Thursday, 1 November 2018

Testing out Junior Labyrinth board game from Ravensburger

Weekends and school holidays are all about fun and games, today we have had a Fab playdate with the youngests bestie. Being the organiser she is the youngest had the day planned out, this including Halloween activities such as pumpkin carving, so I thought with the ghostly playing pieces of the Junior Labyrinth game from Ravensburger we have been sent for review the game would fit perfectly with her spooky Halloween themed day.

I really enjoy the girls being this age as they already display lots of independence and understanding for rules, they love to try things for themselves and can understand the need for turn taking and playing by the rules, although do not go as far as being graceful losers yet!!
The game was really easy to set up and the girls loved the ghostly playing pieces and easily understood the concept of moving tiles to create pathways to where they wanted to go.

It was great that it required them to plan ahead and think of how they needed to move certain tiles to create a pathway using logic and pattern to move ahead. Once the rules were explained they were able to play independently and I am sure next time they will easily set up and play okay with no help at all.

The game consists of a board with 5 tiles attached to it, there are then 17 maze tiles that are randomly placed on the board to create a Labyrinth of pathways, there will be one maze tile left over, Some tiles have objects on them which are also on secret tokens which are placed face down next to the board.  Players take it in turns play, the first player is to pick a secret token and look for a pathway to the object on their token. The spare maze tile can be used to move the pathways by inserting it into a row from the end, this then pushes out another tile for the next player to use. If a clear pathway to the object cannot be made then play passes to the next player to find a path to the object on the secret token using the spare maze tile to move the pathways, if a player creates a pathway to the object they keep the secret token, the next player then turns the next secret token. Play ends when all tokens are won and the winner is the player with the most tokens.

The quality of the board and tiles is really good and will withstand lots of repetitive play, the ghost play pieces are strong and sturdy so this game is one that will be played over and over again. A great addition to your Halloween games for this half term.

‘PJ Masks: Team Of Heroes’ Board Game Review

If you have children under the age of 8, you’re bound to know who the PJ Masks are. With 4 kids under the age of 8, our household certainly knows what this band of Super-Heroes are all about! We were thrilled to see that there is a brand new board game dedicated to this popular TV show. PJ Masks: Team Of Heroes, is a board game that your little PJ Masks super-fans will spend hours of fun playing.

Who are the PJ Masks?

Catboy (Connor), Owlette (Amaya) and Gekko (Greg) are the stars of this animated TV series. During the day, they are 3 normal kids but by night they become masked superheroes who fight to save the town against the evil Romeo and his robots, Luna Girl, Night Ninja and a team of Ninjalinos – the minions of the Night Ninja.

PJ Masks: Team Of Heroes

PJ Masks: Team Of Heroes is a cooperative board game where players play together to beat the villain Romeo and his evil robots before they take over the PJ Masks base. This game is ideal for small children, teaching them how cooperative games work, planning ahead and working together to find a strategy to win. The aim of the game is to stop any robots from making their way to the PJ Masks base and shutting down Romeo’s laboratory. If any robot makes it as far as the base, then the players lose the game. Players can win by shutting down Romeo’s laboratory (taking the counter from 7 down to 0), or by removing all the robots from the game.
Players take it in turns to draw a card and undertake the action listed at the top of the card (Move Romeo or place a robot onto the board). Following this, they must choose another action (moving one of the named PJ Masks a number of spaces, or taking reducing the counter on Romeo’s lab by 1).


The game is super easy to play. My 3, 5 and 6 year olds understood the game right away and had no trouble grasping the rules.
The game takes just 1 minute to assemble. The first time you set-up the game you will have to stand the robots and laboratory onto their bases, but these simply slot into place. You can remove them from their bases at the end of the game, but they fit back into the box with ease when still attached to the bases to make set up for the next time you play quicker.

The rules are super simple to grasp, and are easily explained on a single double-sided rule sheet… it’s more pictures than text too! After just 1 round and explaining to our girls how to play, we didn’t need to explain the rules again. Play went ahead smoothly (although Ivy, our 3-year-old, assumed that she was only playing as Catboy and had to be reminded that she could move any character) and lasted for just over 20 minutes. As soon as we finished the game, my 6 year old wanted to play again!

