Tag Archives: Solitaire Chess

Ready, Set, Play…Online!

I recently sat down with Co-Founder and President of ThinkFun, Bill Ritchie to talk about ThinkFun’s newest offering, Play Online. This new and improved section of the site features thousands of challenges for some of your favorite ThinkFun games like Laser Maze, Chocolate Fix and Solitaire Chess. While talking to Bill, I wanted to get his thoughts on the future of digital and physical products and how learning can be incorporated.

 

FullSizeRender 300x225 Ready, Set, Play...Online!

Co-Founder and President Bill Ritchie playing his favorite Play online game, Chocolate Fix!

 Q: ThinkFun is mainly known for their physical games; what inspired the addition of a more robust Play Online offering?

A: The Play Online program is very exciting because this is our first showing of a much larger idea that we’ve been working on for years.  When we launched Rush Hour in the mid 1990’s online versions of our games started to surface – some we supported and some of them were pirate knockoffs. What never felt right to us was an online game version where players only got to play a fixed number of challenges. That meant that players would play some and then leave, and we wanted them to keep coming back.

Our Play Online program is built as a BLITZ GAME, which means that each game comes with a reservoir of 1000 challenges, specifically selected by us. These are randomly served each time a new player comes to play a challenge; so they can play to their hearts’ content and never face the same challenge twice. Then we can put on our Admin hats and refresh the challenge reservoir with a new collection of challenges, so players will continually get a whole different ThinkFun gaming experience.

For each of the five new games in Play Online, we now have tens of thousands of challenges in our database. We continue to develop and refine to find which of these challenges are the most fun and which are the best to help you stretch your brain to build your thinking skills.

In terms of motivation, it was mainly us trying to give our fans what they wanted. We noticed players definitely wanted to engage with our games in digital form as well as in physical, hands-on logic puzzle form. We hope the end result is a “BOTH/AND” experience—a ThinkFun puzzle challenge experience that doesn’t just mimic our physical game play, but enhanced it in an inherently digital manner.

 

Q: What has been the reaction so far to the online offering?

A: People are definitely starting to find the Play Online section. It’s becoming one of our top pages! This feature is a great way for consumers to test our games out prior to purchase, so it’s perfect for the upcoming holidays.

 

Q: Which are the newest games? Which are updates or upgrades to older games?

A: Our newest Play Online game is Laser Maze, which has been a huge hit for us.  The physical version of the game sold out on Amazon at holiday 2013, is now selling better than ever on both Amazon and in-store at Target, nationwide. This is one that everybody really should try—we got the play experience just right with the Play Online version, all the brainwork plus a great payoff when you hit the FIRE button.

Screen Shot 2014 11 10 at 10.19.40 AM 300x195 Ready, Set, Play...Online!Rush Hour is our most famous game, and one that everyone seems to want to play in both physical and digital forms. We’ve updated this game so that it’s accessible to more people. We want everybody to experience the fun of getting lost in these wonderful challenges!

Solitaire Chess is worth mentioning here also. I describe it as “The distilled essence of chess” because it’s an exercise in both critical thinking and strategic thinking. Playing the online Solitaire Chess will give players a leg up at mastering the offline version of this marvelous puzzle.

 

Q:  Can you tell us about your plans for your digital games roadmap? What’s next for you?

A: We’re moving toward developing a more sophisticated set of digital challenges that will allow us to measure the effect on critical thinking skills in a more standardized manner. We want to help players to build mental models and to learn about the mathematical structures that underlie these puzzles. This wasn’t possible with physical games only, because we didn’t have access to how kids’ play progressed without a repeatable way to track their activity.

Coming in 2015, we will be launching our ThinkFun BrainLab Tournament Competition program along with ThinkFun University where we teach university level thinking skills to grade school kids. I’ve been working on this for more than 10 years now and it’s finally starting to come together. It’s all very exciting, and it really takes the ability to track progress to the next level.

Screen Shot 2014 11 10 at 10.08.31 AM 300x195 Ready, Set, Play...Online!

 

Q: For you personally, what is your favorite Play Online game by ThinkFun, and why?

