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 ofcourse 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. 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.
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.
“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
example of a difficult challenge (left) and solution (right) of Bill & Betty Bricks
example of an easy challenge (left) and solution (right) of Bill & Betty Bricks
GAME RULES BILL AND BETTY BRICKS
1) Pick a challenge. Place the blocks and figure(s) as indicated. Set aside the blocks and/or figures you don’t need for the challenge, otherwise they can be confusing (especially for young children). You will only need both figures in the WIZARD level.
2) Place the blocks on top of the base-blocks in order to create a rectangular shaped building:
• The building must have a flat top surface and straight sides. No ‘holes’ should be showing.
• The exact measurements of the building are already indicated by a white dotted line. The building blocks that are pictured as the ‘base’ should not be moved.
• The figurines can be moved as much as wanted, as long as they don’t move up or down more than one floor at a time.
• The figurines cannot fly. It is not permitted to pick up a figurine, move a block, and then put the figurine back. The figurines must stay on the building at all times.
• At the WIZARD-level, each figurine must occupy one space. They can never stand on the same position.
3) You have found the correct solution when the building is complete with the figurine(s) on top. There is always just one solution.
In the booklet you can find the different steps needed to solve the challenges of the STARTER- and JUNIOR-level. The solutions of these levels can be found at the back of the page. For the challenges of the other levels, the solution only shows the end-position in the back of the booklet.
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