Matt Carlson: GenCon 2015 Mega Rundown – Children’s Games

legp figures croppedI don’t know your background, but you’re missing out if you flatly refuse to play any children’s games (let’s say Children’s games are anything that are at least playable someone 5 or under.) While most have an element of chance, the good ones also put in a bit of strategy and often some dexterity challenges to boot. In fact, several of the listed games in this column might try to squeeze themselves into a “grown up” game category, but since I find them entirely too fun to NOT play them with my children, they earn a place of honor among the following.

(Did you miss the first two reports?  Shame on you, use the backup link at the top of the column to go back and read them.   Reminder, errors are all mine, company names are taken from the company name on the booth which usually indicates the distributor. This is not necessarily the actual publisher.)

Mayday Games   Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000, Coconuts Duo
chopstick mega challengeMayday Games can always be counted on for some interesting kid’s games. This GenCon was no exception. Heading up the field was Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000. I already own an old copy of Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000, but I was happy to see Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000 being reprinted. The game comes with 3 sets of chopsticks and a central bowl full of sushi-like wooden pieces. A token is flipped up representing a specific wooden piece in the bowl. Players then compete to remove that piece and place it in their personal bowl. A few tokens are “grey” which indicate all the pieces of that color are up for grabs. If you have the most points after the tokens are all flipped, you have won Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000.

chopstick megaNote that you can play Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000 in a friendly way where the focus is on being the first to grab the item, or you may play the Dark Side of the game where almost everything is legal and knocking pieces out opponents sticks is highly encouraged… be sure to decide your path before you start… Also on display was Coconuts Duo, a 2 player version of the original. I also noted they were selling packages of coconuts in multiple colors. While they no longer look like monkey poo, one could use them to make alterations to the game, giving more points or benefits for sinking a particular color.
Tactic    Minions
minionsA simple enough game, throw the bean bag at the minions to knock them over… Points awarded for each “eye” knocked over. Not much here, but it’s Minions. Isn’t that enough?

HABA    Pharaoh’s Gulo Gulo,  Monster Laundry, Orinoco Gold
HABA always comes through with some great, solid kid’s games. (On that note, the very limited 10th anniversary of Animal upon Animal will be released soon. It comes in a tin and has a silver plated alligator.) I say HABA games are solid because many of them include wonderful wooden pieces that make the game seem like, with care, it’s one of those games that could make it to be passed down to the next generation. Most people will be aware of Gulo Gulo where players take turns removing small colored eggs from a central pile without disturbing a tilting wooden rod.

pharaohs gulo guloPharaoh’s Gulo Gulo is pretty much the same game, but now the eggs are spheres and the “build your own track” is replaced by a board. The game board is broken into two sections, and if a player tips over the wooden rod they only go back to the start of their current section. There are squares which have a scarab symbol on them and players must collect them because one must own at least two scarabs to qualify for a win. A mummy roams around the second half of the board, and players that run into him will lose a scarab. I may prefer the original more, I’m not sure how the sphere shape will change things. However, I think the more accessible theme and pretty boards may attract more people than the original.
clotheslineMonster Laundry was another silly game I spotted at the convention. Players sit in a circle and envelop themselves in a large loop of stretchy clothesline (note they have it around their neck in the photo, I’m told it’s easier if it loops around under your arms.) Players then race to pick up their particular color of monster, putting star spotted monsters on one side and the circle spotted ones on their other side. In the second round, players remove their monsters and attempt to clip up one of each other color, with special grey ones in the middle usable as jokers. It looked to be a solid 2-5p “silly game” for when such a game is required.
orinoco goldOrinoco Gold is a bit like Frogger using meeples. Players roll dice to move their meeples around between logs as well as the logs themselves. Hop all the way over to the far side to claim a coin and return back to shore. Note that the logs only flow one way, so once they’re past a certain treasure, there’s no going back. Meeples on a log that fall off the waterfall are gone for good. I can’t speak to strategy without playing the game, but it does look like there will be enough decisions to be made that it won’t simply reduce down to a “roll and move” sort of game.

