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Qboid is an interesting wooden puzzle invented in the United Kingdom by Colin James in 2008 and manufactured at Lakeland Puzzles. A year later, the inventor entered the puzzle at the 29th International Puzzle Party (IPP) Design Competition.
The Qboid has an astounding number of challenges (10.000+) divided in four levels, allowing you to build alphanumeric characters and other types of patterns. The puzzle is presented in a transparent plastic container, and inside are 12 wooden blocks with each one having its six faces covered with pattern stickers. I liked the contrasting colors with black stickers and orange segments. Each sticker and can have one of five possible configurations: four segments and one blank.
(Click to Enlarge) - Abstract Pattern
From the 12 blocks, each measuring about 3cm (1.2"), it's possible to stack them in one, two, three or four alphanumeric combinations. There are a few types of possible challenges for you to try, be it a number from 0 to 9, a letter, a word (e.g. DOG), an Hexadecimal number (e.g. 3E) or even symbols, like H2O.
Level 1 - Easy
(Click to Enlarge) - Level 1: A1
The first level only requires to make a character with six cubes and then to make another with the remaining 6. These are the easiest challenges to accomplish and the ideal for you to start getting used to the puzzle dynamic.
Level 2 - Medium
(Click to Enlarge) - Level 2: 83
The second level of challenges are a bit harder and aren't possible to solve in an horizontal plane, since you're gonna need to stack the blocks in a 45º angle. For these, you need only nine blocks to get a two character combination. The key here is to combine the middle three blocks to form the right part of the left character and the left part of the right character. Only one face of the blocks is needed for the two edges. Note that it's not always possible to get a blank sticker showing on the top of the blocks. For the challenges, what matters is showing the correct segments on the front faces. The top and back faces of the blocks aren't important. All numbers from 00 to 99 are possible.
Level 3 - Hard
(Click to Enlarge) - Level 3: AbC
To complicate things a bit more, the third level challenges now require the 12 blocks to be solved. In this level you need to get a character showing on three sides of the Qboid. The fourth side is not important and can have any segment, as well as the top side. Contrary to the level two challenges, where you had to combine segments from the middle blocks, now you need to combine segments from two corners of the puzzle in order to form the three characters.
You can form numbers from 000 to 999 and several three letter combinations, but there's a catch: Not all number or letter combinations are possible, so it's up to you to find out which ones are possible. It can be a bit frustrating trying to solve a particular challenge, only to find out that there's no solution. Don't give up at the first hurdle though, because with a few blocks swaps it's possible to still find a solution.
Level 4 - Expert
(Click to Enlarge) - Level 4: 1594 (Sides 1 & 2)
Finally, we get to the fourth level. Now, this one is really tough. Here, you need to make a four character combination with one character showing on each of the four sides. Besides the number challenges, you can also try to solve four letter words or four character Hexadecimal numbers (LEAF and 32Ad are two possibilities). What makes this level very hard is finding the correct corner combinations on all four sides, because you're using all blocks. The third level also uses the 12 blocks, except the fourth side is not relevant and can have any segment showing. It has been proven that there are, at least, 100+ possible numbers from 0000 to 9999 (e.g. 0972, 1594, 3012).
(Click to Enlarge) - Level 4: 1594 (Sides 3 & 4)
With an overwhelming number of challenges, from numbers to words or even symbols and abstract patterns, the Qboid is an extremely versatile puzzle with plenty to offer. Regardless of the variety, the concept doesn't change, so after a while, the puzzle can become a bit repetitive when trying the same type of challenges over and over again.
The quality of the wood in the blocks isn't very good though, and the choice of having stickers was not a great one. Painting over the wood would've probably be a better choice, aesthetically. Using plastic for the blocks instead of wood wouldn't have been a bad choice either, and the container to store the pieces should've been hard transparent plastic instead of the malleable sheet of plastic. I understand, however, that this was a first edition and the funds were probably scarce to get top quality materials, but here's hoping for a second version with better materials and a nicer overall appearance.
Availability: I purchase the Qboid at eBay for £10 (plus £4.75 shipping), but you can also get them at Clear Sites (in the U.K.).
(Click to Enlarge) - Level 1: Alternative Layout