Gameological At Large

Chicago Toy Fair

“Kids Use Chips, Adults Use Sips”

At the Chicago Toy And Game Fair, creators pitch the cross-generational fun of their games. We pick our highlights and other lights from last month’s show.

By Samantha Nelson and Ryan Smith • December 5, 2012

Populated mostly by parents with young kids and a shocking number of scout troops (thanks to an admission discount), the two-day Chicago Toy And Game Fair is big on spectacle. Our journey through the show floor last month took us past giant Settlers Of Catan boards, costumed Moshi Monsters, and plenty of Star Wars stormtroopers wandering around before the fair’s annual character luncheon.

ChiTAG, as it’s known, has one central purpose: to show off things that you can buy for yourself, your kids, and any game players you’re in a gifting relationship with. (You can define “gifting relationship” however you like. We don’t judge.) While it does attract a few developers previewing products that aren’t coming out until next year, it’s mostly a flurry of purchasing opportunities for people who don’t want to shop at Toys ’R’ Us. With the holiday shopping season getting underway, we scouted ChiTAG for standouts that we might put on our shopping list—or might not.

Jenga Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong Jenga

Specialized board game producer USAopoly has acquired a Mario license, and they aren’t afraid to use it. Their booth was replete with jigsaw puzzles, memory games, chess sets, and checkers boards starring the heroic plumber. But Jenga Donkey Kong offers more than a familiar face. The special blocks are painted to look like the girders from the arcade classic, and the game comes with Mario character pieces that attach to the blocks, so four players can compete to get Mario to the top of the tower before it collapses.

Why you need it: It adds higher stakes to a game of Jenga. Now if the tower falls, you have to mourn the untimely death-by-plummeting of the princess and your hero.

Why you don’t: It’s still basically Jenga.


Players sit around a circle and take turns rolling dice three times. Each player also has their own plastic bead, which sits on the playfield and is attached to the end of a cord. If you roll 7, 11, or doubles, you slam a traffic cone (which Jerk calls a “mega-fun-phone”) into the center while the other players try to get their beaded cord out of the way. If you catch someone, they have to give you one of their chips. There were a few developers at ChiTAG who admitted that their “family games” could also serve as drinking games, but no one was as brazen about it as Talicor-Aristoplay’s product development director, Keith Gardner, who said “Kids use chips, adults use sips.”

Why you need it: It’s a game that can make your next family gathering a lot smoother, entertaining the kids by day and the grown-ups by night.

Why you don’t: Gardner admitted that you can easily make this game at home if you don’t want to pay the $25 price tag.

Word Winder
Word Winder

Take the word-finding elements of Boggle and the competitive cross-the-board layout strategy of Blokus, and you get the jist of the latest from David L. Hoyt, the creator of other vocabulary-heavy games like Jumble and Word Roundup. There are two variations of Word Winder to try—“Racewinder” and “Sidewinder”—but both involve building a connected string of words from one edge of the game board to another.

Why you need it: Smart players will form temporary alliances with opponents to block the smartass who’s about to win, which adds a cutthroat strategy missing in most word games.

Why you don’t: Unlike Boggle, the letter board is formed from pre-printed squares of letters, meaning that some of the letter formations will become familiar over time.

Speed Stacks
Speed Stacks

Apparently not content with letting drunk college students have all the fun with colored plastic cups, a growing number of preteens are latching on to the once-obscure game of sport stacking. Sport stacking is pretty much what it sounds like. It involves arranging a group of 12 empty cups into one of several set patterns as quickly as possible and then tearing it down into three nested stacks. At the show, an 8-year-old Junior Sport Stacking Olympian named Mackenzie used her blazing fast hands to demonstrate the so-called cycle—the-sports stacking equivalent of ice skating’s triple lutz—by forming three increasingly difficult stacks in less than 17 seconds.

Why you need it: By the look of the large crowd huddled around the Speed Stacks booth, all the kids are doing it these days.

Why you don’t: That soul-shattering moment you realize you’re stacking cups for fun.


Already a Facebook game with a modest following, Schmovie is the first board game from a creative husband-and-wife duo. Due out in 2013, the game asks players to take turns coming up with funny and punny fake titles for movies based on random combinations of genres and characters. Then you award trophies for the best entries. For the Sci-Fi + Show Dog category, examples included “Roverfield,” “A Scanner Barkly,” and our personal favorite, “Face/Arf.”

