Game University: Pengoloo

Posted by aMuse Toys on March 07, 2012 0 Comments

Pengoloo Memory Game by Blue Orange Games


Challenging the limits of short-term memory, for children and adults alike, is one of the healthiest things you can do for your brain. Just like a muscle in your body, the more you exercise your memory, the stronger and more reliable it becomes. Pengoloo by Blue Orange Games is one of my favorite memory games that's just as challenging as it is adorable.

Pengoloo by Blue Orange Games

Pengoloo has incredibly dynamic game play — you can make it as simple or as difficult as you’d like. A few variations in how the game is set up, how many dice are rolled and the implementation of stealing penguins from other players increases both the strategy and challenge of the game.

Pengoloo Penguins by Blue Orange Games

The overall concept is very basic. Each player has an iceberg numbered from one to six. The first player to earn six daddy penguins to fill their iceberg wins the game. Players earn their penguins by rolling the colored die/dice to find the matching colored egg on which each daddy penguin sits.

Pengoloo Memory Game by Blue Orange Games

When setting up the game for younger players, put the eggs out first without the penguins on top. After each player has a minute or so to form a mental image of the eggs, cover them. This brief visual foundation of where the colors sit in relation to one another acts as a mental roadmap on how to navigate the game.

For more advanced players, set the penguins out with the eggs hidden underneath. By beginning the game without a mental image, one must form it as the game unfolds.

To start, one player rolls the die/dice. Use one die to keep it simple, or two to make it more advanced. The player must choose a penguin with the corresponding colored egg of the color they rolled. When playing with two dice, if the player guesses correctly twice, they earn another turn. This variation makes it possible for one player to score up to four points during one turn, which increases pressure on the other players to score big.

Pengoloo Memory Game by Blue Orange Games

For younger players, once the penguin is earned, they stay safely on their iceberg. If, however, you want to increase the challenge and incorporate a little alliance forming, you can encourage stealing between icebergs. This makes it so that all penguins are always in play. The ability for players to lose points as their pieces are stolen keeps the game active. It also encourages social development and good sportsmanship as well as makes the game more interesting for mature players.

As always, we love Blue Orange Games not simply because they’re fun and educational, but also because they’re eco-friendly, durable and have play value as well as relevance for a wide range of ages. For every one tree Blue Orange uses to create their games, they plant two new ones. And, if you lose a game piece or two, don’t worry! You can easily order replacement pieces to any of their games via their website. 

Here is a video demonstration of how to play Pengoloo from Blue Orange Games' Youtube channel.

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Game University: Scrambled States of America

Posted by aMuse Toys on February 29, 2012 2 Comments

Scrambled States of America Map

Claudia Towles, Owner aMuse Toys

Gamewright Games Logo

Quick! What's the capital of New Hampshire? Now, name a state whose capital has four or more syllables. What state has ten or more letters? If you, like me, can always use a bit of geography practice, then Scrambled States of America from Gamewright games is an absolute must.

Scrambled States of America Game is based on the award-winning book of the same title by Michigan-based author/illustrator, Laurie Keller. It’s a whimsically-illustrated and funny way to learn about all fifty US states.

Scrambled States of America Game by Laurie Keller

Each game includes four US maps, a deck of state cards and a deck of scramble cards. To begin, shuffle each deck of cards separately and place them in the middle of the playing area. Then deal five state cards face up in a line in front of each player. Take a moment to read your state cards and become familiar with where they lie on the US map.

Scrambled States of America Game by Laurie Keller

Scrambled States of America Game

When everyone is ready, the first player takes the top card of the scramble deck and places it face-up and reads it aloud. There are two types of cards in the scramble deck, Find-It and “Go the Distance!”

The Find-It cards have different questions relating to the states. They range from simple color matching to the complexity of finding a hidden words. Some cards include grammar terms such as syllables, vowels and consonants, which sneaks in a little reading practice while at play.

Scrambled States of America Game

The first player to identify the answer to the question with one of the states in their line, slaps the state card and shouts their answer. If the answer is correct, the player earns that state card as a point and places it in their home pile. The home pile is where each player keeps the cards they've earned from winning a round.

Scrambled States of America Game

If a Go the Distance! card is drawn, flip the top card of the state deck over and find the state in your line that is closest. Pull it forward in your pile so the other players can see. The player whose state is the closest wins. The winner gets both state cards as points. When the state card pile is depleted, the person with the most states in their home pile wins.

Scrambled States of America Game is typically recommended for players ages 8 and up. However, early readers and younger players can join in too. Just modify the rules to eliminate the race aspect, and have each player earn a point for correct answers they have in their state line.

Scrambled States of America Book by Laurie Keller

Scrambled States of America Puzzle & Book

Have more geography fun with the Scrambled States of America 150-piece puzzle and book set. The game, book & puzzle make the perfect combination for any budding geographer or curious kid in your life. As with many of Gamewright products, all items in the Scrambled States of America set are made in the USA.