A: I love them all but my personal favorite Play Online game has to be Chocolate Fix. We have put so much development energy and love into this one over so many years. Chocolate Fix is clever and fun, kind of like a mini-Sudoku style game, but underneath it is really just a manifestation of pure logical reasoning. In various experiments we have taught kids how to analyze the tree structure of a given challenge and also to understand different types of logical contradiction and how to describe your reasoning in the form of a mathematical proof. In one pilot program, we taught kids how to make their own Chocolate Fix puzzles that they could send out to their friends to challenge them. This was fun!

 

Feeling ready to give Play Online a go? Log on now!

 

 

Brain Fitness games keep older brains sharp!

I’m thrilled to share our new line of Brain Fitness games: Solitaire Chess, Rush Hour, and Chocolate Fix!

Brain Fitness Line 1024x341 Brain Fitness games keep older brains sharp!

These brain-boosting games are designed to strengthen mental muscles through play – and you can bet my playful grandma has already got a set!

These three games were created in partnership with fantastic volunteer testers from the ThinkFun community and AARP who gave feedback on everything from packaging to piece design to challenge progression. Industrial designers shared ergonomic pieces designed for larger hands, and testers voted for their favorites and shared great ideas about modifications and preferred game storage. Below is an example of insight from an early survey that led to the tagline “Cross Train Your Brain” on the package front!

Capture Brain Fitness games keep older brains sharp!

We spent several months working with these testers, sharing new ideas, testing play patterns, and refining these new offerings to ensure they were both a fun and challenging experience!

Testers shared some fantastic feedback after a month of playing…

“I plan ahead more. I think of the outcome before hastily acting.”

“I play bridge and find it easier to remember which cards were played!”

“Gets your brain thinking! Challenging, stimulating and fun all in one.”

“I plan to play these for a long time!”

Increasingly we are hearing about the importance of keeping our brains nimble and strong as we age.  With so many companies offering digital training games, we are very proud to present quality hands-on thinking games that engage players both on a tactile and mental level. These three classic ThinkFun games, Rush Hour, Chocolate Fix, and Solitaire Chess, have long been celebrated for pushing players to think harder and challenge themselves, and we are thrilled to present them now for an older audience!

Do you play brain games to keep your mind sharp? What are your favorites?

ThinkFun Mind Games Sharpen Math Skills in Istanbul Schools

We recently received the following message from our Turkish distributor about a pilot program using ThinkFun games in classrooms – along with a fantastic newspaper article:

excerpt ThinkFun Mind Games Sharpen Math Skills in Istanbul Schools

We are very happy and would like to share good news proudly with you. Since the beginning of our partnership as we have always told you our vision is to present high quality and educational games that can be played enthusiastically by both children and adults everywhere in Turkey.

We believe that these useful fun games develop children academically and socially. In this way we hope to change the way people see the games in Turkey. Therefore, we have always focused on the good hands on presentations and informed people of the skills that these games improve. We have been holding workshops on how to use these games to improve children’s thinking and problem solving skills. After many years of effort we achieved to attract the attention of a lot of children, parents and teachers.

Now one of the enthusiastic teachers has set off a pilot Project on using mind improving games in classrooms and this is figured in press:) As a team we have put a lot of time and energy while building the base of this Project. Since it covers the grades from 1 to 8 we have graded and grouped the games to have a harmonious flow throughout the grades. This Project appeared on the cover page of the newspaper called “Dünya International Herald Tribune” on March 19th.  We are sure that this Project will be the engine of other similar Projects.

The ThinkFun games that are being used are: Block By Block, Chocolate Fix, Hoppers, Math Dice, Math Dice Jr, River Crossing, Rush Hour Deluxe, Rush Hour Junior, Shape By Shape, S’Match, Solitaire Chess, Swish, Tipover, and Zingo 1,2,3

Dunya News Istanbul ThinkFun Mind Games Sharpen Math Skills in Istanbul Schools

Solitaire Chess: Brainiac Edition

This email absolutely made my day!  Shad, a retiree from Montana who shared in this post how she and her husband play (and fiercely compete in) Solitaire Chess, wrote to let me know the game has now spread to her son and daughter in-law!   The mental image of this brainy family at play made me smile!

