Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wedgits Cards

Last night I thought I had found a Wedgits design (card D-5 from the 100 Advanced Design Cards) that could be built with standard size Wedgits but not with Mini Wedgits - not that it wouldn't go together, but the fit wasn't quite good enough to keep it from tipping over backwards.

This is an example of a structure that is basically unsound, but will work if you are careful enough and the fit is good enough. The standard size structure wanted to tip over as well, but with care I could keep it standing.

But when I rebuilt today in a different location, both stood, though both were precarious. Probably the surface I built on last night sloped slightly to the rear. I was prepared to shim today's table to tilt slightly forward to get the picture, but turned out not to need to.

Even if the Mini Wedgits structure wouldn't have stood on a level surface, I think I would not consider that an argument against using them for larger structures, but rather an argument that they do a better job of enforcing balance constraints. That is a worthwhile educational objective, albeit sometimes painful.

On another topic, I visited another toy store today, beyond my usual haunts, and found both the eXPANman and eXPANnie sets in stock, and the latter actually has FIVE of the red rhombuses, not the four I had guessed - they also do not have the stands for the 15 piece subsets, which I thought were in the whole line. Huge boxes - no wonder stores with tight space have doubts about stocking them.

The new "special part" in the eXPANman set, a diagonal row of three small green rhombuses, turns out to be less interesting than I had hoped since it violates basic Wedgit geometry - the segments connect as if the corners were cut off and the segments glued together, which means that the spacing is tighter than the building boards. I had hoped that standard spacing of touching corner-to-corner would be used, with external gussets for structural rigidity. I am probably too much of a purist and the piece is surely still fun.

I can't buy everything, though, and if I get the eXPANnie I should have more than enough Mini Wedgits for any likely projects.

The store also had the pink & purple Activity Tote, which looked simultaneously both appalling and great. They also had the WEDGiTS Starter Tote, which is also nice, though the two-colored pink & purple building board makes me wish the starter came with a two color board, and more were available. I'd like one black on one side, white on the other, for photography.

You might have noticed that I was admiring the sets with card decks I don't have. I like cards. After I left the toy store I went to a book store, sold some used books, and got some hike cards, inspired by a recent hike.

Next week I have cataract surgery. Wedgits will be a very satisfactory activity for however long I have vision limitations after that, and are helping distract me in the meantime.

Good block play.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pocket Wedgits

One of the niftiest things, of many nifty things, about the new Mini Wedgits is that I can carry a set of them in a jacket pocket, with the 18"x24" design sheet (folded 3.5"x9") slipped into an inside pocket.

Plastic Wedgits are much more durable than wood or artificial stone blocks, and the heavily plasticized design sheet should stand up to any weather I am likely to build in. It was spitting a light rain when I built the construction above.

A set of 15 Mini Wedgits corresponding to the standard sized Junior Set stacks into an octahedron just over 4" high and just under 3" across the waist. This corresponds to the basic $15 Mini WEDGiTS 16-pc. Set (counting stand), shown twice at right - stacked and unstacked. This set has the advantage of a very compact box - though that doesn't have room for the large instruction sheet - I am not sure what its enclosed sheet has, but it does have one.

Stepping up to the larger sets in much bigger boxes, one gets more pieces and the big plasticized sheet with a row of building suggestions for each set - with five "standard" designs using the basic pieces plus five "bonus pieces" designs - on one side and a tips and tricks for each set (how to 'lock' pieces together, etc) on the other. This is available as a PDF download from the Products page at A PDF of a product brochure which lists the contents of each set is also there.

All of the Mini sets announced so far include as a subset the complete 15 piece set, which is what I use for most of my building, primarily building from the Wedgits Design Cards and 100 Advanced Design Cards. With the Standard designs for the Dog and Owl sets and all the designs for the small sets being for the 15 piece set, the big plan sheet contains twenty of these designs for pocketable inspiration.

