December 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 12
Go back to main article: "Award-Winning Toys for a Hassle-Free Holiday"
Double Shutter, Shut The Super Box by BLUE ORANGE GAMES
In this challenging game, players roll two dice, add the dots and find the best combination of numbers to shut two rows of nine tiles. Players cannot touch tiles in the second row unless the tile in front of it has already been shut. The goal of the game is to shut all the tiles and close the super box. Awards: TDmonthly Top Toy 2009. Launch date: February 2008.
Where to Buy: Poopsie's; Aunt Jean's Toys ( Watch Video) 4/4/2008 (MSRP: $19.99; Age: 8 and Up)
BANANAGRAMS® by BANANAGRAMS
The fast-moving word game consists of 144 ivory-like letter tiles in a zippered banana pouch. Players place the tiles face down on the table and randomly select 21 tiles. They turn their letters right-side up simultaneously and proceed to form as many intersecting and interconnecting words as possible, rearranging their own letters as many times as desired throughout the game. Awards: TDmonthly Top Seller 2007; 2009 TOTY Game of the YEAR, 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal; 2007 iParenting; 2007 Parents' Choice Recommended; 2007 Dr. Toy Best Products. (Read Review)
— This product has been making the TDmonthly Best-sellers lists since 2007.
— As of 05/13/2011 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 456 reviews on Amazon.com.
— Eight of 66 retailers vouched for its best-selling status in May 2008; seven of 63 did in Sept. 2008. Shani Watmough of Planet Toys in Rockland, Maine, said her store sells 60 per month. Fifteen of 38 named it a top-selling game in Feb. 2010.
— As of April 5, 2010, Bananagrams had spent 570 days in the top-100 best-selling toys and games on Amazon.com.
— According to owner Brett Sommer of Figpickels Toy Emporium in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, “It was the 2009 game of the year. The brilliant packaging definitely helps this product." ( Watch Video) 6/19/2006 (MSRP: $14.99; Age: 7 and Up)
Ball of Whacks by CREATIVE WHACK COMPANY
A marvel of engineering, the Ball of Whacks is made up of 30 magnetic, rhombic pyramids that can be taken apart and rearranged in endless creative ways. More versatile than a puzzle and lots more fun than a brainteaser, there’s no right or wrong way to use it. Just pick it up and play with it! Designed to be a creativity workshop in a box, Ball of Whacks comes with a 96-page illustrated guidebook providing exercises for creative brainstorming, strategies for problem solving, insights into the creative process, and challenges to construct shapes and mosaics and invent new ones. The game is also a good stress reliever for active individuals working under pressure, the manufacturer informed TDmonthly. "This item is immediately engaging and challenging for all ages up to adult, with endless ways to play," said Creative Whack Company Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Operations Kathryn Cooperman. This product received a Spring 2007 Parents' Choice Recommended Award. Launch date: 2006.
— Although this ball comes with an illustrated guidebook, it virtually has no limitations for imaginative combinations. It’s largely the open-ended appeal, in fact, that earned this product a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award. Fascinating for kids and adults, the magnetic structure takes on various forms with creativity, forming aesthetically pleasing configurations that lend themselves to further exploration.
Where to Buy: Escapade Direct ( Watch Video) 10/23/2007 (MSRP: $35.00; Age: 8 and Up)
Beyond Chess Set by BEYOND CHESS
Beyond Chess comes with everything you need to play. The board is made of 64 high-quality, solid, plastic squares that measure 1.5"x1.5"x.25" and accommodate most chess pieces, plus two extra squares. This set includes standard Staunton-design chess pieces, a 12-page instruction booklet and a sturdy nylon backpack-style carrying bag. ( Watch Video) 11/21/2007 (MSRP: $34.99)
Sixteen by ALPINE GAMES
This two-player, high-quality card game offers head-to-head fun as players take calculated risks to win sets by forcing their opponent to "bust." Yet, players must also play their cards defensively at the right time, or the tables will turn. The player who wins the most sets wins the game. Sixteen is easy to learn, while cribbage-like counting and a distinctive combination of cards yield high strategy and replay value. Playing time is about 15 minutes. Sixteen won the Dr. Toy 2007 Best Products Award, the Major Fun Family Award and the Creative Child Magazine Seal of Excellence Award. MSRP: $6.99 to $9.99. Launch date: July 2007. ( Watch Video) 7/13/2007 (Age: 8 and Up)
Abalone Classic by FOXMIND GAMES
Abalone is a fast-paced strategy board game that has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide. Players compete to push six of their opponents’ marbles off the board. The game can be learned in one to two minutes, and the game itself lasts approximately 15 minutes. Each purchase order comes in a carton of six games. This game is a winner of Europe’s Game of the Decade Award. ( Watch Video) 6/27/2007 (MSRP: $32.95; Age: 7 and Up)
Bendomino, Dominoes With a Twist by BLUE ORANGE GAMES
Bendominos play like regular dominoes, but the innovative, curved design gives players more control over the game. In this twisting game, a new Bendomino must match by number to either end of the chain, but also has to fit. "Watch a new pattern emerge as the shape creates a chain that snakes and twists across the table. The high-quality pieces are visually stimulating and irresistible to touch" Adeline Beatrix, sales manager of Blue Orange Games, told TDmonthly. "In addition, the design of the pieces presents new opportunities for creative play beyond dominoes." Under the new “Tree Campaign,” Blue Orange Games is committed to planting two trees for every tree used to create its games. Awards: 007 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold, Parent to Parent Adding Wisdom, Spring 2007 Dr. Toy Best Products, 2007 Creative Child Seal Of Excellencep; 2007 Toy Man Seal of Approval, Award of Excellence and E-Choice awards. Launch date: February 2007.
