SpintronicsWhen we talk about board games, one factor that may come up is “table presence”. There are just some games that, when you walk past a table, you can’t help but stop and take a longer look. Foundations of Rome Wars of CthulhuReturn to the Dark Tower, Heroscape, Startropolis (completely biased here), and Fireball Island all come to mind.

When I saw it for the first time Spintronics, I couldn’t help but be interested in taking a deeper look at it. This is a game in which gears are turned, connected by a series of chains. What’s not to love? Sound like something you can check out? Read on to learn more.

Gameplay Overview:

Spintronics is an educational activity where you learn how electronics work through a series of puzzles of increasing difficulty. The game features a spiral bound book that is both a thematic comic and also an educational tool. There are 67 puzzles that accompany the story and the game guides you through the concepts of each component.

Handbook of spintronics
The spiral bound book contains lessons, puzzles and a comic book story.

The game starts with just a few things: a spring-loaded “battery,” some resistor gears, and a few chain links. He will then explain the basic concepts to you (this is how electricity works, this is how a resistor works) etc… And then he will present a series of puzzles. Each puzzle has an initial setup and then gives you an objective (and usually a list of pieces you can use to achieve the objective). As you progress through the book, you go through a series of puzzles in each chapter, with new pieces added as you progress.

Throughout Act 1 (the box we were sent), players will interact with a battery, a capacitor, an ammeter, and a pair of junctions, resistors, and switches. After players complete all the puzzles in the box, they should have a basic understanding of concepts including series/parallel, capacitor circuits, logic circuits, and more. There is also an Act 2 box that players can purchase to explore more advanced concepts.

Spintronics gameplay
Pull the cord and see if you did everything right.

Game experience:

Sometimes in board game chats (call our Discord channel), we discuss whether play is really “play or activity.” Titles like The Game or The Mind have been debated endlessly on this forum. But Spintronics is definitely what I would consider an activity/learning tool, not a game. This is in no way a strike against him, but for those looking for rules, winners, losers, or tactics/strategy, that’s not what this is about.

Spintronics resistors
All the pieces are really well made and fit together nicely.

However, as a learning tool or just a fun activity, it’s great. As an artist by trade, I know very little about mechanical circuits or electronics (despite the fact that my father was very knowledgeable about these matters. If you want to fix a console TV from the 70s, he’s your man). However, the puzzles are designed in such a way that even a novice like me can understand and learn the concepts. They have a great “lift” when they start with simple concepts and build on them. I think this would be a great gift for a young child interested in STEM, probably at least 7-8 years old. My kids are almost 5 and while they enjoyed playing with the gears and bits, they were too young to understand the concept presented (although I tried).

Chains of spintronics
Assembling the chains was a bit tedious, but once they worked perfectly.

In terms of manufacturing, the quality of the components is impressive. All the gears are attached to the plate with a magnet, which makes it easy to change the position of things as needed. The only frustration in the beginning was collecting the chains. When you open the box, 300 individual links are packed into a bag. So, before you can even complete the first puzzle, you need to create some chains. Although they are easy to connect (and just as quick to disconnect when needed), creating and disconnecting chain links is a bit tedious and time-consuming. It’s a good system when put together, but I almost wish they’d given us some ready-made chain links to start with. However, once connected everything worked very well. Occasionally something went wrong when the chain slipped off the cog, but for the most part it was an enjoyable experience with beautifully crafted parts.

The puzzles themselves are presented in a logical form with varying degrees of difficulty. Sometimes, after introducing a new concept, the puzzle was too simple and I could easily see in my head how it was done. But beyond those, there was a lot to figure out that took me a bit of experimentation and trial and error. Oddly enough, only a few of the puzzle answers are presented at the end of the book with instructions to go to their website for all the solutions. I thought this was a bit odd as a few sheets of extra paper couldn’t have made much difference to the cost of the game. That being said, if you go to the website, they first offer hints and then show you the actual solution (as an aminated gif).

Spintronics gameplay
Can learning be interesting? It turns out so!

Final thoughts:

While I usually end reviews with a rating, I’m not going to Spintronics because it’s not so much a game as it is a learning experience, even if they’re a lot of fun to play with. But if you’ve ever wanted to learn about circuits or electricity, this is a fantastic way to do it. I think this could be a great experience to share with your kids (if they are old enough) because the puzzles are informative and fun to solve. The gears and gizmos are so much fun to play with and it’s really nice when it all comes together, I’ll probably keep this one for when my kids are a bit older so I can share the experience with them.

If you or your kids have even a passing interest in electronics or puzzles, this game is definitely worth checking out.

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