Games: CLUE Secrets and Spies

December 15, 2012

There are actually two games called CLUE Secrets and Spies, as I discovered when I tried to find a link to include here. One is an online game, which I haven’t played. The other is a board game, which I recently purchased at Goodwill.

I bought CLUE Secrets and Spies because it can be played with only two people, unlike the original Clue board game. This is important because usually it’s just Al and me, when it comes to playing board games, especially now that Zach is at college most of the year.

As it turns out, there isn’t much this game has in common with the original game besides the brand name and the colors (scarlet, mustard, green, white, peacock, and plum) used to identify characters. And there is a certain amount of mystery involved – though you could say that about just about any game that isn’t based just on luck.

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Games: Word Zen

September 3, 2012

I had one game credit left at Big Fish Games (the result of forgetting to cancel my membership after buying a game for my son for Christmas), and only a couple of weeks left until it expired. Usually I have trouble finding any games there that appeal to me, but I had purchased two recently for my son (with the other game credits from forgetting to cancel), so I looked for something I could enjoy myself.

And I found Word Zen. Unlike most of the games at Big Fish Games, there is no storyline. That is a drawback in my son’s eyes, but it’s just fine with me. I’d rather the game developers put their time and effort into making the game run well, look good, and provide a good range of difficulty levels, rather than spend it on creating a storyline that neither makes the gameplay more interesting nor stands on its own as a compelling story.

The basic idea of the game is very simple. You form words using letter tiles, which are arranged in various Mahjong layouts. As with Mahjong, you can only use tiles that are open on at least one side. But instead of matching symbols, you use as many letters as you can to form words. At the level I’m currently at (Apprentice, which is the easiest), there is a limit of eleven letters; I don’t know if higher levels allow longer words.

As with other word games such as Bookworm Adventures, some tiles give you more points, and there is also a suggested “bonus” word, though I haven’t noticed that making those words seems to add many points. (Plus it often happens that one or more tiles needed to make the bonus word are not available.) There is also a timer, which ends the level when you run out of time. At the Apprentice level I sometimes clear the tiles before running out of time, but one of the reviews indicates that at the highest level the time is way too short.

The “reward” for finishing each level is an item in your “Zen Garden,” which provides “soothing visuals and sounds” to help you relax. I have the sound turned off right now, so I don’t know how soothing the sounds are. Somehow I can’t see looking at a picture of a garden on a computer screen to relax – reading a good book or taking a walk is much better for that purpose.

But I like making words. So far, my biggest problem is that my hand and wrist are getting tired from using the mouse to click on letters, as I go through level after level. So now it’s time to take a break and go relax with a good book.

If I ran a museum…

May 18, 2012

After my sons’ enthusiastic response to National Chocolate Chip Day on Tuesday, I decided to look for s0me more “days” to celebrate. But before I even got started, I opened an email from APTE (a provider of educational resources) and found out that today is International Museum Day.

I started thinking about what museum to visit this weekend. Then I realized that my son has a Boy Scout campout this weekend, so the museums will have to wait for another weekend. But in the meantime, I got thinking about the idea of museums.

The APTE email informed me that “the word museum literally means a seat or shrine to the muses. In Greek mythology the nine muses were brought to life to rid the world of evil and sorrow. Their job was to protect art and knowledge.”

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Never bored with this board game

January 19, 2012



When I first saw the question about a board game I would never get tired of, I had trouble thinking of one. When my son asks to play a game, I usually try to think of one we haven’t played in a while. Most of them are moderately entertaining, but not something I want to play frequently.

I thought of LIFE, Clue, Trouble, and the various other board games in our “gaming room” in the basement (including a few Al and I made up together). I looked at answers other people had given – checkers, chess, Monopoly. (How could someone not get tired of Monopoly?)

Then as I was walking out the door on my way to work I suddenly thought of Scrabble. Oh yes, Scrabble is a board game, isn’t it? I can’t remember the last time I played Scrabble on an actual gameboard instead of a computer screen.

I log on to Facebook at least once a day, usually more, to see if it’s my turn in Scrabble or Words with Friends (similar to Scrabble though not quite as good in my opinion). And sometimes my husband and I play Scrabble (which is also a standalone application) on his computer.