― "It was a clever twist on a game that everybody knows how to play,” noted Patti Guetschon, co-owner of The Learning Station in Newark, Del.
— Bendomino makes its mark as a winner of a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award due to its innovative recreation of a familiar game. The packaging is sharp and eye-catching, as is the twisted playing field that emerges during play. The satisfying heft and chink of the playing pieces also puts Bendomino notches above other plastic games.
Where to Buy: Poopsie's; Berkira ( Watch Video) 2/19/2007 (MSRP: $15.95; Age: 5 and Up)
Castle Knights by HABA USA/HABERMAASS CORP.
This cooperative game is fun for all ages. Together, two to four players have to grab the wooden pieces and stack them to match the picture on the card. But watch out! If they fall, the King gets closer to the castle. Together, we can be strong and beat the king!
— This children’s game requires concentration and cooperation, which is one reason it received a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award. In addition, Castle Knights boasts pleasant graphics, quality wooden pieces and, perhaps many retailers’ favorite characteristic about HABA products in general authentic European appeal.
Where to Buy: Camelot Kids ( Watch Video) 7/31/2007 (MSRP: $35.00)
Gobblet Gobblers by BLUE ORANGE GAMES
Gobblet Gobblers utilizes the awesome strategy of Gobblet and adds personality and character to the game. Players pick their Gobblers family and line up three in a row to win the game. The Gobblers have a strong appetite and can gobble up smaller Gobblers. These cute little characters will test strategy and stimulate memory. The all-wooden game has a bright, distinctive design and is earth friendly. "We plant two trees for every tree used in creating our games," Adeline Bertrix, sales manager for Blue Orange Games, told TDmonthly. Awards: TDmonthly Top Toy 2009. Launch date: February 15, 2009.
Where to Buy: Poopsie's ( Watch Video) 1/23/2009 (MSRP: $19.99; Age: 5 and Up)
Cowboys & Cowgirls Scramble Squares® by b. dazzle, inc.
This American-made Scramble Squares puzzle features nine cowboy-themed pieces that must be arranged into a 12" x 12" square so that the graphics match up edge to edge for every piece, forming a complete design. There exists only one solution. The packaging includes educational information relating to the puzzle theme, as well as a trivia quiz. Scramble Squares awards: TDmonthly Top Toy 2008. Launch date: 2009.
Where to Buy: LB Toys 7/30/2009 (MSRP: $8.95; Age: 4 and Up)
Khet 3D: Tower of Kadesh by INNOVENTION TOYS
This popular new laser game now has a 6"- by 6"-square add-on that creates a second level of play atop the original 10"- by 8"-square board. Players alternate turns moving mirrored pieces around the playing field and firing laser diodes to illuminate, and eliminate, their opponent’s pieces. Moves can now include a directional move or rotation of the expansion tower, or movement from the upper to lower level and vice versa.
— Khet 3D: Tower of Kadesh adds more excitement to the popular laser-beam game, employing additional board space so that lasers can not only bounce off mirrored pieces on the main playing field, but also enter a whole new dimension by finding their way up a tower to the second level. The strategy, creativity and materials involved in this game earned it a TDmonthly Innovations 2007 award. ( Watch Video) 2/27/2007
Backseat Drawing Junior by OUT OF THE BOX PUBLISHING
Backseat Drawing is fun for the whole family. Players race to identify what the artist is drawing. But, the artist doesn’t know what he or she is drawing; the artist can only follow the instructions given by the director. The excitement continues as players attempt to follow directions and guess what the picture might be. Launch date: 2009. 12/12/2008 (MSRP: $19.99; Age: 7 to Adult)
Blokus Trigon by EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS INC.
