BILL & BETTY BRICKS - Smart Games for kids

 

THE STORY BEHIND THE CREATION OF BILL & BETTY BRICKS


Bill & Betty Bricks is one of the 6 new SmartGames I invented for 2012. And it's the one I like best. First of all because I always like to design games for young children and secondly because it has a lot in common with Camelot JR, which is my all time favorite SmartGame.


Both games have a wooden base and colorful blocks. They both also include 2 playing figures. Because of this, for children every challenge becomes a little story. But although the object in both games is to construct a building, this is where the similarities end.


OBJECT OF THE GAME

In Bill and Betty Bricks you start with a few blocks on the base and a playing figure (either Bill or Betty) on top of one of these blocks. The challenge gives you a few blocks that you need to use in order to construct a building with straight sides, a flat rooftop and no empty spaces. A white line on the challenge indicates the final shape of the building to help you. The building process feels a lot like a simple Tetris game, except that there is no time pressure and just one correct solution.


BILL AND BETTY CAN’T FLY

But the biggest difference is the fact that your figure needs to stay somewhere on the building the whole time, to supervise the construction work. I always need to tell children that people can’t fly, because that’s the only thing children sometimes do wrong. They lift up the figure to place a block and put the figure back afterwards. But that’s of course not allowed.


You can move it as much as you want (left, right, up or down), but it can't climb up or down more than one floor in one step. So it can’t skip any floors when moving. At the end when your building is ready, the figure will stand on the roof top.


top left: example of a simple challenge of Bill & Betty Bricks with 2 blocks and one figure

top right: different steps needed to solve this simple challenge


In reality the figure is not really helping you with the construction of the building, because it always occupies one space where you can't place any blocks. And you need to make sure that you don't  trap the figure into places where it can't get out. It's this combination of building blocks and moving the figure to the right location as you progress that makes this game fun and original. In a way, it has some similarities with one of the other new SmartGames: Temple Trap.


CREATING THE CHALLENGES

The game has 60 challenges and 5 levels. The reason to add the fifth level is because we wanted to have very simple challenges for young kids (starting at age 4-5). But at the same time we wanted to keep the hard ones.


When I was testing the challenges with kids I was surprised to find out that they already had problems with solving them when they needed to place more than 2 blocks! The reason for this is simple. Most blocks (except the symmetrical) can be orientated in 8 different ways and often blocks fit on more than one place on the building. This makes challenges with more blocks automatically more difficult. But more blocks also means that you need more steps to finalize the building. And often you don't know if you place a block correctly until you have progressed further in the construction. That is why challenges with 3 or 4 blocks are much more difficult than challenges with only 2 blocks. Older children and adults can already see that a specific placement will lead to a dead end later, without actually placing the block. But young children solve the challenges step by step and need to try all possibilities. That’s why I added an extra level with simpler challenges (with only 2 or 3 blocks) to the original set of challenges after test playing.



top left: example of a difficult challenge of Bill & Betty Bricks with 5 blocks and 2 figures

top right: different steps needed to solve this challenge


A PUZZLE GAME FOR YOUNG AND OLD

The box says age 5 to 99, because the MASTER and WIZARD level are really suitable for adults too. There is not a big difference in difficulty between both levels (they are both very hard for children), but the WIZARD level has something special: in this level both figures are placed on the building. This adds another kind of complexity to these challenges, because now you need to move 2 figures and both occupy one place.


REVIEWS AND LINKS

  1. Bill & Betty Bricks on the official website of SmartGames

  2. igrudom.ru: Стройка Оли и Коли

  3. http://scheherazade.znadplanszy.pl/2013/10/22/wiezowce-w-budowie/


“It's hard to imagine that something as seemingly simple as wooden blocks could be this much fun, but they are. They're fun, clever, gratifying, and honestly, they're a little addictive - as soon as you complete one challenge, you want to do another. Kids love'em, and more than a few adults had a hard time putting them down, too. “                

                                                                         Tillywig Toy Awards Jury, spring 2012


AWARDS

  1. Seal of approval Winner Spring 2012: National Parenting Center (USA)

  2. Top Fun Award Winner Spring 2012: Tillywig Toy Awards (USA)

  3. Gold Award: Oppenheim Toy Portfolio 2012 (USA)

  4. Guldbrikken: nominated “Toy of the Year 2012-2013” (Denmark)

  5. Creative Child Magazine USA: 2012 GAME OF THE YEAR AWARD (Construction Games category)

  6. Toy of the Year 2012 (Belgium)

  7. Parents’Choice Award Fall 2012 Toys: Silver Honor (USA)

 


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Raf Peeters, January 2012

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