The board game as a product
  • Ages 4+ (But our 3 year old played easily with no problem understanding the rules)
  • 1-4 players. I actually played this game on my own and was great fun!
  • 20 minutes of gameplay.
This game features 4 wonderful miniatures- Catboy, Owlette, Gekko and Romeo. The quality of the miniatures is excellent – they’re really detailed and well painted – this is coming from someone who paints and sells miniatures for table-top gaming.

The whole game feels well made and sturdy. The game board is thick and has fantastic artwork which matches the look and feel of the show, as do the cards, robots and laboratory. I am honestly blown away with the quality of this children’s game. We play a lot of adult table-top games and it is clear that this game has been designed and created by people who seriously know their ‘stuff’
The game reminded both my husband and I of Pandemic (you can read our review by following the link). This not only because of the cooperative nature of the game, where you win or lose as a team, but also because the robots spread across the board in a very similar way to the diseases in Pandemic, gradually taking over the whole playing area if not kept in check by the heroes. Things can quickly get out of hand, but unlike Pandemic, the mechanic for removing a robot is fairly straightforward. Players only have to move onto a space occupied by one to remove it, and typically a hero moves between 1 and 3 spaces every turn.

Where to buy

If you’d like to know more about PJ Masks: Team of Heroes, then visit the Ravensburger website where there are plenty more fun and exciting games to explore.

Thomas and Friends Shaped Christmas Puzzle

My youngest daughter, aged 5, loves jigsaw puzzles. She was incredibly excited to receive the Ravensburger Thomas and Friends shaped Christmas puzzle to review at home. This 32-piece giant shaped floor puzzle is perfect for small hands, and a great little family activity for a cosy weekend at home. It comes with a Thomas and Friends Christmas themed door hanger as well, and I had a hard job trying to persuade my daughter that she would have to wait until December before she could display this on her bedroom door. My little darling!
I think the Ravensburger Thomas and Friends shaped Christmas jigsaw puzzle offers great value for money, generally retailing at £9.99. It makes a fabulous stocking filler, perhaps a nice little family gift for Christmas Eve, or is perfect for a festive birthday. My husband certainly enjoyed himself, helping our daughter to complete the puzzle, not that she needed any help. They spent a nice little half-hour together, and then enjoyed their finished creation for a while afterwards.
The Ravensburger Thomas and Friends shaped Christmas floor puzzle provides the usual high quality that we would expect from a heritage brand. The puzzle pieces are bright and colourful, with a smooth, glossy finish. There are no rough edges, the pieces fit together very snugly, and we found it easy to assemble on our slightly uneven carpet on the floor. It has a nice, unusual shape, and my daughter was very happy. In fact, she had to remake the jigsaw puzzle again before we persuaded her to pack it away and save it for Christmas, or as close as she can wait. Ho ho ho!

The Curious Cupboard No. 6, The Collector’s Cupboard 1,000 Piece Puzzle

best Ravensburger puzzles

...I have photos in albums,
Of family and friends,
Beloved cats and dogs,
Keeping alive
Their faithful memories.

I have books on shelves,
Collection of words,
Collections of stories,
Our history, where we came from,
Who lived before, our heritage...

(Bev Hedgman, Collecting Things)

Do you collect things? I've read that about one third of people in the UK collect something. Don't know about you, but I'm definitely in that camp. I collect books, vintage china and postcards among other things.
Our collections become a part of our identity. It's such a popular hobby, the main problem is though finding storage space for all your treasures.
With books, it runs in both our families - my in-laws have shelves of books from floor to ceiling everywhere. Once, when a plumber had to be called to deal with some issues, he looked around the entrance hall crammed with books and decided that my father in law was a book seller (he's not), as he couldn't believe why someone would have so many books.

Working on The Curious Cupboard No.6, The Collector's Cupboard 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger made me think of all the things we collect.

gifts for jigsaw puzzle fans

The owner of the curious cupboard and I have similar tastes - we love books, old china, hats, buttons and old photos. This puzzle is a real pleasure to work on. It has such a great attention to detail, not surprising when Colin Thompson is an artist.
His unique style is easily recognisable.