Sometimes after I have built from a published design, I like to extend or enhance the construction with additional pieces. So my first purchase was the Dog Set, which cost only $2 more than the basic set, and gave me the big sheet and a few extra pieces to fiddle with. The Dog adds a few more standard shapes and a pair of dogleg angles corresponding to those in the standard sized STiX set.

Mini Wedgits' next, for another $2, is the Owl Set, which includes the same basic Mini Wedgit mix, the alternative enhancements being a few more small octahedrons and four "jumbo" octahedrons, corresponding to those in the standard sized Starter Set . However since the Owl doesn't include that set's "jumbo" green rhombus, you can't build Starter Set Design Cards designs with Minis unless you buy the $33 eXPANnie set as well.

Since the jumbo octahedron is the equivalent of a small green rhombus with two small octahedrons, anything you can build with the former you should be able to build with a latter - with or without the small octahedrons, depending on aesthetics and perhaps on circumstances. In the Starter Set, the jumbo octahedrons are a safety requirement for younger children. In the Minis, this doesn't apply, so the difference would seem to be purely cosmetic. By the way, I cheated in these images - the larger octahedrons here are actually blank polyhedral dice from Math'n'Stuff. They are little loose - I am going to try tape on the faces.

A bigger step takes us to the $23 Frog Set. This has almost two complete 15-sets, a few extras, and two sticks from the Stix set. On the downside, it isn't a complete counterpart to the standard size Deluxe Set , but is short one small green rhombus. The design sheet's five "standard" designs for the frog set are from the Deluxe set designs in the 100 Advanced Design Cards - but two of the designs use all 8 small green rhombuses - one more than is included! To add further injury, another one of the included designs use 7 medium yellow rhombuses - one more than is included in either the Frog Mini set or the Deluxe standard size set.

Not a problem for creative freestylers, but a stumbling block for those who want or need to build first from printed example. My solution was to buy the dog set first, to try things out, then go for the Frog set. That gave me three full 15ers - one for the car & a full double for the house, with an extra yellow for that tricky design card, a few extras for add-ons, and two thirds of a counterpart to the standard STiX package (still missing the short pair) so probably no building from Xtras Design Cards.

Why is this important? Because I expect Mini Wedgits to be my new favorite. I deliberately went back to the old clunky big Wedgits for a couple of days of intensive playing, and after an initial disgruntlement, I enjoyed them. But when I returned to the Minis again, it was with joy and without the transition problem of going from small to big.

Minis may turn out to be quite as good for big constructions (Wedgit for Wedgit) - the fit may not be quite as precise, proportionally, and the lighter weight does make them more vulnerable to being brushed or bumped by clumsy fingers and hands. But even there, the lower demands on wallet & closet may still give them the advantage. Even if I am still tempted to add to my big & clunky Wedgits collection - would you believe pink & purple with cards?

I still haven't seen the two biggest sets - eXPANman and eXPANnie - but will be tempted by the latter at least (which in the downloadable product brochure has a parts count error - there are five large red, not the two listed). That would give me the jumbo greens to build to the starter set cards, and enough Mini Wedgits to test some rather larger constructions.

I really, really like Mini Wedgits.

Good Block Play

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mini Wedgits

The new Mini Wedgits version of Wedgits work just like the big ones, but are only 3/5ths the size.

That's 60% linear - in volume they are only 22% as big and weigh about 25% as much.

I got in trouble for denting our dinner table with the big guys, but with the red Mini Wedgits only weighing 7/10 of an ounce versus 2 3/4 ounce for the standard red, and only having 60% as far to fall for the same construction, these should be much safer for tabletop play.

They are also, or course, more suited for travel.

And while a simple 15-piece set of standard Wedgits doesn't take a lot of storage space, a large assortment with the extra pieces, such as the white angles in the picture to the right, or the 'dogbone' or 'dumbbell' pieces, can be a problem. Mini Wedgits will nicely solve this, as well as bringing the cost down.

My assistant, Melvin, in the background of the top picture, says they are much easier for him to work with too. Not to say that makes his "help" any more useful.

But even so, we have good block play.