have younger puzzle solvers, they would enjoy this too.  I don't think there is a choking hazard here, but if you play with your kids, they will be safe!  I can't recommend spending an afternoon puzzle solving with your kids highly enough!

I own just about every single IQ puzzle available, and I don't regret purchasing any of them!  They are all fantastic!

Thanks for stopping by The Puzzle Den blog today!  I hope you enjoyed this review!

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Crytpo-Animals Sampler Pack

 The Puzzle Den - Crypto-Animals Sampler Pack

I just posted a new freebie at my Teachers Pay Teachers store!  It is a Sampler Pack of puzzles from my Crypto-Animals sets.  Crypto-Animals puzzles focus on multi-digit operations practice.  Each puzzle has students solve 12 math problems.  Then they use their answers to decode some encrypted clues at the bottom of the page.  When the clues are revealed, students can then figure out the mystery animal!

I get lots of good feedback on these puzzles.  And personally I think they are the bomb!  These puzzles get kids practicing math with a fun goal in mind.  And they are cross-curricular, combining both math and science!

So if you have been hesitating to spend money on these puzzles, now's your chance to sample four of them for free!  You will find one puzzle for each of the basic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Click here to download this free Crypto-Animals Sampler Pack!  (Note - you will have to have a TpT account to download it.)

I also have one extra Crypto-Animals puzzle posted to this blog that you can download and try for free as well.  This is a subtraction practice puzzle.  You will find that it uses the same animal as one of the multiplication puzzles from the big set, but the clues and the math practice are different, so you could easily use both with your students.

Happy Solving!
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Friday, March 30, 2018

Free Easter Crypto-Riddles

 The Puzzle Den - Easter Crypto-Riddles

Easter is just a couple days away, so these are probably a bit late for most teachers, but parents can get some use out of them.  And maybe teachers can print them up for some week-after-Easter fun.

Crypto-Riddles are puzzles that get kids practicing their basic math facts.  Once they find the answers to the facts, they can use the letters next to the answers to fill in the answer to the riddle at the top.  These types of puzzles are self checking.  And sometimes the riddles are even amusing!  :-)

 The Puzzle Den - Easter Crypto-Riddles

I created 4 Easter themed Crypto-Riddles, one each for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  When you download the pdf file from Google Drive, you will get all of them together along with the answer keys.

And if your students enjoy these types of puzzles, I have more available in my TpT store.
Crypto-Riddles Addition Puzzles
Crypto-Riddles Subtraction Puzzles
Crypto-Riddles Multiplication Puzzles
Crytpo-Riddles Division Puzzles


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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Easter Egg Puzzle Shapes Template

 The Puzzle Den - Easter Egg Puzzle Shapes Template

Today, I have some Easter Egg Puzzle Shapes to share with you.  I had in mind a little antonyms matching game to make with these, but I thought blank ones might be more useful for teachers and moms.  You can download the blank version as a .jpg file, then print them off and write in whatever your students need to practice.   

 The Puzzle Den - Editable Easter Egg Puzzle Shapes

Alternatively, you can download a pre-filled version with the antonyms in them already.  This version requires Microsoft Word.  I have the 2013 version, so I don't know that it will work with other versions, but I have hopes!  In any case, if you download this version, you can edit the text boxes inside the eggs to show whatever you like.

If you download the Word version, it will look wonky.  It will open in protected view, and you will have to enable editing to get the formatting to straighten out.  A button will appear at the top of the page that will say "Enable Editing."  Once you push that, you can then edit the text boxes inside the eggs.

If you don't have Word, you can still download the .jpg blank version and import it into your favorite text editor.  This way you can also create text on top of the eggs and don't have to hand write them.

Some ideas for egg matching games:
     Math practice (5+10, 15)
     Synonyms (jump, hop)
     Color names and objects that are that color (red, apple)
     Clothes and body parts (socks, feet)
     States and capitals (Richmond, Virginia)
     Foreign Language practice (hola, hello)
     Anything that comes in pairs

Also, try printing these on pastel sheets of paper for a more Eastery feel.  I recommend cardstock for these puzzles.

If this gives you any trouble, feel free to shout out.  I can try to help.  This is the first time I've done an editable document, so it may not go totally smoothly.


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