Dale Yu: Review of Squirrel

Squirrel

  • Designer: Tom Sudall and Catriona Ross
  • Publisher: format 15
  • Players: 2 foragers
  • Ages: 4+
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by designer

Squirrel is a pocket sized game that I had never heard of before the designer contacted me via email.  This cute little hand-made game was funded on Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/357750704/squirrel-a-pocket-tabletop-game-for-2-foragers/updates) earlier in the week, and an advance copy had been sent to me.  As you may know, I’m a big fan of games that can fit in a pocket and possibly be played on a restaurant table, so I was game to try it.

In this game, each player is a cute squirrel (one brown and one black), and they stand in a forest – which it initially made up of a 3×3 grid with 2 cards stacked in each location.  At the start of the game, all the cards are facedown – that is, the green leaf side is showing.  The reverse sides are all brown, with the majority of them having a simple brown leaf, but some with acorns of value 1 to 3.  The players can choose their initial starting spaces, and throughout the game, they must adhere to the rule that the squirrels can never be on the same space.

On a turn, you move your squirrel to an adjacent (orthogonal or diagonal) unoccupied space.  Then, take a card from the top of any unoccupied space adjacent to your new location.  However, if you have moved on top of an acorn (more on this in a bit), you can instead choose to draw a card from your opponent’s hand at random. 

After you get a card, either from the top of a neighboring space OR from your opponent’s hand, you then check your own hand of cards.  If you have more than 3 cards, you must discard one of your cards – BROWN side up.  If you made a gap or empty space in the 3×3 grid, you must play your card to fill the hole; otherwise, you can play on any adjacent unoccupied space.   Since you always discard cards with the brown side facing up, the forest will slowly turn from green to brown…

The game ends when all nine piles have a brown card showing on the top.  At this time, the players reveal their hands, and the player with the most acorns in their hand is the winner.

My thoughts on the game

The game is a nice little trifle, perfect for filling time at a restaurant, or maybe on an airplane tray table.  The games are short, probably 3-4 minutes once everyone is familiar with the rules.   Initially, it’s just guesswork to find some acorns (probably just like being a squirrel in real life), but then once you start filling your hand with valuable cards, then there’s a little bit of strategy that comes into play.

If you think that you’re winning – do you try to move around to end the game sooner by dropping your brown leaves on previously green stacks?  If you have two “1 acorn” cards, do you take a risk and try to bluff a bit to drop one down to then try to trick your opponent into possibly squandering a turn for a 1/3 chance at only a “1 acorn” card?  Or, if somehow an acorn lies unclaimed, do I do my best to then bury it under another brown leaf so that it is harder to get?

It is certainly easy to teach, and my one attempt to play with a young child went off without a hitch.  Sure, the strategy here isn’t the most – but it’s a nice game that is accessible to kids and/or non-gamers.  This is the sort of game that can literally be played by just about anyone.

Squirrel is undoubtedly pocket sized.  It comes in a cute and sturdy handmade box – and honestly, the game could be even smaller… the contents really only fill about 30% of the box depth.  When on the table, the game also doesn’t spread out as you’re just making a 3×3 grid of the cards which are 2” square.  The cards are gorgeous. They are silk screened by hand and they have a nice rustic feel to them.  The work and craftsmanship that have gone into this production are amazing.

Per the KS campaign: “If successful, Squirrel will be joined by a further 3 titles in an eventual series of 4 collectable forager themed pocket games by format 15 “  I look forward to hopefully seeing the later games in this series.

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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