It's not just a variety of small details. it's those peculiar little creatures which invade the shelves and build a world of their own among the old books, Cornishware and cameras.

best jigsaw puzzles

This wonderfully quirky puzzle is a rich tapestry of colours. There are buttons of many shapes and sizes...

Christmas gift ideas

... vintage bottles and cameras, stamps, timepieces, jazzy ties and bright hats... and cats. This collector is clearly obsessed with cats. 

best jigsaw puzzles

There are playful kittens, and sleepy moggies, and even toy cats.

best jigsaw puzzles

Christmas gift ideas

The puzzle measures 70x50cm when completed. It's suitable for ages 12+.
Like all Ravensburger puzzles, it's made from strong premium grade cardboard, with linen finish print to minimise the glare on puzzle image.

Christmas gifts for jigsaw puzzle fans

best jigsaw puzzles

The puzzle pieces are cut, using soft click technology, i.e. unique punching templates and tools.

This wonderfully intricate jigsaw puzzle will make a great gift for any puzzle fan. If you're looking for ideas for Christmas gifts, this puzzle might just fit the bill.

GraviTrax Interactive Ball Track System Review Age 8+

Ravensburger are well known for puzzles and although it can use some brain-power, GraviTrax is a completely different story. A fantastic and incredibly attractive interactive ball track system, this takes your imagination and engineering skills to new levels. Make coloured metal balls roll, fly, bounce and drop along a pathway of your own creation. You can even race a couple of your friends...

We've been sent the Starter Set which has an rrp of £49.99 and 3 of the Expansion Sets at £9.99rrp each, The Catapult, Magnetic Cannon and Hammer. All of the GraviTrax system is suitable for age 8+. Children younger (5+) will be able to play with it, but are more likely to find construction frustrating.

The GraviTrax Starter Set has an impressive selection of pieces, over 100 in all (listed at the base of the post), including lots of special parts and plenty of pieces to make a proper length of track. There are 6 metal 'Gravity Spheres' or balls included, so even if you lose one under the sofa you won't be devastated.

I'm really impressed with the sturdy boxes, which are perfect for storage after play. There are no batteries or much pre-assembly, so this is about as Christmas morning-friendly as you can get. Creating tracks is intuitive and super-easy, you can get started instantly.

The Gravity Spheres roll along on rails which run between the white bases. The rails just slot into a groove on the base and it takes only a fraction of a second. There are large platforms to steady everything and provide a second or third storey to your build. This is the most user-friendly ball track you could imagine.

The white bases can be raised on 2 different depths of tile, which stack on top of each other to make almost any height you require. This slots into the hexagonal cardboard baseboard and it stays exactly where you put it. No more fragile creations ruined because someone slammed a door, this is sturdy stuff and virtually frustration-free.

The special pieces really add to the excitement. There is a Magnetic Cannon included, and we were also sent an Expansion with one in. It's my favourite piece and really shoots the balls down the track.

The Catapult needs precision and it's a lovely feeling when you manage to land the ball on target. It isn't too difficult either and because spacing is fixed by the hexagonal baseboard there's hardly any error to your testing.

The Hammer is clever and quite brutal, like a medieval torture device it spins around and whacks the ball down the track. Powered entirely by the fact that the ball hit it in the first place, this is one to have your children considering power transfer and physics.

Your GraviTrax build can be extended almost indefinitely and included are base inserts to make 3 ball races, plus a great 'finishing line'. Use the coloured 'Gravity Spheres' to see who wins. Adjustment of your track is a pleasure and this is a brilliant toy for encouraging all sorts of problem-solving STEM skills.

Your child can learn about speed, motion, friction, the effects of gravity and how to almost cheat it. They will be doing maths without realising and expanding their understanding of engineering massively.

Included in the booklets are some example track layouts, plus tasks and activities to try, including 'missing track challenges'. There's enough to satisfy and encourage your child to stretch their own learning and ability.