Steve Jackson Games      Mars Attacks: 10 Minute Takedown
mars attacksThe game that drew me into the Steve Jackson Games booth was Mars Attacks: 10 Minute takedown. It is essentially a flicking game where players take turns trying to flick a die so that it lands on one of the central target rings. Players place a die inside their marker ring and then flick it towards a target. The marker ring is then moved to surround the die in its new location and the die is passed to the next player. Landing a die on one of the rings grants a player the outermost ring of that set, providing points (more for the smaller rings) and sending that player back to their starting position. Landing on another player’s ring scores nothing but does send them back to their start. The dice comes into play when landing on the rings. If the top face of the die matches the symbol on that set of rings, a player scores an extra point. The game continues until all the rings are claimed. Since the more valuable rings are claimed last, it helps to keep losing players in the game. While accuracy is important, I could see that better players were able to increase their odds of landing on the correct die face as well.

Winning Moves    Fish Fish Squash, Moose Caboose
fish fish squishWinning moves rarely has deeper games, but can always be counted on to have some interesting titles for the younger set. Fish Fish Squish is a simple game based on smashing the other player’s Play-doh fish, created at the start using little fish-shaped molds. The board consists of a grid of facedown cards, each with a fish of one of three colors. Players take turns flipping over a card. If a row/column/angle is created consisting of three unique colors in a row, then the flipping player gets to “squish” one of their opponents fish. Squish all of your opponent’s fish to win. A pretty simple game that isn’t completely random as one can look at the showing fish colors to make a guess at likely good locations. (I know at least one or two times I flipped a cards that had no chance of creating a threesome – doh!)

moose caboosThe other game I checked out was Moose Caboose. A bit like dominoes or the Hisss snake card game, players add cards to central train cards by matching the front color of their card with the back color of one of the trains. Placing a caboose card (which has no ending color) allows a player to claim the entire train of cards. Once all cards are played (or no legal plays exist for players’ cards) the game ends and card totals are counted.

Z-Man    Flick ‘em Up!, Flick em Up!: Stallion Canyon
flick em up boxFlick ‘em Up! caught my eye right away as it is a carom game with a strong theme. Most carom games have a fairly pasted on theme (if any) so a wild western duel had a strong attraction. Many readers will have already heard of this game that was released in the US earlier this year. Players each take a generously sized cowboy meeple token and place them in a wild west town represented by thin wooden “town buildings”. Players are essentially involved in a duel where the active player places a round carom token on the table and attempts to flick it so that it hits their opponent. Characters usually have health points that reduce when hit and are knocked out of the game when they run out. Aside from a shootout, the game has different scenarios that can be played, including the use of the buildings. Shoot a carom under a building (there’s a small slot there) and you are treated as being “in” that building. Opponents need to also flick into that building in order to start a duel. Rated at 2-10 players (there are 10 main character tokens), the game works well for lots of players on teams, although 10 sounds like it could get a bit long, unless everyone is pretty good at their trash talking.

flick em up stallionFlick ‘em Up! has done well enough to rank an expansion. Flick ‘em Up!: Stallion Canyon brings four horses, a canyon location, and two female meeples into the game (should be out by Essen.) Players can ride horses around, which allows a player to shoot their carom twice per turn.

flick em up exp - horsesHorses start out “wild”, however, and must first be “tamed” by looping them with a cardboard horseshoe marker. Once it it tamed, a player then has to shoot their carom under the horse figure (between its legs) and can then place their meeple cowboy on top of the horse. Other players can use a little wooden ramp to hit the horse and (hopefully) knock of a riding meeple, freeing up the horse for a new player to ride it. (Horses stay tamed, indicated by a little rubber band “bridle.”) The canyon stand-up location is considered to divide the play area in two. One can only enter the canyon when already riding on a horse. In addition to all the new figures, the expansion provides five new scenarios and three short mini-games that help players adjust to all the new items.



Once again, we’ve come to the end of the rundown. Feel free to pooh-pooh the kid’s games, but those of us who don’t realize you must be a grumpy curmudgeon and will end up a bitter old man. Only one rundown left, the most festive one. Tomorrow we’ll cover role playing games, computer and electronic games, and everything else I thought was worth a photo. No matter what you think of those “non-boardgame” things, the photos should be worth a look. You can tell yourself, “thank goodness I don’t have to play THAT game…”

About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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