Solitaire Chess Shad Bailey 225x300 Solitaire Chess: Brainiac Edition

Shad's husband practices to maintain his competitive edge!

Dear Charlotte,

The funniest thing just happened.  Our son and his wife are here and we showed them the Solitare Chess.  Jessica is an electrical engineer and Todd is a PhD dissertation writer in Political Science.  They were stuck on #41.  Todd finally figured it out the way we do by thinking of how things can move and in what sequence makes things possible.  Jessica got out her little laptop and wrote some code to figure it out.  They came to their answers about the same time.

We really have had fun with that game!   What a funny evening.  We really enjoyed seeing how the two of them would manage.

Thank you

Shad

GAMES on a plane!

This photo made my day!  Caryn, otherwise known as The Midlife Guru, has been testing some ThinkFun favorites as part of a new program we are exploring… and she sent me this photo and message over the weekend.

“Took [the games] with me on my trip to New York last week… Sure made the plane ride more bearable!”

Caryn RH on plane GAMES on a plane!

Taking game play to new heights!

Ever since we came out with our 3 mobile apps, they have been my trusty travel companions on long flights… one memorable red eye home from CA I worked my way through the entire Medium level on Solitaire Chess!

Solitaire Chess app 300x167 GAMES on a plane!

 However, I MUCH prefer physical game play over mobile, so I love that Caryn felt it important to stash these games in her carry on for her in-flight entertainment and plan to follow suit on my upcoming travels.  I can only imagine how jealous her seatmate must have been icon smile GAMES on a plane!

 

Do you bring games with you when you travel?  Which are your favorites?

ThinkFun & Learning: A S’Match Made in Heaven!

The following post is shared by Tracy E., a homeschooling mother of 4 and former classroom teacher. For years Tracy has used ThinkFun games both in the classroom and with her own children, and here she shares her favorites – and the benefits she’s observed!

 

I discovered ThinkFun games years ago when I first became a classroom teacher. I used the strategy and logic games to help improve the deductive reasoning and logic skills in my students.  Now, I am a mother of four. We are a happy home schooling family ranging from preschool to 8th grade. My children have grown up playing ThinkFun games. They LOVE them.

We have game time scheduled into our day.  They can play any game, as long as it is a “thinker”.

My 5 yr old son is crazy about Solitaire Chess. It has made him a pretty tough chess opponent.  My 13 yr old daughter’s favorite is still Rush Hour. She also likes the Safari Rush because the jeep can move in different directions.

My 4 yr old daughter is really having fun with S’Match. The fact that each turn requires you think about what you have to match (color, quantity, or category) makes it tougher than regular Memory…and more fun. I have seen that ThinkFun has changed the “category” selection to “shapes”. I really like this new change.  I think my daughter would grasp the matching of shapes easier than the matching of categories. It is a great game with a super improvement!

SMatc 7911 LoResSpill ThinkFun & Learning: A SMatch Made in Heaven!

2011 S'Match (first generation)

New and Improved….

SMatc 7912 LoResSpill ThinkFun & Learning: A SMatch Made in Heaven!

2012 S'Match, Now Featuring Shapes!

My 2 yr old son even gets involved, playing with pieces and trying to match the cards. He likes to work on placing the pieces onto the game boards to match the cards.  He isn’t ready to play by the rules, yet.

As a parent, I can only praise ThinkFun for the thought and effort put into all of their games. They really do make “thinking fun”. The games are good quality, durable, and most of them have easy drawstring bags, making them great for travel and taking along with you wherever you go.

As an educator, ThinkFun’s games have helped improve my student’s logic and reasoning skills. They even helped improved their standardize test scores. ThinkFun helps teach children “how” to think, not “what” to think.

My own children show fantastic scores in math on standardized tests. My  son scored in the 99% percentile in math (kindergarten). My daughter scored in the 96% percentile for the math total, 98% percentile in math problem solving section (7th grade).

We will always be a ThinkFun family!

Tracy E, Charleston, SC

Solitaire Chess keeps retirees sharp… and inspires friendly competition!

