Monday, June 30, 2014

Magic Forest from SmartGames

Magic Forest

This week's Puzzle in the Spotlight is Magic Forest.  This is one in a series of magnetic travel games from SmartGames.  These types of puzzles are fantastic for your summer Road Trips!

Magic Forest is made of fairly sturdy cardboard that folds up and snaps shut.  Inside you will find the magnetic pieces, the challenge board, instructions, and the challenges themselves with answers!  There are four levels of play: starter, junior, expert, and master.

Flip to the back of all the challenges and you will find some simple instructions for game play.  Choose a challenge, arrange the game pieces to make connections and you're done!

Here's a closer look at the game board and the pieces.  Each tile has a variety of paths.  Depending on the challenge you choose, you have to arrange the paths to connect the various items at the edges.  One tile has a black cat on it which might also need to connect to certain other items via a path.

Here are some of the challenges.  The green challenges are starter, and the red are expert level.  You can see that the starter levels are pretty easy with only one required connection.  The expert levels show many required connection and a some paths that should NOT be connected.  In challenge 29, you can see a red X on one of the yellow connection arrows and that means that there should not be a path between the weird tree lady and the frog!

Here's one challenge that Ginny and I solved.  It's number 22 which you can see in the upper left of the picture.  We needed to create one path between the tree and the tree lady and another path between the unicorn and the pot.  We also had to make sure that the black cat did not connect with the frog and book!  That is the solution that we came up with above.

You can see the solution they present for challenge 22 is rather different than what we came up with!  There are many possible answers for most of the challenges.  Personally, I like a puzzle with unique answers for each challenge.

If you need some travel games this summer, you might want to check out this line of puzzles.

 Brain Cheeser

Brain Cheeser - looks pretty cheesy! 

Busy Bugs

Busy Bugs

Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark

Tangoes People
Tangoes People - there are a couple different versions of this.


These other travel games say that they have one unique solution per puzzle.  I would recommend trying one of those over Magic Forest unless you like lots of possibilities!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Perplexing Puzzles 6/25/14 - Road Trip Words In Words

Road Trip Signs Words In Words

It's time for more Road Trip Summer puzzles!  This week is a collection of Words In Words style puzzles.  The challenge is to think of at least five (but you could think of more) words that can be formed using only the letters in the given word.

Ginny loves these puzzles!  Her favorite part is comparing the words she came up with with the ones that I came up with.  Sometimes we each find all different words and sometimes we have a lot of overlaps.  She has requested more of these puzzles!  I'd suggest that you grab a pen and copy of this puzzle too and work it with your kids.  Set a time limit (like 5 minutes) and scribble down as many words as you can think of.  Then read your lists out loud and compare.  It really is quite a lot of fun!

Road Trip Places Words In Words
Road Trip Animal Words In Words

Road Trip Vehicle Words In Words

Road Trip Nature Words In Words
Click on any of the above pictures to download a pdf file containing all the puzzles.  I've included 5 answers for each puzzle, but that doesn't mean those are the only possible answers!

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Five on Friday

1)  This beautiful dragonfly came to die on our back porch this week.  He (or she) is a Black Saddlebags Skimmer.  Here's a nice article about them on BIOKids.  They get their name from the black area of their hind wings that looks like they are carrying around a pair of saddlebags!  I'd never seen one like this before.

2)  Road Trip!  As this posts on Friday morning we will already be on the road.  We've spent the last several days of this week preparing and packing.  You might have figured out that a road trip was in our future due to the Road Trip freebie puzzles I've been posting!  (like the one above)  We'll be bringing the Scavenger Hunts with us, but the kids have already solved all the others.  They are my testers after all!  And where are we going?  Off to see family and friends in Va Beach!  We are going to spend one whole month there!  Beach, swimming, games, and fun!

Latin Verb Bundle - puzzles for first year latin students

3)  In store news, I finally finished up all my Latin Verb packs.  There are 6 packs and you can get all 6 for a discount by purchasing the bundle shown above.  These are a great way for students to review vocabulary terms.

4)  Here's a fun blog post about puzzles in Alaska from PuzzleNation.  Who knew Alaska had it's own Rubik's Cube?!

5)  Jack finished reading "Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits" this week.  I finished up the short story collection "The End is Nigh".   Ginny's just about finished reading "Owl Keeper".  And we finished our read aloud "The Battle for WondLa".  ALL GOOD STUFF!  And I'm so pleased with the amount of reading going on around here this summer!

Next time you hear from me, we'll be broadcasting from VA Beach!  Hurray!

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Perplexing Puzzles 6/18/14 - Summer Road Trip

Road Trip Animal Pair Off

More Road Trip fun is here today!  Keep your kids busy this summer with this series of puzzles.  Today's puzzles are called Pair Off.  These test visual discrimination skills by challenging solvers to find pairs of items.  Three of the items won't even have a match!  Just click on any of the pictures to download a pdf file containing all the puzzles plus answers.

Road Trip Nature Pair Off

Road Trip Places Road Trip

Road Trip Signs Pair Off

Road Trip Vehicles Pair Off

Have a happy summer and many fun road trips!

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Five on Friday, or Saturday!

1)  We hit the Columbia Zoo last Friday!  I missed posting about it last week, but it is worth sharing.  It is a very nice zoo and has a Botanical Gardens attached to it too.  Ginny and I got to feed giraffes.  I looks like the giraffe is kissing Ginny in the pictures above, but he's just hungry!  We also got to see a baby flamingo (the little white  blob by the mom's foot).  And the elephants were really active.  One of them put some straw on his head and then started flapping his ears!  Another one was chewing on a chunk of log like it was a toothpick!  Animals are really neat to watch.

