Saturday, August 27, 2016


Unplugged Dilintia -- Brain Fitness: Solitaire Chess

A few years back, Think Fun started making apps based on their tabletop puzzle games, and the first one I bought was Solitaire Chess.  It's a bit like peg solitaire with chess pieces; you control all of the pieces, every move must be a capture, and you win if you're left with one piece on the board.  It was this perfect little mobile time-filler, and I liked it so much that I thought it would be fun to have the physical version.  After all, I like chess sets, and there's something nice about moving physical pieces around.

Unfortunately, the physical version of this game was... inelegant.  The puzzle layouts are printed on board-sized mats.  You're meant to stack them together so that the puzzle you're working on is on the top, and then slide the entire deck into a plastic gameboard construct and lock them in place with a small plastic piece.  This gave you the rather nice effect that you were playing on a gameboard with the puzzle layout printed on it.  The problem was, the stack of cards fit into the gameboard too tightly, and the plastic locking piece was a bit of a hassle to remove and replace every time you wanted to access it, and it turned moving from one puzzle to the next into this tedious rigamarole.  Alternately, the gameboard was designed so that you could lay the puzzle layouts on top of the board and just play with them that way, but I didn't like that solution.  The board was designed with little divots that the pieces could fit into, and laying the card on top made them inaccessible; it didn't feel like it was the way the game was "meant" to be played.  And no matter what you do, there doesn't seem to be any place in the entire assembly to house the instruction booklet.

Yes, I know this is nit-picky, but I'm a nerd, dammit.  These things are important to me.

So Think Fun have been re-releasing some of their puzzles under the "Brain Fitness" label.  They're the same games, but re-branded to appeal to more of an adult market with a less toy-like aesthetic that wouldn't look out of place on an executive's desk or something.  Solitaire Chess seemed like a natural candidate for this treatment -- Chess has always carried an air of sophistication with it -- and so here we are.

The Brain Fitness edition of Solitaire Chess throws the gameboard out completely.  All of the puzzles are printed in a spiral-bound book, and you simply turn to the puzzle you want to play, set the pieces on top of it, and play right off the book.  The entire affair comes in a nice sturdy cardboard box with a plastic mold that holds all of the pieces very comfortably.  Also, this version has 80 puzzles compared to the original's 60, so that's a bonus.

It's a shame that the original version was so awkward to use.  I can't help thinking that the best design for this game would be to have a single, static gameboard with challenge cards to describe the different puzzle configurations, like the majority of Think Fun's puzzles have.  As it is, the Brain Fitness version is slightly disappointing for not having a proper gameboard to play on, but is otherwise the quicker and more elegant way to play the game.  I might end up making my own gameboard to go with it, and I like craft projects, so that's a plus.

So yes.  Get the Brain Fitness version.  It's good.


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