The next in the series of the international best-seller Blokus. Designed for two to four players, it was launched in 2006. THIS PRODUCT IS NO LONGER DISTRIBUTED BY EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS. 12/4/08. ( Watch Video) 3/10/2006 (MSRP: $29.99; Age: 5 and Up)
Codebreaker by DOUBLESTAR LLC
The game begins with 17 pairs of tiles that feature the engaging characters from the Cogno games and books series. The object is to find as many matched pairs as possible — while preventing other players from finding them first. In Codebreaker, players use the included dry-erase markers to draw or write something on the backs of the cards they pick. Players delve into their lifetime of memories to create “codes” that help them remember where the game’s characters are hiding. The key is creating codes that others won’t guess … and the fun is guessing others’ codes.
— The original Cogno game was a huge hit for Kate Tanner, owner of Kidstop Toy & Book Store in Scottsdale, Ariz. VIEW ARTICLE The game “is endlessly creative and interesting, because players draw from their lifetime of memories to write or draw secret reminders about the characters in the game. The key is making coded reminders for yourself that other players will not figure out!” Montaldo told TDmonthly. Award: 2006 Dr. Toy's 100 Best Children’s Products — Building on the success of the Cogno games, Codebreaker challenges memory and creativity while adding the fun of secrecy and (best of all) dry-erase markers! Since it’s basically “memory” with some scribbling, retailers can easily teach the game to customers and just as easily ring up the next sale. That winning combo won Codebreaker a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award.
Where to Buy: Berkira ( Watch Video) 2/1/2006 (MSRP: $19.95; Age: 7 and Up)
Settlers of Catan by MAYFAIR GAMES INC.
Imported from Germany to the U.S. in 1995, this European designer game is thematically nonviolent, elegant in game play and visually appealing. Players must collect and trade resources, such as wood and sheep, and build the best settlement on an island. Moves require strategic planning, and negotiating and trade are crucial elements of the game.
— "The Settlers of Catan is extremely popular with boys over 12. It's a great game that’s a combination of Risk and Monopoly," was the analysis provided by Leanna Halbrecht, owner of Animations in Teaneck, N.J.
— "I'm having a lot of interest in Settlers of Catan and its expansion packs," added Amy Barrett, owner of Lasso the Moon Wonderful Toys in Helena, Mont. “Games such as Settlers of Catan … are becoming more popular,” said Owner David Campbell of Amazing Toys in early 2009. — This game has been exciting kids — and specialty retailers — for years. Its long-running status as a top seller earned it a TDmonthly Classic Toy 2007 award. 1/18/2005 (MSRP: $42.00; Age: 12 and Up)
Inversé™ by FAMILY GAMES INC.
Players attempt to position all five of their playing pieces on the playing field, while blocking their opponents’ attempts to do the same. No same colored pieces may touch or stand on the same side or edge; at the same time, no two pieces of the same height can be positioned next to each other. The game is available in four languages. Awards: TDmonthly Top Toy 2008. Launch date: 2008.
Where to Buy: 1 Smart Noodle ( Watch Video) 3/17/2008 (MSRP: $12.50; Age: 6 and Up)
Consensus® by MINDLOGIC INC.
Consensus is not a trivia game or a strategy game. It is a game about opinions that allows its participants to express themselves as individuals or as part of a group. Ideal for parties or family settings, the game has a subtle, yet strong, educational component. Consensus consists of 300 Noun Cards, 100 Adjective Cards and 80 Voting cards. An average game lasts about 30 minutes. Although Consensus can be played with as few as three players, the greatest benefit can be derived when there are five or more players participating. The more players, the more opinions, and hence, the more debating and bonding that takes place. Launch date: August 2008.
— "This fun and fast-paced social game takes about a minute to learn and requires no prior knowledge of anything whatsoever," Marshall Chrein, CEO of Mindlogic, told TDmonthly. "It is a game where you can learn how your friends and family view all sorts of things." ( Watch Video) 11/25/2008 (MSRP: $24.95; Age: 12 and Up)
Xeko Mission: Indonesia by MATTER GROUP LLC
In this third Xeko mission, two players must work to protect the islands of Indonesia. Along the way, via cards featuring animals with endangered, rare and common status, they will meet creatures unique to that region of the earth. The crate packaging, made of sustainably farmed pine wood from New Zealand, holds 41 cards, a playmat/eco-map, giant learn-to-play cards and two limited-edition sketch cards. Launch date: September 2007. ( Watch Video) 6/19/2008 (Age: 8 and Up)
Letter Roll by OUT OF THE BOX PUBLISHING
After rolling the special dice and flipping the timer, players race to list words containing the three letters shown on the dice. Only words listed by a single player score points, so players are rewarded for their speed and creative thinking. This game is adjustable for different skill levels and ideal for varied group sizes. Launch date: April 2009. ( Watch Video) 8/19/2009 (MSRP: $24.99; Age: 8 to Adult)
Flibbix™ by MERILLIAN, LLC.
