Sunday, September 27, 2015

2 Fun and Fabulous Games that Build Skills and Bring About Laughter {A USAopoly Review}

What do Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone and Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game by USAopoly have in common?  Besides the fact that these two fast-paced, family games were offered to us for review recently, both are easy-to-learn, fun-to-play and can be enjoyed with family, friends, or, even as my kids discovered, alone.

The More the Merrier

The day after we received our review package from
USAopoly, we had a playdate on our calendar.  How better to test out new games than with friends? I thought.  So, I put the unopened box in our minivan and, the next night, we tore into it with friends.  Luckily, they had two AA batteries and a screwdriver, since these were needed to prepare Tapple for play.

 As soon as we put the batteries into the Tapple board, my friend and I noted that the game had no volume control and,perhaps, could use one.  However, we soon discovered that what we thought would become loud, annoying sounds while playing just added to the fun.  And what fun we had!

 USAopoly Review

My friend, her children, my children and I played round after round of
Tapple together, and, later, her children and I played more while I babysat them.

Playing Tapple is super easy.  You take the category cards that are stored in a handy compartment at the bottom of the game out and flip the switch on the bottom of the game to "on".  Then, you choose a card to determine a category you'll name things from.  Say "things at a party".  Category determined, you hit the big red button to begin a 10-second countdown, think of something that you'd find at a party (or that fits whatever category your card said), tap down the letter that begins the word you call out, say "b" for "balloons", hit the timer to restart it, and pass play onto the next player.

If the timer goes off before a player taps a letter, that player is out of the round.  If all letters get tapped before there is only one player left, you play a speedier round where each player has to name two things within a category before the timer goes off. 

All the letters for the alphabet except U, V, X, Y and Z are on the board.  (Sometimes we wished these letters were, too, but I understand why they are not since some of them, especially X, would be challenging to tap often!)  However, even with "missing letters" very little opportunity to laugh, get creative with our answers, and enjoy time together was missed while we played Tapple.  In fact, we had so much fun playing that the kids groaned when I suggested that we stop in order to check out the next game.

USAopoly Review

Luckily, the kids agreed to take a Tapple break in order to learn Wonky, for that game became a fast-favorite, which, by the end of the night, had one of the kids grabbing his iPad in order to give a score to our game with sad orchestral music when turns got tough and victory music when traps were set.  It was hysterical!

Concentration.  Laughter.  Plots hatched.  Strategies foiled.  So much unfolded as boys teamed up against girls and as siblings made and broke alliances while we played Wonky, a simple (yet challenging!) game where you draw cards and then discard them while stacking blocks of three colors and three sizes into towers you try not to topple.  This is harder to do than it though, since each block has three flat sides and three curved ones.  The curves, of course, cause precarious tilting towers that threaten to topple unless played upon with excellent balance or a whole lot of luck!


What a great night unfolded because of Tapple and Wonky!
Academic Tie-Ins

Both Tapple and Wonky have found homes on our S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E.+ shelves.    

Tapple  is on our "L" shelf, a shelf stocked with tools and activities that help us "learn and play with language".  For, indeed, that is what Tapple does.  To play, we have to know spelling, vocabulary and creative communication.  (One of the rules is that players can name anything that might fit a category, even something "outside-the-box", so long as other players agree that it fits.  So, for example, when naming something round, "ox eyeballs" could - and did!- become acceptable.)

Wonky is on our "M" shelf, a shelf stocked with tools and games that help us "master math skills together".  Although the game seems quite easy - just stacking blocks - the design of the blocks require players to exercise balance and engineering skills.  The game also encourages strategy, both in how you play cards that let you skip players or reverse the direction of play and in how you can :set traps:for subsequent players through which blocks you choose to stack. 

I just love when games support learning!

Solo Play Works, Too

Since the games have been on our S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E. + shelves, the kids have regularly taken them out to play with one another, to play when friends come over, and to ask myself or my husband to play.  They have also played them by themselves.

To play Tapple solo, a child chooses a category and sees how many 10-second time rounds it takes to name something for each letter.

