One year when I was a teacher, our Christmas gift from the PTA was a big wad of cash. I know — right? Sort of strange. I mean, I get the idea of a Christmas bonus from a company, where they’re sharing the excess in profits with the staff who made it happen, but it was a little bizarre to get this envelope of money handed to me. It sort of made me feel like a whore.
I didn’t really know what to do with it, so I threw it in a drawer years ago. I always knew it was there, and Josh and I referred to it as the zombie money; the cash we’d use to get away when the zombie invasion starts and we can’t get to a bank because they’ve been taken over by the brain-eating undead.
I dipped into the zombie money this week, hoping beyond hope that I’ll have enough time to replenish the fund before the undead rise, rancid and mottling, from their graves.
I bought myself a bunch of games. Like board games. Like board games I can play by myself and pretend they’re for the kids. But they’re really for me.
The game fixation started months ago when we got Solitaire Chess. I was using it to teach the Wolvog how the pieces move in chess, but after he’d go to bed, I’d play it while I waited for websites to load.
( Sidenote: My computer is old and creaky and runs on Windows, which means that it often takes between three and five minutes for all of the error messages to clear so I can see that the website I just clicked on doesn’t have the information I need and the joyful surf across the Internet begins anew. I like to think of my slowed down ability to Web surf as my version of the Endless Summer — less enjoyable, with fewer waves, but the wait times are often endless since my computer crashes at least once or twice a day.
So you see, I have a lot of spare minutes to fill.)
And I filled them playing Solitaire Chess. I finished all the levels. I felt pretty damn proud of myself, and I made the kids and Josh tell me over and over again how smart I was.
I had been eyeing the game Chocolate Fix (another logic puzzle), though I couldn’t quite figure out how to play until the rules clicked with me this week while I was standing in the store. I tried to convince the twins that we needed it, but I was out-voted (damn you, family democracy!) and we went home with Tilt instead.
Tilt was fun, and I was quickly addicted, but this indignation also took root overnight. I was an adult, damn it. If I wanted Chocolate Fix, we were going to get Chocolate Fix. And if I had to dip into the zombie fund to do it, so be it.
I went online to see what other logic puzzles ThinkFun (the company that makes all these games) made, and found out that they had two iPad apps and more on the way. So first and foremost, I downloaded Solitaire Chess and Rush Hour onto the iPad.
My thoughts: I like having Solitaire Chess on the iPad because it makes it even more portable (though it was already pretty damn portable), though I like playing it more with the plastic pieces. On the other hand, I enjoy Rush Hour a lot more on the iPad vs. the plastic pieces.
Then I played their online version of What’s Gnu, which teaches reading/spelling skills and added that to the shopping list. We don’t play it right now as they list in the rules. Here’s how we use it:
- Find the 14 word-ending cards. If you’ve ever taught phonics, these are the word family cards (ig, an, at, ow, etc).
- Sit across from one another and spread out your 7 cards in front of you.
- Click the machine to spit out two letters. The one closest to you is “your” letter.
- Use it to form a word… if you can. For the first round or two, you can usually use any letter. But it gets harder once you have fewer cards. For instance, let’s say that you’re down to “an” and “at” and the letter you get is “J” — that can’t be used to form a common word. So you lose that turn.
- Whoever fills all 7 cards first wins.
- I have lost consistently every single time we’ve played.
- The ChickieNob has no clue that she is practicing reading/spelling skills.
In the future, we’ll play the right way (and it has multiple levels). It’s sort of like Zingo… with forming words instead of recognizing pictures. (By the way, ThinkFun also makes Zingo, if you’re familiar with that game.)
So armed with the zombie fund money, I went to the store and blew it on Chocolate Fix (which is exactly as good as I thought it would be. I’m up to level 19. Nothing will prepare you more for the GRE than playing Chocolate Fix), What’s Gnu, and another game called “Spot It” which I liked because it can be kept in my purse (it’s the only one not made by ThinkFun).
Why am I telling you all of this?
Because I wanted to counterbalance the words I said about Crayola’s coloured bubbles of evil (to be fair to Crayola, their Colour Wonder markers have been a lifesaver on long car trips. We always get the twins a new one each trip). Because I want to talk about how I spent the zombie fund. And because I’m usually squeamish about purchasing toys from an unfamiliar company, and I wanted to spread word that we’ve had a good experience with every ThinkFun game — both the kids playing them and then the adults playing them after the twins have gone to sleep. And we’ve really enjoyed both iPad/iPhone apps (and you can try them first for free). So I’m using my words for good — to write a favourable review of all the games we currently have scattered across the living room floor in various stages of play.
Since, you know, we can never take out one game at a time and put it away.
To continue this love fest, please share your favourite game — either from your childhood or a current one that you like to play.