There’s nothing better than receiving notes and emails from happy customers – whether they come in the mail addressed in crayon or via Twitter, we love hearing directly from the people whose lives our games touch.  I had to share this lovely exchange with a couple in Montana who wrote to share their experience with Solitaire Chess!

January 20, 2012

I have never had so much fun in my life! When I figure out one of the Solitaire Chess games, I am happier than if I were to win the lottery. My husband does them and then I do, and there will be a snowball in you-know-where before I will let him show me how to do it! But, when I solve it, I am the happiest person in the world. We’re up to #32 – he did the first 15 or so and then gave me one to do and Bingo, there it was!

This is the best thing since sliced bread!

Ms. Shad B.

Solitaire Chess Shad Bailey 225x300 Solitaire Chess keeps retirees sharp... and inspires friendly competition!

Shad's husband stays playful in his retirement with Solitaire Chess!

 

One month later… “Something Terrible to Report”

February 10, 2012

Dear Charlotte,

Snowy and cold today. Oh well. It’s Montana and we desperately need the snow. We’re up to Game 59 of 60 and have really enjoyed it.

I have something terrible to report. My husband was playing and he dropped a bishop. The little top knot broke off and we looked on hands and knees to find it so we could put it back on. I cannot imagine where it went. We looked and looked. Do you ever in your wildest dreams ever sell individual pieces?

Thank you for this game. It makes me think differently about playing regular chess, and that may have been a goal of the creator. We are going to get a set for our son, too.  We are still having fun with it.

Shad B.

 

I had a free replacement piece sent to Shad and her husband immediately, and she happily reported back that “the new Bishop was welcomed with open arms! We do love the game. I do hope you will know we do appreciate all you do.  Thank you.”

Solitaire Chess bishop 300x224 Solitaire Chess keeps retirees sharp... and inspires friendly competition!

Hey guys, I'm HOME!

Stories like this make my day and re-inspire me to do the work I do.  Shad and her husband are proof positive that play is good for you at any age, and their playful competition pushed them both to think harder and stretch further!  With challenge #60 under their belts, it may be time to break out the real Chess board and let the battle of the brains continue!

Want big fun? Super-size your games!

We’re all about the value of hands-on play here at ThinkFun, with games and puzzles designed to challenge players to think with their hands, encouraging tactile learning and building new understandings and strategies by manipulating pieces.  But why should the hands have all the fun?!

photo 2 300x224 Want big fun? Super size your games!

This week’s giant office-wide craft project to create two massive game mats for the Destination Imagination Global Finals got me thinking about the other ThinkFun games that have been super-sized over the years!

Back in February, Giant Swish was unveiled at the TEDActive Conference with an entirely new way to play!

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Giant Swish in action at TEDActive!

Any time I mention big games, I always hear, “Wouldn’t it be AWESOME to make a giant Rush Hour game?!”  It’s been done!  At the 2007 International Puzzle Party (IPP), puzzle-lovers from all over the world came together to take on a massive Rush Hour challenge – I must say I’ve never seen such cheerful people stuck in gridlock !

Giant Rush Hour IPP 300x200 Want big fun? Super size your games!

Giant Rush Hour is a crowd-pleaser at the International Puzzle Party!

This photo shows a huge version of our River Crossing game being played by none other than Andrea Gilbert, the game’s inventor!  This large hands-on puzzle was featured at the Delft Science Museum in 2006.

Large River Crossing 300x225 Want big fun? Super size your games!

Andrea Gilbert, the inventor herself, attempts a River Crossing challenge!

Slightly less fancy, but no less impressive, is another fantastic version of River Crossing – this one constructed by a teacher and his students in Mumbai, India!

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Students in Mumbai, India construct a massive River Crossing game!

When Solitaire Chess was still in the development process, ThinkFun created gigantic versions of the game based on the most current prototypes!  During a company event, employees teamed up to try their hand at the test challenges and experience the game play in a BIG way!

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ThinkFun employees puzzle over a Solitaire Chess challenge!

During this same 2009 company event, we tested out another new game that hadn’t yet been released… any guesses what this one became!?

DSC 0376 300x199 Want big fun? Super size your games!

I'm "knot" giving any clues...!

Here, a creative teacher in Vermont turned her students into candies for human Chocolate Fix!

