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April 2006 | Vol. V - No. 4




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Games Shrink and Smarten Up

Retailers Bet on Quick Strategy for 2006


“If it compares to chess at all, it’s usually a big hit.” Kevin Hart, Toy Store
It’s chess … with lasers. Or marbles. Or bees. Quick-playing strategy games such as Educational Insights’(ToyDirectory) Blokus Trigons, Deflexion by Deflexion, Mindtwister USA’s (ToyDirectory) Pentago and Blue Orange’s Ringgz were mentioned 20 times by 25 retailers when asked what new games would be hot in 2006. Being small didn’t hurt either, as classic games by companies such as Front Porch Classics folded up their boards and downsized their boxes to better fit retailers’ shelves.

“I like games that have lots of strategy but not a lot of rules,” Debbie Scholl, owner of Fundamentally Toys in Houston, told TDmonthly Magazine. She and two other retailers were excited about Pentago: “It’s a really cool game and doesn’t take up much space … I’d buy it for myself, actually.”

“Anything strategy sells. And if it compares to chess at all, it’s usually a big hit,” Kevin Hart, co-owner of Toy Store in Atlanta, summed up. He’d brought in the new, improved-quality edition of Smartzone’s Hive, which replaces pawns and knights with wasps and scorpions. Unlike the real thing, Hive can be carried around by hand in a small, included pouch.

“This is just the beginning of the season for new games,” Idanna Smith, owner of Juggles in Wakefield, R.I., told TDmonthly. “We’ve been testing games this week … The new Blokus Trigon is really fun to play.” Eight other retailers enthusiastically agreed.

Five retailers were fired up about Deflexion — an Egyptian-themed, chesslike game that fires laser beams at opponents, “knocking” them off the board.

“It was pretty different and unique,” said Greg Larson, owner of Larson’s Toys & Games in Columbus, Ohio. “I think people will find it interesting to play because of the laser beam reflection.”

Trish Garlock, owner of Treasured Child in La Grange, Ky., was looking forward to receiving Blue Orange’s new game, Ringgz. “I ordered enough to get the great big demo,” she said. “I really like the hands-on; I think that’s going to be wonderful.”

She’d also jumped on (or off) the Sudoku craze by bringing in Colorku by MadCave Bird Games. Instead of numbers, it uses glossy colored wooden balls, set into a wooden playing board. “It’s a classy looking game,” she said.

For brains that just wanna have fun, Cranium’s Whoonu has kicked its Starbuck’s-only habit and is hitting toy retailers’ shelves. “We just started playing and laughing,” Smith said about the game.

Another great-looking wooden game that’s all fun was Out of the Box Publishing’s (ToyDirectory) Wallamoppi. Three retailers were buying it and Powell Phillips, owner of Phillips Toy Mart in Nashville, can be seen in a TDmonthly video trying it out at Toy Fair.

Retailers are also counting on kids to go coo-coo for Blue Orange’s Coocoo the Rocking Clown, Fundex’s Monster Under My Bed, and Double Star’s (ToyDirectory) Codebreaker — all brand new.

Here are the games that retailers said they hoped would trounce the competition in 2006, plus a few the TDmonthly camera crew found at Toy Fair and the Western States Toy and Hobby show:





MSRP: $29.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: October 2005
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
Board Games



Players build their own Paths without opponents steering them in the wrong direction — or off the board. Tsuro is the quick-playing game in which directions can change as easily as the game plays. The rules are simple: Players place their stones, select their tiles and attempt to build a safe Path for their journeys. The Paths of other players cross and connect, so the choices made affect all the journeys across the board. Tsuro is recommended for 2 to 8 players. The game includes a game board, a Dragon tile, 8 markers and 35 playing tiles. Launch date: October 2005. (previously distributed by WizKids)
Awards: 2011 Creative Child’s Game of the Year Award; Major Fun Award; 2009 Creative Child’s Preferred Choice Award
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7321      (added 3/27/2006)
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MSRP: $29.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
Puzzles & Skill
Wooden Toys



