In this Rapid Review, I am going to burn through a couple of games currently popular with my two daughters and myself. All three game are for ages 7+ and play in about 20-30 minutes. These reviews are meant to be small snapshots into the game’s theme, how they play and whether my children enjoy them. Some may be fun for both children and as filler games for adults and some may be best in your family’s weekend collection.
Today’s games are The Three Little Pigs and The Phantom Society by Iello and Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule by Game-O-Gami and Game Salute. Each game is recommended although The Phantom Society is overpriced.
The Three Little Pigs [Iello]
Everyone knows the story of the Three Little Pigs and this game plays off of that recognition. Even going so far as to package the game in a delightful faux-book that could fit right up on the bookshelf (as part of a series, I believe, with Babayaga next). Inside there is a storybook retelling The Three Little Pigs for anyone unfamiliar; a set of five super-cute pink dice – perfect for preschooler hands; a “wolf” spinner with an arrow set to point at either straw, wood or brick when flicked; and a set of 36 cardboard tiles representing the building components from the story – roofs, windows and doors made of straw, wood or brick (nine of each). Each component has a “price” represented by a number of piggies – two piggies for straw, three piggies for wood and four piggies for brick.
Set-Up: The market is made up of tiles stacked next to each other in a 3×3 grid corresponding to building structure and material. The first little piggie then rolls the 5 little pink dice three times and uses the results of those rolls to purchase a tile from the market. You can reroll any and all dice three times [except any die locked by rolling a “wolf”]. So, playing the industrious little capitalist pig you are, you attempt to roll the right amount of roofs, windows and doors to build the perfect house in either straw, wood or brick (or any combination of the three).
Then you use the purchased tiles to build up your house. You can start a house with a door-tile or a window-tile but not a roof-tile. The roof-tile is used to complete your house and halts all further construction. Thus, once the roof is added that house is finished and cannot be added to. Houses can go as tall as possible with any amount of windows added, but they can only have one door and one roof. Additionally, some of the tiles have flowerpots and pigs walking about…these bits of tasty bacon-flavor are tallied for bonus points at the end of the game.
So what happens when you roll a wolf? In the course of dice-rolling, if you roll one wolf, that die becomes locked and is unusable for that turn. If you roll a second wolf, you-know-who comes-a knocking! Your turn is done. The market is closed. You choose a person to fall victim to the wolf’s terrible lungs. You then flick or blow on the spinner to see what housing component (straw, wood or brick) get puffed away. So it pays to diversify your houses.
Once the number of stacks of the building materials are used up equal to the number of players the game ends. So for three players, the game ends when three stacks are used up and then the players score any completed (roof and all) houses.
Is it fun? Yes. It is simple and easy to teach with a well-known (if worn-out) Yahtzee dice-rolling mechanic. My five year old picked it up immediately and had plenty of fun playing and crafting her houses. My two year old though the wolf was amazing and simply liked chucking dice with the hope of rolling wolves. She required some additional help to play but the look of sheer glee when she finally rolled one is priceless. Was it fun for adults? Probably not as much.
IDK…that whole wolf thing seems a bit competitive… Well, yes. I can see some younger feelings being hurt if their sibling sent the wolf over for some dastardly destruction. However, it is fairly rare in the game to actually roll two wolves during a turn. After three games we had yet to see the wolf rear its ugly head and demon breath. So instead, a fun variant we play is that the wolf only lock up dice and don’t blow down houses until after the game is scored and finished. Once the game is done we each take a turn with the spinner sending the wolf over to someone’s house. It was a nice way to spread the destruction around.
Verdict? Cute, inexpensive and fun for kids too young for King of Tokyo. There is also a way to add some complexity to the game with objective cards for bonus points. Parents will love the educational value (counting, risk/reward, matching) and kids will love the cute components. It even comes with a storybook to read along with the game.
The Phantom Society [Iello]
In The Phantom Society, players take the role of pesky Scottish ghosts or eccentric Scottish ghost-hunters in the running havoc in the Sir Philipp Venkman Marlombier Manor Hotel – a former whiskey distillery. Ah Venkman, how I miss you…
Anyway, the game-play is simple. The ghost players will hide their four pesky poltergeists somewhere in the 36 room (represented by tiles) manor. Each room is either green, white, orange or blue and the ghost of the corresponding color will be placed in the appropriately-colored room. On their turn, the ghosts (hidden and ready for mischief) will “destroy” an adjacent (horizontally, vertically or diagonally) room (or a room connected by a previously destroyed room – either by a ghost or a hunter) all without leaving their room! Then the player takes the tile of the room.
