May 15, 2021

TDmonthly Magazine

March 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 3

Play It Quickly

Group Games Work the Brain and the Clock

By Julie L. Jones
March 2007

“Price doesn’t matter, but they want something that’s easy to understand and quick to play.” Roger Lee, Olney Toys
With additional reporting by regional correspondents Agata Antonow, Virginia Davis, Christine Lebednik, Terri Hughes-Lazzell and Brenda Ruggiero

Games designed for families and other groups are the most popular, 51 specialty retailers across the nation told TDmonthly Magazine, but more players doesn’t necessarily mean more time for play. Several retailers indicated that customers want quick-play games that call for strategy and challenge, but are equally simple and easy to understand.

What’s Selling

“In today’s busy society, the games we sell the most of are those that go quickly — not drag-out three-hour games. They need to be simple…but strategic,” said Danny Givens, owner of Little Dickens in Lynchburg, Va.

“One example is Gobblet [by Blue Orange (ToyDirectory)] — a wooden tic-tac-toe game,” he cited.

Although fast play is a recognized trend, owner Shanna Frieling of Giggles Toys & More in Bozeman, Mont., is “finding the opposite to be true.” She’s having success with the long-playing Settlers of Catan by Mayfair Games (ToyShow). Five retailers mentioned the game or its new expansion packs.

Eleven commented on the popularity of games that support time with family and friends. Especially in demand are those with cross-generational appeal.

In addition to perpetual best sellers Blokus by Educational Insights (ToyDirectory) and Apples to Apples by Out of the Box Publishing (ToyDirectory), the Cranium line was mentioned by retailers 13 times.

How It’s Selling

Sometimes, quick sales depend on quick demos.

“Games sell well if we can explain them to a customer in 30 seconds,” said Miles Altman, owner of King Arthur’s Court Toys in Cincinnati.

Some retailers play to sell. Mrs. Tiggy Winkles in Tucson, Ariz., utilizes a huge demonstration table to play games alongside customers. “It changes the atmosphere of the store,” buyer David Correa told TDmonthly.

“Games sell better if we’ve tried them,” added Bill Rayment, co-owner of Toy Crossing in Harbor Beach, Mich. “If we like them, we push them.”

What to Make of It

“Price doesn’t matter” with games, co-owner Roger Lee of Olney Toys in Olney, Md., summed up, “but they want something that’s easy to understand and quick to play.”

Read on for more about popular games:

The Amazing Labyrinth by RAVENSBURGER

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)

Khet: The Laser Game by INNOVENTION TOYS

Khet: The Laser Game by INNOVENTION TOYSKhet 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.
(Watch the Khet: The Laser Game Video Watch Video) 5/27/2005 (MSRP: $44.95; Age: 9 and Up)

Settlers of Catan by MAYFAIR GAMES INC.

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)

The Seafarers of Catan Expansion by MAYFAIR GAMES INC.

The Seafarers of Catan Expansion by MAYFAIR GAMES INC.Designed by Klaus Teuber, this game allows players to expand their Settlers of Catan game in new directions by adding islands, pirates, gold, ships and trade. Players work to explore and colonize the newly populated Archipelago of Catan, building settlements, roads and villages by trading commodities from the land and islands. The game is suitable for three to four players and takes 60 to 90 minutes. 2/8/2007 (MSRP: $38.00; Age: 12 and Up)

Doodle Dice by JAX LTD INC.

Doodle Dice by JAX LTD INC.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
— "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." 2/7/2006 (Age: 6 and Up)

Bookshelf Dread Pirate by FRONT PORCH CLASSICS

Desert islands, treasure, hungry sharks, treacherous seas and, of course, pirate battles all await you in Dread Pirate. This beautiful coffee table game comes packaged in an authentic wooden treasure chest and is played upon a wonderfully illustrated cloth treasure map. Choose a ship and a port of call, and set sail in search of treasure. Trade in a foreign port or sail broadside to another captain and take your best shot. Be the first pirate to collect all types of jewels and land on Dread Island to become the most feared and powerful captain on the high seas. Journey back with your family for a high seas treasure hunting, pirate adventure! Perfect for four players. 9/9/2005 (Age: 8 and Up)

Apples-to-Apples Party Crate by OUT OF THE BOX PUBLISHING

Apples-to-Apples Party Crate by OUT OF THE BOX PUBLISHINGThis popular card game now comes in a solid wooden storage crate to be preserved for generations. It’s designed for 4 to 10 players, comes with 756 Red Apple Cards, 252 Green Apple Cards and two Deluxe Card Trays. Kids and adults can have fun by making outrageous comparisons that go beyond just “apples-to-apples.” Matt Mariani, director of marketing for Out of the Box Publishing, told TDmonthly, “It takes only 30 seconds to learn. A complete game takes less than 30 minutes to finish. The conversations around the table while playing the game are the focus.” Launch date: 2006.
— "Apples-to-Apples by Out of the Box: just got more in because people still want it, even after the holidays," said Karen Williams-Fox, owner of Woodbury Mountain Toys in Montpelier, Vt. Five of 31 retailers said the game was one of their best sellers for Christmas 2006.
— “The word is out about this game for adults as well as kids,” Owner Elaine Hackney of Boing! JP’s Toy Shop in Jamaica Plain, Mass., told TDmonthly in summer 2007. “We carry all the versions. It’s so much fun ... a must at our family reunions!”
— An Apples-to-Apples sale a day helps keep the bill collector at bay, retailers have told TDmonthly (in so many words) bushels of times, and so it’s been honored with a TDmonthly Top Seller 2007 award. 10/23/2006 (MSRP: $34.99; Age: 12 and Up)

