invasion of the cow snatchers

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers Review

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Publisher: Thinkfun
Age: 6+
Players: 1
Game Length: Varies
MSRP: $29.99

Thinkfun’s new magnetic cow-grabbing puzzle game Invasion of the Cow Snatchers adapts a common puzzle design into a modular, interactive 3D board, thanks to a little magnet-magic. A deck of 60 puzzle challenges with five difficulty levels ensures a hefty amount of replayability. The components and gameplay are simple enough for kids to enjoy, and engaging enough for teens and adults.

Beam Me Up

As a visiting UFO armed with a magnet, the player’s job is to abduct magnetized cow discs from a 3D farm field littered with obstacles, such as silos, hay bales, and barn doors. The puzzle is set up according to the challenge card, then a clear plastic cover placed on top, allowing the UFO to fly over and capture the cows one by one.

Four different colored fence pieces come in specific sizes, allowing only a certain number of cows to pass over once abducted. Once magnetized, the cows stick to the underside of the UFO, making it increasingly difficult to maneuver around the board. Puzzles are set up to allow only one or two possible solutions. The backside of the card reveals the exact movement and order of abductions that players need to make in order to catch ’em all and complete the puzzle.

It’s a simple puzzle system brought to life with the tactile quality of the plastic pieces and board. My seven year old was delighted to pick up cows, and equally flummoxed when she realized she was trapped behind fences that were suddenly too high. Thankfully puzzles are easy to reset. With a few minor hints and tips (“You don’t have to pick up this cow first; how can you reach that one over there?”) she was able to blaze through all 10 easy challenges and begin making her way through the medium level.

As a single-player series of puzzles, Invasion of the Cow Snatchers isn’t a typical competitive game, yet I witnessed a group of kids excitedly deduce how to approach each puzzle, and set up the next layout for one another.

The deck of challenge cards includes 60 total puzzle layouts, including Easy, Medium, Hard, Super Hard, and Genius. Genius actually features a few extra rules involving dropping off cows at certain drop-off points, creating some advanced brain teasers that teens and adults can enjoy.

The only snag we ran into was in one of the fence heights. The green barrier (crop field) is supposed to allow for one, and only one cow disc to pass overhead. Unfortunately we constantly struggled to get one cow across. Not sure if it was a defect with my particular copy or if the size of the fence is slightly off but it was enough to cause some frustration when playing, even with adults.

invasion of the cow snatchers

The Rating

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers has a suggested minimum age of six. Younger kids would be prone to quick frustration and may lack the dexterity of operating the UFO. Puzzles come in five different difficulties, allowing for multiple age ranges and skill levels.

The Takeaway

Using only a handful of plastic pieces, a modular 3D board, and a deck of cards, Invasion of the Cow Snatchers provides an impressive array of puzzle designs. The pick up and deliver gameplay is simple but effective and multiple difficulty levels allow for proper scaling as kids master each puzzle layout. A lovely puzzle game for kids and families.

shadows in the forest

Shadows in the Forest Review

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Ever play a board game in the dark? The 1980s kids game from Germany called Waldschattenspiel was designed for night-time playing. It featured an open-flame candle moving around a 3-dimensional board, while other players tried to hide in the shadows. Thinkfun’s recent remake, Shadows in the Forest, officially brings the game to the US with a richer theme and a more kid-friendly LED lantern.

Shadows in the Forest is an unusual and unique board game where players must tactically remain in darkness, while giggling at avoiding the dreaded light.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Shadows in the Forest can technically support any number of players, with one player playing as the lantern-controlling Seeker, and everyone else playing as the Shadowlings on a team. Every round the Seeker rolls a dice and move the lantern that number of spaces through different routes on the board.

The Shadowlings aren’t beholden to any such movement restrictions – but they have to remain in the shadows. A number of cardboard trees and rocks have to be assembled each time you open the box. They provide proper hiding places for the Shadowlings. If all the Shadowlings can reach one Hiding Place together, those players win.

shadows in the forest

At the same time, the Seeker player is trying to bathe each one in light. Hitting a Shadowling freezes it, and the Shadowling loses its little plastic mask, unable to move until another Shadowling can safely reach it. The Seekers job is to collect all the masks and freeze all the Shadowlings.

It’s basically an elaborate game of freeze tag. Despite the simplicity it’s a lot of fun, causing a raucous amount of laughing and giggling, even with adults.

Playing with lights and shadows is a novel concept, and easy enough that anyone can jump in and play within seconds.

Blinded by the Light

The original Waldschattenspiel featured dwarves. Shadows in the Forest re-themes the figures, replacing them with cute shadowy blobs called Shadowlings. With their masks on they look like something from a Miyazaki film. They’re all plastic, including the removable white masks, but high quality.

As a nice touch the dice is glow in the dark and rechargeable if you stick it next to a light source. The LED lantern does the job perfectly without worrying about your kids literally playing with fire.

The game comes with six Shadowlings, and it’s up to the players how many they want to play with. It’s a nice way to create a range of difficulty challenges, with three being the easiest and six being very difficult.

Darkness isn’t just a feature, it’s pretty much a requirement, and the darker the better. Playing in an dimly lit area or not-yet dark time of day is less than ideal, resulting in arguments over whether nor not a Shadowling passed through the light. The board isn’t large but it can be tricky to see exactly where the light ends and the shadows begin at the edge of the lantern’s light.

shadows in the forest

The Rating

The box recommends Ages 8+ though younger kids can quickly grasp the simple rules and join in, particularly as the Seeker.

The Takeaway

By using light and shadows as a fun form of freeze tag, Shadows in the Forest is both simplistic and clever. As a rules-lite game with no firm timer it feels casual and light-hearted, though this can cause problems among kids as Shadowling movement mostly requires the honor system to stay in shadow. The game is uniquely limited by its surroundings; perfect for sleep-overs and basements, and provides a fun experience that’s guaranteed to be different than any family game you’ve played before.

Shadows in the Forest is available at Amazon now, and in Target stores in August.