And we just let our 8 and 10 year old kids (and slightly older grown up kids and parents) loose with their own imaginations and creativity...

There is a great app. which is free to download and contains tutorials, track layouts and you can even design your own tracks and terst them before you start building...

GraviTrax is loads of fun! Everyone from our 8 year old to our 20 year old love this set and have played with it. Set up is incredibly quick, the build is very stable and it's irresistible. Every time you build you see improvements and adaptations you can make and wanting to improve on your own design is quite addictive!

GraviTrax Starter Set has an rrp of £49.99, which makes it a main gift in our house, but I don't think you could be disappointed at that price. With the build, the challenges and the racing, plus the free app. there is lots of fun for your money and it's not something you can really 'grow out of'. The set is attractive enough to sit on a shelf between play - or even on the table as ours has been...

GraviTrax sets are very fairly priced and excellent quality, and you can find out more on the Ravensburger website GraviTrax pages. At the time of typing the Starter Set costs £49.99rrp and Expansion Sets are £9.99 each. Available now from all good toy shops instore and online, including Amazon (*Aff) where the Starter Set is currently reduced to under £40!

Ravensburger My Haven No. 5 The Cake Shed Puzzle Review

The Cake Shed is a 1000 piece puzzle from Ravensburger, which is part of the My Haven series. This set of puzzles focuses on pictures of hobby sheds, from the craft shed, to the pottery shed, sewing shed, man cave, and of course the Cake Shed.
I’ve previously reviewed the Craft Shed puzzle from the same series, which I really enjoyed putting together, so I was looking forward to getting started with the Cake Shed. These puzzles are so relaxing, and have been some of my favourite 1000 piece puzzles.
The image depicted in the puzzle has a lovely amount of detail, from the different styles of cakes with flowers, fruits, cupcakes, a child’s birthday cake and more. There’s also the scenes through the window and door, and plenty of trinkets on the shelves, which help make the puzzle feel varied with lots of different sections to work on.
I much prefer puzzles like this with plenty of different parts to focus on, as it keeps it more interesting but also makes it less challenging compared to having larger amounts of very similar colours or textures, so the Ravensburger Haven series is ideal for me.
With 1000 pieces, the puzzle took me a couple of weeks to complete, as I would fit a bit in here and there once the children were all asleep. If you have more time to dedicate to puzzling uninterrupted then I’m sure you would be able to complete this much quicker, within a day or two!
I found the Cake Shed puzzle a great puzzle to dip in and out of, and as I left it out on the dining table during it’s progress, my older kids dipped into it here and there too – it’s hard to resist such a large and colourful puzzle!
The finished image of the Cake Shed puzzle is very vibrant and busy, bringing to mind a lady who’s really productive and creative with her cakes, and clearly really enjoys it, so completing the puzzle left me feeling positive and relaxed!
As with all Ravensburger puzzles, the quality of The Cake Shed puzzle is great, with good quality durable pieces that stay as good as new after you’ve completed the puzzle.
For more about this puzzle, visit the Ravensburger website.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

One Big Puzzle Adventure

Charlotte and Joe recently decided to take on one of Ravensburger’s largest puzzles, entitled Colin Thompson Bookshelf and made up of 18,000 pieces! This is the story of their incredible 18-month build.

Did you complete puzzles as a child and if so what is your first memory of doing them?
As a child, I preferred to stay indoors and read, draw, do arts and crafts and puzzle. But my memories are vague. I remember doing the same puzzle a couple of times which had a bunch of people on the picture. I had fun trying to find the right face for the right person. But I don't remember what the picture was from. Joe remembers doing one of a gnome and it involved a deer. When he was a teenager, he made a 3d puzzle of the globe. He also lived with a family for a year who had and probably still have an interesting tradition for Christmas: the family makes a puzzle every year.

Do you complete jigsaw puzzles regularly? If so, which piece counts do you complete most often?
Not regularly. Before committing to this puzzle, I was doing another one on my own at my parents' place. It is of a painting by Van Gogh (Starry Night) and it contains 1000 pieces. I still haven't finished it. It's been 3 years or so. Maybe I should visit my parents more often. On the internet, I'm addicted to a puzzle called nonogram, which is a logic game. I also like to solve sudoku's, word puzzles and things like that. I do those fairly often.