Why you need it: It will inevitably turn into a contest of who can come up with the most clever porn movie title.

Why you don’t: It will severely test your tolerance of puns as a primary source of humor.


As in Scrabble, players of KerFlip spend their time creating anagrams from a small collection of letter tiles. But instead of impatiently waiting your turn, KerFlip flows at a frantic pace because everyone plays simultaneously. You share letters, laying words on the board with everyone else, and race to shout out the best word first. The tiles used by the initial word caller are flipped from ivory-side up to orange and are then worth only half the value for the rest of the round. Some tiles, however, are premium tiles that award bonus cards for point boosts.

Why you need it: It’s like Scrabble on crack—or at least a word game enthusiast’s notion of what crack would be like.

Why you don’t: Fistfights are practically assured.

The Presidential Game
The Presidential Game

Creator Regina Glocker describes The Presidential Game as “Risk for the electoral college.” Players take turns fundraising and campaigning in the 50 states in the attempt to get votes for their candidates. Like Risk, the game requires a blend of good resource allocation and luck, especially when it comes to drawing “Politics Cards,” which give or take away votes in different areas—based on important issues, like your opposition to drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, or fluff, like being caught wearing a Red Sox hat.

Why you need it: The game comes with a password for a website where you can update the status of your match on a digital electoral map, making you feel like you work for CNN.

Why you don’t: You just spent a year watching two guys play this game for real.

Zeenie Dollz
Zeenie Dollz

Zeenia, the protector of life on earth, has united a group of five fashion- and environmentally-conscious girls to help her protect the arctic, the oceans, and various cute animals. Made of sustainable materials, the product line’s motto is “Saving the planet…that’s our style.”

Why you need it: It’s a better alternative to Bratz or Barbie dolls since it’ll teach kids about more than spending money and body-image issues. Plus, a portion of proceeds is donated to the World Wildlife Fund.

Why you don’t: At the rate at which old cartoons are making a comeback, you can probably just hold out for Captain Planet dolls.


Modeled after parts of a bulldozer, the goal of Toydozer is to make cleaning up your Legos or other toys with lots of parts easy and fun.

Why you need it: Stepping on little pieces of hard plastic really hurts.

Why you don’t: This is a glorified trashcan.

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718 Responses to ““Kids Use Chips, Adults Use Sips””

  1. Merve says:

    Schmovie and KerFlip both look like a lot of fun, and since I now know a group of people who want to do regular board game nights (yay!), either of them would be a welcome addition. Any word on when Schmovie is coming out?

  2. Drew Toal says:

    “They’re laughing with me, Michael!”

  3. caspiancomic says:

    Best Sci-Fi + Dog Show movie titles, go!!

    Best in Space
    Bark at the Moon
    Plan K9 From Outer Space
    Flash Gordog
    Cowboys & Aliens & Dogs

    • Sleverin says:

       Bone Jammin from the directors of the Big Lebarkski

    • Staggering Stew Bum says:

      Mastiff Effect

    • CNightwing says:

      Spayed Runner
      The Day The Earth Played Dead
      Jurassic Bark
      Bark to the Future
      Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Dalmation
      Mad Rex
      Mad Rex 2: Beyond The Underdog

      Apparently there is also a genuine 1975 movie called A Boy and His Dog..

      • Girard says:

        It’s an off-beat, actually pretty good weirdo post-apocalyptic satire movie, apart from the very jarring, misogynistic ending.

        • HobbesMkii says:

           It was originally a story by Harlan Ellison, so if you keep that in mind I imagine the ending isn’t quite as jarring.

        • Raging Bear says:

          @HobbesMkii:disqus SSSHH DON’T SAY HIS NAM–

          Too late. There are lawsuits pending against all of us now.

        • Girard says:

          Our only hope now is to go overboard and get him so worked up he has a hate-aneurysm.




        • PugsMalone says:

          I read that story in an anthology from the 80s, where Ellison said in his introduction that there would be an extended novel-length version coming out soon.

          I wasn’t exactly surprised when I looked it up, and found out that it had never come out.

        • I’ve only read Ellison’s original story, which does end in a rather shocking manner. I’m told that the Dog has a line (added for the movie) which turns the tragedy into a tasteless joke.

        • Girard says:

           @twitter-493417375:disqus : Apparently that last line wasn’t Ellison’s and he decried it as a “moronic, hateful chauvinist last line, which I despise.”

          But if the circumstances of the novella end the same way, even without the line, it’s hella problematic.