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Game University: Sweet Treats

Posted by aMuse Toys on February 22, 2012 0 Comments

Oftentimes, the simpler the concept, the more engaging the game. This is true of Sweet Treats by Beleduc, one of our favorites at aMuse. I first learned of Sweet Treats from other local moms whose preschools had it on their recommended list of games. It’s a color recognition game that you can learn to play in a matter of seconds, but that's challenging enough even for adults to enjoy. The color combinations and patterns on the pieces are very complex and become chaotic when placed next to each other. Your brain must learn to recognize information, categorize similarities and dissect subtleties all under the pressure of an unknown time constraint. It’s a challenging task for any age player.

The game includes 41 colorful wooden sweets, 3 dice and one circular blue cloth. As with all good games, Sweet Treats offers three different play variations. To set up the game, randomly spread the treats on the blue fabric with the colored sides facing up. To make it easier give the pieces room to breathe, and to make it more difficult, have the pieces overlap one another. Decide who will go first and hand them the dice.

In the first variation, players choose the number of sweets one needs to collect to win the game; i.e. the first one to collect five candies wins. Each candy has a different color combination, with up to three different colors on each piece. The first player rolls all three dice to begin the round. All players look at the rolled colors and simultaneously seek the candy that matches. When a player has found the matching piece, they show it to the others to verify it’s a match. If it’s correct, they add it to their candy pile. Players collect candies until someone earns the predetermined number of pieces to win.

The second variation is similar to the first except an adult player keeps score. When a player finds the correct sweet they point to it instead of adding it to their candy pile. A time limit is set to the game, i.e. ten minutes, and the person who scores the most points in ten minutes wins. This variation is especially good when playing with a lot of players.

The third variation begins by distributing the candy evenly among the players. The object of the game is to discard your candy onto the blue cloth by matching your pieces to the color combinations rolled on the dice. The first player to discard all of their pieces wins!

Sweet Treats is perfect for one to eight players ages four and up.

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From the Archives: Game University: Orchard

Posted by aMuse Toys on October 28, 2011 0 Comments

HABA Cooperative Game Orchard

Claudia Towles, Owner of aMuse Toys


"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." -PLATO

The toys we choose for our children influence the qualities they will possess when they are grown. Therefore, it's always important to consider what lessons they learn from their play. As a mom, I've always loved HABA's games, but Orchard in particular holds a special place in our game chest at home.

HABA Cooperative Game Orchard

Orchard is a modern-day classic, which places emphasis on working together — not winning. It allows for everyone to succeed while learning how to interact in a group-play setting. Children must play cooperatively to accomplish the common goal of harvesting the fruit from the trees before the crow arrives to eat it. In Orchard, children are able to play a game with each other and not against one another. Brilliant concept.

Each game includes one playing board, which illustrates four different trees; a plum tree, a pear tree, an apple tree and a cherry tree. On each tree you must place the corresponding wooden fruit pieces. There are pieces forty total, ten of each kind of fruit. You also get four adorable baskets, a colored die and a 9-piece square puzzle of a crow. This puzzle will be assembled in the middle of the orchard as the game progresses.

HABA Wooden Play Food

To begin, the youngest player rolls wooden die. On the die there are four different colors, one for each of the fruits on the tree. Green for apples, red for cherries, etc... The color rolled determines the type of fruit a player may pick from the trees. It is a fun way to reinforce color recognition by creating associations with the different types of fruit the child places in their baskets.

If a player rolls the crow, they must put one puzzle piece in the middle. The more pieces assembled in the puzzle, the closer the crow is to the orchard. As the game progresses players cheer for others to do well. Because if one player succeeds, they all succeed. It’s wonderful for teaching basic socialization in the early years of childhood.

The game is either won by everyone by picking all of the fruit together, or by the crow by showing up in the orchard. The game's simple concept makes it easy to learn and a lot of fun to play.

My First Orchard by HABA

Traditional Orchard is recommended for players ages 3+, but for an even younger crowd, HABA has developed My First Orchard. The concept is basically the same, but the pieces are larger for children with oral fixations and play time is shorter. It's the perfect introduction to taking turns, following simple instruction and playing with others.

HABA My First Orchard Game

HABA games are also perfect for free play. The wooden pieces are durable and open-ended, which allow for pretend play narratives outside of traditional game play.

HABA's Orchard game series are responsibly manufactured in Germany from the highest quality materials. They are crafted from solid beech wood and colored with water-based vegetable dyes. As always, HABA's wooden toys are not laquered with any kind of chemicals. Their exquisite finish is the result of a unique process. Each wooden piece is poured into a large buffing machine and gently polished to a soft shine.

To learn more about HABA's classic game Orchard, here is a video review by Games with Hayden's little brother, Jackson.  Be sure to enter our HABA Game Night Giveaway! We will anounce the winning families on Tuesday November 1st.  Click here for details on how to enter.

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