October 6, 2009

Tangoes Tangrams

I was down at Eureka shopping for a new mechanical puzzle with my girlfriend when we noticed a set of tangrams that was branded Tangoes. I had been thinking about getting a set of tangrams, since they are such a classic, but had never gotten around to it. These came in a nice plastic carrying case, and it has not one but two sets of pieces! We thought that was pretty cool great, because it would be a puzzle that we could enjoy together. Also, it was only $15, so we decided to get the blue and red version.

In case you've been living under a puzzle rock, the tangram is a puzzle that consists of seven flat shapes. The objective is to use the pieces to match a shape that is given only by its silhouette. It was originally from China, though the exact origins are shrouded in mystery. Pretty exciting, eh? Here's a picture of the pieces and a link to a site that tells you how to make a set for yourself. For more info, check out Jerry Slocum's excellent book, The Tangram Book.

When we got home we unpackaged our Tangoes to give them a try. The case is quite nicely designed with bright colors and TANGOES written on the front in rubberized letters. We dumped out the pieces that were neatly packed in four layers on one end of the case. The other end of the case had the 27 cards with 54 problems on them, one on each side with the solution on the opposite side. If you slide the lid on from the other direction, you can use the case to dispense the cards and use the slot in the top of the lid to hold the card, which is pretty handy.

We played best of 10 and had a good time: despite the fact that I'd been puzzling over all sorts of mechanical puzzles for the past 6 months, she put up a solid fight, though in the end I was the victor by a narrow margin. She is much better at assembly puzzles than disassembly puzzles.

So overall, I would say that this set is great, particularly if you are interested in some head-to-head tangram action. There were only a few things that I thought could have been improved. First, I dislike double-sided cards, though I do appreciate that it saves space, it makes it difficult to work your way through all the challenges, since it is easy to put a card upside-down at the bottom of the stack or something.

Second, the card dispensing worked ok but not great. It was somewhat difficult to put the card back on the bottom of the pack when it was in the dispenser, though I guess you could just set it aside. Finally, the cards can slip between the compartment that has the tangrams and the compartment that has the cards when you tilt the case to withdraw the next card. Still, I would highly recommend this set since it is nice and compact and looks great.

In closing, here's a picture of Allan Boardman's take on the tangram: the seven tiny pieces fit into a cute little pearwood box (source). He is known for his impossibly small puzzle creations. Very cool!

Tomorrow, I'll write about a mechanical puzzle I got for my birthday that is not a UFO.

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