Review: “Small Town Christmas” by Charles Wysocki, Buffalo Games – 9.5/10

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Publisher: Buffalo Games (US), published 2016

Title:  “Small Town Christmas” by Charles Wysocki, Buffalo Games, 1000 pieces 

Finished size: 26.75″ x 19.75″

OUR RATING: 9.5/10

Box Quality:  (9/10)

The Buffalo Games boxes are very sturdy and have nice packaging design. The box is small at 8″ x 8″, but it comes with a poster inside so you don’t need to depend on the image on the box lid. The front, which you can see above, has the “Holiday Collection” logo, the Charles Wysocki logo, and the Buffalo Games logo. The name of the puzzle, “Small Town Christmas”, is not shown on the front.

Back:

The back of the box has a generic Buffalo Games back (below).

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Sides:

The sides all have the Charles Wysocki logo prominent and large. The puzzle name is shown on two sides. There’s also the Buffalo Games logo (but only on the sides that don’t have the puzzle name), the piece count, and a picture of the image. All sides would work pretty well for shelving side-out.

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Inside:

The box is glued shut on the sides (instead of being shrink wrapped) and it has to be cut with a knife. Inside the box the pieces are packed loose (not inside a bag) and there’s also a poster. You can see the poster below. It’s good size, at least twice the size of the image on the box. The poster shows a few other Charles Wysocki puzzles too. The back of the poster is blank white.

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Overall, I’ve given the box an 9/10. I particularly like the poster and the way Wysocki’s name is used so prominently, like a series name. When the puzzle comes with a poster included like this, I prefer the smaller box because it takes up less space in my collection.

The Image:  10/10

This is a delightful Christmas image from Charles Wysocki. The large tree gives it an interesting, almost spooky winter vibe. The village buildings are lit up with an orange light. There’s are dozens of interesting characters around the scene. Some touches, like the red ribbon on the tree, are unlikely and quirky but make for better puzzling. I also really like the birdhouses in the tree, which are full of little details to piece together. The palette is bright and cheerful with rich blues, oranges, reds, and the white of the snow. It’s an ideal Christmas image for a puzzle.

As usual with Wysocki, the art style is wonderful with high-quality line art created by hand. I always love his authentic period costumes and multitude of fine detail.

I’ve given the image a perfect 10 score!

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(Click on any of the images in this review for a closer look.)

Puzzle Quality: (9/10)

You can see my brand page for Buffalo Games here.  This brand new 2016 puzzle is fully compatible with the puzzles I reviewed for my brand analysis. The quality is very good. The pieces feel sturdy, the box and contents are undamaged and in great condition, and the artwork reproduction is spot on.

The cut is a standard grid-cut puzzle with a wide variety of piece shapes and even a few ‘zig zag’ sided pieces. I never had a question about whether or not a piece actually fit. The connections are average–neither particularly tight or lose. If you try to move small groups of pieces around they will fall apart unless you’re very careful.

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The final finish is fairly flat and seamless. The finish is glossy, which can lead to glare under overhead lights, but that didn’t cause a problem with this puzzle because there aren’t a lot of dark areas. Even the tree bark is mostly covered by snow or ribbons.

Overall, puzzle quality scores a high 9 out of 10.

Assembly:  (10/10)

My difficulty rating for this puzzle is: MODERATE. It took me a three sessions to complete it.

I assembled the border of the puzzle first and then the red ribbon around the tree.  The red ribbon is a strong element that doesn’t look like anything else, but there are lengths of it in different places in the image as it wraps around the tree.

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Next, I pulled all the orange pieces and did all the buildings and windows. The windowpanes and siding on the church provide nice vertical lines for piece placement. There’s are also a number of shop signs with lettering around the image. Those are always my favorite bits in a Wysocki puzzle.

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After the oranges I did the rest of the reds–the red bridge, American flag, and red sleigh. All of these have very distinctive textures.

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The center of the image has a sleigh, horse, and a lot of figures. It’s a busy area with many different colors. You may want to refer to the poster in this section to help place faces and hats. The blanket on the sleigh is a nice unique texture that helps break up the sleigh area. Note the fox head on the sleigh!

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The fir tree on the left that’s covered with snow and candles is an interesting little mini puzzle. It’s a repeating pattern, but the strong orange circular halos on the candles provide guidance.

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In the second session, I finished placing all the pieces that looked like they had bits of shops or characters on them. Then I flipped the puzzle board around and did the sky. The blue is broken up a lot by the horizontal tree branches, the moon, and all the birdhouses on the tree. I found myself comparing pieces to the poster more in this section, trying to figure out which birdhouse a piece went to. The brown at the horizon is an interesting color and a nice break from the blue sky.

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In the third session, I filled in all the white “snow” pieces on the ground and rooftops. In the lower right there are some pretty little quails that “came to life” as I pieced that section together.

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The snow isn’t too difficult. There are various shades/brightnesses of blue and white and there aren’t many pieces of “snow” that doen’t have a tip of something else.

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In sum, this was a perfect puzzle as far as I’m concerned. There’s lots of color and detail. Some areas, like the sky and the buildings, could be done without referring to the poster by matching color and pattern. And in some areas, like the characters, the poster is helpful to piece together the jumble of fine detail. It’s a nice blend of different textures, fun visuals to uncover as you go, and no large “left over” area that was less interesting than the rest. It was “challenging enough” not to be overly simple or boring.

I’ve rated assembly a full 10.

Summary:

“Small Town Christmas” is a gorgeous Americana Christmas puzzle from artist Charles Wysocki and Buffalo Games. It’s a good moderate challenge that took me three sessions to complete. No one area is difficult, but there’s a lot of detail throughout. The palette of bright colors against the snow and blue sky is very cheerful. I particularly liked the red ribbon around the tree, the fir tree lit with candles, and the birdhouses in the sky.  There’s so much fun detail to examine in this image as you assemble the puzzle. The Buffalo Games quality is very good with grid cut pieces and a nice box that comes with a poster. Recommended to all fans of Christmas puzzles.

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Where to find:

Find it at Puzzle Warehouse. Click on the logo below.

PWLOGO

JJ

3 responses to Review: “Small Town Christmas” by Charles Wysocki, Buffalo Games – 9.5/10

  1. Stanley Sia says:

    Thanks for reviewing this puzzle! Loved it the moment I set my eyes upon it. Felt vicarious enjoyment through your assembly review 🙂

  2. Richard says:

    This was a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle for me to assemble this holiday season.

    I agree – the birdhouses in the tree were a nice touch.

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