          That final line also commits the heinous crime of using puns, those most sublime kernels of language, for base misogyny. It’s a blasphemy against language.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Apparently he claims not to have intended either story or film to be misogynistic. I can understand that. I’ve written stories where people have read morals that I didn’t intend to include (and actively oppose). I think anyone who creates has a hard time imagining what other people will interpret their creation to mean.

      • George_Liquor says:

        Mutts In Black
        Dawn Of The Dachshund

    • Girard says:

      The Mutt-trix
      Dogzilla, King of the Mastiffs
      Night of the Lupus
      H.G. Wells’s  The Food of the Dogs

      Starpid Pet Treks (I’m so sorry about that one)

    • ToddG says:

      2010: The Year We Place Third

    • Raging Bear says:

      District Canine
      The Dog Knight Rises
      Pup (give that one a minute)

      Since I can’t think of any more sci-fi ones:

      The Fantastic Mr. Fox Terrier
      The Scent of a Bitch
      Blazing Poodles
      O Brother, Where Art Hound?
      A Bone in the Dark

    • Moonside_Malcontent says:

      Soylent Greenies
      The Twilight Bone
      Halo: Leash

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      The Dog Who Fell to Arf
      Hey, Hey, Want to Play Rollerball? Oh Boy Oh Boy!

    • HobbesMkii says:

      The Day the Ball Stood Still
      Fantastic Walk
      Morning Walk to the Center of the Earth
      20,000 Leashes Under the Sea
      Mutt Rogers
      Bride of Dachshundstein
      The Curse of Dachshundstein
      Island of Lost Tennis Balls

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Soylent Grrr
      A Dogwalker’s tale
      Oryx and the Tramp / The Lady and Crake
      Tick Impact
      The Day after tomorrow in dogyears
      The Biannual Bath
      Lost in Spayed
      Jimmy Neuteron
      2001 Dalmatians
      Beagle Eye


      Rubber Bones
      Chewing Amy
      The Cat in the Hat that I killed and buried under the shed
      The Boxer (hurr, hurr)
      Collie and Carla
      Chow, Chow, Bang, Bang
      The Spaniard’s Prisoner
      The Beagle has landed
      The Iron Beagle
      50 Shades of Greyhound
      Grosse Pointer Black
      Red Dane

    • Citric says:

      Independence Dog
      Bark Trek: The Undiscovered Shar Pei
      Logan’s Dog Run
      The Last Rottweiler


      The Good German Shepherd.
      There Will Be Bloodhound

    • SCHMOVIE says:

      You rock at Schmovie! Come play with us! Just “Like” the page to join in the fun:

  4. NephewOfAnarchy says:

    Hey, you can’t just show a photo of a black man dressed as a banana and then not follow up on it!

  5. Girard says:

    “Why you don’t: It will severely test your tolerance of puns as a primary source of humor.”

    TYPO! Obviously, this facet of the product should be categorized under “Why everybody needs it, NOW.”

    Also: Bratz dolls (and these Zeeniez things) have pretty much the exact physiognomy of grey aliens.

  6. Destroy Him My Robots says:

    Does Talicor-Aristoplay at least give credit to Schmidt Spiele? Spitz Pass Auf! is over 60 years old!

    • Girard says:

      I love that the Google translation of the game description includes the phrase “With so much stress boredom has no chance!”

  7. fieldafar says:

    Schmovie sounds like a real-life Twitter hashtag.

  8. Raging Bear says:

    The “Chi” in “ChiTAG” isn’t pronounced like the “chi” in “Chicago,” is it? Because then it would sound like a rather dirty playground game.

  9. The_Misanthrope says:

    Jerk sounds pretty awful, like a version of Slapjack put together using irregular game pieces instead of a deck of cards.  Then again, I have never liked the kind of games that require dexterity.

    On a somewhat related note, what is the point of this?:

    Are people so starved for that Zynga brand that they will buy what is essentially a Scrabble board to do so?

    • I think the problem is that Zynga is so desparate for cash that they’ll put their name on anything.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Sorta the Krusty the Clown of the social gaming universe.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        The best rated Amazon review is merciless:

        “So revolutionary, they have as much vision as Apple in their development of new products. And, while you might be saying to yourself that Scrabble had the tile on board features long before the Words With Friends board game, never before has it been packaged in such a sleek and stylish manner. I mean a curved tile holder, that just makes me want to throw my Scrabble set in the garbage just to experience the gentle curve on that on that puppy. Don’t even think about getting me started on the tiles with rounded corners.Needless to say this is the greatest achievement in the history of board games, and probably rates in the top 10 achievements in the history of the human race.”

