Saturday, December 21, 2013

Puzzles as board games - a guest post from Matthew Yeoman

Hello to Jani’s readers. My name is Matthew and I’m the writer and researcher for We’re a puzzle company with a board game twist to our puzzles. I know you’re much more use to coming on here and reading about board games and card games that are great for one person, but I’m here to talk about what was likely the first board game you ever played - a puzzle!

Puzzles are board games for one as well!

The acceptance of puzzles as board games is one which hasn’t taken a hold. But, when you think about it, a puzzle is a game you play against yourself. The game of it all is to complete the ‘broken’ puzzle and make it whole again. Like 52 card pickup, but without an angry friend. Come to think of it, it is also likely the all time worst single player card game...

For more advanced puzzle users there are even puzzle competitions where they attempt to see who will complete their puzzle the quickest. You can even include others in your ‘game’ of puzzling as many people can work together to solve the puzzle.

How we learn from puzzles to build our game skills

From when you were very young, you began to build your skills in gaming by completing puzzles. This
usually happens with your first puzzle that is a collection of simple shapes that fit into an exact cut out of the shape. These puzzles are forming the basis of your most used skills:

  • Physical skills - from holding the puzzle pieces themselves and turning them around until they fit, helping you learn spatial relations
  • Cognitive skills - your young mind is working away to figure out how things fit, these are the beginnings of your problem solving skills
  • Emotional skills - you are learning the value of patience and the reward of sticking to your goal

Without these skills you’d have a hell of a time ever playing a game, plus they have the benefit of not having rules to learn and follow. Try teaching Monopoly to a 2 year old!

Puzzles are a lot more than jigsaw puzzles

The puzzling community is a lot larger than jigsaw puzzles alone. The nerdiest of us are also into things like burr puzzles, stacking puzzles and packing puzzles, which is what we sell at Puzumi.

These types of puzzles are more closely related to board games for one person to play than any other type of puzzle. They usually feature multiple challenges and different outcomes each time you play - two key features of board games as most people know them. They fall under the same general category as the highly regarded Rubik’s Cube which is a type of 3D puzzle.

Some puzzles even feature the chance for you to play strategy games with them against a friend or 3. The puzzles which we sell at Puzumi have just such a feature. Most of the games are in a ‘Connect 4’ type of style, but numerous playing styles keep it interesting.

Jani has dozens and dozens of excellent suggestions on here for those who are looking for a solo gaming adventure. The next time you’re looking around and trying to figure out what it is you’d like to play the next time you have free time to yourself, try out a puzzle - the first board game you ever played!

I’d like to turn it over to Jani at this point so that we can see what he has to say about his first puzzles and anything else he’d like to say about puzzles as board games.

I like puzzles very much, and I think I have liked them since before I can remember.

Nerdy as it may sound, I have played with the Rubik's Cube ever since my very early childhood. Of course, back then it was only playing (and yes, I had more traditional kids' toys as well), but still I seemed to enjoy it even if I didn't quite understand the whole concept of it.
So maybe the fact that I had access to toys like that really did play a part in who I am now. By no means am I saying that everyone should give their children puzzles as toys, but I am happy that I grew up with them.
I like to think that puzzles and board games have helped me with my skills of logical thinking and concentration, and these skills have served me well in my life.

Most board games are also puzzles. They just tend to be so much more thematic, and sometimes the puzzle is masked somewhere beneath the beautiful artwork and sophisticated mechanics.
If we think about my favorite board game - Mage Knight – I think it is fairly obvious that it really is ”just” a one big puzzle. Every action I take in Mage Knight is an action that I hope will somehow help me to reach my ultimate goal (taking over the two cities). If I were to forget my logic and just start playing out my cards randomly, I would never ever complete the game...
And the same goes with many other great board games.

My blog is all about actual board games and thematic card games, and that's because I enjoy the stories that a good imagination can conjure up from them. I couldn't write much about solving the Rubik's Cube...
But I do appreciate the challenge of a good puzzle, and that's why I want to give Matthew this opportunity to tell you about his products, as well as his viewpoint about puzzles.

- Jani

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