Thumbs Up! Dexterity Game (****)

We're always looking for games that our whole family can play: my wife and I, my eight-year-old son, and my five-year-old daughter. Thumbs Up! seemed like it might actually be different from so many other "matching" style games. It turns out Thumbs Up! is pretty much like all the other matching games, but with enough rings to make the Mandarin jealous.

The set consists of 48 rings in four colors and 50 challenge cards. Each player gets two rings of each color for a total of 8, which they wear on their four fingers. The youngest player flips a card and then the race is on for each player to put all the rings on one thumb in the correct order of the cards. Whoever gets the correct order of rings on their thumb first shouts "Thumbs up!" Sounds simple, right? It's a lot trickier than it seems.

The cards are both color-coded and numbered. Because there are two of each colored ring for each player, this means you have to not only keep track of the order of the rings but the colors. When you're in a rush, the repeating colors can trip you up. Additionally, they're not all just blobby shapes with numbers on it. The cards display numbers encapsulated in all kinds of shapes and directions. This can be jarring when the number 6 is upside down, as a 9 is impossible since there are only eight rings. For example, one card involves a dragon, a shield, and a knight with each a different number color. You can get caught up looking at the picture (that's part of the fun) when you should be trying to figure out what ring to put on your thumb.

The game is for six-years and up, and it showed with my daughter. She can manage the rings just fine, but she can't place them as fast as her brother, which frustrated her. It's worth pointing out that the larger your thumb, the easier the game is, which means game play is inherently biased against smaller players. This is also one of those games that's technically for the whole family but sets everyone against each other. We tweaked the game to include a sand timer so that we're playing against an abstract challenge rather than pit adults against kids.

Still, the rings are a clever touch. It's a game everyone can play, but perhaps not all at the same time. Also, keep track of the rings; they're fun, but after playing the kids may want to wear them after you're done!