        • Merve says:

          Another great Amazon review:

          “It’s a great game and would be even better with a few additions:

          1. Computerized scoring

          2. Maybe have a tablet or screen or something where you could have the letters appear, instead of the tiles

          3. Have a smartphone app you could use to find friends to play with”

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Can we also talk about Jerk’s use of Arabic numerals instead of regular old pips on their dice? Because that’s pretty stupid, if you ask me. 

  10. Ryan Smith says:

    Sidenote on the Speed Stacking booth: The promo video they played on a loop kept showing Glenn Beck trying his hand at stacking cups. My theory is  that he named his new website “The Blaze” in reference to his sport stacking skills.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Glenn Beck was a featured promotional celebrity?  How was he able to still his squat, outrage-palsied fingers long enough to get two cups on top of each other?

      • HobbesMkii says:

        “When Obama and his army of Commie-Hitler liberals get done with our freedoms, cups are the only toys that will be available to our kids. Better get good at it now! BUY MY SCAMMY GOLD!

  11. HobbesMkii says:

    I’m physically sickened by “The Presidential Game” as a friend and I had been working for the past couple of months on a very similar idea and have written up a pretty extensive design doc and were toying with the idea of taking it into a physical prototype stage. Now I have to e-mail him and tell him all our dreams are dead.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Seriously?  I’m sorry to hear that.  Any chance of salvaging the project by renaming it “The Prime Minister’s Game”?

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Probably not, as it was really targeted towards modeling America’s gorgeously stupid disenfranchisement machine (i.e. the Electoral College). Although it might still be worth pursuing, as the game we were designing was infinitely perpetual, allowing players to start a new game using the previous one as a scenario (cards modeled events that would happen during a president’s term, helping to alter the political landscape somewhat) and allowed to game to have an additional two players who got to play as third parties (which was a much more difficult challenge that really took advantage of the perpetual nature of the game).

        • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

           do it anyway.  If the first game sucks, yours can take the market by storm.  If the first game takes the market by storm, publishers will be eager for copycats!

          No, seriously.  A new politics-based board game comes out every couple of years.  Don’t give up on yours if its really got potential.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          Also chiming in to say go for it. There are so many ways you could take that kind of game. The fact that it’s described as Risk up there makes me instantly lose interest. 

          Look at something like Twilight Struggle (which I’ve still yet to play). I think that could have some neat ideas with how to do a political game. You could have different campaigns for actual elections throughout history! That’d get history buffs and teachers interested maybe. Not to mention the growing board game market. 

    • I can’t think of a more fitting metaphor for a presidential race then one person having to call another and say that all their dreams are dead.

      Retool it slightly.  Release it in Canada as “Prime Minister, Eh!”.  Reap in the profits.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I can see all sorts of international versions.
        “Chancellor, ja gut!”
        “Premier, crikey!”
        “Chairman, da!”
        The possibilities are endless.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Doesn’t Canada have like 1/10th the population of the United States? I think the imagery evoked by the word “reap” might be slightly off there.

        • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

           Yes but the money is worth less so they’ll be more of it!
          (edit: apparently that’s not true anymore.  Damn recession ruining my joke).

        • Yeah but that’s why they charge more for stuff. Look at the back of your nearest paperback; stuff in Canada costs more. Ipso Facto: This means you’d make more money. Totally.

          I should know, I read the comments to a youtube video about economics once.

  12. Southern_Discomfort says:

    I remember being told Cup Stacking was the new, cool thing something like ten years ago in high school health class. Glad to see they’re still trying.

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      I always suspected that those Speed Stacking groups were connected with those creepy overbearing anti-drug campaigns like D.A.R.E. I also always assumed that the end-game for groups like D.A.R.E. was some sort of Neo-Baal death cult.

  13. Effigy_Power says:

    I had the chance and joy to go to the Essen Spiel in …hmm… I think it was 2004. It was so big, so all-encompassing and so amazing, especially with Germany being pretty much THE country for boardgames according to the rankings on Boardgamegeeks, that I can hardly imagine having much fun at another game and toy convention.
    The amount of shitty mail and foam swords in Essen was enough to satisfy this impressionable country girl for all eternity.