Toy Fair 2006 - page 2

The veteran Gibsons was in its usual position in the north hall. Nowadays the company’s main business is in jigsaw puzzles, but it had a few new games on display. Frantic Frogs is an action game: roll the dice, grab for the appropriate frog and see who gets the most. Cheese Please is a dice-based memory game of cat and mouse with the aim of getting the most cheese. Woof Woof is about collecting bones using the magnetic nose on your dog. All three are aimed at pre-school children and are UK editions of games from Piatnik. Gibsons also has Alias, a Taboo-like word game previously published in Scandinavia by Tactic.

These days Hobbygames describes itself as an “entertainment merchandise specialist” and fantasy products seem to dominate. There were some interesting things on the stand, though. Lurking in one corner were Orchid Games and their new game, Yvette Fielding’s Ghosts. This takes the idea of the Most Haunted TV show and offers players the chance to try their hand as “ghost detectives.” The game is played on a board showing the rooms of a haunted house. The investigators have to get concrete evidence of a ghost. They may have various bits of equipment, but they certainly have limited time. Meanwhile the ghosts avoid the investigators and “play gruesome tricks on anyone who gets too close to the truth.” Is it me, or does this sound like an episode of Scooby-Doo? I’m intrigued enough to want to try it out.

Hobbygames is also carrying Orchid Games’ simple wargame, Battle Group Commander, which sounds interesting. Hidden City Games’ Clout Fantasy is a game that uses collectable ‘chips’ that are thrown around. Aimed at playground games, this has been doing well and further expansions are coming this year. How can anyone resist a game called Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot? This is a new collectable card game from Playroom Entertainment and the aim is to defeat the other bunnies and grab that magic carrot. The same company has a Reiner Knizia-designed game for 2006, too. King of the Beasts is a card game where players try to get their preferred animal elected King by playing cards. Aimed at children (8+), it sounds like it may be a simplified Quo Vadis?.

Picture of blue box of Killer Bunnies...

I had no time, alas, to spend with Living and Learning, who produce some fine games and toys for children. Those who are interested can see the range on their website.

Mindware is a US company that produces “brainy toys for kids of all ages” and was appearing at the London Toy Fair for the first time. The company has a range of good-looking puzzles and educational toys and books. The one game on show is called Gambit and was described as being “a bit like Rush Hour for two.” The centre of the board holds a grid of coloured square pieces. These can be pushed along their rows onto and off ‘carriers’ on either side. These move pieces up and down the rows where they can be pushed back on. Completing a row of one colour scores a point and most points wins at the end. Simple stuff (once you’ve got your head round my description), but a clever little game for ages 8+.

The only new thing I noticed on the Paul Lamond stand was … wait for it … a Sudoku board game. Check it out on their website.

I looked wistfully at the Orchard Toys stand as they produce a lot of terrific games (and toys) for children (up to age 10), but lack of time meant I had to pass them by. You can find their full range on their website.

Re:creation handles lots of small manufacturers, so there are usually some interesting games to be found on their stand. Not surprisingly this year’s crop includes a range of Sudoku games from Cardinal. Cardinal is the only publisher I’ve seen to include a Kakuro game in their range. There were also a couple of new TV tie-in board games: Lost and The OC. World of Beer is a trivia game and a follow-up to the earlier World of Wine. Typecast is kind of a What’s My Line game. The game contains some 300 photos of people and numerous questions about them. The aim is to guess from the photo what the person does, their favourite food or their hobby. Welcome to Real Vegas is a board game that features casino games – as played in Las Vegas, of course. Players work their way round the board, trying to win money at the various gambling games and avoid the pitfalls. These all seem to be standard family fare – though The World of Beer piques my interest of course!

An interesting new title from Upstarts! is The Really Nasty Motor Racing Game. As with its older stablemate, The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game, this is a fairly simple race game. What raises it above that level are the Event cards that enable players to, umm, handicap their opponents’ cars at strategic moments. At first glance this looks like it could be just as much a cult favourite as Horse Racing. Expect it to retail at £15. Upstarts! has also got in on the Sudoku craze. Code Sudoku provides competitive Sudoku for up to four players (my brain hurts already). Travel Code Sudoku is a magnetic version. And My First Code Sudoku is a children’s (ages 4-10) version that uses pictures rather than numbers.

Other games from Upstarts! this year include a children’s version of the set-collecting game, Sequence. A clever idea is Identikit, which uses the old three-parts-of-a-face idea. The aim is to re-create the face given to you by combining the features in your book. It’s done against a timer, of course! Then there’s the Really Wild Bug Eating Party. Less a game, more a gourmet meal for insectivores. Yes, the idea is to accept the challenge and eat the creatures included in the game. Ants I could probably cope with, particularly if covered in chocolate, but a scorpion?! I have only one thing to say: I’m a nobody – get me out of here!

The UK Winning Moves company specialises in producing Top Trumps and regional Monopoly games. Plus a few other things – like Pit, a new edition of Pass the Pigs and more. The latest additions to the range are the Bath, Swansea and Wigan Monopoly sets and The Sudoku Game. Yes, another variation on Sudoku.

In the Greenhouse

Having been round the main body of the show – and carefully avoided spending too long playing Scalextric – it’s time to see who’s in the Greenhouse. Bearing in mind that this is a World Cup year, I’m expecting a few football games. All About Football seems to fit the bill nicely. This is a football trivia game in which the players work their way through the divisions by answering questions. There are a few wrinkles to the game with players allowed a few substitutes if they don’t like a question and penalty shoot-outs to decide the big points. Apart from the generic version, there are specific versions for major clubs such as Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and so on. The game was launched last October and can be found in a number of retailers. It’s not my cup of tea, though.

At first sight, Pickout is one of those deceptively simple games. It’s lots of coloured discs in a bag. Plus some bigger discs for collecting sets. Five different games can be played with these pieces. The basic game involves being the first to pick the pieces of your colour out of the bag. While Reverse Pickout is about being the last to get the four pieces. All the games depend on being lucky and are intended for family play with younger children. This is the first game from Colin Buckmaster and Buckmaster Games (though this website doesn’t work with all browsers).

Cuberty is the name of a new 3-D word game from designer Nigel Newberry and his company, Game Ideas. Under its original name, Stact, the game won a prize from SAZ (the German games designers’ association) in their competition at Spiel ’04. The game uses letter dice to build words across the table or up into the air. I didn’t manage to find out how the game plays, but it certainly looks interesting.

Gamma Games Oxford had a number of games on show. The first was Commuter, a road safety game for youngsters, which was previously (some 20 years ago) published as Trafikant. Palindrome is a puzzle game in which players try to get their counters into a symmetrical pattern. And Grand Slam has players positioning counters on a grid according to the roll of the dice. Four in a row wins the game.

HL Games was back to show off a junior version of GO mental. The aim of the game is to identify the odd one out from a set of four things listed on a card – and it’s not as easy as it sounds! The new version is called GO mental FUNDAmental and will be available in the UK later in the year. As well as the US version of the standard and junior games, the US subsidiary publishes GO mental SACRAmental, which applies the game’s system to religious matters.

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