The 10th annual Chicago Toy and Game Fair (ChiTAG) took place on November 17 & 18 at Navy Pier. The largest U.S. toy and game trade show open to the public, ChiTAG brings together consumers, families, inventors, manufacturers, retailers, educators, hobbyists, and the media to play, discover, promote the creation of toys and games at the start of the holiday season.
With over 100 exhibitors, there were many highlights:
One of the best-attended booths was the “plasma cars” by PlaSmart. These cool cars are powered merely by turning the handlebars, with no batteries, pedals, or other power source necessary. Kids seemed to get the hang of the cars quickly. The cars looked pretty maneuverable and moved around 3-5 miles per hour. The cars are definitely child-sized; the website shows adults riding the cars too, but it looks slow and not very comfortable.
Perplexus was a challenging labryinth game consisting of a colorful 3D maze encased in a clear plastic sphere. The player twists and turns the sphere to guide a small ball through narrow plastic tracks, navigating obstacles to reach the end of the maze. Judging from the frequent expressions of dismay, this was a fun but frustrating toy.
Near a gigantic Settlers of Catan board was Wrebbit Puzzles, who make wonderful 3D puzzles. Demo puzzles included their Lord of the Rings series, including Hobbiton, Minas Tirith, Isengard Tower, and Edoras Golden Hall, as well as more traditional subjects like a castle and the Taj Majal. All were beautifully rendered, with lovely colors. Expensive, though.
At Penguin Foot Pottery, there was a working pottery wheel where kids could try their hand at working with clay. The pottery studio, located in Logan Square, offers classes and workshops for kids and adults.
Using art, science, and sleight of hand, Ben’s Bubble Show manipulates bubbles in amazing ways, including smoke bubbles, bubbles within bubbles, geometric bubbles, and more. The show was a lot of fun to watch. Ben is based in Chicago and available to perform at events.
Morphology is a neat game that made Time Magazine’s Top 10 Toys list in 2010. Like Pictionary but with objects instead of a pen and paper, the player picks a card containing a word and uses things like string, plastic cubes, and glass beads to construct the word. If teammates guess the word, the team progresses on the game board. The board includes twists to make the game more difficult, like all-play, one-handed, eyes closed, etc. A snap to learn, it would make a fun party game. At only $18 on Amazon, it’s possible to overlook the fact that you can very easily and cheaply make your own version.
In the simple game of Schmovie, a player picks two cards: “What” (evil, clumsy, gangsta) and “Who” (hit man, lunch lady, proctologist) and rolls a die for movie genre (horror, comedy, etc.). Based on the combination of the cards and the die, the other players come up with funny movie titles and submit them to the lead player. The lead player (the “producer”) picks their favorite title, points are scored, and the lead rotates. The game is not yet released.
While ChiTAG was primarily aimed at children, there was definitely enough for adults to make it worth the trip. It would be great if the fair expanded its coverage for adults, along the lines of GenCon.