Roger Von Oech’s Ball of Whacks Review

Roger Von Oech ball

The other day I was walking through the mall and noticed that the Smithsonian Store was selling this interesting magnetic puzzle ball called Ball of Whacks. Being a sucker for these types of desk toys, I decided to pick it up and try it out. I was instantly hooked! The ball is made of 30 pyramid shaped magnets that can come apart. When you take this rhombic triacontahedron (a shape with 30 sides) apart, you will see that it’s easy to form other shapes including stars, spheres, blocks and even animals.

After reading through some of the 96-page booklet that came with the toy, it looks like this ball is supposed to expand your mind and get you into a creative mood. Even though this could spur up some great ideas, I also think it just makes a good fidgety toy for when you’re bored. The book could make a good reference but honestly I don’t think it’s necessary because once you get it in your hands you won’t care about what’s inside the pages.

When all the 30 pieces are assembled into the ball, it’s about the size and weight of a baseball. It has a nice feel to it and is made out high-quality plastic. When the pieces are taken apart however they feel a little cheap and flimsy. I don’t see the pieces ever breaking unless you try to break them or accidently drive over them. Although the ball is a lot of fun to play with, it’s a bit limiting due the the shapes and magnetic forces of the pieces. Yes you can make other shapes out of the pieces but they somehow always end up being the ball when all is said and done. Perhaps this was the intention of Mr. Von Oech.

Reading the reviews on, I see people saying that they play with the ball when stuck on a problem to find a creative solution. I can see how this could work for some people but I don’t see this solving any of my problems in the future. I’ve played with other desk toys such as BuckyBalls that have a more open-puzzle feel. Perhaps I just need to spend more time with my Ball of Whacks before I can unlock the power within. The Ball of Whacks comes in blue and red colors and can be had for around $25-$30. Overall I am pleased with this toy but it does leave some things to be desired.

Roger Von Oech

30-sided ball


One thought on “Roger Von Oech’s Ball of Whacks Review

  1. Hi Matthew,
    Thanks very much for reviewing my product, the “Ball of Whacks.” I’m glad that you’re having fun playing with it, and I hope that it spurs your creativity.

    Just a couple of comments. You mentioned: “When the pieces are taken apart however they feel a little cheap and flimsy.” I’d like to say that each is far from “cheap and flimsy.” Although it may not appear so, each piece is comprised of 9 elements: 3 different plastic pieces (a cap, a cone, and a core), and also 6 x N42 rare earth magnets. The cell walls where the magnets reside is an amazingly thin 0.65mm. Attaining this thinness is a true manufacturing feat. Each individual piece is then ultrasonically welded together to ensure that the magnets stay safely inside.

    BuckyBalls is a fun product; nonetheless, it involves no manufacturing challenge, and is, in my opinion, a much more dangerous toy. Imagine a youngster putting a few of the loose BB magnets in his mouth and swallowing them (and then coming together in the GI tract).

    There are, as you pointed out, just 30 rhombic pyramids in the Ball of Whacks (compared to the 216 units in a set of BuckyBalls). But this is sufficient for the user to make a lot of different shapes to explore the “golden ratio” geometry inherent in this particular shape. Also, the guidebook provides the user with a number of different exercises to explore their own creativity.

    Finally, I look at the fact that “often the pieces end up back in the ball form” as a feature. Its “home” shape takes up little room, and also allows the user to quickly inventory whether he’s got all of the pieces (which can be a problem because sometimes pieces get lost on metal surfaces).

    Again, thanks for the positive comments. You might also wish to check some of my other magnetic shape products: X-Ball, Y-Ball, and Star-Ball; and also my creativity books and card decks (“A Whack on the Side of the Head” and the “Creative WhackPack”).

    Best wishes,
    Roger von Oech


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