Well, that is, if he picked one up before it went out of print a few years ago.
Now, thanks to the wonderful people with the yellow boxes (aka Haba), Kayanak is back in print!
You may ask yourself, “Self, how did I get here?” (Yes, I love the Talking Heads.) You may also ask yourself, “Self, why is Mark yammering on about a reprinted kids game?”
Well, because it’s just the best kids game ever – at least according to my Kid Games 100, published on my personal blog back in 2009. In the subsequent years, there’s been some great new games for kids (any self-respecting gamer parent should acquire copies of Monster-Falle and The Magic Labyrinth), but Kayanak is still my numero uno.
Kayanak won the 1999 Kinderspiel des Jahres (for the German-challenged among us, that’s “Children’s Game of the Year”) but that’s not why I love it so deeply. (Heck, Beppo der Bock won the Kinderspiel and I don’t feel a bit bad about off-loading it via a math trade.)
So, why do I like Kayanak so much? In the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “let me count the ways”:
- the theme (ice-fishing) and the mechanics (using a wooden stick to poke holes in the [paper] ice and fishing out small metal balls with a magnet) work together perfectly
- the components are, as is typical for Haba games, top-notch. In this case, they not only look good but are extremely functional.
- The game plays well with 2, 3 or 4 players… and with children as young as four & adults as old as dirt.
- It’s freakishly fun – I mean, seriously – you get to poke holes in paper (what kid hasn’t spent most of slow school morning doing that?!), play with magnets, and pretend to be an Inuit out on a frozen lake. (OK, I have no desire to ACTUALLY be on a frozen lake, but the pretending part is fun.) Of course, the new version has you pretending to be a polar bear, which is both more kid-friendly and easier to spell than “Inuit”.
The gameplay is dice-activated: what you roll tell you what you can do (cut holes, fish, move or a combination of things) as well as how many times you can do them. The dice also give you opportunities to ice over other players fishing holes and “melt” portions of the board (making them impassable).
There’s a lot of ways to play tactically – and yet, part of the charm of the game is that the fish (little metal balls in two sizes: regular & “fish story”) sometimes clump together so that make an amazing haul… and sometimes you fish in an area that is, sadly, fishless. (Is “fishless” a word? I’m not sure that I care.)
I never refuse to play this with my boys… or at game conventions… or wherever. And that’s why Kayanak is #1.