I would probably play it more often if it were loaded on my computer, though I don’t find it as fun to play against the computer as against another person. There’s no one to exclaim to over lousy letter choices or the fact that the built-in dictionary doesn’t allow a perfectly good word, or to suggest good words to (my husband and I regularly offer each other suggestions).

Back when I lived in the Philadelphia area, I had a friend who would occasionally invite me over for dinner and Scrabble (and sometimes to help her with her computer). Those were fun evenings. Playing on a computer is just not the same, though online Scrabble is better than a lot of the other games out there.

Scrabble was the one board game that my mother was willing to play, as I remember. She had no use for activities that were purely for entertainment, but Scrabble was educational. She didn’t care if she won, she just wanted to learn new words.

All in all I prefer to win than to lose, but the main thing I like about Scrabble is the game itself. I love word puzzles of any kind. (I amazed myself by finally managing to finish the acrostic from Saturday’s Wall Street Journal last night, after four days of struggling with it.) And Scrabble is a great word puzzle.

If you like Scrabble and you’re on Facebook, let’s play!

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Games: Quelf

December 27, 2011

I found Quelf on clearance at Walmart and decided it was worth buying based on one thing I read on the box. Among the contents listed (game board, game pieces, cards, etc.) is “1 giant invisible harpoon (it’s invisible for a reason, use it wisely).” I decided that any game maker with that kind of sense of humor was bound to have made a fun game.

My guess was confirmed when we started reading the rules. The objective of the game? “To have fun. Duh!” Unfortunately it is made for at least three players, and my husband is not into board games. So Al and I had to wait for Zach to get home from college. (Having played it now, I don’t recall anything that actually required three players, so Al and I may try playing it by ourselves.)

As a number of reviews at indicate, it is similar to Cranium, “but edgier.” I haven’t played the game Cranium, but we have some of the other games made by Cranium, Inc. Al and I both enjoy the wackiness of the games, and the variety of mixing stunts, trivia questions, word puzzles, and more. Quelf takes the wackiness even further.

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Games: The Great Museum Caper

August 5, 2011

About five years ago, when my husband was working at the Salvation Army, one of the youth activities he scheduled was a Game Night. Al was in kindergarten, so he and I spent our time playing games like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland. Zach, who was in middle school, spent the entire time playing Clue: The Great Museum Caper with a friend, and wished he could have played again.

For a long time I kept an eye out for the game at stores and at yard sales, but with no luck. Then this March, when I took part in a Toastmasters speech contest, Al and I found the game as an item in a silent auction to benefit a Toastmasters club held in a nearby prison. (Two members of other clubs participate, but the meetings are led by the inmates, and our division governor tells us that they have excellent speakers, at least as good as any other club in the area. The one difficulty they have is money to pay for dues, as the inmates don’t earn very much at their prison jobs – thus, the silent auction fundraiser.)

I had though Zach might like to play the game with Al while he was home for the summer, but I guess it no longer has the appeal to him that it had back then. This evening I finally agreed to play with Al. (Up to four can play, and according to the review at four is the best number, but it only requires two, unlike the traditional Clue board game.) It took a while to read through and understand the instructions, but once we started playing it wasn’t as complicated as it had seemed.

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Games: The Game of Life Adventures

July 22, 2011

If you’re looking for a fast-paced game, this isn’t it. It doesn’t have to take a long time, but there’s no point in trying to finish as quickly as possible.

While I do enjoy some games that require speed (such as Word Bubbles at, for the most part I prefer to take my time and think things over. I think Al is a lot like me in that way – one of the fastest ways to get him frustrated is to give him a time to complete something. When I see games where speed is crucial (many if not most of them, it seems), I know it’s not a good choice for us.

When we play the Game of Life, either the original board game or the newer Extreme Reality version, Al always wants to add some storytelling to the game. We always have to make up names for the people we marry and our children, and keep each other informed on what our children are like and what they’re doing. We describe vacations, accidents, and other events as the game proceeds.

That made the Game of Life Adventures card game a perfect fit for us, because it encourages storytelling. It’s even in the rules, that you have to tell a story with each card you play. Now, the story can be a single line of explanation, but I like to expand on it more, and Al embellishes even further. I don’t know if we make our life stories as exciting as we can, as Hasbro urges us its product description of the game, but we do exercise our imaginations.

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