My childhood was filled with warnings of not flying kites near power lines. Electricity was rightly scary and not to be played with. It’s a brave parent that wants to encourage their children to play with electricity.
Fortunately in Spintronics, the designers have created a safe and visual way of playing with electricity – by recreating it in a uniquely mechanical way. When offered a copy of Spintronics, I was aware it wasn’t a board game, but equally I’ve reviewed puzzles before and it’s my website, so ultimately I am judge and jury!
Prior to your first round I think it is prudent to assemble some good lengths of ‘chain’. These click together easily and it will feel quite familiar if you’ve ever put together Lego. With these assembled you can turn the page of the included book and read on…
The puzzle is accompanied with a book that tells a story in cartoon form of a clock-making, time-bending family that flees to America. The story follows and triggers the mechanical puzzle building elements. These start off relatively straight forward but unsurprisingly increase in difficulty as you progress.
Each puzzle has a starting set up and an inventory of additional items that can be added to achieve the goal. Some puzzles have multiple ways of solving them, others expect it to be solved in a certain way and these need to be checked with the solutions at the back of the book.
Progress to the end of the book and you’re done with Spintronics, although you can continue to play with the set to your heart’s content.
What it’s like
Spintronics is a mechanical puzzle that recreates the basics of electricity in a tangible way. We can’t see electricity running around so turning it into a mechanical circuit works really well to help visualise the basics. It certainly helped me, let alone the kids!
The levels start off relatively easy and we whizzed through the first third of the book. After that, the difficulty seemed to ramp up sharply. The blue spinning ‘junction boxes’ baffled me a little, even after repeating the level they were introduced. If it was a relationship break-up I would be saying this is very much me rather than you. I’m pleased to say we didn’t part ways and instead persevered.
Some puzzles took us an hour session to complete, a few others just made sense quickly. I remember one with parallel circuits that I had to get internet help with. Fortunately, the Upper Story Spintronics website has a brilliant help section, with each puzzle having hints and solutions ready and waiting for you. A big parent plus for me because if I’m honest, this wasn’t the only time I used it!
Generally, the boys would set up the puzzle as per the instructions and then we would talk through things. I really enjoyed helping test and try out their ideas. I think if you are hoping this will give you some peace and quiet to get on with other things, you might be disappointed.
Some of the circuits are a bit fiddly. I’m sure plenty of kids would be able to ‘play’ with the set, but to follow along the story I think adult supervision is best. It also created some quality time with my boys so I don’t see that as a negative.
I like the steampunk vibe it has. When a puzzle is completed and the parts are whirring, Spintronics looks awesome on the table. I’ve tried my best, but this just doesn’t translate to the static photograph sadly.
Getting the chain links to the right length and looping them around the various components can be tricky for big and small hands alike. Everything is sturdy and robust enough. You will however, want to treat the set with care as I can imagine things could get jammed with more boisterous play.
The story that accompanies it is fun. On occasions, it feels a little disjointed from the puzzles that you are solving. The kids didn’t seem to notice or care, and neither did I particularly!
The bases of the mechanical parts are magnetic and do hold to the platforms surprisingly well. It also packs away neatly into the box with a well-designed insert.
If you’re left wanting more there are expansions available too.
What the kids thought
Max (8): It’s very good! I like the way you have to figure out where to place the things and make it the right speed. It’s great when you pull the string and it all works. I like the blue links that represent the electrons.
George (12): I love it! I absolutely love Spintronics! It’s great how it teaches you about electricity in a unique way. I like the comic book and every new puzzle is a challenge for us. I could play this all day!
Harrison (14): It’s quite cool in the way you can see how electricity works. Although I knew the basics it gives you a good visualisation of how it works. I like the story that comes along with it, but it is a bit young for me. I like putting the bits together too.
Final thoughts on Spintronics
Spintronics has an heirloom feel to it. The sort of puzzle I can imagine grandparents pulling off the shelf to play with their grandchildren.
This does come at a premium, as the set does have a fairly high retail price. Although if you consider how many evenings you will spend building circuits and the quality of components this can be justified more easily. Spintronics is a really excellent production.
As a family we have enjoyed this puzzle heaps. The cleverest part of Spintronics is turning the intangible subject of electricity into a visual one. As a parent, I am always pleased to see my boys enjoying learning, and they certainly have with this set.
Number of players: 1 to 4
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 8+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 8+
Playing Time: 30-45 minute sessions
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 3 minutes
Designer: Paul Boswell
Publisher: Upper Story
As the box says, it is ‘The fun way to learn electronics’. I heartily agree that the solving of the puzzles whilst learning the basics of electricity is brilliant fun! I reckon Spintronics should be on the National Curriculum for teaching electricity.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Learn the basics of electronics
- Quality family time
- Great looking
- Help available online if required
- The trickier levels!
- Kids may struggle if left on their own
- May not hold up to rugged play
For clarity: we don’t get paid for our reviews. However, we were kindly gifted this game by Upper Story. We have tried not to let this affect our review in any way.