Monday, November 10, 2014

Shell Game from Thinkfun

Shell Game

Todays Puzzle in the Spotlight is the Shell Game from Thinkfun!  It is the classic shell swapping game but modified for a single player.

In the box you will find an instructions and solution booklet, the challenge booklet, 6 shells, 6 hermit crabs, and 3 stones.  The hermit crabs are a really cute touch and they snuggle into their shell homes quite nicely!

This is a pretty straightforward puzzle.  First you choose a challenge in the challenge booklet.  Then you set up your hermit crabs, stones and shells in the order dictated at the top of the page.  You can see in the above photo that a red crab is first matching the red A at the top and etc.

The gray circles indicate that a stone is needed in that space.  The stones serve the purpose of providing sensory feedback for the "empty" shells.  As you move the shells around, you can feel something moving inside them.  If the stones weren't there, you'd be able to cheat!  So definitely use the stones!

Now that the board is set up, your goal is to move the crabs from their original starting positions to the end spots.  The bottom of the challenge board shows the needed end positions.  If you look closely, you can also see brown lines connecting the shells.  These are your "swap" lines.  You can only swap two shells if they are connected by one of these lines.  That's where a bit of the challenge comes into play.  The other bit is trying to remember where all your colored hermit crabs are once you start swapping them here and there!

A couple swaps later, and when I peek under my shells, I see that I have successfully moved them into the correct spots!  But that was a beginner challenge...too easy!  There are 60 challenges included from beginner to expert.

Here is an example of an advanced challenge.  The very last challenge in the book uses all 6 hermit crabs and only 5 swap lines!  My husband took a look at that, thought about it for a few minutes, then solved the challenge with some logic.  He's one of those kinds of people who wants to solve the hardest challenge first.  If they get that one, then they figure there's no reason to solve any of the others.  I think he misses an important aspect of solving puzzles like this...which is having fun!

This game is completely adorable!  It's a bit easier than some logic puzzles, but that makes it great for kids.  It's recommended for 8 and up, but it's totally workable by younger kids too.  Watch out for the really little ones as the hermit crabs and stones are swallowable!

If your little solvers don't catch onto the idea of the challenges, then play the regular game of shell swap with them.  Use only one hermit crab and two stones, swap those shells around for them, and see if they can figure out where the crab is.  Also check if they've been paying attention and ask them what color crab you used before you reveal it!

One more thought...there are many ways to solve these challenges.  The solutions manual lists one possible solution for each challenge.  There is no restriction on the number of swaps allowed per challenge.  One way you could make the game more difficult is by challenging yourself to complete each level in as few swaps as possible.

This is definitely a game to keep in mind for your Christmas lists!

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