I’m a logic puzzle fan from way back. When other kids might have been reading comic books, I was working through issues of Games magazine or my logic puzzle books. When my own kids were little, I surrounded them with games like Rush Hour, Jr., TipOver, and Castle Logix, making sure they knew how to do logic puzzles, even if they weren’t as jazzed about them as I was. But my ears still perk up to this day when I see a new logic puzzle or game, no matter the target demographic.
I would never have thought to put domino lines and logic puzzles together, but the extremely talented folks at ThinkFun did just that in their new game, Domino Maze. Combining lines and curves of dominoes, blockers, stairs, direction changers, and quite a bit more, this set is set up like ThinkFun’s other logic games. There is a board to work on, a variety of pieces, and a stack of 60 challenge cards, ranging across four difficulty levels from beginner to expert with puzzles on the front, answers on the back.
In addition to getting kids (and adults) to practice their logic, procedural, and critical thinking skills, this game also requires spatial thinking in three dimensions to solve many of the challenges.
- 1 top grid
- 1 bottom grid (9.75″ square with effective rubber feet)
- 2 staircases
- 1 start domino
- 21 dominoes (these are not regular dominoes)
- 3 targets (I, II, and III)
- 2 pivots
- 1 blocker
- 2 walls
- 60 cards (15 each in beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert)
- Instructional booklet and reference card
The instructional booklet explains the rules, along with providing guidelines for how to approach the puzzles and how to use the pieces. The challenge cards have cryptic diagrams on them for how to set everything up, so I do recommend a good study of the instructional booklet ahead of time, and younger kids might need some parental help here. There is also a card in the challenge card deck that’s a guide to the symbols and can be kept close at hand. There is a lot more to the rules and guidelines in this game than in most other logic games I’ve played. Here are a couple of examples of special rules or situations: Pivots can only go 1/4 of the way around and are designed for that. The top level piece can be moved around on the challenge level but not rotated. Some of the rules make more sense once you’re attempting your first challenge.
To play, look at the challenge card and sort out what the symbols mean. Place the specified pieces on the grid (some of which you will need to later figure out how to orient). Put the additional pieces the challenge calls for to the side. Then, start arranging the loose pieces until you think you’ve built the proper system. Time for testing! Push on the start domino and see if the goal is reached (such as the targets flipping in the correct order and all the dominoes fall down). If so, you’re onto the next challenge! If not, reset the level.
The bottom grid allows for domino and other piece placement both orthogonality and diagonally, resulting in quite a lot of placement combinations. The dominoes themselves aren’t regular ones; they only fall in one direction, so pay attention to the arrow on their tops.
The challenges do start out pretty easy and serve to orient players on how the challenges are configured and how the pieces work together. Even for adults, I think it’s important to start out at the beginning, since later challenges get much more complicated and build on what you learned in earlier challenges. For instance, since you need to topple the targets in a certain order, sometimes you have to time your path splits just right to get the I target to fall before the II target. Considering that sometimes going up and down stairs is involved—where the speed of the domino falls change—these challenges can be harder than they sound; timing is everything.
All in all, I do really like this set and recommend it to anyone who enjoys logic puzzles, and dominoes in particular. The box is designed for everything to fit neatly. It’s fun to set up designs and topple them over. And the dominoes fall slowly enough that it’s not too hard to follow along, even with splits. But, unlike a lot of other logic games, this one takes a long time to set up, and it takes a while to reset if you get it wrong. Some of the pieces wedge securely into the grids, and pushing them in or taking them out can disrupt other pieces you’ve already set up; the targets and upper level and stairs are particularly fiddly. Also, dominoes on the stairs don’t balance very easily. So, some patience and a steady hand are required. It’s best to play with this game when you have some time to spend at it, as it takes a while to get pieces out and put them all back in the right places.
Domino Maze by ThinkFun retails for $29.99, probably because of all the specialized pieces it contains. (The box is bigger than most of my other logic game boxes.) Though the set is marked for ages 8+, it’s really fun for people of all ages, though adults may find the first several levels too easy. Still, you can think of them as tutorials.
Be ready, though: playing with Domino Maze is likely to inspire your kids to want to build actual domino runs and create new masterpieces as domino artists. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable domino sets designed for this kind of play.
Note: I received a sample for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links.