With Flibbix™, players build their own board game, make their own rules and then play. It's super easy and lets players rebuild and replay the game as much as they want. Players race to the finish, but things can get wacky along the way — even the game board and rules can change during play. “It's the first-ever build-a-board-game set: Players can easily build and play their own, custom board game with Flibbix. Because each game is different, it has great replay value and players can make a game that’s fun and perfect for them,” Jason Ivan of Merillian told TDmonthly. Launch date: April 2008. ( Watch Video) 1/17/2008 (MSRP: $39.99; Age: 7 and Up)
Apples to Apples by MATTEL INC.
Apples to Apples is a wild, award-winning card and party game that provides instant fun for four to 10 players. It’s as easy as "comparing apples to apples" ... players need only open the box and deal the cards to be ready to play. They then select the card from their hands that they think is best described by a card played by the judge. If the judge picks their card, they win that round. Everyone gets a chance to be the judge. Each round is filled with surprising and outrageous comparisons from a wide range of people, places, things and events. Fast moving and refreshing, Apples to Apples is perfect for any get-together with family and friends.
— "Sales have doubled every year," enthused Matt Mariani of Out of the Box Publishing in 2005. "We´re struggling to keep up to the demand." [Game previously available from Out of the Box.]
— Gwen Bowden, manager of Doodlehopper 4 Kids in Springfield, Va., told TDmonthly that she expected Apples to Apples to sell well during Christmas 2006.
― In early 2009, retailers reported sales of up to 40 per month of the Apples to Apples game.
― “We probably sell 25 a month,” Mike DiAndrea, manager of Hardware Center in Paoli, Penn., told TDmonthly in early 2011. 4/22/2005 (MSRP: $29.99; Age: 12 and Up)
JUMBULAYA: The Rearranging, Ever-Changing Word Jumble Game by LEGENDARY GAMES
JUMBULAYA is an award-winning, multi-faceted word strategy game in which players rearrange, add, and trade tiles on the board to build and claim longer and longer words each turn. As players build words horizontally, they also look for a Jumbulaya - a word of seven or more tiles that can be seen vertically on the game board. "Jumbulaya is a word strategy game where players need to THINK ON MULTIPLE LEVELS simultaneously," said Karl Archer, CEO and cofounder of Platypus Games. "It incorporates strategy into the game play, as players are able to add, as well as remove, tiles from the board and think many moves ahead in order to try to win." It has won a 2008 Mensa Select Gold Seal and iParenting Media Award. Launch date: 12/15/2007. 8/25/2008 (MSRP: $29.95; Age: 10 to Adult)
Poppo! by POPPO BRANDS LLC
Poppo! is a fast-paced word game that is educational and fun for the whole family. Parents want fun, challenging and educational activities for their kids. Kids want to play right away, hate to wait, love challenges and definitely want to win. Peter Poppo and his pals come together in this exciting, new game specially designed for emerging readers. Your child pops the lettered dice in the poppers and matches them with the word or picture on the card. Being able to rearrange and assemble letters into words in a fast-paced setting is challenging and fun. Once children master the fundamental connection among the letters, the words and the pictures they see, they will be well on their way to becoming excellent readers. Poppo! received a 2007 Major FUN Award, The National Parenting Center's 2007 Seal of Approval and a Spring 2007 Best Products Award from Dr. Toy.
— "We offer educational, character-building products that help to bring adults and kids together," Chief Executive Optimist Michael Vien told TDmonthly. "Specialty stores are going to be able to create a Poppo! package of games, books, toys and plush characters in a way that will let customers consume products in the way they want to, by interacting simultaneously across multiple-delivery methods." He added that there will soon be a Poppo Pals virtual online community for kids and parents to learn and play together.
— Poppo! garnered a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award for being a simple, yet useful, educational word game with the undeniable fun factor of poppers. It also introduces new characters and thrives off of the company’s well-articulated and executed mission of enriching lives through play. ( Watch Video) 10/27/2006 (MSRP: $24.99; Age: 4 and Up)
20Q Challenge by RADICA GAMES
This all-knowing handheld features “artificial intelligence” and can read minds. Players simply think of something, and then answer a series of questions. If the machine guesses within 20 questions, it wins. “20Q is an artificial intelligence, an electronic toy, a website and a phenomenon. Teachers everywhere…tell us how much fun it is to use 20Q with early readers in their classrooms, and as a motivator and reward for older kids,” Radica USA told TDmonthly.