ColorKu is a high-quality wooden board game based on the popular Sudoku puzzles. It uses 81 wooden marbles in nine distinctive colors placed on a 9" x 9" wooden grid to solve puzzles. The board is solid wood and 13½" x 13½". The game comes with 104 puzzle cards, but it can be used to solve any Sudoku puzzle.
— “We had people ask for a new colorized Sudoku called ColorKu,” Mike Castor, owner of Pentwater Toy Box in Pentwater, Mich., reported to TDmonthly. “We were able to find the manufacturer in the next county, got a hold of him in Grand Rapids and got a shipment in 48 hours. We sold a bunch.”
—  “We believe ColorKu is the best Sudoku product on the market. Players can solve puzzles individually or in groups, and it can be made competitive by setting up the same game on two or more boards,” said Mark Asperheim, president of Mad Cave Bird Games. “It’s also a beautiful piece that looks great on a coffee table!”
— Three of 63 retailers who spoke with TDmonthly named ColorKu as one of their top selling games.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7323      (added 3/27/2006)
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MSRP: $12.00
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Card Games



Killer Bunnies is a fast-paced, action-filled card game, in which players must try to keep as many Bunnies alive as possible, while eliminating opponents' Bunnies. The problem: Opponents are armed with weapons and will stop at nothing to keep players from winning the game, which can get dreadfully vengeful, horribly nasty, hilariously messy and just plain fun. Killer Bunnies are back again and sporting new Specialty Bunnies, which make taking double turns a snap. The Violet Booster Deck adds another 55 cards to an existing set, plus a clear 20-sided die.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7324      (added 3/27/2006)
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MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 3 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Preschool



Coocoo the Rocking Clown just loves to juggle, but his big curved green shoes make him wobble and keep throwing him off balance. The kid who can help him juggle the most balls without making any of them fall, wins. For 1 to 6 players, this all-wooden game takes approximately 10 minutes to play. It includes one wooden rocking clown, 24 wooden balls and instructions. The game was launched in February 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7325      (added 3/27/2006)
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MSRP: $29.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



In this exciting strategy game, players use colorful rings to challenge each other to win the most territories. It takes finding the right balance between gaining majorities and controlling the opponents to capture victory. Fast-paced and addictive, this beautifully crafted all-wooden game will please the whole family. For two to four players, playtime is approximately 20 minutes. The game includes a wooden playing board with 25 territories, 1 starting base, 48 wooden rings and instructions. Launch date: 2006.
— “Blue Orange Ringgz is great. It has a beautiful wooden board,” said Cathy Albrow, owner of Creative Learning Toys in Grand Rapids, Mich.
— "The best-selling toys are hands down those from Blue Orange. All-wooden games is what they do. Their games are original designs and ideas," said David Correa, buyer at Mrs. Tiggy Winkles in Tucson, Ariz.
— Adeline Bertrix, from sales and marketing at Blue Orange, told TDmonthly, “It’s a completely new concept. There is no strategy game out there like it. It can be played by two, three or four players. The colors are very lively. The design is very simple. It’s a beautiful game. It’s very addictive. Both adults and children can play it, and I think that’s very important.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7326      (added 3/27/2006)
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MSRP: $29.95
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
Educational



In Syzygy, each player makes his or her own crossword puzzle drawing from the 304 letter tiles. The game is very interactive and quick. Families and friends of almost any age can play together. The game has been around since 1997, but it hasn’t been picked up by major retailers. Betty Nobles, buyer for The Village Toy Shop in New Hartford, N.Y., told TDmonthly, “We’ve had good luck with Syzygy. A customer requested it … They’d played it and had so much fun, somewhere in Oregon. We sold out and forgot it, then someone asked again and I got it and sold out!” Inventor Lorraine Spiering told TDmonthly that the popularity of her game “spreads by word of play. That’s the proof of a great game.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7327      (added 3/27/2006)
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MSRP: $29.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



Hive is a board game with a difference: There is no board! The pieces are added to the playing area, thus creating the board. As more and more pieces are added, the game becomes a fight to see who can be the first to capture the opposing Queen Bee. The soldier ants battle to control the outside of the hive, while the Beetles climb up to dominate the top. Spiders move into holding positions as the Grasshoppers jump in for the kill. Each piece has its own particular way of moving, as in chess, but the moves mimic the way the insect itself moves. For instance, the Grasshopper is the only piece that can jump. Hive has been on the market since 2001 but recently underwent cosmetic revisions to make it more durable and marketable, said SmartZone co-owner Zeev Zahavi.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7328      (added 3/27/2006)
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MSRP: $29.99
Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



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.

ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7199      (added 3/10/2006)
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MSRP: $44.95
Age Range: 9 and up
Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



Khet combines lasers with cstrategy in an award-winning game that takes minutes to learn but yields infinite possibilities. Players move Egyptian-themed, mirrored pieces around the playing field, ending each turn by firing a laser that bounces around with the goal of knocking out an opponent’s pharaoh. The silver player wins the game by deflecting his laser around the field and hitting the red player’s pharaoh. With the addition of fog or smoke, the laser beam becomes visible for more high-tech excitement. Khet (formerly known as Deflexion) caused a stir in 2006 at Toy Fair and Pomona. “The game truly spans the generation gap, with enough technology to interest the 'video-gamers' of the younger crowd while maintaining enough classic strategy ... to interest their grandparents and everyone in between,” Luke Hooper of Innovention Toys told TDmonthly.   It received a 2006 MENSA Select Award and was a 2007 T.O.T.Y. Game-of-the-Year Nominee. Launch date: 2006. Read Review
— "Khet ... is great seller for us. It's new and did well — even at $50," summed up Danny Givens, owner of Little Dickens in Lynchburg, Va.
— "I put my money on Khet," Co-owner Michele Gietz of Where'd You Get That? in Williamstown, Mass., said in October 2008 about anticipated holiday best sellers. "We only bring in 15 at a time, but the price doesn't scare anybody off — just have to hit the right people."
― Taka Andrews, owner of Miller's Toy Store in Mamaroneck, N.Y., said Khet is a top seller for tween boys, despite the allure of video games. Seven of 39 retailers told TDmonthly in October 2009 that board games are their go-to items for tween-aged boys.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3719      (added 5/27/2005)
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Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Wooden Toys



In a race against time, players attempt to “one up” each other by pulling Kiwi Disks from a teetering wall and daring to stack them ever higher. The last player to successfully stack a disk before the timer marble drops out of sight wins Wallamoppi. The game includes 36 Kiwi Disks, a wooden storage box with a built-in marble timer, two timer marbles, a Kiwi Disk bag and quick-play rules. “Once this is set up on a table [for demonstration purposes] it draws immediate attention. [It’s] like no other game out there!” Out of the Box Publishing Director of Marketing Matt Mariani told TDmonthly. It was named one of the 100 Best Children’s Products of 2006 by Dr. Toy. Launch date: January 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6831      (added 2/6/2006)
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MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 7 and up
SKU or Item #: 030
Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



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

ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6793      (added 2/1/2006)
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Age Range: 6 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
Educational



Kids can create a “doodle” with a few rolls of the Doodle Dice. There’s a different doodle pictured on each card of the deck. When players build a doodle that matches one of the cards, they take that card. Players can block an opponent's turn or take one of their cards away. Players who collect one card of each color win. It’s the fun, challenging way for everyone in the family to be a "doodle artist." Instructions come in English and Spanish. For two to six players, Doodle Dice launched in February 2006.
Awards: A TDmonthly Classics Award for being an all-time favorite toy.
— As of 7/21/2011 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 45 reviews on Amazon.com.
— "We like Doodle Dice from Jax. It sold well for us this last year even though we hadn’t seen it before," said Bill Rayment, co-owner of Toy Crossing in Harbor Beach, Mich.
— "A great game from Jax is Doodle Dice. It's inexpensive and made for varied ages," commented Bob Breneman, co-owner of G. Willikers Toy Shop in Portsmouth, N.H. It’s his 7th-best-selling product.
— Cindy Levine, president of Jax, told TDmonthly, "Doodle Dice involves very different game play. Participants from age 6 to adult have an equal and full chance to win. It engages players and has a style unlike any other game out there."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6845      (added 2/7/2006)
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MSRP: $14.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



This game gets players guessing — and celebrating — each other’s favorite things. Players must choose between very different experiences and items while other players must guess their selection. It recently won an Oppenheim Toy Award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7237      (added 3/17/2006)
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MSRP: $16.99
Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Board Games



“I Spy” a snake, a wiggly worm ... so what´s “In Common?” Things that squirm! Turn over the timer; you have 3 minutes to find the tiles that have something “In Common” and place them in rows on the game board. In Common is the recipient of three awards: Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice, Dr. Toy´s Best, Smart Play/Smart Toy and Parent´s Choice Gold Seal of Excellence.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4291      (added 8/24/2005)
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MSRP: $29.95
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



