Get this great product here: Strato Spheres Game by Thinkfun
My family loves playing unique strategy-based games, so I was really excited to try out Think Fun’s new Strato Spheres. My almost 8 and 5.5 year olds love playing Connect Four, and this is a great extension of the Connect Four concept to three dimensions. I really like how compact the game is – Think Fun includes a sturdy drawstring bag that is just the right size to keep all the pieces. This makes it really easy to take Stratospheres wherever I want to – in fact it’s a great game for passing time on long car rides or while waiting at a restaurant or doctor’s office.
I like how easy the game is for a new player to understand and get started with. Literally within 1-2 minutes of me showing the pieces to my 8 year old, we were able to start playing a game together. All we have to do is divide up the blue and yellow pieces between the two players, then once we decide who goes first, that player puts one of their spheres onto the white starting piece and hands the combined pieces to the other player. We then take turns adding a sphere to the bunch and hand it back and forth. I like this physical aspect – we’re actually doing something with our hands, which makes the game very engaging. Just like in Connect 4, the object is to get four of your colored pieces in a row, except here they can go up/down, across, or diagonally.
While the gameplay and rules may be extremely simple, the strategy is not, and that to me is what makes this a really worthwhile game. It encourages abstract, complex thought and forces players to really think ahead to figure out the consequences of their moves. My 8 year old so far focuses mostly on her own offensive moves, mostly ignoring defense, which makes it a bit easy for a more skilled opponent to win, but over time I know she’ll start getting the hang of both offense and defense. When my two kids play against each other, it’s a much more “fair fight”.
The design of the pieces themselves is very clever. The plastic is extremely sturdy – no worry here as with some game components that parts might break off over time. The pegs are easy for even little hands to use to push together two spheres. Those pegs are square shaped, which is actually important, because it means that you can’t rotate a piece once it is placed – the original orientation becomes key to placement of future pieces. In fact, it’s possible to make some spots unplayable, if there are pegs facing into the space from multiple perpendicular angles – this makes it impossible to fit in another piece. Most beginning kid players won’t really take advantage of this, but it’s an interesting advanced aspect to the game that more experienced players may enjoy.
All in all I’m really impressed with how such a simple concept can make for such a thoughtful game, and I think that my kids will be enjoying this for years to come.