— "A travel game we have for older children is 20 Questions. … the whole family can enjoy this one," said Peter, owner of Mr. Toad’s Toy Company in Naples, Fla.
— “The most perfect gift imaginable,” said DeeDee McMillen, co-owner of McMillen’s Magic in Trenton, N.J.
— Retailers have told TDmonthly that 20Q answers this pertinent question: What toy with wide appeal will boost my monthly totals? Since 20Q seems poised to do it again in 4Q, it’s been honored with a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award. 3/1/2005 (MSRP: $19.95; Age: 8 and Up)
The Amazing Labyrinth by RAVENSBURGER
The Amazing Labyrinth is a mind-challenging game that allows players to shape the game board maze in order to win. A player’s wooden piece is moved according to the card games selected and the imagination of the players involved. It’s fun for kids and adults alike.
— Linda Graham, owner of Scheffel’s Toys in Jacksonville, Ore., summed up the game pretty well when she said, “It’s a universal maze game for kids and adults. It’s always different and always changing.”
— “Labyrinth … appeals to many different people. We sell a lot of games to families. They play the game together,” was the answer Valla Wagner, co-owner of Teaching Toys & Books in Tacoma, Wash., gave when asked for the best-selling game in the store. “An old favorite was back this year, Labyrinth from Ravensburger,” said Ron Sebert, owner of Becky & Me Toys in Glenview, Ill., in early 2009.
— Just when you think you’ve found your way out of the maze, someone comes along and cuts you off. The concept is easy but the strategy endless, which makes it challenging and fun for everyone from kids to grandparents. The Amazing Labyrinth is often on the best-seller list when games are mentioned, earning it a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award.
Where to Buy: Smart Kids Toys 10/23/2006 (MSRP: $24.99; Age: 8 and Up)
Quiddler by SET ENTERPRISES INC.
A fast word game played with cards, Quiddler is designed for 1 to 8 players. Each game consists of eight hands. The first hand is played with three cards, and a card is added during each hand until the players begin the final hand with 10 cards each. The object of the game is to combine an entire hand into words of two or more letters, drawing and discarding on each turn. The first player to have an entire hand of words goes out. Quiddler is a deck of 181 cards.
— “People love the rummy concept, where you need to go out, and this is an unusual variation with a little bit of Scrabble thrown in,” explained Roberta Edwards, owner of Wishes Toys & Gifts in La Quinta, Calif. Clifford Jackson, assistant manager of The Wizard’s Chest in Denver, Colo., said his customers appreciate “not only the ability to spell, but [that] it also focuses on smaller words (three to five letters), so you play faster and also focus.”
— In summer 2007, two of 32 retailers cited Quiddler as a best-selling card game in their stores. Of 64 retailers surveyed in August 2008, nine named Quiddler as their top-selling card game. One year later, four of 38 retailers cited it as a best-selling card game. In August 2010, 12 percent of 43 retailers named Quiddler a top seller in the card game category, with one citing sales of 96 monthly.
AWARDS: 2010 TDmonthly Top Seller
4th Corner by STRATEGIC SPACE INC.
This is a fun and portable tile game in which players simultaneously build an inner maze and an outer wall. Players try to position themselves to be the first to exit the maze once the exit tile has been played. A round can be played in 15 minutes, or players can decrease the influence of lucky maze-tile drawing by playing multiple rounds. The rules can be learned in two minutes, but there are lots of strategies. The “compact box size is great for portability and can easily challenge a variety of ages for any time, up to two hours,” CEO Mark Salzwedel of Strategic Space told TDmonthly. Launch date: September 2007. ( Watch Video) 12/7/2007 (MSRP: $14.95; Age: 8 and Up)
Chocolate Fix™ by THINKFUN
This game of deductive reasoning involves life-like candy play pieces. Players examine all the clues on the cards before making a move. Once they discover where to put a chocolate piece, they combine this knowledge with the clues to learn more information. Some clues give exact or possible locations, while others just give you the token color or shape. Narrow down all of the possibilities to fill each candy assortment. Challenges range from beginner to expert. Awards: TDmonthly Top Toy 2008.
Where to Buy: Rocking Horse Toy Store; Berkira ( Watch Video) 12/5/2007 (MSRP: $16.99; Age: 8 and Up)