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Tenzi founders Steve Mark and Kevin Carroll didn’t have a background in gaming before launching their all-ages brand 10 years ago. Instead, Mark and Carroll (Greenwich and Westport residents, respectively) relied on their combined marketing talents to create and promote a brand that would stick.

The duo’s focus on “keeping it simple” resonated with consumers, and the Tenzi brand now has six family-friendly games in its portfolio. In today’s climate, that straightforward premise is especially important. “Our games are simple and easy to learn, and all ages can play,” says Carroll, executive dice president. “The whole family can get behind it, and the kids are spending less time on their tablets.” Tenzi is a basic dice game, Slapzi involves matching picture cards to clue cards, and Parzi is about quickly spotting corresponding critters.

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Speed and matching are the name of the game for Slapzi.

In light of the pandemic, screen time is through the roof, and families are increasingly looking for ways to entertain one another, sans technology. To sweeten the deal, all of Tenzi’s games have an educational slant. Carroll’s son came up with the idea for the company’s latest game, Buildzi, which recently won an award from the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association for best kids’ toy. The premise takes simple block building and turns it into a speed competition. There are five different ways to play, so it never feels repetitive. The same goes for all of Tenzi’s games, and the company frequently fields calls from customers inventing new methods of play. There’s even a Tenzi add-on called 77 Ways to Play Tenzi, a deck of cards which has received high marks from players.

Where Carroll and Mark saw a simple dice game, teachers cued in on skill-building with number recognition, grouping of numbers, and teamwork. And with back-to-school looking a little different this year, at-home stimulation will be more important than ever. “Once kids see all the different ways to play, they naturally create their own method,” Carroll says. “One of the cool things is that families can collaborate and come up with a new way to play since it’s so open ended.”

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The block-building game Buildzi is the company’s newest offering.


Tenzi cofounder Kevin Carroll shares his tips on hosting a virtual game night:

  • Have someone be designated master of ceremonies to introduce everyone and control the run of show.
  • Consider an all-play game, like Tenzi. “It’s boring enough to wait for your turn in person,” Carroll says. “Games where everyone can play at the same moment are more conducive to Zoom, so no one is sitting around waiting.”
  • Create a sense of teamwork by designating partners. For his virtual family game night, Carroll hosted a Tenzi relay race.
  • Remember the universal video call rules like being in a bright space with the light source in front of your face.
  • Don’t worry too much about who the winner is. Just trust one another to be honest and focus on having fun.

This article appears in the October 2020 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.