To play Wonky solo, a child draws cards and stacks blocks, seeing if all the blocks can be stacked without the tower tumbling.

Or so that is how we started playing the games solo  Since these basic rules of play developed in our home, all manner of variations have been added...
So, quick to learn, fun to play, skill boosting, and flexible would be descriptors of the games as we have come to know them.  We enjoy both and would recommend them to anyone who likes games.

Tapple is meant for 2-8 players, ages 8+ to play for 10-20 minutes, but we have found it plays well with one to as many players as you'd like, ages preschool on up, for 5 minutes to as long as you like.  (Sometimes we gave preschoolers extra time or helped them find the letters to tap!) Wonky is meant for 2+ players ages 8+, but we played it with one to lots of players, from preschoolers on up with no trouble at all.

In the Kids' Words

My nine-year-old had this to say about Tapple:

I think it is an okay game.  There is not really anything bad about it.  I had fun playing it with my friends.  But, you should make your own rule: No using people's names.
And, this to say about

I think it is an awesome game.  I especially liked setting traps for other people and using passes and reverses to send traps backwards and forward without having to do a thing. I also think that, at the beginning of the game, if someone places a large block, you should always place a small block on top of it.  That's my key to trapping people.

My eight-year-old said the following about

I thought it was good.  I liked playing it with my friends a lot.  My friend said it was addictive, because it is.  I think that you should make it so you cannot use names, too.  It's way too way with names, because names can be anything."

And, she had a lot to say about
It is awesome!  But... there is one thing bad about it: you get seven cards, which is way too much.  We minused two cards to make it five and I liked that a lot better... 
I love giving passes to people when they think they might have trapped me.  I like setting traps.  I also like when we play as a team to team up against one certain other team so one team can win. 
I also liked to play it by myself, drawing seven cards and using them. If they were passes or reverses, I put them back in the pile and grabbed other cards.  It's easier with yourself only, because you have your own ideas and plans.  You do not have to set traps to ruin your tower.  You can build it as high as you want, because you are the only one playing.  The challenge is that it is hard when the tower is  small and curvy and all the blocks that are left are big blocks that you have to place on the small, curvy blocks. I figured out which side it was titling to and put the big block on the other side.  Once the big block was on the other side, I put the other big block on the opposite side and stacked like that so the weight would be equally used.  It worked.  I ended up with steps sometimes. 
I really liked when we played with only four or five people, too, and the people all knew the game - were introduced to it all at once - and people could team up against each other. Teams are fun to play with so you feel like you don't stink at the game.  Your team can still win if one has too much cards and is totally dead in the game, the other person can help out.  It can it easy and fun. I just love the game.

My five-year-old said:
I liked that you have to be quick in Tapple.  I also liked pressing the button.  I did not like that you had to think of something super fast, lightening fast.  It was hard.  So, I liked when Mommy helped me.

He added the following about Wonky:
I liked that we beat Mom at our friend's house.  I like that it is different colors, but I did not like that it has no orange, and I didn't like that it has purple.  I like that you got seven card and that sometimes you I minused it to three.  I like that it is a fun game.

As for me, I find both games fantastic and, besides wishing for all the letters of the alphabet on the Wonky board, only would change  one other thing about games:  their packages! Tapple comes in a box with an open front, which is all well-and-good for letting potential buyers see what the actual "board" with the push down letter  tabs looks like, but is not the best for storage once purchased.  Wonky comes in a sturdy box with a convenient cloth pouch for storing the blocks inside, but the box itself is not a rectangle.  It's got a rather odd angular shape on two sides, which make it less pleasing to stack than it could be with a more traditional box.  But, in both cases, it's what's inside the box that really counts and what is inside is hours of fun and skill building!
So, I think it's clear:  both
Tapple and Wonky were well received here with Wonky as the biggest hit! I am so glad we were introduced to these games and have not doubt we will be playing them on our own, as a family , and with friends for years to come!

Learn More

 USAopoly Review

 USAopoly Review

What games have kept you laughing and learning lately?  Would your family and friends enjoy Tapple and Wonky as much as mine did? 
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