Mary Ann Caraco 3 Want big fun? Super size your games!

 

Finally, here are the 2 most recent additions to our Giant Game collection, both featured at our Destination ImagiNation booth!  Check out Human Hoppers and Live Action Solitaire Chess!

photo 11 300x224 Want big fun? Super size your games!

photo 21 300x224 Want big fun? Super size your games!

What is it about playing a large-scale version of a game that makes it more engaging?  For our single-player games like Rush Hour, blowing them up into massive versions transforms them into collaborative, multi-player challenges – great for team building and encouraging effective communication!

Have you played a giant version of a game that’s been more fun than the original?  Please share!

Need a Brain Snack? Try the Solitaire Chess App!

My name is Charlotte, and I am a Solitaire Chess addict.

I never touched a chess board growing up, and as an adult I felt I’d ever have a shot at learning the game. When ThinkFun first developed the Solitaire Chess game last year, I nervously waited to be found out as a non-chess player and was sure the game wouldn’t be for me.  How wrong I was.

SolChess 3400 HiResSpill 300x300 Need a Brain Snack? Try the Solitaire Chess App!

Solitaire Chess by ThinkFun

The beauty of Solitaire Chess is that it teaches even the most chess-phobic newbie the basic movement rules of classic chess, easing you into game play with early challenges that reinforce chess rules.  Since it’s a single-player challenge in which you eliminate pieces with capture moves, you play at your own pace and learn as you go… no pressure.

Solitaire Chess was a nice addition to my life, and I was happy to pick up a challenge or two and play during downtime… then everything changed.  In January, we released the Solitaire Chess app featuring 400 BRAND NEW challenges, and I was hooked.

Solitaire Chess ipad 300x167 Need a Brain Snack? Try the Solitaire Chess App!

In March I spent an entire red eye flight home Palm Springs working my way through the 100 “mediums.”  I deplaned victorious (albeit EXTREMELY red-eyed!), and while I’ve not spent another multi-hour stretch of time playing, almost daily I find myself opening the app for a quick brain snack, completing a challenge or 2 at a time.  A quick puzzle is a great way to polish up by brain while standing in line, on the subway, or just giving my eyeballs a break from the computer.  I feel sharper, and the sweet victory music is a nice confidence boost icon smile Need a Brain Snack? Try the Solitaire Chess App!

Just last week, ThinkFun released Solitaire Chess for Android – I’m thrilled that having this game on both iOS and Droid opens up the play experience for loads more eager players!

Interestingly, in our outreach to the chess community, we’ve connected with the folks at the US Chess Federation who found the more advanced puzzles incredibly challenging!  Feeling that I could train myself to take on puzzles that top-level chess masters are struggling with is pretty empowering… although I may need another cross-county flight to bust through the Expert level!

Celebrating Math Day the ThinkFun Way!

This month, the mathematicians at McKinley Elementary School in Arlington, VA celebrated their love of math with their annual school-wide Math Day event!

DSC 0068 200x300 Celebrating Math Day the ThinkFun Way!

Check out the math-inspired fashion!

The math program at McKinley is supported by incredible teachers and an administration committed to making math fun and meaningful, and we are proud to be part of this local event by providing games for students K-5!

While last year’s event took place in the school’s cafeteria, with all grade levels joining together to play, this year’s Math Day took place in individual classrooms, meaning easier transitions, more focused game play, and less chaos all around.  Students were able to spend more time playing, and teachers were better able to provide support, answer questions, and join in on the fun of game play themselves, a win-win!  It was particularly gratifying to see these players having a blast with ThinkFun’s newest games, including Tilt, Solitaire Chess, and MathDice Jr!

Several members of ThinkFun’s incredible Product Development Team also joined in on the fun and spent the afternoon testing prototypes of brand new game ideas we are exploring for 2012!

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Prototype testing in action!

It is incredibly empowering for students to understand the critical role their feedback plays in the development of a game, and luckily these young game lovers were eager to tell us what they thought!  While some suggestions (i.e. a “blood, guts, and boogers” theme) may not make the final cut, the insight we learned from testing with these students was invaluable and much-appreciated!