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Magician's Kitchen

Unexpected fun for kids in magnet-based fantasy game

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Magician's Kitchen

A photograph of my son playing the Magician's Kitchen board game.

Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Game Overview

In Magician's Kitchen, players are magician's apprentices who are helping out in the kitchen. Unfortunately, the apprentices are fairly clumsy and keep dropping the ingredients.

Goal:

The goal of the game is to use your wooden magic wants to move your apprentice around the game board, taking different-colored ingredients and putting them into the appropriately-colored cauldron. Once you have put all four ingredients in their appropriate cauldrons, you then attempt to use the fireball to start the fire in the middle of the board.

Gameplay:

The way you put the ingredients into their cauldron is by placing the colored wooden marbles on top of the apprentice token and then shoving it around the board with your magic wand. The trick to the game (and the reason it's showing up on a physics website) is that each pawn has a curved bottom and a magnet built into the base. There are a total of 12 magnets also built into the bottom of the board. So when the apprentice pawn gets over one of the magnets, it tilts forward and drops the colored ingredient forward.

If this happens when you're right in front of a cauldron, then that's exactly what you want to have happen, of course. However, as part of the set-up of the game, you shake the board, and this allows 4 additional magnets to re-orient within the hidden base (see image below), so there are four tripping stones that you don't know where they are at the start of the game.

There is a game mechanic in place to keep things fairly balanced, too. If one player gets all 4 ingredients into their cauldrons, and is thus able to move on to trying to light the fire, the other apprentices begin carrying two ingredients at a time in an effort to catch up. This helps move things along if one person gets ahead.

The endgame is to try to get the orange and white marble (the fireball) thrown into the fireplace on the center of the board, in such a way that it falls into the center and starts the fire. This spot in the center is actually pretty small, so this can take several rounds of effort.

Game Specifications

Bottom of Magician's Kitchen board game, with magnets revealed.

Andrew Zimmerman Jones
  • 2 to 4 players
  • Ages 5 and up
  • Approx. 20 minute playing time

Game Components:

  • Board (built into base of box)
  • 4 assistant pawns
  • 4 magic wands
  • Fireplace (plastic part snaps into board and then stays there, but two cardboard arches are removable)
  • 1 fireball (marble)
  • 16 wooden marbles (ingredients - 4 each blue, red, yellow, and green)
  • 12 magnetized ball bearing magnets (built into board, hidden from view)

Scientific Value

Specific understanding of magnets isn't part of the game play, but it does provide a nice opportunity to discuss magnets with children, explaining how they can influence the behavior of other physical objects.

Teachable Moments:

There's some benefit to talking to them about how to apply the concepts of the scientific method to investigate an unknown phenomenon with reasoning and observation. The first time I played this game with my seven-year-old son, I didn't tell him that magnets were involved. He was moving pieces around the board, not really sure what to expect, until suddenly the piece up-ended on him and dropped its ingredient. At that point, we investigated and he realized there was a piece of metal in the bottom of the pawn. He quickly guessed that it was a magnet and that there must be magnets built into the base of the board as well.

However, I also played this with my younger son, who is only 2. Though he obviously had trouble with the actual rules of the game, he giggled insanely as the pawns kept dropping their ingredients. Even without any conceptual understanding of what a magnet was, he was able to figure out where the tripping points were ... although I don't think he got the idea that he was supposed to avoid them, since he liked watching them drop ingredients so much.

Also, the attempt to get the fireball marble to go into the sweet spot of the fireplace involves some intuitive understanding of momentum and inertia (or, if you're really ambitious, you could actually go full force into Newton's First Law of Motion). If you move the pawn forward too slowly, then when it hits the magnet, the ball is not moving fast enough. If you are moving the pawn forward too quickly, then you overshoot the target spot. This could be another good point of discussion with children.

Overall Impressions

This is a fun game for young children, but I think it will quickly lose interest with older children. My 7-year-old son and his 8-year-old neighbor seemed to still really enjoy it, however, and my 2-year-old was absolutely giddy about it (even though he didn't really get the rules, obviously). I don't know that the game has a tremendous amount of staying power, though, over the long haul. Still, given that it can be played in about a 20-minute sitting, it's a good game to have on hand to play with young children. I'm certainly glad to have a copy.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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