This is a perfect game for kids who like to be grossed out. Kids are afraid of the monsters under their beds, but they should also be afraid of other gross and gooey things that sometimes get stashed there … such as dirty diapers. In this yucky-fun game, kids have to pick nasty things out from under the bed without disturbing the monster, or else they lose! "I think the kids will absolutely love it!" Ricki Block, owner of Ariel’s Child in New Windsor, N.Y., enthused to TDmonthly Magazine. Right after Toy Fair, buyers from Tree Top Kids in Washington, D.C., were also eagerly anticipating this new game's release. The game won a Toy of the Year Award from Family Fun Magazine in 2006.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7013      (added 2/24/2006)
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MSRP: $20.98
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



Kids and adults have got to move quickly with the Do You Sudoku? Game, because the hottest puzzle the world’s seen since the crossword is now a great electronic game. The game, for two or more players, contains 2 game trays, 2 sets of 81 number tiles, 100 puzzles, die, instructions and solutions.
— “Do You Sudoku? by University Games is doing well,” was the comment from Cathy Foland, manager of Imagination Station in Fenton, Mich.
— University Games sell well “because the chain stores do not carry these,” was the observation provided by Alyssa Cox, owner of Animal Quackers in Raleigh, N.C.
— Games of strategy are big at The Wee Loft in Dana Point, Calif, according to co-owner Annette Garcia, who mentions Sudoku games as one of the season’s hottest games for kids.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6767      (added 2/1/2006)
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Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $29.95
Age Range: 7 and up
SKU or Item #: 1002
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
Card Games
Educational



The fast, funny and easy-to-play creative writing game will appeal to classroom teachers who are looking for a fun way to supplement the language arts curriculum as well as families who like to have fun while challenging their creative writing abilities. To play, each player uses five Gabby words to write a story in less than one minute. A Spanish version of the game is also be available. This product is a winner of numerous awards, including a 2005, 2006 and 2007 Creative Child Magazine Game of the Year Award, 2005, 2006 and 2007 Parent to Parent Foundation Adding Wisdom Award, a 2006 Earlychildhood NEWS Director's Choice Award and a 2005 iParenting Media Best New Products Hot Award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 2992      (added 2/25/2005)
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MSRP: $29.95
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games
Board Games



This beautiful wooden game set includes Mancala, one of the most ancient and widely played games in the world and, on the reverse side of the board, the modern straight ahead gammon game of Uthini? with its 19 traditional symbols from Africa. The frame is carved with detailed African animals that form a link between an Egyptian scene on one end and Cape Town, South Africa on the other. The carved base is molded from recycled plastic and can also be used as a small storage container for the colorful glass marbles and dice.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6411      (added 1/9/2006)
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MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Board Games



Kids love discovering small prizes inside the chess pieces — that´s the magic of this award-winning kit, which includes everything needed to learn and play chess. It features 32 prize-fillable chess pieces and a 3D-illustrated, 54-page book providing 10 easy lessons for kids and their caregivers. Incentive charts, WonderFiller sticker prizes and a 15" chessboard round out the fun and effectiveness. WonderFiller prizes are customizable to best meet the values of a particular family and they allow both players to experience winning. WonderChess received the 2007 Mr. Dad Seal of Approval as well as three awards in 2005: NAPPA Gold, Dr. Toy's Best Children's Vacation Products and Creative Child Magazine's Preferred Choice Award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4167      (added 8/15/2005)
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MSRP: $39.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Board Games
American-Made



This game is perfect for kids and adults curious to learn the intricate rules of football. During game play, the defense reveals its play while the other team rolls the dice. The outcome of the play is revealed and yards are gained or lost. It teaches players about the two-minute warning, fumbles, interceptions, penalties, kicking game, passing game and running game. Here is what Mike White, Superbowl winning coach had to say about Big Sunday. "In our mechanized world, Big Sunday is a throwback to the family oriented activity around the dinner table. It can be played by all ages and will match all types of skill levels. In my opinion it is the closest thing to real football. It has all the strategy and flow of an actual game. Players are involved in play selection, defensive deployment, down and distance, and all varieties of scoring combinations.It also includes fumbles, penalties, use of clock and time outs, a complete kicking game and the exciting 2-minute warning."
—  As of 05/13/2011 this product had 4.2 out of 5 stars from 6 reviews on Amazon.com. Cons: The pieces are very small and the lines on the "field" game board were hard to see; rules were confusing.
Past Videos: Pomona 2006
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7172      (added 3/9/2006)
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Alison MarekWriter's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on www.alisonmarek.com. Watch her nefarious villains in the web series www.MuggsMovers.com. Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at www.ARFFirmations.com. Phew! And then ...  Read more articles by this author

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