“ Manufacturer: Tesco / Type: Board Game „
Sarah Millican steals all my jokes. I've never met her so she must somehow be doing it psychically, but still, I think she owes me a few quid. In this instance, the thing that tickles both of us is how supermarkets and bargain stores re-brand well known games in order to avoid copyright. For instance, 'Guess Who?' becomes the slightly Spanish Inquisitorial-sounding 'Who Is It?'. 'Connect 4' transmogrifies to '4 In A Line'. The best one, though, as revealed by Ms Millican, is the bargain basement version of 'Cluedo' which morphs, amusingly, into 'Who Did It and In What Room?'. On a par with those is Spears' 'Stack 'Em' which is (to everyone except Jenga's lawyers) Jenga.
===How to play===
It's hard to believe that there's anyone who hasn't played Jenga, but, as with all the best games and puzzles, the basic idea is ridiculously simple. Wooden oblongs are stacked in alternately facing groups of 3 to make a tower. The aim of the game is to remove a block on your turn and place it on the top. Sound simple? Well, it is at the start but it gets progressively more and more difficult with each round as the tower becomes more unstable. The loser is the person who causes the whole lot to hit the deck with a clatter.
This is a game that's billed as being suitable for ages 6 and up and I'd say that's about right. Any younger than this and most children won't have the manual dexterity to keep the game going for more than a couple of rounds which will quickly frustrate them.
This is a great game for developing fine motor control skills, particularly the pincer grip, as the children must carefully manoeuvre blocks out and then place them gently back on top. Whilst a certain amount of deftness is required it is possible to slightly adapt the game to make it easier or harder; if children are struggling to put blocks back on top you can do it for them, or you can play a version which involves throwing a 1-3 dice and children must take the number of blocks the dice shows. If you want to make it even trickier, you can ask times tables facts (or any quiz topic) and the children take one block if they get a right answer and two if they get a wrong answer. The games I offer the children as a reward are (the cheapo versions of) Connect 4, Hungry Hippos, Ker-Plunk, Wobbly Chef, Wobbly Monkeys, Operation and Stack 'Em. Stack 'Em is the favourite by far. There is something about building towers up and then destroying them that appeals almost universally.
===Quality and durability===
Although made by Spears, this set seems to only be on sale in Tesco where I bought mine for £4.99. It is essentially the same as Jenga: the wooden blocks are roughly the same dimensions, but they're not quite as nicely made; edges aren't rounded and the blocks are unvarnished pine. Still, it doesn't affect gameplay in any way and young children won't give two hoots whether it's branded or not. At around a fiver cheaper it's certainly a cracking bargain. Mine is played with at least 5 or 6 times a day and the blocks look as good as new. The box is starting to get a bit tattered after being taken in and out of my work bag so many times, but I tape it up every so often and it's grand.
This is a game that I love playing almost as much as the kids and I'm struggling to think of any negative aspects. Every home should have one.
I'm sure most of you at some point in your lives have played the fabulously simple game that is Jenga. My brother and I used to love playing it when we were children, and when we recently went to stay with them, my brother dug it out of the cupboard and played it with Harry, but as usual they got too competitive! Even so, Harry loved the game and asked me to buy it so he could play at home with me as well, so I did a bit of research, and in the end decided to buy the cheaper Tesco version of the game, which saved me a fiver on the cost of buying the official 'Jenga' version of what is exactly the same thing without the branding!
The game of Stack Em Up is simple. You simply stack the wooden bricks (I haven't counted how many but there at least 15 rows of 3 blocks) with 3 going in one direction side by side, and then place another 3 on top but pointing in the opposite direction. Carry alternating them until you've used all the blocks and have a completed tower. Stack Em Up comes with a cardboard sleeve against which you can assemble the bricks and makes the sides straight and consequently it's sturdier, and is helpful for little ones who like to assemble it too. Once it's finished, you have a tower of wooden blocks ready to play! We always play youngest to eldest as there's no arguments then, and thanks to the idea of the game, you can have an unlimited amount of players too, but obviously a smaller number works better because you get more turns each.
The youngest player removes any block they like from the tower. It's always a safe bet to take the middle ones as you don't stand a big chance of knocking the tower over! You can only use one hand (although if it's a tricky one, we let Harry use two and the adults stick with one) and once you've started pulling a block out, you have to carry on, you can't leave it if you don't like the way it moves! Some will come out far easier than others, but the fun comes when the tower on top starts shifting with the block you're trying to remove! You carry on taking it in turns until someone knocks the tower over, and the person/s left in the game are the winners! Depending on how good you are, the tower can be left with just criss-crossed middle bricks holding the whole thing together with just the top layers moveable, that's always fun!
This is a fab game for young players because it encourages their motor skills in being able to gently pull a block out without knocking the tower, and teaches them patience and turn-taking too. Harry got a little worried at first when he made it wobble, but soon realised it was part of the fun, and was laughing and giggling along with everyone when it wobbled! While this isn't the official Jenga version, I have no problem with it whatsoever. The bricks are a great quality wood, smoothly sanded so it won't hurt little fingers, and the cardboard sleeve to aid stacking is a great addition, especially for getting it ready to pack away. I really can't see the point of spending over double this price for the original version when I can't see that it has any benefits at all!
This is a fantastically cheap version of a classic children's game, and I'm sure it is one Harry and I will be playing for years to come. It's a quick game to play, takes just a minute to set up, and therefore there's nothing to put the kids off wanting to grab this for a game every now and then. It can be a bit repetitive if you play it too much, but that's like any game really. However, Harry and I love it, and for under £4, you really cannot go wrong. Hours of fun at a bargain price - what more could you ask for?!
Available online and from Tesco stores, and we paid £3.97 for our game.
Thank you for reading.