Publisher: BLAM!/ Hachette Board Games UK
Designer: Oliver Mahy
Artist: Guillaume Bernon
Release date: 2020
2-4 Players (solo is possible)
Age: 8+ (5+)
Favouritefoe #favouritefoefunlearning score: 9/10
Coming soon – #Favouritefoefunlearning Rapid Review Video!
*Fun * Pattern Recognition * Logic * Creative * Real Time * Family Game *
Do you remember grabbing your trusty pencil and completing connect-the-dots pictures when you were little? I certainly do.
And I remember getting very excited as the outline quickly came together. Sometimes the background illustrations would give an indication of the visual treat forming on the page. But, whilst ok on a car journey or at school, it wasn’t a pulse quickening competition. It definitely wasn’t something that would have kept my parents interested (beyond knowing they didn’t have to entertain me, that is!).
Well, have no fear #funlearningfriends because connect-the-dots of old has just massively levelled up! I know this because every member of my family is now asking for this, whether Mini-meeple is there or not! ?
Abracadabra; It’s Magic!
IMagician from Blam! and Hachette Board Games UK is unlike anything I have seen in this genre. Not just a beefed up version of an old pencil-and-paper favourite. Not at all. This game takes the core idea and completely re-invents it for a much more immersive and engaging experience!
Gone are the thin paper pages sprinkled with poorly photocopied numbers (or letters if we felt a little daring!). In their place now stands IMagician; a hyper-colour, glossy, dry wipe treat for both the eyes and the mind!
A Recipe for Success!
But is IMagician a drawing or is it actually a game? How can you begin to game-ify a straightforward exercise in sequencing? Well, designer Oliver Mahy has done just that. Thanks to him, and the super talented artist Guillarme Bernon, join-the-dots has suddenly become a fun, competitive, family activity.
Thankfully, learning and playing IMagician requires no magical powers (or artistic ability). With a specified sequence of ingredients printed on each large colourful spell card, everybody is simultaneously on the hunt on their own boards to link up the matching symbols.
And, as your marker weaves and works its way around, linking one to the next, a large, defined shape begins to appear. Abstract collections of lines and curves at first, but then your brain starts to make connections. Be the first person to recognise it (even if it is still just a partial doodle), you race to write the name of it on your board.
Having pipped other payers to the post, you then turn the 30 second timer. Now, everyone else is against the clock to find, figure out, and finish the same shape before the last grains fall through!
If your racey-Gracey guess was correct, you get two stars. Be a bit too much of a rushy-Gussy, however, and you get a star knocked off for guessing incorrectly! If your fellow magic spell casters got the correct answer just in time, they also get one star (with no penalty for a miss!). Whoever has the most stars after 8 rounds of flipping spell cards is the winner!
Straight out of the box, we think this game is out-of-the-connect-the-dots world. And about as far from boring old paper puzzles as you can get. For a start, you can’t immediately see the dots you need.
Like a maze within a game, hunting down those matching symbols feels like a fun challenge in and of itself. And knowing that each icon is unique doesn’t make it any easier; I stared at my board for ages scanning for a single red feather! With such a glossy, inviting rainbow of colours, my eyes wanted to look at everything all at once! No doubt a tactic envisioned by the designer, it definitely worked on me. I’m not ashamed to say that I mini-fist pumped when I found it nestled amongst other curiosities!
Furthermore, recognising the shape appearing from the midst of the icon sea, isn’t always a simple action – sometimes your board needs turning sideways or even upside down for it to make sense! A great additional way that this game goes beyond your expectations.
The artist has also been sneaky in the game’s appearance. Some of the symbols are very similar, but still remain unique. There are, for example, two pumpkins that appear identical on a quick scan. Look closer, however, and their expressions are very different! And this is important because, connect the wrong one, and your drawing will look like inky spaghetti!
Given how stunning the boards look, I am pleased to say that this game is not actually colour dependent. Because each symbol is different, players with colour vision deficiency can play without additional DIY aids. And indeed, the reverse sides of the boards are in fact shades of black, white, and grey.
As well as being a fun, fast treat for eyes and minds of any age, this game is a great choice for budding gamers.
Pattern matching is such a core skill, presenting itself dozens of times per day in the real world. Being able to hone this ability in such a fun context is wonderful. IMagician also has the feeling of being a subtle, hidden exercise in logic/programming. And whilst this sounds a little beyond what kids need at Mini-meeple’s age, children are growing up with devices and AI all around them. They learn how to work an app before they even know how to tie their own shoelaces.
Speaking of loops in laces, after a few games, you’ll start to realise that IMagician includes its own secret cipher. Open and closed loops mean different types of shapes, as do single symbols and shooting stars. And with a little practice, you may start thinking of possibilities before your pen has even touched the board in front of you.
On this point, you may worry that you could end up memorising all the shapes, limiting the game’s replayability. And whilst it is true that a particular card will always produce its prescribed shape on boards that never change, there are more than 225 spell cards included in the box. And with only 8 played per game, that is a LOT of IMagician to commit to memory in any one session.
Stars in 30 Seconds!
Symbol spotting, identifying shapes, writing, and keeping cool in a timed environment; there is a lot to like about IMagician.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. The timer adds a real time tension that somehow amps up the pressure and can cause brain-freeze, no matter how experienced or well versed in board gaming you are. At the moment, Mini-meeple isn’t much of a fan of the timer when it is turned on him, but he loves being the standard against which we all need to race to gain a star. For that reason, I might recommend playing without the added pressure of a timed session for the youngest players around the table. Having that flexibility to play with or without the pressure certainly makes IMagician wonderfully versatile.
Whilst I am obviously super enthusiastic about the learning application of IMagician, I am definitely not the only one. “A Game in My Classroom” is a brilliant initiative developed in France and Belgium by Jeumaide, a team of teachers and children psychologist, with the support of Act in Games and Blackrock who celebrate the concept of learning being easier and better when it is fun. Giving hints and suggestions as to how to use games to support learning and development, the tips have been specifically adapted to the UK curriculum by Imagination gaming to make IMagician directly relevant to our children’s education. With permission from Hachette Board Games UK, if you would like to know more about “A Game in my Classroom” and gain access to the free downloadable PDF for IMagician, please click here or download the PDF directly below
IMAGICIAN IN MY CLASSROOM
Imagician_DMC (1) (pdf)
I love playing IMagician for the simple fun that it is. Watching Mini-meeple study each little picture and link them up as he works his way around a spell card is also almost as distracting as the colour-tastic boards themselves. His glee when the main shape reveals itself is honestly infectious, and only makes us want to play together again and again. Having said that, however, he also happily plays IMagician by himself. No pace, no pressure. Just the joy of hunt-seek-reveal-achieve.
Happily, there is a tutorial to get everybody playing in seconds. Plus the challenges increase in difficulty as you move through packs 1, 2, and 3 of the 96 double sided spell cards. There is also the challenge of using the black and white board to slow very able players down a little. Given the speed at which Mini-meeple is developing, I am grateful that IMagician will continue to engage and challenge him as he grows in confidence and capabilities. For all of these reasons, IMagician definitely deserves its place in the #favouritefoefunlearning library!
[please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review but any opinions expressed are my own]