There are some pictures from the Garden.  You have to walk across a bridge over the Saluda River, then take a short tram ride to get from the zoo to the garden.  The garden is really nice, even when your kids are already exhausted from the zoo!

2) I worked on some crafts this week.  (Homeschool is finished so we have had some free time!  Hurray!)  Ginny picked out a pattern and some material for this owl shirt.  I knitted my first shawl.  It's a present for my sister (shhhh...don't tell!)  And I made a storage thingy for my double pointed knitting needles.  Just used one of those fabric crayon holder tutorials but sewed the slots in different widths.  It works pretty well!

3)  This morning we took our bikes out to the Canal Trail.  We've been trying to bike or hike the entire trail.  I don't think the whole trail is more than 10 miles long, but that's still a bit too far for us in one day!  We've biked a couple sections, from park to park, and we've walked part of the downtown section and done the visitor's center.  We only have a tiny section left which we will hopefully complete soon!  After that, we'll head over to the SC side and check out their trails.  On today's ride, a train passed by right next to us and we got to see some lovely old factories!

4)  In book news, we finished book 5 of Harry Potter!  There's a pic of me in my pjs getting ready to start reading one of the last chapters.  It was great!  We are now trying to finish up "The Battle for WondLa", the last book of the WondLa series.  It is a lovely sci-fi adventure from Toni DiTerlizzi.  Jack has read "Space Rocks" by Tom O'Donnell and "Mouseheart" by Lisa Fielder.  Ginny read "Abduction" by Peg Kehret.  I'm reading a short story collection called "The End is Nigh" edited by Hugh Howey.  All good stuff!

5)  I picked up two new puzzle mags this week. The yellow one is "Puzzles & Pleasantries" from The Old Farmer's Almanac.  The puzzles are adapted from old editions of the almanac.  It's filled with riddles and other word games.  It has very different puzzles than you find in most puzzle magazines.  Like this "What is that which is so easily broken that the mere mention of it breaks it?"  The other magazine is one I'd heard was coming out this year from Will Shortz.  I'd been looking for it, but apparently I missed the first issue as this is the second one!  It's filled with your standard type puzzles, but they seem to be just a little bit more challenging.

Well, that's all I've got for this week!  Have a great weekend.  (And the answer, if you want to know, is "silence".)

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Perplexing Puzzles 6/11/14 - Father's Day

Father's Day Rebus Puzzle - Easier

Today's free puzzle is in honor of Father's Day!  There are 2 rebus puzzles, one easy and one a bit harder.  Click on either picture to download a file containing both puzzles from Google Drive.

Father's Day Rebus - Hard

And to all you fathers out there....Happy Father's Day!

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Perplexing Puzzles 6/4/14

More puzzles to keep your kids busy on Road Trips!  There are 5 picture Sudoku puzzles in this free downloadable file.  They have the same themes as last week's Scavenger Hunts.

Summer Road Trip Sudoku Puzzles

Just click on the picture above to download from Google Drive.  Let me know if you have any problems!

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Iota from Gamewright

Iota from Gamewright

Today's review is a multiplayer puzzle game!  Iota is an itty-bitty card game from Gamewright.  This game is a cross between Set and Quirkle.  I picked it up at B&N thinking it would be a great game to stash away in the purse for those moments when you find yourself away from home with some free time on your hands and a couple other potential players.  And it does fit nicely in the purse (although the tin got dented).  But the game play isn't all that great, so I'm not sure I'll be dragging this around anymore.

To play Iota, each player is dealt 4 cards and one card is flipped as the starter card.  The object of the game is to earn as many points as you can by adding cards to the grid.  The cards must match in either color, number or shape...or they must all be different.  So, very much like Set, you have to form sets of cards with properties that all match or don't match.  Sound confusing?  If you look a the picture above, you can see a completed set of four cards (called a lot) that contain a one green circle, a one red triangle, a one blue plus, and a one orange square.  So the cards match in number, but differ by shape and color.  If you look at the intersecting lot across the one green circle, you can see that these cards match in color but differ in shape and number.  The last card in that lot is a wild card, which in this case is forced to be a two green triangle.

Ginny and Jack were not impressed with this game.  (You can tell by the ugly look on Gin's face!)  The problem is that forming lots (sets of 4) is very difficult.  And finding plays is also challenging.  There's nothing wrong with a challenging game, but I think this game needs more cards to make it fun, instead of just annoying!

Above you can see all the yellow cards that are available.  They are all the possible shapes and numbers within the set of yellow.  Unfortunately, there aren't any duplicate cards.  And this is what makes the game play rather difficult.  If a lot can only be complete with a three yellow plus, but that card has already been played elsewhere, then that lot can never be finished!  It isn't tragic when this happens, but it really does limit possible moves.

Here you can see how our game played out.  If you study the cards, you can see that we really got blocked up and had very limited moves available.  Some of the cards shifted about too, which makes things even more confusing!  These are thin cards, which make for a great to-go game, but you don't want to play with anyone that breathes hard!

I like the idea behind Iota, but I think it could use some fine-tuning.  Or maybe I just need to play with older, more experienced players who don't mind low scores!  If you like the look of this kind of game, I would recommend going with either Set or Quirkle instead.  These are tried and true games at our house, and we have loved them both!

Happy gaming!

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