Reviewed by Louise Totton
I love to buy board games as Christmas gifts for kids and families alike. There is something really special about sitting down with your nearest and dearest, especially as the winter nights are starting to draw in, and focussing on good, old fashioned fun! I particularly like to buy them because I think they’re great for encouraging kids away from screens and tablets – after all, if you will sit for an hour playing Xbox with your sister, why not spend that hour playing Monopoly or Snakes & Ladders instead? Well, that’s all well and good when you have a sibling, friend or family member to play with, but what about those occasions when you don’t?
SmartGames make a massive range of educational and logical thinking games aimed at both big and small kids, all with one thing in common: they are single player games. Not games where if you think about it, you can just about make it work if you’re flying solo, genuine one-player games that are designed to engage and challenge a single player. We have been lucky enough to own a number of SmartGames games in our house, and we have recently been sent another one to try out.
Smart Farmer is a one-player logical thinking game aimed at kids aged 5+. Like all of the other SmartGames, it uses a child-friendly theme to add context to a pretty simple logic puzzle concept, making it fun, accessible and tactile enough for even the youngest children to enjoy. As you might have guessed from the name of this one, it is farm themed! The playing board is a farmer’s field, and the playing pieces are a number of animals, troughs and fences. The concept is simple – you have to arrange the fences around the animals so that different species are kept apart, but without moving any of the animals. Contained in the box is:
- Plastic farmer’s field playing board, with moulded spaces for animals, troughs and fences
- 2 horses
- 2 pigs
- 2 sheep
- 2 cows
- 3 troughs
- 3 differently sized and shaped fence pieces
- 1 instruction book
- 1 challenge & solution book featuring 60 challenges
As with all of the SmartGames that we have tried out, play in centred around the challenge book. This is split into four difficulty levels: starter, junior, expert and master. I would always suggest starting with the starter level as, even if it’s far too easy, it does a great job of demonstrating the concept of the game. To start, you select your challenge from the book and set the animal pieces as per the diagram. All of the animals fit into the diamond shape holes on the board, so it’s just a case of getting them in the right place on the board.
The idea of the game is to use one, two or all three of the fence pieces to separate the animals so that they are segregated according to type. So, for example, all of the horses have to be separated from the pigs, and the sheep have to be separate again. The fence pieces fit into the cross shapes holes in the board, so can only be situated according to the grid system. It sounds quite easy, but as you move on through the challenge levels, it really isn’t!
As you move up to the Master level, an extra level of difficulty is introduced in the form of the troughs. These sit in the same diamond holes as the animals, and also have to be segregated so that each type of animal also has a water trough in their section, but as the troughs are all identical, you don’t know which trough belongs with which animal!
This is a lovely game, and using the farm theme really helps the kids to identify and engage with the logical thinking aspect of the game. Context makes a massive difference to how much kids will want to play games like this, and this one appealed to both my 7-year-old and 10-year-old. The pieces are top quality, very sturdy and very pleasant to gold in your hand. The animals have a rubberised finish which helps small hands to grip and handle them.
The game appears very simple on the surface, but the critical and logical thinking that solving the challenges requires means that the kids have to really concentrate, and they feel very proud and accomplished when they solve one of the puzzles. We have very much enjoyed playing this game with both of the kids and it is one that I think makes a great choice as a Christmas gift for a child who doesn’t necessarily have a similar aged sibling who they can play a board game with. having said that, it’s such fun that I would imagine most kids aged 5-10 would have great fun with it and would thoroughly enjoy it!
For more information or to buy visit www.smartgames.eu.