Here is my list of 10 great visual perception games. These are all games for at least two players, played at speed. They are about having fast eyes and fast reactions. Many can also be played solo, setting challenges for yourself (in contrast to abstract strategy board games, which require an opponent). Nearly all are easy to buy online. They are suitable for children and adults. Several come in small boxes so are great for packing for a journey. They would make a great present for someone who you know enjoys playing games.
If you buy one of these games there is no financial gain for me. Please share this page if you found it helpful.
Here they are, in reverse order:
10 – Rainbow Rush / Rainbow Rage
Look at a rainbow card, be the first to spot which two colours have swapped places and gain matching coloured pieces. The winner is the first to collect every colour and build their own rainbow.
Great for familiarising children with the colours of the rainbow;
Great for practising pattern recognition;
A harder set of cards is included for a greater challenge;
Children enjoy handling the pieces and building their stick;
The pieces are pentagonal, which is my favourite shape!
I was going to question why the rainbow looks so angry and whether this puts anyone off buying this game. I was going to suggest Rainbow Race as a better name. Now I have seen that the game has been renamed Rainbow Rush and the rainbow face is now … happier, but still ever so slightly threatening.
9 – Avocado Smash!
A variation on Snap where the winner is the first player to get rid of all their cards. If a card matches a number said out loud then that is a smash. The last player to react takes all the cards in that round.
Nice thick cards which are a good size for small hands;
A good next step for children who have mastered Snap (or families who are sick of it).
It takes a while to read through and understand the instructions;
As with any game which involves slamming down hands there is the potential for scratches and arguments: you might want to have an adult present to adjudicate.
8 – Swish
Swishes are made by stacking at least two cards so that every ball swishes into a hoop of the same colour. The player with the most swishes at the end is the winner.
Nice carry bag;
Having to rotate and flip the cards over in your mind before you can pick them up is a great mental exercise.
Having to rotate and flip the cards over in your mind can be really tricky for younger children, so is best played with age 8+. A junior version is available, but I have not played it;
The cards can be tricky to pick up from a hard surface (consider a baize or plain tablecloth);
No proper instructions in the box (but I found them easily online);
The box is a bit over-packaged.
7 – Blink
Match a card in your hand to either one of two discard piles, matching by shape, quantity or colour. The winner is the first to empty their draw pile.
Easy to explain and start playing;
The cards are well designed and easy to distinguish;
A nice variation is available for three players.
Whenever cards are dealt there is always an element of luck involved, which the purists may not like;
The piles can easily become untidy and confusing, and you may have to pause the game to tidy them up.
6 – Dobble / Spot It!
Be the first to find the one symbol which is on two cards. The size and positioning of the symbols varies between cards, making the matches difficult to spot. Every card has eight symbols on it; every card is unique; whichever two cards are in play it can be guaranteed that they will have one symbol in common. Spot It! is aimed at younger children as each card has six symbols, so it should be easier to find the match.
Easy to explain and start playing;
Several variations on the instruction leaflet to prolong your interest.
Hard to think of one, which helps explain why this game is so popular. This game involves a lot of visual scanning but not enough problem solving to make it higher up this list.
5 – The Genius Square
The seven dice are rolled and both players put a blocker in the corresponding grid reference. The players then race to be the first to fill every empty space with their nine differently shaped pieces. There are 62,208 possible combinations, often with multiple solutions. Whatever the grid looks like there will be a solution.
Easy to explain and start playing;
Great for practising shape and space recognition;
Nice tactile wooden game pieces (the grooves between each square are a winner);
If your child plays Tetris on their phone this game is a great next step and subtle way of introducing the pleasures of non-electronic games;
The unique dice could be useful if you enjoy inventing your own games.
This game involves a lot of problem solving – if the contestants have very different abilities this will quickly be exposed, and it is hard to see how the game could be levelled up (perhaps the weaker player could be given a 20 second head start).
4 – Set
Be the first to identify a set, which consists of three cards in which each individual feature is either all the same or all different. The player with the most sets at the end is the winner.
Provides a real test of your ability to spot patterns while remembering the four different features (colour, shape, quantity and shading);
A game which rewards persistence and practice as you will get better at it;
No limit to the number of players;
The cards are easy to distinguish from each other;
If you enjoy Maths and want to deepen your understanding there is a book you can buy;
Possibly the most satisfying game of the 10 to play solo, especially when you know there is a lot of depth to it.
Not easy to explain to younger children: many will find it hard to make their first set. A junior version is available, but I have not played it. Consider an activity where you ask the children to arrange the cards on a large table, looking for patterns and groupings, to get them familiar with the deck. Then start the game, perhaps with 15 cards not 12 as the odds are very much in favour of there being a set when 15 cards are available.
3 – Ghost Blitz
Five wooden objects are placed in the middle of the table. There are two different types of card: if you see one object on the card in its original colour then grab it; if neither object on the card is in its original colour then grab the object whose shape and colour are both not on the card. The winner is the player with the most cards at the end.
The mental processing skills involved in eliminating the incorrect object and identifying the correct one are a great work out for the brain;
If you really love this game there are four different versions available to buy (plus a junior version).
My mouse’s tail has come loose;
On some of the cards the green object looks more olive than green, which can be off-putting when the game focuses highly on colour;
The potential for scratches and arguments over who grabbed the object first – you might prefer to go off who shouts it out first.
2 – Rubik’s Race
Shake the scrambler and it forms a 3×3 pattern of different coloured cubes. Slide the tiles to become the first to match your central 3×3 area with the scrambler’s pattern. If only I had a £1 for every time someone tells me there is a piece missing!
A proper test of your ability to manipulate objects at speed and work out the quickest way of getting the tile where you want it;
The satisfaction of slamming down the frame when you have completed your pattern.
The cubes don’t always sit nicely in the scrambler;
The board can be a little tricky to assemble;
As with Genius Square above the problem solving element will expose players of very different abilities.
1 – Space Faces
The colours! The artwork! The sound of the shaker in my ear! The thump in my chest as I race to find the alien first! Do I feel sheepish about recommending a game which is only available second hand and is hard to find? Not at all: if you find one (or befriend someone who owns a copy) you will not be disappointed. The prolific Ivan Moscovich invented this game in the early 1980s. It involves identifying the correct alien from 120 different choices. There is an updated version called ‘Robot Face Race’: a lot has changed but the concept is the same.
It’s about aliens;
Very easy to explain and start playing;
A great workout for the brain, involving memory, concentration, colour and pattern recognition, visual scanning and strategic planning. For me this game strikes the perfect balance between being easy to understand but hard to master.
The shaker is rather loud and sometimes the colours need persuading to drop into their hole.
So there you have it: my list is complete. Please share this page if you found it helpful.
If you remember playing Space Faces in the 1980s, do get in touch.