Games and crafts should say, “touch me.” Whether in a whisper or a scream, they should entice. And what screams “touch me” like chocolate?
Here’s a variation on a classic board game perfect for Hanukkah parties, carnivals or just fun at home:
Connect 4 with real chocolate gelt.
Simple, yes? You’d think. But size matters. We all know gelt brands vary in palatability, but they also vary in diameter and width. And successive generations of Connect Four frames vary in inner dimensions. The old yellow and blue frames—some with tab and slot assembly, some with pin and hole assembly—are not created equal, and the snazzy new dark blue versions are totally different. (Any of these will do, but not the new Launchers incarnation or the travel size game.)
Let me warn you now that making Gelt Connect 4 could take awhile. But, it’s worth it. I’ve been called obsessive a fair few times, to which I usually offer “detail-oriented” as a less-pathological subsitute, but in the case of Gelt Connect Four, obsessive is a requirement.
The short version: modify gelt to match dimensions of the checkers that go with your frame. How: hot-glue two pieces together, tweak with a hot spatula or additional hot glue if necessary. Done.
The detailed version: Start with a frame, any frame, and keep that frame. My frame broke, and because all my gelt was laboriously tailored to that specific frame and would fit no other, I had to bolt that sucker back together with machine screws, nuts and epoxy. It’s so solid now that the Left Behind contingent will be playing on my Connect 4 long after I’m dust.
Get some gelt. You might need to buy individual bags of a few brands to find the brand that best mimics the exact size of the Connect 4 pieces—the original pieces that actually fit your frame. The hardest thing to tweak will be the diameter. Width is a smidge easier. If I was just starting out, I’d look at Paskesz: it’s Belgian chocolate, it’s tasty, and the holographic foil says “touch me” all by itself.
How I did it:
Rite Lite may not taste fabulous, but the dimensions were pretty close to my checkers. Far too skinny, of course. One piece would slide right down beside the one below. So, I hot glued two pieces together: 2 gold for one gold piece, 2 silver for one silver piece. This may be enough work for your frame. Not for mine.
The diameter was shy, so I bumped it up with an extra squirt of hot glue all around the edge. This meant the pieces would fill the empty holes in the frame all the way to the top. Otherwise, the upper levels would get progressively less full.
However, a doubled piece of gelt was just a bit too thick to slide easily into and out of the frame. My stove is glass-topped (a Chelm special, no doubt), so I heated the warming area a bit, put the doubled gelt on it for a moment, and pressed down just a tad with a flat spatula. Just enough to reduce the height a hair, but not enough to bust the foil seams at the reeded edges.
You see what I mean about obsessive?
But the result is a game that hollers to be played. I used it at last year’s synagogue carnival and it was mobbed by a group of toddlers (thus the recent addition of machine screws). But ideally, it was aimed at the middle graders who were too cool to Toss the Latke or fold Origami Dreidels.
This year, I’ve prepared a table with three board games: Connect 4: Gelt Edition, Gelt Checkers (just a checkerboard with the jumbo gelt as checkers), and the new Connect 4 blue frame with checkers that have been spray-painted gold and silver.
The latter is an ultra-easy workaround to all the hot-glue and bother, but nowhere near as neato.
Things to consider, if you are the considering kind:
Gelt foil design: ideally, you want Hanukkah symbols on the pieces. As opposed to a company’s lame logo or worse, “coins of the world,” or even worse, “pirate loot.” This is a Jewish holiday we’re playing around with, so our playthings ought to look Jewish. Do not get me started on the whole Jews and Gold Coin thing. It’s an issue when I am the Hanukkah parent in my children’s non-Jewish schools, but for a Hanukkah carnival or my own house, the more gold coins the better, baby.
Set-up: Put your frame on a tray. This keeps the gelt from rolling onto the floor and getting eaten by the dog. This gelt you’ve slaved over is precious.
Containers: If you are abandoning the game to unsupervised throngs at a Hanukkah carnival, my advice is: put the modified gelt in opaque containers. Cover one container in gold/yellow paper, one container in silver foil.
Write the words “DO NOT EAT” on the lid and INSIDE the container. If instead you toss your precious pieces into a clear bowl, they will twinkle like a homing beacon at every child old enough to walk toward the table and tall enough to steal it. I know this.
Signage: a Carnival needs signs for every station, but then again, I am fanatic. Here’s my plain Jane sign for this game: CONNECT 4- vintage. It urges players NOT TO EAT the pieces in a subtle addendum at the bottom.
If you try this and find a quicker way, a particularly easy brand or other happy hint, share with the rest of us.