Codebreaker by DOUBLESTAR LLC

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 the Codebreaker Video Watch Video) 2/1/2006 (MSRP: $19.95; Age: 7 and Up)


Gobblet by BLUE ORANGE GAMESPlayers try to get four wooden columns in a row. The pieces can be moved after they’ve been initially played on the grid.
— Kathie Dockstader, buyer for Top Ten Toys in Seattle, said, "people like it because it´s visually stunning … it adds an element. It makes you want to play." Jude LaRene, owner of Izilla Toys in Seattle, recommended this for Christmas because: “It’s still a game many don't have yet and everyone loves.”
— “Customers are looking for word games; I call them logical-thinking games. [Games] such as Gobblet by Blue Orange,” Terry Myers, owner of Kaleidoscope Toys in Round Rock, Texas, told TDmonthly.
— Two of 44 retailers named Gobblet as one of their absolute best sellers in late fall 2009. (Watch the Gobblet Video Watch Video) 7/15/2005 (MSRP: $29.95; Age: 7 and Up)

Blokus by MATTEL INC.

Blokus by MATTEL INC.Europe´s 2002 game of the year, Blokus is a strategy game for the family. It's similar to the ancient Go Game — the board is a grid and players use their pieces to try to control as much territory as possible. The game pieces are in four, 21-piece sets of varying shapes. Each player chooses a color and works on expanding his  territory on the board while blocking others from doing the same. Each new piece laid down must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but can only touch at corners, not along edges. The game ends when all players have been blocked from laying down more pieces. Points are deducted for pieces not played, and the player with the highest score at the end, wins. Blokus comes with a game board with 400 squares, 84 game pieces (red, green, blue and yellow), and instructions.
— In spring 2007, Sally Lesser, owner of Massachusetts’ Henry Bear’s Park, called Blokus a “consistent best-seller” at her three stores. It's also tops at Juggles in Wakefield, R.I., and Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. Six of 63 retailers named Blokus as their overall best seller in September 2008. Three of 52 retailers named Blokus as one of their overall top sellers in November 2008. Blokus is no longer distributed by Educational Insights as of 12/4/08.
― “No. 1 is Blokus,” Linda Hanzelko, owner of Timmy's Toy Chest in Lake Mary, Fla., told TDmonthly when asked about best-selling games in early 2009. “It's an easy sell. It's one that people come back later and say 'You were right.'” In late 2009, Lori Hershman, owner of Evan's Toy Shoppe in Hamden, Ct., estimated sales of about 34 units monthly. Six of 38 retailers called it a best-selling game in Feb. 2010, selling from three to 150 units per month. 5/27/2005 (MSRP: $29.99; Age: 5 to 12)


Pop 5 by CRANIUM INC.Four or more players can compete for points in this outrageously fun party game where it’s not what you know, but how you show it. From Madonna and mullets to moonwalk and Monday Night Football, Pop 5 is a hilarious celebration in which players choose the activity — humming or sculpting, perhaps — for each clue. Launch date: August 2006.
— "We’ve brought in some new games by Cranium. The Cranium line sells well across the board," observed Nancy Streeter, owner of Eureka in Newburyport, Mass.
— "We have a lot of great games that people come in to buy. Cranium is a very popular one. We sell a lot," said Kara Fihtner, manager at Out of the Blue in Albuquerque, N.M.
— Nine of 51 retailers TDmonthly spoke with identified Cranium as a best-selling line with customers in their stores. 10/25/2006 (MSRP: $34.95)

Zingo! by THINKFUN

Zingo! by THINKFUNPlayers try to fill their Zingo! cards with matching tiles from the Zingo Zinger. The first player to fill his or her card wins. Rules can be adjusted to favor more or less competition among players, and to vary the length of time each game requires. This game was a 2007 T.O.T.Y. Nominee for Specialty Toy of the Year. "It teaches memory, matching, vocabulary and social interaction skills. Kids have so much fun playing again and again; they don’t realize they’re learning essential thinking skills," Marketing Communications Manager Emily Peters of Thinkfun told TDmonthly.
—  “Customers use this game as their ‘standard’ party gift,” Owner Elaine Hackney of Boing! JP’s Toy Shop in Jamaica Plain, Mass. told TDmonthly in summer 2007.
— “We sell out as soon as they come in,” added Pam Horwitz, manager of Mr. Toad’s Toy Company in Naples, Fla. Four of 63 retailers singled out Zingo! as the hottest-selling game in their store. Seven percent of 56 retailers listed Zingo as a top-selling game in January 2009. Six of 38 retailers called it a best-selling game in Feb. 2010.
— “Zingo is a great game for 4- to 5-year olds,” Jamie Burdette, owner of LB Toys in Media, Pa., told TDmonthly about this game — a top seller in his store — in April 2008. “The basic Bingo concept starts to introduce words and spelling.” (Watch the Zingo! Video Watch Video) 5/10/2005 (MSRP: $15.00; Age: 4 to 8)

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