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Out of the Box Publishing Inc. Review by Heidi Shaw

PO Box 14317
Madison WI 53708

Out of the Box Publishing hit our house in a big way with the arrival of their popular "10 Days in" games. I have reviewed those elsewhere, and they are favorites in our family. I was a little hesitant to review more from the same company because I assumed they couldn't possibly keep producing winners. How wrong I was! This company is the BEST at producing fantastic family games that earn permanent places at the table! The beauty of their games becomes apparent as soon as you open the box. Just as the company name suggests, you can play right out of the box without waiting for someone to decipher the rules. The games are also, as far as I have seen, fast! You can play many of these games in 20 minutes. Let me share a few of them with you that (shh, don't tell the kids!) just happen to be educational as well as fun. I am certain you will find, as I do, that you look for OTB games every time you need a good gift.

First up, My Word--a fun, fast-paced card game that is perfect for home, travel, camping, anywhere and anytime you have ten minutes to kill. This game will draw a crowd. You can't possibly play it by yourself; everyone will want in! The most surprising thing about this game in my family was how much my nonacademic, outdoors-only son LOVES it. I mean, this child doesn't like language arts and can hardly sit still, certainly not for a game. But he loves this game. That is a huge endorsement.

So what is it? My Word has 60 cards, some with single letters on them and some with two. Players take turns being the dealer, who tosses the cards one at a time, as fast or as slow as he chooses, face up into the middle of the playing area. As the cards drop, players try to make words with what they see. Words must be three letters or more, and spelling counts! When a player identifies a word, he calls it out. If he is correct and the spelling is correct, he collects all the cards that spell the identified word. If he is incorrect, everyone else at the table gets to take a card from the middle area. The fun comes with the speed of the dealer and the few "wild cards" that are interspersed among the letter cards. Really easy to learn, lots of fun to play, and always a challenge--the game usually produces a new winner each round. Whoever has the most cards when the deck is dealt out wins that round. You can play any number of rounds or for a predetermined amount of time. The rules suggest ages 10/12 and up, and my 11-year-old son (who is not reading really well) is the one who loves this game so much. The kids especially love it when Mom and Dad goof up, and you will! Enjoy! It is good fun.

Tutankhamen is another good, fast OTB game that has become a favorite in our home. It is not as portable as the card games; you need a larger area to set it up. But the young ones seem to especially love it. My 7-year-old daughter asks for it often. As the name suggests, you are playing in ancient times, and Tutankhamen is the star. The game features a plastic pyramid that is a piggy bank of sorts, lots of coins, and a lot of small cards printed with different ancient artifacts. The artifact cards are sorted in groups according to color and scene. Each player rolls the dice and moves down a path he or she has created by laying out all the artifact cards randomly. The path of cards ends at the pyramid. As you complete matching sets, you pay tribute with the coins you are given at the start of the game. Whoever gets rid of all their tribute coins first is the winner.

Different sets are worth different coin amounts, and there are wild cards and choices to be made along the way. But be careful--there is no going back in this game, and an explorer may come along and collect the same set you are after. King Tut's card sits on the pyramid and is the ultimate goal. The directions could use a little tweaking, but after working through the game a few times, we caught on and enjoyed it very much. You get a new game every time you play since the cards never lay out the same way twice.

The last game I reviewed from OTB is the Junior (9+) version of their incredibly popular Apples to Apples. This version won the Toy of the Year award from Family Fun, and I am sure it will be the recipient of many more awards. Players take turns combining names of people, places, things, and events, making crazy comparisons and analogies that are logical sometimes only in their own minds! Laughter is a given in this game, most of it coming after the dealer has chosen his favorite combo for the round and the rest of the players try to justify just exactly what it was they were thinking of. Players take turns being the dealer and dealing 4 red apple cards to everyone. Then the green apple card is turned over and the players have to make some sort of connection with that card and one of the cards in their hand. This game reminds me a bit of Balderdash because of the bluffing and because the dealer makes the final decision as to who wins each round. The winner keeps the green apple card, and when someone wins four green cards, the game is over. The combinations are often hilarious. And there are LOTS of cards in the box, so the replay options (as with most OTB games) are almost endless. This one is another winner; and we can play it during school hours, which is a big plus for both mom and kids!

You just can't go wrong with games from Out of the Box. I have yet to find one that has disappointed me, and I am intrigued by many more in the enclosed brochure. Good thing I have lots of birthday and Christmas gifts to buy soon. I can't wait to try out some more!

Product review by Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December 2006