Have you ever done a jigsaw as big as this before?

Why did you attempt this particular puzzle?
Joe admitted he influenced me when we started dating because he wanted to make a big puzzle -he was thinking 5000 pieces- for a very long time before he knew me. When he found out I also liked puzzles, we looked for one online and then promptly decided to choose the biggest one we could find. There were some other options, but we liked this design the best.

Where did you assemble it?
We did it at Joe's apartment. He has a spare room for clothes and guests, but now it has been converted into the ‘puzzle room’. It takes up the whole space. Guests had to sleep in the living room. When his sister visited for a week and needed more privacy, we had to put a mattress over the puzzle and hope she would not ruin anything. She didn't.
Once, when we had a party, 3 months after starting, Joe decided to carefully store away one-fourth of the puzzle we had completed to make room. He ended up destroying parts of it. It upset me more than it should.

Was it as easy/hard as you anticipated?
There were some easy parts, but sometimes it got harder, like for instance the bookcase itself with all those similar looking pieces (Joe assembled that part, it was too boring for me, I guess he did most of the hard work). I think we worked fairly quickly when we put our minds to it, but ran out of stamina and that's why it took us so long.

Other than you and Joe, did you allow anyone else to help?
No. Joe was very adamant about it. When people wanted to, he said: “Not without Charlotte". And I  wanted to do it with only him anyway. It was more special that way.

Did you ever feel like just giving up and packing it away before completing it?
No. We just took long breaks. But we still loved looking at it, even though it was unfinished.  And we proudly showed it to anybody who came over. The puzzle was never a source of frustration.

Did you follow a strict system or puzzling regime? Give an example of a typical puzzling day
I think the original plan was to have a puzzle evening one a week, but since we both have very different and flexible schedules, it was impossible to keep it up. When I came over in the evening, I was often too tired to focus on a puzzle. I preferred to puzzle during the day, for instance on Saturday, but Joe likes to sleep till late in the afternoon. Sometimes weeks or even a whole month passed that we didn't do any puzzling. My favourite kind of puzzle day was when we started early (2 pm) and then spent the rest of the day puzzling (especially on a rainy day). It's easy to forget time when doing and enjoying it. We had music and snacks. And before we knew it, it was 11pm. Once we were done for the day, Joe took a picture of our progress to put it on Facebook. Some people were intrigued, posted enthusiastic comments and followed our progress that way.

How was it spending that much time together as a couple?
I thought it was interesting to notice how different we actually are. Joe liked to work on big structures, so he would collect all pieces of the same colour and put those together without looking at the picture. I, on the other hand, grabbed piece by piece, looked at the picture and then looked for the correct spot. I think we started to understand and appreciate each other's methods. It was also fun to show each other an interesting looking piece we found. We invented names for some of the structures we were working on (‘the anxiety kettle’, ‘the zombie boat’) and helped each other with finding some of the pieces for those. We listened to lots of music, sang along (usually with made-up lyrics), joked around...

Have you taken the puzzle apart and put it back in the box yet? If not, what are your plans for the completed puzzle?  
Not yet. But we should. We are postponing. We'll enjoy it for a while before putting it back in the box. Then we'll probably share it with anybody who wants to give it a try.

Will you do another large piece count puzzle, and if so, which one do you have your sights on next?
Colin Thompson’s ABC puzzle that he is currently working on.

And finally, what did you enjoy most about the experience?
Joe said “zombie boat", jokingly.
We loved discovering the book titles and Colin's references throughout. It's definitely a great puzzle to work on with somebody or even with a couple of people since you can share your enthusiasm when you find something funny.

The very last piece (we saved it for last) was one I had named ‘little man in the elevator’ (in Dutch/Flemish ‘manneke in de lift’). I spent a very long time looking for this on the picture. When the puzzle was nearly done, I understood I was looking for the wrong thing this whole time. It was actually a portrait of a man inside a man's living room inside one of the shelves of the bookcase. All the little details were very enjoyable.