The hunters will attempt to deduce the location of the ghosts and search a room where they believe it hidden. The problem is, those Scottish hunters are not subtle and when they “search” a room it is devastated – like “Oops! We crossed the streams” devastated. If the room searched has a ghost, that ghost is now neutralized and can do no more damage. The room is then taken by the hunter with the ghost exposed to all. If no ghost is found then the searched room is flipped over to its “destroyed” side (each tile has a normal side and a destroyed side).
This continues until one of two conditions are met. Either the ghost costs a total of 45,000 pounds of damage from either their actions destroying a room or the actions of the hunters searching for them. Each tile has a number on it from 1-6 representing 1000-6000 pounds. If this happens and the total destruction reaches 45,000 pounds, the ghost win and relish in their scotch-whiskey fueled ectoplasmic mischief. However, if all four ghosts are discovered before that amount is reached, then the hunters win and banish the ghosts to a series of exorcisms and AA meetings (“Hi, my name is Casper” — “Hi, Casper.”).
Is it fun? I have played this game with both my girls (2 and 5) and my gaming group (20 – 50) and both enjoy it. For the kids, it is exciting to hide or locate the ghosts and that mechanism works to a tee! It is glorified hide and seek for the ghosts and glorified Memory for the hunters but still…it works. They still gasp in surprise when a ghost is neutralized. For adults the process of deducing patterns to elucidate the pattern of where a ghost is hidden is challenging but burns out quickly. Even with the addition of the tile placement strategy of the rooms at the beginning (players take turns placing the tiles on the board which allows them to move higher valued rooms away from the center where they are more susceptible to ghosts). There is also a bidding variant where players bid on the amount of damage they believe they are able to achieve as the ghosts. Highest bid plays the ghosts with the victory condition now being their bidded value. It attempts but fails to add much spice to the game.
Is it worth it? For families with young kids, sure. But the price point is a tad bit high for what you get. I’ve been dying for a Ghostbusters-themed game and I hoped this would scratch that itch. However, despite the name of the manor, it does not. It does stand as a nice little filler for 2-4 that plays fast and easy. The art is nice, the board is innovative and I love the little hidey-holes for the ghosts but I wished it had a tad more depth to make it a better filler game.
Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule [Game-O-Gami, Game Salute]
Sort of like a Love Letter for kids, the game consists of twenty double-sided cards with a fairy on one side and a goblin on the other (both sides equally cute). Each side of the card will have the silly name of the fairy or goblin which falls into one of five rhyming categories (Earwax Stew/Morning Dew, Candy Rock/Chicken Pock, Petal Flower/Dusty Dour, Hula Hoop/Salamander Sloop, Snowflake Shelley/He So Smelly). Also each card has one of two corresponding sets of icons (toadstool/frog, moon/sun).
Set up: Each player gets four goblins (cards flipped to display the goblin side) placed in front of them – one of which will be a special goblin card with a border of stars – these cards have a special ability. Four fairies (cards flipped to their fairy side) are placed between the players to make the “fairy ring.” The rest of the cards are put aside for the game.
The goal is to either remove all the goblins from your hand or attempt to gather six fairies. They do this by taking one of the cards in front of them and adding it to the fairy ring. If the played card rhymes with another card in the ring, that card gets flipped over. If the played card is one of the special star-bordered cards, all the cards in the fairy ring get flipped over. Then any cards that match the icon of the played card get placed in front of you into your “hand” (all information is open, so you don’t really have a hand, just cards in front of you).
This continues until one player gets rid of all their goblins or collects six fairies.
Is it fun? Of all the games reviewed, this is the only one I’ve had equal fun with adults and children alike. It is light, quick and the art is amazingly adorable. I believe Game-o-Gami is producing puzzles with the same artwork and I would easily get them for my girls…or if they produced a poster, I would put it in my office…probably a goblin. The rhyming is essential for the game so it is helpful to play with early readers. I guide my 5 year old through the game and she has fun but it is really awesome when she teams up with her cousin who can read and they analyze their moves.